Friday, December 28, 2007

Hannah went to be with Jesus

I just got an e-mail from my friends in Kipkaren. Hannah passed away yesterday morning. I am so very sad that I am not there for the funeral and to support the family. I am sad that I won't get to joke around with my friend any longer. I am sad that I simply won't get to see her any longer.

But I rejoice in knowing she's with Jesus. I rejoice in that fact, and in knowing that for the first time in years, she is without pain! During our last visit, my colleague Juli visited with Hannah about the fact that Jesus had gone to prepare a place for us where there will be no more tears, pain or suffering. Hannah told us that if she goes there before us, she'll take greetings to the Father. That's so like Hannah. She often joked.

But when I showed the the picture of the two of us (above), she looked serious. "Just look at that..." she said. But moments later, she was joking once again, asking me if I'd send her some chicken livers for Christmas. And she urged us again not to worry about her.

Oh, how I wish I could visit with the Bande family, to cry with them and sit with them. To talk with Nancy, who has sat by her mother's side for the past 4 years.

Thank you for those of you who've been praying for her and believing with me that Jesus will heal her. Her daughters and I visited a number of times about the miracles God has done in their lives through this season of Hannah's tumor. We talked about how we know God can heal her, but we shouldn't miss the fact that he's also doing other works. They told me how they as sisters spend time every evening worshiping Jesus, something they had never done before. They shared how they've grown in their faith, despite their frustrations with knowing God could heal their mom in an instant. He chose not to. He chose to take her home instead. In that, we rejoice.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A-DOOOOOOOR-able

That's my nieces. Keep in mind that it's almost been 2 years since I saw them. That means they were 5 and not even 1 when I last visited. So at 7 and 2, their personalities have changed. A lot. Clara's been talking almost non-stop, telling me every joke she knows. Came to plonk on my bed with me when I was taking a nap. And talked more.

Anja, on the other hand, is still a little more shy of me. But she is a little worker bee! At dinner, when she heard someone say something about napkins, she excused herself and came back with a napkin for each of us. And a smile. Before getting out of the bathtub, she had to make sure that every toy is put away. In the right place. But she does it with a huge smile and the cutest chattering.

I think Liesl, the girls and I are going to see a movie tomorrow. Imagine. I'd actually have a Saturday of doing fun stuff!

I'm going to curl up on a chair with one of the girls now. Will post a photo of them tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cry, my beloved country

Over and over for the past two days, Kenyans were eager to hear what I thought about Zuma, the new leader of the ANC. The man who will most likely become my country's new president. Because in South Africa, you vote for a party, not a candidate. And the leader of the winning party becomes president. So now that Mbeki is no longer leader of the ANC, it's not likely that he'll stay out his term as leader of the country. At least, that's the way I understand it to be.

Anyway, as I was explaining to people that it's a sad day when a man who completely lacks integrity is likely to become your country's president, they chuckle. That's what Kenyans do when they expect a simple, polite answer and you give your real opinion. It's nervous laughter. As in, "What on earth am I supposed to say to this response of yours?"

As I was explaining to some about last year's rape case. (Though Zuma was acquitted and supporters branded the victim as simply wanting to slander the politician's name, it was obvious that it was a case where the victim became the accused.) One man dared to tell me, "Oh, he's just human. You should forgive him for the rape." I don't know the victim. But I am sorry for her. And for my country, because it's likely that this man may soon be our President.

After the case, Zuma resumed responsiblilities as a politician, though no longer as VP. And this week, he took over leadership of the ANC. I was delighted to read today that a new case is being brought against Zuma for corruption charges. According to this article, "Zuma's financial adviser is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of soliciting bribes on behalf of Zuma." But the case against the politician himself had been thrown out of court last year for lack of evidence.

Until today. Less than two days after Zuma took over leadership of the ruling party, it was announced that "enough evidence had been gathered to charge him at the end of a marathon corruption investigation."

It is my sincere hope that this case won't be treated like the former one, and that this man can join his financial adviser in prison so that someone more suitable can take over leadership of the country. Someone we can respect.

Who that is, I don't know. I guess I'll have much to learn in the next two weeks at home.

Adele's Update | December 2007

Dear friends,

I am heading to South Africa tomorrow morning for a 2-week break with my family. It's a break I'm looking forward to after an intense few months of ministry. After Christmas morning service and a cold lunch (because it's very hot at home right now), I'll be spending Christmas day on the beach with my family. :) I'll be thinking of those of you who'll be bundled up and braving the cold weather up North!

As we head into the weekend and a week full of celebrating the birth of Jesus, may you have amazing times with family and friends.
  • If you would, please pray for Kenya during this coming week. There's a presidential election on December 27, and things are pretty volatile right now. You can follow news online at The Standard.
  • Due to the upcoming elections (and probably many other factors that I don't understand), the Kenya schilling has dropped drastically in the past 2 months. (It traded at KES67.02 to $1 early October and KES62.54 today, and dropping daily.) You can imagine how such a drop affects money that's being wired from the US for our ministry as a whole as well as salaries. (You can read more here.) Please pray for the Kenyan economy to stabilize rapidly following the elections!
  • This week, a group of almost 20 men and women graduated from our AA program in Kipkaren. With Christmas and New Years possibly being the hardest time of the year in terms of temptation to drink once again, please join me in praying for these alcoholics to be able to remain strong in their commitment not to drink.
  • Tomorrow, people from around Kipkaren are coming to our children's home for our first "Loving Day," a day during which the community will have a chance to get to know our children better. Please pray that the children will feel loved, and that those who are coming to visit and who are giving sacrificially to make this day special for the orphans, would equally experience God's love through the children.
This year has been one of the most challenging ones so far, and one of the most amazing at the same time. It has been a humbling year, and a year in which I learned to cling to God with all my life. Read the attached letter for more on this year's events, as well as a glance at what's lying ahead in 2008. (Click on the miniature to download a large version of my Christmas letter.)

Thank you so much for being part of God's work in East Africa through your support.

Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful 2008!

Adele


Christmas Letter 2007, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another full day.

It's after 1. I have a headache and want to sleep. I had written an update about the events of today on the ELI blog.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be at a management meeting in town, after which I'll be leaving for Nairobi to see Don and Amy Rogers, our directors. They're coming to Kipkaren on Thursday, the day I need to leave for Nairobi en route to South Africa. So I'm going a day early in order to see them. It'll give me one day to get work done before flying home.

Ah! I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All Smiles


Dennis, smiling, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

Click on this picture of Dennis to see more photos of the ELI Children's Day celebration of last week.

This Friday has been declared a "Day of Love" at Kipkaren Children's Home. Community members have been encouraged to "adopt a child" and to come and visit the child as a family. Community members are also digging into their pockets to buy new shoes and clothes for all the kids.

Unfortunately, I will not be here on Friday to take photos of the events. Nevertheless, you can be assured that the children truly will be loved!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sunday Celebrations

Today truly was a day of celebration. I was having a relaxing time on the gazebo, having breakfast and time with God, when I got a call from Wilson, one of our AA pastors. "Adele, can you come now?" I knew they were doing baptisms in the river today, but thought it would be after church, not before.

"I'll be right there!" I assured him and quickly changed into a skirt and grabbed my camera. By the time I got to the river, there was no-one except a young boy digging dirt from the river bed, one tedious bucket at a time. I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the river, and then a huge group came walking down the hill. We sang Kalenjin hymns, and six men and women were baptized.

Some friends joining in the celebrations

Stone, one of our AA pastors, praying

Though it was already half an hour into official church time, I headed home to take a shower, and by the time I got to church, we were still singing. In fact, at that stage, a group from the children's home was up front. Dennis' eyes shut immediately in his typical little smile the moment he saw me, and when they went to sit down, he looked at me as if to say, "Can I come sit by you?" I gestured for him to come, and he curled up in my lap, quietly listening to the sermon. I explained to him afterwards in my limited Swahili that I'll be going home this week to South Africa, and that I'll go to see my family and come back in 2 weeks. He gave me a big hug and ran off to the home for lunch.

No sooner had I walked into my home when I got a call. It was Stone and Wilson, telling me that there'll be a burning later in the afternoon, and if I can please come to take pictures. Some of the men and women in the group of 15 recovered alcoholics wanted to burn the tobacco and snuff they had as a sign of it no longer having a grip on their lives.

Burning tobacco and snuff

One of the most moving sights of the day was to see Baba Chiri (above, in the blue and white jacket) interacting with his group. He's the husband of my neighbor in Ilula, and has been an alcoholic for 18 years. Mama Chiri loves God passionately and has been praying for her husband all these years. He was not interested at all in going to our rehab center in Ilula.

But a month ago, when the Iowa Team was here, Mama Chiri came to the women's meeting. When she went home, she told her husband there's also a special men's meeting going on in Kipkaren the next week. He said he'd come. That Monday, though 300shillings would've been enough to get him all the way from Ilula to Kipkaren, he insisted that his wife give him 500. She didn't want to argue and risk having him change his mind. So she gave him 500 (a large portion of her weekly wage) and got a call hours later. He was lost. He had stopped along the way and got completely drunk. And then someone took his money while he was in the matatu, so he got kicked out of the public minibus.

Through a series of events that could've only been orchestrated by God, he still made it to Kipkaren that night, only to find out it's an AA program! He insisted to go home the next day. When Wilson called Mama Chiri to tell her the news, she asked several friends to pray. "Even me," she told me on Saturday, "knelt down right there on the side of the road and prayed for God to change Baba Chiri's heart."

It's now a month later, and her husband's heart has been more than changed. His life has been changed! His wife and children are all coming for his graduation on Tuesday. I cannot wait to hear him share first-hand what God has been doing!

I've uploaded some photos from the wedding on Flickr, by the way. One of my favorite shots of the day is the one below. Of course there are many more dignified pictures. This was a fun one. Just because. On that note, I'm going to go to bed. Time to rest. Tomorrow is yet another full day.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Life

I'm wiped. No, really. I can't believe I'm typing an update right now, but while the 1,500 or so photos of the wedding are being transferred onto my computer, I might as well do something productive.

The wedding was really nice. And really long. It started at 10, which really threw the Kenyans for a loop. It was supposed to start at 9, but a wedding that's supposed to start at 9 usually starts around noon. However, this one started at 1o. Many, many of the 1,200 or so guests showed up AFTER the vows had been exchanged. From around noon till 5 (you read right, a whole 5 hours), one line from the program took place. "Community welcomes bride and groom. Gifts." Something like that. One group after another came up. Ladies sang songs. People danced. And over and over Michelle was welcomed into the community. In between all that, people ate. And sang more. It really was an amazingly warm celebration.

Then just 40 or so guests went to Kerio View for a smaller reception. A more Western one, where the bride could have a dance with her dad (and with the groom, of course.) The usually very modest Kenyans really liked the Western tradition of tapping on the glasses to get the bride and groom to kiss. And they, too, danced. Western style. They laughed really hard. If I didn't know any better, I would've thought some people had had too much to drink. But there was no alcohol. Everyone was simply having a wonderful time.

It was 11 pm by the time I walked into my home in Ilula. By 7 am, I headed out the door again. I picked up Mama Chiri and the Sifuna kids. First, we dropped my colleague Juli off at the airport. This in and of itself was an incredible experience for the kids. They saw and airplane land, and kept saying, "Ni mrefu sana!" (It's SO BIG!) And just about every truck we passed, or every billboard, they commented on how very big it is...

They sat in the back of my big car and stared at the world outside. "Ona!" (See!) and smile from ear to ear as they showed one another new things along the way. (See the truck. See the bicycle. See the Masai on the billboard. See that truck is actually TWO trucks (i.e. a truck and a trailer.) See that Kenyan mama drive a car!"

We bought their school uniforms and new school shoes. Their expressions constantly went somewhere between being in total awe at all they're seeing and experiencing, and total excitement about the fact that all the clothes I was buying was THEIRS, and they're going to start school in just 3 weeks.

Then we drove to Poa Place, an outdoors restaurant/playground. While Mama Chiri and I had chai, the three kids discovered for the first time in their lives how it feels to go down a slide, or to bounce on a see-saw. Then they noticed the pool... I think they stood and stared for 10 minutes solid at the pool. "Is that really all water?" They had never seen anything like it. They had never seen anyone swim. They were amazed!

When some ELI staff kids (who just happened to be at the pool) came to ask me about a ride on the swings, I took them all over for the biggest thrill, swinging high in the sky on chain swings. Their mouths were frozen into a permanent smile by the time they got down. This lasted through them having lunch and playing some more before heading back to town.

"What will you be telling your dad and Kiprono?" I asked them. Jemutai's eyes were huge, as if to say, "I have no idea where to start!"

That's kind of the way I feel about wading through all the wedding photos now...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wedding Fever

For the past few days, our village has been alive with people preparing for a big wedding tomorrow. I've stayed far from the house where the wedding's taking place due to projects on my plate. But today, I went to help arrange the flowers. (They got 1,000 roses. But since they bought it from the rose farm in Ilula, it was $35 for all the roses!)

In the front yard, a group of at least 30 men were meeting, discussing details of the day. (This is the umpteenth meeting of the past few weeks. Several other meetings had been held by the men since in Kenya, the groom is responsible for the reception. And this being a culture that relies heavily on community, many, many people have been involved.)

At the back of the house, as many women were gathered. Some were cooking dinner for the 100 or so guests who have already arrived. Some were peeling potatoes for tomorrow's meal. Many have been working for days now, sorting through 200kg (440lbs) of rice. Today, the men slaughtered another big bull. (In this culture, some tasks are distinctly just for the women, and some only for the men. Slaughtering is a man's job over here.) They also killed a goat. Because they're planning on feeding 600 people tomorrow. Maybe more. Many people will be coming simply because it's the first mixed marriage in our village. A new ELI staff member is marrying a Kenyan staff member. They met when she came on a team two years ago.

I'm the official photographer. As I was reading up on wedding photography tips, almost every single site I visited said, "Convince your friends to hire a professional." Oh, well, that's not an option here. Tomorrow, I'm pretending to be a pro. I have my shot list for the day.

Sometime in the afternoon, I'm also the chauffeur. I'll be driving the bride and groom to the post-reception reception at Kerio View.

Since it's not too far from Ilula, I'm going to spend the night at my home in Ilula and take the Sifuna kids shopping on Saturday. We need to go and buy their school uniforms. I hope to upload some of the wedding photos from Ilula tomorrow night. And some photos from yesterday's event, too. If we have power in Ilula, that is.

I should sleep. I think I might be dreaming of rose petals tonight... Rather that than the seven (or more!) giant pots of freshly-cut bull meat that stared at me from the kitchen.

I know, I know. You all want to be at the wedding tomorrow. You're welcome to come, I'm sure. The rest of the village will all be here!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"In God's eyes, we're all winners"

At the end of a VERY fun day, after the Ilula children were given the coveted trophy for the winners in the boys' and girls' football (soccer), the director asked if one of the Ilula children would volunteer to say a word of thanks.

Without hesitation, Gabe stepped up, thanking the kids in Kipkaren for the warm welcome and for making the day so memorable. He thanked the parents for the work they did to make the day a success. And then he told the Kipkaren kids, "Don't worry that you didn't win the games today. Just remember: In God's eyes, we're all winners." (Read more about the day's events here.)

I couldn't have been prouder of my Ilula kids! Nor of the Kipkaren kids for being such gracious hosts and trying so hard to beat the Ilula guys at football! (They really made them work for the trophy!)

It was an amazing day! I took lots of photos and will post the ones that best depict the day on Flickr this weekend, in between events. Right now, I simply want to take a shower and sleep! I was visiting with the kids the entire day, and even in between, when I was running to my house to cut up oranges for the teams, I had a little shadow, Dennis.


Since he came to visit me with Solomon the other day, Dennis must've decided that I'm a fun buddy to hang around with. He was at my side for at least half the day! He doesn't say much. He smiles a lot. And he has a raspy chuckle. When I was visiting with Ilula kids, he'd quietly play somewhere nearby. Didn't have any demands. Simply wanted to be my friend for the day. He was thrilled, though, when I introduced him to Dennis from Ilula who's just as little as he is. They played for a while while I went to check on some of the other kids.

Tonight, I have no doubt the kids are very, very tired, but equally happy. I think many will be falling asleep with a smile on their face.

Just like me.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Inspirational? Life-changing!

I love movies that are based on true stories, especially stories of people who are willing to work hard for what they believe in. Or stories of people who were willing to go against the flow because it was the right thing to do. Regardless of what others said.

Stories like Rudy. (Watching that movie tonight totally choked me up!) And like Braveheart, Ghandi, Luther, Schindler's List. Even movies like The Sound of Music, Yentl, or Fiddler on the Roof.

Stories like these inspire me to stand for what I believe in, to be a better person.

Interestingly, most of my favorite movies are about people who truly were willing to go against what the culture and their community expected or demanded.

It's about being counter-cultural. Like my greatest role model was.

I like that. That's real life!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Just a little hospice in the bush"


I went to see my friend Hannah again today. She was yet again amazingly jolly. More than upbeat. Purely jolly, truly. When we asked how she was doing, she rubbed her face and said, "It's a little painful here..." but continued right ahead to praise God for her health.

I have so much to learn from my friend. It's so easy to grumble about silly, silly stuff. She doesn't.

She politely asked, though, if I'd bring her chicken livers once again. She'd like to have chicken livers for Christmas. I had to tell her that I'd be in South Africa for Christmas. (Since the children's party is tomorrow, I had changed my ticket so I can celebrate the day with my family.)

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Salamia uko!" (Greet everyone there!)

I assured her I would do so, and that I'll be back. "Of course," she responded. "You're my child."

There were three nurses with me, and as we walked back to the car, one commented that this is "just a little hospice in the bush."

I wish--no, I pray, truly--that this would no longer be hospice care when I return, that God would indeed perform a miracle and heal Hannah.

That would be the greatest Christmas gift ever! Imagine...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Something the Cat Brought In

Last night, Toulouse (the neighbors' cat who spends most of her day time at my house) caught a teeny tiny mouse and took it into one of my visiting neighbors' hut. They threw it out the window, and this afternoon, Flannel decided to bring it to my house to show me. But in the process, she disected it, sort of, so after I had properly disposed of the body (i.e. tossed it down the pit latrine), I found two mouse fetuses in my house, each the size of, well, tiny mouse fetuses. (That is, hardly more than an eighth of an inch long.)

It it weren't for the fact that they were mice and potentially carrying terrible diseases, and if it weren't for the fact that they were dead rodents, I would've been amazed at how perfectly these little things were formed. So little, yet they had complete tails and all. OK, I was mezmerized for a moment. Then I went to dispose of them, too. And scrubbed my hands, though I hadn't touched them, of course.

Earlier in the day, I had seen a truly gorgeous little creation: a baby boy who was just hours old, the newest member of the Ilula Children's Home. Jonah and Mary Jepsat had a baby boy, Joshua Kibet. I'll post a photo tomorrow, when I've transferred it from the camera of one of the visitors. I was in town with a group of 7 guests when I got the call that Joshua had been delivered by C-section. Both mom and baby are doing well. And the dad, Jonah, couldn't stop beaming.

***
As I'm writing this, it's raining rather hard. We've had some downpours the past few days. It helps to settle all the dust we've had now that it's the dry season.

And so I'm going to fall asleep tonight to the sound of the rain on my roof. It's one of my favorite sounds to doze off to. It's almost as amazing as the silence of snow falling.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Three Musketeers

I was deep in thought this morning, sitting at my make-shift desk (computer on my dresser with a tall bar stool), working on who-knows-what when I saw in the corner of my eye someone plonk down on my living room seat. Mind you, the seat is all of 6 feet from where I was sitting, but I was so intently working on a document that it took me a brief moment to look over.

There sat Solomon with a big grin. "Habari?" I asked.

"Mzuri," he replied, still grinning.

"You didn't say 'hodi.'" I replied kindly.

"Hodi!" (May I come in?) He was still grinning.

"Karibu sana!" And in walked two more friends. They had been delayed since they were taking off their shoes. Solomon, it seems, had a quick entrance since he had been wearing flip-flops. And he was happy to show his two friends a part of the world they had never seen...

So we visited for a while. Collins (in blue) and Dennis (on the right) gazed around at everything. My world is so much different from anything they know... Collins promptly fetched the giraffe carving and read to it.

Solomon, on the other hand, knows the place well. His dad is our director, so he gets to visit places where our other kids don't usually get to go.

"How's Kids' Camp?"

"Fine." Solomon's English is really improving. It's not bad at all for a 5-year-old for whom English is his third language.

The boys paged through some children's books for a while--Solomon knows where I keep the books. What's funny is that he's usually quickly bored by the books when Tovah brings him over to read. However, today, he was the learned one, looking at one book after another while Collins quickly shifted his attention back to his giraffe pet.

The boys posed for a photo before they walked me over to camp. The hall was packed with about 250 kids aged 4 to maybe 14. All throughout the day, the kids were mostly in one big room, listening to stories, singing songs, memorizing verses.

Kids' camp is very different from a big VBS in the US. The children here are much easier to entertain, and to keep in line!

In between various events, groups of children from community churches would get up and perform a number. Or six.

At a stage, they added a microphone and lots of speakers. So much so that I could follow every number back in my home office. As well as the talks in the nearby classroom for the recovering alcoholics. I've gotten used to it, living in a small compound like this where much is happening.


Throughout the day, as I heard them going into a new item on the agenda, I'd walk over and take some photos.

"Adele," some of the boys called me. "Are the children from Ilula still coming next week?"

"You bet!" Ah! I cannot wait to simply watch all the children hang out and visit with their "cousins" next week! I'll take photos, for sure! I bet I'll have a whole slew of visitors in between events during that day. The Ilula kids have been curious to know what my house looks like in Kipkaren. And how Flannel is doing. And if I show the kids here movies, too. (I don't.) Important questions in their world.

As I go to bed on this side of the compound, there are about 100 community kids sleeping in one big room just 100 yards or so away, their mattresses spread out side by side through the entire room.

They have a whole nother day of stories, songs and Bible verses lying ahead tomorrow. I bet the Three Mini-Musketeers will head over this way again for a short visit. But I won't be here. I am taking seven guests to Poa Place for the day.

When I'm back, I'll head up the mountain for our Saturday afternoon service, an outreach to a nearby community who has no church.

Life in Kipkaren is never, ever without new things to do, places to go, or people to meet.

And if you don't go to them, they'll come to you. With a big smile, and maybe some friends in tow.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Revolving Door

This week's been busy at Kipkaren. We still have a group of about 15 recovering alcoholics going through the rehab program. Then came a group of 20 or so TBA's (midwives) for on-site training. All while the 35 agriculture students are still around. Plus 7 visitors who are here for a wedding next week. And 3 people visiting Juli. And Kelsey who's visiting me. Plus one intern's here.

The agric students left for their Christmas break today. And the TBAs completed their class. But tomorrow, we're expecting about 400 children to show up for Kids' Camp, a 3-day Bible Camp. After taking Kelsey to the airport, I'll come and take photos of the children. And then make arrangements for next week's party.

We're having early Christmas at Kipkaren this year. Next Wednesday, I'm bringing the kids from Ilula in for a day of playing and celebrating with their cousins. The Ilula kids, especially, are giddy with excitement. They've been talking about what they think they should wear for the day. Uniforms? Sports uniforms? House clothes? The kids decided to talk to their parents about it, but the majority opinion at this stage is sports uniforms. The search for a bull has started. We're grilling a big bull for the occasion. It should be a lot of fun!

Four days later, there's the wedding in our village where we're expecting at least 1,000 guests. I'm the photographer for the day. There's still a bunch of guests who'll be coming from the US for the occasion. More visitors.

In between, we're all trying to wrap up projects for the year. It's nuts to think that 2008 is only about 3 weeks away! I wonder what the New Year holds...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Kiptoo's back!


Kiptoo, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

Kiptoo is back. He was accidentally left in the US during my last visit. As a result, he missed the visit to Rwanda and the Congo. But that's OK, since he doesn't seem to like war zones. He went to Sudan last year but never came out for any pictures. (Click on Kiptoo's picture for just a small sample of some of my favorite photos from this past week.)

This week, though, he went on safari again. And he went to the beach with Danette and I. We had a blast, by the way. Simply relaxed. Did some snorkeling. Walked on the beach. Relaxed some more. Played table tennis and many, many games of "hand and foot." Watched some movies on my computer. Walked more. Rested even more. Watched crabs dig holes in the sand. Saw leopard sharks play in heel-deep water. Followed a stingray! Scrutinized the coral reefs during low tide. Gawked at parrot fish, butterfly fish and angel fish. Were happy not to see a lion fish.

We had seen some lions earlier in the week, though, on safari with the team. The craziest sight was to see a lion break a tooth while chomping on a carcass! We just sat and watched him eat; could even hear him rip the prey to pieces. Then we gave way to another vehicle to get close. We saw the lion suddenly get up and walk in circles before laying down. When we pulled up again, one of his bottom teeth were hanging out the side of his mouth. I can only imagine how cranky he had to be the next few days!

The very best thing about the past two weeks, though, was to have friends around. I felt normal again just being able to visit, especially with Nan and Danette. I don't have to weigh my words or be afraid about how thoughts expressed over dinner conversations are going to be received. I think that's one of the challenges of being single. Married couples could visit with their spouse (I'd hope!) about issues big and small and discover in the process what they think. When I visit with colleagues about challenging issues, it can come across as a final opinion, not just as verbal processing. Which is tough. Which makes me hold back my thoughts. A lot. Because that's the right thing to do.

I'm rambling.

Tomorrow, I fly back to Eldoret. I have a visitor from Cedar Rapids, Kelsey Sheehy. Just for a few days. Kipkaren's VERY busy this week. We have a kids' camp, and a lot of visitors who are coming for a wedding. And interns. Kelsey will be staying on my floor. That's how busy we are this week. And the week after. Then it's just a week till Christmas. Wow.

But there are still some weeks left before the year is over. Much still needs to happen between now and then. It's been a good year. A hard one. One that will stand out for the things God has taught me. The lessons continue. That's life. The journey continues.

I'm glad Kiptoo's back to share the journey with you. :)


Monday, November 26, 2007

Siesta time

Today, after church and a really short nap, I took some of the team members to see the Sifuna kids. Joanne came running to greet us! Now that the maize (corn) has been harvested, they can see me coming from far. Then came the others, and Nancy gave me the longest hug!

Kiprop was the first one to sit down and pull off his shoes and socks. Unfortunately, the kids once again have some jiggers. Nothing like before, but enough to have made me feel frustrated once more at these pests! My one Kenyan friend who sometimes helped me remove the egg sacs had moved. The other one is highly pregnant (as in, she might even have her baby tonight!) And we've not been able to find them a different home in this area. So the little ones once again have some sand flees... But they know so well that I really, really care. They are so incredibly trusting of me. Even Kiprono, the baby, would stop crying when I'd look him in the eyes and tell him I'm sorry it's hurting, and that I love him. They really do trust me. What an honor, really!

The team appreciated seeing before photos and then how the kids are doing now. It is a testimony of God's goodness, through and through!

We came home for some last moments with the kids at the home, and then had a farewell service.

Tomorrow, I get to go on safari with my friends. I hadn't planned on doing so, but they had invited me to join them and to lead the debriefing. Once the team leaves, I get to go on a short 2-day breakaway with Danette. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to simply being at the beach for 2 days!

I still have some things to finish before I can go to bed tonight... I'll be online again early next week. I am planning on taking a break from my computer this week.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Catching Up

So much has happened in the past few days. It has been an absolute joy to have friends here, especially Danette and Nan. It's also been a tremendous blessing to get to know other team members better. They have blessed me by simply being here.

On Thanksgiving, Nan and I helped Richard (our cook) to prepare a wonderful Thanksgiving meal for the team and about 20 Kenyans. (Allison and Juli also baked some things for dessert.) We had a great Thanksgiving meal, complete with a turkey (baked in a charcoal oven), cranberry sauce (which I hunted down in Nairobi), and green bean casserole (made with spinach instead of beans!) My favorite dessert was Nan's pumpkin marble dessert. With whipped cream, even. It felt for a moment like we were somewhere in America.

This week, I received some very exciting news. I've been accepted into a graduate program at BGU and will start classes in February! It's a part-time program, and my first class will actually be offered in Nairobi. It's called "Signs of Hope in Africa." In June, I'll have to travel to Seattle for a couple weeks' classes. Most of the work will be by correspondence, though, so it's going to be a good challenge. A scary one in many ways, too, but I'm excited about the opportunity God has brought my way.

The week wasn't without it's challenges, though. Yesterday, as I was driving the team from Kipkaren to Ilula, I heard a knocking sound in my car's engine, and then it died. Since I had just had a major service two weeks ago, I hadn't thought of checking the water before the journey. But it turns out that the insulation between the radiator and the cooler was worn, and thanks to our incredibly uneven roads, the two had been rubbing against each other, causing the tiniest hole in the radiator. The water's been leaking without me realizing it. Bottom line: I spent all of today at the mechanics in Eldoret getting several things fixed. The piston rings had to be replaced, and the gasket head, and two other smaller parts which I cannot remember the names of. The good news, though, is that the engine is fine. The water and oil didn't mix. The pistons are fine. And I got the parts for $600 less than I was first quoted yesterday... In as much as I'm still upset about this unexpected expense, I am very thankful that it turned out to be cheaper than it could've been.

So while my friends were doing a women's conference today and playing with the kids, I was hanging out with the mechanics, staring into my engine for more hours than I ever care to do again. But since it was a new mechanic (though known to my colleague Maru), I thought it best to hang around and watch what they're doing.

Tonight, Melody (one of the team members) had a session for the adolescent girls. Jennifer, the team doctor, also joined, as did Danette, and we ended up fielding a plethora of rather intriguing questions which I won't repeat here. :) It helped that there was no power. In fact, I wanted to turn my lamp down a bit, too, and accidentally killed the flame in the process, but immediately realized the girls were much more talkative when we couldn't see their faces!

What else? I'm really praying that my colleague Mary will have her baby tonight! Jennifer and Danette are happy to assist, and Mary herself says she'd rather have them deliver the baby at her house than have to drive on our bumpy roads while in labor! That would be a fun treat to help deliver a friend's baby!

On that note, I need to head to bed. It's been a grueling two days, and I'd like to be coherent tomorrow.

With love from Ilula,
Me

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If only I could make this last...

My friends have been here for four nights now. And three whole days. As a team, they've been busy busy. And after hours, after team meetings and devotions, some of the team members have been coming over for visits. This evening, Nan and Danette came and we played hand and foot.

An added bonus is that they had brought gifts from friends for my birthday, and we opened some of them on Sunday night and some tonight. There are some more, but I'm trying to make it last... As I am with their visit.

Having good friends here makes me feel normal again in so many ways. Being able to sit around and visit, laugh, play cards, talk about the challenges without having to weigh my words, because they know me well.

Ah! I am blessed. I cannot think of a better gift I could've gotten!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Which war?

As I walked into Mayfield this evening, I found two of my favorite occasional-Mayfield-dwellers in the lobby, waiting to go out for dinner. "Merry Christmas!" they announced. They're here from Sudan for an early Christmas break. "Did you just come in [from up-country]?"

I explained that I had been out this evening and had seen Lions for Lambs. (How could I resist a movie with Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise and Robert Redford in it? Plus, the tag line was too good for someone with my passions to ignore: What do you: live . . . die . . . fight . . . stand for?) It's sort-of a political commentary on the war, I continued.

"Which war?" they asked. An obvious question to ask when you're from a country where war may break out any day again. An obvious question to any person in Kenya, really, when you're surrounded by war-torn countries - Somalia in the east, Sudan in the north, Congo not too far south west. Not to speak of tribal warfare going on on our own soil, even just an hour from where I live.

It's only because I had just come from the movie that was about the war on terror that I forgot for a moment that it's not the only war going on right now. Far from it.

When I stopped by the girls' room later on to drop off The Kite Runner (Excellent book, by the way. It gives you a greater understanding of the war in Afghanistan through the eyes of an Afghan) they had Christmas lights strung up in their room. Just to be sure it feels like Christmas.

To me, it does feel like Christmas eve tonight. How so? Because tomorrow evening, I'll be heading to the airport to meet the team from Iowa. I know I said it earlier, but you have no idea how exciting it will be to have good friends around for a few days! Their days will be packed with ministry, but I'm determined that after the conference every day, after the team meeting and debriefing, that Nan, Danette and I will play hand and foot at least a few times. (It's very similar to Canasta.) Because we can. And because that's one of our favorite things to do in Iowa.

Problem is, they'd probably be jet-lagged and more than ready to sleep by the time the women's conference is over every day. Perhaps they should come and knock on my door at 3 am, when jet lag typically wakes visitors up. Not that it would be anything unusual for me to be woken up then. Flannel does it all the time. But at least I won't squirt them with water or throw a pillow at them! Not a chance!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Howling winds & kids' chatter

I spent the night in Ilula. Woke up to the sound of the wind howling across the plains. Ilula is at the top of a plateau of the Rift Valley, at about 6,500ft. When the wind blows here, there's little to stop it, especially now that all the maize (corn) has been harvested.

Now, an hour after I've been up, the sound of the children's voices rise above the sound of the wind. I love that they pass but a few feet from my bedroom on their way to school. Some are laughing. One was singing. It's hard to believe they're taking year-end exams today. It's even harder to believe that these kids had seen more pain in their short lives than I've probably seen in all of mine. God truly has done a great work of healing in them!

Last night, I went to visit with them at dinner time. They were thrilled to know I'm heading to Nairobi to pick up Danette and her team. They remember her from when Danette and I led VBS on my first visit to ELI in 2004, and they remember Lori Traeger. They were so excited to know Lori's bringing Andrea, her daughter! Jonah, one of the quieter boys, can hardly stop smiling. He'll get to meet Nan, his sponsor.

I also told the kids that I have some good news to share with them when the team is here and their exams are over. (As an early Christmas celebration, I'm taking all the Ilula kids to Kipkaren for a day on December 12! It is going to be a day packed with FUN stuff. Games, a bull roast, as few speeches as possible!)

***
I've got to run. I'm off to Nairobi now to go and finish up one photo project and then meet the team from Iowa! It's going to be good to have good friends around for a few days! Ah!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Inconvenience of Living Simply

From the blog of a friend of a friend, the following nugget:

"In taking steps toward simplicity you may lose some speed and convienience, but you just might get some of your soul back."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My theme verse for the year


I've been thinking a lot about this verse lately. So I decided to try something new tonight and make a poster-thingy on my computer. So the words can continue to sink in more. Haven't worked with Illustrator before, so it's a learn-as-you-go effort. Just for fun.

Friday in Nairobi

So I spent all week in the city. Didn't get to go to a movie, get a haircut or any of the things I like to do in the city. But I got lots of work done. I sat in Nairobi Java House for four straight days and worked on photo projects. It feels good to have gotten some of the projects done! It feels so good that it really doesn't matter that I didn't see a movie. :) I got to do some things though that I like, like soak in the bath tub every evening. And visit with missionaries at Mayfield whom I've gotten to know from times when our paths cross. Like the girls who are on a TIMO team in Sudan. It's fun to visit with friends like these when I'm here. It makes me feel normal.

Insofar wor goes: The photos I keep on my external hard drive is down to 15,000 now. That's 8,000 fewer than when I began working on this project. Plus the 5,000 I deleted from my computer, and you can imagine why I've not been blogging this week. It seems like every time I picked up my computer, it was to work on the photos and related projects. Which is good.

I got to pick up my car at the end of the day today, too. The turbo's been fixed, and I have new tires. The mechanics were asking, "Where do you drive that your tires look like this??" They pointed out several deep cuts to every single tire. That's from the rocks: When the roads are really muddy, they fix our road by breaking rocks and putting them into the worst parts. Sharp rocks + heavy car + soft, muddy surroundings = deep cuts.

This year, I spent more on my car than I ever want to again! The gearbox had to be overhauled. The shocks and lots of other expensive stuff had to be replaced. Now the turbo and the tires. Let's trust it'll all last till the car retires. It's still a great car, and I wouldn't want to drive our roads with anything less!

So tomorrow, I get to drive back to Eldoret. I met a couple from Michigan this week at Mayfield who work in Sudan, but due to the new tension there, they can't go into the country. So they asked if they could ride to Eldoret with me and see what we're doing there. They'll take a matatu back on Monday or Tuesday. I'm glad I don't have to make the drive alone. It's OK, but it's just safer having other people in the car, too.

In just a week, I'll fly back to Nairobi to meet the team from Iowa! I can't wait! Just eight days, and counting... :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

All in a Day's Work

Above the hum of the city traffic, above the chatter of the birds and visitors outside my window and the buzzing of the mosquitoes in my room, I can hear the call to prayer at the nearby mosque.

I'm (still) in Nairobi. It was a good day. Got lots done. I literally sat at Java House from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Yes, sitting got uncomfortable after a while... But I'm making progress on purging and sorting through my collection of 23,000 photos. Once that's done, I can order photo books for work. I am determined to sort and purge every time I download photos from my camera from now on... It'd be easier that way!

I was tempted to treat myself to a movie this evening, but couldn't imagine having to sit still for another 2 hours. Not today. Maybe another evening.

I was at the mechanics early this morning. My car's turbo is indeed in desperate need of help. It may sound like a luxury, this turbo business. Fear not. It's what helps my car go uphill faster than 30km/h. Which helps, considering that I live in the hilly part of Kenya. And I need new tires. My tires have deep gouges in them from our road in Ilula. When the mud is really bad, they fill in the holes with freshly broken rocks. Considering that's what people used in the Stone Age as axes etc, broken rocks happen to be sharp enough to cut through my heavy-duty tires. The rest of the car is fine. They'll put back the wandering nuts and bolts and screws so my car doesn't fall apart on me.

There's a group here at Mayfield who's from a church in Hong Kong. I had breakfast with a bunch of them, and it was fun to speak Chinese again. It feels funny speaking Chinese in Kenya. It confuses my mind a bit. Makes me want to address the Kenyans in Mandarin, too.

Time for dinner. And then, a hot bath, one of the luxuries of being at Mayfield. I think I'm going to read tonight rather than spend another several hours on my computer. That way, I'd be ready for the next 10,000 photos tomorrow...

In One Piece

I'm in Nairobi and in one piece. So is my car. At least, for the most part. Try driving on really bad roads for four hours at high speed and you, too, would understand why mysterious nuts and bolts are found rolling around on the floor. It makes you wonder what may have fallen off/out of the engine... These are the type of roads where you regret it if you forgot to wear a sports bra. (Sorry guys if that's TMI for you. It's reality.)

The last time I drove to Nairobi (en route to Rwanda) my car's turbo gave in. Or does it give out? Not sure. But it's no longer working. Which means that when I even just drive up the 30-degree hill to the top of our training center, I have to engage low 4WD. Which I don't think is too good for the car. Well, maybe having to use low 4WD isn't too bad, but you know it can't be good for the engine when there's a constant high-pitched buzz when you're driving more than 40kmh.

The best time to make the trip to the city is now, since I also have a slew of year-end projects to work on for the office. Projects that would happen much faster if I can plant myself and my computer in a booth at Nairobi Java House, and work uninterruptedly.

It just also happened that Zack and Wendy, two guests to Kipkaren were going to take a matatu to Nakuru and hire a driver to take them on a game drive. "Here's a deal," I told them. "I need to go to Nairobi by car. And the road to Nairobi takes me right through Nakuru. You can catch a ride with me."

We left Kipkaren around 10 am, just as the crowds started approaching our center for Sunday morning service. It was 3:30, maybe 4, when we finally rolled into Nakuru. I've driven that route in three hours -- an hour to town, and two to Nakuru. But the shortest road is so full of potholes that it is not good for any car to drive that way. So we took the longer way, through Kerio Valley, stopping along the way only briefly to bananas fruit from Esther, and to enquire about her husband's health.

This morning, we were inside the park by 7 am. And no sooner had we started our game drive, the morning fog still hanging thick in the air, than a vehicle stopped and suggested we go the other way around the lake. "There's a leopard on the road to Lion Hills."

I swung around as fast as you can with a car like mine on a narrow road, and gunned it. She was still there when we joined the party of about 10 vehicles under the tree. There were no fewer than 100 cameras pointing at this beauty (one of the vehicles was a large overland truck with probably 40 young adults poking their heads through the roof), and somehow, we seemed to have the perfect spot for some great photos. (I didn't bring my camera cable with me, so I'll upload photos from Kipkaren. Sorry!)

It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful God's creation is! I sat on the roof of my car for the longest time, just staring at the leopard. And then, the journey continued.

We saw many more amazing sights. A baby white rhino with its mom, the little one nursing happily. Good thing baby rhinos don't have horns yet, I figured, or the mom won't be too happy about the little one poking its nose in under her belly! We saw several Rothschild giraffes. Twelve more white rhinos. A hyena. Lots and lots of cape buffaloes. An amazing number of birds of prey. Tens of thousands of flamingos, and hundreds of pelicans. And then, just as we were heading out of the park, thankful for an amazing four hours of game viewing, Wendy yelled, "Lions!" There were two beautiful lionesses just lounging around this huge dead tree stump on the side of the road! Another 100 photos later, we left the park, thoroughly aware of what an amazing God we serve.

We braved the next part of the journey, bouncing over roads that have more potholes than there are patches of black top. The stretch from Nakuru to Nairobi used to be all of a two-hour drive. Almost four hours later, I rolled into Nairobi. I had dropped Zack and Wendy along the way with a driver who's taking them elsewhere for the next few days.

Tomorrow morning, I'm dropping off my car, trusting and believing that the repairs will be minor. I don't want to have to replace the turbo! It's time, however, to replace my tires. They're all badly cut by the rocks used to fill in our mud roads.

All this to say, I am honestly grateful for life the way it is, that I do get to drive to Nairobi, albeit over bumpy roads, that I got to stop along the way and enjoy God's creation, that unlike most of the Kenyan women around me, I do have the ability to drive, even make decisions about things like tires and turbos, though I know little about it.

And I'm infinitely thankful for places like Java House, where I can go and work tomorrow on the projects on my plate while the fundi figure out how to put my car back together in one piece.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's been 20 years

Tonight is the 20th reunion of the Class of '87 at Bellport High School. I actually graduated from high school in 1986, but as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student, I got to go to Long Island, NY for a year, and was part of the Class of '87 and of '88 (since I was there from January to December.) So I can celebrate 20-year reunions in 2006, 2007 or in 2008. Couldn't make it to any of them, though.

So, tonight, my classmates are getting together on Long Island. Would've been fun to be there, but I honestly don't know how many people I'd even still know. I was rather quiet back then (I still am, for the most part), so not a lot of people knew me. I've been back and have seen my host families. In fact, I still keep in touch with one of the three families I stayed with.

But because I have moved 19 times in the past 20 years (no kidding!), and because I was an exchange student before e-mail changed the way we communicate, I've lost contact with most of my school friends of 20 years ago. (I do still have contact with many of my classmates in South Africa, though.)

In fact, it blows my mind when I meet people who have lived in the same town all their lives. It must be nice. But I can't relate.

So, since I'm not on Long Island tonight, I'll go make some nice dinner and walk over to my neighbors' home to celebrate the fact that I'm getting older. I only have 2 weeks left of being 38. Then I'm another step closer to being 40. I don't mind getting older, though. In fact, I like it. One gains wisdom along the way. Or I'd hope one does, at least...

Snake!

I've been doing work in and around my house this morning and decided to plant some new seeds in my garden. This required me to get my watering can, which just happened to be the perfect spot for some evil-looking snake to be taking a nap. It's not too big, so I didn't get a huge fright. But I wanted to get a picture of it, so I put the watering can down again (though not on top of the snake where it was) and went to fetch my camera. When I got back, the snake was gone. I saw it slithering in under my drain cover, though. So now I'm waiting for Davis, my herpetologist neighbor, to get home so he can identify it and see if we should kill it. (We don't kill non-venomous snakes since they eat rodents.)

When he lifts the cover, I'll take a decent picture of it and post it here!

Umm. Not possible. It disappeared. According to Davis' snake book, it could be a viper of sorts. But it also could be a baby python. Davis believes a python is more likely to have gone into a wet drain than a viper. Which makes me feel OK. I'm not afraid of a baby python. A viper, on the other hand...

Here's all I could see of it before its final disappearance.

Styx

My first Friday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, my new friends Danette and Nan invited me out. We went to Applebee's, had Thai chicken salad, laughed our heads off at silly conversations to the point that our neighbors truly said, "We want what they're having!"

Then we went to Java Creek for coffee and live jazz (which, sadly, was terrible), and when they found out I had no clue who Styx was, we went to Danette's car and listened to Lady at top volume. It was so much fun!

I'm sitting her doing me-stuff on my computer and have Styx going. Just for fun.

It brought back good memories of great friends. Friends who are both coming to Kenya in 16 days!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Some days . . .

. . . more than other days, I really miss being in a place where I'm closer to friends and family.

Some days, like today, I want to be able to call up a good friend and go and see a movie, grab dinner, talk about nothing at all. And about life's big issues.

Some days, I crave routine, and traditions. Some days I fight it like it's the pest and lavish in the fact that my days are unpredictable.

Some days, I want a roommate that can talk back, that's willing to argue the tough stuff with me without either of us having our toes stepped on.

Some days, I enjoy the conversations with visitors and neighbors. But when visitors keep coming and going and we revert to small talk, I sometimes wish I didn't have to engage at all.

Most days, I miss the anonymity of life outside a village. Some days, I appreciate the fact that my lack of anonymity gives me a platform for dialog, something that most women around me simply don't have.

Some days, I wonder about the big picture. Most days, I simply enjoy the fact that I will only see the big picture in bits and pieces, in retrospect.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Square Eyes

Since last night, I've been working on a project: sorting through my digital photos. I had maxed out my external hard drive (120GB) and have been saving photos on my computer's HD, but I don't want to max that out since it would make the computer unstable. And so I'm doing what I should be doing every time I download photos: deleting pictures. By the thousands, literally. I like purging. But after having worked on this for almost the entire day today and much of last night, I'm tired. So are my eyes!

I did take a break tonight and had dinner guests over, a couple who are here for a few days. I made Yaya Mary's tomato basil cream soup with fresh basil from my garden. And grilled chicken with pasta and a cheese sauce. Yummy. It turned out great, with all the right things to make a dinner more than just eating together. My neighbors left and I've been working on the photo project for another hour or so, but I think this is it for today...

In other developments - actually, it seems like there really aren't other developments per se. I'm just chipping away at projects. Year-end updates. Photo projects. I may have to go to Nairobi next week to be able to access high-speed Internet for work projects like ordering posters and photo books. Will see if I can get away since we'll have a team and two interns on the ground at the time.

Hannah's doing OK. In fact, she's doing better than a week ago.

The Sifuna kids registered for school this week. Now we need to go and purchase uniforms.

Tomorrow I'm going to town to pick up a friend of an acquaintance, someone who's interested in medical missions. She'll only be here for a day. I may have to take her back to town on Friday.

On Saturday, we have an AIDS campaign. And the next Saturday, we're starting a new outreach in our community by doing church on a nearby rock in an area that has a lot of alcoholics.

Never a dull moment, I tell you.

But right now, there doesn't seem to be anything interesting enough to share. Unless you want to hear about the Kenyan colleague who crashed the bones in his hand today when a trailer fell on it. Ouch!

I should go to sleep. Or sort through another 100 photos... And kill a mosquito or five before I crawl in under my net!

Oh, here's one photo you might enjoy. I was spending time journaling at my colleague Juli's house before dinner the other night. She doesn't have electricity on her side of our property yet, so there it's still life by lantern. She might actually have power within the month.

On that note, lala salama.

P.S. It's more than an hour later, and I just finished the first part of the photo project. Now I just need to purge the photos on my external drive... Except, there are about 22,807 photos more in that collection, about 14,000 more than there were on my computer... But it's got to be done so I can finish photo projects faster! Glad ONE part's done, though. I must've easily deleted 4,000 photos that weren't worth keeping! I know, I know. I'll make a habit of organizing photos as I download them. I should know better!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunny Sunday

Can you see how red my face is? OK, I know it doesn't look so bad in this picture, but believe me, it's red. I look like I'm having a hot-flash like my Yaya friends, but rest assured, I'm not. It's from the sun. I was outside for a couple hours this morning taking new photos of the children in Ilula. Didn't think of putting on sunscreen. Came back home with my face on fire. OK, not really. But burned. I usually am careful. Just didn't think of it today since it was rather chilly in Ilula.

I went to Ilula yesterday afternoon, just to go and visit my friends there. Spent much of the afternoon visiting with the children. It was SO GOOD to see them. They always have a million questions! Then I had dinner with the Rono family, went to say good-night to all the kids, and had a conference call till late in the night. Today was spent taking photos, catching up with colleagues, and finally heading back to Kipkaren, after much chai and talking. It was dark by the time I rolled in.

I don't like driving here at night. You don't see African pedestrians easily, and there are many pedestrians. More than there are cars and trucks on the road. The other reason why I don't like driving here at night is because of the trucks. It's a 2-lane "highway" out to where I live. It's the road that goes from Mombasa all the way to Kampala, Uganda, so there's a lot of truck traffic on the narrow road.

Anyway, I'm home safely. Flannel's glad. She rearranged my home for me while I was gone. How nice of her.

Oh, I saw the Sifuna kids while in Ilula. Tomorrow, they are going to school to register! They'll start school in January. Three of the four kids, that is. Kiprop and Jepkemboi will be in Baby Class (preschool) and Jemutai will be in Middle Class (Pre-K). I love knowing that these kids will have an opportunity to learn.

Their dad, by the way, has been working at the ELI training center in Ilula for the past month, helping in the gardens. Apparently, he's doing a great job and they'll keep him on. What a huge change in their lives. Now he won't have to walk around every day looking for a day job!

Other than that, I'd love to upload some of the photos I took today, but I am wiped out from the sun. And am going to end this day by relaxing a bit, perhaps watching a movie. You'll have to see the photos another day.

Lala salama. Sleep in peace. I'm sure I will. If Flannel will let me.

P.S. In case you're looking at the picture wondering what's behind me: I don't have space for a closet in my house, so I put up a bar on the wall where clothes hang from. And the white thing is my mosquito net. Wouldn't want to live without it out here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Passion

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about something she felt strongly about: the plight of women in the D.R. Congo. "I'm not usually passionate about anything," she commented somewhere in the middle of the conversation, and continued to talk about the issues the women in that part of the world face, and what we can (and cannot) do to help.

Her comment about passion has been turning in my mind. Am I passionate about things? I would surmise that my friend and I are very different in that area. When I feel strongly about something, you know it!

Like gender issues in rural Africa. A definite hot button for me. It never was. In fact, gender issues per se never has been an issue to me. Until I moved to rural Kenya and I started seeing things from a different viewpoint. Even now, as I'm typing this, I go back and delete much of what I had written, because I can so easily get going on this... But God has been teaching me when to speak and when to be quiet. I don't always "get it," but I'm learning. Often, though, I don't want to be quiet. I want to speak for those without a voice in this culture. But not here. Not now.

Other things that get me going? They're not hot buttons, just topics I am passionate about, that usually get me talking. Like the fact that Macs are far superior to PCs. Or simply the incredible bird life around us in Kenya, especially in Kipkaren. Or African wildlife. And the correct use of adverbs.

Or God. In fact, I heard a quote this morning by Beth Moore that's been playing in my mind. "Whatever our perception of God may be, he's MORE, and BETTER."

I can go on and on and on. But I won't. Not now. Meet me for coffee at Java Creek, and we can talk... (Ah, I wish.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wondering, again

Though there are far more complex issues to wonder about, tonight, there's merely one simple question on my mind:

Why is it that Flannel sleeps all evening while I'm at work, and the moment I lower my mosquito net and get into bed, she starts playing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rituals

Every night, before I go to sleep, I get to rearrange my small house. OK, not the entire place, but a few things. I get to put away all the loose knickknacks on my dresser. I am not a big knickknack person. I have only a giraffe, two angel statues and a little plaque on my dresser. It used to be 3 angels. One lost her head. Literally. That's why I get to put everything away.

Because at 4 a.m. sharp, Flannels is done sleeping for the night. She starts rearranging things. (Hence the beheading of my favorite angel figurine. It'll have to be glued back together.) If I leave papers on my desk, she rearranges those on the floor for me. If I want my house in relatively good shape when I wake up, I have to put away any potential kitty toy. Every night. So every morning, I get to redecorate my dresser. Because I only have so much drawer space in my house. Three drawers in total, to be exact. Unless you add the two small ones in the kitchen, too. (That's five more drawers than I have in Ilula...)

Alas! Flannel finds other ways to amuse herself. Many nights, she climbs up my mosquito net, chasing mosquitoes. Not a good thing. It's not really built to withstand the weight of a growing kitten. Or she chew my toes. Or takes things off my walls. A Pokot arrow, to be specific. She loves taking it off the wall around 5 a.m.

Hence, the other thing I have to do every night, is move the little stool on which I keep my computer. It's next to my dresser; the best spot to get Internet reception. It also makes for a perfect spot to sit and play with the arrow mounted on my wall. Flannel has managed to dismount the arrow many a night. Unless I move the stool before I go to bed.

Why don't I just let her out? At 4 a.m., the cat-eating dogs are still too much of a hazard. By 6, I usually throw her out the front door. Just as I get up and start my day!

For the non cat lovers out there . . . you probably can't understand why I'd put up with this. Feed Flannel to the dogs, I imagine some of you thinking. Ah, but I won't allow that to happen. 'Cause Flannel's my friend, you see. She's the one I come home to every day. The one who is happy to see me, and who curls up with me when I take lunch-time naps. Just so she can have lots of energy by 4 a.m.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finding Hope


Victor, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

This morning, I joined our social worker Ruth for some home visits. The families we were to visit are both ones with pretty dismal stories, and I didn't really know what to expect. "Show us, Father, how to share the hope that we have in You," I prayed as we started the journey.

First stop: Tekla's house. This mother of six has made some improvement since people from ELI have started visiting her. But she's still trapped in alcoholism, which truly prohibits the family from making much-needed improvement. Her husband is an alcoholic, too, and he smokes bang (marijuana). One night, while he was high, he attacked their one son, trying to cut his head off.

The son survived, but his vocal cords were severed, leaving him without a voice. He is now living with someone in another community.

The dad ended up in prison, but has since been released, and everyone's dreading the day he may show up at home...

In the meantime, Tekla continues to drink while having four children at home. There's hardly a thing in their house. No food. Just some dirty pots from having cooked porridge this morning. ELI's home-based care team provides the flour for the porridge. They've learned not to bring more than she can cook in just a few days since she trades food for alcohol.

Tekla wasn't there when we showed up, so we got to visit with the kids for a while. Jeptoo, the 8-year-old, reminds me a lot of Jemutai. She's yet another young girl who basically has to care for younger siblings... Ruth has been encouraging Jeptoo to help their 3-year-old sister Jesang to walk. Jesang is about the size of my American neighbors' 1-year-old. She doesn't walk. She hardly talks. We suspect it's from neglect, but Ruth is taking her to a clinic in town later this week to see if it might be a physical handicap. In the meantime, Jeptoo is shown how to hold Jesang's hand and carefully help her to take little steps.

While the girls are working on walking, 6-year-old Cosmas quietly plays with his baby brother, Victor, who is just shy of 2 years old. "Cosmas has a severe stutter," Ruth explains later, "so he doesn't talk much." But Victor is oblivious to the trails his older siblings have faced. His age has been the protecting factor, just like in the case of Kipruto.

We leave later with a promise of being back. I call the guys from our AA ministry, and they commit to come and visit Tekla, to talk to her about joining our November intake at Kipkaren. "Things will be better, Adele," Ruth assures me. "They already are. But the mom must stop drinking..."

A 40-minute-or-so walk from there, we stop at our next home for the morning, that of Lillian, the mom with twins. Her home is a stark contrast with the one we had just visited. The compound has been swept. Clean laundry is hanging on the line.

"Karibu!" the young mom says with a big smile. Her hair has been wound into small balls, and as we sit down in her sparse living room, she cannot stop fiddling with her hair, constantly twisting new balls. It looks cute, but I can't help but wonder about the mom. She's just . . . different.

We ask about her babies and she's happy to report that she's now producing more milk, but not enough to sustain both. "She's still feeding the babies uji," Ruth translates. "She says porridge has more nutrition than milk..." Riiiiight. For 2-month-olds! "And she says she's adding Blue Band [margarine] to fatten them up." I just about swallowed my tongue.

We visit more, and she tells us that she still gets really bad dreams. I pray for her before we head out, but somehow, I just can't seem to find the right words to pray. I don't know why.

Ruth stays behind to talk to her about family planning. The 29-year-old isn't interested. "I can't take shots," she explains to Ruth. "I have cancer."

"What kind of cancer?"

"It moves all over my body..."

"Would she be willing to give them formula if I bought it?" I ask Ruth on the walk home.

"We can try!"

Lillian used to brew alcohol for an income, but no longer does it. Typically, she sells her body to make money...

We walk home in silence. What can we do for our neighbor? Her problems go far deeper than producing enough milk for her twins. It's more than postpartem depression. I am no doctor, so I cannot say, but others talk of schizophrenia. And some major spiritual issues.

Where's the hope in this? 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you and accounting for the hope that is in you." I know my hope is in Christ. He gives meaning to my life. But I've never gone to bed hungry. I've not had a parent abuse me, or be psychologically unstable. How is it possible to keep the hope when your world is far less than simple.

God knew I needed an answer, that this week, more questions seem to be coming forth from my side than I can find simple answers for. So he sent Nellie to my door.

"Adele! I praise God for this chance to see you!" my friend said with all sincerity as she gave me the biggest hug. She's here for an interview, and still has to make the couple-hour journey back home, so we cannot visit for long.

As we walk over to the children's home so she can see her nephew and niece, she cannot contain her joy. "I have to tell you! My mother is now sober!"

"How did that happen??!"

"She just quit drinking one day! God has answered my prayers of many years. I cried for one week. Tears of joy, really. Our home is a different place. Imagine... my mom can now cook for us. I can find a job!"

Sydney and Niva smile the biggest smiles I've seen in a while when they see their aunt walking over. They give her huge hugs and fumble to find the right words. Having lived in a Swahili-speaking environment for a year now, they've forgotten much of their mother tongue. Nellie switches to Swahili and tells them news from Mt. Elgon, of cousins who send greetings. Then she tells them that gogo no longer drinks. Their little smiles cannot get any bigger!

"It's ONLY because of God, Adele," Nellie assures me as I drive her to the main road. "I have seen God break through so many areas! Now, people are starting to say in my village, 'I want my daughter to be like Nellie. I don't want her to undergo FGM.' Imagine! God is answering my prayers."

Indeed. Nellie was the first girl in her village to refuse FGM. She was shunned by her community and by her family. Yet she stayed on so she could serve her alcoholic parents and her siblings who were dying of AIDS. Today, people are starting to follow her example.

When I finally drop her at the matatu stage, my heart is light. God does indeed answer prayers. And though change happens slowly in rural Kenya, it does happen. It takes only one to stand up against cultural practices that have gone unchallenged for too many years.

As for cases like that of Tekla and Lillian, it takes a village to come alongside these families. To love and support them. To show them Christ's love.

I am infinitely grateful to be part of a village and a ministry who is doing just that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday Events

Just some pictures that I took this afternoon. After I came back from town, I went to watch the friendly (yet fierce) game between the Kipkaren staff (men) and some of the agriculture students. The staff won. (The students won last weekend, so I guess there'll be a final playoff next weekend.)Brian is a 1-year-old who's a biological son of one of the parent couples. He's usually all smiles, but wasn't feeling too well today.
After hurting a muscle, Pastor Peter decided to head up a cheering squad of kids from the home. (Behind them you can see a new classroom that's being added onto our school.)
I was delayed in heading home since Rooney and his friends had found a baby bird, so we had to get a ladder and put it back in its nest. (I hope it'll survive!) But in the process I got to watch the most beautiful sunset.

Walking home as the sun continues to set... Sometimes, the African sky can take your breath away!

Post Script: Faith

"Faith is not the result of striving, it's the result of rest. It's yielding; you yield your way into faith. We strive only to impress people." Says one of my favorite Bible teachers, Bill Johnson.

Wondering out loud

This morning, I left home too late to make it in time for an English service in town. So I took my Bible, my Believing God Bible study guide, and my iPod. And I went to Poa Place, an outdoor restaurant-type-place. It's really a family place, and I have discovered that when you go there alone, you get ignored. Which is nice, sometimes. But not when it's your waitress ignoring you. That's an all-together different story. Besides the point.

Point is: There I was sitting, surrounded by families coming for a Sunday afternoon buffet, kids swimming, some young foreigners basking at the poolside. And I was in my own world, under my umbrella, visiting with God about Hannah.

Because I don't understand. In Matthew alone, time and again, Jesus says things like, "Your faith has made you well." Or "According to your faith, let it be done." "Let is be done for you as you wish." And then the famous "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." Sometimes it was a parent believing on behalf of their child. Sometimes someone for their own healing. In the famous passage in Acts, the lame man is healed because of Peter and John's faith.

I believe God can heal Hannah. I have no doubt about it. Every time I go to visit, I go expecting to see her well! Yet her condition is deteriorating fast. Despite the fact that God can heal her. Despite her faith, and that of her family.

So I started wondering about some things. Like if I am trying to manipulate God. If I pray this way, or if I do that, surely God will answer. That would be like Romans 4: 4-5. It would be like expecting wages for work done. Or not? So what am I to do? Simply believe.

In the meantime, I will keep asking God to heal Hannah. And, I will not be offended at the fact that in the meantime, God has not yet healed her. Because God also reminded me of the passage in Matthew 11, where he was talking to John the Baptist. John was in prison, waiting to be beheaded. He was in prison despite the fact that Jesus came to set the captives free.

I don't understand it. I honestly do not believe it is God's will for Hannah and her family to be suffering the way that they are. Jesus was always about fixing what was broken, healing the sick. I do not believe this tragedy is the will of God. But it is.

Why?

I don't know.

I'm not putting this out there to ask for a theological explanation. I honestly do not think we can come up with the answer. Point is: God is God. We are not. I believe he can heal Hannah. He has not yet. But I will not give up asking God for her healing. Because I've seen him do even greater things.

And so, I will keep believing. I will keep seeking him. And I will keep asking God to show himself to Hannah and her family throughout this time. And to heal Hannah. Because he can.