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Archive for the ‘Eldoret Educational Resource Center’ Category

Diane and baby Tehillah Timbiti

There is much more that I want to write about in this blog, including many of my post-Africa musings on Scripture, the state of the world, and my life in general. But before I go any farther, I would be remiss to not post a public thanks in memory of Diane Grey.

When I left Eldoret on August 10, it was Diane who dropped me off at the small local airport. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her–in this dimension at least.

Jesse's nickname for Diane was "Pinky."

I owe Diane a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of her hospitality that I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Kenya.

I met her in early September of 2010, about a month after the passing of her husband Jesse. They had been living in Greenville, SC, waiting for him to recover from kidney complications due to diabetes–and then they planned to return to Kenya, where they had spent the past 20 years. After Jesse’s passing, Diane immediately began to make plans to return to her beloved adopted homeland. That’s when I entered the picture.

My pastor, Wendall Ward, connected us, knowing that I was praying about returning to Africa for a longer visit. (I had previously visited the nation of Niger in the Spring of 2010 for a 17 day trip with a group from our church). After chatting on the phone with Diane and spending a day together in Greenville, we both agreed for me to make plans to come to Kenya in 2011–and that is how my whole wonderful adventure began.

Left to Right: Abraham Tarus, Margaret Tarus, David Kipyego, Ruth Kipyego, Joseph Kibet. Front row: Ann Fyall, Diane, Judah

She showed me a lot of the ropes of living in Kenya, introduced me to some wonderful people, including everyone I met through SILA and EERC. (Both these ministries are direct fruit from their ministry, Kweli, and I told Diane I saw Jesse’s footprints all over the place in people that I met—even in remote places like Barwessa).

I never got to meet Jesse in person, but I was able to know him a bit in the spirit through his African family, as well as Diane. In addition to being a Bible teacher with a prophetic edge, he was also an artist–and his paintings and drawings of Kenyan wildlife filled Diane’s beautiful African-themed house. (I miss her big, sliding glass window/doors that filled the living room with light and opened directly into her yard. I miss those beautiful ever-flowering trees, in whose shade I used to pray…I miss the grove of sugar cane outside the kitchen window. I also miss her wonderful cooking, especially that Nigerian Peanut soup).

Diane loved to giggle. She had a wry sense of humour and a practical outlook on life and ministry. She loved children and served them in many practical ways, like paying school fees for them to go to school, making curtains for the children at Dominion Home or filling 300 bags of popcorn for the EERC kids when they went on field trips. Limited in some ways by her health challenges, she did what she could. She was a strong support and mother figure to SILA, and also greatly assisted Ann Fyall in overseeing the Dominion Home. (Ann lives in the United States and comes to Africa several times a year to manage the Home and connect with the kids, etc). She was a wonderful and generous hostess.

Diane and spiritual son, David Kipyego

Together, Jesse and Diane did a great work in Kenya, teaching believers the gospel of the kingdom. They played a foundational role in teaching and discipling the core group of SILA (David Kipyego, Joseph Kibet and Abraham Tarus and their families—as well as many others).

While other missionaries and aid workers, as well as Kenyans themselves bemoaned the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government and church (I heard piles of horror stories from the first day I arrived in Kenya, believe me), SILA truly stands out a solid ministry of integrity, transparency, righteousness, humility and true service.

Crammed "bus" ride home from school

I see EERC as not only a model school for Kenya, but Africa as a whole. If a school in the USA was doing some of the things that EERC is doing (ie, organic garden on the school property that the kids eat from, power generated by bio-gas from the local cows, etc.) they would be considered cutting-edge…and that is to say nothing of the loving, nurturing and supportive environment that the school provides not only for the children, but also for the teachers and the rest of the staff. It was amazing to see such an incredible model of how great a school can be–in Africa no less!

Diane showing some kids how to use a computer

Of course, the school–being quite young–is still in need of many basic supplies such as matatus (busses or vans) to transport the kids to and from school, books for a school library, computers, and other similar classroom items. (Notice how I am cleverly making a plug for donations for EERC in the midst of a blog post about Diane? Somehow, I think she would be pleased!)

Diane passed away on October 3 of 2011, just about 6 weeks after I had returned back to the States. She had several long-standing health issues, but her passing was sudden and unexpected. I know that her many friends in Kenya must still miss her greatly.

The last I talked to her, she was still planning on building a house on her Kweli property (next to the children’s home) and growing an acre or two of coffee–the blossoms of which she said smelled like jasmine or orange blossoms. She had spent part of her life in Florida, and the blossoms would remind her of home. She was looking forward to their fragrance blowing through her bedroom window at night.

Our first day in Nairobi, Diane took me to her beloved "Java House;" a great European-style coffeeshop

Though she initially hated Africa, (she told me that she cried most of her first year there) her life is a testimony to the transforming power of God…In those early days, she would have never believed it if someone told her that she would happily live the rest of her life in Kenya, even returning alone to the place she once loathed to spend the rest of her days there.

As her husband had requested before he died, she carried his ashes with her across the ocean and scattered them over the Kerio Valley. Less than a year later, she joined him. But through the lives of those they touched, Kenya will never be the same–and the legacy continues, even in their absence.

I think that is a most happy ending to a wonderful story.

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Small Boy

Dear Reader,

If there is anyone left out there who is still interested in this blog, I thank you for your patience during my long lapse of silence over the past few months!

I have been back in the States for almost 5 months now, but my Kenya story is not finished. Maybe it never will be finished. I hope not. But however many volumes that may be left to write, I do know for sure that I cannot leave my blog dangling with “This Old Guitar” as the last chapter!

There is still a lot to say and I plan to be blogging more again in 2012, but for this installment, I’ll just try to sum up my last days in Kenya, starting with our last trip to Barwessa, in the Kerio Valley.

(If you haven’t read my previous blog post, “Cactus and Wild Honey,” you may wish to do so here: https://ordinarydaisy.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/cactus-and-wild-honey%E2%80%A6-5-wonderful-days-in-barwessa/ )

“…And the Rains came down…”

Driving through the flood

…And the dirt road leading out of Barwessa was flash-flooded in four places. The floods were the result of an answered prayer, so it was hard to be discouraged or fearful in the face of the roaring red-brown waters, even while swim-driving through the floods in a little white car with water flowing around the doors. Once you make it through the first crossing, it gets easier to do it again…and again.

I’m no stranger to desert rains and flash floods—-it is a way of life in Arizona during monsoon season. I’ve crossed and romped in flooded roads (or trails) all over the southwest–from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Baja California. Doing the same thing in Africa was only one more reason why it felt like “home” to me.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself. By these floods, I am referring to our drive OUT of the Valley on the evening of Sunday, August 7th, after our descent into it just a few days earlier.

Our Group

The May-July trimester had just ended at EERC and I would be flying out of Nairobi on August 11th. Before I left, we gathered together a few teachers and students from the school for one last hurrah in the desert, before I returned to the land of pavement, shopping malls and Starbucks. I had been longing to go back to Barwessa ever since I had spent a week there in June. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the States without returning for one last visit. I had promised local ministers Songol and Jesina that I would do my best to come back, and I had dreamed of bringing a team from the school with me. I couldn’t have been more delighted that things worked out just as I had hoped and prayed.

The Skirt Brigade

With me was one of my great Kenyan friends–Abraham Kiptoo Tarus–and two of his daughters; 11 year old Upendo Love Joy and 13 year old Faith. Another student joining us was Happy Daisy, aged 14, and her mother Eunice; one of the teachers at the school. There was another matatu (van) driven by a brother whose name slips my mind, carrying several other teachers: Carol, Joan, and Ruth. All together, there were 10 of us from Eldoret.

When we finally arrived in the Valley, the first things we heard about was the need for rain. The rainy season seemed to have dried up early. Every afternoon, a few clouds would pile up, but–apart from a few occasional drops that mostly evaporated before they hit the ground–the stubborn clouds were refusing to release their rain.
The whole region is absolutely dependent upon the rain for survival. If rain does not fall, the crops would do grow and if the crops do not grow, there is no food to eat unless an NGO or charity organization brings some. The Valley had been through drought before. Everyone knew someone who had died of hunger. In fact, that very month–August–the eyes of the world were turned to northeast Kenya, near the Somali border, where people were starving. There was a drought there too, in the whole region surrounding the Daageb refugee camp.

One of the first things that Songol said to me, was “Now that you are here, I believe God will answer our prayers and send rain.” I am glad that God handles the pressure for things like that! Inwardly, I lifted my eyes to the Lord and said, “Lord, You heard him! Let Your power and love be seen here this weekend!” All summer, while praying for the Kerio Valley up in Eldoret, I had seen a frequent vision of the rain falling all over the Valley—both literal rain–and the washing, enlivening, freshening rain of the Holy Spirit.

Little desert girl

The first night, there were some light sprinkles. A few sporadic drops that did nothing more than bang lightly on the tin roof and leave faint pockmarks in the dust the next morning.

During the weekend, we ministered at the children’s meeting hosted every Friday night by Songol. The highlight of the meeting (for me) was seeing our EERC girls minister in drama, and praying for a young girl named Anna who was rather mute.

Sweet Anna

She had already experienced a miracle when Songol prayed for her a few months earlier. She had not been able to walk, but could only “hop like a frog,” as her parents told me. After prayer, she was instantly able to walk on her two feet and had done so ever since. However, she still had difficulty speaking. Her miracle was still in progress. As we prayed for her, Anna began to speak, saying her name, “amen,” “hallelujah” and similar phrases. We were greatly encouraged. I expect that the next time I see her, we will be able to have a normal conversation!

Chebore

Songol (left) and Jesina

The next day, we hiked the 17 mile circuit out to Chebore and back–across the Valley floor through the white desert elephant country. Songol led the way, carrying his Bible in a plastic bag, as he always did–no canteen of water or food to snack on. He and Jesina are co-pastors of three churches between them, stretched across a 40 mile radius–and they do it all on foot. With a smile always on their faces, I might add…and with homes and farms and families to take care of as well.

I was a bit worried about some of our team on the long hot hike. City-slickers from Eldoret, most of them were…and not used to hiking. Some of them did not even bring proper shoes to wear and we had to stop at the general store in Barwessa and buy cheap rubber sandals for several of the ladies—an upgrade from their dressy sandals with heels.

Hiking feet

Nevertheless, they did great on the hike—better than I would have done in those uncomfortable plastic sandals. By the end of the trip several of us—including me–had swapped out our shoes and sandals, trying to help one another avoid blisters.

Church under a tree

I was so very proud of our group all weekend. Everyone, from the kids to the matatu driver participated in ministering; whether in drama, leading in singing, sharing testimony, preaching the word, or just loving on people and praying with them. Our arrival was big news for the scattered desert dwellers, and many of them hiked from miles around to attend our various meetings–always held outside, under a shady tree.

I was especially proud of Eunice, who shared her testimony with the entire group—her discovery of God’s love and purpose for her life. When Eunice was a baby, she crawled up to a pot of boiling water and tipped the whole thing over her head and body. She was terribly damaged and almost everyone advised her mother to let her die. But her mother had faith. She carted her baby down to the hospital in Nairobi and left her there. Eunice lived in the Hospital until she was 4 years old, undergoing constant skin grafts and treatments and rarely seeing anyone from her family. Against all odds, she survived. Half of Eunice’s face is scarred and she is blind in one eye–not to mention the rest of her body–but she learned to overcome self-pity and focus on the fact that she was still alive–surely her life had been spared for a reason.

L to R: Ruth, friend, and Eunice

As Eunice shared her story, I could see many of the group listening intently. A story like Eunice’s, they could relate to. To her own surprise, Eunice was becoming a preacher! She’s also the best preschool teacher I have ever seen and a great interpreter and worship leader.

Teacher Ruth had confessed to me right before our trip, that as a little girl, she had had an interest in becoming a missionary. This was her first experience of doing something like this. With her gentle spirit and kind heart, she won friends everywhere we went; singing with the kids and ministering in Kalengin. I was so proud of her and Joan and Carol as well. I had just spent the previous few weeks going through the Song of Solomon with the teachers, and it was beautiful to see them carry that message of love and intimacy to others.

Grandma walking home

Out in the Chebore desert, I was thrilled to see the old grandma with the damaged leg that Wesley and I had met back in June. (The first time we saw her, she was dragging herself through the dirt between a shady tree where she spent the day and the small hut where she slept). She had since been to the hospital (courtesy of Wesley) and her leg was healing nicely–enough for her to slowly make the trek to the meeting with a walking stick. In the past few months, her life had been greatly improved. She had given her heart to Jesus and was full of gratitude and the joy of the Lord.

Ruth singing with the kids

I recognized many others as well, including many of the kids that I had met while ministering in the schools. People I didn’t know would greet me by name as they drove by on a piki piki. Children grabbed my hand and we sang songs as we walked together. By some deep muscle memory, my hiking legs kicked into gear–despite the fact that I am sadly out of shape. I was “built for this.” Everything in me knew it–and rejoiced. It felt like I had returned home.

The calf with her owners

I was also able to check on the family with the little calf that had almost died on my last visit. They live right next to the guesthouse, and I was thrilled to find them eating breakfast outside. I am happy to report that Pbhhh Pbhhh was doing quite well, and so was the rest of the family.

Stones of Remembrance

Chebore stones

I am a lover of stones. Their ancient stories intrigue me and their colors and shapes never fail to catch my eye. As silly as it may sound, one other reason that I had hoped to return to Barwessa had to do with rocks.

Just a few weeks after arriving in Kenya, I was cleaning out my backpack, when much to my surprise, I found a handful of stones–8 to be exact–hidden in a deep pocket. I had picked them up in the canyon in September, while home for my dad’s 60th birthday party– and I forgotten they were there. I had to laugh at the irony. It had taken me days of packing and unpacking my big suitcases, trying to make them both fit at just under 50 pounds. Many things I had sacrificed and left behind–children’s books, shampoo, extra shoes, t-shirts. But apparently these Grand Canyon stones were begging to be reunited with Mother Continent. I was just the pawn in the game; the unwitting human who carried them home. In the secret world of rocks, I was moved by a force bigger than myself…and I became an accidental stone-smuggler.

A few Canyon rocks in Africa

After I made peace with the fact that the rocks had stolen a whole pound or two of precious weight, I was delighted. And when I first discovered the rocks of the Senebo desert–colors that reminded me of the Bright Angel Shale around my childhood home–I knew exactly what I was going to do with some of my stone stowaways I would give them a new home with their cousins. I would plant them like a seed; like a piece of my heart and history. The new world and the old world would kiss. Their new home in Africa would be a promise for all that has been scattered across this globe to be re-gathered and brought to One.

Can you find the Canyon rocks?

When I lovingly laid the stones in the desert, I thought of the North Rim snow melt, my childhood rock collections, all our hikes up and down the trail around our house…I thought of my dad, and how he always arranged the shale into beautiful patterns by the side of the trail. I hoped these rocks wouldn’t be lonely in their new home. I kissed them and blessed them and told them to be a blessing in the area. And then I took a few of the Senebo rocks to take home with me. Shhhh.….Not telling what I am going to do with them!

Sunday Rains

decorated tree

On our last morning, we had a meeting under a tree in Jesina’s yard. He lives on top of a little hill near Senebo, and he has a beautiful view of the valley and rolling hills. His daughters had threaded fuschia-pink flowers on long grasses, making beautiful decorative flower chains which they hung from the tree. Jesina had also crafted log benches–an upgrade from our last visit. It was a gorgeous place for church.

It was Sunday, August 7th. I knew that a week from that day, I would be back in Richlands at Kingdom Life Fellowship. The thought was painful, exciting and overwhelming. I had to constantly put it out of my head, so that I could simply enjoy the moment–the warm breeze causing the flower decorations to sway in the tree above me; the sound of Kalenjin and Swahili worship, and all the beautiful faces of people I had grown to love.

Worshippers

While every service in the Valley had been special, this last one touched a higher place in worship than all the others. I love the way Africans worship. No designated worship leader or team. No hymnal or words projected on a screen. One person will spontaneously lead out in a song–and that person will carry the lead on the song the whole way through, leading in the call and response style worship, often making up the words as they go. Then someone else will launch out with a different song, and on it goes. Just about everyone has a great voice, so the main thing that matters in leading is that you have tapped into the “song of the moment” and you are genuinely worshipping. (There is sometimes a vast difference between a worship leader and a song leader, but that is for another writing).

Jesina's daughter

During our extended worship that morning, I was so touched by Jesina’s 14 year old daughter, who has a heart like a lion. In just a short time around her, it was obvious that she was powerfully set apart by God. During my entire time in Africa, I had seen few people throw themselves into worship the way that this young lady did. Not only did she direct the children’s choir, but she also boldly joined our EERC girls in acting out the story of the Prodigal Daughter and was a key part of the service in every way. She exuded strength, confidence and wisdom.

While the group was singing and worshipping the Lord with all their heart, a portion of Scripture from Hosea chapter 2 came to me:

Morning glories

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

Pearl necklace

“And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD. “It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

Just reading that portion of scripture again now brings tears to my eyes as I think of the beautiful people of the Kerio Valley.

Faith, Upendo and Jesina's daughter in the Prodigal Daughter

I preached out of that chapter that morning, reminding the people that they were the beloved of the Lord, and of the power that He had put in their mouth…that as they “sowed to the heavens” in prayer, worship and prophetic declaration, they were literally changing the atmosphere. They were sending up vapor to rain back upon the earth. We began to pray and declare the open heavens and the rain (natural and spiritual) to fall. The kids worshiped and danced. The soft breezes blew. And the clouds gathered. And a few—just a few–raindrops began to fall.

Inside Jesina's decorated house

Would this be another false alarm? We ended the service and went into Jesina’s small house to eat a meal of stewed chicken and ugali. The clouds continued to pile and they were darker this time. We quickly decided that we needed to get back to the guesthouse, pack up, and head back to Eldoret before it got any later and darker. By the time we got back to Barwessa, a heavy rainstorm had preceded us. Sukuku met us at the guesthouse with an ear-to-ear grin. The ground was soaked, the air was fresh and the people were elated. Rain was falling all over the valley. As quickly as we could, we packed our gear into the vehicles and took off down the muddy road–which brings me back to the beginning of this story, and the four floods we had to drive through.

I will never forget that drive home as we splashed and laughed our way out of the Valley, under skies as dark and swirling as smoke. If we were staying later, I would have danced in that rain, up and down the muddy roads, and confirming to the good citizens of Barwessa that this mzungu is indeed quite nuts!

And in my heart, that is where I still am–dancing in the muddy streets. I am singing in every language I know and some I don’t know. I am singing in the tongues of angels. I am a dancer, “dancing upon injustice,” and crushing chains beneath my feet. I am sending rainclouds of out my mouth to blow where the Spirit wants them to go. I am twirling. I am laughing. I am roaring.

And so are the children with me. We are for signs and wonders. We were built for this.

God's precious jewels

There are a good deal more many photos to go with this blog. If you want to see them, just copy and paste this facebook address in your browser: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2351965756889.2140826.1182485335&type=1&l=69c4cd8c15

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“This old guitar taught me to sing a love song
It showed me how to laugh and how to cry
It introduced me to some friends of mine
And brightened up my days
And helped me make it through some lonely nights
What a friend to have on a cold and lonely night”
–John Denver

As my time in Africa winds down, there is a goodbye that I was not expecting to hit my heart so sentimentally–and that is saying goodbye to my guitar. Guitars are not easy to come by in these parts and I am happy to leave mine here for others to learn on and enjoy. Even so, part of me feels like I am walking away from part of my body…like I am leaving a finger or foot behind me in Africa.

Kids Assembly

It’s not like I was ever great on it. I wouldn’t dignify what I do on the guitar by calling it “playing” but I do nonetheless manage to bang out a few melodies (as long as they stay within the confines of a basic 3 chord progression). And sometimes (whenever I let it happen) the Spirit gets ahold of me in the midst of a melody and I am transported to another place.

This old guitar taught me to find the voice of my heart when I could hear it no other way. With this guitar, I learned pray and to pour out my soul to God. My thumping strumming somehow helped to open my ear and to sing His very song back to myself and to others. This guitar provided an outlet for the Spirit, an on-ramp into the heavenlies, and a voice to the unutterable depths of my heart.

I know, I can always get another guitar, but this is the guitar that I learned to worship on. It has been with me all over Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, North Carolina, and now Kenya. Here is where it will probably spend the rest of its life.

The guitar is a Fender. Now, I can’t resist throwing in these lines: “My old transister’s sounding just as clangy as Fender. My radiator growls like Elvis after Sunday dinner…” Good ol’ Maria McKee!

Anyway…

I bought it right after I graduated from college and took it up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where I spent the summer picking at my sore fingers and lamenting my lack of ability to strum and sing at the same time. Finally I had a breakthrough. A miracle due to the fact that it was fairly easy for me to move from Em to Am to G. My first song was an old coal miner balled called “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” which I learned from Michelle Shocked’s first album. (“I was born and raised at the mouth of Hazerd Holler, coal carts roll and rumble past my door.”) I knew now that I was going to hit the bigtime. My next dream was to move to Nashville. Ha ha…pie in the sky, but I figured if I could at least walk around the Grand Ol’ Opry for a while, maybe something in the air would help me turn into a Nashville cat, or at least a distant, slobbering cousin of one.

It wasn’t too long before God stepped into my life in a radical way. Instead of Nashville, I found myself living out in the boondocks of Arizona, down a dusty dirt road that was close to Po-Dunkville and no where else.

It was there by myself in my little cabin, with my guitar, where I learned to sing and flow in the Spirit, with no one to hear but God. It was a divine season, hand-crafted for me by my Father; my own school of the Spirit, my personal seminary, my tomb and my womb. For much of those 7 years, all I needed was my Bible, my Strong’s Concordance, and my guitar and I was a happy girl, even if I sometimes played through my tears.

During this time, I read somewhere that sandalwood was a symbol for worship. I was so excited that I had a small bottle of the perfume oil, and I remember pouring it over my guitar; with the declaration that it was holy unto the Lord and would only be used to worship Him.

And what was my song? It always came down to this: “I am Yours. I believe You—help my unbelief. I trust You Lord. You are beautiful. You are glorious. Show me Your face. Teach me Your ways. Show me who You are! Draw me after You. Jesus, Your Name is a fragrance poured out…”

This song is still yet the song of my life–the song I have sung even here in Kenya, and I hope by His Spirit, I have helped others to sing as well.

Singing ourselves back home

To think that I almost didn’t bring this old guitar is now unthinkable. On my last day in Richlands, Joann Varner told me that the Lord told her to pay the extra baggage fee for me to bring my guitar with me. So, at the last minute, I added the guitar to my luggage, never dreaming what a blessing it would be here, or that it would not return home with me. Thank you again, Joann.

And thank You Lord, for taking my feeble strumming and infusing Your life into it. Shortly after arriving here, I was reminded of a message that pastor Wendall Ward had preached on people with one talent…an army of one-talent people going out fearlessly into the earth and using the little they had for the glory of God and letting Him bring the increase. God can do more with a one-talent person who is fully His, than a ten-talent person who hoards his riches for himself.

The guitar will stay at EERC, under the watchful care of Omonde, who is already learning chords and strums it every chance he gets. He is already writing songs. My favorite starts with this verse:

“Out of prison of rage and bitterness I call my soul
My precious soul, hear the sweet melodies of angels,
Sailing home.
I’m sailing home, to see my Father up in heaven
Sailing home…”

Omonde is also learning the keyboard

Often, if he hears me strumming and humming, he will come running from across the school to join me in a song. The other day I was strumming, “Behold You have come, over the hills, upon the mountains. To me You have run–my Beloved, You’ve captured my heart. Dance with me, oh Lover of my soul, to the Song of all songs…Romance me oh Lover of my soul, to the Song of all songs.”

I had my eyes closed but heard the door bang open and someone begin to hum with me. I looked up to see Omonde. “What is that song? That is the best song I have ever heard in my life! You must teach it to me!”

If there is one thing I know for sure about this trip, it was for me to teach and impart the heart of God, regarding His desire for intimacy, union, communion, truth in the inward parts…relationship. For 6 months, I have woven bits of the Song of songs throughout much of our teachings, culminating with a time of delving into the first chapter of the book.

Omonde strumming on the Fender

Nothing makes me happier than to hear the teachers and students humming these love songs as they go throughout their day. I hear them singing:

“Give me dove’s eyes; give me undistracted devotion for only You.”

“Take my life, I lay it down. All my gifts and all my crowns. I am Yours. I am in love, with undivided focus…”

“I wanna sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in Your hand. Lean back against You and breathe, and feel Your heartbeat…”

“Like oil upon Your feet, like wine for You to drink, like water from my heart, I pour my love on You.”

“Feasting at His banqueting table, His banner over me is love…”

God has truly blessed this time, making Himself so real to our hearts, penetrating religious traditions and mindsets with His amazing, disarming love and presence. He is a cluster of henna blooms in the garden of En Gedi; a fragrant oasis of life in the midst of dry and weary land. He is altogether lovely.

I know Omonde will take the guitar much further than I ever did. I leave with him the essence of every good thing that Father inworked in me all those years–may it blossom in his life and bear much fruit and may the fragrance spread abroad across Africa.

Let the fragrant worship arise!

I have a few days left with the old guitar, since I am taking it with us to Barwessa this weekend. Please pray for this short mission trip. It will be the first time that many of my Kenyan friends have done anything like this. I hope to get a good update on the baby and the calf and everyone else, as well as play a few farewell melodies of love and life under those desert stars.

Lord, let Your winds blow upon our garden…and may Your heart be satisfied with the fragrance! Carry our worship on the wings of the wind and fill the earth with the knowledge of Your beauty.

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My last few weeks in Africa are staring me in the face, and no matter where I turn, I cannot get away from that gaze. I am all too aware that every day that passes is forcing me closer to the airport in Nairobi, but thankfully, all that I can concentrate on is my big to-do list, that must be finished between now and August 11. Yes, I am leaving Kenya early–mainly due to family issues such as the upcoming double wedding of my brother and sister in Flagstaff in early September.

In the meantime, I am determined to enjoy every last minute here to the fullest!

Zochin School

Principal of Zochin school

A few weeks ago, EERC was visited by the entire staff of Zochin Primary School. The Principal of their school had visited us earlier and was so impressed with what he saw, that he wanted his entire staff to come and spend the day with us.

During the course of the day, the teachers decided that our two schools should partner together more and exchange ideas and encourage our students to get to know one another. We started a pen-pal program; and that very day the Zochin teachers carried back a stack of letters from our students to theirs.

I read through most of them and couldn’t help but laugh:

“Dear Titus,
My name is Brian and I am Standard 3 student at EERC. My school is very wonderful. I have many friends, but you are the best. When I heard your name, something in my blood told me that you are the best.
Our school has classes up to Standard 6. We have a climbing wall.
Sincerely, Brian”

Feris, Margaret and myself

Last Friday, lead teachers Feris and Margaret, along with myself and several of our Class 6 students, made a field trip to Zochin Primary. We were to meet their students and continue to get to know one another–and I was to lead a special Children’s Fellowship for them.

Zochin is a real country school, over an hour’s drive from Eldoret. I had never been in this particular area and I am always fascinated at the cultural changes that occur in such a short distance from Eldoret. The outskirts of Eldoret are filled with little tin-shack business: “Chicago Butchery,” “Cool Joint Pub,” “Gratitude Chemist,” “Ideal Shop,” “Anointed Cyber-Café,” “Anointed Agro-Vet and Animal Care,” “The Lord’s Car Wash,” “Faith is Victory Investments,” etc. Weaving our way slowly through streets filled with giant potholes, donkeys, pedestrians, roadside vendors roasting maize-on-the-cob, and crammed matatus with names like “Fashion Special” and “Baby Jesus,” we finally made it to the dirt road that led out to the little community where Zochin Primary was located.

Zochin School

I am pretty much always happy once the road (any road) turns to dirt, and travelling to Zochin was no exception. Knowing that I will be leaving soon, my eyes could not drink in enough of the scenery: sun-filled corn, wheat and millet fields nestled amongst the Acacia and Blue Gum trees with cactus and giant sisal plants growing around them…Red mud houses, both round and square, protected by rickety-looking stick fences. Mamas with babies tied on their backs, out hoeing in the fields. Grinning children waving as we drive by.

Shy Girl

The school itself was simple and beautiful, with cornfields on two sides and wheat fields on the other. Starting in Class 6, where some of our pen-pals met each other in person, we slowly went from class to class, greeting each of them. Most of these kids were fascinated to see a white person, although one child from Baby Class burst into tears and ran from the room. Imagine her terror when that strange-looking person showed up in the next classroom a moment later! She buried her screaming face in her teacher’s arms and wouldn’t dare to look at me. That’s just part of life in Africa. I discreetly left that classroom.

We had a fun fellowship time, with the EERC students helping me to lead worship and teach hand movements to the songs. We talked about how the God who has everything is searching for something…what is it? A heart that is fully His! (2 Chronicles 16:9). This is the heart that David had. I could see a group of kids from other schools gathering outside our window to listen in.

Zochin Students

After fellowship, we had lunch at the principal’s house. Standard “company” fare: a huge pile of rice, a tiny bit of stewed meat, chapattis, and a bit of fresh tomato, along with cups of hot (freshly boiled) organic milk. A special treat after the meal was a few slices of very sour oranges.

My Birthday

Cutting my cakes

I celebrated my birthday here at the school last week. Most Kenyans do not make a big deal about birthdays—in fact, many do not even know when they were born–so I wasn’t expecting much. I was just happy to be alive and happy to be in Kenya. I was totally surprised when after our children’s fellowship, two cakes were birthday cakes were presented to me. One of them (chocolate) was made by Diane as a surprise for me and the other came from a local bakery. Cakes are not nearly as sweet here as they are in the States. They are shared by being cut into bite-sized pieces. Everyone gets one bite, or two, if you are lucky or happen to be the birthday girl.

Joseph and Teacher Grace led in a wonderful prayer for me and all the kids joined in. They also sang to me:

Being prayed for by 170 kids

“How old are you now?
How old are you now?
Happy birthday, dear Mercy
How old are you now?”

Answer: Not telling!!!!!!!

I was also surprised in many other wonderful ways, including a surprise package from my church with about a pound of cards (I was card-bombed), and a birthday card from my grandpa that made it safely all the way from Seattle!

Song of Songs

I am closing my morning Bible Study with the teachers by focusing on the Song of Songs, which will be our emphasis until I leave. It feels like the culmination of everything we have studied thus far and everyone is really excited about it. None of them have ever heard any teaching whatsoever on this book and they are all very curious. It feels like an incredible honor to begin to delve into it and let the spirit of it transform our hearts and awaken us more fully to love. Please pray for us, that the Holy Spirit will take these un-translatable things of the Spirit and convey them in English…That He will transcend every natural boundary and make Himself so real to each one…And that we would find ourselves — our true identity — more fully, in the knowledge of Him.

Birthday prayer

I want to thank each of you that have been praying for me…for us. I have been so aware of a certain grace that has been over every opportunity that I have had to minister and in my relationship with the children–and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the help that you have sent in the Spirit. I have done and am doing things that I never quite knew for sure that I could do–but if there is one thing I have learned since being here, it is that His grace is sufficient.

Much love,
Mercy

A few more photos

EERC students: Brian, Darian and Daisy

Zochin students in classroom

Drawing water at Zochin well

Kids hanging on my right arm. Photo taken with left hand

Another Daisy. I gave her the flower.

Classroom doorway

Zochin students

School cook and kitchen

Sharing cake with my little friend Hilda

Smiling students on my birthday

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Lake Victoria

On Lake Victoria

I was able to visit Lake Victoria last week, on a field trip with some of the EERC students. The lake borders Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and is a huge center of life and commerce in East Africa. In 1993, some mzungu from South America thought it would be pretty if some imported water hyacinths were planted in the lake. Since that time, the lake has been overrun with hyacinths, to the point that the entire ecosystem was endangered. The plants were so thick that Diane told me she once saw someone “walking on the water” right across the lake, stepping on the profuse and sturdy hyacinths.

Tour guide with some of the few remaining hyacinths

I was warned that I would not be able to see the lake at all, but only a green swamp of hyacinths as far as the eye could see. For years, the problem of the water hyacinths had stymied scientists, and no one had been able to figure out a way to remove the stubborn plants.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover the hyacinths all but eradicated! Some kind of beetle that feeds on the plant had been introduced a few months ago, and had chowed through virtually all of the hyacinths. They were optimistic but it is too soon to tell at this point if the problem is permanently solved.

During the course of the day, we visited Impala State Park; a wildlife refuge for Impala Antelope which is right on the shore of the lake.

Impala feeding on "sukuma wiki"

The park also holds several other animals in a zoo-like fashion, so we saw fenced-off leopards, cheetahs, ostriches, lions, monkeys, jackals and hyenas; while the Impala roam about freely. While at the park, we took a short boat ride on the lake. I loved it when the kids spontaneously started singing, “Sailing, Sailing Home;” one of the songs that we sing in our children’s fellowships.

Selling sugar cane; charcoal market in the background

After leaving the Park, we visited a place on the lake where fishermen bring in their catch, and boats from Uganda bring in charcoal. Apparently, Kenya has burned down much of its natural resources for charcoal, so now they import it from Uganda which still has more trees. I hope someone is thinking ahead for what they will do when Uganda is no longer able to supply charcoal.

Ladies selling fish

Kids were bathing in the lake while fishermen were coming in and out, hauling catches of Tilapia, Nile Perch, Catfish and Minnows. Native and migratory birds were everywhere. A crowd of ladies sat near the edge of the water, cleaning, frying, and selling the fresh fish.

Old, worn-out boats were abandoned along the lake shore, on which children and snowy egrets climbed and played.

At the Port Authority

After extensive time on the lake shore, we went to the port authority, where the big ships and boats from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania come to dock. The place had a deserted feeling, but we enjoyed looking at the various types of boats and ships and spending time on a docked ferry boat, while being led by a tour guide.

Fried Tilapia

Later, we all went to downtown Kisumu and ate fried fish and chips, African style. Kisumu is hot and dirty and filled with exhaust and pollution; not a place I would choose to live. By the end of the day, I was so hot and nauseous from something I ate, that I lost the will to even photograph the funky backside of the restaurant where I went to use the toilet. (If the backside of an American restaurant is funky, just up the funk factor about 100 times, and that gives you a good idea of the hot, smoky, greasy, filthy labrynth that I navigated through to use a choo that I will not describe to you, in case you happen to be eating something right now). After that side trip, I could only manage to poke at my fried fish, and gave the rest of it to a very hungry teacher.

Well…moving right along…

On Sunday, I overcame the residue of fish-nausea and who-knows-what-else, and managed to minister at a local church, Precious Faith Ministries, where Diane and I had ministered a few months ago. They have 2 services—one in English and one in English/Kiswahili, so the Sunday morning takes about 5 or 6 hours to complete! I just love the young pastor and his family, James and Terry Timbiti and their new little daughter, Tehillah. They are real worshippers and James is vibrant and good natured, attracting a lot of college students and young people.

The Timbiti family

I shared about intercession, our partnership in ministry with the Lord, and my time in Barwessa. I was so touched when people around the congregation began spontaneously coming to the front of the church to give money that they wanted to be distributed to the poor. At the end of the service, the congregation began to plan a mission trip to reach out to others in their own nation. I was SO happy, since this was one of the things on my heart and had even been prophesied to me–that I would play a role in motivating Kenyans to do more reaching out to their own people. It is possible that may go back to Barwessa together in August. In fact, the teachers and leaders at EERC are also interested doing some outreach down there, before I return to the States. I think this would be a great way to end my time here and I hope that we are able to make something happen.

Singing Students

Singing students

In closing, I am going to try to upload a snip of a file of some blind students that spent last weekend at the school and performed for us a few times. These students were amazing–ranging from totally blind to visually impaired. A few of the kids were albinos. Probably all some of them need is just a strong pair of glasses and they could function more or less as normal people. Coming from poor families, however, they were sent to the school for the visually impaired, where apparently some of them remain for a very long time (I saw a few students with some grey in their hair). The school is terribly underfunded, partially due to funds being filtered off through corruption, among other things. Sally, one of our dear friends and part of the SILA team, works at the school. I know she is an incredible blessing to them because she is so full of the joy and love of the Lord.

I can’t explain what happened when these kids sang, but I can tell you that they released a great measure of JOY in my life; a joy that I only was able to trace back to them at the end of the day. The Lord ministered through them powerfully, as powerfully as if they had been great Bible teachers, maybe even moreso–for they were teachers in their own way. In their simplicity–in simply giving what they had to give and doing with joy–they elevated me.

Drummer

My friend Mary Hutton referred to them as “angels” and that is exactly what they were–angels in tattered school uniforms, with unfocused eyes, beating on a plastic milk jug for a drum, and singing from their heart with huge smiles on their faces. My God, I am humbled.

A Few More Photos

Visually Impaired students

EERC students on lakeshore

Impala Park Entrance

Looks like giant yams growing from this tree

Kids learning about fish

Dog on the lakeshore

Fish commerce

Dried minnows for sale

Lady cleaning fish

Boats

Abandoned Boat

Egrets

Cutie Pie

Charcoal vendors fixing hair

Buying charcoal

Kids on lakeshore

Horsin' around on the ferry boat

Frying fish

Ship in water hyacinths

Port Authority

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Monday morning student assembly

SILA is doing so many great things! I really don’t think I have devoted enough time in this blog to properly explain what an amazing work this ministry is doing–and so I want to devote one whole blog to nuthin’ but SILA and its multifarious ministries.

EERC Motto

What is SILA? A “coat of many colors.” It is a rainbow umbrella ministry under which the school–EERC (Eldoret Educational Resource Center)—and many other programs sit. Among other things, SILA drills wells in areas where people still lack an adequate supply of clean drinking water, manages several businesses, (including a new European-style coffeeshop in the works for downtown Eldoret—YAY!!), distributes food and clothing in disaster areas, helps oversee the Dominion Children’s Home, and is now getting ready to launch into organic coffee farming. Diane will be growing some of it on the KWELI property, and another coffee farm will soon be set up in the impoverished Kerio Valley; providing new jobs for an economically-depressed community. SILA also has several other businesses in Nairobi, all helping to fund this giant venture.

Since I spend so much time at the school property, I wanted to give you a better overview of what it looks like and how it operates. The school itself is situated in the midst of a big organic farm, providing healthy food for the children and staff and also providing a source of income. From the plants to the cows to the chickens—everything is organic.

Ann Fyall with her "Dominion" cow. The ever-present birds are on the roof.

Like much of Africa, the property is “off the grid,” but there are solar panels around the property to generate enough electricity when it is needed. The manure from the 4 or 5 cows is recycled into fertilizer and biogas. The bio gas is stored in a big “balloon” in a room all by itself and used when necessary. Instead of spraying “cow town” with poison to keep pests away, there are some special birds who were brought in to live around the cows and feed off of the flies, keeping everything very sanitary and pleasant. We recently made new homes for the birds to keep them safe from prowling cats.

The eco-choo

The eco-choo (pronounced “choe”) is basically a new and improved outhouse, with the human waste also recycled into fertilizer. (I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I came here). The eco-choo is a miracle of modern innovation, because it hardly stinks at all! And like all true Kenyan toilets, the choo is a big hole that you squat over (men and women alike). Toilets for sitting on are a western idea and quite a luxury around here.

The "bathroom sink"

Outside of the choo is the washroom consisting of four little sinks attached to a big tank of water that is refilled every day; complete with a bar of white soap that we all share.

Cute little calf

Wandering around one section of the school property are cows, which are regularly let out of their pen to graze in the fresh grass. In addition to fertilizer and gas, they also supply fresh milk for the school, staff, Dominion Children’s home, and others.

Big pots of chai

Milk is mainly used in chai (tea) which is offered several times a day (mid morning and after school) to students and teachers alike. Everyone eats two unbuttered slices of bread with their chai, both in the morning and afternoon. (I don’t mind drinking this milk, knowing that it is free of all the junk that is found in our overly-processed milk back home).

Lunch in the dining hall

The school kitchen also provides one big meal in the middle of the day for everyone. It is usually ugali (cornmeal porridge eaten with the fingers, like masa or polenta) and some kind of vegetable like cabbage cooked with tomatoes and onions. We also often eat githeri (beans and maize), or something else with beans, maize, rice, potatoes and/or veggies. The maize is NOT the corn that we have back home. The kernels are bigger, like corn nuts, and always a bit tough and chewy. Occasionally we get goat stew. We also eat a lot of “green grams” as they are called around here—-stewed green mung beans. Cilantro is a popular seasoning. Other than that, the food is rather bland but tasty. Salt is served in a big bowl, from which everyone grabs a pinch or two.

the school kitchen

Unlike the United States, there are virtually no picky eaters amongst the Kenyan kids. They eat what is put in front of them and I doubt it ever crosses anyone’s mind to complain about the food or ask for something else. There IS nothing else, so they know it is eat up or go hungry. Everyone eats pretty much the same thing here. As far as sweets go, candy and soda are very rare and special treats. Cakes and biscuits (cookies) are not nearly as sweet as they are in the US.

Looking through kitchen window into dining hall

The ladies in the kitchen work all day long, making chai and the big daily meal that feeds over 200 people. The wood stoves they cook on were especially designed to be fuel efficient and use less wood.

Staredown behind the henhouse

The farm also has about 1,000 chickens. (“Cluckety-Cluck Central,” I like to call it). The amount of hens is soon to double, after another new big hen house is finished. The eggs are of course, organic, and sold for income as well as given away. Just for fun–and for the hand’s-on education of the kids–there are also a few ducks wandering around, a rabbit house and a large desert tortoise which we found crossing the highway in the Kerio Valley.

The farm grows Cabbage, Sukuma Wiki (a green leafy similar to kale), Managua (a native green that is somewhat bitter and delicious), carrots, onions and tomatoes (in the greenhouses), green beans, and other vegetables, including some from Korea.

Passionfruit is a climbing vine

We also have a special variety of passionfruit that we bred together—one variety being sweeter and the other being more fruitful. The seedlings have been growing in a greenhouse and were just planted out in the fresh air.

Wesley and Apollos

In addition to all this, the school is getting its own climbing wall! They say it is the first of its kind in Kenya. The wall is being built by Wesley Eom, from Korea.

Wesley examining some coffee equipment

Wesley and his friend Apollos Shim have been here for over a month, helping the ministry and working in the Kerio Valley. These Korean brothers are gentle, godly and humble, and have added so much to SILA. Wesley was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis years ago, but he has made it a point to exercise every day since his diagnosis; running, stretching, rock climbing, and hiking in the Alps and Himalayas. He is a walking miracle, defying all expectations from his doctors. Of course, he is a great advocate for daily exercise and it was his idea to build the kids a climbing wall. It should be done soon and I will post pictures. Wesley is involved in many global trading businesses, including coffee. He can often tell just by tasting a bean, where it was grown.

Apollos with my guitar

Apollos is an incredible musician and technological genius. He can make my guitar say a lot more than just “thumpa thumpa.” These men, along with business partners back in Korea have invested much into SILA, helping it to provide the finances to build it from the ground up.

In addition to all this, we also have a huge closet full of clothing and shoes donated from Korea, to be distributed at Kakuma refugee camp and elsewhere. On slower days, I muddle through the boxes in that room and sort out the clothes for upcoming distribution.

Teacher Grace and class--learning about ducks

EERC has only been open for one year and has already accomplished so much. Every area of the school is still growing and being developed. In the days ahead, EERC is expecting the shipment of 2 pianos. Pianos, like any other musical instrument, are scarce as hen’s teeth ‘round these parts. I am excited for the kids and look forward to seeing how their Arts Department continues to develop, as well as every other area of the school. For all my friends and family who might be thinking about coming over here and helping out sometime—I can assure you that you would have something to give here, and you will be a great blessing.

Baby, Middle and Top Class havin' church

It is exciting being a part of something that I can so wholeheartedly believe in and give my energies to. I love the creative, hands-on learning environment that has been fostered at EERC and I honestly see it as being a model for schools all over the world. With an understanding of need for righteous stewardship of the land and animals, respect for the individual gifting and talents of each child, and the healthy working environment for the teachers and staff, EERC strives to bring glory to God in everything that it does. An unashamedly Christian school, there are Bible studies held every day for different portions of the staff, some of which I lead—as well as two wonderful “kid’s fellowships” every week. In a board meeting last week, Joseph made a few profound statements that really impacted me, and show the heart of the school:

“There is no more supportive environment than an environment where God is”

and

“As you do for these children, you do for yourself.”

Amen and amen! I only wish that there were more schools/ministries around the world that operated like this one.

Field trip on the school property

Little Ramona, whose mother died a few weeks ago

shoes neatly lined up outside of class

Entrance to "cluckety-cluck-ville"

Looking at the rabbits

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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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