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Enoch, the Instructed One. 

Before the advent of organized religious systems.  Before Judaism or Christianity.  Before the books of Deuteronomy and Romans.  Before the 23rd Psalm.  Before the glorious visions of Isaiah.  Before the transcendent revelation of John.  Before the Cross.  Before all this, there lived a man who “walked with God” in a hostile environment; the first of his kind on the face of the earth and a prototype of all who would ever walk with God in the generations to follow him.

How did he do it?  On what basis did Enoch find the grace to walk with God? What “Bible” did he read?  What did his faith rest on? What sort of revelation was working within him that enabled him to transcend the curse of separation and death?

In the Bible, names are often very telling concerning a person’s character.  The essence of who they are can often be derived from their name; for to the Hebrew way of thinking, one’s name is a telling indicator of one’s nature and character, or perhaps a prophetic statement concerning the times in which they lived.  This is, of course, why God places such great emphasis on His own name, and why we are warned not to take His “name” (His nature and character, the identification of all that He is) in vain.

In the case of Enoch, his name is most telling concerning his life and nature.  “Chanowk,” as his name is given in Hebrew, means “initiated.”   It comes from a root word, “chanak,” which means “to narrow.”  Figuratively, “chanak” means “to initiate or discipline.”  In the King James Bible, this word is also translated as “dedicate or train up.”  Enoch has also been translated as “experienced, founder, centralizer, teacher, instructor, initiator, fixer.”

Interestingly, the root word “chanak” is related to a similar root word, “chanaq,” meaning “to be narrow” and carrying with it the connotation of being throttled, strangled or choking to death, as in hanging.  I believe that in this broad spectrum of meanings, there is much revelation to be gleaned concerning Enoch, who is a type of Christ.

Enoch was an instructed one, an initiated one.  We might say that he was the first disciple–the first man on earth to wholeheartedly embrace the discipline of the Lord.

Altogether, Enoch had about 300 years to spend with his great-great-great-great grandfather Adam.   He was 308 years old when Adam died—and at the time of Adam’s death, he had already been “walking with God” for 243 years.

Imagine!  In Enoch’s day, there was no record yet of anyone dying of old age or illness.  Other than the murder of Abel, which must have been utterly horrifying beyond all imagination, there is no record of anyone else dying–though there must have been others who preceded Adam in death– certainly Abel, perhaps Eve and possibly others.  (Since the Bible does not record the lifespans of the family line of Cain, or even mention anything about Adam’s other sons and daughters we cannot say for sure whether they had the same length of life enjoyed by the righteous line of Seth).  At any rate, Adam was the oldest man on earth, the “living link” back to the garden, the one who had firsthand stories of what it was like to live in Paradise, the Head of all the human families of earth, the one great patriarch that every person on earth looked to.

Adam; the one who had been fashioned from the dust of the earth by God Himself.  Adam, who had never existed as an embryo in the physical womb of a woman.  Adam, who had once spoken face to face with God, who had named the animals, who had experienced deathless creation.   Adam, the only one who remembered what life was like before toil and labor.  Adam, unique among men!

In the loss of Adam, a holy and sacred mourning fell upon his descendants, and perhaps none more than Enoch.  A pall was cast over the world. A chill; a primal wail shuddered through their soul as the conclusion of the curse stared at them in the lifeless face and sightless eyes of their grandfather.   He had not been murdered, as Abel had.  He had simply….ceased to live. Like an uprooted tree, he had finally just dried up. What a horror! Adam’s death prophesied to them all—this is the way you also will go.  You also will exhale your final breath, your body also will become stiff and cold.  It too, will be buried in dust.  And so will your children after you, and their children.  Here is the fate of us all.  The shocking and terrible conclusion of our brief sojourn on earth was now abundantly clear:  All shall end in dust.

Oh, the sorrow that must have flooded the hearts of his descendants when he exhaled his final breath—the same breath that first flowed into his lungs from the mouth of God Himself.  (Think of it!)  Gone now, was Adam’s sacred breath, the gift of God.  But where did the breath go?  And where indeed was the soul of Adam?  Like the voice of God a thousand years earlier in the garden, Adam’s children cried out in agony:  “Adam, where are you?” 

Adam, though your body lies in dust, is there any hope for you to rise again?

 Is there any hope for us?

Enoch’s grief was not like the others’ however–it was more profound.  When Enoch wept, it was not just for the fate of Adam’s children, but for the sorrow of God Himself.  And of all the mourners at Adam’s burial, it was Enoch alone who saw and heard God Himself grieving in the midst of them, God grieving for His firstborn son;  God, weeping in the midst of His own offspring, a Stranger to them.  Of all the mourners who wailed and threw dust on their heads, of all those who sought to comfort each other, it was Enoch alone who wandered off quietly, so that he could comfort himself in the presence of God. And so that he, also, could extend comfort to Him.

Comfort God, you may ask?  Comfort GOD!?  GOD?  Why should I have anything to do with God?! screamed the voice of the accuser–for his voice was sharp in the midst of Adam’s offspring.  It is GOD’S fault that we stand here today before a cave in the earth; the body of our father wrapped in cloth, his bones laid beneath earth and stone.  We will never see him again.  We will never speak to him again.  Never again will we see his smile or the light in his eyes.  Never again will we hear Adam’s songs or listen to his stories.  Nay, all that remains is for us too, is to lie dead and lifeless in the earth.  Adam’s fate prophesies to all of us.  Don’t ask me to weep with God—this is God’s own fault!  God is the one who pronounced this sentence of death upon us.  If God weeps, let Him weep by Himself, for He—the inflictor of death—deserves His own tears.

Enoch stole away.   For his heart whispered a truth with deeper resonance than the shrill accusations of his cousins.  Somewhere, echoing from the depth of the faded Garden, from deep inside his throbbing heart, from a place before the existence of time, Enoch heard the Voice of weeping:  “Oh, My son, Adam!  My son, My son Adam!”

“Oh My Son…..if only I had died in your place! Oh Adam, My son, My son….”

Enoch wept.  But he did not weep alone. For on that great day of the mourning of the sons of men God also wept.

But let it forever be remembered that He did not weep alone.

~~~~~~~

“Oh, my son Adam!  If only I had died in your place!” 

Adam’s lifeless body hung from the very tree he had hoped would give him the kingdom—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He was caught by the magnificent hair of his head. By his own thoughts of self-glory and pride was Adam ensnared, dreaming of a shortcut to a throne that was already his by Divine inheritance.  In self-absorption, in doubting the character of his Father, Adam listened to a whisper and rejected the very roots of his own being; the One who gave him Life.

Hanging from the tree in which every son of Adam was destined to live and die, Adam hung from his head until it ached with death and his tongue was on fire.  Thoughts of life were replaced with cat calls and cursings, symphonies and smut; an incessant bombardment of noise from which there was no escape.  For the branches of tree from which he hung also grew within him.  Adam could scratch at his own skin, but the source and strength of the tree was always out of reach, hidden in the indiscernable and unreachable depths of his own soul.  A shadow of death within and without. Adam could scratch and till the face of the earth but it did nothing to stop the multiplication of thorns and thistles, for the earth was a reflection of his own soul.  And as more children were born to him, the Tree grew, roots greedily drinking in the sweat that flowed from Adam’s brow, a thriving ecosystem of thorns and hard labor.  There were Adam’s children, busy being born and dying amidst the branches of the Tree that they are.  And everywhere that Adam’s sons went, the seeds of the tree went with them, for they themselves were its seed, reproducing after their own kind.

Cursed is every man who hangs on a Tree. Cursed is humanity. Beautiful humanity.

“Oh, my son Adam!  If only I had died in your place!” 

Far back, before the fashioning of any time-faded symbol .  Before the creation of the sun, there was Light.  And before the creation of the animals, there was a Lamb. And before Life was given to any creature, before any man tasted death, the Lamb was slain.

But when? and where?

Outside of time, the Lamb was slain.  Inside of time, the Lamb was slain. Past, present and future—the Lamb was slain.  On the corner of nowhere, the Lamb was slain. In the heart of everything, the Lamb was slain.  In a field with his jealous brother, the Lamb was slain. For a Passover meal, the Lamb was slain. Between the porch and the altar, the Lamb was slain. On a hill named “the Skull,” the Lamb was slain.  On a Roman Cross, the Lamb was slain. Hanging from that ancient Death-Tree, the Lamb was slain.

When Adam and Eve left the Garden, some say their nakedness was covered by God in the skin of a slain Lamb.  Others say that the skin which now clothed their nakedness was the very skin that covered their procreative organs, the place of their strength.  This place in each of them would now shed blood in covenant—Adam with God in circumcision, Eve with Adam in their first sexual union outside of the Garden.  A covering or veil of flesh that in the proper time must be removed, but only in the context of covenant intimacy.  To return into the Garden would require the shedding of blood—the cherubim holding swords at its entrance prophesied this truth.  And Enoch understood.

In all true covenants, there would be the shedding of blood.

In the remission of sin, there would be the shedding of blood.

There is something sacred about blood.  Even the blood of an animal.  Do not drink it or eat it.  For the life is in the blood.  And within Him whom we live and move and have our being, is all His blood shed. Hear this—it is within HIM that all blood is ultimately shed.

And He would indeed, shed HIS OWN BLOOD for the healing and restoration of all things.  A great mystery, but  God Himself would do it. He would become the Sacrifice. He would provide the redemption. He would do the impossible.  Enoch knew this somewhere deep within him and rejoiced.

But before Adam was, before Abraham was,  I AM!

Behold the Lamb,

slain

from the foundation of the world.

He hangs on that Cursed Tree.  He–so clean and without curse, becomes the curse of humanity.  All the bloodshed, all the violence, all the rape, all the hatred, all the hard hearts and frozen love, all the vanity and pride, all the accusation, all the blindness, all the disease, all the endless toil, all the cheating and oppression, all the kicking the weak down to the ground, all the whispered lies, all the hypocrisy, all the snobbery and indifference, all the racism, all the foolishness, all the self-hatred and shame, all the blame, all the curse.  All that the Tree produced.  All of it. All of its stench.  All of its winding tentacles.  Every bitter seed, down to the last bitter dregs.

Just as Adam, in his fall, carried everyone down to a life outside the Garden and bound us to a Tree of Death, so the Last Adam, in his rising, would carry everyone up back Home and free us into a Tree of Life. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself….

My God, My God!  How great Thou art!

Enoch knew, and he bowed in reverence. He would instruct his life around this thought:  If there was a first Adam, there must be a Last Adam of greater strength and ability, able to undo the curse. If the malady was great, the cure must be even greater.  If all would die in Adam, so all would be made alive in Christ….

And Adam would live again!

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“I am my Beloved’s and He is mine—and there is blood between us, there is blood between us.”

So began a little song in my spirit this Sunday in church.

blood-of-jesusFor the past month or two, we have been partaking of the Lord’s Supper—Communion—every Sunday, as our pastor teaches on the concept of covenant and the various covenants given by God. I cannot fully describe the power that I have felt in partaking of the bread and wine each week, seeing the very heart of God on full display in front of the congregation in the poured out blood and broken body of Christ. If a picture speaks a thousand words, the display of the broken bread and wine—symbols of His surrendered life, His love—and receiving that life into the depths of our being speaks more than a thousand tongues could say.

In the broken bread, I see a Heart that was willing to be mocked and beaten, suffer painful misunderstanding and false accusation, indifference and betrayal, and to endure it all openly, willingly, humbly, for the sake of love. In the cross, God has set the most startling statement of love before mankind… He’s not playing, “He loves me, He loves me not…” He’s not dangling His love before us like a carrot on a stick, promising us His love if we shape up. No, His love was already poured out for us before we even took a thought towards Him.  He’s got His heart on His sleeve. He’s vulnerable. He’s hanging naked on a cross, with blood dripping down His body, down over the wood and onto the ground, and there is some of that blood in the garment that the soldiers are gambling for at the foot of the cross.

This is how much you are desired, Beloved. If you should ever forget, look at Me lifted up on the cross, my arms outstretched to embrace you, and know that I did it for you.

There is blood between us.

When I look at you, I remember My blood,

I remember the price I paid to redeem you.

Your value is forever set in my heart.

You are worth it.

And when He was on the cross, He looked out at creation and could see it only through the blood—His own blood, literally, for the blood running down from His forehead, mingled with his sweat, certainly ran down past His eyes, causing Him to behold the world through the cleansing flow, His own precious blood.

Yes, when He looks at us, He says, “There is blood between us.”

He will always and forever now see the world through His blood. He will never forget the price He paid. But that blood has no power to bring redemption to our lives until we apply it. When the nation of Israel left Egypt to begin their journey to the Promised Land, it was through blood-covered doors, the blood of a lamb for each house, a lamb that symbolizes the Greater Lamb. Those who exit a world of bondage and death through blood-covered doors can never forget that their freedom was bought at a price. Someone died so that we could go free.

 If we see the value—the necessity—of His shed blood, we will apply it to our lives, as the Israelites did the mantle and doorposts of their house. The value of the blood of Christ is of inestimable worth to every person who was born on planet earth. There is nothing more sacred, nothing worth more than His blood. Nothing! His blood is the only door out of bondage to sin and death. Do you see that there is no other door to Life than through this blood soaked door, the bloody door of the Lamb; the cross?

Even the application of the blood on the door speaks of two very powerful places that the blood will bring redemption in our lives. This blood on the “mantle” will bring a cleansing to our mind/thoughts and renew our minds to the mind of Christ. This blood on the “posts” will bring a cleansing to our arms/hands, redeeming us from bondage to sin and dead works and setting us free to do His works, so that our touch may heal creation.

But there’s more!

In every ancient culture, it was the shedding of blood that sealed a covenant. Missionaries and anthropologists speak of encountering tribes the world over who would make covenant with each other in blood; covenants that could not be broken, that were considered binding unto death.

Among other things, circumcision represents the shedding of blood to enter into covenant. And in the consummation of a marriage, it is the shedding of blood that seals the covenant.

As the scripture says, “the life is in the blood.” In the shedding of blood for the establishment of a covenant, there are many statements that are made, but certainly one of the strongest is, “I give you my life.”  For if life is in the blood, and I bleed for you, what I am giving you—in essence—is my life. I open up this body of skin and pour out of my inner life for you. I share the deepest and most sacred parts of me with you. I am willing to suffer and bleed for your sake. I am willing to pour out of my own life so that you can touch it, partake of it. I am no longer isolated within myself but my life is yours as yours is now mine. You have access to my blood and I have access to yours. How can we be separate now? We are one.

There is blood between us.

To my surprise, when I heard the Lord speaking that to my spirit, I heard in His voice not only the acknowledgement of the fact that I have received and applied His blood to my house, but also an acknowledgement of the blood I have shed for Him. What a wonder! How humbling. My blood does not purchase my redemption. It does not take away sin. But it does represent my willingness to enter into covenant with Him in the surrender of my life to Him. And He sees it, and calls it beautiful.

gustav_klimt_the_kiss For when we take up our crosses and follow Him, are we not also shedding our own blood in a figurative sense? When we lay down our lives for Him, choose to deny ourselves for His sake and the sake of the brethren, when we partake of His death, carrying around in our bodies the dying of the Lord, is there not a shedding of our blood in some sense? When we give ourselves to Him in the most intimate ways, opening bare our heart before Him, allowing Him to come in sometimes with a bitter north wind, sometimes with a refreshing south wind, but equally surrendered to Him in either account, is that surrender not in some sense the shedding of blood? Is this not a very real part of the covenant that we have entered into with Him? For there is no entrance into covenant union without the shedding of blood.

The Lord sees it as so, for He says, there is blood between us and it is not only My blood I see, beloved, but yours also. I see our shed blood, the mingling of our lives, My invitation and your response to it. As I suffered and laid down my life for you, I see your suffering and laying down of your life for Me and I will never forget it.

You may say, “oh, but my love is not fully abandoned to Him in the way you describe! My love is not consistent like His. I waver, I stumble in love. I’ve given Him my life and then I have run away from Him. I have opened my heart to Him and then closed it. I’ve slammed the door in His face! And so many times, I find myself doing the exact opposite of love, the exact opposite of what I want to do! What of me? How can a weak love such as mine be valued by someone as Perfect as Him? What does He say to imperfect, inconsistent love such as mine?”

The Song of Songs gives us a great insight to this question, for it is the question of every sincere lover of God.

Though there are many nuggets throughout this book that reveal the answer, I will pull out just one, in hopes that this small appetizer will send you on a journey of fulfilment and joyeous discovery into the Song of Songs, the Highest Love Song of God’s heart.

“You have ravished my heart,
My sister, my spouse;
You have ravished my heart
With one look of your eyes,
With one link of your necklace. (Song 4:9).

Notice first that His heart is ravished. Notice second that He calls her both His sister and His spouse, declaring that they are related by blood and by shed blood. But now notice what it is that ravishes Him—one look of her eye and one link of her necklace.

It is not yet the sustained and perfect gaze of unbroken peering into His soul. It is the timid but genuine glance towards Him. It is perhaps her first real gaze into Who He Is. And a deep recognition begins to stir in her as she beholds Him in truth and He knows it.

He knows that He is being seen by her and His heart is overcome!

Her gaze also speaks of the opening of herself to Him. No longer will she let shame cause her to hide her face. She will turn her open eyes fully towards His open eyes—and though she quickly glance down in initial embarrassment, He knows that the first glance will lead to others and eventually into locked gaze where she will behold the unending depths of love in His heart and she will believe and rejoice in His love for her. And likewise, she will allow Him to peer into the depths of her own heart.  And the very thought of it—the very beauty of the first glance, immature as it may be, ravishes His heart.

In the same way, He is moved by one link of her necklace. A necklace may represent many things, but what I primarily see her is that it adorns her neck, which speaks of her will. She is not stiff-necked or stubborn against Him. She may not be perfectly yielded yet, it may just be “one link” that He mentions, but it is so lovely His sight. In the one link, He sees her first surrender to Him. He sees the “yes” to Him that costs her something. But she has very little idea that every genuine yes to Him creates a new link in the crown that adorns her neck and beautifies her for all eternity.

In short, He who sees the end from the beginning, sees the faltering steps we take towards Him and they are beautiful in His sight. He sees the God-given desire to be wholly His and He sees that love drives her to press on towards Him–and continue onward–even when she stumbles and fails. And His heart is moved so deeply that that He declares, “You have ravished me!”

Oh Lord, how small our shed blood is in comparison to Yours! How imperfect in the laying down of our lives! How kind You are to acknowledge our response to You in such a loving way and humble way! How unthinkable that our response of love should mean so much to You! That we should be treasured in such a way as this! Oh, the unfathomable depths of Your generous heart! Who is a Lover like You?

I look down at His feet and at His hands that still hold the scars where He wrote my name in them, and I can only worship.

fiery seal of love For the truth is, it takes God to love God. Only God can truly love God. A heart that says, “I will shed blood for you” is only a reflection of the Original Heart, the First Heart to ever suffer for the sake of love, for He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the ages. Therefore, when He sees a response within us that says yes to covenant, yes to receiving His shed blood and yes to laying down our lives so that we may come into union with Him and His Body–His people–He sees Himself.  He beholds His own nature in another, and His heart is deeply moved.

Oh, there is so much more to say, but I dare not overwhelm the reader!

Can you say, “Lord, there is blood between us”? Have you received His blood? Have you looked—deeply looked–upon His sacrifice? Have you seen His heart—for YOU? Have you applied it to the mantle and doors of your own “house”? Have you partaken of His blood and body? Have you put your faith in Him? Have you tasted of His love?

gustav-klimt-the-kiss-detail-4083In the Song of Songs, the Shulamite declares “a bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts.” Myrrh speaks of suffering, as the plant is pierced many times to bring forth the fragrant, healing resin. When she says she holds Him between her breasts, this speaks of keeping Him close to her heart. In other words, all through the night, through the dark seasons, she comforts herself in remembrance His great love, His great sacrifice. The remembrance of His suffering for her sake is a like a sweet fragrance that stays continually fresh in her thoughts. She can never doubt how deeply she is loved every time she breathes in the fragrance of the myrrh, so she holds it over her heart where the fragrance can permeate her senses. The very scent draws worship out of her heart and she finds herself continually saying, “I will remember Your blood, I will remember Your love. I will never forget You. I will never forget what You did for me, my Beloved, my dear friend and companion. I hold You reverently in the most sacred part of my being.

“I will let this love overflow from the banks of my heart and wash out of me into creation so that others will see who You are and love You too. I will speak of You, I will tell of Your wonderful ways, I will declare Your Name, and I will love You, oh Lord my God,

I will love you,
I will love you,
I will love you.

For there is blood between us and I will never forget.

And in the echo of His voice deep within my spirit, the reciprocal way in which love flows, I hear Him speaking back to me through my own words.

My friend, if you love Him, read the paragraph above one more time, but this time, listen to Him speaking to you. Can you hear His heart? Can you hear how much your willingness to give Him everything–or perhaps now, it is just that small thing—but can you see how much it means to Him? Can you fathom that He will hold the memory of it sacred throughout all the ages? Can you taste of the wonder to which He has called us? Can you see clearly the inferiority of anything less than total abandonment to Him? Can you see how dead and worthless all idols are, contrasted against such a loving, living, eternally beautiful heart such as His?

For if we truly see the value of His shed blood, our response can only be one thing—

Here I am, Lord! I am YOURS!

There is blood between us and I will never forget it.

~Mercy Aiken

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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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WAYS TO HELP

Since my last blog, some of you have written to me and asked what you can do to help the poor in the Kerio Valley. I have been really touched by the generosity that you have shown—thank you so much! I know that many would like to know that their giving is going to an immediate need in a desperate situation, but frankly what we really need are people who are willing to give into larger, more expensive, community-transforming projects than just giving some money to a poor person. You know–the whole “give a man a fish or teach a man to fish” adage. SILA is focused on “teaching a man to fish” with a vision for producing change with long term benefits rather than short term gratification. I totally agree with their philosophy.

Neighbors getting water from community well on Dominion property

Since coming here, I had been warned numerous times about just handing out money to the needy—for several reasons. For one thing, it perpetuates a dependency mentality—the very thing that Africa needs deliverance from. It doesn’t solve any long-term problems. Also, there are many people who have learned to make a living as a con artist, even posing as pastors and ministers, just to get some gullible, well-meaning foreigner to support them. Because of this, I have been very careful about where I give my money. That is part of the reason I was so hesitant to give when I was in Barwessa last week, but in the case of the baby boy and the family with the calf, I knew that both of those situations were divine appointments.

(UPDATE ON BABY BOY: Several of you have asked about the baby. After a little more research from Wesley and others who are in Barwessa, we have discovered that baby boy also has an older sister. They have been completely abandoned by both parents and are being cared for by the grandmother, who obviously is really struggling with the task. Right now, we are praying about what the Lord would have us to help in this situation… I will keep you updated!)

Anyway, because some of you have asked ways that you can help, I want to direct you towards a few worthy projects:

Hermon fetching water provided by the well that SILA dug on the Dominion property

DIGGING WELLS: Water is one of the most basic needs for life and it is tragic how many people on this planet have so little access to it. I am so glad that digging wells is one of the practical ministries that SILA is engaged in. However, it is very expensive to dig a well. Depending on how deep the drill has to go to access the water, the price of a good well ranges from $8,000 to $15,000. However, this is a small price to pay when one considers how that well can provide clean drinking water for a whole community. When you see people walking through miles of hot desert just to haul some dirty water back to their home to drink (the same water that animals are drinking and bathing in), you understand why a community well is such a blessing. Right now, SILA is raising money to drill a well in a very dry part of the Kerio Valley, working together with another local Kenyan ministry. If you would like to give into this project, it would be much appreciated by the community of people that it will serve.

EDUCATING NEEDY KIDS: Another project that we are currently working on is raising money for the school fees for “our kids;” the 11 orphans at Dominion Children’s Home. Every Kenyan that can scrape together the money sends their kids to private school, and this country is full of private schools of all shapes and sizes. The public school system is crowded and underfunded; often with as many as 80 kids to one teacher. We feel very strongly that EERC is where our kids need to be, and since we moved them to this school in May, they have shown dramatic improvement in every area; especially their ability to communicate in English.

"Our kids"

I am not biased or anything, but having spent as much time at this school as I have, and knowing the caliber of teachers that we have here, I would not want our kids to be any other place. They are getting an excellent education in a strong, loving, and very supportive Christian environment—and I know it will make all the difference for them and their future possibilities. They have already begun to blossom in beautiful ways. Naomi is already at the top of her class in math, Frieda is at the top of Baby Class, and Festus and Purity are also among the top in their class. Purity looks the happiest I have ever seen her, as does Pascal. When I see them interacting with the other kids—laughing, goofing off, and just acting like carefree children, my heart overflows with joy.

Looking "smart" in their school uniforms

However, it is not cheap pay for the school fees of 11 kids, especially considering the long term costs…as well as the fact that our eventual goal is to have 40 kids living in several homes that are yet to be built on the property. Right now, we are looking for people or churches who are willing to sponsor the education of one of the Dominion kids. Right now, almost all these fees, as well as the other expenses, are coming out of the pocket of Ann Fyall, the founder of the Home.

Through establishing Dominion Children’s Home, Ann’s goal is to “Advance the Kingdom of God by building Kenyan orphans to recognize their sonship, to effectively advance their Father’s Kingdom and to breakthrough their surrounding barriers with valor.”

Rejoice!

If you would like to partner with us in doing this, helping the kids attend EERC would be a great place to start. The cost? About $300 a year–which covers fees, uniforms and other supplies. It can be paid as a lump sum, or in three increments of $100 each. We are currently raising money for them.

SILA: Finally, if you don’t care about the specific of where the money goes, but simply want to give and know that it will make a difference, you can always just give to SILA itself. SILA is involved in many other great projects as the funds are available, such as serving the needy in the distribution of food and clothing. A few years ago, they went to Barwessa with the Korean brothers, and were able to distribute food there in a time of prolonged drought. For many people, it made the difference between life and death that year–I heard about it firsthand when I was there last week. I can assure you that if you simply wanted to make a donation to SILA , the funds would be used wisely in one of their many projects. SILA is also focused on developing local businesses which help to fund the ministry endeavors such as drilling wells.

To give to SILA for a well or another project; as well as to find out more information, please go through their website:

http://www.silatrust.org/web/en/1_About%20Us.htm.

Since Dominion Children’s home is under the SILA umbrella in Kenya, you can also give to sponsor an orphan through this route.

However, if you would like to get a tax write off, you can give through the Dominion website:

http://dominioninternational.org/ministries/word-workers-international/dominion-childrens-home-kenya/

If you don’t care about a tax write off, you can also wire money directly to me: If you would like to wire me money for any of these projects, I would be more than happy to put it into the right hands. The easiest and cheapest way to get money to me is to wire it directly through MoneyGram at Walmart. It is easy to send and easy to pick up. If you would like to do this, just send me an email and I will send you more details.

Finally, you can also give to Diane Grey through Kweli Ministries. Kweli is working closely with SILA and Dominion; the three are really intertwined. It is because of Diane’s graciousness in hosting me that I have been able to have this tremendous experience in Kenya. Seeing firsthand how Diane operates and her wise generosity towards key projects, I can assure you that all funds given to Kweli will be wisely distributed:

http://www.kingdomlife.cc/pages.asp?pageid=72056.

I hope all this is clear enough. Thanks so much, ya’ll! I know the kids thank you too!

Funny faces

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Dirt Road into the future coffee farm

Yesterday was an amazing day. I had the opportunity to travel with David and Joseph and their friend Joel (pronounced “Joe-el”) out to the traditional family area in the Kerio Valley where Joseph and Joel grew up. They are planning to start an organic coffee farm in the jungly hills ascending from the valley; a farm that the whole community will be participating in to some extent.

Joel

A devout and godly man, Joel had lived and studied in the United States and is a professor at Moi University. Before he went to the States, he promised God that after he received his education, he would return to Kenya to help his people. He was true to his word, even after being offered a green card and a nice job in the States. I really enjoyed getting to know this humble and interesting man who was full of information about the Kerio Valley.

Amazing Tree

The Kerio Valley is a part of the larger Great Rift Valley that is almost 4,000 miles long, running from Syria to Mozambique. The Jordan River actually begins in the northernmost area of the Rift Valley, as does the Sea of Galilee. This explains why there are traces of a Judeo tradition and ethic that has been a part of the traditional cultures of the Rift Valley peoples for countless generations. Many of the tribes practiced circumcision, and had other biblical practices. The word “Kerio” actually evolved from the Kalenjin word “keiyo” meaning, “the people who give life.” These life-giving people migrated from Sudan over 2,000 years ago, and their oral history traces them back to ancient Egypt. (Thanks, Joel and Wikipedia!)

Sun in the papaya trees

The whole valley really has a “life giving” feeling. The valley floor is a lush desert and as one ascends upwards, the incredibly fertile land yields just about anything you would plant in it. An executive from the Kenya Coffee Board recently assessed the land and the soil and said it was an exceptional area for growing coffee.

medicinal plant used to treat asthma

The people plant millet on the terraced hills, and there is also a wide variety of medicinal plants, as well as fruits like mangoes and bananas growing prolifically. Joel told me that this area was a place that barren women and impotent men would come to be healed; thus the name “the life giving” valley.

Maybe that is part of the reason that I love it down there so much. Literally every time I go into that valley, it is like something opens up and relaxes on the inside of me. The cliffs also remind me a tiny bit of Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona–as well as Hawaii.

Cliffs shrouded by clouds

My friends explained to me that the Kerio Valley has become to most Kenyans, a place to get away from. In modern times, the beauty of the valley has been overshadowed by its poverty and lack of clean water–quite tragic really, when one considers that in addition its other natural resources, the Valley also has oil, platinum, and other precious gems that have not been mined. (God, I hope no mining company comes in there and destroys all that beauty–surely there is a way to extract natural resources without destroying everything beautiful along the way).

Apparently an oil company is coming in to begin mining in another part of the valley, where David is from. Our concern is that they will not fairly share the profit with the people who live there, whose land it is. Even Libya is trying to get in on the oil. (“Oil Libya” is one of the main gas stations in Africa. I saw it in Niger, and it is also here in Kenya).

young boy at work

After getting down into the Valley, we took a dirt road off the highway that led us to Joseph’s childhood hometown. Cars are very infrequent here, and the dirt roads are more likely to be populated with sleeping cattle and prancing goats than anything with wheels.

butterflies on ground

Along the way, we passed through several large swarms of butterflies, all blue, yellow and white. We had to stop the car several times just to get out and walk in their midst (like walking through a whisper of a gentle tornado of fluttering flower petals). We were even able to get a few pictures of them on the ground.

After travelling a while, we took an even more primitive dirt road, which made the previous one seem like a highway. This new road was recently made by the community—the old fashioned way—by hand, using hoes. I have no idea how many cars have actually driven down it.

Slowly following a herd of goats on the primitive road

We slowly climbed the escarpment until we reached the end of the road, where the terraced farming begins; still well below the sheer cliffs above.

Planting millet with her grandmother

Women—ranging from grandmas to children–were planting millet, each in their traditional family plot that has been theirs for untold generations.

Each plot is marked off by stone boundaries which have not been moved for over 1,000 years. The family plots were originally created by one member of the family throwing a stone behind him as far as he could throw it. Where it landed was the first stone in the boundary line of that particular piece of property.

Ancient stone boundary

Joel found his family plot, which will be part of the coffee farm, in addition to the surrounding hills that are currently not being cultivated, according to the will and vote of the community.

Boys in the burned wood

The whole area had been recently cleared by burning. While we waited there for the village chief to meet with us, I wandered around and met some of the people. Without a doubt, I was the first white person that some of the kids had ever seen, and several times during the day, I made babies cry simply by showing up! The people speak Kalenjin first, and a bit of Swahili after that. A few spoke some English. Somehow we managed to communicate a bit.

After we left the terraced farms, we began to descend back into the valley. About halfway down, we stopped at a farm, where a man had agreed to use a large portion of his uncultivated land for coffee seedlings.

farmhouse

He had a beautiful little farmhouse, with three girls weeding maize in the yard, one of them with a little baby tied to her back. (This particular baby screamed and hid his face from me. I never even got to see what he looked like!)

Farmer’s daughters

Farmer and I

The farmer and I became great friends as I chattered in the little Swahili that I have picked up. He loved seeing pictures of him and his children on my camera.

Village kids

I also met a lot of children and village women up on the road above his house.

The girl with the red collar is named Daisy

Kids were running down the road making all kinds of noise. When I asked my friends what they were being so loud about, I was told that they were yelling and screaming about a white person being in their midst. Eventually they gathered around me, along with their mothers.

Scholar

One friendly lady named Scholar was especially talkative and obviously prophetically named since she spoke more English than anyone else there!

When we made it back down to the village, David, Joseph and Joel gathered with the chief and village elders under a large tree. They sat there for several hours as different ones took turns speaking and presenting their views and questions.

Elder’s meeting under the tree

Everyone was excited about the prospects of having the coffee farm in their midst. I sat in the meeting for a while, but since I didn’t understand anything, I decided to explore around the community.

A glorified ant hill

I met more beautiful children and was finally able to look inside a small termite mound (the heat wafting out of that thing could cook a meal!)

Tobacco lady

I sat with this old lady under a tree for a while. She had a small plastic container tucked inside her hat. During our “conversation,” she pulled out the container, and poured some brown powder into her hand, which she then sniffed up her nose. I found out later it was tobacco.

I also met a young college student named Carol who was home visiting her family from a university in Nairobi. She invited me into their little café and took me back into their yard.

Carol and siblings with hand-made bricks

After feeding me a hot chapatti and introducing me to her younger siblings, she showed me the bricks that they make and sell and gave me some mangoes from their trees. I went back to the car and brought her some small Italian almond cookies that I had found at the grocery store (quite a treat–those are some of my favorite cookies). Soon, I was sharing the bag with everyone around there; young and old.

When I came back to the Meeting Under The Tree, it was winding down, so I sat in on the rest of it. I was privileged to be asked share a word with the group and close it in prayer, so I spoke and prayed out of the love of God that was burning in my heart for them.

Karen

After the meeting, a young lady came up to me—the only other woman who had attended the meeting, or at least part of it. I immediately had such a love for her. She shared with me that she was a single mother trying to raise her two children alone and in desperate need of a job to take care of her kids and maybe save some money to go to school. She was wondering if the coffee farm would hire her. I introduced her to my friends and they told her to check back next month. I saw a strength in her that would not be held back; a beautiful boldness in her heart. We prayed together under the tree. I hope I see her again next month…Please pray for her. Her name is Karen.

After we left the village gathering, we had another appointment to keep. There is a local farmer who is already growing some coffee in his jungle-farm, so we went to check it out.

The enchanted entrance

After parking the truck, we hiked on a tiny trail through some beautiful terrain, until we came around the corner to the most magical entrance to any property that I have ever seen.Hidden under and large natural arch of overgrown pink and white and yellow flowers was a tiny gate made of sticks that you had to duck down to enter.

In the coffee farm jungle

After entering the enchanted gate, we found ourselves in a virtual jungle, all damp and shadowy with coffee plants randomly growing everywhere. (I hope this farmer is getting good money for his organic, shade grown coffee from the fertile Kerio valley, but the looks of things kinda told me otherwise).

There were all kinds of other edible plants back there, including a profusion of mulberries, which we snacked on as we walked.

Porcupine quills

This farmer had a cute little son who solemnly followed us around. After we warmed up to each other, he began chattering in Kalenjin to me. I could tell he was wanting me to follow him, and so we left the group. He took me up a little hill, and showed me his cool treasure—a pile of huge porcupine quills. He generously gave one to me, which I am keeping for a memento. I don’t know how that little boy knew that I would like to see something like that, but I am glad he did!

Steps leading up to restaurant

By the time we got back in the truck it was almost dark and we were starving. Amazingly enough, there is a nice restaurant/hotel in the area—the only one for miles. It was started by a former UN Ambassador from Kenya to Australia and Europe. This man built a really nice place in homeland, and if I lived in that valley I would go there often to eat—it has the best “nyama choma” (roasted goat) that I have had since I have been here. Usually nyama choma is so tough I don’t know how people even chew it, but this was tender and delicious. We also ate a big plate of ugali and kachumbari.

We were all every excited and satisfied with the events of the day and felt the Lord’s blessing and presence with us throughout. I really think our coffee is going to be some of the best in the world. The soil is mineral rich and the climate is perfect. Our coffee will be organic and shade grown—and tended to by a wonderful community of people from the “life giving valley.” I can’t wait to drink a cup of it!  ~Mercy Aiken

More photos from the day:

African Dog

Another Ordinary Daisy

Beautiful smile

beautiful young girl

Big sister and baby brother

Burned wood

Ripening coffee beans

Grandma farmer

Strong young woman

Man with dog

David, Joseph and Joel speaking with the Chief on the mountain

Eating a tuber

Farming girls

Emmanuel

Peeking through the fence

With the kiddos

Flower covered tree

Site of future coffee farm

I am never one to turn down a nice stem

Snacking on mulberries

A village eldeer

Village elder

Village elder

Sad puppy

Tobacco lady

Tobacco

Mud shack

Joel, Joseph and David (speaking) at meeting under tree

Scared baby

David eating off the land

These chickens had strange-looking red necks

Cute building in town

Cows sleeping on road

The tall man is the Chief

Porcupine quill boy

Some things are sadly ubiquitous

Some things are ubiquitous

Termite Castle

I love her yellow dress

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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

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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.

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