Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunny Sunday

Can you see how red my face is? OK, I know it doesn't look so bad in this picture, but believe me, it's red. I look like I'm having a hot-flash like my Yaya friends, but rest assured, I'm not. It's from the sun. I was outside for a couple hours this morning taking new photos of the children in Ilula. Didn't think of putting on sunscreen. Came back home with my face on fire. OK, not really. But burned. I usually am careful. Just didn't think of it today since it was rather chilly in Ilula.

I went to Ilula yesterday afternoon, just to go and visit my friends there. Spent much of the afternoon visiting with the children. It was SO GOOD to see them. They always have a million questions! Then I had dinner with the Rono family, went to say good-night to all the kids, and had a conference call till late in the night. Today was spent taking photos, catching up with colleagues, and finally heading back to Kipkaren, after much chai and talking. It was dark by the time I rolled in.

I don't like driving here at night. You don't see African pedestrians easily, and there are many pedestrians. More than there are cars and trucks on the road. The other reason why I don't like driving here at night is because of the trucks. It's a 2-lane "highway" out to where I live. It's the road that goes from Mombasa all the way to Kampala, Uganda, so there's a lot of truck traffic on the narrow road.

Anyway, I'm home safely. Flannel's glad. She rearranged my home for me while I was gone. How nice of her.

Oh, I saw the Sifuna kids while in Ilula. Tomorrow, they are going to school to register! They'll start school in January. Three of the four kids, that is. Kiprop and Jepkemboi will be in Baby Class (preschool) and Jemutai will be in Middle Class (Pre-K). I love knowing that these kids will have an opportunity to learn.

Their dad, by the way, has been working at the ELI training center in Ilula for the past month, helping in the gardens. Apparently, he's doing a great job and they'll keep him on. What a huge change in their lives. Now he won't have to walk around every day looking for a day job!

Other than that, I'd love to upload some of the photos I took today, but I am wiped out from the sun. And am going to end this day by relaxing a bit, perhaps watching a movie. You'll have to see the photos another day.

Lala salama. Sleep in peace. I'm sure I will. If Flannel will let me.

P.S. In case you're looking at the picture wondering what's behind me: I don't have space for a closet in my house, so I put up a bar on the wall where clothes hang from. And the white thing is my mosquito net. Wouldn't want to live without it out here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about something she felt strongly about: the plight of women in the D.R. Congo. "I'm not usually passionate about anything," she commented somewhere in the middle of the conversation, and continued to talk about the issues the women in that part of the world face, and what we can (and cannot) do to help.

Her comment about passion has been turning in my mind. Am I passionate about things? I would surmise that my friend and I are very different in that area. When I feel strongly about something, you know it!

Like gender issues in rural Africa. A definite hot button for me. It never was. In fact, gender issues per se never has been an issue to me. Until I moved to rural Kenya and I started seeing things from a different viewpoint. Even now, as I'm typing this, I go back and delete much of what I had written, because I can so easily get going on this... But God has been teaching me when to speak and when to be quiet. I don't always "get it," but I'm learning. Often, though, I don't want to be quiet. I want to speak for those without a voice in this culture. But not here. Not now.

Other things that get me going? They're not hot buttons, just topics I am passionate about, that usually get me talking. Like the fact that Macs are far superior to PCs. Or simply the incredible bird life around us in Kenya, especially in Kipkaren. Or African wildlife. And the correct use of adverbs.

Or God. In fact, I heard a quote this morning by Beth Moore that's been playing in my mind. "Whatever our perception of God may be, he's MORE, and BETTER."

I can go on and on and on. But I won't. Not now. Meet me for coffee at Java Creek, and we can talk... (Ah, I wish.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wondering, again

Though there are far more complex issues to wonder about, tonight, there's merely one simple question on my mind:

Why is it that Flannel sleeps all evening while I'm at work, and the moment I lower my mosquito net and get into bed, she starts playing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Every night, before I go to sleep, I get to rearrange my small house. OK, not the entire place, but a few things. I get to put away all the loose knickknacks on my dresser. I am not a big knickknack person. I have only a giraffe, two angel statues and a little plaque on my dresser. It used to be 3 angels. One lost her head. Literally. That's why I get to put everything away.

Because at 4 a.m. sharp, Flannels is done sleeping for the night. She starts rearranging things. (Hence the beheading of my favorite angel figurine. It'll have to be glued back together.) If I leave papers on my desk, she rearranges those on the floor for me. If I want my house in relatively good shape when I wake up, I have to put away any potential kitty toy. Every night. So every morning, I get to redecorate my dresser. Because I only have so much drawer space in my house. Three drawers in total, to be exact. Unless you add the two small ones in the kitchen, too. (That's five more drawers than I have in Ilula...)

Alas! Flannel finds other ways to amuse herself. Many nights, she climbs up my mosquito net, chasing mosquitoes. Not a good thing. It's not really built to withstand the weight of a growing kitten. Or she chew my toes. Or takes things off my walls. A Pokot arrow, to be specific. She loves taking it off the wall around 5 a.m.

Hence, the other thing I have to do every night, is move the little stool on which I keep my computer. It's next to my dresser; the best spot to get Internet reception. It also makes for a perfect spot to sit and play with the arrow mounted on my wall. Flannel has managed to dismount the arrow many a night. Unless I move the stool before I go to bed.

Why don't I just let her out? At 4 a.m., the cat-eating dogs are still too much of a hazard. By 6, I usually throw her out the front door. Just as I get up and start my day!

For the non cat lovers out there . . . you probably can't understand why I'd put up with this. Feed Flannel to the dogs, I imagine some of you thinking. Ah, but I won't allow that to happen. 'Cause Flannel's my friend, you see. She's the one I come home to every day. The one who is happy to see me, and who curls up with me when I take lunch-time naps. Just so she can have lots of energy by 4 a.m.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finding Hope

Victor, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

This morning, I joined our social worker Ruth for some home visits. The families we were to visit are both ones with pretty dismal stories, and I didn't really know what to expect. "Show us, Father, how to share the hope that we have in You," I prayed as we started the journey.

First stop: Tekla's house. This mother of six has made some improvement since people from ELI have started visiting her. But she's still trapped in alcoholism, which truly prohibits the family from making much-needed improvement. Her husband is an alcoholic, too, and he smokes bang (marijuana). One night, while he was high, he attacked their one son, trying to cut his head off.

The son survived, but his vocal cords were severed, leaving him without a voice. He is now living with someone in another community.

The dad ended up in prison, but has since been released, and everyone's dreading the day he may show up at home...

In the meantime, Tekla continues to drink while having four children at home. There's hardly a thing in their house. No food. Just some dirty pots from having cooked porridge this morning. ELI's home-based care team provides the flour for the porridge. They've learned not to bring more than she can cook in just a few days since she trades food for alcohol.

Tekla wasn't there when we showed up, so we got to visit with the kids for a while. Jeptoo, the 8-year-old, reminds me a lot of Jemutai. She's yet another young girl who basically has to care for younger siblings... Ruth has been encouraging Jeptoo to help their 3-year-old sister Jesang to walk. Jesang is about the size of my American neighbors' 1-year-old. She doesn't walk. She hardly talks. We suspect it's from neglect, but Ruth is taking her to a clinic in town later this week to see if it might be a physical handicap. In the meantime, Jeptoo is shown how to hold Jesang's hand and carefully help her to take little steps.

While the girls are working on walking, 6-year-old Cosmas quietly plays with his baby brother, Victor, who is just shy of 2 years old. "Cosmas has a severe stutter," Ruth explains later, "so he doesn't talk much." But Victor is oblivious to the trails his older siblings have faced. His age has been the protecting factor, just like in the case of Kipruto.

We leave later with a promise of being back. I call the guys from our AA ministry, and they commit to come and visit Tekla, to talk to her about joining our November intake at Kipkaren. "Things will be better, Adele," Ruth assures me. "They already are. But the mom must stop drinking..."

A 40-minute-or-so walk from there, we stop at our next home for the morning, that of Lillian, the mom with twins. Her home is a stark contrast with the one we had just visited. The compound has been swept. Clean laundry is hanging on the line.

"Karibu!" the young mom says with a big smile. Her hair has been wound into small balls, and as we sit down in her sparse living room, she cannot stop fiddling with her hair, constantly twisting new balls. It looks cute, but I can't help but wonder about the mom. She's just . . . different.

We ask about her babies and she's happy to report that she's now producing more milk, but not enough to sustain both. "She's still feeding the babies uji," Ruth translates. "She says porridge has more nutrition than milk..." Riiiiight. For 2-month-olds! "And she says she's adding Blue Band [margarine] to fatten them up." I just about swallowed my tongue.

We visit more, and she tells us that she still gets really bad dreams. I pray for her before we head out, but somehow, I just can't seem to find the right words to pray. I don't know why.

Ruth stays behind to talk to her about family planning. The 29-year-old isn't interested. "I can't take shots," she explains to Ruth. "I have cancer."

"What kind of cancer?"

"It moves all over my body..."

"Would she be willing to give them formula if I bought it?" I ask Ruth on the walk home.

"We can try!"

Lillian used to brew alcohol for an income, but no longer does it. Typically, she sells her body to make money...

We walk home in silence. What can we do for our neighbor? Her problems go far deeper than producing enough milk for her twins. It's more than postpartem depression. I am no doctor, so I cannot say, but others talk of schizophrenia. And some major spiritual issues.

Where's the hope in this? 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you and accounting for the hope that is in you." I know my hope is in Christ. He gives meaning to my life. But I've never gone to bed hungry. I've not had a parent abuse me, or be psychologically unstable. How is it possible to keep the hope when your world is far less than simple.

God knew I needed an answer, that this week, more questions seem to be coming forth from my side than I can find simple answers for. So he sent Nellie to my door.

"Adele! I praise God for this chance to see you!" my friend said with all sincerity as she gave me the biggest hug. She's here for an interview, and still has to make the couple-hour journey back home, so we cannot visit for long.

As we walk over to the children's home so she can see her nephew and niece, she cannot contain her joy. "I have to tell you! My mother is now sober!"

"How did that happen??!"

"She just quit drinking one day! God has answered my prayers of many years. I cried for one week. Tears of joy, really. Our home is a different place. Imagine... my mom can now cook for us. I can find a job!"

Sydney and Niva smile the biggest smiles I've seen in a while when they see their aunt walking over. They give her huge hugs and fumble to find the right words. Having lived in a Swahili-speaking environment for a year now, they've forgotten much of their mother tongue. Nellie switches to Swahili and tells them news from Mt. Elgon, of cousins who send greetings. Then she tells them that gogo no longer drinks. Their little smiles cannot get any bigger!

"It's ONLY because of God, Adele," Nellie assures me as I drive her to the main road. "I have seen God break through so many areas! Now, people are starting to say in my village, 'I want my daughter to be like Nellie. I don't want her to undergo FGM.' Imagine! God is answering my prayers."

Indeed. Nellie was the first girl in her village to refuse FGM. She was shunned by her community and by her family. Yet she stayed on so she could serve her alcoholic parents and her siblings who were dying of AIDS. Today, people are starting to follow her example.

When I finally drop her at the matatu stage, my heart is light. God does indeed answer prayers. And though change happens slowly in rural Kenya, it does happen. It takes only one to stand up against cultural practices that have gone unchallenged for too many years.

As for cases like that of Tekla and Lillian, it takes a village to come alongside these families. To love and support them. To show them Christ's love.

I am infinitely grateful to be part of a village and a ministry who is doing just that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday Events

Just some pictures that I took this afternoon. After I came back from town, I went to watch the friendly (yet fierce) game between the Kipkaren staff (men) and some of the agriculture students. The staff won. (The students won last weekend, so I guess there'll be a final playoff next weekend.)Brian is a 1-year-old who's a biological son of one of the parent couples. He's usually all smiles, but wasn't feeling too well today.
After hurting a muscle, Pastor Peter decided to head up a cheering squad of kids from the home. (Behind them you can see a new classroom that's being added onto our school.)
I was delayed in heading home since Rooney and his friends had found a baby bird, so we had to get a ladder and put it back in its nest. (I hope it'll survive!) But in the process I got to watch the most beautiful sunset.

Walking home as the sun continues to set... Sometimes, the African sky can take your breath away!

Post Script: Faith

"Faith is not the result of striving, it's the result of rest. It's yielding; you yield your way into faith. We strive only to impress people." Says one of my favorite Bible teachers, Bill Johnson.

Wondering out loud

This morning, I left home too late to make it in time for an English service in town. So I took my Bible, my Believing God Bible study guide, and my iPod. And I went to Poa Place, an outdoor restaurant-type-place. It's really a family place, and I have discovered that when you go there alone, you get ignored. Which is nice, sometimes. But not when it's your waitress ignoring you. That's an all-together different story. Besides the point.

Point is: There I was sitting, surrounded by families coming for a Sunday afternoon buffet, kids swimming, some young foreigners basking at the poolside. And I was in my own world, under my umbrella, visiting with God about Hannah.

Because I don't understand. In Matthew alone, time and again, Jesus says things like, "Your faith has made you well." Or "According to your faith, let it be done." "Let is be done for you as you wish." And then the famous "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." Sometimes it was a parent believing on behalf of their child. Sometimes someone for their own healing. In the famous passage in Acts, the lame man is healed because of Peter and John's faith.

I believe God can heal Hannah. I have no doubt about it. Every time I go to visit, I go expecting to see her well! Yet her condition is deteriorating fast. Despite the fact that God can heal her. Despite her faith, and that of her family.

So I started wondering about some things. Like if I am trying to manipulate God. If I pray this way, or if I do that, surely God will answer. That would be like Romans 4: 4-5. It would be like expecting wages for work done. Or not? So what am I to do? Simply believe.

In the meantime, I will keep asking God to heal Hannah. And, I will not be offended at the fact that in the meantime, God has not yet healed her. Because God also reminded me of the passage in Matthew 11, where he was talking to John the Baptist. John was in prison, waiting to be beheaded. He was in prison despite the fact that Jesus came to set the captives free.

I don't understand it. I honestly do not believe it is God's will for Hannah and her family to be suffering the way that they are. Jesus was always about fixing what was broken, healing the sick. I do not believe this tragedy is the will of God. But it is.


I don't know.

I'm not putting this out there to ask for a theological explanation. I honestly do not think we can come up with the answer. Point is: God is God. We are not. I believe he can heal Hannah. He has not yet. But I will not give up asking God for her healing. Because I've seen him do even greater things.

And so, I will keep believing. I will keep seeking him. And I will keep asking God to show himself to Hannah and her family throughout this time. And to heal Hannah. Because he can.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What you wouldn't do to watch a game...

So there we were, driving in the boonies, trying to find Hudson's home. Cosmas was our guide, but he had never driven to the house; he's only walked, taking shortcuts. There's no electricity in the area where Hudson lives, and hardly a road to speak of. We were driving along a footpath, looking for the home. Finally, we made it. And then Hudson only had a few channels, none of which had the rugby on... (He has solar power, just in case you're wondering.)

It's about 90 minutes later, and we're finally home. Saw a mongoose on the drive home. And a hare. So it was sort of a night safari.

Right now, at half time, South Africa's leading 9-3. I tried finding the audio on the radio, but no luck. I'll just have to get score updates from home.

Later: And South Africa is once again rugby world champions! I can only imagine the excitement at home!

Rugby fever

I LOVE watching a good game of rugby. It's what I grew up on, Saturday after Saturday...

And tonight, South Africa is playing England in the finals of the Rugby World Cup. I'm told everyone at home has rugby fever. Some burger joints are selling green burgers this weekend. (Our national team's color is green and gold.) The newspaper was printed in green ink yesterday. A blimp was flying over the N1 (highway connecting Pretoria and Jo'burg) saying "Go Bokke!" (Our national team is the Springboks, or short, the Bokke.)

So there's no way I could not watch the game. My rugby-loving neighbors found out that our one colleague has cable TV, so we're heading out now to watch the game. Fortunately, we don't have to make the trek to town to watch it there. We only have to find Hudson's home, somewhere around Kipkaren... :)

I hope SA creams England!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sad News

Since I told you on Monday about a baby being delivered by Juli and Allison, I thought I should pass on the following sad news from Juli.

We received news this afternoon that the baby had passed away last night at the hospital. I do not know anymore details but ask again for prayer for Karen, the baby's mother, as she grieves the loss of her child.

In this journey, there is joy and sorrow. There are too many harsh realities to try and understand; but tonight, I am asking the Comforter to come and do just that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Don't try this at home

When I called my friend Phoebe, asking if she's eaten yet, she answered quickly. "Bado." (Not yet.)

"Could you, Ruth and Betty come to my place for dinner?"

"We can come!"

Hardly two minutes later, the three ladies were at the door while I was still throwing some things in the pot. I decided to make pasta and meat sauce. I put some melon and ham on the table for them to snack on while I finished cooking. And avocados. An interesting combination of foods, but I feel strongly about not caring about what exactly I feed impromptu dinner guests. As long as it's tasty, right? And by the sounds coming from the dinner table, the guests enjoyed the interesting appetizers.

As we enjoyed the pasta and sauce, we visited about all things interesting. Like the snake that was killed in our compound yesterday.

And then Betty told us about the time when she was really little, when a snake spat her in her eyes, but how she and her sister were too afraid to go home and find help because they were our stealing fruit from a neighbor... So as they were hiding, her eyes swelled shut. And her face swelled up. Then her neck started... They finally went home, Betty not being able to see a thing. Her eyes were throbbing with pain.

In order to help, people started making incisions all over her face (the inch-long scars can still be seen) until her grandma showed up.

"What do you think you're doing? It's a snake bite. Where's a nursing mother?"

And so Betty's life was saved by the mother squirting breast milk into her eyes.

For real.

I hope I never have to try that.

But then again, rather that than lose my sight, or my life!

Little Neighbors

Just so you, too, can share in the joy of meeting my little neighbors, albeit over cyberspace. I love these little ones. Their dad's description of them in a recent update, though, made me laugh out loud. Because it's all true.

We don't write much about our kids, which is probably for the best, since some of you still think we are normal. But I figured I would start this email out with some news about our girls. They are 3 and 1 and full of life. Tovah's first parent-teacher conference was to address her naked escape from school. She really likes school, and she really likes clothes, so we are hoping this was an isolated event.

Elami is not a child to be trifled with either. She wrestles with such ferocity that she totally takes out Tovah, the cat, and unsuspecting guests. She has also specialized in producing her own bath toys (to her delight and our horror). But they are well-cultured kids too: Tovah has perfected the craft of cutting newspapers into confetti. "Practicing cutting" she calls it. Lami, meanwhile, enjoys water-colors—not so much painting with them as eating them, particularly blue—it tastes almost as good as play-doh or cat food.

Tovah's hobbies include feeding the fish, mothering the reluctant area dogs, providing tough love and close supervision to the cat, and startling the cows with her aggressive enthusiasm to feed them. We will be astounded if Tovah does not become a vet (or a poacher).

Elami spends lots of time practicing her yelling, hitting things, and generally asserting herself. With her newfound mobility she is able to assert her self further afield and the cat seldom comes home anymore. She is also determined to operate the stove and to eat the cat's food.

We fear that our children do little to aid Africa's stability, but we think we've noticed a trend towards improved family-planning efforts since our arrival.

No, they're really not little monsters. Far from it. Here they are with their mom and me when we were in Kigali, en route to the Congo.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Today was an odd day. I got up and had great plans for the day. My list was made. And I even managed to quickly throw a batch of chocolate chip cookies in my toaster oven before heading to the office, just to top things off. It was going to be a great day. A very productive day.

Things turned out very differently. I was asked to assist someone with a task which took much longer than I hoped it would. Little by little, the impatience grew in me. By 11 a.m., when there was still no end in sight in helping the other person, I spoke up. (I had tried earlier. I was being very assertive, in fact, but it was not being received.) "I need to leave now. I need to go to town so I can be back by 4 pm."

Four, because that's when the women's Bible study starts. The one the ladies asked me to join. The one I've been really excited about joining, but have not yet been able to attend due to scheduling issues. Today, I'll make it.

And yes, I had to run to town on a work day because I was working all of Saturday and my fridge is void of any goods that can be tossed together for a good meal. And plus, most of my town chores were work stuff...

So by noon I was finally on my way. Pick up a 118-pound box which was supposed to have been here while the optometry team was here. Drop off receipts with the accountant. Buy bread from Baker's Yard, and order some tea and a cheese pie for lunch. Make another list of things to do and buy in town while chasing the pie with tea. Run to Posta to pick up a package. ("Sorry. That counter is closed for lunch. Come back at 2.") Pick up groceries. I decide to make the day a bit better by buying ice cream. But that means I have to buy ice to put in the cooler box so the stuff doesn't melt during the hour-long drive home. Only the Coke distributor in town carries ice. After waiting half an hour for the ice guy to come (by now, I could be halfway home!), I finally get a block of ice. Stop by a few more places to pick up colleagues who've asked for rides back to the village. And finally head home.

It's far too late for the Bible study, so I let that go. I visit with the guys in the car, learning about the successes they've seen in their line of ministry. The frustration leaves as I appreciate the moment of fellowship on the road. About half way home, I pass Maru (our driver) driving really fast toward town. Odd, I think. Maru usually goes to town in the morning. I wonder what's up.

Only later do I learn that he was rushing a young mother to the hospital. The lady had just given birth to a little girl on the side of the road while Juli was trying to get her to the hospital. (Read this crazy story!) Too bad I was running errands, I think. Else I would've probably been with Juli and Allison, driving this young mom to the hospital!

But I wasn't. Not today.

After a few other commitments and after dinner with my neighbor-friends who thoroughly appreciated my contribution of oh-so-rare-in-this-part-of-our-world ice cream, I finally get to curl up on a chair and open my package. Among, other books, there's Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!

And since I didn't grow up in a culture where Dr. Seuss was known, I get to read the book for the first time as an adult. And I smile as I think how very true this book is, how it seems like just the story I should read at the end of a day like today, toward the end of a year like this year...

And so, tonight, before I crawl into bed, let me read bits of it to you. Just in case you, too, haven't had the joy of reading it till today. Or even if you're like my friend Jessie and have read every Seuss book a million times, perhaps you can imagine this being read in my odd accent... (I'd read/type it all, but then I'd be violating copyright laws...)

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!


You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to great heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't.
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're dark.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?


You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes of No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.


Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.


Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.


I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you'll be quite a lot.


On and on you will hike.
And I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
ad Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


be your name Buxbaum or Booysen or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So ... get on your way!

Yes, yes, I changed the second name from Bixby to Booysen. Just to see if you're paying attention.
And thanks, Tom, for the gift of children's books. :)


That's our wireless network. Not me. I should be very, very thankful for having wireless Internet in the boonies of Kenya. But despite my immense gratitude, it still drives me up the wall when the network drops me every few minutes and often won't let me back on for several minutes. (just lost it again!) Which leads to this crazy game of moving my computer around my house or my bed (which I'll do in a minute) till it finds the signal and then trying to reconnect... I know, (ah! it's back), it's silly. I should simply be glad I'm connected to the rest of the world. Which I am. Really.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Walk in the Forest

A walk in the forest, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

I'm back from the forest. After getting up at 5:30 on Thursday to make coffee for the team that was leaving, I got my things together, loaded the car, and took off for the forest with 11 other staff members from our home-based care ministry. This is the team that runs ELI's AIDS ministry, but also cares for anyone in our extended community who needs someone to walk the journey with them. People like the Sifunas, or like Hannah, or Lillian, the mom with the twins.

I'm not part of that team, but I went along to assist with facilitating some of the sessions. The purpose of the weekend was to rest, to reflect, and to plan ahead. And we did all of that, and more. We laughed, got to know each other, we ate good food and shared stories.

It was so much fun to discover what things my Kenyan colleagues simply weren't used to. Understandably, they had no idea which knives and forks to use, which side plate was theirs, or which glass. But everyone was keen to learn! They asked the waiters to teach them to fold napkins, and they wondered aloud about the strange dishes that showed up. In fact, on our ride home, Meshak wanted to know if it's really monkey meat we ate at breakfast. I assured him that bacon was from pigs, not monkeys like his friends told him... He--and several others--had never had bacon before. Nor salad, pie, or sauerkraut.

So it was quite an adventure for them. So much so that some are talking about saving 20/= a day all of next year so they can go back there by themselves at the end of the year... (That's just more than a quarter a day.)

I love it about this team. They had fun, and they had no qualms showing it. They worked hard, like they always do, and came up with even loftier goals for next year. They want to see more people tested for HIV, more people helped. Most of them can find higher-paying jobs in other places, but they choose to stay and serve here because of the immense job satisfaction. And it shows.

We played Jenga our first night, combining it with answering questions about yourself after you jengad. (Jenga is Swahili for build, so here, we use the word as a verb while playing the game.) And if someone toppled the tower, they were showered with any and all questions people may want to ask.

By the time the generator was switched off, we continued the game by candlelight and flashlight.

Same last night. They watched a movie (I went to bed early) and played Scrabble, Chinese solitaire and Uno till way after midnight.

This morning, we did some fun team building activities where I had everyone blindfolded, trying to make a square. It's always fun to do these activities, but what's even more fun is to do the debriefing afterwards. "Who was the leader? Why did others take over? Why did you not listen to that person's advice?" and so on and so forth. Learn through play.

Oh, and yesterday, Juli had us all go out and spend time reflecting on "Thus far, the LORD has helped us," (1 Sam. 7:12) by drawing stones with people or event names in them. And so, throughout the various events, people shared some of the stories from their stones, and I wrote the names from their stone stories on rocks I had collected from the forest. We brought them back as a reminder of what God has done.

We concluded our time together with a time of affirmation. Though we thought it would take perhaps an hour or two, we spent almost five hours (!) sharing what we appreciated about one another. I can attest to the difference it has already made in relationships, simply because people could share their hearts. In fact, during the ride home, everyone in my car was involved in a VERY heated discussion about Christ and culture because of something that was said during the afternoon session. It was exhilarating to be a part of the ride home, to hear people's hearts, to be able to share some of my heart with them, too.

By the time I dropped everyone at home tonight and Maru's children ran and threw their arms around their dad, my heart was smiling.

I had made some good friends this weekend. I got to know an amazing team, and they got to know me a bit, too. I discovered that some of them had been a bit afraid of me before, because, I'm told, I have high standards. But spending these days together, sharing, laughing, praying, eating, having communion, made us a stronger team. Even though I'm technically not a part of their team.

Click on the picture to see more photos from the weekend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Today is a national holiday in Taiwan. And in Kenya, it turns out. Not that we had the day off. There's a team here, plus we were planning a retreat. Tomorrow, some of us are taking the home-based care team on a retreat to the forest for some rest & relaxation as well as for planning the year ahead. I'm in charge of the team building/encouragement type stuff. So though we're going on just a short retreat, I have an Action packer full of games, a projector to watch a movie one evening, candles for when the solar power gets turned off at 10, snacks for everyone. It'll be fun, I know. But I am tired. I hope to get some rest in between events. Perhaps while they are doing planning, I can slip out and simply sit at the edge of the forest and be with God.

I think Flannel has no idea why I keep leaving. I think when I come back on Saturday evening, I'm going to lock the door and not show my face for a day and a half. If possible.

We went to see Hannah again this morning. She's doing well. In fact, she was in rare form. She was sitting outside, in the sun, on a tarp and a blanket. Her family takes her to sit in the sun every day. We visited and it was hard to see how the tumor is continuing to grow and invade her mouth. And we sang worship songs, read passages from the Bible, prayed together, laughed, and sang more.

So, in between team stuff and home visits and staff retreats, it feels like I've not gotten much done recently. But I know it's not true. At times, though, the editor in me wants to see the results of a month's hard work in form of three magazines, of radio shows and such.

But you can't measure life here tangibly. It's so very different. How do you measure encouragement and prayer, relational ministry and intercession? You simply cannot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Off to see Hannah

After breakfast with the visiting team, Juli and I will go to see Hannah. I am excited to hear what God has been teaching her. And to simply sit by the foot of her bed again and visit, and sing worship songs.

When I'm back, I have a list of at least 20 things that need to be done today. I'm leaving in the morning to help facilitate a planning retreat for our Home-based Care team. We're going to the forest, and I'm in charge of the teambuilding aspects of the retreat. Got lots of things planned for that... It should be fun. It's an amazing group to work with. They're mostly responsible for caring for people in our community with HIV/AIDS.

Can't wait to report to you all God has been doing!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Adventures in Kenya

Smile!, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

This week, after a chock full few days with a team from Iowa, I had the privilege of joining them on their debriefing safari. (Just so you understand: We strongly encourage all teams to go on a short safari after spending time in the boonies, so they can process that which they had experienced and consider the question, "As a result of what I've experienced, what does God want me to do?" If you simply hop on an airplane and fly home, the busy-ness of life back home often gets in the way of processing.)

This team invited me along for their safari. We had an amazing time of appreciating creation, of resting a bit, of processing, and of simply enjoying each others' company.

One highlight from the safari included seeing the crossing of the wildebeest and zebras. Millions of animals migrate between the Mara and Serengeti each year, and it was a true National Geographic moment, sitting by the river, waiting patiently until the first wildebeest took the plunge and started swimming.

Other highlights (for me) included seeing a Kori bustard, the biggest flight bird in Africa. I had last seen one in Namibia, almost 20 years ago! And seeing a pair of juvenile African fish eagles feast on a mud fish. It was amazing watching the eagles throw their heads back and utter their amazing call that seemed to echo along the river. Of course we saw lots of lions, too, and even four cheetahs. And we saw a black rhino, which is rather rare in this area.

Click on the baby zebra for a few shots from safari.

I'm back in Nairobi now and was able to get a hair cut today and get some rest. My day tomorrow is filled with some Nairobi meetings, plus I get to meet a new team and take them to Ilula and Kipkaren for a short visit.

I hope to get caught up on lots of work this week. That's life, eh? A constant catching up. It's nice to have had some time away in the midst of all the hustling, though.

Some of you had commented on my previous post on my neighbors with the twins. Our community in Kipkaren is standing together and helping out the mom and her children. Someone has also offered to help out specifically with providing money for food.

Jesus said in Luke 12:48, From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

It's been humbling to watch both Kenyans and international friends step out to help out. Sometimes, the needs that surround me can be overwhelming. It's at times like those that I can but remind myself that it is not for me to try and solve the problems. I simply need to obey where God is leading, follow Him in the work He's already doing rather than get in His way and try to take things in my own hands. But at the same time, once again, to obey when I sense Him asking me to do something that's far bigger than I am.

That's life in Kenya, I'd say.

It's an adventure, and God's the guide. I love that!

Thursday, October 04, 2007


A recent visitor and I had a conversation about simplifying life. Though I try to live a simple life, I often have to face the fact that I have so many more luxuries in my small home than most of my neighbors do. The mere fact that only Flannel and I occupy this little space makes us different than probably every other person miles around. You simply don't live alone our here!

So when I became aware of a really bad situation nearby, of a young prostitute who have twins and who has no food, so she cannot produce milk for the 6-week-old babies, I caught myself actually thinking about helping in a way beyond simply giving towards getting her food and thus saving the twins' lives. Someone asked, "Why don't you take the babies to live with you." My immediate thought was, "You've got to be kidding!" Maybe the person was kidding. But maybe not. It's not unusual in this culture to raise others' children since they cannot afford to do so.

I know I won't be able to get much work done if I have a child. My world would, in fact, become much more complex rather than simple. As it is, it's hard enough to arrange for a cat sitter when I leave town to meet teams or to go for some time away. Taking in a baby is far, far more complex. I have no illusions about that.

Yet it haunts me that just a mile from here lives a mother whose babies may die any day unless they get help. And yes, I know helping doesn't necessarily include me actually taking in a child to live with me. There are many, many, many ways to help!

Tomorrow, I go on a journey with a team, and will stay an extra day in Nairobi to receive the next team. I hope to get my old phone number back while I'm in the city. Still haven't been able to do that. And hopefully I can get a haircut. And some good rest.

It's been a full few days, but ones filled with incredible opportunities to share Christ's love in very tangible ways. And for that, I thank God.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

In a Nutshell

So it's been a few days since I blogged. I really do have a good reason or five for the silence. It mostly has to do with the fact that I have 12 guests from Iowa on the ground. That's two teams at the same time. It just happened that way. Not ideal at all, especially since I have personal connections with both teams and want to make their stay as meaningful and memorable as possible. In the process, I'm not living in my house (not enough space right now with the teams here plus 35 new agric students), plus my days have been packed to the point that I am totally spent by the end of the day. (So much so that I fell asleep starting to write this update last night.)

Some of the highlights of the past few days include the following:

Standing in Awe
As I rounded the corner on Sunday morning, I got chills. It was just before sunrise, and on the sports field before me stood more than a hundred staff and children. They were spread out, each on their own spot, except for handful of 5- and 6-year-olds who huddled together. There was total silence, save the sound of birds and the rushing river. Everyone was praying. Quietly. Just talking to God. And listening.

After some time, we came together, sang a worship song, and closed in prayer. Simple. Honest. It was a holy moment.

We have sunrise prayer meetings every Saturday and Sunday morning for anyone who wants to attend. Before, I was never in Kipkaren on weekends. And since I've moved here, I simply haven't attended because I simply hadn't remembered to go. It's early for a night owl, even though I wake up at 6 every morning, walking to the school for a community event is just not the first thing on my mind. But that will be different from now on. I will go back, I know.

"We treat. God heals."
Those are the words on the plaque at our brand new clinic. A team from Iowa sponsored a brand new addition to our clinic and they had the joy of officially opening it on Sunday. Everyone from church walked to the clinic right after the service. You could see a long, long line of young and old making their way through the valley and up to where the big, new clinic is. And they sang and danced and thanked God for the blessing of having this clinic right in the heart of our little village, that there is a place to go and find treatment. We planted some trees, prayed, sang some more, had sodas, and everyone walked through the clinic.

And then we had a meeting to plan for the next 3 days' clinic, because people were already starting to show up to see the doctors. While some of the team unpacked their supplies, I took Juli and some of the others to visit Hannah. It was such a nice visit! The eye patch DeAnn brought gave Hannah some dignity, I think. She didn't have to work at constantly trying to cover her left eye in order to focus with the right. Instead, she could simply visit with us.

I asked if I could take some photos of their family, outside. I'd like to have one enlarged and framed for the family. We went outside and visited until the sun started setting. If we'd've agreed, we'd still be there! Hannah wanted to visit more, even have us spend the night. We laughed together and joked about going for a run with Hannah. As her daughters helped her back inside, we hiked back up the hill to drive home, blessed by her faith and joy.

Monday Madness
On Monday, the team saw 135 patients. As we visited about the experience last night, they shared the frustration of not being able to do more, the shock at some of the things they saw, the hope of having being able to help many. Some of the crazier cases included seeing a guy who had a piece of brick in his eye. It has been there for weeks and was thoroughly embedded in the eye. Dr Fitzgerald was able to remove the rock, the size of half a kernel of rice, and the man went home satisfied. As did many, many others.

The McCrights and I had gone to Ilula for the day. They wanted to see what we did there and meet the Sifuna family. They helped me bathe the kids and brought a brand new outfits for everyone. The kids literally shined from head to toes before we left. Even Silas got new clothes (though he didn't put it on since he was working in the yard at the time). I took out new jiggers from three of the kids' hands and toes, and even from Kiprop's lip! Actually, we thought they were jiggers on his lip, but it turned out to be a cold sore. He sat patiently, though, as I opened the sore on his little upper lip. He's such a strong kid! But he knows, too, that he's being cared for, that the pain comes with freedom from pain.

We prayed together, and I told Silas that in January, when the girls start school, that we'd send Kiprop, too. (They start school at age 3 here.) What joy to know that we can be part of this family's world. Now, we must just find a new place for them to live. A place with NO jiggers!

As we got back to Kipkaren, it was evident that they had had some heavy rains here. The McCrights joined the kids at the children's home for devotions while I went to pick up the team from the clinic.

At dinner/debriefing, everyone was tired to the bone, yet profoundly touched by all they had experienced. And so, today, there's more to be done. More patients to see. More to learn.

I'm heading to the clinic soon to pray for patients. I believe that the blind can indeed find sight again. I am believing God will touch lives in profound ways today.