Trying on a Skirt


I learned something profound yesterday: the way we dress ourselves in culturally dependent.

When one is preparing to move to a foreign country, it is wise to undergo training about the culture where one will be living. We did that. We learned what to wear, and what not to wear. We learned about the local food, how to get American food, and all about the importance of hospitality. We learned differences in the perception of time, communication and daily life. The list goes on and on. Essentially, the things that are determined by culture is overwhelming. I’m not sure you can get a true appreciation for this truth unless you live in a foreign land.

I thought my realization of this important fact was coming along quite smoothly…until yesterday. I had gone up to Industrial to order firewood because it’s remarkably chilly in Kenya, especially from sunset to sunrise. On the way home, I noticed that one of the fruit stands had apples! How exciting! Apples must be imported and usually purchased in Nairobi, which  means we buy 30 apples at a time on the occasion we travel to the city. One Kenyan lady was wise enough to purchase the fruit she knew we Americans like and sell them at her duka. Genius!

We stopped by to purchase the apples, and I ended up buying a kanga as well. I didn’t have the correct amount of money, and she didn’t have any change, so I agreed to take the items and bring the woman the money later the same day. So, yesterday afternoon, Jacob and I walked back up to the dukas to pay for our apples and my beautiful new kanga. Another woman was watching the stand and took the owner’s absence as an opportunity to sell me more stuff as I waited for the owner to return. The owner is a seamstress and had several beautiful skirts displayed, so I held one up to my waist. This is where the teachable moment took place.

I was encouraged to try on the skirt, so I looked at the dirt on the ground and gave the sweet lady a confused look. In response, she laughed at me and say, “No, no! Let me show you how to put on a skirt.” Then, she proceeded to turn the skirt inside out, put it over my head, and straightened it out for me. Then, she said, “You put your skirt on like trousers. I have shown you the right way.” Indeed. The skirt fit very nicely, so I removed it over my head, of course. Then, she insisted that I try on one of the other skirts. Again, she turned it inside out and I acted like I was diving into it. I felt silly, but I guess it’s a good way to keep your skirt clean when the floors are dirt.

I ended up adding the one skirt to my order. Jacob liked them both, but I thought I should show a little constraint. Getting 6 apples, a kanga AND a skirt in one day is quite exciting here in rural Kenya. As soon as we got home, Jacob wanted me to change into my new skirt. I decided to wait until it was washed, dried and ironed. But rest assured, when it comes time to wear my new skirt for the first time, I will step into it like I’m “putting on trousers.” 🙂

My new skirt hanging on the line.

So, the moral of the story is this: When you go to order firewood, stay focused on the task. Otherwise, you might buy things you don’t need…and get laughed at in the process!

Now that I am adequately humbled for the week, I’m wondering what my next cultural lesson will be!

Praise and Prayer Requests

1.) Praise God for good friends. My boys ate dinner with another family Friday night so that Aaron and I could have a quiet, candlelight dinner for two to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary.


2.) Praise God for a relaxing Father’s day. The boys made cards for Aaron, and we took pictures.


3.) Praise God that we survived the weekend! It was emotional but God was with us. Here’s a picture of all 10 bunches of flowers Aaron got me for our anniversary. I spent hours arranging them. Now my entire house is covered with containers of flowers!


4.) Please pray for Aaron and I as parents. We are still trying to figure out the boundaries of life here at the compound. The boys have been more disrespectful than usual, not only to Aaron and me but also to other adults and their peers.

5.) Please continue to lift the Murphy family up in prayer. (They are the missionary family from Zambia I mentioned in an earlier post.)

6.) Praise God that Selah is continuing to improve!

7.) Please pray for the patients at Tenwek. Aaron had a particularly hard case this week. I’ll let him share whatever he feels is appropriate, but I’ll ask you to pray for this particular patient and for all the people who visit the hospital. So many are so sick. Pray for both physical and spiritual healing. Pray for protection over the hospital and all the people who work there. Pray that above all else, that Jehovah God would be glorified!

Thank you for praying so diligently for us! I will close with a passage of Scripture that the Holy Spirit is teaching me to apply to my daily life here in Kenya: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


5 responses »

  1. This experience is so sweet….creating a memory. It made me laugh and I think your skirt is very pretty. Praying for your requests and continuing to ask our Lord to wrap His loving arms around you. Sending our Love, Mom and Dad

  2. I almost bought that same skirt! I didn’t try it on, though. I told her I should wait a couple months since I just bought some clothes in South Sudan. Glad you got it. 🙂

  3. Oh, Steph, what a sweet story! We are praying for you, your precious family, those you serve with in Africa, and those you serve.

    • Happy tenth year anniversary! The flowers are beautiful! So sweet! Enjoy you mom and day’s visit and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers .
      Jeanne 🙂

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