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God is moving, can you see it?
October 2, 2012 3:12 am
Published in: On the Field Tags: , ,
I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it!
I have been living in Africa for ONE WHOLE YEAR!  How did that happen?!  Seems like I was just hugging all of you, cramming my stuff into 4 bags, and hopping on a plane.  365 days later I’m still here!

I wanted to start off by thanking all of you.  YOU are the reason I’m able to be here, having this incredible experience.  ASANTE SANA (thank you very much!)

How do I describe what this year has been like?  How can I bring you all into the wild ride it has been?  How about we try some TOP 10’s….

Top 10 favorite discoveries…

1.  North Africa, an entirely different world.  Beautiful, dark, vibrant, captivating.

2.  Learning how to do battle with slugs, ants, flying termites, and mosquitos… and realizing that I’m less scared of bugs!

3.  New City Fellowship, the church I call home here in Nairobi.  Their vision is racial reconciliation; so suffice it to say we have a super diverse congregation.  I absolutely love it.  Communion is my favorite, we all stand in a circle around the room and I just look about and think “this is what Heaven will be like, people of every nation and tongue…”

4.  Jaffry’s outdoor public track, the Muslim compound where I run.  It is free for the public, so tons of people from the city go there.  EXCELLENT people watching, AND real cricket games on Sundays!

5.  Cooking!  It isn’t so scary and I can do it!  I’m getting pretty good at scones, tagines, tortillas, soup.  Newest experiment: Yakiniku!

6.  Watamu, Northern coast of Kenya, a beautiful stretch of Kenyan coastline, a wonderful get-away.  We stayed in a glass tower of art and ate fresh crab!

7.  Kitengela Glass Studios, a weird yet wonderful art haven that specializes in creating beauty out of recycled glass

8.  Driving.  It was scary at first, but now I don’t think any city in the US will ever intimidate me while I’m behind the wheel.  I am also a voracious honker now.

9.  Diamond Plaza, and Indian shopping square full of flashing lights, crazy food, awesome deals, and the best tangerine juice I’ve ever had.  Below my friend John is trying out an Indian “milk shake” that has spaghetti noodles and tapioca balls in it!

10. Downton Abbey, my British-fix.  Love that show so much!

Top 10 favorite experiences…

1.     Attending a worship service in North Africa, the earnestness and passion of the people that have devoted their lives to that place was nothing short of inspiring

2.     Welcoming some of my dearest friends to Africa, having them stay and adventure all over the country with me

3.     Hearing “ACTION” called for the first time on the movie set

4.     Road tripping, riding camels, and drinking tea in North Africa with dear friends

5.     Rafting the Nile with some great friends

6.     Being a bridesmaid/emergency dress-sower for a friend tying the knot here in Nairobi

7.     Hiking a dormant volcano with two wonderful gal pals on Good Friday

8.     Spending Christmas with my dear friends, the Levanders

9.     Planting trees with my friend Tana in rural Kenya

10.  Driving to the lake and looking out the window only to see giraffes, zebra, gazelles, and warthogs runs through the woods.  Also, being able to drive only a few hours and be within a stones throw of amazing wildlife and beautiful national parks.

So there are some snippets into my year, I hope you enjoyed it! I have a feeling the following year will fly by even faster than this one.  We are in the thick of filming the MOVIE, and it is making time shift into hyper speed.  We are hoping to wrap filming by December, after which I will fly home for Christmas!!  I can’t wait to have time with my family, and to see some of you!!

Thank you for walking with me this far.  Here’s to the next 365 days!  Your prayers carry me through, trust me, so keep em’ coming.

Lots of love,


August 24, 2011 9:22 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , ,

Desert to FLOOD.  Both are extreme, both are transformative, and both happened to me.

July was, well, dry dry DRY.  Spiritually, physically, emotionally, the whole she-bang.

I had done my level best to carry this Africa thing on my own.  Didn’t work.  Almost took me out in fact.  I wound up in a barren place, out of breath with a canteen full of dust.

“I will make her like a desert,

turn her into a parched land and slay her with thirst

Hosea 2:3

Sounds about right.  This wasn’t random, it was a result of my mistrust, my unbelief, my stubbornness, and my utter lack of faithfulness in the God who created my very bones.   I have been stuck at 70% of my monthly support-raising goal for ages.  By the time July was almost spent, so was my hope of ever making it to Africa.  I know it sounds dramatic, but when you are faced with a huge wall of lack that won’t budge, things can quickly become daunting.  The forest become a desert.  As cracked, dessicant, and awful as it was, I was lead to that place for a purpose… so I would know what living water tastes like.  So that I could recognize the hand of my Provider.

 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.”

Isaiah 43:18-21

A wonderful man named Steve Valentine always said that when we are down to nothing, God is up to something.  Well that little saying just became all kinds of real.

On July 13th, my Grandpa went on to his next big adventure, eternity with God.  My Dad and his three brothers came together from all over the country to celebrate Grandpa, and to take care of everything that is left behind after someone leaves this world.  My Grandpa was a strong, smart, caring, and generous man.  He flew planes in WWII, and collected Meerschaum tobacco pipes, loved roast beef, and was no-nonsense.  His caretakers called him “The Commander.”  When I went to Africa the first time he sent a nugget of advice along with his hefty donation… “Take some Deet, and don’t forget the Kaopectate.”  A practical man indeed.

At the very end of July, my Dad returned from the funeral and time with his brothers with some news.  Grandpa had left his entire estate to his family, and that turned out to be a lot.  Before his health declined, he had expressed wanting to be a donor for my new life in Africa.  My dad wanted to honor Lord and Grandpa, and thus committed helping open the floodgates to God’s unique plan of provision.  Not only that, but all this month, I have had new donors come out of the woodwork that I had previously written off.  God is up to something, the waters are springing up from the ground… and I am all but swimming.

With God infront of me, and the family of God beside me, I will hopefully land safely in Kenya on October 1st…. OCTOBER FIRST!!!!!!!!  AH!  That means that September 27th is my last day in Montana.  Woah.  The rains just came like a hurricane.  All I can do is stand with my arms to the skies.  I am so happy things didn’t happen the way I imagined they would… but that I was surprised by God’s unique hand.  He is up to something, the proof is in the water.

 “The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Isaiah 41:17-20


July 25, 2011 1:19 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , ,

DRY (adjective)

1. free from moisture or excess moisture; not moist; not wet

2. having or characterized by little or no rain

3. characterized by absence, deficiency, or failure of natural ordinary moisture.

Yep.  That is how I feel…like my soul is flaking, my heart is parched, and my frame is withering.  Dry.



Is it this arid, hot, Montana summer?  Have I failed to drink enough liquids?  No… this is dehydration of the spirit, and I need a long cool drink out of God’s fountain, before I turn to dust.

Have you ever gotten to this place?  Where you go and go and GO, until you find that, whoa, I actually do have a end to my rope… and here are the frays to prove it.  Preparing for Africa is so… involved.  I never expected it to be so hard. Being a big picture kind of gal, I tend to not consider the weight of the details, the amount of work that is attached to one big adventure. Or the amount of feeling.

Everyday I find myself stopping and staring at people and things that I will miss.  Just this morning I looked at a picture of my mom and sister dancing in our family kitchen, lit by morning light, and had a mound of sadness well up in my chest.



I will miss the sound the coffee maker gurgling, the dogs’ fingernails clicking across the wood floor, and my dad talking to Lidia Bastianich on PBS as they make the same Italian dish… continents away.  Soon I will be continents away.  Whew.

Turns out the process of support-raising is more involved than I ever dreamed too.  I feel like I have hit a wall.  After hundreds of letters, copious phone calls, relentless calculating, endless spreadsheets and paperwork, I still have miles to go… and I am spiritually on empty with the pedal pushed to the floor.

I am at the famous junction… the place where I have mustered all of my humanly efforts and come up short, and God has to show up and divinely finish this thing.  Moses was here, not to mention David, Ruth, Daniel, Elijah and countless others.  It was God who parted the sea and provided an escape for the captives of Egypt, not Moses.  It was God who led the king to victory and saved him from his enemies, not David.  It was God who delivered a poor foreigner and her mother-in-law back home and saved them from destitution, not Ruth or Naomi.  It was God who stayed the lions’ jaws and gave a man the wisdom interpret dreams and to navigate the royal courts, not Daniel.  It was God who sent a fire ball from Heaven to consume a soggy offering in front of hundreds of people on Mount Carmel and prove His power, not Elijah.  And on and on.  It is God who accomplishes, not me.

Lately I have been letting my failures and lackings determine my worth.  After my dear friend Kim prayed for me this Sunday, she looked at me and said, “Bess, it is God who tells you your worth.”  ZING, that one went right to the heart.  Nothing else has the right or authority to tell me my value, and I am closing my ears to God when I allow anyone or anything else to tell me what I am worth.


“All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.  God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.”

2 Thessalonians 1:5-7


Trying to do all of this on my own (and failing), compounded with the ache of impending transition, separation, and raw newness has sucked all the moisture out of my soul.  I looked up dry in the back of my bible, and God brought me to tears as I read this passage in Ezekiel…


The Valley of Dry Bones

1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin;

I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.

Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

Ezekiel 37


I need the breath of God to enter these bones again.  I need to know the sheer power of Your might, because I have none left.  I am as useless as a pile of bones on the desert floor.  I need to know that it is You who will do it, that You won’t leave me in a heap on the cracked earth.


The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 33:4


Breathe on me Lord, and I will inhale deeply.  Bring me to life again, and in your time, bring me to Africa.



December 7, 2010 6:50 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , ,

Just a random little note today…

A friend of mine shared an interesting NPR article today.  It talked about how “big” events, places, and things are/were, scale-wise, and it was WILD to look at and imagine.  They ended the article with a picture of Africa… and had an awesome way of describing it’s enormity… check out the picture below.How wild is that?!  All of China, Europe, India, Japan and the USA fit inside!  In a way it is a bit daunting… that is a lot of land, and with it, a lot of people.  More than 1 billion souls… incredible.  My mind starts racing, how can the love of God reach all of them?  It seems too hard, too much, too BIG!

But then, I stop and think about God.  Talk about big!!  The word says,  “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  (Jeremiah 32:27)  Too right, God.

It has always been hard for me to fully trust God.  I find myself covering all my bases in case He doesn’t come through for me.  But what He really wants from me is surrender, complete surrender… its a lot to ask.  Come, sweet release, come!

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

(Isaiah 58:6-11)

Do I believe that God is big enough to cover not only me, but all of Africa in His love?  You are so big, Lord, help my small faith to grow.


November 14, 2010 7:04 pm
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , ,

There is NO way I can make this journey alone.

Though I will only occupy one seat on that plane next summer, it is my prayer and my hope that all of you will make the trek with me.  Through your unceasing prayer and faithful support, you can join in with God’s work through AIM in Africa.  As intercessors and partners we are all connected to what God is doing throughout the world.  Each of us can be a part of witnessing the good news encompass the earth… whether it be in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, or even all the way to Africa, the call to holy lives full of purpose and love is within all of us.

Will you join in what God is up to in Africa?

If you are interested in PRAYING for me, I would be so grateful!  Your intercession crosses timezones and hemispheres and blesses me, how incredible is that?!

If you are interested in supporting me financially,  I would be absolutely honored.  My time in Africa will be lived out on a 100 % support-raised salary.  As excellent stewards of money, AIM will dispense all support sent to me into my accounts for things like rent, health insurance, gas, travel, and even a furlough account for when I visit home!  And of course, all of your donations are tax deductible.

To donate online please visit CLICK HERE

1. Click the drop-down menu and select> Missionaries (US Sending Unit)

2. Click the second drop-down menu and select> Brownlee, Bess

3. Enter the amount of your gift, and click ADD, and enter your billing info, and finally click NEXT

To donate using AIM’s Electronic Funds Transfer program…


The page contains full instructions about donating through your checking account.


Africa Inland Mission
ACH Transfer
PO Box 178
Pearl River, NY 10965

To donate by check

Make payable to Africa Inland Missionenclose a note with my name on it or write my name on the memo line

Mail it to…

Africa Inland Mission
PO Box 178
Pearl River, NY 10965


Your prayer and support are BEYOND valuable and essential.  God’s love expressed by all of you are the reason I am able to embark upon this adventure… THANK YOU, Asante sana 🙂

November 7, 2010 3:30 am
Published in: Pre-Field Tags: , , , ,

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8

This small passage has had a huge impact on my life during the past 10 months.  The first time I heard it was last January at the Urbana Missions Conference in St. Louis, MO.  It was during a very in-depth scripture study about the ministry of Jesus… and out of the many verses we looked at that day, this one grabbed me.

You see, God has always been a mystery to me.  I feel like I have learned so much about His character over the years.  Sometimes I even feel like I have a good handle on Him. Yet, as I push deeper in pursuit of Him, I stumble upon vast realms of wonderful unknown.  And it scares me a little.  But it also draws me in.

I love that God is unmeasurable, beyond my attempts to categorize and comprehend, yet still accessible and inviting.  He says COME, take the risk, I want you to know me and see how it changes you… I want you to see where it could lead you!  That is the journey I am on now, lead by the mystery of a living God.

In John 3:8, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about comprehending how God works.  Nic just can’t grasp how people are “born again” or how the Spirit works.  I can’t say I blame him.  Jesus compares the mysterious workings of the Spirit to that of the wind.  The wind has the power to uproot trees, knock down buildings, and cause the sea to rage, yet it can be gentle enough to ruffle feathers, make a kite float or blow a few strands of hair.  I cannot see the wind.  BUT I can see it’s effects.  We cannot see the Spirit, but we can see how it changes people, nations, even the world.

Almost a year ago, I went to the aforementioned Urbana Missions Conference (www.urbana09.org) full of unknown.  I had so many questions, and I wanted answers.  God had shaken up my life during a two month stint in Kenya that summer with InterVarstiy Christian Fellowship, serving in the slums of Nairobi.  He changed my life, refined my dreams, ruined my normal life, and asked me to take a risk… to know Him, and to see that adventure would lead.  I understood then that the wind had started blowing, it was up to me… time to let myself be swept up.

I scoured the mission organization booths at the conference.  I wanted to know how I could use my passions and gifts from God in missions.  I was one semester away from a photojournalism/media arts degree, and I wanted to put those skills, my love for visual media and missions to work. I interrogated reps, gathered mounds of brochures, and still didn’t feel like I had found a fit.  Then I spotted AIM, it was the last booth I visited.  God bless that rep, haha, he answered my questions for over an hour!  In the end he handed me On-Field Media’s (Africa Inland Mission’s media team) best of 2009 DVD.  To say the least, I was blown away after I watched it.  As far as visual media production goes, no other organization came close.  My excitement and intrigue grew… God was up to something.

If you asked me a over a year ago if I would ever be a missionary in Africa, I probably would have laughed at you.  In less than a year I am moving to Africa… with a missions organization, for two years.  Funny how the wind blows.  I am like Nicodemus in that I cannot fully comprehend the mystery of God.  I don’t know where the His wind comes from, or where it is going… but I do know that God is real, that He is at work, and that if I allow myself to get swept away in Him, there is no telling where I will end up.  The workings of the wind are made visible, my life is proof.  Air is not wind unless it is moving. Africa here I come.

God is moving, can you see it?