Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Guardians' Day photos

Saying good-bye
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Click on this photo to see a few more pictures of the Guardians' Day celebrations

Monday, March 27, 2006

Guardians' Day

Saturday morning came very fast for me. Having had a team on site for about three weeks, there was lots I had to get done before I could board the plane on Saturday evening, so I ended up getting just more than two hours' sleep. Needless to say, I look at what I had packed and wonder how I thought I'd make it through a three-week journey with as little clothes as I have with me... But that leaves more space to bring back stuff from the US, so I'll just wash and wear the same three shirts and pants over and over. :)

I contemplated not going to bed at all when 4 am rolled by and I was still working. I knew that at 6, staff and parents would be in the Children's Home kitchen, peeling potatoes and carrots to feed the 600 or 700 guests we were expecting that day! In the end, I decided that it would be a wiser decision to get at least a couple hours' sleep, so I left the peeling to the others.

Smile! Cheka!
After breakfast, I set up a little photo studio in one of our dorm rooms where I could print photos. My primary role for the day was that of photographer. As guardians arrived and were connected with the kids, they were escorted to my little corner of the garden where I had put out a little bench and was able to take a nice photo for the guardians to take home with them. (I'll print a copy for the kids once I'm back at Ilula and have more photo printer cartridges.)

Two families in particular will be etched in my mind: Apollo with his grandparents, and Adam and Faith with their granddad. Apollo's grandpa has the cutest smile, and he sat looking proudly at his grandson. He wore a nice hat--though not a top hat like I'm told he wore last year. I could honestly see gratitude beaming from his whole being, knowing that Apollo is in good hands!

Then came Adam and Faith's grandpa. He was quite a character, wearing a traditional Kalinjin outfit worn only be elders: a coat and hat made of monkey skin! (I will indeed upload photo as soon as possible!) He was obviously someone very proud of his culture, and after the photo was taken, he started singing a Kalinjin song and prompted the two male staff members who were around to join in! Little Faith (5) was beaming with pride in her grandpa! Adam (9) seemed a little embarrassed, especially when his grandpa insisted that Adam wears the monkey hat...

As each group walked up, I'd feel my joy in my heart for the kids that someone did indeed show up to come and see them. For many, no one showed up, and my heart broke for them. (In fact, even as I'm sitting in a cyber cafe writing this, I'm fighting back the tears.) I can't imagine how it must feel to be handed off to someone else's care and then, one the one day in a year when the people that gave you away don't even show up to see if you're doing OK! I realize that many families cannot afford the journey, that it's not necessarily a matter of not caring. But how do you explain that to a little kid?

In fact, one girl whom I've been so trying to connect with since I was there two years ago when she arrived at the children's home and friends of mine are her sponsors, was one for whom my heart broke. No-one came to visit her and her two siblings. Since I've been here, I always try to get the 8-year-old to talk to me, but she's painfully shy and usually just smiles and looks down. On Saturday, however, as I walked to say good-bye to the kids before leaving, I found her hand in mine, refusing to let go as others tried to squeeze their hands in and walk with me... When I hugged her, she hugged me like never before, still not saying a word. Yet I knew that somehow, she knew I cared!

I really had wanted to simply walk around and steal shots of people walking and talking, but by the time I was done with the official photos, it was time for our program for the day.

Song and Dance
The kids made me so very proud, and I'm sure many of the grandparents' hearts burst with pride, too! They sang songs, did dances, recited Bible verses and some of the cousins/kid neighbors and friends who came for the visit slipped into the crowd of ELI kids, trying to imitate their dances.

And then came the speeches
Boy! Do Kenyans ever love speeches. No official event goes by without a lot of people speaking. The Children's home directors spoke, as did the ELI director, and the wife of the ELI founder, and a representative from the visiting team, and I, and two of the dorm parents, and the director of the school, and the headmaster... There may have been more, but I didn't listen to it all since I was in my little studio, printing photos. We put some tape against one fence, and families could pick up their print before leaving.

Though the original plan was to break for lunch and have the speeches after the meal, the program was changed so the meal would only be served after the speeches for fear that people would leave...

At 4 pm, the visiting team and I boarded a vehicle to leave for the airport. At that time, everyone was still sitting in the sun, listening to speeches! Can you imagine that happening at home?

Anyway, I have no doubt that the day was a great success. I still hurt for those who didn't have visitors, but for others, like Thomas, a boy who has no living relatives left and whose school teacher showed up to be his dad for the day, I can still see the spark in his eyes as they walked around, and the even bigger smile when the neighbor who found him tending cows and brought him to our care, posed for a picture with him!

What an absolute honor to be part of something like this. I hugged the kids before I left and could honestly say, "I will miss you a lot!" They have certainly stolen my heart.

Yesterday, I was in a plane crash

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
The fact that I am writing this report means that I obviously walked away unscathed. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the title may sound, but it was a plane crash, nevertheless!

After Guardians’ Day yesterday (a whole other story which I’ll tell later this week), I joined the visiting team for their journey to Nairobi. Half of their team was arriving from Tanzania, and I was to lead a short time of debriefing in Nairobi before they left for safari.

We arrived at the airport in good time and were delighted to be offered seats on an earlier flight. (There are NO earlier flights here. There's one flight from Eldoret in the morning and one in the evening. But an 8-seater was apparently passing through from the Maasai Mara, dropping off passengers.) The sky looked eerie with very dark clouds as a storm was brewing in the West, and the pilot asked everyone to hurry so we could beat the storm.

Seemed like someone on the ground hurried TOO much, removing the tail support beam too soon (or perhaps never putting one down). So when we were all in our seats and the pilot got in, too, he head to ask the passenger by the door to step back so he could close the door.

The weight of one more person toward the back of the plane
+ the fact that there was no tail support beam
= a very expensive mistake

Next thing the nose of the plane went up and bam! the tail hit the ground. (In case you're skimming this entry you may have missed the part that we're still ON THE GROUND, NOT MOVING. No need to panic.) So we were asked to all get out. As the pilot walked around grumbling at the ground staff for not doing their work, we carefully got out of the airplane.

So now I can officially say I've been in a plane crash and walked away unscathed. The same cannot be said for the little airplane, though. The tail had bent upwards, so the rudder couldn't move!

I was, in fact, VERY happy to get into a bigger (albeit still small) plane for the flight to Nairobi. It was rather scary seeing the lightning seemingly right outside our windows as we flew into Wilson airport. And of course we didn't think it's a good idea to get into a plane that didn't have an operating rudder...

The reason I was with the team, as I said earlier, was to lead some debriefing discussions. Having had less than 3 hours’ sleep on Friday night, I’m not sure how much sense I made last night and like the team, I was very happy to head to bed for a good night's sleep.

After breakfast today, the team headed to the Maasai Mara. I went to church in Karen, picked up a few gifts in town, and this afternoon, I flew to Johannesburg.

It's good to see my sister and her family! Unfortunately, my time in South Africa is too short to see my entire family.

I’ll try and post some updates from Pretoria this week.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I'm at Nairobi airport, heading to SA today. I'm tired, but my heart is ful of joy for all God is doing. Time and time again, I am overwhelmed by His love. Today's one of those days.

I'll write about guardians' day and more (including the story of me being in an airplane accident yesterday--yip, it's true, and I'm fine, the plane was still on the ground when it happened... read all about it tomorrow!) from South Africa.

With a smile,

Saturday, March 25, 2006

What a week!

Celebrating God's goodness
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
This past week, I worked alongside a team from NY to help complete rental units for a group of ladies who used to formerly brew alcohol.

I'll write more of their stories later this week when I'm in South Africa.

Until then, click on this photo and enjoy some more pictures of the celebration.

You can read more about the group on

Friday, March 24, 2006


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Meet Edickson. When he came to us almost two years ago, this young boy was painfully shy. But now, he's just as full of life as his other little brothers.

Over his left shoulder you can see a kid with his thumb in his mouth. That's our youngest orphan: Calvin. These two are best buddies and dig in the dirt for hours!

A few weekends ago, I went to the East wing, where they live, and sat on the floor with the litttles ones. They were fascinated with my cell phone and my watch in a way that only 4-year-olds can be... They speak hardly any English, just like I still speak hardly any Swahili, but both of them crawled onto my lap and we visited for close to an hour.

To me, that's one of many things I love about sharing Christ with these little ones: simply sitting and visiting with them so they feel valued.

Monday, March 20, 2006

African wisdom

"If you look at your child,
you will see his questions before you hear them."
Senegalese proverb

Sunday, March 19, 2006

February/March Update

Recently, a good friend asked me what I enjoyed most about being here at ELI in Kenya. It's impossible to answer that with a single answer.

I love...
  • knowing that what I'm doing is part of something far bigger than I am; that I am just a small part of God working in the lives of the kids and neighbors here in Kenya
  • the kids' smiles and how their faces light up when I walk into their rooms to read to them or simply visit with them
  • the smell of the earth after the rains (which it's doing more and more nowadays as we enter the rainy season)
  • when some of the little ones come and crawl into my lap during movie time, take my arm and wrap it around them - knowing that though most of them have experienced some pretty bad stuff in their lives, but that they feel safe with me
  • sitting with women in the neighborhood and hearing how the training they have received at ELI has given them Hope and dignity
  • hearing the little ones pray
  • receiving visiting teams and seeing as their eyes open to what God is doing in our midst
  • receiving guests in my place
  • crawling into bed at the end of a long day and hearing the crickets outside my window
  • walking home after reading to the children and looking up at the stars
  • finally taking hot showers in my own place after months of cold and/or luke-warm showers
  • capturing the beauty of the children through my camera lense
  • working with an incredible team of people
I truly do praise God for the honor of being just a small part of what He is doing in this part of Kenya. This coming week, I'll be out working on a project with the visiting team. They'll be finishing up two rental apartments for a group of women who God has freed from a lifestyle of illegal brewing. Read their story on the ELI Blog.

Guardians' Day
Another highlight this week will be helping out at ELI's second annual Guardian's Day. Most of our orphans do have some distant relatives, and one day a year all these relatives are brought in to come and visit. This is a MAJOR event, with 700 guests expected on Saturday. I'll be taking photos all day and printing photos for the relatives to take home with them. All but two kids, I believe, have relatives coming. Those two literally have no living relatives, and some of the visitors will be "mom" for the day and escort the kids on the tours, photo ops etc. My heart breaks for them!

Will you please pray for this event? Many of the kids came to us not knowing Christ, but are now believers. This is an opportunity for them to share Christ with unbelieving relatives. It is also a time of forgiveness. Last year, for example, one girl extended forgiveness to her relatives who had abused her while she was under their care. For some of the kids--especially the very little ones--it's a difficult day. Last year, some of them refused to acknowledge knowing their relatives for fear that they might be sent home with them again...

Please pray that the kids will be able to share Christ with their relatives this coming Saturday, that those who need to forgive will take the opportunity to do so, that those who are afraid for what the day may bring, will be flooded with God's peace. May prayer is that all the events of the day will be pleasing to God and bring Him glory, and that the kids--all 97 of them--will be able to go to bed with a smile on their faces that night.

Time Away
After the event, I'll be flying to Nairobi with the team to facilitate debriefing as the other half of the team will be coming from our site in Tanzania. And then comes a very special treat. Good friends have offered me a time of R&R, so I'll be joining them for a week. I was going to fly on Thursday, but since I'll be in Nairobi by the weekend, I was able to change the first leg of my flight and will be able to spend 3 days with my sister in Pretoria. I'll be working, but will be with family. And after that, I'll spend a week with friends. A double blessing!

Though I'll be going away, I'll be needing to work inbetween things as we're heading into our summer filled with visiting teams. Part of my job involves making all the in-country arrangements for these visitors and making sure that once they're with us, that they're well taken care of. For me, this also includes meeting with individuals to talk about their experiences, praying with them, and answering the many questions they have about the things they are experiencing.

Another part of my job is to document stories of how God is working in and through Empowering Lives. To this end, I will be going to Southern Sudan sometime in May with a medical team. While they will be doing some much-needed medical work at our new center near the village of Kolmorek, I will document the events on film and serve the team and the Sudanese in whichever ways God leads.

Please pray for our preparations for this trip, including financial provision. You can read more about our work in Sudan on the ELI Blog.

Please do keep in touch, and please let me know how I can be praying for you. It is my honor to be lifting you before God's throne in prayer.

Life Happens

This morning, I woke up to news that one of the visiting team members had lost a relative. It is so hard breaking such news to someone, especially when they're far from their support system. The lady's husband was also here, but he had left for Tanzania to work on a project there for ELI. So my morning was spent finding them flights home. The fact that things fell in place the way they did, and that the couple are right now on a flight home from Nairobi, truly is a testimony that God still does miracles!

It seemed like this week was full of unusual events in that way. Someone in our neighborhood's son was diagnosed this week with epilepsy. He's a wonderful kid whom I got to know at VBS in December, and I'm praying that God will heal him! (Will you please pray for him, too?) At this stage, his family seems overwhelmed by his condition. But yet again, in a way only God could orchestrate, a pediatrician from Indiana University just "happened to" visit our center the day after the boy had been diagnosed, so she could sit down and talk with the mom about the condition, about medication etc. In fact, the Bible study group of the couple who had left today had sent the couple with funding which they asked them to use for a need here, and thus their small group was able to provide the necessary funding for the boy's medication.

The team that's currently here have been working on various projects, among other things, redecorating our chapel/dining room/training center. The place looks WONDERFUL, and I can't wait to see people's faces tomorrow when they walk into church and see the transformation.

It was fun to see the children's responses today when they came in for their Saturday afternoon movie and they noticed the paint and curtains. I started showing Hermie (by Max Lucado), but the DVD was badly scratched, so we had to switch to the VeggieTale version of David and Goliath. (Some of the boys had been asking the past week if we can please see this story.) The kids cheered and cheered when the giant fell over!

This coming week will be a busy one with me being gone most days with the team as they work on an off-site project. The highlight of the week will be Saturday: It's our second annual Guardians' Day. Most of our kids do have some distant relatives, and one day a year all these relatives are brought in to come and visit. This is a MAJOR event, with 700 guests expected. I'll be taking photos all day. All but two kids, I believe, have relatives coming. Those two literally have no living relatives, and some of the visitors will be "mom" for the day and escort the kids on the tours, photo ops etc. My heart breaks for them!

Will you please pray for this event? Many of the kids came to us not knowing Christ, but are now believers. This is an opportunity for them to share Christ with unbelieving relatives. It is also a time of forgiveness. Last year, for example, one girl extended forgiveness to her relatives who had abused her while she was under their care. For some of the kids--especially the very little ones--it's a difficult day. Last year, some of them refused to acknowledge knowing their relatives for fear that they might be sent home with them again...

Please pray that the kids will be able to share Christ with their relatives this coming Saturday, that those who need to forgive will take the opportunity to do so, that those who are afraid for what the day may bring, will be flooded with God's peace. May prayer is that all the events of the day will be pleasing to God and bring Him glory, and that the kids--all 97 of them--will be able to go to bed with a smile on their faces that night.

I do hope to write some during the course of the week, though.

Until then,
Lala salama (sleep well)

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is where I work

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
My friend Amu e-mailed me yesterday asking to see what my house looks like from the outside now that it's done. Here it is.

The red soil will hopefully be covered with grass in a few months... The seeds are being sown this week.

Those clouds in the sky dropped a few rain drops today, but not a whole lot. I was indoors most of today trying to catch up on my communications work. Next week, I'll be out most of the time with the team from NY. The ladies will be working on a project that is amazing:

A nearby village (Plateau) had a terrible problem with alcoholism. Through ELI's anti-alcohol program, several ladies left their lives brewing potent alcohol called changaa ("kill me quick") and surrendered their lives to Christ. For a long time, they made paper for ELI, and ELI gave them a grant. Rather than spend the money, the ladies decided to invest it as a group and build small apartments. The first three are almost done.

Building the first unit has taken a long time, but the ladies (who now work at local rose nurseries) have been determined to see this project through.

The NY ladies are helping them next week by doing the decorating of the first two units, and then these can be rented out.

They are planning on saving the rental income yet again, and to continue building units until each one of them has one apartment to rent out. (There are more than 30 ladies in this group!)

What a powerful testimony of how God is using ELI to transform lives.

Don Rogers asked the chief of Plateau last weekend how many people in his village have been positively affected by ELI's AA program, and without hesitation, the chief said "75%!" Don asked again, and the chief insisted that at least 800 or so people have been positively affected by this program. (That includes brewers who left their lifestyles and found better jobs, people who won the battle again alcholism, children who now have better lives as a result of their parents turning away from alcohol.)

Yeah God, eh?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some changes to my house

Kitchen changes
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Having a team of ladies from NY on site, I have made use of the opportunity to pick their brains about shifting around some things in my house. It's been really hard for me not to have a good friend or two here to help me with ideas with the house!

Anyway, while I was running errands in town today for the team, I picked up an extra chair I had ordered for my living room set as well as a linen chest. (Click on the photo to see that.) Stuff like that is really incredibly cheap here--an amazing blessing!

Since the team brought some sewing machines, I was finally able to make adjustments to my curtains, too, so they're no longer a foot too short! (Yeah!)

It's been a crazy few days with the team here, hence the silence from this side. I'm hoping to catch up on work tomorrow, but can't imagine I'd be able to get much "office time" in since another team is arriving and I have to take them around for 2 days. I have to remind myself at times that hosting teams is a major part of my ministry here! In fact, I have had some very meaningful times with team members to talk with them, pray for them and encourage them.

So, tomorrow morning early I'll be heading for the airport to pick up the new team. It's raining right now, which I'm thankful for in terms of our crops and plants, but please, please pray that it won't rain so much that I'll get stuck in the mud on my way to the airport or coming home...

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stuck in the Mud

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
On Monday night, I flew to Nairobi for a short safari (journey). I had to meet a team from upstate NY, and decided to go early to take care of some business - applying for a new American tourist visa for an upcoming journey, among other things.

The new American embassy in Nairobi is collossal! In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it's one of the biggest buildings in Kenya, and the building with the strictest security measures.

Non-Americans have to park blocks away and then pass through several security screenings. It's understandable, seeing that Bin Laden bombed the previous embassy, which was downtown.

It took me 30 minutes to get into the building for my appointment. Two hours later, I was called to the window for an interview, and was granted a 10-year tourist visa. Yeah God!

I also had to do things in the city like get a hair cut, go and buy 3,000 copies of the Gospel of John for an upcoming outreach event, pick up various supplies for orphanage repairs which will be done by a visiting team.

I even got to go and see a movie one evening!

This may be no big deal to you, but if you enjoy movies and the nearest movie theater is a 7-hour drive from you, then you cherish every moment of the movie! I saw Memoirs of a Geisha and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a sad lifestyle, though...

I had to smile at myself for really enjoying driving in Nairobi! It almost felt like I was back in Taipei traffic. (I was able to use a vehicle belonging to Africa Inland Mission as I was staying in their guest house.)

Met the team last night, and it took us 9 hours to drive back to Eldoret today. There was NO WAY their bus would've made it on our muddy roads for the last stretch of the journey, so we were met by coworkers who transfered all the luggage and people. Then we hit the muddy road.

All went well until we passed a neighbor who had set out on the road in a little sedan. Her car slid in the mud, took out a fence post and was stuck under the barbed wire fence.

Fortunately, we had 9 men with us to help her get unstuck, and David Kosgey--the one Kenyan with the reputation for never having gotten stuck on our road--drove her home. Since David had to drive the neighbor's car, I got to drive the rest of the way, slipping and sliding. (I think I should put Simon & Garfunkel's song in the car and play that when I drive our muddy road...)

Anyway, the team's here safely. I have a ton to do before our morning devotion, but at least wanted to get an update on the blog again for a change.

It's good to be back in my place and hear the sound of the rain on the roof.

Monday, March 06, 2006

"I want to collect 10 bags of clothes..."

Three young girls stopped by my house this afternoon. One's neck was stiff, and I was going to put some Tiger balm on the sore spot. They were, of course, too happy to be invited in for some soda. They inspected every nook and cranny in my house, wanting to know what everything was. "Your house is SOOOOO clean!" Scopia kept saying. "Can we open the fridge? What's this? ... And this? ... This is an APPLE?"

They're cute. We sat down and visited, them trying their utmost best to be little ladies, yet the kid in them gulped down cookie after cookie. I smiled. That's why I have cookies, after all!

Before long, the conversation turned to Sudan. They talked about how sad it was to see pictures of the kids in Sudan who don't have clothes.

"When I'm big, I want to collect 10 bags of clothes and take it to the children in Sudan!" Ruth declared. She got so excited about all the things she wanted to do, she switched to Swahili, explaining to her friends how she would cook for the children there.

"You know, we eat FOUR meals a day!" she explained. (They get a small meal at school in addition to their three meals at the children's home.) "Those children, they only eat three times a WEEK. Eh!'

They proceeded to tell me how moved they were, and what ideas they are having. In fact, some want to go through their clothing now and send some to the children in Sudan! Some of the parents were even saying that our kids have been praying for their friends in Sudan, and that many of them have been saying that they feel really bad now if they have left-overs. "Eh!" the kids would say. "This could feed one child in Sudan."

Please pray for our kids as they consider how God would use them to bless their neighbors to our north.

Friday, March 03, 2006

My place

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Last night, I had my first guests over for dinner. I've had several meetings in my house (for work) and tomorrow, I'm having two families over for chai.

On Saturday, all the kids from the Children's Home will come over and surround the house and pray to dedicate it for God's purposes. I'll take photos, of course.

The place really is simple, but comfortable. At this stage, the only problem is that there's hardly any water pressure. The shower is but a trickle. But that is being worked on and should be fixed tomorrow. (The pipes for repiping outdoors etc is ready.)

I'm really tired tonight and am heading to bed. Yikes, it's after midnight again. I've been up till 1 or 2 am for the past few evenings and hope to get a really good night's sleep tonight.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I'm in my house!

My bed
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Today, I moved. I'm totally exhausted right now, but wanted to be sure to upload a few pictures. My favorite part of the house, I think, is my bed. Here, you typically buy a bed (frame) from carpenters on the side of the road. Tobias (the building contracter) told me Patrick (the carpenter) can build me a better bed for less money. And in the process, I was able to design the bed myself. I wanted a frame like this so I could drape the mosquito net over the bed rather than suspend it from the ceiling.

The quilt was a gift from a group of ladies as my home church in Iowa. I chose the colors of the room based on the quilt. (Thanks, ladies!)

Friends gave me the mosquito net for Christmas. I like that I'm able to open the net during the day.

Tomorrow, I'll take more photos of the house as it is now. I just want to get a few things on the walls and see if I can do something about my curtains. (I have temporary curtains up, don't worry. I'm not staying in a curtainless home...)

But now, I have to go and finish up a last few things and head to bed.

It rained HARD this evening, so right now all the dudus (bugs) outside are singing praises.