Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Dominion Children’s Home’ Category

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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Children in their coats of many colors

I am long overdue to continue introducing you to the precious kids at Dominion and I apologize for that. On Saturday, we had a wonderful time presenting each child with a soft, fuzzy, handmade blanket that a friend of Ann’s had created for each child. Each blanket had their own name on it and a special Bible verse just for them. We made big deal about presenting each child with their own blanket and reading them their verse and telling them what it meant. They were so happy and excited!

Learning to hula hoop

Blanca also bought them two hula hoops…a huge hit with the kids and adults.

Here are the next 3 awesome kids!

Purity

Purity: Purity is about 7 or 8 and one of the quietest kids at the Home. She has an “alone-ness” about her that is almost tangible. At the beginning, she was always one of the last kids to greet me, usually with a stoic expression and downcast face. My heart went out to her and I began to constantly seek her out to hug her and talk to her. A few weeks ago, she got sick and had to go to local clinic. We went to pick her up and take her back to the home. I was so excited to have some alone time with her so I pulled her up on my lap and held her hand. She sat there rather stiffly, answering my questions with the one-word answers so soft I couldn’t even hear them. After a few minutes I asked her if she wanted down and she said yes. I will admit that I was a little bummed.

However, the next time we arrived at the home I got the best present anyone could have given me. With all the kids swarming around me, I felt a little hand slip into mine. I looked down to see Purity looking up at me with a smile on her face! Now, she comes up to me consistently with her shy little smile. Every time I see her, she seems a little more open and relaxed and free.

Beautiful girl

After inquiring around, I discovered more of her story. Her mother died of AIDS shortly after she was born. No one, including the mother knew who the baby’s biological father was and there was no one there to take the baby. She was a baby without a home (passed around) until finally some neighbors in the community took pity on her and brought her into their home. They were older and did not have any other kids but from what I can tell, they took good care of her—at least her outer needs. Even so, it is obvious that the lonliness has been in Purity’s heart since she was a baby. I doubt that she has ever felt that she truly belonged to anyone. Being ALONE is what she knows best. I should say, knew best, because I believe that God is healing her heart.

I think often of her mother, and the name that she chose for her baby girl: Purity….as if to give her daughter what she felt that she had lost or maybe never possessed. Beautiful Purity is her legacy.

Pascal

Pascal: Like Purity, Pascal is one of the more serious kids. Before he came to the home, his habit had been to keep his head down. Smiles did not come easily to his face and still are more rare than they are on some of the other kids. Even so, he has come a long way. Ann said that when he first arrived, his face never cracked a smile. She said that he was so happy to get his first pair of shoes that he refused to take them off at night, but slept in them. As an orphan, he had been living with an uncle and many other relatives including many children. I don’t know much more about his past beyond that.

I am fascinated watching Pascal eat. He eats like someone who has known hunger. He focuses so seriously and methodically on his food; eating the beans first and then saving a big bite of corn for last—his favorite! No games or chitter-chatter for him during meal time!

Sweet Pascal

He is a short little guy of 6 years old, but he can hold his own with Maxwell and Solomon during a game of football (soccer). His great athleticism was proved even more on Saturday when he proved to be a natural at the hula hoop, surpassing ALL the other kids, even Maxwell. It was great to see him hula hooping with a big grin on his face, his tongue sticking out with concentration in the gap where his two front teeth used to be. He is so short the hula hoop barely swung above the dirt, but he could keep it going.

Because it is so rare, Pascal’s smile means the world to me. He has no idea what he does to my heart when I see him spontaneously laughing and playing, and even moreso when he looks over at me and smiles. Just a small taste of the joy it brings to the heart of God when we look His direction and smile at Him!

Titus

Titus: Titus is one of the younger kids. He is about 5, and the newest member of the House. He joined the home in December after he was found dying in a maize field. An orphan, he and his siblings were being “cared” for by a grandfather who had lost the will and strength to nourish his many grandchildren. Several had already died. I get tears in my eyes thinking about how close Titus came to death and where he might be right now if he had not been rescued.

Titus with a home-made bow and arrow

You might think that his tragic beginnings would make for a sad and withdrawn child, but Titus is as happy as they come. He just lost a tooth and often has the biggest ear to ear grin on his face. He is soooo grateful to be in the home. Abraham said that when he first came, he thanked them for every meal, every piece of clothing given to him. He was in awe and overwhelmed at his newfound riches. He is still that way. He has been on a big learning curve, because he only spoke Kalingin rather than Swahili. But he has been learning fast and is always in the midst of all the fun with a big smile on his face. He is very affectionate.

He is the sweetest, gentlest little boy with a kind and unassuming nature and ready smile.

Concerning the kids, all I can say is that every single one of them is my favorite!

Titus in the midst of a rainbow!

...And another rainbow

L to R: Solomon, Titus and Purity

Pascal with his buddies

Ann Fyall with kids and Anne, the house mother

Read Full Post »

Blanca Garcia and Ann Fyall

Ann Fyall and Blanca Garcia arrived from the Carolinas a few days ago. It has been great fun to have them here. Ann is the visionary behind the Dominion Children’s home, which she started a few years ago after successfully working with the state of South Carolina to open a home for troubled young girls in Spartanburg.

Ann with the cow that provides milk for the Home

[As a single mother herself, she is a walking testimony of overcoming difficult circumstances and allowing God to turn personal trials into a never-ending stream of blessings for others. So often, as I have spent time with the children at the home, I have thought of Ann and marveled at her vision to get something like this going. It is so much fun to finally be here together with her after talking about it for months back in the States!

the lovely Blanca

I am so glad that Blanca Garcia came with her. Blanca is from New York, but her parents were from Mexico and she is perfectly bilingual. Since I have been here, I have wanted to slip into Spanish so many times while attempting to speak Swahili! Now I have someone to talk to! Ha ha! Blanca and her family moved to Raleigh a few years ago and soon they will be joining Ann’s church (Dominion) in Greer, SC. She and I have been singing old Spanish songs together and having a great time! She even learned a few Swahili songs with me and we sang them together yesterday at church in Kabarnet. She is my new soul sista! Unfortunately, she will be leaving in a week, but Ann will stay here for about 3-4 more weeks.

Yesterday we drove back down into the Kerio Valley and up the other side of the mountain to Kabarnet. Diane wanted to visit Pastor Chepsat, whose brother died suddenly and unexpectedly while in the hospital for heart surgery. (Diane says that Kenyatta Hospital, the largest in the region, is very substandard). We wanted to encourage the church there. After heading out at 7:30, we arrived in Kabarnet at 9:30 or so, and went out for Chai with Pastor Chepsat before the service started.

these people handed us palm fronds as we drove slowly through the crowd

It was Palm Sunday, so on the way we drove through hordes of people walking down the street waving palm branches. Lots of people were out and about for church.

We drank chai in a little café while Pastor Chepsat shared all kinds of interesting stories with us. He had lived and studied in the US back in the late 80’s and came back to Kenya with strong “church success.” His hunger for more of God however, soon drove him out of the denominational church that he was pastoring. (The people had their way—put it that way). Jesse and Diane were a huge help and support to Chepsat during that time. Chepsat said that Jesse preached his farewell service in his church….as Jesse spoke on deeper things of the Lord and as Chepsat translated, he knew that he could never continue on the same way and that he needed to step out in faith. He also shared stories with us of all-night prayer meetings up in the mountains, during which they would be rained on and pray under large trees to keep from getting too wet.

Today, their church meets in an old movie theater. The chairs are shredded, with foam spilling out and huge holes in them. There is no overhead light, etc. But the presence of God is there! It was a service in which a variety of people shared, including us. It was especially moving for Diane to be there, as it was the last place that Jesse preached in Kenya. God gave Ann and I the exact same scripture to share from: the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. We had a wonderful time with them, and will be back. Pastor Chepsat invited me to go with them sometime out into the some of the more remote places in the area…I am very much looking forward to that!

Sharon, John and Diane

Afterwards, we had lunch with Sharon and then she came with us to meet John and Neema and Betty down in the Kerio Valley where we all met up with some friends of John’s from the States who are interested in possibly working with SILA on digging wells.

Neema and Betty playing at Cheptebo center in the Kerio Valley

Ann gave the girls (Neema and Betty) some balloons and I had a lot of fun playing with them. The whole family will be coming to Eldoret next weekend and staying with Diane and me. (Blanca’s room will be ready for them just in time!)

Kerio Valley reminds me a bit of Tucson area

I can’t believe how fast April is going by!

The moon was almost as bright as the sun

Read Full Post »

A few weeks ago, I woke up with a Christmas song going through my head: “It Wasn’t His Child,” speaking of Joseph and how he was not Jesus’ biological father.  I have learned to stop and consider the songs that I wake up singing, because sometimes the Holy Spirit is speaking to me through them. 

I was finding it strange that I would have such a random Christmas song on my mind—not one that I even like that much, or have listened to recently.  As I came to the closing line, “But it wasn’t his child…it was God’s child,” suddenly the why behind the song became apparent to me.  I immediately thought of the children at Dominion Home.  God was reminding me that they are HIS children first and foremost; and to love them and honor them as if He had personally come up to me and said, “Would you watch my children for me?”   He reminded me of how valuable they are to Him….and that whatever I do for them, I am doing for their Father.  They are HIS children.

Festus

I had a wonderful time with His kids this weekend.  I have so enjoyed getting to know them more, though I cannot communicate with them fully because they all speak Swahili for their first language and the younger ones hardly speak any English at all.  That doesn’t stop them from chattering to me, and I just smile and say “mzuri sana!” which means “very good!” 

I decided to wrap up the art supplies as presents, to make it more exciting for them.  I don’t think they get to open a present very often, if ever.  When I handed out the brightly colored packages to the kids, they did not even know what to do. Every single one of them sat there staring at the gift.  I had to show them how to open it, and instead of ripping into it, they began to very slowly and carefully remove the wrapping paper.  They each had their own big pad of paper and there was a large Tupperware container filled with crayons, colored pencils and markers for all of them to share.

Some of the kids coloring in the sunroom

They immediately all grabbed a marker or pencil and began to draw.  I watched them for a while—for a good 10 minutes, not one of them picked up a different colored marker or crayon.  I realized that they had never created anything with different colors.  They knew how to draw a picture; but coloring it in was not a concept they were familiar with.  

So, I began to draw very colorful pictures and designs, and demonstrated to them how to use many colors on one page.  They were so excited and began coloring in their little drawings.  They sat there for hours and hours, drawing and coloring.  Soon the other adults and I began to draw things for them to color—a sheep; a dog; a lion; and so on. I knew the kids would like the art supplies, but I was shocked at how much they liked them—ALL the kids.  Not one of them was bored with it.

Nicely labled images

After several hours, I had them put it away so that we could have story time.  (Time to practice our English, among other things)!  After story time, the illustrations in the books only gave them more ideas, and they all went back to coloring.

Feasting on Termites

It rained all day Saturday, so we spent the day inside.  As evening rolled in, the kids started running and jumping all around the house. They were laughing and shrieking for joy.  It took me a moment to realize that they were trying to catch bugs that were flying all around the lights.  I thought they were moths, and thought it was cute that they were so excited to see them. 

Faith, showing me a termite

Then, Naomi caught one.  She came up to me excitedly, and right in front of me she ripped it wings off and popped it into her mouth.  It was not a moth, but a termite!  Without its wings, it looked like a huge ant.  I had heard that people eat termites around here—fried or raw.  Feasting on termites is considered more of a “country” thing to do, but even many sophisticated city folk grew up eating them. 

Solomon getting ready for a snack

I looked around the room in amazement as the kids caught termite after termite, ripped off their wings and popped them into their mouths.   They were still laughing hysterically. It might as well have been raining candy from heaven. The floor was littered with termite wings; some of them twitching. I think half the fun must be trying to catch them!  So, I joined in the fun and gave the termites I caught to the younger kids.  I know it is a good source of protein for them…right??! 

Naomi sweeping up termite wings

A few of the kids offered me one to eat and I for a brief moment, I considered it.  Naomi told me that they taste like lemons. (I thought she was going to tell me they taste like chicken!)  But I couldn’t bear the fact that they were still alive and had little legs and antennae that were moving.  I decided that my compromise will be that if I am offered a fried one in the future, I will try it, but for now at least I am drawing the line at eating living termites!

Finally, we cleaned up the mess and had our dinner…standard stuff:  Ugali, cabbage, and a tiny bit of meat—freshly slaughtered sheep, which Diane and I got for them at a small butchery on our way in.

When I went in to kiss each kid goodnight, they all shrieked with laughter as I hugged and kissed them.  They sleep two kids to each twin bed and do not use pillows.  (I hear that is pretty standard around here).  They do not have pajamas to sleep in, but just sleep in the clothes that they will wear tomorrow. (At least that is what they do on the weekend)!  

I want to begin to introduce you to each child so that you can get to know them personally as I get to know them more.  Here are the first three…God’s children.

Maxwell

Maxwell with a flower

I will start with Maxwell.  His middle name is Precious. At 9, he is the oldest boy and has an amazing ear to ear grin.   He is serious and tries hard at everything he does.  He is a great soccer player and loves to draw cars and trucks.  Like most all the other kids, his mother died of AIDS.  He has some relatives somewhere who come to see him on occasion.  Abraham told me that he is so excited when that happens and so sad when they leave.

Maxwell and Solomon

He and Solomon (the next oldest boy at age eight) have a bit of sibling rivalry going on. On Sunday, when all the kids were coloring, he and Solomon got into a spat.  I am not sure what exactly happened, but Solomon poked something in his eye. 

Maxwell was crying in the corner, when I noticed him and went over to assess the situation. I took Maxwell in my arms to comfort him and I was amazed at how he just nestled into my arms in a fetal position.  Kids here do NOT cry for attention.  It doesn’t even occur to them; and Maxwell has never been much of a snuggler.  I knew that his response to me was out of a deep need in his own heart and so I sat there with him for hours.  After a while the other kids let me know that they also wanted a turn on my lap. But I knew that I needed to keep holding Maxwell and I whispered to him that I would sit with him as long as he wanted me to. 

I kept stroking his back and kissing his head and singing to him.  As I did, I began to “see him” as a young man, with his big smile, all secure in the love of the Lord.  I know he has a great future ahead of him.  I prayed in the Spirit over him and sang over him and told him every affirming thing I could think of.  I kept whispering to him, “Your name is Maxwell Precious and you are precious. You are precious to God and to me.“  Finally, I asked him if he wanted to go outside and he whispered, “yes.”    We sat in the sun with the other kids and drank Uji and then Maxwell went to bed.  He was exhausted from all the emotions and his sore eye.  He is sensitive and intelligent and was one of the first kids placed in the home but I know he must have many memories of his earlier childhood.  Please keep him in your prayers.  Like every other kid on the property, he is one of my favorites! 😉

Viona and Frieda

I am going to introduce Viona and Frieda together, since they are cousins, as I discovered this weekend. 

Frieda

Other than Patience, the small son of Abraham and Ann who are the house parents, Frieda is the youngest child in the home at the age of 4.  She is always the first to come running to me when I first arrive, and hangs on me more than any of the other kids. She us such a little snuggler! She is a very pretty little girl with a ready smile and quite a little chatterbox, always talking to me in Swahili. 

What a beautiful smile!

When I get someone else to translate for her, I am always surprised at the things she is saying.  Holding a bouquet of bougainvillea: “See these flowers I picked?  I am going to give them to my daddy” (Abraham).  Looking at me with excitement: “We are all going to sleep in the same house together tonight!”  Comment after we took a short tour around the property: “We should have spent more time exploring that field instead of come back home so fast!”  I have explained to her that I do not understand, but that doesn’t keep her from talking to me, and I am glad.  Frieda really brightens my life!  She is all girl, and her favorite color marker by a long shot is pink, with yellow coming in second.

Viona

Viona is a few years older than Frieda and has the thickest, curliest eyelashes I have ever seen.  I have enjoyed watching her in action.  I discovered this weekend that she is quite a ham.  While I was holding Maxwell outside while we were drinking Uji, I was watching her and Naomi chatting.  I wish I knew what Viona was saying, because she kept making Naomi laugh so hard she that almost fell off the bench. 

Deep in thought

Viona is also very creative.  Last weekend, she had a whole outdoor kitchen she had created, and was mixing up mud and “cooking” it in a few tiny bottle caps that she had found somewhere.   This weekend, after we got back from our walk in the field, she had collected several baby grasshoppers for which she built a small house out of rocks and tiny scraps of wood.  (The babies didn’t seem to want to stay in the house, but she was diligent to continue to make it very nice for them and keep putting them back inside).  She seems just as happy playing by herself as with the other kids and always has something interesting going on.  Her favorite color marker/crayon was orange.  She is also the only girl that chose the orangy color nail polish, and she was also the only one who wanted matching color on her finger and toenails.  Like her cousin, she is one of the more snuggly children.

Abraham told Diane and me a little more about the girls.  Both of their mothers had died of AIDS and before coming to the Home they were being cared for—along with about 20 other cousins—by their grandparents, who live a few hours away.  Abraham described their grandfather as a godly man who really loves his family and hated to let two of his granddaughters go.  It was only because he was so desperate. 

Frieda in the flowers

I don’t know how many of his own kids had died, but he had taken all of their offspring into his tiny house.  The situation was pretty much impossible for him to care for them all…not enough food, room, space, etc.   I think this must be a pretty special family, because these two girls are amazing.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that they had such a wonderful grandfather.  While Abraham was telling us the story, Diane and I had the same idea at the same time:  to go visit the grandfather and take him a big bag of maize or beans and just encourage him and bless him. We plan to do that sometime this week.  We are both looking forward to meeting him.

We also got the idea to make a special “memory/identity” book for each child, which we will give them in September right before I leave.  That gives us several more months to collect as much info as we can on each child, including any old pictures we can find of them when they were babies, or photos of their biological parents. 

We will also fill it with photos of them having fun and photos of other adults and parent figures in their life who love them.  We will write them poems and letters (and get others to do so as well) and give them special Bible verses, etc.  Basically, we will put as much into the book that we can that will give them a strong sense of their identity and the knowledge that they are loved and cherished and unique. 

Please pray for us in this endeavor—that each book will be a treasure to each child and say all that God wants us to say to them. I think this one of the best things that we could do for them, and I feel like if nothing else came of this trip, just making these books for the kids would make the whole thing worth it. What a privilege and joy to serve God’s very own children.

Today is the one-month anniversary of my arrival in Nairobi!   We had another wonderful morning with the teachers at SILA.  Abraham, the “father” at the Kid’s Home, just sent me a note thanking me and welcoming me in one of the best possible ways I would ever want to be greeted— as an “ambassador of a new song!”   I thank God for the many new songs for all of us that He is releasing in His presence.  We leave every meeting humming a melody and filled with joy.

Abraham helping a kid across the fence, as we surveyed the property. Dominion Home in the distance.

Read Full Post »

I am sitting here listening to one of my favorite songs that randomly popped up on my iTunes: “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips…it feels especially nice–and a little strange—to be singing it while looking out my bedroom window in Africa! There was a time when it seemed that my life was divided into so many separate segments; each with their own beauty that felt isolated from the others. I longed to somehow unite everything I loved, so that in my heart, they could all be one and my heart could be one undivided unit.

Some of the sweet kids at Dominion Home

I have discovered that the closer I am to God, the more united and whole every part of my life becomes…no longer any orphaned areas of my heart, or aching nostalgia for things that I can’t even articulate—but every part of me brought under the shelter of His wings. It has been wonderful to discover that it really is true–everything that I love is in God. Every good and perfect gift is from Him.

 “Unite my heart to fear Your name” said David….Unite my heart to see You in everything, to love You in everything, to thank You in everything….to walk with You in every area of my life, every moment of the day and night….to give everything to You, and receive a kingdom in return!

Descending into the Kerio Valley through thick clouds

In the Kerio Valley on a rainy day

Diane and I had a great time in Kabarnet. We drove up high into the mountains to 9,000 feet (through thick fog and clouds) and down into the Kerio valley, which was full of Acacia trees and giant termite mounds. It was hot down there, with termites buzzing around like flies because of the rain.

Then we drove back up to 9,000 feet again, to the little town of Kabarnet (“Kab” – “place of”, “Barnet” – the name of the Scottish man who settled that area…from a European standpoint, at least). The best way that I can describe Kabarnet is a high altitude jungle!

I had the eeriest feeling of déjà vu as we drove into the town. Everything looked familiar…I recognized it! The way the road curved, the big building at the corner and then going up the hill into the town. It pulled up a dream from deep in my memory; a real dream, which I could not totally recall, but in which I remembered going up and down streets that seemed just like what I was seeing out of the car window. It was very strange.

Neema and her mother behind their house

The town is home to John and Sharon–friends of Jesse and Diane’s. John is somewhere in his 30’s and originally from Montana. He has been in and out of Kenya for over ten years and is married to the lovely Sharon, from Nairobi area. They have the cutest little daughter, Neema, (pronounced Nay-ma), who is 5. John lived with Diane and Jesse for 6 months when he first came to Kenya, and he is like another one of their “sons.” Neema calls Diane “grandma.” John and Neema immediately felt like old friends; and they have been in and out of some of the same places I have. They lived in Kansas City for a year and were a part of IHOP, and John also knew of Kelley Varner. I look forward to getting to know them more while I am here.

Neema

Neema and Betty

I had a lot of fun with Neema and her “sister,” Betty, a 7 year old Turkana girl who is living with them so that she can attend school. (We only got to meet Betty at the very end of the day, since she was in class—a very gentle hearted and shy girl with a beautiful smile).

I loved their little house, halfway down a steep hill, and nestled amongst the tropical pines. While we were there, several other friends came over to visit; namely Chepsat, a local pastor and man of integrity. He was counselor to the former president of Kenya, and is very humble and kind.

Typical scene in one of the high altitude villages we drove through

After spending the day with them, Diane and I drove back down into the valley, where we spent the night at an AIC (Africa Inland Church) guesthouse. It was started by some friends of Diane’s who are from the UK. (He is Scottish and she is Irish…but alas, they have since moved back to England). The beautiful place was now being managed by a very capable Kenyan couple, Edward and Sally, and their little adopted boy, Emmanuel. (Ok, Emmanuel is not necessarily helping to manage the place, but his cuteness adds a lot to the whole ambience!)

There was a group of Turkana people visiting on a special tour they were taking with World Vision to view agricultural areas all over Kenya. The Turkana people are very traditional and colorful in their dress and lifestyle. They mostly live on the border of Lake Victoria. The ladies all shave the sides of their head to create a Mohawk, which they style with braids and in other ways. They are very stoic until they start singing…Then they really let loose! Some came and ate at our table–not out of preference, but simply because the dining hall was full. I could tell they were very shy to sit with us, and most of them cannot even speak Swahili. They do not like to be photographed or gawked at any more than the rest of us. I was surprised to see them make the sign of the cross before they ate their meal.

The Turkana people worshipping God in the tent

I was glad that I was able to get a short video of them the next morning, as they sang and worshipped God. Being the only Mzungu in the crowd, I was asked to briefly address them and introduce myself. I thanked them for their worship and talked about how we are all brothers and sisters worshipping the same Father.

We spent a few hours out at SILA yesterday and I helped feed lunch to the younger kids and played with them during their recess. They were climbing all over me and hanging on to my legs and touching my hair. I made a point to personally smile at and look at as many of them right in the eyes as I could, and every time I did, that kid would laugh hysterically. I told them to touch my hair as much as they wanted and sat down so they could easily reach it. I had to laugh as they touched my hair and whispered “Oooooh….smart!” I am sure my hair looked anything but smart, being disheveled by 50 dirty little hands! (When I pulled out the nail polish at Dominion Home, they also said the same thing, with the same touch of awe in their voice… ”Oooooooh… smart!” as I painted on coats of glitter, pink and purple on their little finger and toenails).

This morning we went back to SILA to continue the One Thing lesson with the teachers. We prayed for Japan and had a sweet time of worship after the lesson….I thank God every day that I have my guitar here with me, and most of all for His presence! Afterwards, we led Children’s Fellowship. We decided to continue our lesson on David, and this time we acted out the story of Samuel coming to anoint the new king of Israel. We had a bunch of volunteers from the students and I played Samuel. (I had flashbacks to our Christmas play at KLF. All I had to do was picture Jim Hose playing Samuel and I knew just how to do it! Ha ha!) The little boy who played David was amazing. He actually went out and found a stick to use as a staff, as if he had just been out in the field with the sheep. He bowed respectfully before “Samuel “ and later demonstrated killing the lion and the bear. I could see Diane with tears in her eyes looking at him. Our lesson was, “Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”

It seems that has really been one of my main messages the whole time I have been here, whether talking to kids or adults. Anyone can be great before God by being true to Him in the secret place of their heart…it does not require a great education or money or talent. Things that impress men do not impress God. He wants relationship. He wants reality. He is after our heart. In a nation that has been ravaged by religious games of all kinds, and where many of the wrong things have been emphasized, this message is so important. I thank God for the relationship that He is building with the teachers. SILA truly is a unique and fresh expression of the Kingdom of God and I consider it a privilege to work with them.

Viona creating a masterpiece in the dirt

Tomorrow, I will head out to Dominion Home to spend the night again. I am looking forward to all that Father will do in our midst. I am taking them art supplies this time. The kids draw in the dirt with sticks, or on a rough cement wall with charcoal. Diane and I splurged on getting each kid their own pad of paper and lots of crayons, colored pencils and markers for them to share. I can’t wait for them to see it all. I’m sure many of them have never used some of these things before.

After I get some good photos of each kid and learn more about them, I will put up some special posts and introduce you to each of them in a more thorough manner.

Morning Glories

Rainy season is gorgeous—and a LOT cooler. Here are some vibrant Morning Glories climbing over a fence.

Thanks again for your continued prayers and encouraging comments. It is hard to believe that it has almost been a month since I arrived here. At this rate, my time here will be finished before I know it….and I already feel like there is just no way to give all that I want to give. I can only trust God to multiply it and continue to multiply it. I truly appreciate your prayers!!

Read Full Post »

What a wonderful weekend!  I recently returned from the Dominion Children’s home, where I spent the night and spent much of Saturday and Sunday.  I had been looking forward to doing this for some time, and so had the kids. As Anna told me, “Now they will know that muzungus are just like everybody else, when they see that you will sleep in the same place with them!”  It seems that the whole weekend was a discovery of that very thing—for all of us!

First, allow me to quell any fears that might be arising in some of your hearts.  The Home is located in a quiet little community outside of Eldoret—basically just some dirt roads and a scattered farming community.  The elevation seems to be a bit higher out there.  It is very quiet and peaceful, with red dirt roads and Blue Gum trees; plowed corn fields and wandering cows and sheep; mud homes with grass or tin roofs, and stick fences around tidy yards.  A car might actually show up on the road only 3 or 4 times a day—if that.  Most people walk to get to where ever they need to go.

The Home is one of the nicer ones in the area, I suppose, because it has tile floors and electricity, though it is lacking in indoor plumbing.  The shower is basically one long open room with unfinished cement walls and floor and a spigot. The “choo” is located a short walk away to the adjoining Kweli property—two outhouses side by side with a big hole in the middle of the cement floor, which is for squatting over.  (I have to say, I find that nicer than a nasty old toilet seat!) 

Moira and William lent me a cot and some blankets that they use for camping, as well as a battered old mosquito net.  I also brought my guitar, kids books, Bible and Swahili lessons, nail polish, and food.  I forgot a hair brush and a few other personal items, but it all worked out fine.  Nancy, who helps in the home, loaned me her room for the weekend.  I was expecting to just sleep in the living room, but she insisted.  Her room is about the size of a walk in closet; with just enough room to hold the cot and my things.  It was very gracious of her.

Festus gets his head scrubbed by Nancy

After we had lunch (red beans and corn with a few other veggies—seasoned with cilantro), the kids washed outside.  Nancy scrubbed the smaller ones, and the older ones scrubbed themselves.  The boys had one bucket of water and the girls another bucket.

Once everyone was clean and the clouds rolled in making it a bit cooler, we went on a walk.  Cornelius, who lives on the Kweli property, along with several other men who work for SILA, went with us.  

I am glad he was with us, because he knew all the neighbors and short cuts and cool things to see.   After going down the road and talking to people with a passionfruit farm, we cut across a field and went down to a cow dip. 

Then we cut across another field and through several people’s yards (I felt a little weird about that, but just followed Cornelious.  No one seemed to mind, but just welcomed us (“karibu”) and shook our hands as we walked through their yard.  

Short commercial: I got some great photos of the kids this weekend and while on the walk.  It was wonderful getting to know them all so much more.  The shy ones are starting to open up.  I will do a blog soon just on the kids, and I will make a better effort to actually upload more photos to the blog instead of Facebook!

the gang!

Back to the walk. We eventually came out by the main road, after walking through the two biggest buildings out there—a hospital and church right next to each other; both looking in semi-disrepair.  After scooting through the barbed wire fence, we went to visit some friends of the kids.  I had seen the front of this particular home as Diane and I drove in and out; and I had always wondered about it.  It seemed like there was a little storefront window there, where people could come up and buy candy or eggs, and who know what else. 

We went in through the little gate, and into a lush little country home-place. This tidy little compound was home to some very industrious and hospitable people who welcomed us to come and sit on their small plot of grass, which had laundry lines strung in one corner and big blooming bougainvilla in the other. There were chickens clucking around and cows through another gate.  Sitting on the grass was an ancient, rail-thin lady holding a fat baby. The house itself was made of mud—three separate one-room buildings adjoined by an overhanging tin roof where people sat on makeshift benches (kinda like a front porch).  Everything was swept very clean, making the dirt floors seem downright tidy.  One was the living room—just big enough to hold several chairs and a desk.  I didn’t even attempt to go in it.  I did notice that the centerpiece of the room seemed to be a radio hooked to a battery, which they graciously cranked up so we could listen to beautiful Swahili music coming in with much static.  The other room was a tiny smoky kitchen and I am told the third was the bedroom.  Like everyone else, they did their dishes outside, and they were all drying on a nice big wooden stump of a dish drain.  There were little flowers and plants potted inside plastic margarine tubs and tin cans and I could see several banana plants in the back yard. The whole atmosphere was so homey and pretty.  In a way it reminded me of depression-era photos I have seen of people living in dug-outs and listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry through their one connection to the outside world.  I guess it is true–muzungus really are like everyone else! 

The kids played with 3 of their school mates who lived there…they picked flowers and chased the chickens and generally seemed to have a lot of fun.  Then the mother of the home brought out a big tray of chai and we all sat in the grass and drank our mugs and laughed and talked.  I was so sad that my camera battery had just ran out of juice, because I would have loved to get some photos of this picturesque little place.  Maybe next time!  After the mother gave a special treat to each kid (a piece of blue hard candy) we took off walking home.

Back at the Home, I enjoyed getting to know Isaac, who is a room-mate to Cornelius.  He came up to me with his hand held out.  “Do you remember me?  I thanked you on Sunday for your powerful message!”  I remembered him.  He went on.  “We were surprised to hear you preach like that.  When I first saw you I thought that you must be a family friend to Diane, just visiting for a while.  You look young.  We were not expecting the powerful words that you spoke.  You came in such simplicity. Your words came from your heart and not your head.  Many missionaries only speak from their heads, but you are different. We could hear God when you spoke.  You really impacted us and gave us hope.  We are so grateful!  Your words are what Africa needs! ”   I was stunned to hear this and could feel tears coming to my eyes.  This had been my hope and prayer–and God had answered, desipite my own lack of ability.    

He continued, speaking about Jesse Grey, Diane’s husband who passed away in August.  Jesse had mentored the SILA men and many others.  I never had a chance to meet Jesse, so I was fascinated to hear Isaac speak of him.  “Jesse was never like the others.  He also came in simplicity. He would sit and eat with us.  His words were different.  He was not religious, but he spoke from his heart.  We never saw him as a muzungu, but only as a father.  He was one of us, and we learned so much from him.”  On he went, telling me wonderful stories of Jesse and sadder stories of his impression of bigger ministries who come into Kenya, stay in the fanciest hotels in Nairobi, hold conferences that cost money to attend, and then leave.  Many Kenyans are intimidated by them, he said.  They do not want to talk to the muzungu. He told me that it meant so much to them that Diane and I and others would come to the small places and stay with them. 

If he only knew that my heart has always been for the out of the way places; the places overlooked on the map.  Those are places that fascinate me.  Those are the people who capture my heart and my prayers.

And so I spent my first night at the home, eating mango, ugali, cabbage, chapattis and chicken, drinking chai, playing with the kids and talking with my new friends late into the night.  All of them, especially Isaac, had so many questions about the United States, president Obama (they are so proud of him), and my visit to Niger last year. We talked about Kenyan politics.  They also wanted to know more about Mexico; especially when I told them that Mexicans use ugali to make chapattis (corn tortillas) and tamales; and eat many of the same foods.  They were fascinated by everything. We talked, we sang and we prayed.  This morning we did more of the same.  Diane joined us for a special service for the kids and then we had a delicious lunch.  Though I was coated in dirt, I can’t wait to go back out there and spend more time with them next weekend.  It is a wonderful continued discovery: “everyone else” is just like “everyone else.”

A few more photos from our walk:

Getting ready to head out for the walk

Typical scene along the road

Read Full Post »

Hello friends! It has been another great day in Eldoret, thought admittedly much sadder for the world at large with the devastating earthquake that happened in Japan. Diane and I have been following the footage on TV via international news stations…and we have been praying, as I know many of you have as well.

I am really starting to settle into life here. We went to SILA again this morning for our ongoing Bible study with the teachers. After the study, I taught them a new song—“The More I Seek You” by Kari Jobe. Last week I taught them a Misty Edwards medley. I plan on teaching them many of my favorite intimate worship songs (as long as they are in a basic chord progression that I can play! ha) especially while we are studying the concept of “One Thing” and dwelling in His presence. At the end of every study, we just take some time to worship the Lord and turn our eyes fully upon Him. Like me, they are excited to learn new songs. I want to learn from them, and they from me, so it works out well!

After the teacher’s study, Diane and I led “children’s fellowship.” The entire school was there…little tiny chubby 3 year olds up to 12 year olds! I taught them a new song that I had just learned from Moira, that has a lot of fun interaction with their neighbors. The lesson took on a totally unplanned twist, when I realized that we still had about 20 min left for the class. So we enacted David and Goliath. I played Goliath and died a horrible death in front of them, while one of the boys played David. The whole class was laughing. I don’t think I am normally that funny, but when a bunch of kids are laughing, it is easy to turn into a ham!

The lesson had been on how God is seeking us and how happy it makes Him every time a sinner repents. We tied it all into the fact that David was so brave because he learned to repent quickly and keep his whole life in the light of God, rather than hiding from Him when he did something bad. Because of this, he had a living relationship with God, which gave him incredible courage. The kids already knew a song about David and Goliath, which they broke out singing. It was awesome. They are so well behaved and I am impressed how much scripture they have memorized.

We will be doing Children’s fellowship every Friday and I love it! We will then take the same Children’s lesson to Dominion home and share it with them on Sunday.

Some exciting news in our little corner of the neighborhood is that Moira’s sister, Marcie, is visiting from Belgium. She is a university professor, practicing psychiatrist and gourmet raw foods chef! Yes, a gourmet raw foods chef right here in Eldoret. She will be here for three weeks and I hope to learn everything I possibly can from her!

We have already been making one of her snacks for the past few weeks: lightly toasted kale or swiss chard leaves (the plant is called “sukuma” in Swahili) sprinkled with a teeny bit of salt or other seasoning. They are delicious—like a chip—and so healthy! It’s a great snack idea. Diane and I make them all the time. In fact, I just ate a whole tray of sukuma chips tonight! (They ARE addicting!)

I am excited to spend the next few days at Dominion Home. Diane and I splurged on a bunch of toys for them (toys are really overpriced here and not a good selection). We are going to take them the toys little by little and not every time we visit! We took them a soccer ball a few days ago and they were SO excited! Everyone immediately took off running outside, to play with it. I joined them in the game and had a blast. (Boys against girls—boys kicked our butt but none of the girls seemed to even notice…when they weren’t distracted by the small village they were creating in the dirt, they were just running around the yard happy if their foot kicked the ball at all—in their rubber flip flop or bare feet. And the same went for the little boys. The main reason the boys won was because of Maxwell and Solomon, the two oldest and most focused players.  From what I could tell, they were the only ones who actually knew how to play).

Anyway, tomorrow I am taking my guitar and some of the great kids books that my aunt and mom sent me for them… we are going to study together and play together and just have fun and get to know each other more. I am going to spend the night and see how it goes. Diane will come and join us on Sunday and we will have a special worship service and continue just “being family” together. We are taking them two organic chickens (to eat) from Moira’s farm…that will be quite a treat.

What an amazing privilege it is to be here. I so appreciate your comments, prayer, interest and support. Many of you have said that you feel like you are here with me…I feel the same way—and it gives me great delight whenever I see something here with me or within me that came from one of you. It is my joy to share all of you and the things I have gained from each of you along the way. Sometimes I think, “There, I just planted a little bit of so and so in the soil of Kenya” as I share something that I gained from one of my friends. One plants and another waters, but God gives the increase! What a joy to share in the harvest together!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »