Friday, June 29, 2007

Over the mountains and through the woods

... or so it felt, at least.

I was walking as fast as my feet could carry me, not having had time to put on my gumboots before I left the compound, nor to grab a jacket against the cold wind. I cut through strangers' yards, stopping to shake hands and ask, "Where's Mrs. Sawe's place?" They'd point me in the right direction: a footpath that led through marsh land. At the worst part, my feet sank into the muddy water up to my calves. But I kept going, determined to find this house where I was to meet with someone in distress.

As I sloshed my way to the little iron-sheet house, I kept praying for wisdom and discernment. (I had just studied the passage in Genesis 41 this morning where God's presence was with Joseph, resulting in him having wisdom and discernment!) Some time later, I sat on the lawn with a young woman crying puddles on my shoulder while sheep were grazing all around us and frogs croaked in the adjacent swamp.

And then she started sharing...

"Be a peacemaker," I had sensed God nudge me earlier as I set out on the safari to find my young friend.

"Show me how, Lord," I had replied. This issue is far bigger than I, bigger than my limited understanding. It forces me to keep my eyes on God for direction and understanding. "Reveal it to me through your Spirit," I remembered yet another passage from this morning's study. (1 Cor 2:9-10)

This journey will continue in the days to come, and I'll continue to cling onto Jesus' words in Matthew 5:9, "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family." (The Message)

Thank you for praying for continued clarity in this situation.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This time, I really did get stuck

This afternoon, the team and I were out and about. First, we wanted to go and drop off some food with a family in the greater neighborhood. During debriefing one evening, Adriel mentioned how strange it is to know we get such good food (and so much of it) while there are neighbors all around who don't have much. From that came the thought of fasting one meal and taking the food to neighbors. God laid two families on my heart: The first was the family of Caroline, a girl I had taken to the hospital last Thursday. The second is a family down the road where a toddler and another young child is taking care of their baby brother while their dad works. (Their mom left after the birth of the baby.) Granted, ELI seeks to empower rather than simply give handouts, but the Bible also teaches us, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?"

So we set out today to go and bless these families, and then to head to town. As we rounded the second to last corner (at a place called Corner Bar), the children's home van almost got stuck. Keep in mind that it's basically been raining for three days straight, so the roads are less than ideal for anything but 4WD vehicles. And my Land Rover is still in for major repairs to its gearbox.

Back to the story. We almost got stuck, but I rocked the vehicle forward and backward in the mud (not pushing, but by using the gears) and voila, we were out. We were smart enough to park and walk the final stretch to the home. The family was indeed blessed by the token as well as by the mere fact that we had stopped by to pray for them. Caroline is still in the hospital, and they asked if we'd come back when she's out to pray for her again.

Off we went to the second family, but we couldn't find their home right away, so we went to town, first. The team wanted to buy supplies to make breakfast for the staff on Friday morning, so I took them to the market. This was quite the experience for them! They bought some fruit, too, and Kigen (Teimuge) took them for a walk through the entire market with its bright-colored fruits and vegetables, smiling (and staring) vendors, and the smell of produce that had been trampled upon and had gone sour. The smell really is quite something!

I had an unusual experience in the market today, though, when I greeted a young mother and she jokingly asked if I would take her baby. At first, I thought I must be misunderstanding her. Perhaps she meant "take a picture of her baby," but I asked Kigen to translate for me, and he confirmed. I know she meant it as a joke, but it hurt my heart that a mom would even say something like that. I tried to respond with the biggest smile with a "But it's YOUR baby!"

We ran a few more errands, and the team really enjoyed seeing what life is like in town. In fact, for debriefing tonight, they wrote poems about the experience, and some were really funny, others were touching.

By the time we headed home, it had once again rained. And at the very worst part of the road, the car fishtailed once again, but this time, I couldn't straighten out of the mud and VOILA, there we were. Stuck. The car had turned almost 90 degrees and the rear wheels were in the little ditch on the side of the road. Without 4WD, this car was going nowhere. As the team got out to push, a little Suzuki pulled up, and the local vet, Dr. Shah, pulled me out of trouble.

However, the entire time he was towing me (he was going in reverse, towing me with the dinkiest metal cable imaginable which was hooked onto the bar right under the driver's side of the car), I was praying. But not necessarily that he'd get me out of the mud. My greatest concern was that the cable would snap and come right through the window...

Great was my relief when the car was straightened and on somewhat dry mud. The team were really excited that we actually got stuck and that they were there to experience it.

By the time we got home (and after dropping of the second batch of food with the other family), the guys went to Sammy's house for a visit. Sammy is a neighbor who had recently been hit by a taxi at night (a hit-and-run) and had a cracked skull. The girls went to Peris' house for chai. She told us about being called to a neighbor's home two days ago to deliver a baby. (She's a Traditional Birth Attendant, sort of like a midwife.) We also learned about her chicken farm, as well as about how God has redeemed their family. And we got to meet the newest member of their family, a nephew who they've taken in since the passing of his grandmother who had taken care of him. The boy's name escapes me for the moment, but I'd ask that you join us in praying for his healing. When he was a baby, he was in the hospital and had had an IV in his right hand. By the time he left the hospital, his little hand was paralyzed, most likely because of a damaged nerve. But that's not too big of a deal for God to heal, is it? I'm believing God for his hand to be restored fully.

It was a great day of cultural experiences for the team as well as a time for them to step out in faith and obedience. They were pretty wiped out by the time dinner and worship was over. I don't think they even went to read to the kids tonight!

Tomorrow, the task of keying the children's home continues. They've finished the kitchen and have now started with individual homes.

It has been such a joy working with this team, challenging them at times when they get discouraged by how much the kids know, and simply seeing how God is using each and every one of them in various ways.

Speaking of challenging: George and Sue (who left yesterday) had met with the parents from the home on Monday and talked for hours about culture and marriage. In the end, they challenged the couples to express their love for one another. Even one couple who has been married for 25 years said, "We just don't do that," but they accepted the challenge nevertheless.

When we asked them last night if they've "done their homework" yet, they just laughed and said, "It's not that easy." But this morning, the husband walked into breakfast with a smile, declaring, "I have good news!" He shared how he had dreamed about telling his wife that he loved her, and in the dream, she was radiant! So the moment he woke up, he told her, "Why should we not express what we feel?" And so they told one another that they love each other... Though expressing affection may be cultural, I do believe most people want to also hear that they are loved. It's cute to see a couple who've shown one another their love and devotion finally take the plunge and say it!

On this note, it's time for me to head to Dreamland. Flannel's already fast asleep in the pillow on my lap.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eating Termites, Stuck in the Mud, and Team Time

There's been a team here from APU, so my days have been filled hosting the eight students. It's been an amazing time, both in working with my Kenyan colleagues as well as with the team from APU. They have brought much laughter to our compound! For example, tonight, during dinner, a termite kept flying around my head. I finally caught it, just as Laban was telling some of the girls how Kenyans love eating termites. So I put the termite by his plate, and he went right ahead and ate it, wings and all. This, of course, made everyone go "Eeeewww!" and within minutes, the guys on the team had caught and eaten their own.

Here are a few pictures of the team that I took on Sunday, as some colleagues and I took them to a nearby spot (Kerio View) for some R&R.

But this day had several more fun and exciting moments. It started with doing kick-boxing, thanks to Diana, one of the team leaders. She's a fitness instructor, and today's workout was the second morning session we girls have had. What fun. And torture. But I must admit, it feels good to get a good workout again! (I'm hoping she'll show me some stuff I can do on my own before she leaves.)

While the team was working on a project this morning, I took two other APU guests to town. George Bache (Director of the Institute of Outreach Ministries at APU) and his wife have been visiting some of the university's teams, and they moved on to Kipkaren today, to see what ELI is doing there as well as to visit their friend Kierra. I took them to the market to experience "Kenya behind the scenes" and then handed them off to the Kipkaren staff. By the time I left town, having picked up some of the people I had earlier dropped off at various spots around town, I headed home on a very muddy road and a not-so-heavy vehicle. Everything would've been OK, but there was a vehicle stuck in the mud, so I ended up having to back up in thick mud and pass on the shoulder of the road. It was the closest I ever got to being stuck so far! Phew!

And no, I still don't have my car back. I got a quote today for the repair of the gear box as well as other parts that are in critical condition: just short of $4,000. Ouch! I had budgeted $3,000 for car repairs for the year, and that was depleted in my first major service in January. I am really, really trusting that these two major services will be the last for a while. That's what you get for having an 11-year-old vehicle that's always been driven in extreme conditions. Selah.

About Flannel: Right now, she's finally calming down after what seemed like an hour of kitten extreme sports: dive bombing into my mosquito nets, running laps through my home, chasing anything and everything, scattering her cat litter all over my bathroom floor, chewing on my hands and on any cables she could lay her teeth on before I'd see and snag them from her.

It's time to sleep. The rain has finally stopped for a while. It rained for much of today, right now, you can hear tons of crickets outside my window. And frogs. What better sounds to fall asleep to.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wise Words from the Elderly

The old man shuffled into the mud living room. I stood up to greet him, respectfully holding my right arm with my left hand as I shook his hand. He wore a suit for the visit. And a felt hat. We quickly made room for him to sit, but not before he shook hands with every person on the team.

I was on a home visit with the visiting team from APU, and we were at the home of two of our staff members, Mark Tarus and Sally. Sally's daughter Damaris introduced us to her grandfather. "He's 104," she told us. (Someone later said he's almost 100, so I'm not entirely sure how old he is. But he's old. Very old.)

The team started asking Agui (grandfather) questions, which Damaris translated back and forth.

"If you could impart any wisdom to us, what would it be?" Adriel wanted to know.

"Serve God. Live a good life."

"What should we eat to become as old as you?"

"Eat whatever you want. Enjoy life."

"Should we eat ugali?" Zach asked.

"You wazungu don't eat ugali."

We laughed at his spunk, and when Gogo (grandma) came in with three thermos flasks full of chai, she joined him on the couch.

"Tell us how you met," I asked.

Sally stepped into the room with trays full of cups. "They are old. In our culture, in their day, their parents decided who they will marry. Both of them have always lived in this area, so their parents knew each other."

"You mean to tell me," I joked, "it's not that you noticed the handsome young man tending cattle in the field?" Gogo croaked with laughter. Agui gave just a chuckle.

They told us about their wedding, about the years when she was brewing alcohol, of how she got to know Jesus and introduced him to Christ, too, how they've been serving God for the last 30 years.

We asked about their ear piercings, and Damaris was sent to fetch an old, wooden container with arrows in it. Gogo demonstrated how they used the arrows to cut their ears, and how they would insert wooden rings in them week after week to stretch the ears. "Some of my friends had ears that hung to their chests," she chuckled.

After we shared some Bible verses with them and prayed for their family, we walked home, blessed by the time in their home.

We were invited in to another house on our way home. "Adele, come on in!" I honestly didn't think I knew the neighbor, but we went in to meet his family. His name was Timothy, ("You can call me Tim-Tim.") and he wants me to come and preach at a youth event tomorrow.

"Maybe another time," I explained. "I have commitments with the team tomorrow."

And that was but a two-hour snippet from our day. It's been a good day. A day full of opportunities to bless and to be blessed.

Sleep Walking

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry
I'm walking. Flannel's sleeping. She's not always this placid. Much of the time she runs around chasing whatever she can, the little paws spinning like crazy on my cement floors. She's a healthy little kitten. I love that God has blessed me with this little furball!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Little Mom, Big Heart

Earlier this week, I had the honor of meeting a mother and son with smiles that etched itself in my heart. "Come on a home visit with me," Juli invited me on Wednesday morning. "You'd love to meet my new friends."

On our way, Juli filled me in on the story. The mom, known to us only as Mama Daniel, had brought her son to our clinic in January. Both of them are little people, and the 5-year-old Daniel had problems with his spine. Our clinic staff referred him to the AIM hospital in Kijabe, the best hospital in the area for him to get surgery. "I always leave clinics crying," the mom explained to us. "But when I left your clinic, for the first time, I wasn't crying. I had hope." And so, last month, Daniel received corrective spinal surgery.

Last Sunday, this young mother had walked the 8 miles or so to church and has shared her heart at that time. Standing up in front of the congregation, hardly visible to anyone in the back, Mama Daniel shared how she had come to thank God for the surgery her son had received. She explained that she never went to church "because I always thought church can only be for tall people. But now I know that I can come here."

"What would you have me learn from this family, Lord," I wondered as I drove, pulling over to the side of the road a few times, asking for directions. Time and again, we'd be pointed to the next junction and told to ask there again. Everyone knew about this family, and my heart ached thinking about the challenges they face in a culture that is less than friendly to anyone with a handicap. And to make things worse, as Luyas, they hold tight to superstition.

In fact, the first thing I noticed about Daniel's baby brother is the string around his hips. I asked about it later, wondering if it has the same meaning as in Mozambique: a sign that the mother has taken the child to a witchdoctor for prayers of protection. I was told no, it's a wish for him to have big buttocks. (!)

Back to Daniel and his mom, though. The body cast, stretching from his hips all the way to his arms, may be limiting his movement, but it's not curbing his smile. Not even for a moment. I asked if I could take pictures, and the mom agreed with a smile as big as that of her son's. We asked about their family, about Daniel's health, about life. Every time, the 4-foot-mom answered with a big smile, "Mzuri sana." (Everything's very well.) Yet we weren't offered chai, certainly not because we weren't welcome, but more likely because the family had none to offer visitors.

As we went into their mud hut to pray for Daniel, his mom, and his little brother Darius, the mom removed the floral shirt her smiling son was wearing so we could see the cast. She asked that we also pray for her mother, who was traveling. Immediately after the prayer, Daniel said he'd like to see the car we came in. He's just like any other little boy, I thought. I hope he gets a chance someday to drive his own car. But in this culture, chances are slim.

As we walked to the car, little Daniel's bare buttocks stuck out under his shirt as he walked hand-in-hand with Juli. He was smiling from ear to ear, excited about having had his own visitors for the day.

May he know you, Lord, I prayed. May he know the God who delights in him. And may he show others someday what it means to be a giant in God's army, his small stature despite.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

News that's happening around me

I've posted several updates recently on the ELI blog. Be sure to check it out. These are all stories written by colleagues. However, it gives you an idea of the world I live in, of that which is happening around me. Moving stories. Stories of hope. Stories of day-to-day life in Kipkaren. Stories of what ELI is doing in the D.R. Congo, bringing hope to people in that war-torn region.

The only news from this side is that I was finally able to complete a newsletter to the children's sponsors today, a piece that has been long in the making. I'm posting JPEG files of the document here. Hoping this would work. Click on each individual page to see a larger, readable version.

As for the latest on my car: I got a call from my mechanic. Bad news. Seems like my gearbox needs major work. Expensive work. Ugh. I should know more tomorrow...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What a day!

This was one of those days that was packed with all kinds of good things.

I left home early, hitching a ride with a colleague since my car needs to go in for gearbox repairs. (Or it could be clutch repairs... I'm hoping it's the latter.)

We picked up a family from the area whose son needed to go to the hospital. The 9-year-old boy is deaf, and recently, his entire left side has gone totally numb. The doctors aren't able to figure out what is wrong. I felt really badly for the kid, especially since he seems to have never seen a mzungu before, so having me in the car was rather traumatic. Every time I'd turn around to talk to the growing number of neighbors getting rides, he'd start crying... I decided not to turn their way so the boy could relax.

The family got dropped at the hospital, neighbors and I got dropped at various places in town, and then Laban left to pick up a new intern at the airport. I was maybe 15 minutes early for the meeting I was to lead for the Kipkaren teachers. They had really wanted to leave Kipkaren at 6 am and have a full day, but since part of the purpose of the day was to relax, the headmaster (Mr. Rop) and I agreed that they could leave at 8:30 instead, which would have them to their first event by 9:30. They ended up leaving Kipkaren around 9:45. (Remember: There's no hurry in Africa.)

So the first event of the day was scratched from the program. (One of the keys to success in Africa: Be flexible.) We were to have chai at Poa Place, a local park/restaurant/pool, and play some table games. We still had chai, but sadly the group could only be there for about forty minutes before we had to leave for the place where we'd have lunch and the rest of the afternoon's activities: Kerio View.

And yes, we really had to leave since I had already ordered lunch for everyone and they were expecting us at a specific time. (I had called to postpone lunch by half an hour, else we'd have just gulped down the tea, which wouldn't have exactly been relaxing.)

So we drove to Kerio View where the team of teachers and some spouses were amazed by the view and the beauty of their area. Of the 16 people there, only three of us had ever been to Kerio View. Most of the team are from this area. They simply have never had a chance to travel and see much of their area, let alone their country.

We had a wonderfully relaxing lunch, where after I led a few activities in a gazebo at the rim of the valley. First, the team did the human knot, and I had the quietest teachers be the leaders. We really had a great time debriefing the activity!

Next, I had each one share about the teacher who had the most profound effect on their life, and we talked about the common denominator in each of these stories (i.e. individual care/attention). We had a chat about their roles as teachers and how they can strive to have the same kind of effect on the lives of their students.

We ended with a fun activity where they were lined up on a little wall and had to change sides without stepping off the wall (one side had "lava" and the other side was filled with crocodile-infested water). I wasn't sure how this activity would translate cross-culturally, since you really get into each others' personal space, but they seemed to have no problem with it. The purpose of the activity was to emphasize how we need each other in overcoming obstacles.

I had a number of other activities planned, but those will have to wait for another time. We wanted to get back to Ilula so they could meet our children, get a tour of the school and children's home, and join devotions. They really seemed to enjoy seeing how far our kids have come in Ilula, how well they could speak English, what confidence they exude!

For dinner, I also invited the teachers from Samro, the school in Ilula. Though the Kenyan way is to have many speeches, I asked if we could just visit instead, and only have the headmasters and the children's home director say a few words. Both headmasters emphasized how much they appreciated being able to visit with their colleagues and to exchange ideas. The teachers also exchanged phone numbers and some were talking about getting together to talk about specific ideas.

We closed the fellowship with a time of prayer for the teachers, which turned out to be a really moving time of the children's home parents praying for the teachers.

As the Ilula (Samro) teachers and the rest of us non-Kipkaren-school-staff left, the Brook of Faith teachers started a meeting to evaluate goals set earlier in the year and to plan the steps ahead. (It's three hours later and they just got done with the meeting.) In the meantime, the rest of us got together and played Uno, Yatzee, and watched an episode of Monk.

One teacher told me at dinner, "You know, I could not imagine why we should leave Poa Place. It was so beautiful there. But when we got to Kerio Valley, I was amazed. You cannot know what a gift today was to us. I have passed Kerio View so many times - my college used to be right close to it - but I never knew there was such a beautiful place right there. And to have the time to visit and do the activities was really special."

To those of you who are part of my support team: Thank you for how you blessed the teachers today through being part of the work God is doing in their midst.

The team will drive back to Kipkaren after breakfast and some songs by the Ilula kids. I'll stay behind since I'll be speaking at staff devotions on Monday. Please pray for me as I prepare to share with the staff on Monday.

Thanks again for the role you play in the ministry here in Western Kenya.

(I'll upload pictures tomorrow.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

100% Good

It's hours after I first wrote that I was going to make a smoothie. I got carried away working on my computer and finally decided that I really ought to eat something. One entire mango, two baby bananas and one papino (very small papaya) later, I am having one cupful of pure goodness. Yum!

One thing I love about Kenya is how affordable fruit is out here! I seriously think I could survive on just fruit and vegetables out here. Which wouldn't be a bad thing to do...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lazy Friday Night

Flannel and I are watching Monk tonight.

It's been one of those days: My car has some issues (the gear box seems to be getting stuck, it has to go in for more expensive work next week), so I had to arrange to go to town with colleagues so I could go and meet a new intern at the airport. After getting there and waiting a while, I called our agent in Nairobi and found out that the intern has been put on another flight, tomorrow morning, since her luggage hadn't arrived with her... So, I spent the rest of the day in town, waiting for a ride home. Fortunately, I was able to have a few random meetings at the office, and I had some postcards with me so I could get some writing done. And I was able to go and take care of some business at the bank, part of my work permit arrangements. It was after 5 by the time I got home. It's one of those days when you simply have to smile at the events. Can't get upset at stuff like this.

Got back to Ilula and took care of a kid's finger. One of our kids cut his finger a week ago, and the wound isn't healing well, so I have been cleaning Obediah's wound in the afternoons to see if we can get it well. May I say that I am glad that I am not a nurse! Every time I clean his wound, I have to pretend I'm brave...

So, since our intern's not here yet (so the welcome dinner has been postponed till tomorrow) and since my car is broken (and I cannot drive to Kipkaren to go and pick up the staff I'm taking on a team-building retreat tomorrow), Flannel and I are having an impromptu movie night tonight. As I said, we're watching Monk. Flannel seems to like it.

Wish I could call for pizza. It's one of those things I miss at times, being able to get pizza for an easy dinner. Alas. I'll have to figure out something else. Ah! Just remembered. I bought fruit today. I'll make a smoothie.

Smoothie, anyone?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Silk Moth, Suicide Bomber and Flannel Update

This morning, members of the visiting team pointed out this silk moth that was sitting on my wall. I grabbed my camera, eager to put into practise some of the things Micah told me last night. I like how this picture turned out.

On a more serious note: News about yesterday's bomb in Nairobi is still a bit sketchy. Local papers report that two guys tried boarding a City Hoppa bus that was heading to the airport. They weren't allowed on the bus because it was full. They stepped of the bus and waited at an adjacent cafe. When a street sweeper asked them to move their bags, they ran. (Seems from the report that they noticed a problem with the bag.) The sweeper was the only person killed in the blast that injured 41 others. Pages of the Quran were found strewn in the area, suspectedly coming from the bag that had exploded.

There has been quite a lot of issues around the capital lately. A sect called Mungiki is trying to create fear as we are getting closer to Kenyan elections. More than 30 people were killed this weekend in a raid when police tried to catch Mungiki members. I am far from the city, so no need to be concerned for me. Please do pray for Kenya, though.
On a much lighter note: Flannel is doing marvelously! She even accompanied me to a birthday celebration tonight for one of the team members and slept in the hood of my sweatshirt for much of the evening. (She came home and pounced around the house before plonking down on my lap again, currently purring like an engine.) While I was decorating the cake today, she did something she did last night, too, as I was cooking dinner for guests: She'd come and lay right on my feet in the kitchen, as I'm working. She really is adorable, although a little scruffy looking still. Great personality! You can see new pictures of her on Flickr.

Wednesday morning

I wasn't able to upload the post last night due to a power outage. It's a beautiful Wednesday morning here, and I'm off to breakfast with the team, then taking some of them to town as they're heading back to the US. This evening, we have a farewell for our Ilula intern. In between these visitor events, I have a to figure out which items on my list for today is the most important and get at least a few checked off.

Hope your day is productive and full of unexpected blessings.


Monday, June 11, 2007


As I'm writing this, I have a purring bundle on my lap. Her name is Flannel.

I was going to get a kitten this afternoon when I got back to Kipkaren. But at breakfast, I found out that there was a kitten at the children's home. Joyce (one of the kids) had found it near their school yesterday, and they were keeping it in the rabbit cage! I went over right after breakfast and enquired about it. They were happy for me to take it since they didn't quite know what to do with it.

The kitten is in pretty bad shape. When I went to get her, she was totally wet because the rabbit cage she had been in all night provided no protection against the rain that had been falling most of the night. Even as I brought her back, holding the wet kitten to my chest, she was shaking. I wasn't sure if she'd make it through the day.

I gave her a quick, warm bath, which she hardly fought. She was so full of mud from the rain! It's only after I had been drying her for a while that she started biting, fighting the dryer. She had some spunk left in her after all.

I put some medicine on some places that needed it. It looks like she had been burned, perhaps. Her ears look scorched, and her whiskers are mostly gone. After she was dry, I put her down on my flannel PJ pants on my bed so I could find her something to eat. The moment I put her down on the flannel PJs, she started purring. So I called her Flannel. She digs her nose into the material, probably still wanting to nurse...

When I fed her, she gobbled down the food to the point that she gagged! All morning, I kept her warm under a reading light in a carrying basket until she stopped shaking. She slept all the way to Kipkaren, happy to be in her little basket. Once we got here, Flannel explored my home and didn't like it too much when Davis and Jen's new kitten stopped by, but the two will soon be friends. She just gives a little squeak when I pet her, then purrs.

So, I have a new little roommate/travel companion. Trusting she'll be well soon, healed from whatever caused her little ears to look scorched.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Roads, rain and rhinos

It's late Saturday night, and the rain is falling outside, a strong, constant rain, the type that makes the crops grow and that fills the dams. We use hydro-electricity, I've been told, so drought means power rationing. It makes me like the rain even more.

It's been a full day. I was up by 5:30 after having had little sleep thanks to our hotel being in Nakuru's club zone, it seems. Our hotel? Nakuru? I had taken the three interns on safari.
We left for Nakuru yesterday afternoon so we could stay at a hotel and enter the park as the gates open at 6:30, which we did in fact do. I drove the girls around with both the safari hatches on my car down, so they stood the entire time, appreciating the wildlife. We stopped for chai and a time of debriefing, reflection and prayer around 11:00. (Went to Sarova Lion Hill, which overlooks the lake. What a treat to sit there and talk about "Now what? As a result of having experienced what you had experienced, what do you believe God wants you to do differently when you return home?" This truly is one of my favorite parts of my job: walking this journey with visitors.) After the break, we drove along the lake shore for another hour or so and then headed out, the girls to go shopping, and me to have the car washed... (The lake is very salty, so it's smart to get the underbody pressure washed after driving along Lake Nakuru.) We were on the road to Eldoret by 3 and arrived home by 6, praising God for a safe journey.

Perhaps you'll understand better if I tell you that the journey between Eldoret and Nakuru is all of 160 kilometers. That's about 100 miles. It takes 3 hours because of the potholes and speed bumps. There are sections where you simply cannot go any faster than 20 kmh at the most, constantly zigzagging across the road. It's times like those that I yet again thank God for a good vehicle.

But back to our safari. (I'll upload photos in the morning. Too tired to do so now.) Some highlights:
  • MOST AMAZING: It was incredible to see the sun rise and shed the most amazing light on the lake and its tens of thousands of pink flamingos!
  • MOST IN NUMBER: The flamingos. They're breathtakingly beautiful. And because there are so many, you hear a constant chatter when you approach them! We also saw lots and lots and lots of other birds, including spoonbills, saddlebilled storks, pelicans, and an African fish eagle.
  • CUTEST BY FAR: The baby vervet monkeys and baby olive baboons we saw. The smallest one may have been all of one week old, and it was exploring the world with great courage.
  • UGLIEST: The spotted hyenas. I don't like them. They're mean.
  • NASTIEST: We saw two olive baboons fight. One sounded like it was truly crying. The other one was bullying him...
  • BIGGEST: Not sure if the herds of eland (world's biggest antelopes) were the biggest mammals we saw, or if it were the Cape Buffaloes. The heaviest, though, was certainly the rhino. Which leads me to ...
  • SCARIEST: There was a lone, male white rhino that mock charged us! As we approached, I stopped, realizing that this male was so close to the road and I didn't want to annoy it. It is, after all, strong enough to tip my Land Rover! We waited, and he showed us who's the boss by first of all stomping his hind legs (kicking up grass), and then spraying to mark his territory. We waited and waited till he turned his back to the road, at which time I decided to go for it. As we got right close to him, he turned around and through his head in the air as if to say, "There! Gotcha!" My heart was pounding. I know rhinos can't see well at all, so that gives us and advantage, but he had the greatest advantage in terms of weight!
  • SADDEST: Nothing, really. It's just a pity that the girls didn't get to see any of the cats in the park. The lions were as elusive as ever. Same with the leopards.
It's good to be back in my bed, though. I hope I don't dream of driving...

Friday, June 08, 2007

"We cannot help them all!"

While working on a somewhat mindless task much of this evening, I had The Constant Gardener playing in the background.

Though there are several scenes that are truly powerful, two stood out for me this evening. The first one is right after Tessa is discharged from the hospital, she asks her husband Justin to stop. She wants them to offer a ride to a family she had met in the hospital.

"It's 40 km to [their home]. It's going to take them all night. "

"We can't involve ourselves in their lives, Tess," Justin objects. "... Be reasonable. There are millions of people. They all need help. It's what the agencies are here for."

"Yeah, but these are three people that we can help!"

And then, later in the movie, when Justin is fleeing from a raid in Southern Sudan and tries to save one girl by taking her on the UN plane, he's told that there are rules, that the UN plane can only evacuate aid workers. "There are thousands of [children] out there," the UN pilot says. "I can't make an exception for one child."

"But this is one we can help. Here!"

Often, when I simply feel overwhelmed by the needs around me, I sense the Spirit reminding me of this very concept, " . . . but you can help this one!" (It doesn't make the needs less overwhelming, though.)

I literally cannot go into a day without asking God for discernment in how/when/who to help. Because there are people who ask.

Every. Single. Day.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"It's a synonym!"

My next-door neighbors in Kipkaren, the Davis family, has a two-year-old girl named Tovah. (She'll be three in August.) Davis and Jen have been teaching Tovah about synonyms recently. The other day, they were walking to the children's home when Tovah said, "Look! That's Sammy!" (Sammy's the guy who milks the cows and delivers the milk to their home.) Realizing it's indeed not Sammy, she said, "No, it's not Sammy. It's a synonym!" (As in, it just looks like him!)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Kids, Computers and Cats

I spent some time taking pictures at the school yesterday. One of my favorite pictures of the day is this one of little Collins.
We welcomed Juli back to Kipkaren yesterday. Tonight, I'm having the Mr. and Mrs. Bush over for dinner. Not the President and the first lady, no. The directors of the children's home. Their last name is Busienei, so they go by Bush for short. I'm making putu, the South African version of ugali, because Bush says he hasn't eaten unless he's had ugali.

It's a gorgeous day. I spent all day in the office, most of the time on the phone with our ISP in Nairobi, trouble-shooting networking issues. It never ceases to amaze me how much patience tech support guys have!

Off to my house to cook. Tomorrow, I may be getting a kitten. It'll be a traveling kitten, since I'd get to lug it back and forth between here and Ilula. I'll have to get a container to put it in since it can't well travel in the Land Rover without being in a cage of sorts. I'm moving up in the world, from a chameleon to a kitten. Kittens are way more cuddly. And I discovered I'm no longer allergic to them, which is a plus.

Heading back to Ilula tomorrow to prepare to receive a team. Then to Nakuru to take the interns on safari/debriefing on Saturday. I'll be back to Kipkaren with the team on Sunday.

Can't think what else to write... Lots happening, just not stuff you may want to read about. Selah.

Monday, June 04, 2007

We serve a BIG God

Spent much time this morning interviewing one of our children for a story I'm writing. It was incredible to hear how much this child has gone through in her short life, and to hear her say, "The best thing about being here? Here, I met Jesus!" Having talked about some of the stuff really hurt, but she was strong, until she started talking about her older sister... "I hear she is sleeping outside. She has a baby, and she's sleeping outside with that baby. Sometimes when I lie in bed, I cry because I think, 'Agnes is somewhere outside...' I really hope to see her someday soon and tell her about Jesus and I pray she will find a good, Christian husband to care for her." Wow. What does one do when you hear something like that? I just wished I could hop in my car and go help Agnes... But we don't even know where she is, so that's not an option.

The highlight of my visit, though, was when I remembered that two nights ago, when I went to say good-night to the kids, this girl showed me a boil she had on her neck, asking if I had medicine for it. I told her to come to my house the next day so I could put something on it, but right then, I prayed for God to heal it. When I asked about the boil today, it was gone. As in, not a trace of it! We serve an AMAZING God! I so desire to see Him do more healings in this community--even, or maybe, especially, healing people with HIV/AIDS! I will keep praying!

Later in the morning, while we were in church, Nelson (one of the dads) was called to take someone to the hospital. Nelson was supposed to preach. I didn't know that until his wife Dorcas, who had been leading worship, said, "Adele, will you introduce the visitors (interns) and then bring us the message?" I literally had a minute before I had to get up and preach! God proved to be faithful. I do believe he showed me what to share, and I left humbled yet again at what an awesome God we serve!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Red Tape

For the past two months, I've been having frequent phone conversations with an office in Nairobi regarding a document which Kenyans simply refer to as a log book. It's not your typical log book; it's more like registration papers. Without your log book, your car cannot leave the country.

When I bought my car, I was told that the papers were still being processed to change the log book from two owners ago's name to the name of the person from whom I had purchased it. "We should have the new log book within a month," I was told by a guy at the admin office of the ministry from whom the previous car owner worked. "Then we can send off the paperwork to have it changed from the Callaghans' name to yours."

That was a year ago.

Since I'm hoping to drive to our site in Tanzania later this summer, I need the log book. So I turned up the heat, calling the said missions office regularly. "Any news on the log book?"

Last week, I was told that the log book did finally arrive, but it's still in the name of 2 owners ago! I'm told it would not be good for me to go to the actual government office to enquire about the case, since I'd be asked for a bribe. With a bribe, the paperwork will most definitely be done much faster!

I don't want to pay bribes.

Will you please join me in praying for a miracle, that the new log books (first in the Callaghans' name, then in mine) will be issued in record time?

Let the children come...

Yesterday, the children's home ran out of water. Not sure what the issue is. Probably similar to mine. There's city water, but it's not filling up the tank that provides water to the home... So by 6:15 this morning until now (11), there has been a constant chatter outside as little ones were filling up buckets from this side of our compound and carrying them over to the home. And since they're on this side of the compound, all of the kids want to say good morning to me.

I know, this is reality for many a missionary who works at/near an orphanage! I've visited my friends in Mozambique and experienced the same. It's also day-to-day reality for mothers, I believe. Except, as a mom, you can't tell the visitors to come back later... :)

As I've been trying to do Bible study and to read, I've had a knock on my door every few minutes. Literally!

"Adele! How are you? Which movie will we see today, Adele?"

"Wait and see."

"Wait and see? What is that one about?"

I chit chat for a little bit, then tell the little ones I'll visit later this afternoon. A few minutes later, someone else knocks.

"Adele! How is your day? Will we see a movie today? Where is the kinyonga (chameleon), Adele? What is this flower called? Did you have a good safari (journey)? Your house is clean, Adele! What are you doing? ... Studying the Bible? What are you studying in the Bible, Adele? Adele, what is this basin for? ... A bird bath? Why would the birds bath, Adele? ... Is it just so you can watch them, or to catch the birds?"

So I visit a while, silently praying that I would not get so caught up in the stuff that I need to do that I miss out on the opportunity to just love the kids, to minister to their little hearts by listening to their stories, by answering their plethora of questions. Could it be that that was the dilemma the disciples were facing when they sent the children away and Jesus interrupted, saying, "Let the children come to me..."

God, grant me wisdom to know how to truly minister to the little ones' hearts while trying to be wise in having healthy boundaries.

What would Jesus do? I think I know.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Traces of a Life Once Lived

I was heading out the movie theater this evening when a book caught my eye. (You've got to walk right through the book store at The Junction to get to the movies. It's like two of my favorite things in one!) It wasn't the title that caught my eye, really. It was the name of the author. Michael Finkel.

Mike Finkel? Can it be? How many Mike Finkels can there be? I skimmed the back cover. ... Montana ... Ah! It's the one and only.

I can pretend I have my finger on the pulse of what's happening in the world, especially in the publishing world. But I don't. Not any more. I remember hearing about the Times writer that got fired for fabricating parts of a true story. But I was in Addis when the story broke. I was out of touch with the real world, seeing just a glimpse of it as I walked by a television in some out-of-the-way Ethiopian restaurant. Honestly, my mind was focusing most of its attention on the realization that my Ethiopian driver was mistaking my friendliness for something more, that I needed to get home quickly. I did. But not before he started talking about the possibility of marriage. I know. Crazy. Just because I was asking about life in Ethiopia on the long drive to Addis.

But that's another story all together. One I'd rather forget. Or one I tell jokingly at times, "Oh, and then there was the time an Ethiopian proposed to me..." Back to my story.

Mike Finkel. Never met him in person, but I have edited several of his articles for our magazine in Taiwan. My favorite story of his tells of his quest to ski Kilimanjaro. But he'd also do bizarre things like ski runaway truck ramps. Just for the fun of it, that is. To say he did it. You can understand why I liked his writing, I'm sure.

Seeing his book reminded me that I wanted to look up another freelance writer from whom I'd often receive business articles for consideration. While I was catching up on friends' blogs yesterday, I saw someone (can't remember who!) said that a must-read is Who Are You People by Shari Caudron.

Seeing Mike's book and discovering Shari's book online brought back memories of spending hours upon hours reading through piles of magazines in search of the best articles to reprint, of editing 5,000-word articles into 720-word essays that would be discussed over three days' radio programs, of looking for the perfect pictures to accompany the said articles, and of always, always looking at other magazines in terms of their design. (What grabs my attention, and why? Or why not?)

And every time I think of life the way it was and life the way it is now, I smile at God's sense of humor. He couldn't have placed me in two worlds that could've been any more different! (OK, OK, I could've ended up living in Sudan. At least I have some luxuries in Kenya. But the differences extend far beyond ease of living. Culturally, rural Kenya and urban Taiwan is as far removed as, well, the East is from the West.)

I've been blessed to live in such diverse worlds.

"Your life just isn't normal," a friend commented today. I guess. But then, what is normal? In my world, my life's pretty normal. At least, I've never tried skiing Kilimanjaro.