adventure is out there :: riv life

i’ve been back in the states for almost five days now. i would apologize for posting yet again about south africa on this blog–but i’m not in any way sorry. i worried for half a second that people were sick of hearing about it, that putting up so many months of “non-client” posts in a row wasn’t smart business-wise (as i’ve been told many many times)–but actually, i could care less. i have this blog to share stories, to share people, to share my heart. and that’s exactly what this is :) anyways.

i havent shared any pictures or stories from my time working at RivLife–it has been something i have kept to myself, for a lot of different reasons. there is literally nothing i could take a picture of, record or put words to that would encapsulate that time. it was hard and beautiful and exhausting. there were long days where we thought we couldn’t pick up a kid or a rake ever again. there were easy days, where i felt like i was in a dream and we never wanted the bus to come pick us up. there was a lot of situations that messed us up and have been challenging me in a lot of ways–challenging the way i view missions and the church and individualism and privilege and race and sickness and american culture.

one of the harsh realities of being home is that i’m starting to forget–the past four months feel like a dream and the transition into american life is much much more seamless than i would like. (trust me, it’s actually one of the most frustrating things ever). south africa feels like a far-off place…but i am constantly reminding myself that it isnt. these aren’t just stories that i’ve heard in church my whole life and that i’m now telling friends over expensive coffee. these are real people and lives and bodies that are beating and breathing and moving right now. the social workers are still going to school and working at riv life and going home to home checking on neighbors and praying and seeing where help is needed. nomvula is waking up and preparing food for everyone in her community over her makeshift kitchen outside. buntu is undoubtedly causing havoc and running around being adorable and sneaky and silly. these are the people that humbly and generously shared their lives with us. these are the kids that loved me harder and greater than i ever really thought possible. these are the people that i wish i could share with the world, but i can’t, so this is the best i can do. as my friend rachael told me before i left for “god’s country”: i know god loves everyone equally, but i’m pretty sure he might love south africa a teeny bit more :)

(i made this list throughout my time at riv life & i am so thankful i did)
things i dont want to forget:

the way the kids remember and pronounce my name –ken-ss–because they don’t say the last vowel

the way they plop into our laps when we sit on the floor and grab our arms to hold them in an embrace

the way zainab and famida throw their arms around my waist as we walk to the computer room

the way the nogogo’s home looked: pleasent pink walls, cardboard ceilings that looked like they would cave in at any second

the way you can feel the hot hot african sun every time it peeks out from behind a cloud

the way angelica looked curled up, 80+ years, small and well-lived, unable to speak or sit up, laying in her bed, waiting to be bathed by us.

sweet little no-name with round legs and pierced ears–sitting on the floor and waving shyly, never breaking her straight face or silent lips

laying in the grass with sne and claire and andiswa as we picked flowers and stared at clouds and talked about birthdays

how hard the ladies at the HIV support center laughed every time derek danced

the boy laying on my lap during lunch time, warm in his maroon fleece uniform and blatantly ignoring the taunting voices of other boys

buntu  being so sweet and cuddly all afteroon, showering me with eskimo kisses and “i love you”s and hugs

meeting nomvula–honest to goodness the most welcoming, generous and humble woman i have ever met– and spending afternoons with her.

walking down the dirt paths for homevisits, humbled and genuinely angry at the fancy houses we saw neighboring small shacks

the way one of the ladies at the HIV support group asked us if we were “scared to be around them”

the miracle of feeding all the kids on the same day we taught the lesson about jesus feeding 5,000

the millions of kids constaaantly “brushing” and dreading and pulling and braiding our hair

giving nomvula her pot

sitting out front the drop-in center as sne brushed my hair and pointed out all the kids whose parents died

the songs, the sawubona! s, the voices, the fights, the crazy washing hand time at the creche, the hugs and kisses and the goodbyes

aaaand i wanted to embed my video in here, but i dont know how to do that :) so click this link if you are interested!


Courtney Kenzie, this is so inspiring. I love your work and adore your posts about South Africa. In my opinion, we grow as people and as artists when we break outside of the mold of standard “client” posts, as you said. So, so beautiful!

– Courtney, Courtney Smith Photography

Abby such a beautiful post, kenzie. your heart for His people.

Lillian Rachel I don’t think I’ll get tired of seeing all the lovely faces, and hearing your stories. All the wonderful, colorful living. Keep em coming. :)

Kristyn crazy. i’m sososo sad to see your time in south africa end, and this post makes my heart swell a thousand times over.

Jennoelle wow. this just looks beautiful and life-changing, in an indescribable way. God is pretty cool.

Tina These photographs are beautiful Ken-ss. You won’t forget…you have these lovely photos to preserve your memories and experiences! Beautiful!

Deb Facer amazing.

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