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Archive for May, 2011

In the past week, the rapture/end of the world had come and gone without much fanfare…. During this cataclysmic week, against the backdrop of the world ending, a young girl in our school—3 year old Ramona—suddenly became an orphan. A week ago, her mother (Faith) died in a most ridiculous accident. She had taken Ramona out to dinner after school and they were returning to the home they shared in the country with Faith’s parents. Faith was out of the car closing the gate and somehow the truck rolled backwards and pinned her underneath, with the weight of it pressing into her head. She died underneath the truck while Ramona sat crying inside it. Over half an hour passed before the situation was discovered by the grandparents…I can’t imagine their shock to come upon the horrific scene of their dead daughter pinned beneath the truck, and wailing grand-daughter sitting in the front seat.

Little Ramona and her youngest auntie

It has been a heartbreaking week for all of us. Little Ramona has been out of school, surrounded by the love of her grandparents (who she will continue to live with) and her aunties. We went to Faith’s funeral yesterday. She was only 24–very bright by all accounts and about to graduate from the law school at Moi University. She was a great help to her parents, assisting them in the running and management of their farm. The funeral was held outside in their yard, with many tents erected for shade and her casket on display. (I could only glance and then walk away…just too sad). I would guess that there were between 500 to 1000 people there, ranging from young university professionals to old “mamas” with their heads tied in colorful cloth and stretched and dangling earlobes from their younger tribal days.

Their farm was beautiful. I always love being out in the Kenyan countryside; and even in the midst of the sad occasion, I couldn’t help but enjoy the bright sun, red dirt roads, cornfields, wooden work shacks with clean dirt floors, and the beautiful Eucalyptus trees.

Some of the mamas at the funeral

It was a Catholic funeral, African style; which means that it went almost all day long, with preaching, tributes, offerings, serving of communion, singing songs, and eating food, as well as other formalities that I did not understand. The priest mentioned Harold Camping in his sermon. I am annoyed by how much publicity that thing got, even making its way to a rural funeral in east Africa, with some people in this area getting rid of all their possessions in preparation for being beamed up out of here! (For the record, I believe that the “rapture” doctrine as well as much popular “end time” teaching is based on misunderstanding of figurative biblical language and historical context in which the New Testament was written). Don’t mean to offend anyone with that rant; I many of us grew up with this view, including myself, and I know it may still be a dearly held belief for some reading this….There is a lot more we could discuss on this issue, but I would rather (at least for the purpose of this blog) move on to other subjects.

Lucia Sol Otero

During this same apocalyptic week, my sister gave birth to the first grandchild for my parents. The one they have been waiting for…for too long! I was totally unprepared for the emotions that flooded my heart. Part of me wants to leave Africa right now so I can get home and just be with my family and hold that sweet little baby!

Lucia Sol was born several days past her due date, making her grand entrance on May 24, 2011; Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday…the significance of which you would appreciate only if you knew my family! We ALL love Dylan, as any of our extended family friends of any age can attest–being subjected to “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” whether they wanted to hear it or not! So, all day long on the 24th, I was already in full celebration mode for my brother Bob…and then the icing on the cake was for Lucia to make her grand entrance.

All week I have been floating high on a cloud of baby-sweetness, singing “Forever Young” and “Jokerman” and “Precious Angel” and “Visions of Johanna” and “Lord Protect My Child” and 100 other Dylan songs. I am thinking about writing a blog just on Lucia/Dylan. For all you folks that are groaning right now, I apologize in advance. You can always skip that blog if you are one of the people who could never get past his voice. (If that is you, I recommend just reading through one of his lyric books. It might help you gain at least a rudimentary appreciation for him. If that don’t help ya, I don’t know what will).

On that note, I guess I will just close this section as I did the first one: There is a lot more we could discuss on this issue, but let’s just move on! ha ha!

A perfect ending to the end of the world

Allen (one of my star actors) digging a hole for his seedling

Five days after the end of the world, the older students at EERC planted 100 seedlings on the road leading into the school property, creating a tiny new forest of avocado, cedar, teak, and other baby trees all mingled together.

Kids and seedlings

There is a nursery just a stone’s throw from where we were planting, and so we got all our seedlings from there. I love that EERC has such a holistic and hands-on vision for education. It is one thing to learn about all the benefits of trees in a textbook; but it is another thing entirely to actually plant a tree yourself. Before we planted the trees, we asked the students to give us some good reasons why we wanted to plant trees. These kids were sharp! For wind protection, they told us—as well as shade, medicine and food, protection from soil erosion and renewal of the air. And don’t forget beauty!

Gardeners' hands

I couldn’t help but think of the old adage, that a man has begun to discover the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree” said Martin Luther.

An orchard in the making

And so I bless these trees: May their roots go down deep and may they grow into a grand old orchard, outliving even the children who planted them. May they provide medicine, shade and food for future generations. And may the children who planted the trees also become medicine, shade and food for future generations. May they grow into “trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” and may the tree of life be found in their mouth; may they be healers of their nation and of Africa and of this world. Amen.

“Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.” – E.F. Schumacher

….And to that I add—not just one oak tree, but a forest of oak trees! One seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible.

Getting seedlings

Lillian and kids

Our own fertilizer recycled from the school's milk cows

Maxwell with his tree

Ivy and her little sister Faith--2 bright eyed girls

Waiting to get their seedlings to plant

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Hello, dear reader. My apologies for not keeping this blog better updated.

Lake Nakuru is shrinking, due to drought

So much has happened since my last post. I had the opportunity to go to Lake Nakuru National Park with some of the SILA staff last month—an experience that I will never forget. It was a kiss from God. It was ethereal. The whole day, I continually found myself blinking back tears as I stared at the herds of wild zebras, rhinos, antelope, gazelles, water buffalo, water bucks, pink flamingos, pelicans, baboons, monkeys, and many other critters.

The Group who went on this trip. These are the people I spend most of my time with.

We were surrounded by green hills and purple mountains, within a basin which held a large lake and beautiful flatlands of yellow grasses and stately Acacia trees. Every once in a while we would drive through a grove of those pale yellow-green trees with their high branching canopy above us, and I would breathe a sigh of joy from somewhere deep within the roots of my being. Even if I never saw one animal, the trees alone were enough to overwhelm me! Then, we would emerge from the trees to discover some new vista, with a new herd of some other kind of creature resting or foraging in the grass. Occasionally lions are also seen in the park, but we did not see any that day.

I hadn’t written about this yet, because I am still waiting to get pictures from my Korean friends, Wesley and Apollos, who joined us for the tour. (In the mad rush to pack for this trip, I somehow forgot my camera—another reason that tears kept filling my eyes). It hardly seems fair to just tell you about it and not offer any photos, but that is the best I can do for now.

In the Kerio Valley

I grew up in a national park, and I have this wonderful feeling of “home” as soon as I enter one anywhere else in the world. Thank God that there are people in this world with enough hindsight and foresight to protect these amazing places! All day long, my heart was filled with continual praise and joy for the animals, the Park, the people who manage it, the trees and grasses and lake, my family back home at the Grand Canyon, and the presence of God that so filled my heart in the midst of it all. It was an experience I will never forget.

Termite Palace in the Kerio Valley

We also spent a day and night in the Kerio Valley, hiking and exploring around and having meetings and just getting to know each other more. A grand time was had by all. The Kerio Valley is my favorite place in Kenya so far. It is just enough like southern Arizona to feel comfortingly familiar, and just different enough to always remind me of my exotic location.

Pelicans in the background

Soaking it all in

UPDATE ON GOD’S KIDS

Ann and little Frieda with her flowers

Ann Fyall was here for a month, and a lot of great changes were made in that time—the main change being that we all agreed to close down the little Dominion school send our kids to EERC (SILA’s school) instead. The little school was started mainly to serve the orphans, but was also open to the surrounding rural community. There are many reasons why this decision was made, and I won’t bore you with all the details. We are all very happy that the kids are now at EERC! EERC is a great school with a lot more opportunities for the kids and I know they will really thrive here.

All the kids with their new blankets. Great portrait taken by Blanca.

Since I am so involved at the school, it also makes me happy to see Naomi, Maxwell, Solomon, Festus, Purity, Faith, Pascal, Viona, Titus, Hermon, Frieda and Patience on a daily basis. They are making friends with the other students and have already grown so much just in the few weeks since Term 2 started in May.

I am especially proud of Naomi for having the top math score in her entire class! Many of our kids were a little behind in their initial testing, but some of them are already starting to excel. Purity is doing exceptionally well academically, as is Festus. Hermon and Frieda are also doing great. Some of the others are struggling a bit more. It is a huge advantage to them that English is really emphasized at EERC. It is forcing them to learn it. In their other school, classes were conducted solely in Swahili and many of the children could barely communicate in English. At EERC, they also have the opportunity to learn to swim, go on field trips, play sports, participate in the children’s fellowships that we hold twice a week, and many other activities that will expand them. Plus, I know all the teachers at EERC and have the highest respect for them. I am so excited that “our” kids are getting this opportunity.

Faith and Patience in their new school uniforms

Joseph and David gave us a real break on the cost of sending them. (Almost everyone in Kenya sends their kids to private schools, which are pretty much on every corner). Even so, coming up with fees for 12 kids to attend school is not cheap. Some of you have asked if there is anything you can do to help the kids. My reply is that the best way you could help these children right now (other than praying for them) would be to help us out with the cost of sending them to EERC. If anyone would like to give to this, it would be much appreciated. Every little bit helps. You can do so through: http://dominioninternational.org/ministries/word-workers-international/dominion-childrens-home-kenya/

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask me!

Kids having fun after school

I am currently at EERC 4 to 5 days a week, leading morning Bible studies for the teachers and children’s fellowships for the kids, as well as visiting in the classes to tell stories and teach songs—a fun way to help them improve in English. (My mom and aunt sent me a bunch of great children’s books to bring with me, and they have been an invaluable way to connect with the kids here).

THE CHILDLIKENESS OF OUR FATHER

This is pretty much my view whenever I look down!

I am loving every aspect of my “job” and getting to know the kids, teachers, and support staff at SILA has been a wonderful gift. I honestly don’t know that I have ever felt so loved by anyone as I do by these little ones. I came here to love on them, but it is their love for me that overwhelms and humbles me. I can’t walk anywhere around the school without at least two or three little kids running up to me, screaming my name and throwing their arms around my waist. Who can resist that?

Is this the kind of love that Jesus was talking about when He said we must be like little children to enter the kingdom? Did Jesus get the same feeling in His heart when the children came crowding around Him, simply to hug His legs and look up into His eyes? Did they squeal with joy when He crouched down to their level to look into their eyes and smile at them? (What a picture—God in the flesh, crouching down on His knees to look a child in the eyes and smile at her).

Festus and Titus

For obvious reasons, much of my Kenyan “journey into the heart of God” has been with children and through children. I have found myself pondering afresh the many places where Jesus referred to children—and always in a most positive way. It is almost like the child became to Him a symbol. I “see” Him now, looking at the children and receiving incredible revelation. He saw something in children that reminded Him of the budding new life that He saw emerging in His disciples. He knew that if they ever heard Him at all, it was only through the ears of their inner child, the child whose “angel” “always beholds the face of my Father in heaven.”

Cuddly darlin's--Priscilla and Faith

We all have an “inner child” of which natural children are merely a picture. It is our inner child that knows and sees. If we lose touch with our inner child, we lose touch with God Himself because it is only in the realm of childlikeness where His fatherhood can be experienced. Jesus knew this firsthand, from His own experience. He also became just like a little child—a perfect little child, and thus the perfection of His Father and His kingdom was made wide open to Him and He was able to give it to others.

While pondering this, I was reminded of a dream I had several years ago. In this dream, I saw a little girl in a white dress, perhaps about 5 or 6 years old. She was speaking the gospel, with the most incredible wisdom and great simplicity. I watched her in awe. How could it be that one so young could be so wise and speak with so much authority? There was a power in her that was pure and holy and totally disarming. She could look at people and see right into the heart of situations and speak a word that brought clarity and healing. She laid hands on the sick and prayed for them in the simplest faith, and they recovered. Everything about her was miraculous and beautiful. I watched her in action for a while, feeling exceptionally oafish—large and dense and coarse and dull. Finally, I asked her the obvious question: “WHO ARE YOU?”

She looked at me like I was shocked I wouldn’t know who she was, and then she told me her name. It is the name of a woman minister who I really respect, who I know happens to be in her 70’s. I had always admired this woman for her remarkable faith. In confusion, I stared at the little girl and said, “How can you be so and so? She is in her 70’s and you are just a child!” to which the girl told me, “If you are seeing me like a little child, it is because God knows you needed to see me this way.”

WOW! What a revelation! Creation stands on tiptoe, waiting to see the unveiling of the sons of God…and when they are revealed, it won’t be those who stand on their great intellectual prowess, or whose closets have been jammed up with a lifetime of old clothing and accumulated junk and cobweb-theology and sharp swords. These sons will be simple and pure; and their clothing of light will be cloaked in garments of humility. And lo and behold—they will be CHILDREN! And the world will wonder and fall to its knees when it sees the simple restoring power of a true word spoken from child-like lips of faith, hope and love.

As I said in a Facebook post a few weeks ago:

While “childishness” must be grown out of, “childlikeness” must be grown into. I am now convinced that any REAL spiritual growth comes only out of the true child-nature because only the child is willing to learn. True childlikeness is high spiritual attainment. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will BY NO MEANS enter it.” Luke 18:17
Jesus is saying it is IMPOSSIBLE to enter into the realm in which He dwelled, apart from a childlike nature. He knew this not just from observation but by His own experience. It was the spirit of Sonship in His own heart, calling “Abba Father” that taught Him true childlikeness. And the wonder of it all—when He gazed at Abba, He saw that same Childlike Heart. Childlikeness is never something we grow out of. If we become too “mature” to be childlike, we have grown past God Himself–grown into something old and withered and dead and barren—whereas our Father is freshness and simplicity and purity and humility.”

G.K. Chesterton said this wonderfully well: “It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” –G. K. Chesterton

I am learning so much from my little teachers.

children praying over Easter weekend

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