Monday, January 31, 2011

Nakuru: We Are Serving The Living God, Kenya Day 4

I just wrote an excellent blog. And it disappeared. Completely.

Since it's 4:30am and I'm awake, I'll rewrite. Although I fear it won't be as well written. Here it goes...

Sunday is always church day. No matter where you are in the world. I like that stability.

Church in Nakuru wasn't as, uh, how do you say it? Lively??? As I expected. But we danced. Yes. Danced.

Another group had their pastor say to them, "We don't want to offend, but sometimes we take out all the chairs so we can dance. Sometimes we hit into each other because we close our eyes. I know some like to worship still (with his arms at his sides and his neck stiff like he had meningitis) because they do not want to disturb God." Our American friends welcomed the African dance party as worship.

Why don't we worship with such excitement. We're worshiping the same God, aren't we? We just don't believe it. We don't need it. We're safe. We're comfortable. We have insurance and credit cards to protect us. We're loved and valued even if we don't acknowledge that sometimes. These people know hell. They smell it in their "backyards." They see it on their streets. They see it take their children. They live the injustice.

At our partners' church, I was blessed by the purity of the Gospel. The simplicity of the lyrics. The look of understanding on their faces.

Church lasted for 4 and a half hours. And the pastor spoke for only 30 minutes to keep it short for the visitors. He started at 12:00.

The night before was an all night time of prayer together for the men. Then everyone met together -women, children, men - at 6am for prayer before church. That's 7 hours of God. In one day.


That wouldn't fly back home. I can hear it already - that's my only day to sleep in. I stay up late Saturday night because it's the only day I have off. I need that time to enjoy myself.

In America we would never. Over 4 hours of church?? I've got other things to do!! I have a nap to take. Or a game to watch. Or dogs to take to the park. It's The weekend for crying out loud! Don't I DESERVE a break?!

In Kenya, there's nothing else to go home to. No couch to take a 3 hour nap on. No restaurant to beat the crowds. There's nothing to sleep in to. After all, a dump is behind their tin walled home.

So they pray.

The worship.

They grace each other with their steadfast presence every week as if to say, "THIS is what life is about." It's not about freedom to do as you wish. It's not about "rights." It's not about ambition. It's about worshipping GOD. Together.

A hot time of worship for me was listening to my new friend Susan Magiri sing "We are serving the Living God. We are serving the Living God. We are serving the Living God. Hallelujah. Jesus Christ." As the Compassion children sang next door in their classrooms (wearing their best hand-me-downs and street bought dresses that were too short for the age of their legs but fit their skinny waists), I thought to myself, "Yes. Yes you ARE serving. You are serving the Living God."

And what are we doing? Going home to lay on the couch.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nakuru: I Met Your Sponsored Child Today

This is going to be short tonight. I think my baby is hindering my usual ability to adapt to a severe time change. (Another thing I'll hang over her head later on in life.)

As we took our journey out from Nairobi to Nakuru early this morning (well, not that early since I was up by 3:45am...), we had great conversation in the car with Peter (a formerly sponsored Ugandan/Rwandan who is now a US field staff) about the country of Kenya. It's surreal to be driving into a part of the country that was under so much political and civil unrest that started only 3 years ago.

We turned the corner to the Great Rift Valley, and...woe.


Around the corner dad and I took our first Kenyan picture together. Only took us 3 days.

That's right folks! Coke and chickens.

On the way we saw baboons!! Lots of baboons!!! Momma baboons. Daddy baboons. And even a baby baboon! We passed to quickly to get pictures of any of them. Then around another turn...Zebras. God's famous work.

So fast forward 2 hours...

We arrived at the KAG Church in Nakuru and were greeted with (now familiar) Kenyan warmth and formality. Immediately dad and Pastor Wallace hit it off. It was evident. Beautiful Peninah showed us a tour and we saw tons and tons and tons of Compassion children. Tons. They were in class with their other sponsored friends.

On Saturdays the Compassion children meet at the project center for bible class and other learning. So it was a great day to be there.

We had a long and detailed discussion about both our churches' beliefs, goals, ministries, and various other things. I believe both sides feel it went very well. Pastor Wallace kept referring to us as "married" churches now. He mentioned all the things past donors had done for them, and although they were greatly appreciative, they have never had someone come alongside of them as a partner. We are making that come true now.

Some of the children in a dance club performed for us!! Cindy and Charlie - your beautiful boy is in the back row, 2nd to the end on the right.
Peter said, "We're in Africa now!!"

After lunch we met 4 sponsored children. Their sponsors are Charlie and Cindy:

Matt and Angie:

Holly and Brad:

And mom and dad:

Notice the expressions. For those of you who have asked, "why isn't my sponsored child smiling in their picture?" I'll tell you. Before the picture they're laughing and giggling and shaking their head "yes" to a photo op. The camera comes up. Smile goes away. camera comes down. Giggling ensues. Sometimes (like holly's little Elsie) the giggling becomes jumping.)

Culturally these children aren't used to having the attention of a camera. So they don't know to smile. Even when told.

We went to Denis' home. It was similar to the tin walled home from yesterday. Small. Multiple seats. Lace curtains. Dad gave him and his little brother some gifts. And they were a hit!!

After that. I met YOUR sponsored child. That's right. I said YOUR.

There are currently 300 children in this center. And starting February 13, we'll have 50 more of them to sponsor by Celebration Fellowship! This is our first, and most crucial step, in partnering with KAG Nakuru.

And I should mention, your sponsored child....

is beautiful.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone (in the usual Broadway song and dance style)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Kamangu: Reaching A Community Thru Mommies And Babies, Kenya Day 2

One thing I love about being with Compassion - each day brings a new joy.

Today we spent the day about an hour west of Nairobi in Renguti at the Kamangu Child Survival Center. (Child Survival Program or CSP is for pregnant moms or moms with children under 3 - they are sponsored as a community, not individually like in Child Sponsorship.)

Sorry - video won't load - connection is too slow.

We were greeted today in the same Kenyan Karobi (welcoming) fashion - with song and dance. But this time, with the little ones strapped to their backs.
We were given the blessed opportunity to hear testimony from the women. The first mother who spoke told us that the first "tool" she was given was the Bible. Before CSP, she could not even read, now she is able to teach the other mothers from the Bible. She learned cleaning and how to give a balanced diet. She learned the importance of playtime for her child and how to make toys out of household items. This made her proud. She learned social skills and how to choose her friends wisely. Friends that have positive influence on her life. She learned about family planning so her young child could get proper attention before having another. She was able to have a chicken when before, she could not afford even an egg. The chicken makes eggs for the family to eat, and they sell the others for income. This also made her proud.

After she spoke, the CSP director spoke on her behalf, and said that before she got involved in the project, this mother was very shy, and now she has grown into a leader who is able to teach the other women.

Something that was mentioned about CSP is how it doesn't just affect the families involved. It affects the whole community. When the women are cleaning their homes, or gardening, or making toys for their children, the other women see this and they copy the behavior.

Then a father from CSP spoke. Men - listen up here. This father was very transparent with us. Through meeting with the other CSP fathers once a month, he has learned how to be a good father and how to support his wife. He has learned what it means to be a leader and the head of his household. He cares about the well balanced diet of his family. And he takes pride in providing a home for them.

I can't tell you how adorable these kids are. They are strapped to mommy's back in what dad called a "baby bag," but it's simply a beautiful price of dyed cloth tied around the mom's shoulder. And they're all wearing long sleeves and a ski hat. It's a cultural thing. Keep the babies warm. The CSP director told me this was an issue when they first came. The babies were sweating and it was hard to gain weight. So they apparently aren't as bad as it used to be!!

At the CSP we saw where the babies go to play!! It was so much more than I could have imagined! We watched a couple small children (under 3) use pencils to draw cups and suns and their numbers! At 2 years old!!! In KENYA!!

And we watched another little boy play....and he watched us watch him.

Here is a homemade toy that frankly, is pretty dang impressive!

Later in the day we went on a home visit. We visited Grace and her 2 1/2 year old daughter Alice. Their humble home is about 10x7 feet. Tin roof. Several chairs. One small end table. And a coffee table that serves as a kitchen table. Grace showed us how she prepares and cooks a balanced meal for little Alice. She washed her hands and told us she didn't know before that this was important. Then she prepared the onions, the spinach, and got an egg from her chicken coop. (The sheep outside looking on suspiciously.) She took us out to an open walled tin roof area that served as the kitchen where she fired up her coals and put in her ingredients. The egg gets mixed in so the little one is sure to get the protein. Sometimes they only like the vegetables and then won't eat an egg by itself. Little Alice waited at the door.

She said she is careful to not over cook the spinach so it doesn't lose it's vitamins. (Take note America!!) After it was all done - it smelled fabulous - and she put it in a bowl with some cooked cornmeal for Alice to enjoy.

Little Alice put her hands in the bowl and whimpered as Grace ran back to her.

Too hot.

So little Alice ate her lunch. And I watched in silence. Without yet having children, I can only imagine the joy it gives a mother such as Grace to watch her baby eat.

We prayed for Grace and Alice before we left. And I was amazed at our awesome God as we thanked him for "saving Grace." How wonderful to have a name with such an impacting message of God's love for us.

Sponsors, you're making a difference. Whether you see it or not.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone (in the usual Broadway song and dance style)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dandora: The Day The Light Came, Kenya Day 1

I apologize upfront for the lack of pictures. My plan was to use the computer to blog and upload shots from the day, however, the Internet is very....unreliable and it's easier to stay on the iPhone. (Apple wins again in a developing country. I have many great stories about the iPhone in the midst of poverty. Praise God for technology.)

Today was quite full. And quite wonderful.

We started the morning off with a visit to Compassion Kenya's headquarters to get a tour and meet the staff. Might I just say...a well oiled machine. And there are dozens of checkpoints for integrity. It really is impressive. We don't have these kind of checkpoints even in our own churches or businesses.

We met Moses and Julius, the IT guys who keep it running (a formerly sponsored child); Brenda who is in charge of the Highly Valuable Children (or vulnerable children - suffering abuse or disability); Patricia who handles all the curriculum for the Kenyan programs; Jeffery who does financial training to the church partners; Samuel who works in the communications department and helps translate our letters; Joel, the Kenyan director (who so poignantly said, "we are fighting for dignity and for the dignity of our people"); and Fred, a program facilitator who works hand in hand with church partners - he's an ambassador of sorts between the American HQ and the people doing the real work at the Compassion programs.

There are a dozen more, but you want to hear about the child development sponsorship center we visited. A CDSP is a Compassion program hosted at a local church - they are the people who do the work, the real work.

Today it was the Dandora Baptist Center, KE-528. A program located to one of the largest dumps and subsequently the largest slums in Kenya.

This program is doing amazing work. I mean truly life changing work. Not just in the lives of the children, but in the community as well. The time in Dandura was started off with a welcome program from some of the primary children. They sang songs about how Christ has saved them and performed poetry. The tears came to my eyes as the 12 or so children recited their poem about how God used Compassion to redeem their hope and their future. They spoke of how they were sick and dying and without hope or a will to try, and they remember when Compassion came, and showed them restoration and guided them to the ever empowering love of God - they called this "I remember the day the Light came." There was no hope for school, no hope for health, no hope for survival, and Compassion was there - I remember the day the Light came.

A woman from the program, who is a mother of Compassion sponsored children spoke of something very familiar to Celebration Fellowship. She spoke of transparency. "Transparency is high class."

She introduced herself and said, "I have been living HIV positive for 24 years. I have 3 children of my own, and 8 orphans who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS - my own family." Through Compassion she was able to start a support group for women living with HIV/AIDS. There are 34 of them now, and they have lost 3 of their friends in the past few years. She lives with a deep rooted conviction that I see in many of our own church - that through community and transparency, there is a way to full life and purpose. There is restoration to hope and ultimately to God - in a way that can only come through true trust and transparency with your community. How freeing.

Of course there were stickers passed out - which crosses all cultural boundaries in the land of small people. Lots of laughter and waves and "monzugu!" which means "white person."

To finish the day we had diner with 4 Leadership Development Students which is always a great
joy for me. To hear the stories of how these young men and women had no hope, and how God used Compassion International to break the chains of poverty. Now they aspire to be leaders in their country, and many wish to work with children in order to give others the same opportunity they had. One LDP graduate, John, mentioned that he was sick often as a young child. And this gave him a sense of hopelessness. But after he joined the Compassion project, he was able to receive medical care. With a shaky voice, he told us that this medical attention empowered him to gain hope, to try hard in school, and to make something of the life he'd been given.

Some things they all had in common before Compassion intervened: with food being scarce, education was not even an option since you pay to go to school; they all lost family members early on in life; and they each had a stack of letters written by their sponsors that they still read over and over today for encouragement.

And you thought you were too small to change the world. So did they. But they're doing it. And by writing a letter, you are too.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone in Kenya (in the usual Broadway song and dance style)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Weird. January 25, Then and Now

A year ago today I was sitting in this airport.

A year ago today I was anxiously waiting the fate of our next 7 days, unsure of what they would hold.

A year ago today I was at the final stages of a long awaited journey.

Haiti had been on my heart since college. And it never came to fruition.

A year ago today, it did.

Then, I was heading to Haiti for medical disaster relief with Compassion International. (You can see the story and updates by clicking on the link.) Our time there was unspeakable. Here are some of the words Scott Todd, our trip leader was able to put together for Compassion's blog. My musings aren't quite as eloquent.

Now, I sit at the airport and await a new adventure with Compassion. And a much longer plane ride. And this time pregnant. Life is much different Now than Then.

But no matter how much time passes, I can still smell the smells, I can still see the faces, and I can still taste the pain of a country devastated. And they will forever be in my heart.

But Now, it's time to look ahead to a new country and to new relationships. Kenya, here we come.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What You Need to Know Before We Go

Tomorrow afternoon dad and I leave for Nairobi and Nakuru, Kenya! It feels like a long time coming, but truthfully, it also kinda snuck up on me!

For those of you new to this adventure, you can read previous related posts by clicking on Kenya or Church to Church under the Curtain Call section.

We are heading out Tuesday, arriving Wednesday night in Nairobi, and we'll spend sometime at various Compassion projects and Child Survival projects. I'm especially excited to see a CSP since I wasn't able to do this on our visit to Haiti after the earthquake a year ago. (Wow. A year ago....)

We'll head out Saturday to Nakuru to meet our church partners. And Sunday we'll have the opportunity to attend church with them!! That is going to be an experience.

At some point during the trip, I'll get to meet our 2nd sponsored child, Samson. This is going to be a dream come true for me! What a joy to finally meet this young man who has faithfully written us letters and who we've watched grow over the past 3 years.

We'll also get to meet 4 other children recently sponsored by people in our church! I can't wait to show you guys pictures of this!!!

Get ready for a great ride Celebration Fellowship! It's going to be exciting!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone (in the usual Broadway song and dance style)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Morning", Kenya, and A Wizard

Have you noticed I haven't made many posts this year? I've been a little overwhelmed. Here's why....

Besides starting a new job as a Nurse Practitioner, completely changing hospitals, and getting through the holidays...there's been a few things going on. All good of course, but even good stress is still stress. I think they taught me that in a psych class. Or maybe a patho class??? Anyways...not the point...

For the past 3 weeks I have been battling "morning" sickness. But my mornings last about 22 hours a day. 

No really. 22 hours.

I've tried it all: crackers before getting out of bed, sprite, ginger ale, ginger snaps, peppermint oil, peppermints, eating frequently, eating light, lots of fruit, lemon water, protein, preggie pops (which actually worked but I can't suck on a sucker 23 hours a day...). I finally got the hook up with the all too famous Zofran, and it's done the trick. (Along with eating a handful of something every 2 hours) However, it's taken away feeling sick, but I still walk around with an occasional gag out of the middle of nowhere. But I'll take it. And the baby making fatigue is pretty extreme. Praise the Lord I work 2 days a week!! 

Our first doctor's appointment was surreal. We saw our little growing baby and the tiny little arm and leg buds. Mom things he/she looks like Darth Vader. I hope that doesn't mean he/she will have Davis' head. The horrors of working labor and delivery are still too clear in my mind.

In less than 2 weeks, Dad and I will be headed to Kenya to meet our Church To Church partners in Nakuru, Kenya! I just received my packet from Compassion International with my visa, itinerary, and plane tickets. Along with it they sent 2 children from this project to be sponsored by our church! So if you have been waiting to get involved with Compassion, now is the time! Or if you have loved your involvement already and want more - you can sponsor another child! Dad and I will have the wonderful opportunity to meet these children and can take them gifts or pictures from you.  One thing I'm eagerly looking forward to is meeting our 2nd sponsored child Samson. He lives somewhere between Nairobi and Nakuru and I can't wait to meet him face to face!! He's the 2nd of our 5 sponsored children, and I love so much getting letters from him. He's an "older" child so he actually writes his own letters - in English too! Hopefully the "morning" sickness will be subsiding by then....

In my classes with Betty Buckley, I have moved on to a wonderful piece of work: The Wizard And I. At the end of March there will be 3 concerts at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth featuring her students. This is a talented group of performers that you won't want to miss. And watching Betty Lynn teach is a joy in itself. She's a Wizard, herself. Of course, the "morning" sickness has put a little damper on class....but I'm pushing through. 

It's worth it in the end. I'll be so happy I could...melt.