Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Psalm 84

I was at my favorite spot in Kipkaren this morning: Sitting in the gazebo close to my home, watching the full river, the birds, and spending time studying the Word. I felt compelled to put Psalm 84 in my own words.

God, what joy to live in your presence,
in fact, to even have You live within me.
How I long to have more of You, LORD,
to live in a way
that my life is consumed with pleasing You
and You alone.

In Your presence, God,
even the littlest birds are safe.
They lack nothing.
They can go through life trusting you
and delighting in you.
Ah, that I may be like that:
Singing my heart out to You,
trusting you with my whole being.

Trusting You completely brings peace
even when I go through tough times,
even when I don't think I have the strength to endure.

Faith paves the road that leads to you,
that leads to complete peace
to complete fulfilment
to a place where I would lack nothing
not even the strength to endure
because You are my strength.

God most high - the one and only God -
would You hear my prayer?
I approach You with my shield of faith.

Walking with You, Lord,
and knowing that You walk with me,
is far better than anything I could ever imagine.
In fact, I would rather scrub floors
knowing that You are with me
than have some high-paying job
and live separated from Your presence.

Why? Because You are my source,
my source of light,
my source of life,
my source of protection.
In You, I have found
a reason to live
and a life far better than what I could ever imagine.

If I live a life worthy of the One I host
- though I cannot do so in an of myself -
You will not withhold anything good from me!
It's hard for me to get my mind around that sometimes.

GOD of all gods,
my life is only meaningful
if I trust in you.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Growing in Understanding

From a message I sent a friend this past Thursday:

Today, after spending another 5 hours digging out egg sacs from Nancy's feet and taking an intern to the airport, I came back to find Raymond, one of our 6-year-olds, running to me. "Adele, look!" He had burned his hand earlier this week, and I've been treating it every night, keeping the wounds clean and wrapped. But one of the blisters had popped and none of his Band-aids were on his fingers any more. I grabbed my first-aid kit (which was still in the car from my morning excursion), and with Raymond on the other hand, walked home to help my little friend. As I was trying to figure out what would work best, he asked me in all earnest, "Adele, do you want to be a nurse?"

I could honestly tell him no, I had absolutely no desire to be a nurse. I simply cared about them and the children around me. And we don't have nurses at Ilula, so I'm it.

In playing nurse, though, I get to experience a different side of life here, a precious side I've not had the joy of experiencing before. For example, as I was concentrating hard earlier in the morning on getting Nancy's heel cleaned up, I heard her softly singing. Finally, I could make out what she was singing, and I joined her. It's a song she must've picked up when she came to Sunday school last week: "I love you, Jesus, you are my Saviour..." Somehow, I think she's starting to understand the love of Jesus.

Hide and Seek

I so wanted to slip away and go somewhere today... The challenge for me is to find a place nearby where it's safe enough for me to drive to. Or to find a place where it would be restful. I considered going elsewhere for church and then go somewhere like "Poa Place," but decided to stay for church here so I could simply rest afterwards.

I'm glad I stayed.

When I walked into church, I noticed all four Sifuna kids sitting with other children. If you didn't know, you'd think they're from an ordinary family, or from our children's home. They were clean and were smiling from ear to ear.

I slipped into a back row, and little Brian immediately came over to sit by me. So did Joann. They were sitting so close to me, I could hardly breathe. Joann decided to go and squeeze onto a chair with one of our older girls.

Then Silas walked in. He seemed at ease. And he was shining from head to toe, too, even wearing a sports jacket.

Marques, an APU graduate/friend of Kigen preached. I believe the sermon was one that Silas could hear and take to heart... After preaching, Marques sang, and little Brian's genes kicked in. He has rhythm unlike any 3-year-old I've seen. He was clapping his hands and wiggling his little buttocks. It was SO cute!

After church and lunch with the visitors, I slipped away to my home and took a nap and some time out at my place. And then I headed to the home to go and say good-night to the kids. Some of them are going through a very tough time right now, and they've been asking me to come and tuck them in. But they were at Philip and Ruth's home (parents), watching the Sunday-night news on television.

Imagine, 48 kids plus parents in a room that's an arch of about 12 feet by 6 feet... The air was thick, but as I popped my head in, the kids were all smiling, having a good time hanging out with their parents. I'll go and see the kids in the morning before I head to Kipkaren. I went to the East side to find the same there, all the kids heading into Jonah and Mary's home for Sunday night fellowship. (The other two sets of parents are both on annual leave.)

Flannel, by the way, has LOVED having me in the house this afternoon. She's been very feisty the past month, but it's probably because I've been spending no time with her during the days. She has only been seeing me when I run in to get some things, and when I come home to sleep. To show her dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, my usually-loving kitten has not even been snuggling with me at night but has reverted to sleeping at my feet. Or worse, she's been climbing into my big reed container at the foot of my bed where I keep my towels and sheets. (She can fit through the handles.) And whenever I'd pet her, she'd bite me. But tonight, for the first time in a long time, she's simply letting me stroke her. She's sleeping right up against me even as I'm typing. And the lights aren't even turned off yet! I believe she has missed me. She doesn't want me to move her for a picture right now, though, so I'm signing off with smile from my side of the world.

The crickets and frogs seem to be having a singing contest outside my window.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I just uploaded some pictures to the Web and noticed my comment on the last blog entry, saying that I'll try to get away on Thursday for a break. It didn't happen. Nor on Friday. On Saturday, I slipped away for a 2-hour break in between things. It was good, but I need more of a break today. I may slip away and go to church in town today so I can get away a little. If possible...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The War on Jiggers

Juli and I spent four hours this morning working on the Sifuna kids. (I finally know their dad's last name, so from now on, I don't have to say "the neighbors" or "the kids down the road." They're the Sifunas. That's a Luo name. They're of the Luo tribe.)

I will have to take Nancy to the doctor so he can help. The toe I worked on yesterday, removing 5 egg sacs, is far from being healed. Ruth joined us at a stage and removed easily another 10 sacs. From the same toe, yes. Some on top, by the nail. Some right under the toe, in the fold. And there are more... Nancy cried really, really hard. But every time we'd have one out completely, she'd stop crying. It's almost as if she knows she's supposed to be strong.

No child should have to be that strong. Not at 6 years of age.

Juli thinks Nancy might be anemic. I hope to take her to see the doctor again next week sometime.

After coming home, cleaning up, chatting with the team (plus a team visiting from Kipkaren) over lunch, I headed to town to go and buy more supplies for the kids. I got them each a pair of gumboots and more socks. I also got more multivitamin syrup, gauze and tape. As the worst work is being done on their feet, I've started wrapping their little feet in gauze and tape. Now, with the gumboots to cover it all, things should start getting better.

While I was in town, I bought bread for some of the street kids. One boy exchanged his glue bottle with me for an extra bread roll. As I drove off, I was filled with anger at whomever it is that sells construction glue to young children to sniff. How can any person benefit from another's addictions?? (I know, it's nothing unusual. But still. Today, it got to me.)

I'm home, at last, and catching my breath before heading out for the farewell service for an intern who is leaving tomorrow.

I really hope to just get away for a bit tomorrow. Not sure if it will be possible.

I need a break, a day away to sit at God's feet and be filled.

Pain . . . and Pouring Rain

Ruth and I went to the home down the road again this afternoon. It was time for their weekly bath and for more work on their little hands and feet. We lug along the interns and a visitor to help with entertaining the kids while we'd continue the task of digging out egg sacs.

No sooner had Ruth started bathing the two boys and I started working on Nancy's feet than rain drops started falling. Large drops. Drops you couldn't simply ignore. We scurried to move the children, the little wooden stools, and all our cleaning and medical supplies indoors.

Silas opened the wooden hatch to let in a little more light. I placed Nancy on a stool closest to the door and continued with the task. There is no electricity in their house, and the weather wasn't making it any easier to see.

Her big toe was rock hard with eggs and infection. As I started to carefully tear away the skin, I unveiled one egg sac after another. The 6-year-old's toe was host to no fewer than 500 eggs (each sac has at least 100 eggs). I left a gaping crater all along the edge of her toe and her nail, but after cleaning it later, filled it with Triple Anti-biotic Ointment and wrapped the toe like its never been wrapped before. I moved on to other parts of her feet. Her heel is still a raw mess, and I'm glad that Juli (ELI's family nurse practitioner who lives in Kipkaren) was planning on being her tomorrow to take a look at the kids...

After cleaning Nancy's feet and removing several hatched sacs (pulling the empty sacs from the crevices left as the flea had been feasting on the blood vessels while growing her eggs), I embalmed her heel in dry antibiotic powder and wrapped her foot with gauze and bandages.

In the meantime, Chelsea was trying her utmost best to distract my little friend Brian by blowing bubbles. But it just didn't work today. Nor did the candy I brought help. Ruth was digging out an egg sac from under his thumb nail. The kid was in terrible pain, but there's nothing we could do but just push through.

The good thing is that the tears dried up very soon after the sac finally came out, and he made his signature "eh?" every time a bubble floated by.

There were no dry socks in the house to put on Nancy's feet, and Chelsea took hers off without thinking twice about it. Though the socks were far too big, it at least kept her feet warm and dry.

As I drove to town to get Juli, I picked up neighbors along the way. "How are your children, Adele," the lady asked.

"Which ones? Do you mean the ones at the children's home?"

"No, the ones you have been caring for. We have heard about it."

I explained to her that the children were getting better, and that they must please keep praying. Heading home not much later, I saw "mama mayayi" ("egg mama", a neighbor who sells eggs and lives virtually next door to the family). I stopped to give her a ride, and on the way home, asked if she'd be willing to give 5 eggs a week to her neighbors.

"Of course," Mrs Kiptugen responded. "And you don't need to pay. We will all do our part to help."

And so, little by little, healing is happening. One neighbor is making the children porridge every morning and supplying milk every afternoon. Some of you have sent money to take care of this. By the way, employing the neighbor to make the porridge is not only helping the children, but it is providing a little income to my neighbor, too!

Tomorrow morning, Juli, Ruth and I will return to work more on the children's hands and feet. Their hands are getting close to being jigger-free, but Brian and Nancy's feet, especially, are far from being well.

Please keep praying for these children's complete healing--physically, for sure, but also emotionally and spiritually.

They're starting to understand, I believe, that it is not us white people who are healing them... Each time an egg sac comes out, I say, "Bwana asifiwe!" (Praise the Lord!), and they now respond with an "Amen!" and a smile. They may not know the Lord yet, but they know I don't take credit for their healing. It all goes to Him!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Time Out

Tomorrow is Dennis' third birthday. He's the youngest of our Ilula orphans.

The Rotich boys, being goofy. These are some of the most inquisitive boys ever!

Rogers asked me to take this picture for Danette, who happens to be his sponsor.
He's being a real boy, trying to impress her by doing push-ups. :)

I was in Kipkaren with the team all day. Or, rather, I took them to Kipkaren and then let one of the staff there take them around while I had a great visit with my friends there over a cup of tea. It was a pure delight to just put our feet up for a bit and visit about everything BUT work stuff. When they left, I closed my door and read for a while and even took a little nap. It was just what I needed! Some days, more than others, I really, really miss simply hanging out with good friends. (In case you're thinking I'm just lazing around, the break lasted all of maybe 2 hours.)

After dinner this evening, I went to check on Hillary (he's much better) as well as another boy who had burned his hand. I took a few pictures in their room. We laughed really hard at some of the photos. It was fun to go and hang out with "my boys" for a bit and just be goofy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

To create...

"To create—whether photography, painting, inventing, composing, or leading—is to access that part of our brains and souls that isn’t consumed with the how. It is concerned with the essence of what is before us. It is the overflow of awareness. And increasingly, those who are the most aware in our world and who have the ability to express that awareness—those are the people who are leading our culture."

Read the rest
of this article.

Variety Sunday

I decided this morning that I really needed some time out. Though going on safari with the interns might sound restful, it's part of my job, especially when I'm the one who's driving 700 km in two days in Kenyan roads. (Check out the pictures from our time at Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria.)

So, this morning, I decided to carve out some alone-time before church. Deciding to do something and actually getting to do it are two different things, especially when there are 8 visitors around for whom I am responsible.

Once they were all in Sunday school classes and I settled in for some me-time, I got a phone call from a neighbor/colleague, Joelle. Could I please help? His sister-in-law was in labor and needed to get to the hospital. I got ready in record-time and headed down the road to pick up Abraham (Joelle's brother), Sally (his very pregnant wife), Jane (a relative) and Loice (Joelle's wife).

Let it be known that I don't wish for ANY pregnant woman to have to be transported on our roads in rural Kenya, let alone a woman in labor! I tried to find a balance between getting to the hospital as quickly as possible and making the ride as smooth as possible. I must've said "Pole!" (Sorry!) 50 times on the half-hour journey to Moi Referral Hospital.

After dropping Sally and her entourage at the ER, I noticed our Trooper (one of the children's home vehicles) parked nearby. I called Laban (the director) and found that he's in the children's ward with Hillary (one of our boys). Hillary's stumped the doctors with a condition they are yet to diagnose. Symptoms are similar to malaria, but it's not that. I went to pray for Hillary and offered to take him home while Laban took care of errands.

I managed to catch the last 10 minutes of church, after which I took the team to Kerio View for a Sunday afternoon breakaway (for them.) A few hours later, I brought them home and thought I might lay down for a nap. But I remembered that little Brian was itching his hand when we passed him on the road as we headed out to Kerio View, so I got my "Kids' Kit" (all the stuff to dig out their jiggers) and headed down the road. Two hours later, I had removed eight huge egg sacs from the side of just one hand. By then, it was getting dark, and I was late for dinner with the team.

I had given the team an assignment to tell me what cultural observations they had made during my day and a half away with the interns, so over dinner, we talked about those observations with the Kenyans who had joined us for dinner.

By the time the team went to put the kids to bed, I was finally able to come home to Flannel, who was delighted to see me. And now, after posting the team's blog entry for the day and uploading photos for work stuff, it's 30 minutes to Pumpkin Time, so I'm going to join Flannel in Dreamland.

First thing tomorrow, I'm driving the team to Kipkaren for a visit. While they tour the center, I'll be taking new staff photos for the ELI web site. Though it'll be another full day (and a day that will inevitably offer new challenges and joys), I doubt it'll include the variety today held.

But who knows? It might offer even more!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


When I moved to Iowa in the summer of 2004, God blessed me with some delightful friendships. One of these friendships were with Danette. In the short three years that we've walked life's journey together, I've learned an incredible amount from this friend of mine, about leadership, about forgiveness and grace, about fishing, and medical sales, about Iowa, life and much more.

Today marks the start of Danette's last year in her 30s.

Happy birthday, Danette! Wish I could be there to celebrate with you!

I saw a hyena catch a flamingo!

Yesterday, after taking photos at the Kipkaren graduation, I hit the road with our three interns and drove to Nakuru for their debriefing safari. We headed into the park at the crack of dawn and marvelled at the layer of pink on the lake. As we headed back to the main road, I saw something in the distance, running like a hyena, towards the lake.

It was a hyena indeed, and we rushed to the water to watch what he was up to. He chased the flocks of flamingos in the water for probably 20 minutes, running in the water as flock after flock took to flight.

And then he caught one!

Hyenas are ruthless. They don't kill their prey instantly. The flamingo was still flapping while the hyena ran with him in his beak. When he found a spot where he'd dig into the bird and kill it by ripping out its guts (sorry, but that's what happened!), he was right next to our car! We could hear the bones cracking.

I took several photos, but basically having driven from 6:15 am till 9:45 pm (save for the hour during which we did debriefing, and the hour when I got the mud washed from under my car), I'm wiped. I'll share more tomorrow and upload pictures.

P.S. You can click here to see photos of the safari.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Work Assignment

The view
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry
I accompanied Samuel this morning to see what another group in the area is doing in terms of a training center.

It was a pleasant assignment. Samuel and I had a great visit, and I got to see a part of Kenya I had never seen before. Or, at least not from up close.

I have often gone to Kerio View, a hotel that looks over the Kerio Valley. Today, I drove down into the valley with Samuel. There were several waterfalls along the way. In many ways, it felt like I was driving in the mountains in Taiwan! The hairpin turns, especially, reminded me of my years on the island. But Taiwan never had goats sleeping right on the bend in the road!

This picture shows part of the farm at the facility. They even grow rice there (in the foreground of the picture), just like in Taiwan! But I don't think Taiwan had so many papaya trees...

On our way back, we stopped at Samuel's sister's house to pray for her husband. I'd love to go back to their home. Their hut is surrounded by mango, papaya and banana trees. It's like a little tropical forest.

After coming back and touching base with the team, I had to head to town for a meeting and to pick up supplies for this weekend. Tomorrow, I'm first going to Kipkaren to take photos of the graduation of the bio-intensive agricultural students.

Midway through the events, I'll take the interns and drive to Nakuru to do a 1-day debriefing safari with them. We should be in Nakuru just before dark, and we'll head into the park at daybreak. By 11, the animals will be hiding from the sun, and we'll take an hour or so to do some debriefing activities before making the 4-hour drive back to Eldoret.

So, lots of driving in the next day or four.

Tomorrow: Ilula-Kipkaren-Nakuru
Saturday: Nakuru safari-Kapbarnet-Ilula
Sunday: Ilula-Kerio View-Ilula
Monday: Ilula-Kipkaren-Ilula (for team visit to KK)

Speaking of driving: With all the rain we've had the past few days, the road was really bad today. Two trucks got stuck at the worst part, and I had to drive through really deep mud to get past them. I actually had to engage DIF LOCK for the first time ever to get through the mud. I love that my car can drive right into deep mud and drive out the other side. Not because it's a game, but because it's reality in my world here!

Please pray for safety on the roads on these journeys.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


It doesn't feel like there's anything exceptional to tell you tonight.
It rained a lot today.
I drove through really, really bad mud today and didn't get stuck. PTL.
It's been cold for the past two days.
The team debriefing meeting was around a fire to keep us warm.
I got some work done in the office in between helping with team stuff.
My to-do list doesn't seem to be getting shorter.
I removed at least six brand new fleas from Kiprop's legs today.
John will go and spray their home and yard again tomorrow.
I wish I could wear pants when I go and work with the kids -
it would keep the fleas off my legs!
We had a 2-hour discussion on culture at dinner tonight.
I've been speaking more and more Swahili, though it's still broken.
I might go to Sudan at the end of this month. But might not, either.
Still waiting to hear the final verdict.
If I go, part of the journey to the destination may be by boat on the Nile.
Plans are coming together for my journey to the Congo next month.
To get to the Congo, we'll fly into Rwanda.
Flannel's going nuts. Might be time to turn off the lights.
I think she's part lion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's raining. I can't help but wonder...

... if the little ones down the road are dry. And if they're warm enough. I often wonder about many of my neighbors when it's cold and wet, whether mud huts with straw roofs keep them dry. I know it doesn't. Not always.

I spent more than three hours at their home today with Ruth, Mary and Joyce, a lady from a team that's currently here. Joyce played nurse, passing paper towels, forceps, cuticle cutters between the three of us who were digging out jigger eggs. Great news: I believe little Kiprono (Richard) is now jigger free. Mary and Ruth did a wonderful job in ridding him of all the parasites. The worst infection was in his one little finger. There were two large eggs lodged in the tip of his left little finger. It took a while - and a lot of tears - to get them out! Once they were out, there was a crater in his finger as deep as one third of his entire pinkie tip! Wow, wow, wow. Can you imagine the pain in digging those out? (I didn't take my camera with me today, so no pictures.)

I worked mostly on my friend Brian Kiprop, removing both live eggs and dead egg sacs. Probably the most painful ones were on the softest part of the soles of his feet... He knew it would hurt, but when he saw us coming and set up our little "outdoor clinic," if you will, he immediately sat down, took off his socks and shoes, and came over! Halfway through removing a really painful one, I stopped and told him how sorry I was to hurt him. He looked at me with his big, sad eyes, and gave me a huge hug!

Same with Nancy Jepkemboi. She was about to cry when I dug out two sacs from the mess on her ankle when suddenly she reached out her skinny arms and gave me the tightest hug I've ever gotten from her.

These kids understand well that though we're hurting them, it's for their benefit!

One of the cutest moments today was when Brian saw his hands (and later his feet) after they had been soaked in hot, antiseptic solution. Keep in mind that these kids have never taken a real bath. When we bathe them, it's a sponge bath, so they're not used to seeing their fingers or toes turn funny from soaking too long. He giggled when he saw his wrinkly fingers! And later, while his toes were soaking, he kept taking them out of the water and laughing.

Soaking the hard skin made it easier to remove the dead egg sacs. What happens is that when the fleas hatch, the 100 or so new fleas leave your body and go and live in the grass or the mud in the house until they mate, at which time the female looks for a warm host where she can bury herself and let her eggs grow. That's kamikaze parenting! She dies in the process, but the egg grows, and the vicious cycle continues. After the egg has hatched, the body tries to reject the empty sac, but if it's embedded too deep under the skin, it just stays there until you dig it out. Digging out empty sacs are far easier than the live ones.

I found one flea on the inside of my foot this afternoon. It had already dug its way in under my skin, but the eggs hadn't yet developed. I dug it out and killed it immediately! Laura also found one on herself, as did Oleysa (our one intern) and Ruth... It's a wonder we've only found so few.

ENOUGH about chigoe fleas!

I spent some time visiting with the Rotich boys tonight. Wanted to check on Hillary. He has malaria and isn't doing very well. Like always, the boys had a million questions.

Can penguins eat humans? (We watched Happy Feet on Saturday...)
What kinds of penguins are there?
What kind of penguin was Lovelace (a character in the movie)?
Can you keep a penguin as a pet?
Does Flannel sleep with me?
And so on and so forth. Those boys have the most inquisitive minds!

It's 10:30. It's still raining. It sounds like a rain that may last for much of the night.

I'm praying that the kids are dry. Tomorrow I want to go and talk to their neighbor. She farms with chickens and has about 600 chickens, many of them for eggs. I want to ask her if she'd be willing to donate at least 1 egg per person per week for the family... I believe she will!

To close, a note on Flannel. She goes nuts in the evenings, running around like crazy, chasing her stuffed mouse around, or whatever else she may lay her little paws on. But the moment I turn off the lights in the house, she calms down. So I've learned to come and write in my bed with the lights off. If I have a movie (or a video podcast) playing on my screen while working, she would stare at the computer until it's turned off. But she actually enjoys movies more than podcasts, I've discovered. Especially animated ones. Seriously! She'll actually go and lay down on the keyboard at times to get as close as she can to the movie!

But right now, it's time for both of us to sleep. I'm tired!

Lala salama. Sleep peacefully.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Full matatu. Full day.

Full matatu.jpg
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry
It's late and I still have plenty of work, but I'm really tired. It's 11 pm. I've been working since 7:30, not having had a moment to myself today. That's the reality of my job when teams are here. That's why I literally have to go away every so often to be refreshed.

Went back to the surgeon today to give him the research on Tungiasis I had found. He had asked me to print whatever I can find out... I know. It's different. He himself had copied a page from an old text book, suggesting medicine that is no longer available on the market. So he asked me to do more research on the side effects of Ivermicen. TIA.

Thought I'd at least upload some pictures taken recently. Click on the picture to see more.

Monday, July 16, 2007


That's how I feel tonight. Blessed. For more reasons than you'd want to read about. But here are some.

1. The kids came to church for the first time today. Actually, we were already an hour into church when I decided to walk to their home and hear if they could come to church. We had invited them, but I thought it might be good to actually go and get them, if Silas would let me. When I got to their home, Silas explained that the girls were still not home. (They had run away last night and were sleeping somewhere in the corn fields...) He was busy doing repairs to the home, so he seemed happy to let the boys come with me. I put clean clothes on and started the hike back to our center. A little while later, the girls joined us in church!

After church, it was amazing to see our children's home kids rally around the little ones! When I looked up, some of the older girls were over at the tap washing Joanna's arms... Wow, wow, wow. While I was checking with our director if it would be OK for the kids to join the team for lunch, our children swept the little ones up, took them to their playground, and by the time I got to them, they were all gathered praying for them!

At lunch, it was fun watching Joyce from the team teach the little ones how to properly wash their hands, and how to eat spaghetti the Italian way! I don't think they had ever had spaghetti, and here they had a lesson in how to eat it the right way! Little Richard (Kiprono) was on my lap, and I realized how tough it is to feed a baby spaghetti without getting it all over. When he had had enough, he spat out the last bite, and when I handed him over to a Kenyan mom so I could eat, he promptly fell asleep.

While I packed a lunch for their dad, I looked over to see little Brian being given the biggest hug by Nancy! It was so precious! It was as if they were practicing what they had being experiencing as I and others have been hugging them... And then the interns and I took the kids back home. Silas was relieved to see the girls, but didn't seem angry. He himself was cleaned up, the garden cleaned up and a pile of garden scraps was being burned. He seemed thankful for the plate of food we brought him... Tonight, when the interns went back to give the kids their evening dose of antibiotics, they said that everything was going well at the house.

We're still trying to get behind why the girls run away, so I'd appreciate your prayers. But we've been assured by the village elder who found the home for them that Silas is no longer drinking. He also says that there is a pit latrine, but just no wall around it. (They'd need to encouraged to use the latrine... There was feces right outside their front door today!) And someone here has said that they would employ Silas for a job and see how he does; we might be able to employ him more often for other jobs... Things are really moving in the right direction! There's still a long journey ahead, but there's hope!

2. I got two care packages today. One came from home in South Africa, carried by a colleague of my sister to Nairobi, then by a team to Kipkaren, then by staff from Kipkaren to the airport where both them and I were picking up guests. So as I'm writing, I'm enjoying treats from South Africa. The other came from friends in the USA (also brought by the team). Fun stuff like brownie mix, trail mix, stuff like that. Amazing gifts, both packages, from amazing people. I also got a note from a friend, one of the team members from my 2003 Mozambique team. She recently got married, and the wedding favors were a contribution to my account at ELI. I am amazed and blessed by every person who finds a way to be part of this work God is doing in this part of the world.

3. I spoke to both my goddaughters tonight. In fact, Clara had put a hand-written note in my care package, saying (in Afrikaans), "Adele, I love you. And I love your cat." That's good to know. Later, I spoke to her and her little soon-to-be 2-year-old sister Anja on the phone. My first real conversation with Anja by phone, though her parroting everything I say probably doesn't really count as a conversation... Nevertheless! It was good to talk with my girls.

4. Every time I go the the kids' home and come back to my place, I realize how very blessed I am. I have a clean home, running water, electricity, more food than I can eat, even entertainment, and good health.

And I have a cat chewing on my arm... I'd better turn off the computer so she realizes it really is time to sleep.

Thank you for being part of this journey.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Surgeon's Toes, and other highlights of my day

Nancy Jepkemboi and I (photo taken on Tuesday by Laura)

We finally got permission from Silas (the dad of the kids down the road) to take his children to see a doctor and spray his house and yard with insecticide to kill the rest of the jiggers. The kids came to our center early in the morning so the spraying could begin without them being exposed to the poison. Plus, I wanted to be sure that they were nice and clean before taking them to see the pediatrician. But before they came, their dad made sure they were cleaned up. He's coming around, I'm telling you!

Their wounds needed to be cleaned, however, so we got a couple of basins with warm water and Dettol (antiseptic), and soaked their little feet in it. One by one, Ruth, the interns and I scrubbed their little feet. Mud is caked into the holes in their feet, and we literally had to scrub it out with a nail brush. It hurt me to do it, but it didn't hurt them. Not for the most part, at least. We embalmed their feet, if you will, in Triple Antiseptic ointment, put on their dirty little socks, and got ready to load up the car.

The urine running down (Brian) Kiprono's leg as we were finishing up should've given me a clue that the kid's not really potty trained, but what can you do? I asked (Joanna) Jemutai to hold her little brother on her lap while we rode to town, but no sooner had we left our compound, or he was on the seat. Good thing I have removable seatcovers.

First, we picked up Anne Chebii, a colleague who works in our town office. I realized I'd need another pair of hands. Anne and I then took the kids to the pediatrician, where we waited for about an hour before he could see us. He suggested that we see a surgeon, but prescribed antibiotics for the three youngest ones, plus medicine for Joanna's fungal infection on her face. He charged me only for one consultation rather than four, which was nice!

Off to the surgeon's office, just a few doors down. Here we waited for another two hours for the surgeon to arrive. Since there was a cafeteria downstairs, I took the kids to lunch. We ordered ugali and chicken (there was no beef, which would've been easier for them to eat), and I got them all a bottle of soda, too. They beamed at the sight of the food! I soon realized, however, that it would be a total mess to stay at the table. These kids had probably never eaten at a table. We moved outside and sat on the grass, and boy, were they happy. They gobbled down the food like it's their last meal, cleaning every single plate so only the bare bones remained. As they stood washing their hands, I saw a huge puddle form at Richard Kiprono's feet. Now, his sweat pants were drenched in urine, as were his cute little Bubblegummer shoes. Off with the pants, it was!

Back at the surgeon's office, the man was surprised that we had been sent to him. "It would take me at least four hours to remove these jiggers," he explained to me, "and in four hours, I can do several major surgeries which I'd charge 150,000KES for each (more than $2,000). It's not the right thing to remove these surgically. What you have to do is simply spend an hour a day digging out the egg sacks..."

He explained that he himself had a worse case of jiggers when he was a kid, and proceeded to take off his shoes and socks to show me how deformed his toe nails were as a result. I know, totally bizarre! The point is, though, that he had empathy, but couldn't help us. He told me that he'd read up more about specific medications that would help. He asked me to bring in copies of the articles I had found, and commented that these truly were the worst cases he has seen since his childhood. "Eldoret doesn't have jiggers," he explained. "It concerns me that these children look so bad. I might have to contact the government to go and spray the entire area in order to contain this disease."

Point is, I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that these kids are in bad shape.

Little Richard fell asleep on my lap while the surgeon and I talked about the options before us. And as the doctor talked about various topical anesthetics I might be able to use to make the removal process less painful, I felt how my lap became a warmer and warmer from the little one urinating on my lap. I tried to focus on what the doctor was saying without letting him read my mind. Thoughts flashing through my mind included, "I hope the urine stays just on my skirt. I wouldn't want to get up and leave a wet seat behind. I'm glad I'm wearing a thick denim skirt - it's soaking up more urine than a cotton one would've. What did he just say about which medicine might work??"

I asked about tetanus shots, and he referred us to the third stop for the day: ER. There, a friendly nurse gave each kid their shot. The three youngest ones took things in stride. They cried when the needle went in, but the tears stopped almost immediately. Joanna, however, put up the biggest fuss I'd ever seen. She was paranoid of a needle, and two nurses and I ended up having to hold her down! I never thought I'd ever do anything like that! But the moment the needle came out, she was all smiles. She remembered that I had told them I'd buy them each a candy if they'd endure the shots!

The last stop for the day was to get their heads shaved to prevent any diseases on their heads, and the kids looked really cute with their clean-cut little heads! They were beaming when I dropped them off at their home with some fruit to take with them.

Thank you to each one of you who have expressed care for these precious little ones. The journey ahead is still long, but they're already doing much better than when they first walked into our lives 11 days ago.

Once they're healthy and their home is jigger-free, we'll talk about options in terms of hiring someone to help at their home every day and to take care for the two boys so the two girls can go to school. But these are issues for which I'll seek insight from my Kenyan directors. I want to do what's best for the children, but also what's best for the dad. I don't want to enable him and make him dependent on us. Instead, I want to find ways to empower him to be a better father.

Some sights I don't want to forget:
  1. Their amazement the first time they used a toilet. They're used to outhouses, or quite frankly, to simply go in the field. Before we went to town, I asked them to use the chou, and they literally gawked as I flushed it after them, as in, "No way! Where did my 'stuff' just go??"
  2. The excitement on their faces when they realized we're going to ride in my car. "The big car!" they told each other as we walked over, smiling from ear to ear.
  3. Their curiosity as we were in the doctors' offices. They'd sit on the doctor's chair, look through his stuff, peak through the windows at the world a floor below them...
  4. The care among the four of them. The girls, especially, are really looking out for their little brothers. While little Richard's feet were being soaked, he literally had to stand in the basin of water. Joanna leaned forward and whispered in his ear in Swahili, "Don't be afraid. You can't fall over. I'm right behind you." It was so endearing!
  5. Little Brian's smile... He's really crept into my heart more than the others, and wherever we'd walk, he'd come and slip his wound-scarred hand into mine. As he and I sat waiting in the surgeon's office while the others were still eating, he took my hand in his and started rubbing his arms, a "please tickle my arm" gesture. As I did so, he leaned back against me, smiled, and fell asleep.
In about 2 weeks' time, a team will come to do a VBS. These kids will be invited to join. Will you please pray that God will prepare their hearts so they can know how much Jesus loves them? I've been praying lots for them, including soaking them in prayer as I wash them and treat their wounds. I have no doubt that God will heal their little bodies, but even more so, that he'll heal their hearts.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Opposites . . . and not

I've been sitting on my bed for the past few hours, working on my computer.
(Have I mentioned recently how thankful I am that my computer did NOT get
This entire time, Flannel has been curled up sleeping next to me.
I'm such a night owl.
She's not.
But she's been putting up with me petting her even while she's sleeping.
Her little belly and her ears are warmer than a hot water bottle!
And even while sleeping, she starts purring every time I start petting her.

Flannel loves touch.
I love that I'm no longer allergic to cats. At least, not to Flannel!

Déjà vu

With teams coming and going this time of year, I've been trying to figure out how I can do my jobs in two places in a way that is most effective and reflects best on the One I serve.

Though I had clearly forgotten about it, I was reminded tonight of a very similar situation when I was working in Taiwan. Cleaning out old e-mails from an account I rarely use, I found one message about the challenges of managing two very different departments. I remember the challenge of spending some hours at my desk on the 6th floor, working with a team of Web designers and programmers, Chinese and Filipino girls. And then heading down to my desk on 3rd floor, working with writers, editors, and print designers, some Chinese, some Canadian, most of them American. And just as different personalities warranted different ways of leading, so did culture play a role.

Here I am, five years later, doing a similar juggle. In Kipkaren, I work mostly with Nandi people, and my responsibilities revolve around leadership development and staff encouragement. In Ilula, I work with a mix of Tugen and Keiyos as well as some Nandis and a smattering of other tribes. And my role here is completely different from my role in Kipkaren. It's a mental switch I have to make, trying to constantly keep in mind the different boundaries and freedom that comes with working in different places. But as in Taiwan, there's also the switch in style depending on the personalities and cultures I'm working with.

It's almost like a dance. And some days, you step on toes. Or you get your toes stepped on.

Today was not one of those days. But in between connecting with our American and Russian interns and working with my Kalenjin coworkers, I had to smile.

Grant me wisdom, Lord, to speak to each person's heart in a way they can understand. And guide me in the dance so I may glorify You.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thoughts on Cross-cultural Living

A few years ago, while at APU, I was asked me to address a group of students on the topic of cross-cultural leadership. I believe that the message God lay on my heart for that evening is something I aspire to do with my life. That is, to be a cross-cultural leader (or to live cross-culturally, for that matter), ultimately means to lead (or live) in the culture of the cross.

What does that mean? To me, it means that I need to live and lead in the ways Jesus did. The bar is high, and I sometimes dive way under the bar. But my goal is still -- and always will be -- to live and lead like Jesus.

From the moment he was conceived, Jesus challenged culture. Mary was supposed to be cast out of their community for being an unmarried, pregnant woman. But she had Joseph, and Joseph was willing to stand up for her because he came to realize that it truly was a work of God. Oh, how we need more men like Joseph! Because Joseph was willing to stick his neck out and do something counter-cultural, our Messiah could indeed be born a Jew.

Jesus knew when to play by the rules of the culture (like having discussions with the men at the synagogue), but he also offended culturally (by taking to the Samaritan woman, by healing on the Sabbath, by speaking up against culturally accepted practices, by paying attention to children, by befriending women, by serving his followers through washing their feet, by befriending those who were rejected by others.)

But cross-cultural living also means following Jesus' example in other areas: having boundaries by stepping away to be refreshed and spending time at His Father's feet in prayer, caring about the poor, speaking to the culture through his stories, and to live with a profoundly deep joy that drew crowds.

I so want to make it my goal to live in the way Jesus did.

Show me today, Lord, what it means to live, to serve, and to lead in the culture of your cross.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On a Lighter Note

Here are some of my favorite photos from safari earlier in the week. For more pictures, visit my Flickr site.

Crested crane with three chicks

A dead Thompson gazelle, having been dragged into a tree by a leopard and left there for a few days. The leopard came back for the rotting carcass on Saturday afternoon, and we missed her by just a few minutes!


I love the African sky. The sun was shining bright on the grass (which is ready for the millions of wildebeest and zebras who'll arrive for the migration in about 2 weeks' time), but the sky was gray with rain coming. You can't see any animals in the grass, but chances are great that some lions were watching us. I spotted a couple of lions on one drive merely by noticing one of their tails flicking above the grass once!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

On digging out sand flea egg sacks . . . and almost being robbed!

The day started full of promise! A great time with God. Wonderful breakfast with a good friend. And then we headed out to see our little friends down the road. Armed with Dettol, needles, Triple Anti-bacterial ointment, soap, and a huge portion of courage, my friends and I headed out to see what we can do to help the little ones.

As I rounded the corner into their maize (corn) field, little Jepkemboi came running and through her arms around me. It melted my heart! This is the same little one whom I could hardly get to smile last week!
Laura, Mary, Ruth and I settled in for the task before us. Laura had my camera, so she was able to take some photos of the process. (You can see some of the pictures on my Flickr page.) We had only removed 13 egg sacks from the little ones' hands and feet when I couldn't deal with it any more. The kids were in a lot of pain!

Tomorrow, I'll be taking them to a pediatrician who will refer us to a surgeon. The pediatrician said they'd be able to remove them surgically (with local anesthesia). I counted and estimate that each of the three youngest kids have between 80 and 90 lesions! And even while we were sitting there, we killed at least five or so sand fleas (jiggers) that were trying to dig into the little ones' skins. These fleas are very, very small. There's a picture on Flickr of one of them on Kiprop's hand.

I've been careful, using gloves the whole time. However, it would be easy for one of those fleas to dig into your skin even while you're just sitting there, working. Something has to be done about the fleas in the garden and in the house.

So, after dropping off Laura at the airport, I went to the Agro-Vet store to buy poison to spray in the yard. Since I hadn't had time to burn a DVD for Laura with pictures of her time in Kenya, I took my computer to the airport with me. And though I never leave it in the car, I decided to leave my computer bag while I run into the bakery to buy bread. After all, you couldn't see the bag under the bag with poison.

Or so I thought.

After getting bread, I stopped at a street vendor to buy another pair of shoes for the kids. But the guy gave me a ridiculous price when I asked about a pair of used kids' shoes, so I wasn't even going to barter! I just laughed, turned away, and started walking to my car.

My car's higher than the average vehicle on the street, and when I looked down the road to where it was parked, I saw a man getting out of my car . . . with my computer bag in his hands!

The car was parked at least a good 50 meters (around 50 yards) from where I was right then, and I yelled, "NOOOOO!!!!" as I dashed down the road.

EVERYONE stared. Even the guy. He dropped my computer like it was about to explode and ran for his life. Literally. (In Kenya, mob justice is still practiced, and it's acceptable. If he ran with my bag, he'd be slowed down. If other guys caught him, they could literally stone him or kill him with sticks!)

In the few seconds it took me to get to my car, a crowd had gathered, asking if I'm OK, if the guy had gotten away with anything, if I had left the car open.

I was pretty shaken up, not sure for a moment if I was safe even in the crowd... "I'm OK. He didn't get anything. He busted the door lock." As I drove off, still shaking, people were staring. Some were saying how sorry they were. One guy said, "Praise God he didn't take anything." Praise Him indeed!

The corner of my computer is busted from being dropped from about 3 feet high, but it works fine. Nothing broke. Except for the lock to my car. The guy must've busted it with a screw driver.

Until I can get the lock replaced, I'd have to unlock the driver's door from the passenger side. But think about it: If the guy had busted the passenger lock (the side where the bag was, after all), I would not have seen him get out of my car! He'd have been protected by the vehicle itself!

So, as I head to bed tonight, it's with such a mixture of feelings.

Hope for our little friends down the road.

Relief that my computer didn't get stolen.

Frustration that my car door is busted.

Joy for having had friends around for the past two weeks (first Karen, then Laura).

Sadness for being back to a place where much of my journey is walked alone.

But the journey does continue. For now, Flannel simply has to endure listening to my stories.

Flannel, and you.

To read more about tungiasis, the condition my little neighbors have, visit this site.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Not for the fainthearted

I've been reading an article on the CDC Web site, thanks to a comment on my earlier posting. And judging by the pictures and descriptions, it seems that this is precisely what the children down the road have: sand fleas, or jigger fleas. The condition is known as Tungiasis.

I looked at the pictures, and they look exactly like what the kids have! An excerpt from the article says, "The female jigger flea penetrates into the skin of its host, undergoes a peculiar hypertrophy, expels several hundred eggs for a period of <3 weeks, and eventually dies. ... Within 10 days, the flea increases its volume by a factor of approximately 2,000, finally reaching the size of a pea. Through its hindquarters, which serve for breathing, defecating, and expulsing eggs, the flea remains in contact with the air, leaving a sore (240–500 mm) in the skin; the sore is an entry point for pathogenic microorganisms. The preferred localization for jiggers is the periungual region of the toes, but lesions may occur on any part of the body."

So, tomorrow morning, Laura and I will go with Ruth to carefully remove more of the sand fleas from the children's fingers and toes and inspect their little bodies for other infections. I realized that what I thought were rocks embedded into the young boys' feet may in fact be stage 2 lesions, as the flea's egg sack is growing.

The challenge with removing the egg sack is that one can easily break the sack and release the hundreds of eggs right into the sore! So it's a tedious process, and a VERY painful one at that. I'll take some candy for the kids to chew on to distract them. We'll also bathe the little ones again.

Please pray for the little ones for continued healing! I saw the girls today, and they look a big perkier. But there's still a long journey ahead.

Please also pray for us who are going to help, for protection from the very flies that are attacking the little ones. And for continued wisdom and discernment in dealing with the issues at hand - issues far deeper than egg sacks burrowed under their finger nails...

Refreshed (adj) - to give new strength and energy to

It's good to be home. After spending a day in Nairobi with Karen and Laura, Karen returned to the US and Laura and I left for safari the next morning to celebrate her 40th birthday. It was an amazing time of resting, lots of laughter, of meeting new people, of simply focusing on the beauty of the world around me...

We got back to Nairobi at 1 pm today, went to pick up The Car at Mayfield, drove straight to Nakuru, got my car (yeah!) and continued the journey back to Eldoret. Six hours later, we pulled into the children's home at Ilula and Laura got to meet the children and staff here.

It's now close to midnight. I've been catching up on urgent work e-mails, unpacked and an now more than ready to sleep.

I miss Flannel. She's still in Kipkaren. I'll be leaving for Kipkaren first thing in the morning to show Laura what we do there, and we'll be back in Ilula early in the afternoon, at which time we're hoping to go back to our friends down the road.

Speaking of those little ones: Mary, one of the moms here, knows how to remove chiggers*, and she taught Ruth. They spent some time doing that last week, and we'll go and work some more on removing the parasites from the children's feet and hands. They say that you have to be careful not to break the bug itself, or it explodes and hundreds of eggs spread into the open wound... But if you do take it out carefully and throw the little ball-like bug in the fire, it literally explodes. Apparently, the areas where the "uninvited guests" have already been removed are starting to heal! Praise God for that.

Many of you have asked how you can help. As soon as I know what more we'll be doing (other than helping them put in a floor in the house, dig an outhouse, take the kids to the doctor to get meds, buy them shoes and socks and continue to supply daily food while working with the dad on things he can do - he's been helping remove the chiggers by himself, I'm told), I'll let you know. (How's that for a record-long run-on sentence? I'm obviously tired.)

Speaking of the dad: Ruth says that he had actually cleaned up himself when they went back to the house a couple of days ago. He's been putting on clean clothing and has washed himself, so there are already positive changes!

It seems surreal in a way, having just come back from time away and being back in a world of immense need. But that's the reality of life. I am infinitely thankful that I do get to step away from time to time and get perspective from afar while spending time resting in God's presence. It's critical to do so, I've found, lest I reach a point once more where I feel I have nothing to give.

I've been filled up by beauty, by God's nature, by laughing with friends, by visiting with people who know me. For that, I'm thankful. It feels like I have something to share once again with those around me.

* I'm not 100% sure what the kids have are chiggers as you know them in the US. I'll let you know for sure what they have after I've taken them to a pediatrician in town later this week.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"Totally cool"

I've enjoyed lots and lots of laughter in the past two days. I really do love God's sense of humor. And does he ever have a sense of humor!

Yesterday, Karen and I were to drive from Nairobi. I also offered a ride to a young APU student who happened to be in Eldoret and was heading to Nairobi, so we started the day in ELI's Isuzu Trooper, driving through little rivers - or so it seemed - to town. We had had lots and lots of rain the night before, and everything was flooded! (I kept waking up in the night wondering if the kids down the road are warm enough!) Anyway, in town we got matatu (taxi minibus) tickets to Nakuru, where my car would be waiting for us. The three-hour drive over potholed roads in a van with very little seat padding was bearable, knowing my Land Rover's waiting in Nakuru...

After waiting for the mechanic to bring the car to a hotel where the shuttle dropped us off, the guy called to say he has bad news . . . as he was driving to meet us, he heard a funny noise in the gearbox!! He said he'd like to take another look at it. Though my immediate thought was "Crisis! No!", I remained unusually calm and decided I'll simply let the mechanic solve the problem. Which he did. He offered a few solutions, none of which would've worked since I had two guests with me and one on her way, so he finally offered us his Land Rover pickup for the journey.

However, his dad was out on "field service" with this car, so he called his dad, who was near Nairobi at the time to say turn back. He gave us their dinky Suzuki (no shocks, small) which they call "The Donkey" and we drove it for the next 90 minutes on the worst stretch of the road with more potholes and detours. But Karen, Ryan and I laughed so much, we hardly realized how long the bumpy ride was! Karen tried several times to take photos out the window of the flamingos on the lakes, but we'd bounce around so much, her pictures were usually of the car roof or the door! Fortunately, when we passed a herd of zebra on the road, there were no trucks behind us, so we could pull over so she could take a decent picture.

Finally, our paths crossed with Baba Riaz, about half way between Nakuru and Nairobi. We switched cars, getting into our fourth vehicle for the day, and laughed even more for the rest of the journey! Riaz is Indian and probably in his mid 30s, and his car is TOTALLY SOUPED UP. It's really not the car in which you'd expect two sort-of-middle-aged white women to be sitting in the front seats. People would gawk at the car, and then to a double-take when they notice it's not a young guy behind the wheel! The only music in the 12-CD changer is Hindi pop music and Hindi love songs, and with a sound system that could broadcast music to all the neighbors, we had quite a cross-cultural experience.

As I drove Karen and Laura around Nairobi today, we continued to have the same reaction from people around us. Young boys would stare. Men would stare. Security guards would hang around close to the vehicle in the parking lots, not to guard it, but to appreciate the sight, I believe. One such guy gave us a huge smile and a thumbs up, saying, "Poa kabisa!" (Totally cool!)

It's been really funny to me to drive into Mayfield, the missionary guest house where we're staying... There are many Land Rovers around, but none look like that one! One missionary looked at me today and said in a monotone voice, "Wow. Is that your car?" I love joking around and saying, "Yeah! Do you like it?"

Anyway, the car will remain here for the next two days as I accompany Laura on a breakaway to celebrate her big 4-0. I am looking forward to the time of R&R. On Sunday, we'll come back here, get the Bling Mobile, and drive back to Nakuru. Please join us in praying that my car will be ready then and we can take it the rest of the way to Eldoret!

Before I head to bed: For those of you who are following The Adventures of Flannel, she's doing OK. My colleague Kierra is babysitting for me, and is enjoying the time in my studio cottage in Kipkaren with the purr ball. And Flannel's loving Kierra. But aparantly, she really is missing me. God's truly blessed me through this little ball of love.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I miss my Land Rover . . . and more

As I drove the team home after a long day of ministry in Kipkaren and a moving time of fellowship at a colleague's house, I dreaded getting stuck. It had rained much of today, and we were in the rear-wheel-drive Nissan minivan. It's one of the worst vehicles to drive through the thick mud. On top of the challenge of the rear of the vehicle fishtailing every time you accelerate, the van is not nearly far enough from the ground to make it through the deep mud tracks, so you bottom out more than you'd like to!

All that to say that we did NOT get stuck, which was nothing short of a miracle. I cannot wait to get my Land Rover back tomorrow! It's been in automobile intensive care for a few weeks. Feels like months. Tomorrow, I get to pick it up from ICU and drive it to Nairobi.

I'm taking Karen to Nairobi. We'll meet my friend Laura (missionary in Mozambique) at the airport tomorrow night. We'll have a 4th of July celebration dinner at a restaurant in town, and on the 5th I'll take both girls around Nairobi to see the Giraffe Center, the elephant orphanage, and more. Then Karen flies home, and Laura and I will go on a short safari to celebrate her 40th birthday. And to rest.

This time away couldn't have come at a better time for me. I've been both haunted and driven by thoughts of my new friends. As much as their faces keep coming to my mind, I know things are already better for them.

Several of you responded yesterday, saying you'd like to help. Starting this morning, the kids have received a quart of milk. They'll continue getting milk every day. And every afternoon, they'll get porridge delivered to their home. In order to fight the infection in their hands and feet, we've got to get their immune systems stronger. They've got to eat.

I packed a bunch of bananas as I headed out with the team this morning, determined to check in on the kids. But we ran into Jepkemboi on the side of the road, so we gave her the bananas. She gave a little smile. She had milk stains on her face. It made me smile.

We got them socks today, plus underwear and deworming meds. And a blanket for their dad. Though I wish I could just shake him, I believe God is telling us to love this man, to allow him to see God's love, and that the love will be what turns his heart.

Next week, Ruth and I will take the children to a pediatrician so they can get antibiotics. It'll probably be the first time ever these kids have ridden in a car. They will have been in public transportation before, but never a private vehicle.

The journey continues.

I am thoroughly aware of how blessed I am. Muddy roads despite.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Adele's Update | July 2007

As I walked into my home earlier this afternoon, I broke down crying, my heart aching in a way I have never before experienced. …

This morning, I met four children whose little faces are now etched in my mind. I had heard of them last week when someone mentioned in passing that there are two girls living in a little hut in the cornfields, and they take care of their baby brother.

On Wednesday, I sent food to them, and I ran into the two girls on the side of the road on Saturday. This morning, I went to their home with two friends. We took a mattress and bedding, and told them we’d be back in the afternoon. We wanted permission from their father to bathe them. Here’s their story, some of it told by the oldest girl, some related by their neighbors, some by the father.
Kiprop, Nancy Jepkemboi, Joanna Jemutai and Kiparono
Maybe a year ago, shortly after the birth of Kiprono, their young mother left. What exactly the story is behind this, we won’t know. The dad says the mom is a prostitute. I don’t know. But she left her three oldest children (Joanna Jemutai, a very small 9, Nancy Jepkemboi, maybe 6, Kiprop, 4?) in the care of their father. He says he went to fetch the baby a few months ago, when he found out that the mom was drinking with the baby tied to her back, and that the baby was starving.

But now their dad is hardly ever home. He works in the area, weeding people’s fields. Colleagues who live next door say the man doesn’t come home till late at night, and when he does come home, he’s usually drunk.

I’ve seen the girls on the side of the road a few times recently, carrying water. I always waved and smiled, and on Saturday, I had a Kenyan colleague with me, so I stopped and visited a little. As I headed home, I knew I had to do something! I shared with Ruth, a Kenyan friend, and she immediately said that when I go, she’d go with me. She’s been praying, asking God to show her if there are neighbors who she is to serve.

Yesterday, Karen (a friend visiting from the US for a few days) and I bought a mattress, some sheets, and a blanket. This morning, Ruth, Karen and I walked just 10 minutes or so down the road to visit the girls and take them the bedding. We knew they’d also need a bath, but wanted to ask the dad first if we could do that later this week.

When we walked up to their home, I called, “Hodi?” (“Can I come in?”)

A little voice answered from within, Karibu!” (“Welcome!”) and the door of the wooden hut swung open. Joanna’s little face lit up as she saw me, and she flung her arms around my waist. She had remembered me from our meeting on Saturday. But more importantly, her smile said, “You remembered ME!”

The smell of urine hung heavily in the small room and around little Kiprop, whom I lifted onto my lap. The children don’t speak any English, and Ruth started visiting with them in Nandi (a dialect of Kalenjin). As she related their story to Karen and I, I couldn’t fight the tears. It’s impossible not to be moved by their story.

We told the children we’d be back in the afternoon, and as we walked home, I asked Ruth, “How is it possible that they’ve been our neighbors, and we’ve never known of them? How many times have I driven past their house with a car full of food, not knowing that they’ve not eaten for days?”

But now we know. We know their names and their faces. And more importantly, they are sleeping in a clean, warm bed tonight for the first time in years. And the children themselves are clean for the first time since their mother left. Getting them clean, though, is what caused me to break down crying today…

We did go back this afternoon, taking with us a tub of warm water, soap, Q-tips, Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Band-Aids, tootbrushes and toothpaste, and towels. We found their father, Silas, at home. Ruth explained to him that we were caring neighbors, and we visited for a while. He told her the story of their mother leaving and said yes, we can give the children a bath. (When Ruth’s husband Philip came later, he visited with Silas while the dad was chopping wood. He encouraged him that even though he lost his wife, he should take care of the children as not to lose them, too. Philip shared with him that though life seems hopeless, there is hope in Christ. Philip will go back to visit more with Silas, and he’ll help him rebuild the floor of the house as it’s below ground level, causing the wooden hut to flood every time there is rain.)

While Philip was visiting with the dad, Ruth, Karen and I bathed the little ones. One by one, we placed them on a wooden stool and bathed them in warm water. And as we started washing their little hands and feet, I could do nothing but pray for God to restore them. If I didn’t pray, I would have broken down there and then and sobbed.

Their little fingers were black with parasites eating away at the tissue. And so were their little feet. I could not get myself to look at the soles of their feet, but felt every little pebble embedded into the necrotic tissue. I cut their nails, but some were so infected that I couldn’t come near them or they’d start crying. The four-year-old was brave, however. Even as we cleaned out an oozing boil on his leg, he hardly flinched. But later, as I rubbed his body in coconut oil and dressed him in clean clothes, he lay his little head back against me, hungry for some motherly love…

When we were done, we asked the father if we could put the mattress, sheets and blanket on the bed. He agreed, hesitating at first. But Ruth explained that we would like to do that so we could send a picture to the friends who bought the mattress. (In fact, I know she said it to make sure the mattress gets on their bed, not his.) As I removed the layers of rags from their bed, I gagged. Three children have been sharing this bed, and in the seven months they’ve lived there, I doubt the urine-drenched rags have ever been taken outside.

Philip ran home to get some socks and shoes for the children, and as we waited, I sang songs to them and then took out a little bottle of bubbles from my pocket. It seemed so little, but the kids had never seen anything like it, and even little Jepkemboi who had hardly smiled all day broke into a smile as she tried to catch the bubbles floating by…

As we bid the family farewell, I had a sense of hope. These children will know that Jesus loves them! I believe they’ll get to go to school someday, too. For now, they’ll come to Sunday school. In fact, Jemutai had already come this past Sunday because Philip had walked by them on the road earlier in the week. She had asked him, “Will you take us to the wazungus (the white people)?” He said she’s welcome to come to our place on Sundays. And so she came. I believe her family will get to know Christ through her!

So, what am I to do next? I’ve asked Mama Chiri (a neighbor) to take them a quart of milk every morning. Ruth and I will visit them at least weekly and check up on their wounds. We’ll bathe the little ones, and Philip will keep reaching out to Silas through friendship. And we'll take them food from time to time.

1 John 3:16-17 has been on my mind since I first heard of these children. As I shared with the visiting team and our Kenyan colleagues tonight, several of us were crying. “Show us how to love, Jesus! May we not miss the opportunities around us to show your love.”

Thank you for touching my little neighbors’ lives today through being part of this journey.

(In the last photo, next to me is Jepkemboi, then Kiprop, Kiprono, Jemutai and Ruth.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

What am I to do?

This question has been turning around in my mind for days since I learned of a young family down the road. The mom left not too long ago, right after the birth of her baby boy. She left her husband with two girls, perhaps 6 and 3 years old, and with the baby. The husband works in town, so the children are left at home, the two girls caring for their little brother.

Today, I had the joy of meeting these little girls on my way home from smearing a neighbor's home. (Smearing is a process where you mix cow dung, mud and a little water, and you smear the mixture on all your floors. Read about the experience on the team blog.)

At first, the girls didn't want to smile. I asked them their names and they barely whispered, Joanna and Naomi. They were heading home with two small containers of water which they had gone to fetch from a nearby well. Their baby brother was at home, they explained when I asked. Alone, yes. Naomi pulled shyly at her little skirt. I asked if I could take their picture with the team, and they agreed, finally smiling a little.

Walking back to ELI, their neighbor (an ELI member of staff, the lady whose home we had just smeared) explained that they sometimes go to neighbors' homes asking for food. They sleep on the bear mud floors. They don't have other clothes than that which they were wearing.

Their little faces have been on my mind for days now as I've been passing them on the road. I don't know when's the last time they've been given a bath...

Tomorrow, we'll take them a mattress and blanket as well as some clothes. I told my friend Ruth about them, and she smiled, saying, "You know, I've been praying for a while now that God would show me if there are neighbors whom I can serve. I'll go there with you anytime. In fact, I can go and bathe the girls and their baby brother every week. We can take them food and clothes."

1 John 3:16-17 came to mind once again. I love how The Message puts it: This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

God, may I never cause your love to disappear...