Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From Kenya With Love

Well...consider yourself warned.  This post will be chock full of pics and sweet stories....hope you can hang in there!  If you are interested at all in sponsoring a child, please check out the Maisha website to find out how you can help!

Our wonderful team...we had so much fun!

Our team at the "Tree of Life"

Doing the break your back & duck face pose!
We did this a LOT!  

First off, I have to give praise to God for answering one of MANY prayers prayed by our team.  From the very beginning we prayed that God would unify us and that we would love & serve one another well as we love & serve the people of Kenya.  He did just that.  This team was amazing.  There was no drama, no one was rude, no cliques...just one big happy family lovin' and servin' together.  That was a HUGE's already hard to serve in a foreign country going through a time change, pouring out to a group of people, living in a new environment with different food, sleeping arrangements, smells, etc...throw in a group that's not quite unified and that makes it that much harder...I know...I speak from experience.  We all just went with the flow and had a blast doing it!

After a REALLY long flight from Oklahoma Nairobi...then finally to Kisumu...we were on a bus headed to Maisha International .  As we were driving along this long dusty road...we were unexpectedly greeted by the most beautiful faces running toward us!  Bea (the woman behind can read about her here) told the bus driver to stop right there and for us to get out.  She said the kids had never run out this far to greet a group before.  It was precious!  As we hop out of the bus the kids were there ready to take us by the hands and walk us back to the orphanage.  They were very excited and eager to find out more about us.  They were full of questions from what is your name to how many are in your family, etc.  And of COURSE they wanted to have their picture taken!  As we get closer to Maisha, the women come running out greeting us with hugs, singing and dancing.  It was such a wonderful way to be welcomed.  I'd have a great day everyday if I was greeted with kids running toward me and women singing and dancing as I arrived to work...wouldn't you?!?!  LOL  We finally make it to Maisha and we get the grand tour.  Seeing where the widows sew the kids uniforms, the class rooms, the kitchen where the food is made each day & the beautiful garden.
And here they come!!!

Aren't these the sweetest faces?!?!
It brought tears to our eyes to see them running 
to greet us from so far away!

We enjoyed some time with the kids and then they had an entire show for us of songs, poetry & was sooo cute & sweet.  They are a smart and talented group of women & children.  We sat back & enjoyed the show, then it was more play time with the kids.  The children took to our younger team mates and just LOVED being around Evan, Blake, Meg & Austin.  They're a fun bunch & the kids caught onto that really quickly!  :-)
This is precious Stephen...he was so animated
in his performance of how to make Ungali.
On our last day he came to me and gave me a hug
then covered his face and just started crying
because he was going to miss us so much.  He made
a sweet connection with Bret and now Bret is his sponsor!

This was during our welcome ceremony
the young kids ladies called each of us up
by name and we joined in on their dance
(Blake, Meg & Eric)

This is the beautiful Beatrice, founder of
Maisha International

 This was our welcome on the 2nd day...the little 
school kids sang songs to us and sweet little Winnie
on the left was shakin' her hips...she was adorable!

Every evening, after dinner, we went around the table and gave our hi's & low's of the day.  This was a great way to hear all the cool things happening that we may not have been able to see because we were all doing different things throughout the day.  After a while we only wanted to give hi's each day and rejoice in the great things God was doing and continues to do.  Each evening we would also get our "assignments" for the next day.

Getting letters from the kiddos was definitely 
a high for me!

My first assignment was to go into the slums with Eddie, Blake, Meg, Austin, Evan, Callie & Andreana.  We had Ian with us, who is a local ministry person who helped us translate and filled us in on each persons story.  We walked to three different homes of people that are living with HIV/AIDS.  Here we just checked on them to see what progress or decline had taken place since the last time the ministry team had visited them.  We had an opportunity to pray with these people, lay hands on them, hug them, love on them in a way that no one else does.  It's unfortunate because the people in Africa aren't educated in this disease and once they have the diagnosis they are neglected & shunned from their friends & family out of fear they'll get it.  My friend Callie shared a sweet story from our day there...I asked if I could share it with you here you go!

"As many of you know, we are memorizing Psalms 91 together as a church.  The Verses Project is putting each verse to song and these verses were on my mind in Kenya.  One day when we were in the slums, we visited a lady name Conslada who is HIV positive.  She started telling us her story...She was engaged and then when her fiancé found out she was positive, she was deserted.  She then moved in with her parents, who ended up passing away soon after.  She currently lives with her bother who tells her on a regular basis that her residence with him is not permanent.  He also requires her to find a way to financially support her and her daughter, even though her body is weak from the lack of nutrition and the medicine she is taking to fight her disease.  As we sat and listened to her story, my heart was filled with compassion.  They asked if we had any words of encouragement for her.  Eddy shared a story from John with her, reminding her that God has and is preparing a place for her.  He has not abandoned her.  As I thought of what to share, Psalms 91 came to mind.  It was close to when we were memorizing Psalms 91:1:  I spit out part of the verse (although, I admit that my memorization was lacking in the moment)...and then a Kenyan opened the Bible to Psalms 91 and read it over her in her own language.  

So, I've thought a lot about Conslada and Psalms 91 and how to read it in her context.  What does it mean when it says "he will deliver you from the deadly pestilence" and "no plague come near your tent?"  I was immediately comforted by the promise that He has promised to even those who are suffering in poverty from a terrible disease that "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."  Abiding here (and in heaven, eternally without disease), in rich fellowship with Him is what I hope for Conslada.  Praying that Psalms 91 brought comfort to her, that even in the midst of terrible circumstances, He is her refuge.  I shared this story with Joel, and he directed me to this link.  It reminds us that although sometimes He does deliver from disease and poverty on this earth, the EVEN more glorious promise is that he has promised to deliver those who dwell and know Him from NO FINAL EVIL.  This passage and these questions have brought hope and a deeper reminder of what true refuge is."  
The most beautiful part of this story was when Conslada sang a song for us.  It was in her language and she sang with this beautiful smile on her face.  When she got to the last verse she sang in English and it was the most wonderful song of praise to our God...what a humbling moment.  There wasn't a dry eye in that small room we were all gathered in.  In the midst of sickness and trials, she was offering up her praise to our faithful and glorious God!

Another person we visited was Benard.  We walked into his home and from the looks of it, it was hopeless.  Benard had wasted away to almost nothing.  He was lying on a bamboo floor mat with cushions to make it comfortable for him.  He could barely keep his eyes open and it was very difficult for him to speak.  All we could do was pray for him and his Austin knelt down and prayed for Benart.  We later found out that it's customary to put someone on a floor mat as preparation for death.  It broke our hearts and  he never left my mind or prayers.  **See Update Below**
Benard as we met him

Austin praying for Benard & his family

After our visit to the slums we went out to Maisha to spend time with the kids until time for soccer camp!  Soccer camp was everyday after school.  Everyday the camp started with one of the coaches giving their testimony.  Meg went first...I sure wish I could've been there because I heard she did a wonderful job sharing in a way that was easy for the kids to relate to. So much so that 59 kids...yes you read that correctly 5-9 made the decision to follow Christ that day.  INCREDIBLE!!!  After testimonies the kids would run through drills with a couple of local coaches (Levi & Arthur), Austin, Evan, Meg & Blake.  For the kids that weren't playing soccer, we could sit on the sidelines and hang out and get to know one another.  We would sit and tell stories, talk about our hobbies, sing & play games.  It was such a sweet time to hang out with the kids.

 Equipment for Soccer Camp!

Tricia - the greatest story teller...she held the 
kids attention with her incredible abilities 
to tell Bible stories with such detail & animation

 Eric hanging with his kiddo, Collins and 
some of the boys from Maisha...they LOVE him!
He's visited many was a joy to be on the 
trip with him and to really see him in his element.
Eric led our water well team...they did an incredible
job...the garden now has a new well!

 Coach Arthur we liked to call him King Arthur 
Pray he comes to know Christ as his savior.

 The well digging team!!!

Another assignment I was on was kitchen duty with Tricia & Callie.  We had the wonderful opportunity to work in the kitchen with the beautiful Suleiman, Helen, Anastasia & Caroline.  Suleiman is the main cook.  She is a very kind, funny, loving and passionate woman.  She grew up in a Muslim family but wasn't a practicing Muslim.  She became a follower of Jesus just two days before we got there.  This was probably one of my favorite experiences of the trip.  Not just because I love to cook but because of the way the Holy Spirit was moving and the sweet moments we shared together.  It was kind of quiet as we were trying to cut vegetables and I seriously mean trying...the knives were dull as all get out but they make it work every will we!  As I'm peeling a tomato (that was a first) Suleiman asked that we tell her a story.  I just kind of looked as Callie like...what kind of story?!?!  Thankfully, Tricia piped up and asked if the ladies had ever heard the story of Daniel in the lion's den.  Suleiman being new to the faith had never heard the story so Tricia proceeds to share going into great detail.  Tricia has an incredible gift of telling stories.  Needless to say, Suleiman was amazed that the lion's mouths had been shut and they didn't even touch Daniel.  She said "and they didn't eat him...HOW?!?!"  Tricia explained that God had closed their mouths and protected Daniel.  She just couldn't believe it...she kept saying "Amazing, that is amazing!" She shared with us about how she loves to cook for people and that she really enjoys setting the table and making people feel loved.  I explained to her that is part of Jesus' heart in the Bible Jesus says He's preparing a place for us and there will be a banquet waiting for us! Callie proceeded at this time to share the story of Zacchaeus and the middle of the story Suleiman started piecing things together...she said "we watched a movie the other this the same Jesus that was in that movie that had the big cross on his back?!?!"  "Yes!!!"  We said...she replied "why did he do that?!?"  At this point Callie encouraged Tricia to tell the story of Jesus from birth to death & resurrection.  We all are pretty emotional about it...Callie & I are trying to cut vegetables and tears are rolling down our was just a sweet time to hear the story of Jesus and to experience it with this woman who had never heard the full story before.  She looked up and said "I can't believe he did that for heart can't take it!"  She ran over to Tricia and flung her arms around her as quickly as she could...we all just stood there and bawled!  She breaks away from Tricia and says "No more crying, no more crying...only tears of joy!!!"

That day was probably my favorite was so sweet and I'm so thankful the Lord allowed me to experience it.  We found out later after dinner that Suleiman pulled Bea aside and said "thank you for sending people that love me into the kitchen to work with me."  Callie, Tricia & I all teared up when we heard that.  There's nothing greater than hearing the people we were sent to share Christ's love with...felt the love! 

           The lovely Suleiman                                                                                                                                                         
Sweet Suleiman- this was the night before
our very last day at Maisha
Tricia, Callie & I cutting up veggies...yep, I peeled a tomato in one string!

Making Chopatti

I think I'll end with this final story...because I could go on & on!!!  I asked the Lord to allow me to connect with at least one of the kids so I could sponsor them.  For a little over a dollar a day one child can have an entire school uniform, one meal a day and their education paid for.  Due to a series of events, all ordained by the Lord I'm sure of it, my budget has been freed up so that I could sponsor someone.  On our very first day at Maisha I was hanging out with a group of kids...they were so much fun!  They were singing and asking all kinds of questions...really wanting my attention.  I noticed behind the kids a cute little boy sitting on a pile of wood...kind of quiet and really shy.  I was INSTANTLY drawn to him!  I stepped away from the group of kids and asked the boy his name...his name is Erick and he is 12 years old.  He was very sweet and soft spoken...I HAD to know if he was being sponsored, right away!!!  After a day or two of praying I found out he was not sponsored and I knew he was my kiddo!  I had also met this adorable young girl who was also very shy...I guess the extrovert in me is attracted to the shy reserved type...Ha!  Her name is Eunice and she is 8 years old.  Most of the kids love to hold your hand and be right next to you wanting every bit of your attention.  Erick & Eunice were not like this at all.  I noticed as the days went on that I no longer had to look to find them, they were always within arms reach following me around. I LOVED it!!!  One day while I was out at the soccer fields a beautiful young girl walked up to me and asked, "Are you Eunice's friend, Alecia?"  I said, "Yes, I am!  Are you her sister?"  they looked exactly alike!  She said "Yes, I name is Susline.  Eunice LOVES you!  She will not stop talking about her friend Alecia that walks with her at Maisha"  Tears welled up in my eyes and I said "She talks?!?!"  Eunice is sooo quite it was like pulling teeth to talk to her.  Susline said "Yes, she talks! We can't get her to stop!",  Ohhh...sooo adorable.
Eunice & Erick 
Eunice with her friends at the soccer fields

Susline (on the left) is a beautiful 15 year old girl who 
loves to sing and is very smart.  She already had a sponsor...
good thing because at this rate I was falling 
in love with all of them...I don't think I mentioned it 
but Erick & Eunice have 8 other brothers and sisters!

Sweet Eunice worshiping during church

Cute Erick caught me as I was trying to take 
a picture of him from a distance :-)

Thumbs up!

Well, now here I was with two kids I was crazy about.  So I continued to pray and found out neither of them were sponsored and they are actually brother and sister!!!  I couldn't choose between the two of them...I was in the world could I possibly pick just one?  I finally got a reminder from the Lord of how He freed up my budget and that I actually had room in my budget to take care of both of them.  So on my very last day with the kids I stopped by the Nakumatt (this was the "Wal-Mart" of Kenya) and purchased some flip flops for each of them...Eunice had been walking around barefoot the entire time.  I also wrote them each a letter with words of Truth and what a joy it was to meet them.  I also let them know that I was going to be their sponsor!  I had received letters from several children except these two.  On my last day there, before the church service they each handed me a letter.  It melted my heart...Susline helped Eunice write her letter.  I asked Susline to come upstairs with Erick, Eunice & me.  I wanted her to translate for them that I would be their sponsor.  They had the sweetest smiles on their faces when she told them.  Susline looked at me and said "they are so excited!" I have two kids in Kenya that I'm pretty crazy about and can't wait to love on and spoil!  I've already started gathering school supplies and made the photo books for them...I can't wait to send them their things with the next team that goes in November or December!  

Our last day together
Right after I gave them their
flip flops & told them I was 
going to sponsor them...I love
Erick's smile!

Robin presenting the prayer quilt the kids
at Bridgeway made for them

Bikes we were able to present to 
a couple of the guys.  A bike cuts their
travel time from a two hour walk
 to a 45 minute ride to school

 Meg, Blake, Bret, Eric & Austin
presenting the bikes & repair kits.

 Boys at soccer camp

 Some of the kids in the preschool program

 How sweet is this?!?
 Just hangin' out at the soccer field
 This is called the Tree of Life

 Bret, Eric & Austin
 Jenna & Callie

 Callie & I sporting our USA & Thunder gear

 39 Baptisms at the river

 After everyone was out of the watter

 The cattle came to drink and....well....

 take care of business....I said to the 3 guys that
did the baptisms "You were in that!!!"  We all 
got a good laugh when this happened.

Tony giving rides...this is the norm...always more
than one person on a motorcycle also known as
a piki piki

**Update on Benard** - I found out, after returning to the states, that one of our team members gave Benard's family enough money to take him to the hospital and get some care.  The doctors had no hope for him and put him in the ward where they send people to die.  It was just a waiting game really.  Ian went to visit Benard's family and Benard was there!!!  He was alive and well...he had put on weight and he was going into town to look for a job!!!  Praise the all...God is STILL working miracles today!!!

 Benard is in the striped shirt...Praise God for 
his healing!  Now Benard can get a job
and help care for his family.

Ian was part of our team while we were there
he's in the dark shirt & hat next to Benard

 Me, Callie & Jenna
A little Sass at the Equator!

 Baptisms...Praise the Lamb!
 Sweet Winnie!
 Boomer Sooner!!!
 With my kiddos!  Erick & Eunice

 This is another sweet Eunice

 Reppin' Thunder & USA at the Equator

 A typical evening...the sunsets were always gorgeous


paige said...

oh my gosh...i was going as fast as i could to still soak up and enjoy your post but i was praying the update on bernard was going to be positive...OH MY!!! what a miracle my friend.
i love these images
what beautiful faces
them running to you...makes me cry too.
i can not imagine the joy you have in your heart from this opportunity

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