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!