Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 4 - Kenya Journal

Although we saw tremendous suffering and need, the real takeaway from this day was the message of hope and healing.  The CIC group was one of the best examples of amazing adults investing in the future of children.  The health clinic was a real example of partnership.  It was amazing to see the teaching about things that we just seem to take for granted, like the health benefits of basic sanitation.  Visiting Mary and her family, and being invited into her home, was a life-changing experience.  Her hope, and the determination of "Adult" was awe inspiring, and I knew at the moment that Adult asked us to sponsor Mary's family why I was there.  Ouma Grace, Mary's youngest child, was registered in the system at our request and the process for us to sponsor her is moving forward.  Although it is easy to say that we will change their lives through sponsoring Grace, what is immediately evident to me is that our lives have also been changed by meeting her.

Katito journal - 9 May 2012

We started our day with worship and devotional at the Katito IPA office. We learned Momba Sowa Sowa (Things Are Getting Better) and it was so fun. A visiting pastor took us through Acts 27:21-26 and 2 Kings 4:1-7. The common thread is that God is not restricted by man's limitations. In both cases, He provided extraordinarily for those who had faith.

We then went to another primary school to see the work of the Children In Christ (CIC) group. We joined the kids in singing and dancing and playing games. We played simon says, learned a bible verse and danced.  My partners were two little girls from the school. It was so much fun. The staff of the CIC was so awesome teaching the kids and I was really moved by the fact that the kids are learning about God and Jesus. In the school, I noted their motto: Together We Succeed! That very much sums up how I feel about this trip...the people in the field here...World Vision...and the resources that it takes...together, we can do God's work.
Next we went to a mobile health clinic for those who live too far away from the actual clinic building. We saw younger children (0-4 years) get weighed, measured, examined, etc. Additionally, we saw the mother's get educated on sanitation, nutrition, etc. Afterwards, we watched the villagers go through an exercise to help them come to awareness of the problem of OD (open defication). They mapped their village on the ground and showed the staff where they use the bathroom. The next step was for them to see the effects of not using a latrine and to understand the adverse health effects. The conversation was very graphic, but the key is that the villagers need to come to the understanding that it is a health issue on their own.

Our next stop was a community greenhouse. About 20 villagers, mostly older women, came together and built a 270 square foot greenhouse. The materials were obtained by them, except for anything that could not be supplied locally...the UVA plastic sheets and the screens. These were supplied by WV, as were the seeds. The women bought a rain catch cistern and hired the labor to put up the structure. Additionally, the government supplied the required training. A month ago they plated tomato seeds. In about a month, they will start to reap tomatoes and for 9 months, because of the green house, they will have tomatoes. What was so wonderful about these women, in addition to their hospitality, was that they donate much of their crop to OVCs and other needed areas. These women are the real Hands of God. I fact, I have been continually amazed by the generosity of those who appear to have so little.

We then returned to the the IPA for lunch. We have eaten very well on this trip.

We then visited Mary, a mostly single mother of four who is living with AIDS. We visited her in her home, which was a wonderful 2-room mud dwelling with a steel roof. She seemed to have suffered a stroke, as well. She and her caretaker Mary (aka: "Adult") shared her story of Mary becoming quiet ill and bedridden, and her husband leaving her because of that. We learned that world vision convinced her of her need to go to the hospital, where she learned that both her and her husband were HIV+. After learning of her infection, World Vision assigned caretakers to her who helped her get better. Two years later, she is doing better. Her beautiful four children are HIV negative, as well. Adult thanked us for her visit, but begged us to sponsor her children. I was very moved by this and realized that God was presenting me with an opportunity. I told Adult that we wouldn't forget about her, that she was in our hearts forever. I then asked Tracy Thurmond if there was anything we could do...Tracy inquired about her children's status and we discovered that they are not registered. However, with the help of the WV staff, one will be registered tomorrow, and will be immediately sponsored by Angie and I. I'm not even gone yet, but I cannot wait to return to see all of our sponsored children again.

From there, we left to go to an orphans and widows support group. We met about 15 widows (and two widowers) and 7 orphans. Additionally, we met a 17 year old boy (man) who was a head of household taking care of his younger brother and sister. This group, like so many others we've met were so wonderful. Having so little, their primary thought is for others. We were so amazed by their faith, their joy and their generosity. We heard how WV supports them as part of our visit. And, like our stop at the greenhouse, we were offered cokes to drink...I've had a lot of coke this trip, but I've also called in love with a strong ginger ale they have called Stoney Tanzaninga. We handed out lollipops to the children, and said our goodbyes.

We returned to the IPA for a late tea and then departed to the hotel, where we had even a later dinner. Simon led us in devotional and we discussed our concerns. The group is clearly concerned about how we can continue what we are doing and feeling when we return home...that we all want to live in the joy of faithfulness and love of God the way that the people that we've met here do,

NB - when I asked Angie if we could sponsor another child, she said of course. After I told her the story of Mary, she immediately replied with, "what about the other three?". That is why I love Angie...her heart for others is so amazing. However, WV rules stipulate that only one child per home can be sponsored...this is for several reasons, but I've learned this week that sponsorship has direct benefits for the entire family, as well as indirect and direct benefits for the entire community.


Thank you Christy and Kevin Stone, as I've "borrowed" some of your pictures.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 3 - Kenya Journal

I remember having had zero expectations for this day.  Why?  Because I thought that meeting our sponsored children was the highlight of the week, and that everything else was going to be relatively unmoving.  How wrong I was.  In fact, I can't pick out any day that was more important, more moving, or more special than any other day. Yes, meeting the children was amazing and I have been thinking about that more than any other occurrence, but seeing the water projects and seeing the impact to the communities was also very significant.  Additionally, I continue to think about all of the people we met during these subsequent days and their wonderful spirits and generosity.  To my surprise every day was unbelievably life-changing.


Katito journal - 8 May 2012

We started our day with devotional at the Katito WV office.  After some amazing worship, Wycliffe led us in the word.  He focused on how in the world we must work for our reward, but in Christ's church, we did not...that we were given grace and salvation without ever earning it.  He thanked us for giving to them without them ever earning it, as well.  It was a by good message.

We then left for the Kobeto borehole.  One of the trucks got stuck in the mud as we approached.  The borehole is located on the grounds of a primary school. It is 450 feet deep and serves 2,000 gallons per day.  Additionally, it will not dry up in the dry season AND it replaces the next closest water source which is a polluted river 4 KM away!!!  I pumped water from the hand pump AND carried a 20 liter jug to the hand washing station.  I can't believe that people do that for miles.  I interviewed Linda, an 8th grader about the well, and she told me that it is a blessing in so many ways, not least of which is the fact that they have clean, healthy water so close now.  The school kids celebrated with us and I was just about mobbed as we handed out lollipops and cookies, but it was great fun.

Our next stop was the Pawtenge primary school (grades 1-8).  The kids did memory verses, songs, and introduced themselves and told us what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Lawyers, doctors, nurses, judges and pilots were the most common.  When one child said he wanted to be a farmer, the other children snickered.  When it was time to introduce myself, I told them and Angie and I sponsored 4 children and that when I grew up I wanted to be a professional soccer player.  They laughed at the absurdity. I wish I would have thought to tell them I had 8 children, four at home and four in Katito.  Before we left, we learned a new song and sang and danced with the kids. 

Our next stop was in a three house village where we met with the members of the Hera Jima Self Help Group.  The group of about 25 members (mostly women) is a "table top" bank cooperative.  We observed their weekly meeting where funds were counted, dues were paid, loans were provided, shares were purchased, and loans were paid for (with interest).  Basically, World Vision taught this group how to run their cooperative, thus freeing them from the bondage of usury and equipping them for small business success.  We also learned that they helped support OVC's (orphans and vulnerable children).  I couldn't believe how generous these people were, having relatively little, but sharing any little excess that they had.

We then left for the Ndori primary school.  We sat in on a science class and learned about soil erosion.  We then had students do more memory verses, and then a group of girls came in to dance and sing.  Imagine my surprise when there drummer walked in and IT WAS OUR SPONSORED CHILD, NIKALAS!!!!  He sat in the corner with a drum stick and a 5 gallon pail and started to keep the beat.  The girls danced and sang and at one point they started spinning and high-fiving.  I had enough and asked Josh if he wanted to join in with me.  So Josh and I started spinning and high-fiving, too.  As you can imagine, the kids went nuts as the Mzunga danced.  We then joined the girls danced with them.  The more I shook my booty, the more they howled.  It was so much fun.  The girls marched off and Dylan and I gave Nikalas a hug.  It was so awesome...he remembered us and really welcomed us.  Dylan and I had a chance to visit with him for a second before we left...we told him that his drumming was awesome, and that Dylan played, too. We'll need to send him a picture of Dylan with his kit.  We then said our goodbyes and left for the IPA office for evening tea.

After changing (we were all completely covered in mud due to all the heavy rains), we met for dinner at the hotel.  At dinner Josh led us in a "lecto divinia" and meditated on John 17:13-18.  I really felt God telling me to stop being scared of people's responses ("the world hated them") and that He wants me to "GO ALL IN" for the Kingdom ("be a part of the world").  The team all shared what they got out of the exercise.  We are really becoming close. I've enjoyed getting to know them all better and sharing this experience with them.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 2 - Kenya Journal

This was the day that I had looked for with such an amazing, but nervous, anticipation.  I was uncertain of what the meeting with our sponsored children would be be like.  I was so scared that it would be awkward and not fun for them.  I previously did not cultivate a relationship with the children, rather I relied on our kids to write "their kids" in Katito.  Although I was nervous, I was so looking forward to meeting the kids that got us involved in Katito, especially Nikalas, who I really felt a connection towards as his picture is what hooked me into sponsoring him.  I saw his face in the pamphlet and new I was meant to sponsor him.  This was the day on which the whole trip focused, or so I thought at the time.


Katito Journal - Monday, 7 May, 2012

Today started with breakfast at the hotel. Everyone slept well and was refreshed, except for Lluvia. After breakfast, we headed to The Lakes sub branch office in Kisumu.  This office is responsible for all of the IPA's in the area, including Katito.  Once there, We met the SB staff and had devotional and tea.  Devotional focused on Psalm 37 and we discussed how only after you know the Lord can you do good works.  We also touched on money, anger, and how God will always be their to provide for us...how we may stumble, but God will always pick us up.  We met Joseph who is the SB manager and his staff while we were there.

We then drove the to the IPA in Katito.  IPA stands for Integrated Program Area and is meant to convey that multiple programs (objectives) are likely occurring in parallel.  We met the staff upon our arrival.  Albert is the new IPA manager, and Alfred is his second.  They briefed us on the the area and the IPA.  They informed us that there are about 4,700 children registered for sponsorship, with approximately 4,200 sponsored by three different churches.  We also learned that sponsorship conveys many indirect benefits to the families of the sponsored and to the community as a whole. 

After this we were supposed to meet with a local politician.  Clearly this was to benefit the WV staff, but it was good to hear about the cooperation between the government and WV. We kissed his hiney as good as we could.  I told him that the WV staff had informed us how supportive his office was and I thanked him for that.

As we waited to go to the official's office, we met with Caroline, who is responsible for sponsorship.  She informed us about how the letter process works and how they have 60 days to reply to a letter from a sponsor.  We were all very interested in this process, as we love when we get letters from the children.  As we were about to help stuff the envelops of letters to their sponsors, we were instructed that it was time to leave.

After the visit to the government official, we returned to the IPA for lunch.  We all were excited that the moment was approaching.  We drove to another part of the IPA and had to get out of the trucks to cross a creek.  As we approached, the children, their parents and the staff started singing in Swahili.  It was a beautiful song and set the stage for our arrival.  Josh jumped right in and started introducing himself.  We all followed suit.

I saw and recognized Nikalas almost immediately.  Then I saw Sammy.  I couldn't find the girls until I recognized Dorine.  I asked her her name to verify.  Lastly, I found Eunice.  It was apparent that she was the most shy of all of the kids.  We introduced ourselves to our sponsored children and to everyone else there.  It was the most incredible experience ever.
The children were so shy and soft spoken...Kenyans appear to be a soft spoken people, and these children being in this situation just made them mute.  We walked over to a covered area and we were given seats of honor, as were the sponsored children.  The administrative staff introduced themselves and we were paired up with our kids.

As we relocated to an inside area, Dylan and I gave the kids their backpacks.  I went through the photo albums and the pictures of Angie, the kids, Higgins and my run.  I introduced Marissa's picture to Dorine and told her how much Marissa loved her.  I did the same to Eunice with Cassie's picture.  With the help of an interpreter, I think the kids really got what I was saying.  We then pumped up their soccer balls and went to play in the field.  Dylan and Sammy ran off almost immediately.  Sammy is Dylan's "child" and they have been corresponding for a long time.  I kicked with Dorine, Eunice and Nikalas.  Eunice was so timid, that I asked Josh and Tracy to help out a little.  Josh's sponsored child had not yet arrived and Tracy does not have a child in Katito.  After a while, I got Dylan and Sammy to join us and Dylan and I kicked with all four children.  It was so much fun.

Eventually, it was decided that we should play a match - Springcreek Church vs. The sponsored children.  We played running around for awhile...it was such amazing fun. Sammy is a good player...the kids scored and I taught all of them how to HIGH FIVE.  They smiled and laughed at the goofy Mzunga.  That really seem to loosen up the kids...but nothing loosened them up as me falling in the mud.  Josh threw in the ball, and I headed it...and then slipped in the mud and went down.  EVERYONE cheered at the header and then laughed at the fall.  It was so fun.  Dylan scored on my assist and we tied it up.  Sammy then scored to take it for the children.

We then went back to the chairs and I opened the kids pencils.  I sharpened one for each kid and wrote my name on a page in their tablet.  I asked them to do the same...and then I asked them to draw a picture.  I drew a giraffe (tinga) and they laughed at it.  Even the moms laughed at it.  I met Sammy's and Eunice's dads and Nikalas and Dorine's moms. The kids drew pictures and I asked if I could keep them.  I will share them with the kids at home.

At that point it was about time to say goodbye.  We took pictures and everyone sang us a beautiful song.  Two kids stood up and made statements, one was our Nikalas.  Among other things, he 'thanked Mr. Scott'.  It was awesome.  Our group then sang Jambo to everyone...and they joined in and it was magical.

I said good bye to each of the kids, told them I loved them, and thanked their parents.  As we walked out, Dorine and Nikalas came up to the car for one more good bye.  Dorine especially, stuck her hand in the car and wouldn't let go.  Frankly, I wouldn't let her go, either.  When we finally did, I cried hard.  I am already dreaming of the next time I see them.


N.B. - Pictured from top to bottom:  1) Sweet and shy Eunice.  She didn't say much, but was so sweet.  It was hard to focus on her as Nikalas and Dorine were much more outgoing.  She drew an amazing bird as her picture. 2) Amazing Nikalas.  He was much more outgoing and his mother was a hoot, too.  I really enjoyed meeting him, and got to see him in school the next day.  3)  Sammy was very outgoing, but I did not spend a lot of time with him as Dylan and he ran off to play soccer.  He is a good ball player, and we learned that he likes to draw and play drums.  No wonder he and Dylan connected so well.  4)  Beautiful Dorine.  She was so easy to connect with and I fell instantly in love with her.  I still see her in my dreams.  I don't know if I ever cried as hard as I did when we drove off.  We both wouldn't let go of each other through the truck window.  It was a life changing experience.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 1 - Kenya Journal

I'll be posting my journal notes from our Kenya trip over the next couple of days.  These notes were compiled at the end of each day.  I tried to capture what we did, but did not write a lot about how I felt during the trip.  I am still processing through those complex emotions.  Instead, this journal was meant to capture the day to day activities to be used to jog my memory about the things that we did.  Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of pictures as I didn't take many...I was too busy trying to experience everything in real time, and less interested in worrying about getting the photo.


Katito journal - 06 May 2012

We arrived in Kisumu today.  The flight from DFW to London was horrible as Josh accidentally moved his seat and we were jammed into a 767.  Ultimately, we arrived and I got a couple of hours of sleep.  We went into London to see parliament and Big Ben, but the underground was running very slow and we ended up only having 20 minutes in the city.  At least we had a good meal of fish and chips at the airport.  This, following our meal at Reata Grill makes me think that this team can really eat.  Our flight from London to Nairobi was much better, as it was a half filled triple-7.  I had an entire row to myself and was able to lie down and get a few hours sleep.

Nairobi was as expected, and we walked from the international terminal to the domestic, like how you have to in Delhi.  The domestic terminal was spartan, but we had a group of us, so our multi-hour layover went quickly.  We met Justus here, as well.

Our flight to Kisumu was fine...short.  Kisumu is beautiful.  It is green, mountainous, near Lake Victoria and just wonderful.  We had lunch at the hotel - a run down affair, not the guest house I had expected - and went shopping at the market.  After doing my version of the haggle, I had completed my souvenir shopping.  We also took a drive to a beach area near the lake.  Seeing the fishing boats and all of the kids stands out to me.  I love getting waved at with that big smile that the kids have.  The adults don't share their enthusiasm, but we are getting stared at, A LOT.  We even had at least on child announce 'Mzunga' (white man) as we drove past.

We had dinner at the hotel and our security briefing.  We also got our agendas for the trip.  We meet our sponsored children tomorrow..I am so enthusiastically nervous about that.  I hope it goes well and that the kids enjoy it.

I also learned that we would have an opportunity to experience hauling water, like many of the kids do...I am looking forward to that.  I pray that I get out of tomorrow what God wants me to get out of it, and that the same happens for everyone I come across tomorrow.