Thursday, August 31, 2006


I love my home. I love being here and knowing I'm safe and sound. Spent the night in Nakuru since I wouldn't drive home close to nightfall here. Not for a two-and-a-half-hour trip through the mountains on my own, at least. Then I went to the Safaricom (cell phone) office to enquire about switching to a billed system with my phone. I found out yesterday that there is indeed a system where you don't have to top up your phone constantly, but simply be billed for the calls you make. And it's even cheaper than the prepaid service! Turns out that I can't sign up for that service until I have my Kenya tax number, which I'm told I'll have early September.

Anyway, I'm home. But I'm leaving again later today. There's a worship team from Christian Assembly at Kipkaren. Tonight, they're having a musical celebration of sorts. Tomorrow, they're having another big AIDS campaign. I'll be there to take pictures. On Saturday, I'll be at our alcohol rehab graduation. Somewhere in between I'm trying to put together a newsletter about the past 2 months' events.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mongoose! How to get a free night safari (or, The Miraculous Rescue of Adele and Laura)

Last night, Laura and I were stuck at the top of a hill in Nakuru National Park for 4 hours, with the Kenya Wildlife Service rangers looking for us. If it were a game of hide and seek, we won. But it wasn’t. We were desperately trying to be found. Here’s what happened.

The propeller shaft of my car broke. I don’t know how it broke.* I only know that by 5 pm, Laura and I were heading west, towards to lake. The roads in the park aren’t clearly marked, and we inadvertently ended up on a different road—a road less traveled. This is important information, because as we were heading up this road, suddenly there was a TERRIBLE clanging sound and I felt something hit the body of my car right under my feet! I may have said some words I shouldn't have. I don't know. I do know that I stopped and carefully got out of the car (lo0king out for any predators). Below, right under my feet, hung this “thing,” an important-looking thing, might I say. I scooted in under the car and tried to see if I could simply pop it back in place, wherever it had popped out of. No luck. As soon as I’d start driving, it would pop back out and make the same terrible noise that had gotten my heart rate up in the first place.

I checked, and my cell phone had no reception! The hatch of my car was open, so I stood on my seat and got reception. This is a major praise! Next, I called the warden’s office. (The number is printed on the map.) However, the number had been changed.... I called Kenya Wildlife Service in Nairobi, and they promised to call the warden in Nakuru right away. Let me remind you that it was just after 5 pm by now.

In the meantime, I also Ben, called my mechanic in Nairobi. I explained what had happened. He did several things that helped. Firstly, he called the hotel where we’re staying. We found out hours later that it was merely by the tenacity of our hotel porter (Wilson) that we were found. Wilson kept pressing the warden to keep looking, and to try different things. He also called and asked me to honk non-stop, and the honking was finally heard by someone outside of the park, who called the warden and told him where the noise was coming from... But back to Ben: He also was able to connect me with a local, dependable mechanic who helped me this morning. And he sent me credit for my phone since I had by that time run out of credit and could make no more outgoing calls!

So, we’re sitting on a road with absolutely no view. We’re not sure if we’re on the road where we intended to be. And 90 minutes after reporting that we need to be rescued, we started getting phone calls from the wardens asking “Where are you?” (And, "Call us back! We don't have credit on our phones to call you!" to which I had to urgently say "NO, I CAN'T! I've run out of credit by now and I am not in a place where I can buy credit!")

Emotions in the car ranged from slight panic (at first) to laughter to prayer and praise to being somewhat worried again to total frustration with the wardens (we were on one of two stretches of road about 10 miles long, how could they be searching for 4 hours without finding us?) to fear of being found by a feisty black rhino or an ornery buffalo bull. Seriously.

After it was obvious that the rangers were not following my directions with regards to where we might be, I called a friend in Nairobi who was very familiar with the Nakuru Park, and he, too, tried explaining to the search party where he thought we were. But in hindsight, it seems like his calls weren’t heeded. What put pressure on the wardens was our porter at the gate!

Seven pm came and went. Seven-thirty, still no sign of anyone coming. Eight? No luck. Laura and I started betting what time we’d be found! She thought between 9 and 9:30. And so it was. Minutes after 9, I hopped inches off my seat when she yelled, “They’re here!” (I think I got a fright because I thought she might be talking about the rhinos! Not that we could see far, but we did have my parking lights on so the wardens could see us when they approached.

Things that kept us busy in the four hours? We couldn’t get out (other than trying to see what was wrong, and jumping back into the car quickly. Oh, Laura got out to answer the call of nature. She had to.) We prayed. Sang. Told stories. Prayed. Laughed. Took photos of Laura and Kiptoo (my M&M friend--will upload those from home tomorrow). Sang some more favorite songs. Answered many phone calls from the wardens and our porter between 7 and 9. Explained as many times exactly where we thought we were. Prayed. Got our stuff together so we could quickly evacuate the car once we were found. Made a list of things we were thankful for at that time:

  1. That the car hadn’t broken down earlier in the day when we were driving down an even more remote side road, looking for a leopard. (We were told later by the rangers that someone had gotten lost in that remote area once and weren't found for 3 days!)
  2. That though 3 buffalo threatened us during the course of the day, that we were never chased by one. Nor did we have any encounters with heavy-duty game during our wait.
  3. That while we were enjoying the scenery at the waterfall earlier and a baboon decided to climb into the car to raid it, that he took only cookies, not the keys, a camera, or Laura’s passport.
  4. That we saw some spectacular animals, starting with thousands of flamingos in the morning to a long-crested eagle, lions, collobus monkeys, a saddle-billed stork, and far more.
  5. That I had had enough credit on my phone to make the emergency call in the first place!
  6. That we were high against the mountain in an area with cell phone reception.
  7. That there was no-one at the front desk when we left this morning, so I just kept our hotel key with us, which meant I was able to tell Ben the number of the hotel, which got our porter at the gate, pressing the wardens to find us.
  8. That this all happened the day before Laura’s flying home, not the day of her flight. (I was able to get her on a bus to Nairobi today and a taxi to the airport.)
And finally, after the rangers found us, I told Laura that she had gotten a free night safari in the process. We were driving home with the rangers at night and she could see some animals—a hyena, some hare, more buffalo, and yes, a mongoose.

P.S. We never got to see the leopard we were looking for. Ironically, as our porter was waiting at the gate, he saw one!

* I have since found out that my wonderful mechanic in Nairobi hasn't been greasing the joints, which dried out the universal joints which caused the entire joint to break and damage the shaft. I learned more today about the way my car works than I care to know...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wet and Dry

It's wet out. Very wet. Gumboots-type weather. Yes, I actually do have gumboots. They come in very handy in this part of the world at this time of year. They're far from a fashion statement. Though, if you read about their origin, they're actually quite the thing to have! They sound nicer when you call them Wellingtons, though. In Africa, they're gumboots.

I only have one or two more items to check off my to-do list before I head out in the morning. Just spoke to someone who's a huge fan of Nakuru National Park, where I'm taking Laura for debriefing. I'm looking forward to taking photos there. Will obviously post them once I'm back in a place with Internet access. The same person told me that his Land Rover was once chased and hit by a black rhino in that same park! OK, though I think it would make for a fun story to write, I would very much not like to be hit by a rhino. I don't think my car insurance--or even life insurance, for that matter--covers run-ins with rhinos!

I am especially looking forward to seeing the thousands of flamingos. And pelicans. I'll actually test my car's safari hatch! (That's like a sunroof, but Laura will be able to stand on her seat and look at game!) But what I'm most looking forward to is to simply spend time in nature hearing God's voice. There's nothing like being in the wild, and hearing the heartbeat of our wild God!

At night, I hope to get my newest newsletter put together.

Oh, yes, before I forget, the dry part of the subject line is simply because I still have no water in my house. I filled up a big bucket with rainwater today so I can do my dishes.

So, signing out from this side of the world, for a couple of days, at least.
Adele Jepchirchir*

* I have a new Kalinjin name, by the way. It was given to me by David Tarus this week. I believe it means "One who is on the move!" He said it's because when I see something needs to be done, I move and do it. In strengths terms, that's an activator. Which is me, indeed. Though it tends to get me in trouble in a collective society where many people first discuss an issue before moving to make a decision on what to do. That's hard for me. But that, my friends, is a whole nother matter.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

You cannot chase two chickens at once

That's what Peter told me today at Kipkaren. He shared this proverb in response to my answer to his question to what happened to my finger, because I was focusing on something else while trying to cut hard bread.

I love Kenyan proverbs. As someone who (for the most part) loves to multitask, though, I told him that as women, we are created to chase two chickens at once. Else we wouldn't be able to raise children.

When you try to multitask next time, consider Peter's words: You cannot chase two chickens at once.

On a different note: For three days now, the water to my house has been cut off due to nearby construction. I'm starting to get used to using the outhouse again and the solar shower. I was told by the fundi today that he couldn't find the problem, that he'll try again on Monday. Welcome to Africa, eh?

A friend who used to live in Malawi once told me, "If your electricity, phone and water all work at the same time, you're not in Malawi!" Fortunately, out here, we deal with power outages maybe once a week. And for the most part, we have water. Hardly anyone has land phone lines, and cell phone services are pretty stable. So, for just a few days, I can live like many of my neighbors and carry water into the home. But unlike many neighbors, I can fill my bucket from a spicket. I won't have to draw it from a well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I love days like today. Full days, yet with margins for distrations. I was able to get my work e-mail down to just 5 more messages in my inbox. I'm determined to action those last 5 in the morning (though there will inevitably be many new answers to the messages I had sent today!) I was also able to check off most of the urgent items on my to-do list. To-do lists motivate me. Or rather, checking things off those lists motivates me!

It's 1:15 am. The rain has stopped. Right now, the only sounds I hear (apart from the constant clicking of my computer keyboard) are crickets. Lots and lots of crickets. And a dog in the distance. Everyone around here must be in Dreamland, including our new intern who arrived this evening (Kiki). On Sunday, a new team arrive, plus a group of pastors, plus trainers. On Monday, a group of rehabilitated alcoholics arrive for agricultural training.

I won't be here then. I'll be taking Laura (another intern/friend from APU) for debriefing at Lake Nakuru. Since part of my job includes making safari arrangements for teams, and since I've never been to this park, the nearest one to Eldoret, I am looking forward to be able to give teams first-hand information on this park. But I'm also looking forward to simply seeing the flamingos and pelicans for which this park is best known.

But that's next week. Tomorrow, I will be going to Kipkaren. Kierra has two friends who are visiting, and one of them is a girl whom I had gotten to know well while at APU. I'm looking forward to go and see Becky, but also to see the kids and my colleagues at Kipkaren.

Friday, August 25, 2006


As I set out on my day with the closing words to my previous entry, I was eager to see how God will guide me. Who should I encourage, and how?

After spending part of the morning at home, making phone calls, connecting with teams, I decided to spend some time working in our children's home office. Perhaps I'd be able to focus more when I'm away from my home. But then I saw the toddlers... Laying and sitting in a little line on their patch of the East wing lawn was Kipkurui, Victoria, Kanmau, Edickson, Ruthu, Dorcas, Mercy and Eliud. It's winter break, and the older kids are back at school for tuition, but the preschoolers don't have tuition, so they've spent their morning doing chores and playing. Now, they were waiting for lunch. It was another hour till lunch, but they were patiently just sitting, catching bugs, talking about whatever 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds talk about.

I headed over and plonked on the lawn with them. No sooner had I kicked off my shoes than Kipkurui was on top of me. Then came Ruthu. And Edickson. And Mercy. I couldn't see if Dorcas got on top of the pile, too. I was lying on my stomach, and laughing! The kids were having a ball, literally pouncing around on my back. They never get to play like this with grown-ups.

I decided that since I was wearing capris under my sarong, I could take it a step further. "Do you want to fly, Kurui?" He wasn't sure what I meant, but little Ruthu decided to step up to the plate. Throughout playing, she was imitating me. With a big grin, she put her tummy on my feet and said, "Do you want to fly?" And she giggled as I lifted her off the ground.

One by one the others stepped up to fly, too. But Kanmau decided not to. He kept sitting on the lawn beside my head, playing with my hair. (Mzungu hair fascinate the kids!) When my legs got tired, Edickson stood at the edge of the lawn with one of my shoes. I got up and started a game of chasing him. Soon, all eight were running around, wanting to be caught. Mercy would jump onto my back, holding on for dear life while I'm playing a silly game of "Wapi Mercy?" (Where's Mercy?) Or Kipkurui would come running and litterally jump through the air into my arms. After which he'd pop his thumb into his mouth, and pretend to sleep! (No doubt his way of saying, Hey, I want your attention all to myself!)

It's a rare blessing to be able to have an hour like that with the littlest ones. When the older kids are around, these ones naturally pull back.

So, were they blessed? Encouraged? They wouldn't say it that way. But I have no doubt that they know they are loved. They know I think they're fun to be with. They know they can crawl all over me and I'd let them. And I'd let them fly. Anytime. As long as I'm wearing capris!

"Has anyone told you today yet that you are loved?"

Those are the words I woke up to today. Out of the blue, I got a phone call from David Tarus, our national director and director of ELI's Kipkaren Training Centre. He continued to encourage me and express his gratitude for who I am and what I do.

Wow. It was so unexpected. So unkenyan. So needed...

I have been frustrated recently with cultural and personal adjustments. I honestly have wondered at times how long I can really stay here. For how long I'd be able to keep doing what I am doing. Because it feels like I'm doing it alone. With God, absolutely! But humanly speaking, I've been lonely at times. More often than I'd like. And needing encouragement.

God knew that I needed encouragement, that my plate is very full today, that I have a page-long list of things that need to be done. Today. And waking up to someone to encourage me is fuel that will carry me through this day. And days and weeks ahead.

As I start my day soon with spending time with God, I'll ask what my friend Jessie in Thailand asks of God. "God, what would you like for our special time together?" and see how he guides. See how he directs my day, how he and I together can conquer that list--and many things that are not on the list.

But even as I'm still lying in bed, I'm already sensing God challenging me on how I in return can encourage others today. Will my words (and will yours?) be the fuel that will carry others through tough times?

I brake for chickens (Thoughts on things you simply get used to out here.)

I can hardly help asking myself frequently, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Almost every time I head out on the roads around here, I have to brake for chickens. Or for goats. Or cows, sheep, or donkeys. And for donkey carts with young boys standing, playing a balancing act on the back of the cart as they steer the donkeys through traffic.

Those are simple things you get used to around here. Sights that sometimes strike me as, "Oh, yeah, this really isn't common back home!"

Other sights that are very Kenyan
  • Men walking on the side of the road with big woven baskets made by the Turkana in Nortern Kenya. They bring the baskets down south to sell them
  • Lunchtime "crusades" on the side of the road with people singing and preaching
  • Roadside discussions. In town, groups will gather on streetcorners, standing really close while one or two people talk about the news
  • Street children. There are many of them in town. Most are abandoned by their parents to fend for themselves in town. They're almost exclusively boys. And many of them walk with bottles held up to their noses as they sniff glue
  • Beggars. Though there are fewer beggars than street children
  • Street vendors. During the day, ladies often walk the streets with big baskets of tomatoes and onions. They carry these baskets by tying a piece of cloth to the handles and then hook the cloth across their foreheads, with the basket hanging behind their back. By 5, the streets fill up with vendors selling used clothing. Underwear. Fruit and vegetables. Used bags. Shoes.
  • Bicycle taxis. You can get a ride from one end of town to the other for a few cents
  • Children waving and shouting, "Mzungu!" (White person!) At first, this bugged me. But I now enjoy waving back at them. Or even waving to kids on the side of the road before they can shout "Mzungu! How ah youuuuu?"
  • Men urinating on the side of the road. I know. It's not a nice picture. But you see it a lot. It's just life in Africa. What else do you do when your culture is one where you walk long distances? Where the women go, I don't know. I've rarely seen women squatting on the side of the road, though I have seen it, and I even saw a girl squatting in the cornfields today
  • People walking. Many walk long distances every day. It's nothing unusual around here to walk many miles.
  • People sleeping in the park at lunch time. Unless there's a crusade, during which I think no-one within a radius of a mile can sleep
  • Drunkards. This, to me, is sad. Sometimes you see men passed out on the side of the road. Or stumbling to get home. I guess it's a good thing then that people walk home rather than drive...
  • People standing around the sidewalk to read the news on the top half of the front page of the newspaper as the papers lay on the ground on display by the newspaper vendor. People aren't allowed to pick up the paper and read it unless they buy it, so you often just see them standing reading what they can see
  • Shoe-cleaning businesses. You can stop and have your shoes shined for 10 Shillings. That's 15cUS
Some other things I've gotten used to at Ilula
  • Carrying my flashlight (or torch, as we say in British English) whenever I go outside at night
  • The sounds of crickets (and of frogs after the rain)
  • The sound of the children singing during 6pm devotions
  • The sound of the children's laughter as they walk to school at 7:15 am and pass by my kitchen window
  • Dogs barking at night. Every night
  • The sound of donkeys neighing at night. Last night, it wasn't a donkey, though. Some cow was in distress and mooed till 2 am. It didn't wake me up. I was awake to hear it
  • Shaking hands. You never just greet someone. If it's a female colleague, you hug on both sides, then shake hands. And when women shake hands, they don't shake the way men do, but instead, when your palms connect, it's supposed to make a loud clapping sound and it's more like you end up grabbing each others' thumbs, not the four fingers like with a regular handshake. (Not sure if that makes sense, but anyway!)
  • A very muddy car. Our night watchmen was our cars if we park them at a certain spot, but some days I simply feel too bad for them to have to wash the car so often! Then I end up driving with my mud-blotched car
So, there. Just a little glimpse of life here. Sometimes all of this "differentness" (I know it's not a word, but it is now) gets to me. Other times, I love it. It's such a simple life. No noisy televisions. No constant commercials and junk mail. But then, sometimes, I miss the noise of life at home.
Silly jingles.
Lots and lots of radio stations to choose from.
Christian radio.
Clear reception!
Someone who delivers your mail to your home, every day.
Fast food.
Ordering in.
Friends' laughter.
Quick runs to the supermarket.

Which reminds me: I ran into my friend Sarah today. She had walked the 20-minute distance to leave her baby with her mom so she could bake a cake for a friend's wedding. This simple task (baking a cake) will take her all day. Walk to mom's house to drop off the baby. Walk home. Walk to the road. Take public transport to town to buy ingredients. Public transport home. Walk. Make a fire in the charcoal oven. Mix and bake the cake. Walk to mom's to pick up the baby. Walk home. But she didn't complain. Not for a moment. Her eyes were glistening with joy. "When can you come for chai, Adele?"

That's what I love about life here. For the most part, it's about simplicity. About relationship. About finding joy in the moment, amidst struggles.

It's hard. But simple. Sometimes, it's not pretty. Other times, there's such beauty.

Such a dichotomy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Moments of Pure Joy

My friend Nan recently reminded me to be looking out for those "moments of pure joy" every day. In a way, it's similar to my friend Danette's signature question, "How has God blessed you today?"

One of the biggest blessings today was the sunset. It was such a reminder of God's awesome power. The African sky can be breathtaking some days. Especially when I step away from the buildings on our compound and see nothing but nature!

On that note, I need to get back to work. It's 8:30. My days are sometimes a bit upside down since I'm a night owl, and I get more work done after dark...

Further to "A Sense of Belonging"

I was reading my friend Laura's blog tonight. (It's important that you pronounce her name correctly. It's not the American pronunciation of the name. It's Finnish. Or Equadorian. Just don't say it the American way.)

Laura has an incredible gift with words. I cannot help but be envious of her talent of painting beautiful word pictures. She's Finnish. Grew up in Equador. We met at APU.

Laura posted an entry on her blog earlier this week on the topic of TCKs (third-culture kids). I'm not one, but even as part of my master's thesis focused on the lives of MKs (missionary kids) and TCKs, I could relate to this unusual bunch of people.

When you have a moment, look around Laura's blog and be blessed.

Laura, Estera, Emma and Gracie: Someday we'll cross paths again. Somewhere. Perhaps in an airport when we least expect it. Until then, I'll smile everytime I think of the four of you. Incredible young women of God. Fearless. The world before you. I am blessed to know you and to be able to call you friends.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


This morning, I had a little incident with the bread knife. The knife won.

The top of the bread was hard (though it was a fresh loaf) so when I cut it, I cut really hard. The knife slipped and I cut a deep gash into my left pointer finger. Yikes!

Fortunately, Kristin was at my house doing e-mail, and she put a Band-Aid on. When it wouldn’t stop bleeding after an hour, I called Juli (nurse) and she suggested that I go see the doctor... So I drove to the doctor’s office and waited an hour to see him. He cleaned the wound and said that though it’s a really deep cut, it’s not long enough to warrant stitches. So now I just have a really tight Band-Aid around my finger. Glad I didn’t need stitches. Nor a shot. Phew!

Much later: The wound was still bleeding hours later, so I've had to put gauze and tape around my finger tip. My finger looks like that of a mummy. It makes for quite an experience typing! I've still been able to get my work e-mail down from 44 to 21, and am determined to clean out my inbox tomorrow as well as make a dent in my to-do list!

He's a She

My chameleon, that is. Elliot turns out to be Ellie... Now I'll just how to call her by her Kiswahili name: Barra Barra.

She had 13 babies while I was gone last week! They're all dead, though. I'm really confused since I've had her in captivity since February...

I tried doing some research and found that:
a) Chameleons can lay infertile eggs if they are overfed or see a male! Since the kids were taking care of her, they will have fed her a lot. And they kept her cage outside, where there's another chameleon of the same species in the bottlebrush tree. Maybe these were sort of like infertile eggs, chameleon-shaped larvae that would never be able to grow...
b) Chameleon eggs can take up to 9 months to hatch. I couldn't find any information on the gestation period of live-bearing chameleons, though. So it really could be that she had been pregnant all along, but that the little ones died from being out in the hot sun! Yikes.

Whatever the explanation, it's just really strange to me.

A sense of belonging

A friend recently wrote me, "Do you ever feel thrown up in the air and not know where to land? That's how I feel, trapped in a time warp, not feeling like I belong here, or there. But God will show me where to land."

The question really got me thinking about belonging. For me, having moved around a lot as a child as well as an adult (I've moved 25 times, lived in 16 towns and on 3 continents) has caused me to adjust quickly to a new environment, to shoot new roots in order to survive. In some ways, I can feel like I belong just about anywhere. But at the same time, I don't feel like I belong anywhere! Which isn't an altogether bad thing...

In some countries (Kenya and Taiwan), they play the national anthem in the movie theatres as well as other concert halls prior to the start of the movie/performance. Standing and listening to other people sing their anthem often makes me feel really out of place.

I believe that it's very similar with being "in this world but not of it." We're supposed to feel out of place, like we cannot join those around us in singing a patriotic song because it's not our own country. I believe that we're not supposed to feel like we fully belong, since our home is in Heaven.

In that, I find hope.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
For a glimpse of life in the village I visited yesterday, click on this picture.

Lala salama, Kanmau

One of the smallest boys at our home is called Samwel Kanmau. He's just an itty-bitty kid, though he's already 6 years old. He lost both his parents to HIV/AIDS and was being taken care of by one of his sisters, living in Langas, the local slum. His sister brewed changaa for an income and wasn't able to take good care of her youngest brother.

Kanmau is a quiet kid. I've been trying to win his trust for a long time, but he usually is very reluctant to give me hugs. And I'd never, ever force the kids to give hugs. I've been gone for a week since I was in Nairobi for work and then to Mt. Elgon yesterday. This morning, when Kanmau saw me, he came running to me for the first time ever and tucked his little hand into mine. Not saying a word, he walked with me to my home, where he played with Elliot (the chameleon) for a while before slipping away again to go home.

This evening, as I was walking home in the dark after having had dinner at colleagues' home, I heard his little voice calling, "Adele!" (Though when the kids call me, it sounds more like Ah-tel!) I walked over to where he was waiting outside the boys' bathroom. He came over and gave me the biggest hug ever. "Lala salama, Adele," (Good night) he said standing in his little red, one-piece pajama suit. His peculiar pajamas made him look even younger.

As I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him on his head, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with love for little Kanmau.

Some of the kids have learned to trust readily. For others, like little Kanmau, learning to trust takes time. But that's so human. Perhaps now, for the first time, he's seeing that I won't go away, that I won't hurt him, that I honestly care. He doesn't have to perform to win my heart.

It's hard to know how to sometimes deal with having 96 kids who look up at you, who all want attention, who all ask for it in different ways... Only God can show me how to minister to each child!

Would you please join me in praying for God's guidance in reaching even the quietest little ones?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Saturday: Nan's birthday

It's been thundering for about an hour now, with occasional downpour. Sounds like the storm is further away now, toward Uganda... We've had cloudbursts many afternoons now so that the road has become pretty bad in certain spots. Last night, as I was driving home, I noticed that some homes, churches and dukas (small stores) were flooded. It's times like these that I am very, very thankful for a dry home! The flooding reminds me of typhoons in Taiwan.

Had a team here this morning who wanted to visit with our kids. They've been serving at Kipkaren and those who sponsor kids here just wanted to spend some time with their kids. Beyond that and the thunder storm, it's been a quiet Saturday.

Today is my friend Nan's birthday. I met Nan when I was living in Marion, Iowa, and we used to go for walks at 5:15 am. Nan's a gifted quilter, a great hand-and-foot player (card game), a wonderful chef, has great taste in music, makes me laugh, and when Nan, Danette and I hang out, I always go to bed with a smile on my face. So Nan, here's to you and to our friendship. I am praying that God will continue to reveal himself to you in new ways this coming year. I do hope that we'd be able to celebrate your next birthday in Africa! :)

Mind-bogglingly wonderful day

Early this morning, I set out for a village about halfway up the slopes of Mt. Elgon, Kenya's second highest mountain. I thought I was just going with Philip and Navy Rono, but Philip wanted the current attendees from the alcohol rehab program to do an outreach in a somewhat-though-not-really-nearby village, so 10 grown men were filing into my Land Rover, strapping mattresses onto the roof rack. (Add to that Laura and I, and you have 12 adults in a 9-seater vehicle!)

We dropped them at their destination, and Laura (intern), Philip, Navy and I continued another 2 hours further to the village where Nellie lives. Nellie is about 24 and is a radical follower of Jesus Christ! Here's a bit of her story, as she told it to me on the slopes of Mt Elgon...

When Nellie was 17, her family wanted her to undergo FGM (female genital mutilation/circumcision), but she had searched the scriptures and found no foundation for this practice. So she fled. She hid at her pastor's house for a number of days until the annual circumcision ceremony will have been through. However, when she returned home, they had waited for her! The ceremony was to be held the next day.

That night, Nellie ran away once more. When she returned days later, her mother wanted nothing to do with her. Her father finally welcomed her home saying that she can be circumcised during the following year's ceremony... (She left for college before the next year's event.)

FGM is still seen as an important rite of passage in many Kenyan villages. Nellie explained that because she had refused to undergo circumcision, people would literally scoff at her, saying things like "You're not worthy to be married!" Or they would stop in their tracks and walk away whenever she approached anyone.

"For four years I had no friends except Jesus," she told me. "Only in church did I have freedom to interact with people, to sing, to be! ... But God had blessed me with a poor memory, so that even now as I'm telling you these stories, it doesn't feel like it happened to me..." However, moments later, when she talked about now being mother to 5 toddlers (all inherited from her older 3 siblings who had died of AIDS), tears welled up in her eyes. "There is so much pressure. I have to feed these 5 children, and I have to take care of my parents and my uncle..."

Her parents aren't that old at all. They might be in their early 60s. But they are total alcoholics, like many others in their village. Both were thoroughly drunk when we arrived. So was the village elder who was sent by the village chief to welcome us. Imagine sitting in a meeting with three people who are far from sober, all trying to have a decent conversation with us! Right in the middle of a conversation, the elder said, "Wait! Let us pray! We have not yet prayed..." Or the mom would come and meet us over and over, introducing herself to us. The dad had to excuse himself a few times from the meeting to either drink more or be sick!

That's Nellie's world. She's sober. She's the one everyone depends on. Yet she's the one they scoffed for years. As I sat observing the party, I was blown away by the love that I saw in her eyes for her people!

Nellie took us on a walk to meet their closest neighbors, where we were asked to pray with them. The second house belonged to Elizabeth, a woman who has been sober for a year now. Her husband is still drinking, though. He comes home every so often to conceive another child. (That's how it seems, at least.) They had lost 3 children to starvation. But they still have 12 others, with a 13th one on its way! And now the oldest daughter is expecting her first baby, too. Elizabeth has very little in her house. Though they live in a mud hut at an elevation of at least 9,000 feet, she doesn't even have a blanket to sleep under!

As we returned to her home for chai, another neighbor showed up. Emily. When Pastor Rono greeted Emily, he told me her husband has been sober for two years since he joined one of ELI's AA groups. "Yes, my husband is free!" Emily said with a big grin. "But I am still in chains!" As our conversation continued and we were asked to share some thoughts with the group, I turned to Emily and shared that in Christ, she can have freedom. I shared that if we try to break addictions in our own strength, it's like a giant rubber band. Our arms get tired and soon we're trapped by it again. But when we allow God to help us, he cuts the ties completely! I prayed for Emily and for their community to be set free. It was one of those moments when you so know that God is speaking through you! Please join me in praying that God will break the stronghold of alcohol in Emily's life!

I want to go back to share more with them, and am praying that God will show us the right timing. Navy Rono wants to go and teach about family planning and nutrition. Philip Rono wants to take a team of men from ELI's AA ministry to go and minister to that community.

Nellie has applied for the 5 kids she's taking care of to be taken to our Kipkaren Children's Home. I am praying that they'll soon be able to move to their new home, to a place where they won't have to be surrounded by drunkards all day, to a place where an entire community--not only their aunt Nellie--will show them how much Jesus cares about them!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My 200th Blog Entry

I'm back home from Nairobi. It's good to be home, to eat home-cooked food, to be surrounded by the sounds of nature, to breathe fresh air, to see the kids--and my chameleon. I know, it probably would make more sense to have a far more cuddly pet, but Elliot does a great job of keeping me company. And he eats all the flies around here... Some of the Rotich boys took care of him while I was away.

Driving home, I passed a large herd of zebras. They were quietly grazing beside the highway*. I love seeing zebras and baboons on the side of the road. It makes me feel like I really do live in the heart of Africa. Friends I made in Nairobi were telling me how where they've been living till recently, there are hyenas around their house at night... Now that is freaky! Hyenas are one of my least favorite animals. They're even lower on the list for me than snakes! Back to the zebras: I do want to clarify one thing. Despite what you might believe because of seeing Racing Stripes, zebras have never been domesticated. They're wild. They move away when you approach them. And they have a very mean kick. Mean enough to kill a lion. Just in case you were wondering.

I got a lot of work done in Nairobi but am still not caught up. It was good to get away, though.

Tomorrow, I'll be going to Mt. Elgon. It's a 3-hour drive to the mountain, Kenya's second highest after Mt. Kenya. The village where we're going has a tremendous problem with alcoholism. Even babies are addicted to alcohol since their mothers give it to them to make them sleep... We'll be going to visit Nellie, a 23-year-old believer who takes care of 5 children, all orphaned by AIDS. With some of my Kenyan colleagues from our Kenya Anti-Alcohol ministry, we are planning on doing a major outreach event in Nellie's village soon. It just cannot happen right now due to the excessive rain this time of year.

It's good to be home indeed.

* Highway is a very relative term over here. Long stretches of the road between Eldoret and Nairobi is gravel. Only the last 20 km or so into the city has four lanes. The rest of the way has only 2 lanes and many potholes. The EU is sponsoring the repaving of the worst stretch of the road. Today, a 5-km stretch of the new road was open to traffic. It was pure joy to drive on the new road!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Random Thoughts

I'm still in Nairobi. Partly because I needed some time away from the village. That's for emotional health reasons. I need to get to the city every 2 months or so in order to feel normal--go out and read at a coffee shop, perhaps see a movie, get a haircut.

So I've been to the coffee shop a lot to sit and get work done. Haven't seen a movie since nothing good's showing. (Seriously! There are about 3 Bollywood movies showing, 2 kids' movies, and then stuff like "Thank you for smoking" and "Benchwarmers." Nah.)

I've met lots of cool people while at the missionary guest house. Some are missionaries who are heading back to Tanzania. Others are going home for furlough. There are some short-termers whom I've connected with. And there's an AIM TIMO team doing language study during the worst part of the Djibouti summer.

I laughed really hard with Janna, one of the Djibouti team members last night... She was searching online for a Somali Bible. Couldn't find anything online, except something in a language she didn't know. I went to see if I could help her. Turns out the site she found was Swedish. I can't say living with a Swedish roommate for 4 years helped. But somehow (perhaps because Swedish is close enough to German??) I was able to figure out the order for her. We laughed a LOT in the process, though, and I thought that I'm glad the order's on HER credit card... Not sure I'd order something from a Swedish Web site where I'm basically guessing what they're asking me. But I believe she'll be getting her Somali Bible from Sweden soon.

And I've been laughing a lot with some of the other missionaries who are my peers. It's sometimes really funny what we'd talk about. I think only when you live in a place like this do people discuss with total strangers their bowel movements and so on and so forth. I went to see a tropical disease doctor today, just for a check-up. (I'm OK. And no, I'm not planning on sharing the details here. May it suffice to say that it's not uncommon for people to have all kinds of intestinal worms here. And no, I don't have any.)

I also got my car serviced, which was no laughing matter. Just needed to get the shocks replaced, which is a pretty expensive deal since I put in heavy duty shocks. Combine the condition of our roads with the weight of my vehicle, and regular shocks simply won't cut it! What's great is that despite the fact that I've been driving in terrible mud and river-like roads, there was no mud or water in the dif. Nice. You have no idea how often I thank God for that car of mine!

Tonight, I had dinner in the city with the missions pastor from Christian Assembly and his wife. Saw this REALLY bizarre incident after picking them up at their hotel. It looked like some guy was mugging a lady and another lady was trying to help her friend. But the guy stepped away and it turned out that the two girls were fighting. Totally fighting! Pulling each other's hair type of fighting! They were all dressed up really nicely and in their early 20s. I have NO idea what was going on, and if the girls were his girl friends fighting, or perhaps prostitutes. Anyway. It was VERY un-Kenyan to see something like that, and very unsettling, too. One of the many reasons why I try and stay out of the city center!

Tomorrow, I'll be meeting up with an intern, then have a few other meetings (with our travel agents etc), and finally with other team members from teams passing through the city. On Thursday, I'll be driving back to Eldoret. On Friday, I'll be off to the mountains to meet with a lady who is caring for the orphans of her 3 older siblings who have all died of AIDS. She lives in a village where even the babies are addicted to alcohol... Toddlers are taken to bars in the mornings to get a cup of changaa (very strong home-made brew) so they'll sleep all day! The plan was to do an outreach in that village, but we're postponing it until after the rains have passed so we can show the Jesus film at night.

In other news...
It's been rather interesting being at the guesthouse this week as teams have been passing through. British Air has so far lost 10,000 bags, and many of the visitors arriving haven't received their luggage. It's been 5 days now for one team without much of their luggage... They've started using some of the clothes they've brought to give away at the slums!

The craziest story is of this one elderly British couple who had met a pastor some years ago and have since been traveling to Kenya every year to teach at his church in Nakuru. Due to the fact that they couldn't take anything but their travel documents aboard, they left his contact information in their luggage. But their luggage got lost! They went out to meet him at the airport, but told him they have to go back in to fill out the lost luggage claims. The line was very long, so three hours later, when they finally came back out, he had left! It was already after midnight... British Airways put them in a hotel for the night, and last night they came to Mayfield. Today, someone took them to Nakuru, which is about a 2-and-a-half hour drive from here. They don't think they know where his church is. They still don't have his name or number... Yikes!

On that note, I'm heading to bed. It's almost 1 am. Time to sleep. Tomorrow's another busy day. But a good one, I'm sure.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Missionary Midnight

I'm at the Africa Inland Mission guesthouse (Mayfield) in Nairobi. It's been dead silent since 9 pm--missionary midnight. Not for this missionary, though! I'm still a night owl. However, tonight I'm heading to bed early. Too many late nights + driving the long and dusty road to Nairobi = a yucky cold.

So, lala salama. Sleep peacefully.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Update on the girl I drove home yesterday...

So, we got a call this morning. The teenage girl I had driven home yesterday had had a baby after all.

From what we could gather, it seems like she wanted to come and have the baby here and perhaps try to leave it with us and return home without anyone knowing she had a baby. We're not entirely sure...

Either way, I'm thankful I was able to drive her home, else she may have had her baby somewhere by the roadside!


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
A visitor took this picture earlier this week while I was playing with Luka, one of the 6-year-old boys. Luka is very much a loner and loves coming to ask if he can visit me. He'll play quietly with Play-Doh while I work, or read books. I love how the visitor was able to somehow catch how much I love these kids!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Driving down a river | Almost deported and/or sent to court

Seriously. All in one day. Here's what happened.

As for the driving down a river comment, it's not like I've taken to extreme off-road driving as a hobby. I was simply dropping someone off, and that particular road was totally flooded. Yes, like in driving with water higher than my car's big tires for a good kilometer or so... It really does feel like you're driving down a river! And that with a passenger whom at times I thought might have a baby any moment...

I was actually getting ready to head to town to have my Kenya visa renewed when someone came running saying there's a visitor who is pregnant and she's in pain, can I take her to town? Off course I would! But when I got to where she was, the young girl insisted not to go to town, but wanted me to take her to her home instead.

What would you do? You know your visa's expired and you're in the country illegally. It's critical to get to the office to find out what you need to do. You also know that you're away with work for the next 2 days and there's no way you can just ignore the fact that you're an illegal alien... So I offered to take her part of the way and she could take public transport (which there's plenty of!) the rest of the way. One of the staff explained that actually, it's just 4 or 7 km down the road, so if I can take her all the way to a signpost where she'll leave and walk the gravel road for the remaining part, that'll be great. I did a quick time calculation and offered to take her to the sign post. Hakuna shida! (No problem!)

Once we started driving, this girl was smiling all the way. I was slightly confused. When I was called to help, they made it sound like her water had broken! Later someone explained that the girl--an older sister to one of our orphans--was screaming in pain when she was visiting.

ANYWAY! So I gave the gleeful pregnant teenager a ride. Twenty kilometers further, she pointed out the signpost. I stopped and, figuring she's been looking perfectly fine, told her, "OK, good-bye. God bless you." Suddenly, she was in pain again...! She held her stomach, saying, "Hapana! Hapana!" (No! No!) There was no way I could start driving to wherever she might lead and still make it back on time before the Immigration office closes... But there's also no way I would tell her to just go... So as I started driving down the gravel road, I prayed that God would take care of the details.

We had had torrential rain just minutes before, and the road on which she subsequently had me, truly was like a river. I kept thinking, "God! I have never driven this road. I have no idea where the potholes are, or where the rocks are. I cannot see the soil. I'm simply following the flow of the water. Please keep us safe!"

Another 10 km later (with a once-again smiling passenger) she told me it's fine. She'll now walk...

It had been a winding road with many forks in the road, but I was able to retrace my way thanks to the tracks in the mud. My car was clearly the only vehicle that had come that way in a while.

By the time I got to the Immigration office, it was about 30 minutes to closing time. I stated my case to the officer, "My work permit application is in the process. I was told it would take maybe 3 months. I have still not received it, and realized today that my visa had expired 2 days ago... I am sorry for the oversight. Is it possible to get an extension?" (Note: I've never overstayed a visa in any country. It's not a good thing to do! I never will again, either!)

Problem: I'm supposed to be able to prove that my application is in the process, but I don't have the paperwork. It's with a Kenyan co-worker (Julius) who's helping with the details of processing the application. I called him right away and found out he's heading for the shuttle to leave for Nairobi. Since he was going to follow up on my work permit, it meant that he had all the paperwork with him! So, 10 minutes before closing time, Julius walks into the office and I think, "Wonderful! Everything's going to be fine."

But it wasn't. The officer started threatening us, saying we can go and state my case in court and that the type of visa I have cannot be renewed... He then switched to Kiswahili and Julius just remained polite. The officer finally gave me a 2-week extension. As I'm writing this, Julius is on his way to Nairobi to see if he can get my permit issued tomorrow. From what I understand, it's already been approved. It's just a matter of getting the paperwork issued!

As we left, Julius explained that the officer was simply trying to get us to bribe him. When he was speaking in Kiswahili, the officer was basically telling Julius he should've come alone to get the matter settled...

Not good. I know.

But that's not even the end of my story.

Before heading home, I quickly stopped to buy some groceries and got an extra loaf of bread for the street boys who usually come to my car to beg for money. (I never give them money due to the fact that they walk around with their bottles of glue which they sniff... Money would only support that habit!) The boys weren't in their usual spot, so I started driving home, only to notice them further up the street. When I called one of them over, they all came, pushing and shoving one another, some even trying to get into the passenger side to grab the loaf on the seat... I asked the boys to share, which they of course said they would, but the moment I handed the bread over, there was a brawl, right there, in the middle of the busy road. They had ripped the entire loaf--still in its bag--into pieces within no more than 3 seconds! I made a mental note to only give food to them when they're in pairs or alone...

It was really a crazy afternoon. But in the end, the girl didn't have her baby in my car, I was able to help her, whether or not she was faking her pain, I didn't get deported, and I didn't end up in court, either. And the street boys? Some of them at least got one good chunk of bread for the day.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

About Funerals and Card Games

It's way after midnight.

Tonight, I played cards for the first time in months. I love playing cards with friends (Canasta or Hand and Foot), and after coming back from the funeral, found some of the visiting team members to be playing Hand and Foot! So after they had gone to read to the kids, some came over and we played. Unfortunately, we were all pretty wiped (and two of the guests are fighting colds) so we weren't as competitive as we could be, but it was lots of fun, nevertheless.

Today's funeral was very different from any funerals I had ever attended. To begin with, it started two-and-a-half hours late, partly because it was raining, but I think mostly simply because it was on "Africa time." We were there in time for the 10am program, and waited till after noon.

The funeral was held right at the person's home. They had set up shelters outside, and many of the tarps had holes in them, so every so often, someone would get up and start poking the tarp to let the water run off. With that going on, it was hard to follow the speeches. And there were many.

Only ONE family member was assigned to share, and he just read his mother's history. Next followed a slew of "chairman of the local elementary school" or "assistant chief of the district" and so on. Very few really shared personal stories. (Perhaps I just missed them because of the rain being chased off the tarps.) There wasn't enough shelter for everyone, so a great number of people ended up standing in the rain for the duration of the funeral.

Then followed a fairly long sermon (again, very impersonal), and then the viewing.

First, the ladies from the church's women's fellowship surrounded the coffin, then people lined up and filed past the body. Next, they were to carry the body to the grave which is right on the family's property. This particular tribe (the Kalinjin) bury their family a little way from the home. Others (like the Luo and Luya) bury them right by the door.

We didn't attend the actual lowering of the coffin since there was very little space and many people. The grave first had to be emptied since it had a lot of rain water in by then.

It is a tradition for people to really cry hard (truly wail) when the coffin is lowered. The pastor, however, encouraged people to consider the fact that though they are sad to have lost Maria, that we are to rejoice in the fact that she's gone to be with the Lord. So as we left, I saw the guests gathered at the grave with no wailing to be heard.

I am glad to have been able to support the Rono family by attending the funeral of Laban's sister. I just was saddened by how impersonal it all was. Perhaps a great part of it is that the Kalinjin say that one should not cry outwardly. "Your tears should go inside," one colleague often reminds visitors.

I don't want my funeral to be impersonal someday. I want it to be a celebration! If people want to cry, they may. If they want to laugh, that would be OK, too. I'd want them to be wearing bright colors to celebrate that I've gone to be in a Better Place. I don't want people to be looking at a body in a casket. I'd rather be cremated, especially since chances are I won't die in my home country... (My ouma (grandma) didn't like it when we talked about death or funerals. She'd have a fit to see me telling the whole world how I'd like my funeral to be one day!)

I'm obviously tired.

Lala salama, when you get to it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Late night thoughts

It's late. I should be heading to bed. Wanted to jot down a few thoughts before I head to Dreamland. I have a headache. Perhaps for spending several hours on my computer today. Perhaps from not having coffee today. I don't think it's that, though. It feels like I need a neck massage. Badly.

There's a team here from the church where I used to worship in California. Tonight, another team lands and will drive to Kipkaren tomorrow. It's a 12-hour journey in a big bus over bumpy roads...

It's the birthday of one of the team members, so the children's home dancers came to perform as a surprise to her. As they sang and danced to "He knows my name..." tears welled up. I looked at the group. I knew every single name. I knew some of their stories. And seeing them singing worshipfully, "I have a Father, he knows my name..." moved me. As they left, I went out and gave each one such a big hug.

Tomorrow, I'll be going to my first ever Kenyan funeral. The sister of a staff member passed away, and I'll attend the funeral in support of the family, though I'd understand very little. As they were over here for supper the other night, they talked about how people will be gathering in the deceased's home tonight to talk and to look at her body. Most likely, no-one will sleep. Her body will be in the house all night. They were saying, "It helps to have the body there. But when the body goes into the ground, people cry REALLY loud." I don't know what to really expect.

On Sunday, I have to go and do interviews with people who had graduated from our alcohol rehab program and will be visiting our rehab center. On Monday, I am going to Kipkaren to paint the ELI logos in various places at that center. On Tuesday, I'd have to catch up on e-mail correspondence to future teams. I hope to get some time to take a breather on Wednesday, after the current team has left.

One would think life is slow in Africa, but it really isn't. And because we can't get away from our workplace, it's sometimes challenging to find time to really rest.

I sound like I'm complaining. It must be the headache... I am heading to bed with the picture of those kids singing--especially Lishudi, the kid who was found herding cattle. He has no relatives anywhere that we know of. Yet he knows, "I have a Father. He knows my name..."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A million questions

After a group of 11 dinner guests left, I headed over to the children's home to drop off something and found that some of the kids were still awake, though it was after bedtime. It's their school vacation now, so I went over to visit. Four of the oldest Rotich girls were in their gazebo, making chai over a fire. Though they're all around 10 and 11, they can all make fires and cook a meal. They've done so growing up in their villages. Those four had the giggles, so I headed out to check on the Ruto girls.

I had shown the kids the IMAX Dolphins movie today as a special treat, and wanted to check how much of it they understood. (The older ones had lots of questions after the movie, and we had a Q&A session of at least 20 minutes!) But instead of me asking them questions, the visit turned out to be a see-how-many-questions-we-can-ask-Adele session, while some of the girls were running around the room, burning up energy which I have no idea where they got it! (Part of it is the excitement of a team arriving tomorrow to do VBS.)

Anyway, questions included (and there were far more than just these)...
Who made wazungu?
Did your teachers cane you when you were in school?
Do wazungu ever get angry?
Do wazungu hit their children?
Do you know so-and-so (and then they list their sponsors and can't believe I don't know them all!)?
When's your mother and father coming to visit?
What are their names?
Did you know my mother's name was also Maria?
How's Jared?
And (and then they list every other intern they've had in the history of Ilula Children's Home and can't believe I don't know how those interns are doing, or that I don't know them!)?
Can you stay at our house tonight?
Can dolphins eat people?
Can you swim under water?
Have you seen our new baby cow?
Why didn't you stay here for Christmas?
When's so-and-so coming (and then they once again list their sponsors and past teams and interns)?
Do the children in Kipkaren know about us?
Do you think we can visit those children someday?
Did you know I'm from Cambi Kuku?
Did you know she's from (and then they'll list where everyone in their room is from)?
When will you show us the movie about Jesus again (i.e. Jesus film for children--it got lost, somehow.)

I'd still be there if I didn't finally just say "No more questions. Nonononononononono! Keep them till tomorrow..." and slipped out.

I love those kids and am blessed to be someone who's there simply to chear them on and believe in them!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Welcome home!

Yesterday, I was blessed to once again be a part of a life-changing day in 15 children's lives as I was asked to be the driver for the next, big, gathering of children for the Kipkaren Children's Home.

Since the leaders knew that some of the kids were from very remote villages with only footpaths leading to their homes, they recruited my Land Rover and I to come and assist...

Click on the picture to see more photos of yesterday's journey.

And so around 10 yesterday morning, we set out with Rop (the headmaster) and Daniel (the social worker). Over the hills (literally, we were at the very top of the Nandi Hills) and through the forest (Nandi Forest) we went, excited to bring "around 10" children home.

In two cases, kids who were left behind (friends/family?) cried hysterically. They, too, wanted to come with us! We literally had to coax one kid out of the car as he slipped in with his friend! Fortunately I noticed, else we would've had to return him... :)

As the last time, there were no hugs from family and no tears. Some families hardly said good-bye. Others promised the kids over and over, "We'll come to visit!" They'll find changed children when they do come and visit in a year's time!

It was fun to observe how they befriended one another as the group in the back of my car grew. Nicolas "tested" we every so often on everyone's names, but they simply couldn't remember mine. Every time I'd say my Kalinjin name (Jebiwott), they cracked up. They also broke out laughing every time we drove over a bump in the road (the roads here have many, many bumps!) and they bounced on their seats... What really cracked them up is when I had to drive through a puddle (again, many!) and the muddy water would shower the car. "It's raining!" they'd shout.

For many, it was their first trip in a vehicle, ever. And so, once I had 10 kids in the car (3 were picked up very close to the home), I asked them if they would sing me some songs they knew. Ten-year-old Caroline started and they all joined in singing a Swahili chorus, "God, we're surrounded by water. Lead us through this sea..." and then, "At Galillee, Jesus walked on water..."

It was minutes before 3 pm when we finally hit the gravel road to Kipkaren Children's Home. One more stop to pick up four siblings. Only one problem: There were only three... Then I saw the littlest one (about 3 years old) running away. He didn't want to leave his grandmother. Phoebe (a Kenyan colleague who was in a second vehicle that picked up kids closer to home) called him and assured him that he'll be OK. (He's the kid in the blue and white T-shirt in the picture.) I'm glad that his grandma lives just a short walk from the home and will be able to visit him more often!

As we got closer to the home, we started honking and the kids' eyes grew big. All 14 filed out of my car plus 10 more from the other vehicle, and they lined up to be welcomed into the Home.

It was wonderful to see the "old" kids now standing in front to welcome the new ones, handing each one of them a gift of flowers, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Then they shook hands with everyone.

Probably the most moving sight was to see their new parents hugging these little ones and dads picking up little boys to hug them. That's not a very Kenyan thing to do at all! But these parents have been praying for these kids for months, looking forward to their arrival.

As their new brothers and sisters took them to a gazebo to have lunch, one dad took out his guitar and sang worship songs. "Oh, how the love of Christ compels..." Juli commented as we watched the little ones get acquainted with one another.

Yesterday was an especially moving day for Juli and the staff of home-based care ministry. They had walked the path with many of the families as the parents were diagnosed with AIDS. They took them to get their medications every week, and they finally saw them pass away. To be able to witness their children being in a good place, a safe haven where they are loved and cared for, is pure joy!

The total number of children at that home now stands at 55. Maximum capacity is 96, and many applications are already being reviewed.

Thank you for being a part of this life-changing journey for each of these young ones.

Admission/On-going Contact
1. Guardians (friends, family, neighbors) approach ELI and fill out an application form for children to be taken to the children's home.
2. ELI's social worker meets with the guardian to discuss the case and determine if the children are true orphans.
3. Guardians submit child(ren)'s birth certificate(s) as well as death certificates of the parents.
4. Social worker visits the home.
5. Children are brought to the Children's Home.
6. Guardians are able to visit annually during Guardians' Day.
7. When the children are 14, they will be sent to visit their guardians during school holidays in order to maintain contact with "village life" and to have a home as a young adult.