Friday, December 28, 2007
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
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
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.
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.
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!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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. :)