"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."

"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11

Monday, February 1, 2016

To SEE...

Every morning as I crawl out of bed, the first thing I reach for is my glasses.  I want to SEE, definitely not myself, not at 6am. But, I want to see. I want to clearly see what’s in front of me, and I want to see my people.

I recently read a story in the Old Testament about an African girl who was taken from her village and forced to work as a slave for a prominent family far from her home country. The man of the house impregnated her against her will.  She was legitimately angry and became rebellious.  This didn’t sit well with the missus, who verbally and physically abused her, causing her to run away into the wilderness.  Alone, destitute and heavy with child, she sat to rest by a spring.

Inexplicably, as she sat there, God Himself appeared and spoke to her. He told her to return and serve this abusive lady and to do it with a change of attitude. God even told her she was carrying a son, who would grow to be a pain in the a** (the actual word used was donkey, but the point was clear). She was overwhelmed and humbled by God’s visit to her and His interest in her life. She gave Him the name Elroi, “the God who sees.”  This is the story of the slave girl Hagar from the Old Testament.

To see – really see - beyond the visible, into the heart, illuminating the darkness has penetrated my mind’s eye as I’ve read about Hagar. God sees. It’s one of my favorite things about Him. He sees our true condition, our affliction, our joy. God sees and He acts.  He spoke words of truth, words of direction and words of encouragement over Hagar, and He does the same for us.

Last week, we took Isaac to the hospital. That statement alone is a miracle, and I love that his name hearkens back to the story of Hagar. Isaac is a new little guy at The Shelter.  He came with his younger brother, from whom he’s been separated since they were orphaned two years ago. Coming from a polygamous family, his stepmother, who was also widowed when the boys’ father died, couldn’t care for both of them along with her own seven children. She sent Isaac to live with a pastor, but he struggled to provide food, let alone schooling, for Isaac because he had twelve other orphans in his care.

Isaac had been having some pain and trouble with his bowels, but did not complain because, as far as he could remember, this was normal.  The keen eyes of the Shelter mama found him stressed in the bathroom and the bowl full of blood. She alerted us, and we acted immediately. Thankfully, under the watchful eye of the doctor at Tenwek Hospital, the source of the problem was uncovered and repaired, and he was sent home to heal.

God sees.  He sees His children.  God saw Isaac when no one else did, and He acted.  He brought Isaac to The Shelter. The mama saw him and brought his issues to light. His sponsor and the Angel sponsors saw him and provided the means to receive medical attention. The doctor saw him and brought him healing.  His problem has been seen, known, and addressed. 

Even more than that, Isaac is receiving loving care and his physical, spiritual, social and educational needs are beginning to be addressed.  He’s only five, but he’s so thankful. He’s thankful for food and a bed.  He’s thankful to be with his brother again.  He’s thankful to be healing.

We too want to see.  In 2016, we want to see the way God saw desperate Hagar, the way He saw suffering little Isaac. We want to see into issues more clearly, more completely and more compassionately.  I’m thankful we were able to see this story unfold.  I look forward to sharing what God shows us this year.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Beautiful Mess

It is a holy experience, when God brings a needy child into our path. There’s something in those moments, similar to a birth or an adoption, where the presence of God is tangibly felt as He entrusts the care of one of His seen children into our hands.   Words aren’t enough because it’s deep and precious, and bold and outrageous. Thinking back, there’s a knowing, that God was there, and deep soul emotion stirs on remembering because of it’s significance on many levels.  And over time, as that child becomes known, the significance grows.

That is how it was the day I met Anna, Sammi, and Eman*.  The moment and the meeting was steeped in God’s favor. There wasn’t smiling, laughing or embracing, just an awareness that God was moving and that we were supposed to get involved. It was a holy moment.

Their story is heart wrenching and messy. They have the same mother, but unknown fathers. Hurting and broken, mama had turned to drugs and alcohol to mask her pain, and prostitution to support her addictions.  In an unnatural moment she locked them in a house and left. Screaming with fear and hunger, the children were found by neighbors and brought to the hospital suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. Eight-year-old Anna was hungry, but physically ok.  She had never been to school. Two-year-old Sammi and seven month old Eman were near death, weighing less than 10 pounds and less than 5 pounds respectively. They are lucky to be alive. The hospital social worker asked us to take the children to the Oasis home when the month long search for the mother came up empty. 

We’re still looking for their mama.  She also needs help. Further investigations are also ongoing to determine if there is other family who could or should be involved but until then, they will remain safely at the Oasis home. 

Anna started school this month and was thrilled to have a uniform, her first new clothes ever. Her smile was radiant. The boys are improving slowly and have just begun smiling. What God will do with these three, only He knows but I am thankful to have been invited into their beautiful mess. 
*names have been changed for privacy 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Warm Christmas Greetings from the Smith's

Warm Christmas Greetings from the Smith's!

Thank you for being a part of our lives and for growing with us over 2015. This year is marked by refocus and renewal in our personal and professional lives. 

In addition to family and Jesus, these are the things we are thankful for in 2015:

Friends who can stitch up your forehead
People who make living in Kenya possible
Texting Katie during ND football games
New staff, missionaries and partners
Fishing and golf 

Ann -
Our kids character growth
Friends who provided a visit to Paris
Relational time with people in the US
The connecting power of the internet 
Rick's ability to scare monkeys and baboons out of the house
Seeing children's lives changed 

Katie - 
New beginnings 
Notre Dame
Hearing God's voice
World travel
Costa Rica

Rachel -
Teaching piano
New Oasis kids 
Henna tattoos
Water Skiing!

Domino's! We welcome you to Kenya!

Julia - 
Domino's Pizza in Kenya
The flute
Parisian ├ęclairs 
Formal dresses 
Airport surprises

Caleb -
Rugby. The trumpet. Healthy teeth and friends. Burger day. Mombasa. 

He'll probably hate this some day...but he's just SO CUTE!

Now may the Lord of peace Himself 
continually grant you peace in every circumstance. 
The Lord be with you all.
(2 Thess 3:16)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Coming Home

“Do you feel like Kenya is home or the US is home?” she asked me with a quizzical look on her face.

Thinking for a minute and knowing the answer sub-conciously, but verbalizing it for the fist time, I replied, “I feel like I have two homes.”

How do I begin to describe the longing we have to be in both places at once? 

We love America.  It’s the greatest country on earth.  We logged over 5000 miles on our car visiting friends and family and churches.  Our culture is there.  Our daughter goes to university there. Good roads, customer service, resources, infrastructure, convenience, Lou Malnatti’s, etc. It’s all there. 

Ann's Side of the Family

Rick's Side of the Family
It’s also hard to be in America.  It’s overwhelming and consumeristic and expensive and complicated. Time is over us. We feel obligated to be punctual, even in the middle of a good conversation. It’s over efficient at the expense of relationship.

Katie's Graduation from RVA

We love Kenya.  It’s the second greatest country on earth.  Our friends and family and church are here.  Our way of life is here.  People deliver milk, flowers, meat, and other helpful things to our door who stop to chat.  Time is under us. Friends pop in unannounced and stay for chai and work gets pushed aside for relationship. 

It’s also hard to be in Kenya.  It’s impoverished and slow.  The customer is never right. Excellence is hard to find. Everything is done by hand – road construction, excavation, foundation work, etc. Corruption in leadership and government impacts everyone. It’s under efficient at the expense of progression.

With that said, we feel like we came home and then we went home!  And though there are blessings and challenges no matter where we go, we feel we are right where we are supposed to be.  We are excited about pressing in to the vision to restore more children.  We are humbled by the magnitude of what lies before us but are confident that God has a plan and know that our daily reliance on Him for direction is the critical piece to moving forward.

Thank you for being a part of our lives we loved seeing you and love seeing you!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A US Visit!

We are beyond excited to be back home this summer!  We are in need of a break and can't wait to enjoy people and places we miss deeply!  Although we come home tired, we also come home committed and excited to share with you the God-sized, expanded vision stirring within Oasis.  The goal of this newsletter is to briefly share that vision and our needs trusting that it will lead to fruitful conversations when we are with you. Enjoy this video that briefly explains this vision.


At Oasis, we believe God is asking us to eliminate the orphan crisis in the six counties of southwest Kenya.  There are 240,000 orphaned children in this area and the Kenyan government has identified 110,000 of them as vulnerable. Vulnerable means that these orphaned children living in southwest Kenya are suffering from:

-      Poor nutrition
-      Limited access to education
-      Limited access to medical care
-      Early engagement in sexual activity
-      Limited access to HIV treatment

Our vision is to be a catalyst in the region that leading to the rescue and restoration of each of the 110,000 vulnerable orphaned children in southwest Kenya.  

We believe God has placed the current Oasis children's homes uniquely in three strategic geographic areas in southwest Kenya.  As we've researched, studied and prayed through this, we believe that God is asking us to expand these children's homes into centers that not only serve children on site but also reach vulnerable orphaned children in the surrounding communities. These centers will give us a presence in the community so we can expand partnerships and form strategic alliances with like-minded organizations.  Together, we can end the orphan crisis here! 

We are excited to share more of our specific plans with you face to face, so please choose an event to attend. If you are unable to to make it, the following is a summary of the Oasis and personal needs we are seeking to meet this summer.  Please begin praying about how God may be asking you to get involved.  

Specific Oasis Kenya Needs
The Shelter: The multipurpose building is complete as well as House 1!  We intend to bring 20 children to the home in December and grow to 60 kids by the end of 2016!  Our 2015 goal is to raise $120,000 to build houses 2 and 3 and complete the infrastructure necessary to make the homes functional.  The newly constructed Shelter will be Oasis' flagship Center, providing care for children both and in existing homes in the surrounding community.  

The Hill: There are 62 children living in the home and 40 children in high school. The challenge at The Hill is in moving an established program towards an expanded vision.  Important adjustments need to be made in both the home and the community, but God has already brought many pieces together over the last year.  In 2015, we are looking to fence in the six acres of property that are being titled to Oasis for Orphans including the children's home and the school.  We are also looking to complete some critical furnishing and repair projects at the home.  Our goal is to raise $20K for the fence and home improvement projects at The Hill. 

The Valley:
Oasis officially began the sponsorship of 30 children at The Valley in September.  Since then, the children's school scores have increased by 22%, and their health has dramatically improved - Textbooks, trained teachers, and nutritious food make a difference!  The Valley is working out of temporary buildings, which need reinforcements until we can secure new land and build more permanent structures.  Our 2015 goal is to raise $5000 for building improvements and an additional $15,000 towards the purchase of land.

Michael, the US Managing Director, his wife, Kathy, and the boys in front of
one of the structures that collapsed during a rain storm at The Valley.
Smith Personal
On a personal note, we’ve had car trouble and are going to need to rebuild the engine on the Land Cruiser to the tune of over $16,000.  While this seems ridiculous, replacing the vehicle with another used car would cost upwards of 40,K and we would still be inheriting someone else’s problems. The rebuild seems to be the most reasonable. We also have lost several monthly donors whot we would like to replace.  If you are able to join our support team on a monthly basis, we would greatly appreciate it.