Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm believing God.

Long time ago, I started Beth Moore's Believing God study. Life got in the way and I never completed it. But tonight, I did the final lesson. The journey of believing God continues. It's on this journey that I started believing God for Hannah's healing. Though I thoroughly believed he'll heal her by taking the tumor, he healed her by taking her home. It's part of the journey. I won't lose faith. I won't lose hope.

Part of tonight's homework had us look at 1 Cor 13 anew, and I thought to post the rendition I did some time ago. So I won't forget.

If I speak English, Afrikaans, Chinese or even some Swahili, but I don't love relentlessly, I'm nothing but a dog barking at the moon.

If I share God's Word with children and adults alike and have enough faith to move to Kenya, but I don't have relentless love, I am nothing.

If I give up luxuries, opportunities, and resources to reach the people of East Africa, if I live alone surrounded by Kenyan corn fields, but I don't love relentlessly, it's as if I've journeyed nowhere.

It matters not whether I can speak with a funny accent, pray with passion, believe without limits. Without love, my life is worthless.

Relentless love never, ever gives up, even when life is tough.

Relentless love cares more whether neighbors are warm than whether I'm comfortable.

Relentless love doesn't want what God hasn't given.

Relentless love doesn't do things to be seen or heard.

Relentless love doesn't care about my opinion and my needs, but listens to the opinions of others, and takes it to heart.

Relentless love puts others first.

Relentless love doesn't get annoyed when yet another person asks for money, or drives poorly...

Relentless love forgives, again and again.

Relentless love doesn't rejoice when others fail.

It finds joy in truth and in seeing others discover these truths.

Relentless love doesn't give up, but puts up with all things knowing that it is part of God's greater plan, and trusts that God has the best at heart. Always.

Relentless love seeks to see the best in others. It doesn't look back and wish for better days past. It pushes onward, knowing that beyond this mountain, far greater things await.

Relentless love doesn't wilt, nor dies. It's not "on" one day and "off" another. You can depend on it, even though you cannot depend on things and systems, even though you cannot always even depend on other believers.

Though I don't know or understand all at this stage, the day will come that I will understand fully. I will no longer be craving insignificant pleasures. Instead, I will grow in understanding and maturity. Right now, I don't see things clearly. It's like a window splattered with mud. But the day will come that all impurities will be removed. I'll see clearly, just as God sees me clearly. I'll know Him as He knows me.

But for now, while we are not yet there, there are three things I can hold onto:

Trust in God, always. Believe that He is who He says He is, that He can do what He says He can do.

Let hope be the fuel that compels me to move forward: Hope in God.

And the best yet: Love relentlessly, without ever giving up.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Going for a spin

I had asked some boys at the children's home to wash my car today. It was very muddy, and before leaving it under the care of a colleague, I thought it would be good to get it cleaned up.

When I got to the children's home to move my car, some 4 or 5 kids were sitting on my car's steps, just waiting for me to show up, likely so they could see the look on my face when I see my clean car. I praised them for the great work and asked, "Would you like a ride?"

Of course they did!

I let them (plus a few extra kids) hop in and took them for a fun ride, literally driving in circles on the open field by the children's home.

They giggled. They squealed. They laughed out loud.

They were having a blast. As was I. Some of them may have remembered the day I had picked them up in the village two years ago and brought them to their new home. On those drives, we sang songs and drove through mud puddles. We laughed a lot.

Today, little Dennis kept saying my name, even after I dropped them off. "Sema, Katonye" I'd respond. (Literally, speak, but it's kind of a "yes?" when someone addresses you. Katonye is the name he's given himself. It doesn't mean anything. He just has been using that as his name...)

All he'd do is smile. Maybe he simply doesn't have the words yet to say what's on his mind. But maybe it's just a way to say, "You're my friend. I know you're my friend."

I'll miss him and his buddies.

"Let the children come unto me..."

After sunrise prayer meeting today, I hung around the children's home for a while to visit with friends. These little ones are amazing. They were doing their Saturday morning chores of working in the gardens. (As in, picking up leaves and such. Not hard labor.)

In case you wonder, these kids all go to sunrise prayer meeting on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I absolutely love walking to the field and and seeing close to 100 kids standing all over, simply praying. They're there. Every weekend. I don't always make it.

Faith and Mercy. They're buddies, and technically they're "sisters" since they both live in the same family. They're both about 5. And adorable, yes. You can't help but love 'em.

Mercy, again. She's probably the shortest in the home, but you've got to watch her dance...

Some of the 4- and 5-year-olds. I know. They're the cutest kids. I'll miss them while I'm gone, no doubt.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Something nicer

Seeing that friends have been grossed out by all the termite pictures (did they not see the jigger pictures from before? They were far worse!), I thought I'd post a few random pictures I took this week.

These are crested cranes. Yesterday morning, they were chasing away the hadeda ibises from "their" field by the children's home.

I had dinner at friends' home earlier this week. This is their 1st grader, Faith, doing homework by the light of the lantern. Most homes in our area do not yet have electricity.

Flannel. She's at least 5 lbs heavier than about a year ago this time. And in great shape all round. She's mostly out of her kitten phase now, which means I get to sleep with fewer interruptions. But from time to time (like last night), she still decides to get up at 4 am and start playing with anything she can lay her paws on, until I get up and throw her out the door...

Toy. She's the kid with the big smile in the middle of the photo. She's not an orphan. Her parents work for ELI, though, and she's permanently with all her friends at the home. To her right is Faith*, another little one with twice as much spunk as she's tall.

* NOT the same Faith as in the second picture.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Her Majesty, the Queen

I was working on my book reviews this morning when two members of staff headed my way. “Have you seen the queen termite before?” they asked with a smile. And they produced this thing.
Yikes, indeed.

Want to take a closer look?

It’s as big as it looks. And as gross. Not sure if it’s eggs inside or live larvae, but her whole body was moving. I was afraid she might give birth to thousands of termites in front of my eyes.

Actually, it would be millions. According to this page on Wikipedia, "one queen rules over five million of her offspring. And she's 20,000 times bigger than her subjects."

Rather than do what my gut told me to do ("RUN!") I did what I knew I should do ("Shoot it!" As in, with the camera.) I wanted to share the moment with you all, so I photographed her. When I showed the picture to another Kenyan colleague later, he commented dead seriously, “That one, she must be soooo sweet!”

Crunch… Or perhaps she'd be chewy. Or mushy. But not a chance under the sun is she tasty!

By now, you may think I have a fascination with bugs—termites in particular. I don’t. There are just a number of them around these days. Hence my third post on this topic for this week.

Earlier this morning, I did a photo shoot at the school. I like this picture. It's all of our teaching staff at "Brook of Faith Academy."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

There was this aroma coming from the kitchen

So I went to check what the staff at the training center was cooking. It smelled really good. But it didn't look so good. It was termites. Lots and lots of them.

Turns out that the dorm kids had been working hard to catch and fry 'em. Bitok (our training center manager) showed me how scrumptious they are.

Nope. I didn't try some. I've had termites before. Fresh. When I was a kid. And yes, I even had fried grubs when I lived in Taiwan. Just to say I've had 'em. I don't need to eat them again.

Even if my neighbors promise me that they're very, very tasty.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kiddos, and life around the neighborhood

For those of you who know Ezekiel and Noella, or remember my blog entry about being present at Favor Kiplagat's birth, here's a photo I took of him this morning.

Isn't he beautiful? I'm convinced that he remembers those first 30 minutes or so of his life when I held him and told him what an amazing young man he's going to be...

From his house, I headed to the clinic, passing Brenda and Victor along the way.

(Brenda is Mama Sifuna's kid, for any of you who've been to Kipkaren. She has her mother's smile and spunk.) These two were just heading to the duka (little shop across from our gate) to look for their teacher. They go to the local nursery school. By the time I came back from the clinic (and various other visits along the way), they plus at least 6 others were hanging around the duka. Perhaps their teacher decided not to show up today? That's pretty scary for a 1-classroom school! (Just to clarify, that nursery school is not part of ELI's school...)

I headed up to the clinic, passing this line of safari ants...

I'm glad I saw them before I stepped on them! They are vicious! In fact, they have such a strong bite that they're used traditionally to suture wounds! I cannot imagine what that would've been like. And how many times the nurse would've been bitten himself! (I've heard horror stories of little ones being devoured by them, too. Whether it's true, I don't know. But it's possible. And it's kept me from stepping on safari ants!)

Heading further up the hill, I simply had to take this picture of our neighborhood.
The rainy season has obviously come, washing away the dust from the trees and the grass. Those are Nandi flame trees on the right. Follow the river and you'll see roofs among the trees. Those are new guest housing being built on our compound. My house is about 100 feet further down along the river.

Next stop: The clinic. Took some shots of the staff there, and on my way back to the center, stopped by several homes to greet neighbors. Because it's the right thing to do.

It was lunch time before I could settle in and start my "real" work for the day. But that's not true. The photo sessions--the first one of the day being at 6:30--were definitely part of my job. And visiting with neighbors? If you simply zip by and not take time to visit, there is absolutely no way these people will respect you enough to lend you their ear when you do have something more to share with them.

It's all part of ministry in rural Kenya. It's part of "earning the right to be heard."

Life in the bush. Got to love it! (With that, it's back to the books for me. And dodging flying ants! Inside my house, yes... They're getting in through the crack under the door, or something! But there're more and more coming. Michelle just called. Their house has been invaded by hundreds! Where's Betty when you need her? She'd love to catch 'em and fry 'em!)


Even just saying her name makes me smile. Betty. She reminds me of Mary Magdalene. Her story is one of God extending her much grace. When she cried out to God just a few years ago, she was dying.

God has since turned her life around. She's still living with HIV/AIDS. But she's using it as a way to serve Him by reaching out to others who are positive. Countless lives have been touched through here testimony and her unwavering faith.

Yesterday, I had the joy of going to visit Betty at her home. I went with the home-based care team.

We found Betty outside her simple home, crocheting. She was beaming when she saw us coming. "Karibu!" (Welcome!)

We all found a place to sit in their small living room. All seven of us. Plus Betty and her mom. We visited about her health, since Betty has had a difficult three months behind her. "Eh! Every time I saw people coming to visit," she said with a smile, "my heart would be so happy. People came to tell me they are praying for me..."

The conversation turned to the weather of late. To everyone's delight, the rains have started. People are starting to plow their fields and plant their maze. With the rains come flying ants.

"You know, those ants are soooo sweet*!" Betty said with a smile. "Yesterday, I found many! They have good, natural fats. You can find me by the road just eating them."

"In fact," her mother interjected in a mix of Luhya and Kiswahili, if you would catch many, you can sell them at the market in Kipkaren... You would make so much money. Eh! They are sweet!" And she proceeded to tell about something else they love to eat as Luhyas. Grubs. As in worms, yes.

Betty had a blast entertaining us with the details of eating the worms... "You find them in the compost," she explained. You have to understand that most of the guests on our team were either Nandis (a completely different tribe than the Luhya hosts) or wazungu (white people).

"After catching the worms, you remove the intestines and you clean them very well. Then you fry them. Eh! They're sweet!"

(Juli's face says it all.)

Betty's mom continued to entertain us with stories, one of which was news of her one grandson talking about dropping out of school. That's a big taboo. People work very hard to pay school fees to send their children to school. "I told him, if he drops out of school, I'm going to take off my clothes!" the grandma proclaimed. Betty explained how it is seen as the ultimate curse for older women to literally bear their breasts to their sons/grandsons, thereby saying that you realize they do not respect you as an elderly woman. (It's very different from the custom of women breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere in this culture. That is not considered offensive whatsoever.)

After a delightful time of visiting and praying together, we took a group photo and said good-bye. We'd be back, yes.

Later in the afternoon, as I stopped by to drop off something, Betty was sitting on a bench in the sun, bathing. She was still smiling. As was I. How very blessed I am to have seen God work through Betty's life to touch many, including me.

Below are some other photos taken yesterday

The ELI Home-based Care Team:
I have been taking group shots for a project I'm working on. Yesterday's visit to Betty's home was made after the photo shoot.

The girls and I. Isn't our area beautiful?

The team, walking to Betty's

Kids along the way, at a nursery school in our neighborhood

* Kenyans use the word sweet to refer to anything tasty, not only sugary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Worlds apart

Have you ever tried to swallow a spoonful of peanut butter? Working on the book I'm currently trying to check off my list has almost been that tough. Or maybe worse. The first three sections (10 chapters) just about killed me. But the section I'm currently reading is on Islam, and it's very insightful! I've decided to do an independent study on Africa & Islam later on in my program, so it's exciting to me that I'm actually finding the materials on the history and beliefs of Africa's other biggest religion very fascinating. I believe it's good to know what many people around me truly believe rather than make assumptions.

But trying to get through this book is far from all I've done today. This was a WONDERFUL day! Very, very productive. Started out with breakfast and a great time with God in my gazebo. Then I got to plow through work! Easter Monday is a national holiday in many countries, including Kenya, so other than one 30-minute interruption for work-related stuff, I was able to spend the entire day just working, reading, and scheduling meetings for my time in Iowa.

Oh, and chase the cows from my yard every now and then. It's OK that they mow my lawn (and fertilize it in the process), but once they start traipsing through my vegetable beds or eat my basil plants, I chase 'em. Quite a sight, I believe, me flailing my arms about and cows scattering everywhere.

But that's was only about 3 times throughout the day. The rest of the day, I was planted firmly on my buttocks, working. Tomorrow's packed with random meetings again, so if I can get that book read before I turn off my light (around midnight), I'd be very happy.

That gives me 2 hours. Let's see...

(Grabbing a cup of decaf tea first. And paying attention to my co-dependent cat. She's currently making somersaults chasing after a cricket in my house.)

OK, it's midnight, and I still have 6 chapters to read. Not doing it tonight. The section I'm currently on is on the crusades. It breaks my heart to read what believers set out to do under the banner of the cross! I want to understand the impact of the crusades on Africa today, so I'd best leave the reading for tomorrow afternoon, after my meetings. And turn off Mahler's Symphony # 2 and sleep.

Here's a bit of fun trivia. There's a guy in the US called Gilbert Kaplan. He had a dream to conduct a symphony someday. So when he turned 40, he took a year off and studied conducting. Then he hired an orchestra to play for him. He has since traveled around the world to conduct the same piece: Mahler's Symphony No. 2. It is the only complete work he conducts. While I was living in Taiwan and was part of the Taipei Philharmonic Choir, we performed this piece under him. What's odd, though, is that the choir only sings in the 5th movement, for perhaps the last 10 minutes of a 90-minute symphony!)

It's one of those really bizarre events that I'm thankful to have been a part of. Kaplan even gave the entire choir and symphony orchestra a legal, autographed copy of the original score in Mahler's handwriting. I won't forget virtually whispering (ppp) as we sang the last movement, while seated. Then, halfway through it, according to Mahler's instruction, the choir stands as the music gets louder and louder. Good memories... Some days, I really miss that part of my life. But then I think of all the things God's teaching me in this part of the world, and I'm OK being here. My world in Kenya, however, could hardly be any more different to what it was like in Taiwan.

I should sleep. I'm starting to hear the bushbabies outside...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Open invitation to friends in Iowa

My dear friends in Iowa,

I had sent out a mass e-mail, but I don't have everyone's e-mail addresses, so I just wanted to make sure you know about the fact that there's a dessert event at Joe and Delene Meyer's home next Friday night (April 4) from 7-9 pm. I'll be in town and would love to share what God's doing in Kenya.

If you can make it and didn't receive the e-mail or can't sign up at church, please post a comment on this blog so I can let the Meyers and others know that you'll be coming.

For those of you who cannot make it to the dessert, I'll be in and out of town sporadically throughout April, May and June. I'd love to connect with you, so let me know if we can have coffee at Panera's sometime.

Looking forward to visiting!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


"Piga pitcha!" these girls shouted when I walked by on my way to Easter/birthday breakfast at Michelle's. (Take a picture!) I had been to their house before to take photos for Juli, so they associate me with a camera. I stopped, said the usual greetings, took their picture, and was on my way. Later, when I walked the same way back (this time with Juli), they came back. Little Jemu (next to me) was so sweet! All of two feet tall, Jemu came running with her arms in the air to hug me. She's adorable. So this time, I could ask Juli to take a photo of me with the girls.

Shortly afterwards, as we were crossing the creek with rain coming down ever so lightly (very, vary rare for the mornings here), one could hear the Sunday school kids singing at the very top of their lungs, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I kno-o-ow He holds my future. And life is worth the living just because He lives."

Amen, kiddos. Amen.

A wild life.

I love how untamed life still is around here. To some extent, at least. Though there are no longer zebras on our main roads (not in this part of Kenya, but in other parts, yes), we have our share of critters. And because of the rains today, they seemed to all have wanted to come out and party.

I was sitting outside for most of the day, trying to get through a rather dry text book. I was happy to be distracted by lots and lots of birds. A bee-eater kept stopping by, and I'd watch it dive through the sky to catch insects. Same with the malachite kingfisher, probably my favorite of small birds.

The white-browed robin-chats were all over the place, coming after the goodies that had just been dug up by the tractor in preparation for planting. And the blue flycatchers seemed everything but blue. They were bouncing all over the place. The yellow weavers were rather raucous! The males have been working very hard at weaving perfect nests from the branches hanging over the river, and they seemed intent on making sure the right females catch their eyes and they'd soon fill those nests with eggs... The cinnamon-chested bee-eater seemed to be the only solitary bird out there today. (Can you spot him in the tree?)

Colleagues stopped by for lunch and shared how they saw a dik-dik along their walk. It had been caught and slaughtered. "Those big eyes looked like they were still alive!" they said. I felt sorry for the creature. This smallest of the African antelopes are hardly bigger than a hare. And they're fiercely loyal to their partners, to the point that if one gets killed, the other would starve itself to death, or even do something as serious as jumping off a cliff. So, within a few days, there's bound to be a second dead dik-dik in the area.

Later this evening, while I was enjoying home-made sushi for dinner, I saw something in the corner of my eye. Hop. Hop-hop-hop. A frog. Just a little one, though. I carefully helped him find the way out.

Not the same for the next two critters, though. A huge, fat spider ran across the kitchen floor. Squish! Fortunately, I was wearing shoes.

The grossest of them all, though, was when I opened my eyes in the shower after rinsing my hair, and I kid you not, there was a slug no shorter than the length of my hand and at least the width of my thumb, just clinging onto the wall. I didn't want to throw him out the window since he's bound to eat my tomato plants. So he might currently be trying to find his way out of our sewage tank. Flush!

Fortunately, that was the extent of the critters around my house for tonight. The other night as I was walking home from dinner at friends' house, I saw something move in the beam of my flashlight. It was a huge snake, crossing the road in front of my friends and I. We let it pass before we continued our journey. But after I sent staff out on assignment to take photos after the workshop I presented on Tuesday, one came back with this picture... It might be the same snake we ran into. I doubt it. I cannot remember ours having markings like this. With all the plowing going on at this stage, these guys are bound to be coming out of hiding to find someplace safer.

I've closed the window for the night. Flannel will just have to stay indoors. I don't want any more critters coming into the house tonight.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Everything ... and the kitchen sink

I was just washing my face, getting ready to crawl into bed and continue reading my fascinating book, when I thought...

One thing I look forward to doing in the U.S. is
washing my face with warm water at night.
And doing so in a bathroom,
not using my kitchen sink.

Odd but true: My house in Kipkaren doesn't have a bathroom sink. I only have a kitchen sink. I tend to think of it this way, though: Most of the people in the village around me have no sink at all. They draw water from the river or from a well. And then they use a bucket. So, having one multi-purpose sink with one tap is indeed a huge blessing.

Here's one other benefit to having only one sink. I can't leave dishes in the sink, 'cause that's where I brush my teeth, too. Just what you wanted to think about today, I'm sure. (It doesn't keep me from piling dishes next to the sink at times, though...)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Very Good Friday

Yesterday was one of those odd ELI days. Up early. Meeting with colleagues regarding options for a family in the neighborhood. Presented training on photography and writing to Ilula staff. Drove to town. Met with another colleague to pick out light fittings for our new guest housing in Kipkaren. Fought my way through crazy Eldoret traffic (2 trucks seemed to have broken down on the main road, and the first heavy rains of the season fell, causing more chaos.) Drove the 90-minute (that's honestly how long it takes to cover all of 37 miles between town and the village) journey back home, visiting with a Kenyan friend.

I love the conversations you end up having while driving. Because all parties are distracted by the drive and not sitting knee-to-knee, I've had the most profound conversations with people on the road to and from town. About culture. About the reality of being Christ's followers. About politics. Because for the past 6 months or so, you can't get away from talking about politics in Kenya.

By the time we turned off the main road, my friend and I were welcomed by the first real mud of the rainy season. Going through the second dip on the way to our village, the car was fish-tailing. And no, it doesn't mean I was going fast at all. The mud just does stuff like that to your car after heavy rains. I slowed down even more as we approached villagers on the side of the road, careful not to baptize them in mud.

We unloaded the car and headed straight to our meeting hall. I had to set up to show a movie after our Easter party. We had goat and rice and chicken. And soda. Because no party in this part of the world is complete without several crates of soda. I try to avoid the sodas. I'd rather save the calories for good stuff. Like chocolates. Which never gets served at functions. Kenyans aren't big on chocolates. Which means we're celebrating Easter today without a single Easter egg. But that's another story.

A party is not complete without several speeches, either. "Now, we need to move a vote of thanks," the headmaster of our school announced formally. One after the other, representatives of each department was called to talk. Some, like the communications department (that would be me), took all of a minute to speak. Others started with "I don't have much to say" and progressed to give the lengthiest of speeches, commenting on everything from the music I had played, to going back to 1992 and talking about the bag of fertilizer he had gotten as a gift that year. (The Kenyan staff had all gotten a bag of fertilizer and some seed maize as a thank-you from ELI earlier in the week.)

So, no fewer than 10 speeches later, I showed the staff some photos I took in Ethiopia, and then those who weren't heading out for the weekend stayed and watched The Passion of the Christ.

Jesus' death and resurrection will never loose its power!

Though today's a national holiday, it seemed much like any other Friday around the compound. I was asked to help with some computer issues, which ended up taking several hours. But I did bake dinner rolls, just to make the day somewhat special. The agricultural students have asked to watch The Passion again tonight, but I've decided to show it to them tomorrow instead so I can combine it with showing the kids a movie in the afternoon. Because the kids have asked, too, to see a movie.

Tonight, rather than show movies, I'm going to try and finish one more book from my class reading list. Better get started on the reading!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"The Dentist and the Crocodile"

That's the poem I read to many of the rooms tonight. The kids were giggling as I read it. "Adele," they'd ask, "do some people really keep crocodiles as pets?"

The poem is one by Roald Dahl, my favorite children's author, and from a book my friend Tom had sent. I love reading poems to the kids. Especially Roald Dahl's.

Other than visiting with the kids about crocodiles and, of course, pet chameleons (since I used to have one), and chatting about how Flannel is (since they had found her when she was a kitten and in terrible shape), the kids were telling me about the unrest in this area.

"We were really scared, Adele," Vitaline confessed. "Especially the day Shadrach was almost slaughtered (!). You know Shadrack, our Sunday school teacher..." and she went on telling me how the son of Linus and Angelina, two of our staff, had been captured, blindfolded, and made to count dead bodies, then told he's the next one... It was an act of God that he wasn't killed, truly! These kids had already been through so much in their short lives. It's sad that they've had to see their world crumble again.

"But now we are fine," Vitaline declared with the biggest smile. "God is good. We are safe. When will the interns come?" I had to tell them that I don't think we'll have interns this year. "Aaaaah, Adele. Why? Because people think there's no peace?"

How do you explain to them that yes, there's peace, but things are simply still too volatile in Kenya. You don't. You just say, "Right now, we cannot have teams or interns. But they will come again. Don't worry."

I got to read to all the rooms and explain to them that I'll be away for a while since I'll be attending class in the US and need to attend to business there. "But will you come to guardians' day next weekend?" they all asked. I assured them that I'd try my best.

It was like balm to my soul to hang out with the Ilula kids for a bit. I came this afternoon, after doing a photo shoot at Kipkaren, and pulled into the compound just as the first big rains of the season started to fall. You could hear the kids coming down the road from school, passing my house, saying, "Adele's car is here! Adele is here!" I went to invite them for a movie, and they were giddy with excitement. We watched Ratatouille, and the kids giggled at Remy and Linguini's antics. (At first, because it's almost Easter, I considered bringing the Jesus Film for Kids--honestly one of their favorite movies--but decided that after the intense few months they've had, they needed a movie that would make them laugh. They usually memorize some lines from the movies and entertain each other for weeks quoting silly lines. Or for years, sometimes. Last week, when I visited them, they were still quoting lines from The Gods Must Be Crazy, and we watched that almost 2 years ago!)

I love these kids. I miss them a lot. My relationship with the kids in Kipkaren is nowhere like my relationship with the Ilula kids. Partly because my work in Kipkaren keeps me much busier. Partly because of language barriers (the Kipkaren kids' English isn't nearly as good as the Ilula kids'). Partly because I've chosen to focus on adult ministry in Kipkaren. But it doesn't make me miss the kids any less.

One of the boys, in a letter about the post-election violence, drew pictures of the gate to the home, how it had been decorated with branches and a gourd, to show that it's a Kalenjin institution. Today, as I drove here, I noticed house after house still having gourds hanging by the door. To me, it's unsettling to see remnants of the violence. It's like the burned-down homes and shops along the way. Or the huge rocks still lying on the side of the road, all reminders of what transpired since December 31.

So, tonight after dinner, I went to every room, read to them, chatted with them, prayed with them, answered their questions, and hugged each and every one of them. Because the memories of the past few months won't go away soon. But little by little, they can be replaced by new, good memories.

The journey to healing is still long. But it has begun. For that, I praise God!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Because I know

It hit me like a ton of bricks again tonight. I really do live a sheltered life. My work allows me to share much of life with people in the village around me. But I don't really understand their struggles.

Tonight, I had just arrived at William and Michelle's house for dinner when Michelle got a call from the clinic. The nurse on duty needed some help with a patient who was bleeding. After Michelle called our ambulance to head over to the clinic, she walked the short distance from their home to the clinic. I considered going with her, but didn't want to intrude on the patient's privacy. She came back after Meshak (the driver) had left with the patient, and told us Elizabeth's story.

This young lady had been brought in by a TBA (traditional birth attendant/midwife). She was having a miscarriage, and had already lost a liter of blood. Michelle was able to simply pray with Elizabeth, to listen to her, to encourage her to simply take the next step and not worry about what may be lying ahead at the hospital. (This was her second miscarriage, so she knew a bit more about the rest of the process.)

Though the cases differ tremendously from one night to the next, seeing crises like this one is nothing unusual to our clinic staff. I, on the other hand, live just a 15-minute-or-so walk from the clinic, yet am oblivious to all they face day in and day out, night after night. I guess that could be said for me (us) in many areas of life.

Tonight, though, because I know about Elizabeth, I don't want to simply go to bed and forget about the physical, emotional and psychological pain this lady is facing. May God carry her through this time...

Monday, March 17, 2008


It's one of those evenings where I just really wish I could hop in the car and go to the movies with my friends tonight. Instead, I'll try to finish one of my text books. Probably not a bad idea.

Shortly, I'll be able to do movies and coffee with friends. I like the thought.

I made bobotie for lunch today. It's a traditional South African dish. Had it for dinner, too. Shared some with Lucy, who helps me with my laundry. She thinks the food I make is strange sometimes... :) That's OK. She would never tell me to my face. But she gets that "Um, I'm supposed to eat this?" look on her face.

Like the look I may have had on my face yesterday when a dear friend gave me coffee. I watched her put three tablespoons of sugar in a cup, but I didn't realize she's making me coffee. Then followed a really small spoon of instant coffee, and hot water. I was trying my utmost best to focus on our very intense and very interesting conversation whilst sipping very politely on the sugary coffee mix. In the end, I simply had to politely put down the cup and tell her I cannot finish it today. I really tried. Honestly. Even took one really big gulp at a stage, but it just didn't work. The cup stayed full. She even asked if I wanted more sugar. I may have inadvertently blurted out "No!" before I could stop myself. It's rare for Kenyans to drink coffee. Despite Kenyan coffee being so famous internationally, most Kenyans drink only chai. And if they do drink coffee, it's usually instant.

On a completely different note: Today, I was working on a training workshop I'm doing for staff tomorrow, and kept smelling something really bad. Like a dead cow. Turns out it's . . . a dead cow. Less than 100 yards from my door. The cow had died 2 weeks ago and was buried near the river, but not very deep. So the dogs had dug it up. No fun. Some of the guys came and burned the carcass, covered it some more, and then put thorny branches on top so the dogs won't get to it again.

(Flannel just brought me a gift, a gorgeous gecko. The poor gecko may have already suffered fatal wounds. I just picked it up and threw it out the window. Flannel's still looking for it...)

On a far more positive note: I was also able to go to the women's prayer meeting/Bible study this afternoon and got to see our friend Betty. She's been very sick recently, and it was good to see her smiling face back with us. We had a very encouraging visit about Jesus' prayer in John 17. I love knowing that Jesus is praying for us! Betty was sharing what comfort she finds in knowing specifically that Jesus is praying for her. She's been house-bound for almost 3 months due to illness, and she was sharing how the only thing that sustained her during this time was her Bible. If you've met Betty, you'd know that's true of her. Compared to most of us, materialistically, she has nothing. Yet she has a faith that is profound!

I love learning from friends like Betty. I have much to learn from her.

Interesting trivia

I was catching up on friends' blogs this weekend, and found from my friend Wes' blog why Easter is so early this year.

May you all have a blessed week leading up to Easter, remembering what Jesus went through this week in history.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Around Town

So we went to Eldoret yesterday to attend the Msafara prayer meeting. There were maybe 1,000 or so people in the park at the local city hall, some probably just lured by the music, some, sincerely gathered to pray for reconciliation in this country.

"Those are not our prayers," my one colleague overheard two men saying. "It is only people who are guilty who've come to pray..."

Far from it. Somehow, I don't think the young men who did most of the damage were there. The crowd was mostly made up of older men and women, and a large group (6 busloads) from Nairobi. We were led in prayer by several pastors, both from Nairobi and from Eldoret. We worshiped together and asked God to restore this nation.

The prayer meeting of pastors the day before was especially powerful. According to the Msafara blog, "The kind of healing that the Lord performed in Eldoret is beyond our wildest imagination. Pastors across tribal lines brought repentance to God and to one another, forgave each other and washed each other’s feet. We crowned it with Holy Communion. It was awesome! The Lord gave us a sign of rain in the evening as acceptance of the prayers that were offered to Him."

The Msafara team has moved on to the last city on their prayer tour: Kisumu. After Eldoret, Kisumu had the highest rates of destruction during the post-election violence.

Please continue to pray for restoration and revival in Kenya.

After the prayer meeting, I made a quick trip to Ilula. I had to go and visit with Silas Sifuna. He had decided to drop out of the program on Friday. I met with him and he promised me that he'll be back in the program today. Please join me in praying for a breakthrough in his life!

Though most of the bigger kids were still in school, I got to see the little ones for a short while before I had to return to town to pick up my colleagues for the trip back to Kipkaren. One of the moms told me how her 3-year-old came running to her earlier in the day, crying hysterically that, "They have come to burn our homes again!" He had seen some men walking on our compound (they were staff, nothing to worry about) and saw some smoke from people who are burning their fields in preparation to plant this week. But in his little mind, he thought for sure that trouble had begun again, and his heart was pounding in his chest. The children are certainly still traumatized by that which had transpired around them for the first 2 months of the year.

Later, as I drove the very dusty road back to town, I passed all the bigger kids. They were on a Friday-afternoon run, and a long one, at that! I gave them all high fives as I drove by, my hand burning after the hundred slaps! But my heart was singing. I love those kids, and I love seeing them!

Back in Kipkaren, the rains are slowly starting. I just ran outside to bring my laundry in. I'm hoping for some heavy rains this afternoon. Power has gone out and I don't know when it will be back on.


The rains had come. We had a shower for a good half hour or so, even with some large hail. The thunder is still rumbling in the distance, and I hope it will rain some more. It's still very hot and dry. But the rains have made a difference. The birds outside my window are singing loudly.

Sometime later. The power is back on. Oh, I discovered today that I have no water when there's no electricity. It has something to do with the electric pump at our well. So, now with electricity and thus water and Internet back on, I can finally post this entry.

Trying something new. Non-techies, ignore this entry.

I've been spending this morning catching up on friends' blogs (rather than doing my class reading, which I'll still do today, fear not) and decided to add a signature on my blog.

So, here goes, this is my first try.

Hmmm. I don't like how it shows up with a border around it, even though it says border="0" in the HTML. Anyone have a clue how I can fix that?

And, just so you know, I do know how to really spell my name. It actually has an accent on the first e. But it simply didn't work well with the limited fonts in the automated font program...

Here's another option. Perhaps. Instead of using the free, online program, I used Photoshop so I could spell my name right and use the same font I usually use for my photo copyrights. But I'm sure the frame's still going to show up. Help!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Reality Check

Today had several reality-check moments for me. One was a conversation with a colleague in which he was talking about some of the deep issues Eldoret is still facing. It was disturbing to hear how fragile our town still is.

Next, I read through piles of letters written by our kids from Ilula about things they saw and heard during the post-election violence. Though they've been through post-trauma counseling, some of their notes still showed how uncertain they felt about the future. Here are just a few comments from the letters (the rest will be printed in a children's home newsletter) as well as a picture drawn by one of the girls. If you look closely, the people in the picture are shouting "Uuuui!" That's the distress call in Kenya. We had heard it much in the past few months (I didn't hear these cries as often as my friends who didn't get to go away.)

"You could see many people killing each other without compassion. They could not even have mercy on a young child. If you could be found you would be killed without compassion. We were always scared of being attacked by the enemies. At night we could hear the yelling and after yelling we could hear the bullets and we were very afraid. Our parents were standing guard at night to make sure we were safe. By now, we do not know what will be next. We have never seen violence like this in our lives."

Another child wrote, "GSU [general service unit – similar to riot police] came with a big lorry. They told us to go into our rooms and keep quiet and close the windows. After some time we heard that people are dying. The police were closing the roads and shooting guns. Helicopters were flying over taking pictures of houses burning. I thank God for stopping the war."

And yet another girl said, "Just twenty minutes after supper we started seeing red all over because people were burning houses and damaging things, and you could see people running away from their homes to other people’s homes, only to find no peace there. We had to stay in our rooms from morning after breakfast, then go for lunch, go back to our rooms. We could not even have devotions together in the gazebos. We were like refugees in our own country."

Then, this evening over dinner with friends, the conversation inevitably turned to the situation around us. Though things are calm, there's not yet peace. Deep issues still need to be dealt with.

Tomorrow, we'll be going to the Msafara prayer meeting in town. As their Web site explains, "Msafara Wheels of Hope is a church initiative that will act as a catalyst to lead the country into spiritual cleansing and bringing hope to Kenyans." You'll also want to check out their blog as well as the blog of one of their key pastors.

Read the entries on Eldoret for some insight on the issues in our area.

The road ahead is still long.

It just started raining outside. A soft rain. We need rain badly. I'm praying that tomorrow's meeting will be like the rain that is starting to fall, quenching the parched land as it's being prepared for another season of planting.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Last week, when I was in Nairobi, I visited an IDP camp, got to visit with some people there, and take some photos. Susan, who I was with, took this photo of me taking photos.

In case you're wondering why I'm in capris, I get to wear pants when I'm in Nairobi.

Old friends

This morning, Juli and I went to visit Hannah's family. I hadn't seen them since she passed away, and both of us were missing the family who had very much become like our own after our weekly visits to their home. As we drove the all-too-familiar road to their house, driving up the really rocky final stretch (the part of the drive where I thank God every single time for my incredible car), I so wished we'd find our friend by her back door, on her 1"-thick mattress pad, basking in the sun. But at the same time, it was very comforting to know that Juli no longer has to try and figure out how we can adjust her medications to alleviate the growing pain. She was now with Jesus, singing her heart out, I'm sure.

We walked up to the Bandes' humble home, and Nancy immediately came to greet us. She gave me the biggest hugs, and her eyes filled with tears, possibly from joy to have us back with them, or with pain of remembering her mom. Who knows.

During all our other visits, we either joined her in the sun, or, if she were in bed, we'd make ourselves at home at the foot of her bed. Today, for the first time ever, we sat in their simple living room. And we visited about life. Like always, we sang together, and prayed together, promising we'll be back. We won't forget them.

But as we drove off, Juli commented how things are just not the same anymore at the Bandes. Hannah's spunk was missing. Her daughter Nancy has a bit of it, though, and we had laughed with her when she was acting in a way that so closely resembled her mom. But we miss Hannah. A lot. As does her family.

I found out today that I will be able to come to the US for a missions conference at my church in Iowa early April. I don't know my specific travel schedule yet, but I do know that I'll be spending time in the Midwest, some time at our office in the LA area, and then some time in the Northwest for class.

I look forward to seeing many of you soon!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

He said, "Yes!"

Silas, the dad of the Sifuna kids, agreed without any objection to join the alcohol rehab program that'll start tomorrow in Ilula. That's a huge answer to prayer! Yeah God!

Before and After

Just thought to post a new photo of the Sifuna kids, and one from the first day I got to visit them last July. Their dad will be challenged tomorrow to join our AA program that starts this week, Thursday. Please join me in praying that Silas will indeed be willing to join the program! Mama Chiri will be taking care of the children during the time when Silas will be in rehab. I should be able to let you know by Thursday if he's in or not!

Sights and Sounds of Kipkaren Tonight

Tonight, after dinner, I walked over to greet the kids. I was very thankful that I had remembered my torch (translate: that's a flashlight in British English), 'cause the moon was but a sliver in the sky. I wouldn't've been able to see the bumpy road at all, had it not been for my light. Not that I've not walked the road in the pitch dark before. It just goes much slower then, especially in the parts where I know the potholes are. :)

It seemed like crickets, frogs and a plethora of other bugs were going at it tonight, singing their hearts out. I could even hear the river. Across the river, on the hill, neighbors were burning their field, preparing it for planting new maize soon. Both the sounds and this sight reminded me of but a month or so ago when you could hear emergency cries throughout the village, and it wasn't fields burning but homes.

Most of the older kids were in evening study hall, so it was just the young 'uns in their rooms. "Hodi?" I'd call at every room. "Karibu, Adele!" they'd shout and get up from the table in the center of the room where they were reading.

The kids here pronounce my name funny, so to imagine their little helium voices, you've got to say it like they do: Ah-tel!

And then, one by one, they'd give me hugs.

"Habari zenu?" (How are all of you?)

"Mzuri!" (Fine!)

"Habari ya shule?" (How's school?)


And so on and so forth. You have to ask about everything. School. Your brothers and sisters. The dorm parents. Their exams. Then bring greetings. From their friends at Ilula, especially. Their little faces lit up every time I told the different room that their brothers and sisters in llula send greetings, that they've been praying for them, that they miss them. And that I've missed them, too.

"Even us, we've missed you," they'd say.

But unlike at Ilula where the kids are much more used to me and tend to ask a million questions (this past weekend's questions included "Why is Israel attacking Palestine?" "How does inflation work?" "What's the smallest country in Africa?" "When are the Kipkaren kids coming to visit us?" "When will you be coming back to see us?" "Will we see a movie then?" "Can we see the Bushmen movie again?" "Where were all your classmates from?" "Is there a war in Angola?" "Have you been to Angola yet?" "How long can the South African president be in office before he has to retire?"), the Kipkaren kids wait for me to ask them questions.

It could simply be that the bigger kids who can actually hold a decent conversation in English are usually at study hall when I go to visit, and since my conversational Swahili is more limited than their English, we don't usually visit too long.

"Welcome again," they'd say when I leave. "Karibu tena!"

It seems like such a futile practise, really, just popping in for a while, chatting about their homework, looking at their test papers, giving out hugs, but every mom I ran into afterwards was telling me, "The kids told me you came to visit. They are so excited." I guess it's the mere fact that someone not in their direct family circle cares enough to come and say good-night, to come and give out hugs.

Ziporah, one of the moms I ran into, invited me in for chai. I promised to come back later in the week as I had already told Emily that I'll come for chai. I want to go and visit with Ziporah. She told me briefly about life the past 2 months, about her family having lost their homes in our area, about how painful it is to walk past where her mom used to live and see only the charred remains of their home, to see neighbors wearing her brothers' clothing...

Later, after chai at Emily's, I pop my head into the last home to say good-night. The older kids are still at school. It's shortly before 9. "What are you going to do now, Adele?" one kid asks.

"I'm going to study," I explain. The little ones giggle. They cannot imagine me having to study at night. (And really, I do have to read at least a few chapters from one of my texts tonight. Just wanted to be sure to write an update first.)

When I walk back home, the stars starting to fill the sky from horizon to horizon, it is with a song of praise in my heart for these little ones, for little Dennis who wanted to read me every word on his test page in his raspy voice, for Rooney who giggled when I recognized him in the dark, for Eulita who just about knocked me over she ran so fast to hug my legs.

For a long time, I didn't want these kids to get too close, to take the space in my heart of my kids in Ilula. But more and more I realize that there truly is space for all of them. All 200.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Merry Christmas?

Well, it sort of feels like Christmas here. I took two colleagues to town today to run some errands, and when I stopped by our (new) office in town, there was a whole stack of Christmas mail waiting for me! I had received some Christmas cards before going to Ethiopia, but today, I received more cards and Christmas letters, all of which had gotten lost in the post-election violence craziness.

Since people are still greeting one another with "Happy New Year!" around here, getting Christmas mail shouldn't be unusual.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Highs and Lows from the Past Two Days

  1. (H) Being back in the Eldoret area, in my own car!
  2. (L) Being weary of the young guys on the side of the road, wondering if they were part of the mobs that burned down homes, cars, and chased away neighbors.
  3. (L) Seeing several homes and businesses in the Ilula neighborhood burned to the ground.
  4. (H) Seeing the kids! I stopped by the Sifunas' home first to greet them, and then went to Ilula. I hadn't seen those kids since their Christmas party. They came running, shouting "Adele! Adele!" when I pulled into the Ilula compound.
  5. (H) Giving and receiving hundred-some hugs! Each and every child came to hug me.
  6. (L) Not seeing little Kanmau... I found out later that he's down with toncillitis, and was able to go and see him today.
  7. (H) Seeing many of the staff. They're amazing people, really. The night watchmen came to my house to greet me and announced joyfully, "Happy New Year, Adele!" Due to the post-election violence, many people are really celebrating now for the first time that it's a new year...
  8. (H) Having dinner at the Ronos' home.
  9. (L) Hearing from them some of the details of all that had transpired around the Ilula area...
  10. (H) Catching up with Don and Amy by phone.
  11. (L) Waking up to terrible winds blowing for what seemed like hours throughout the night! And since this is the height of the dry season, the dust finds its way into everything. My counters, plates, cups, everything was covered in a thin layer of red dust this morning. Yes, yes, the windows were closed.
  12. (H) Hearing the kids sing worship songs at the top of their lungs during Sunday school.
  13. (L) Seeing the kids' faces when they realized I was really leaving again for Kipkaren...
  14. (L) Seeing more of the devastation in the neighborhood and all along the way to Kipkaren.
  15. (H) Seeing friends and neighbors at Kipkaren.
  16. (H) Being welcomed home by Flannel. She's not the most affectionate cat around, but she literally came to sit with her front paws on my feet as if to say, "Don't go away again!"
  17. (H) Getting all my stuff unpacked and my new picture hung.
  18. (H) Having incredible chicken parmesan with rice and crunchy green beans at William and Michelle's house.
  19. (H) Getting to bed at a decent hour. Or so I hope, at least.
  20. (L) Having issues trying to post photos along with this entry. Click on the pictures on the right to see some photos from Ilula.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Some favorite photos from Ethiopia

To see more photos from Ethiopia, click on the photos to the right.