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God is moving, can you see it?
July 29, 2013 1:57 pm

I guess it is technically winter here in Kenya, but only just.  While 60 degrees is on the chilly side for us here at the equator, it’s nothing to those Montana winters!

So much has been going on (uh, and I haven’t posted in almost three months!  Tut tut!), and it would take an age to write it all down, let alone for you to read it.  So let’s do a photo recap, shall we?  Righteo!

June was dominated by my trip to Rwanda to photograph for an NGO.  It was challenging, full of lessons, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be in such an interesting country and further push my photographic skills.

Rwanda 1

Rwanda 2


Rwanda 3

Rwanda 5

Check out those giant arrow-roots!

Rwanda 8

Rwanda 6

Rwanda 7

Rwanda 4

July brought departures.  My dear friends Ethan and David winged their way back to the states.  They always had me laughing, and I miss them hugely.  Below they are putting on brave faces before running a marathon!


Ted, our fearless team leader, also made his way to the USA with his family to take care of their stateside relatives.  Before they left, we had a wonderful team retreat out in the countryside and a 4th of July bbq.


teamretreat 2

Teammates relaxing.

teamretreat 1

teamretreat 12

Chasing flamingos on Lake Bogoria

teamretreat 14

Best seats in the house for a safari.

teamretreat 13

We even had the privilege of witnessing Ted’s youngest son’s baptism.  What a special day!

teamretreat 5

timmy 3

I’ve been keeping busy with a few personal photo projects.  From bees to awesome lady missionaries, I just can’t seem to stop clicking.  And that’s just how I like it!  (To keep up with my photo work, head to bessbrownleephoto.tumblr.com)

bees 1

Me and two Maasai mamas with our bee suits on!

bees 2

The golden magic of a honeycomb!  Learning the skills of beekeeping with new friends.


Hannah is a fashion designer AND a missionary living in Liberia.  Pretty awesome!

Hannah (1)

Virginia (1)

Virginia is a family practice doctor in a tough part of Nairobi.  She is also a missionary and a darn nice lady.

Virginia (2)


We round out the review with a little visit from a wonderfully familiar face.  My dear friend Lauren spent ten days with me after a mission trip and we had a bucket-load of fun!

cheese 1

We toured a cheese farm and did some tasting as well… YUM!!!

cheese 2

cheese 3


crescent 2

Apparently we were quite close to a python nest in this picture… yipes!  We didn’t find out this information until we were back at the car.  (Insert scream of horror here!!!) I have searched all my photos and haven’t found conclusive evidence of a giant snake, but the mere possibility is enough to keep me away from Crescent Island for a while!

crescent 1

Whew, I’m so glad we caught up.  Eat a ripe peach for me, and enjoy your summer wherever this post finds you!

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,


December 19, 2011 11:41 pm
Published in: On the Field Tags: ,

I’ve been feeling thankfulness well up in great springs lately.  It’s overflowing actually.  I’m sitting here in my little apartment on a Sunday evening, tea in hand, just thinking about how well I have been taken care of.

I have a home with windows, doors, a bed and a proper toilet.  I have running water AND electricity.  I have trees and flowers right outside.  I have neighbors who know my name, and even want to know my story.  They invite me over for home cooked meals AND send me home with Christmas decorations to put up in my place.  I even have a cat.

I work with people who are so passionate about seeing others come to know the love of God, that they left everything easy and familiar, and came to this foreign land.  To Africa.

Living here is hard.  It just is.  The power went out for 12 hours yesterday, I still can’t figure out where all those ants are coming from, and the crappiest blender here cost me $42.  I keep stumbling over simple Swahili with the gate-guards, cab drivers, new friends, waiters, my host family, anyone Kenyan really.  I always have a nagging sense of being seen as a walking $ sign, which is confirmed by the street kids who follow me to the grocery store asking for money/candy/my shoes/anything they can get.  Last weekend I had to say goodbye to one of my closest friends out here before she walked into the airport to catch her flight back to the States.  And to top off my pity party… Christmas is only week and I will be an ocean and several time zones away from my family for the first time.  Yeah, it’s hard.

But it is also surprisingly beautiful.   Shaking your fist at traffic on a busy highway leading out of Nairobi only to look to your left and see 11 giraffes just munching on acacia trees. Being the only single 20-something at a salad-potluck (with just lame carrot sticks to offer), only to be embraced, included, and loved.   Running through the rain in downtown Nairobi with a Kenyan friend, and not being able to describe why you can’t stop laughing and why you don’t care that your shoes are soaked. Tagging along on a random road trip, and finding yourself on a red dirt road in the middle of nowhere watching nearly 100 rural Kenyan kids running toward you, screaming and giggling. Holding hands with women who had served long, tough years in creative-access nations far away, where they couldn’t even breathe the name of Jesus, and watching them cry as they were able to freely and loudly sing O Holy Night in a safe living room.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

count your and see what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

We sang that song in church today.  It was hot, 80 degrees in December, and the building was overflowing with hundreds of dancing, praising Kenyans.  Swaying shoulder to shoulder with them, I wondered why I got to be there too.  Small town, middle class, 5’5”, 23 year old, Caucasian-as-they-come Bess Brownlee… sweating, singing and dancing in a huge African church.  Why do I get to live this story?


Lord you have assigned me my portion and my cup

You have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Psalm 16:5-6

I don’t know why I get this opportunity, but I do know that I could never say thank you enough times.  It is a privilege to be here.  Even when street cats fighting outside my window again, and my tap water comes out slightly brown.  Thank you for this life Lord, help me not to waste it.



Merry Christmas everyone, I love you and miss you very very very much.