"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

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Orphans

These children are so beautiful and precious! We are getting to know most of them by name. We have spent the last two days interviewing them and learning more about their pasts. Their stories are heart rending. Most, after losing both parents, have moved to several different homes before being brought here to Oasis. I will tell you about Stephen Ledama. He is/was not yet living at the orphanage. He was one of the 23 that were to move in when the second half of the orphanage was finished. After his parents died he moved in with his grandparents. They feel as if he is a burden. He is not fed very much at home and often comes to school having had no dinner or breakfast. The orphanage staff have been feeding him before he goes home after school so he has some nutrition. More disturbing than that is that he is being mistreated at home. He is being beaten and forced to carry very heavy cartons of water long distances. He is being forced to care for the cattle by himself – he is 5 years old. Whenever the orphanage gives him something – like new shoes – they are taken from him. As Jill and I interviewed him and heard about his situation from Peter, one of the incredible caretakers here, we first shed tears and prayed for him, and we determined that he should move in immediately. We decided that he would not go home that very day. We asked Peter the best way to inform the grandparents that he would not be coming home. Peter told us that would not be necessary – they wouldn’t care if he did not come home. We found this a little hard to believe. However, we had brought a blow up pool mattress to use as a bed so we inflated that and put it on the floor – now there are 43 living at the orphanage. I am sorry to say that is has been two days now that he has stayed at Oasis and we haven’t even heard a word from the family… Stephen is doing great! He used to come in in the mornings to school very sad – depressed. The night we told him he wouldn’t be going home anymore, he was so happy – running aound, playing freely – like a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He’s been that way ever since.

The Celebration Ceremony - Tuesday, April 1

WOW! The entire Trans Mara region came out to celebrate the fact that we are here! School was called off and people traveled from all over (some from over 100 miles) to be here to meet us today. We were not expecting such a greeting! We gave the orphans their red T-shirts and slowly marched up the hill to the orphanage singing all the way! The children from the primary, secondary, and High school had prepared dramas, poetry readings, songs, and traditionally Maasai dances for us. The town government officials came, two Maasai chiefs, and 9 pastors! Every one of them spoke! It was over 3 hours long but it was really cool! Both Rick and Scott had opportunities to speak and they were the ones to officially cut the ribbons in the dedication of the orphanage. It was quite an honor!

Once it was over we had a chance to play with the orphans a little which was very fun! They are a lively and joyful bunch. I can tell already that it will be difficult to leave them. Tomorrow we will spend the entire day with them and begin the interviews with each of them! The younger children are fascinated with our kids. They keep rubbing their arms to try to get the white paint off to see the black skin beneath!

It is amazing to be in a land where everything is so opposite what it is in America. No one has a car here – everyone walks…far. The houses are made of mud with grass roofs or are made of crude bricks with aluminum roofs. They are grouped in threes or fours with miles between them. The roads are all dirt and there are mostly foot paths that people travel down. There are small herds of cattle scattered around. No one is in a hurry – everyone stops to greet each other as they pass. Children wear tattered, filthy clothing. The babies are all wrapped in blankets because there are no diapers. There is no running water and people cook over a wooden fire with pots. There is no electricity save for the generator at Joseph’s house and one at the orphanage. No one has a bathroom – they make due in the wild. There is one here where we are staying but it is only a hole in the ground. Everything seems so primitive except that many people have a cell phone! It is very humorous to see someone dressed in traditional Maasai clothing walking along with their cows and then hear their cell phone ring and watch them pull it out of their beaded belt and start talking!

We made it to the Trans Mara!!!

Monday morning we hopped into the smallest plane any of us have been in and flew over the beautiful Rift Valley. We saw elephants, ostriches, and other herds of animals below us. The landscape was breathtaking. Sounds enticing eh? Well – It was beautiful but we were all feeling quite queasy by the end… I won’t continue with the details. We landed in the middle of no where – literally. There was a small wooden sign that said Kichewa Tembo Airstrip, a small rickety old gazebo, and a dirt runway – that was it except for miles and miles of grassy fields and a few gazelles. One of our drivers was a little late and the pilot had to leave for another flight. It was a strange feeling to be left there! Fortunately the driver was not far and we loaded up our things and began a 3 hour treck along a very dusty, bumpy, road – people in America go off roading on these types of roads – it was interesting to navigate it in a Safari van!

As we traveled along we were amazed to see elephant herds, zebras, strange large birds, unusual plants, and huge termite hills. The most amazing sites were the people. They live in mud huts with grass roofs. There many were very young children (4-6 yrs old) along the roads tending cattle – cows, sheep, and goats. There were mothers and grandmothers working in the yards, doing laundry, carrying heavy loads on their heads. Everyone was very interested in us and were very friendly – waving and yelling ‘Jambo’ or ‘Sopa.’ Our children had the windows wide open and were yelling and waving as well.

As we neared the town of Kilgouris which is at the bottom of ‘The Hill’ (our destination) throngs of people came to welcome us. All along the road the children were running to our vans and reaching out to slap the hand of our kids. Everyone was waving. It was very fun! We finally reached our destination and were amazed at the beauty of the landscape. It is very mountainous. Everything is covered in green grass and you can see for miles and miles the hills and valleys. We were surprised how spread out everything was. We walk half a mile to the school from Pastor Joseph’s house. Many children walk 2-3 miles to school each day – some of them up to 7 miles and it really is all uphill!

When we got to Joseph’s house there were about 20 Maasai women dressed in full Maasai garb singing to greet us. They slowly marched forward in two rows and gave each one of us a huge hug! We then went into Joseph’s living room which his wife, Anna, had filled with wooden benches and tables for us and were introduced to everyone. Then we filed outside again and the children from the orphanage came down and sang us their welcoming song and we did the whole thing again. We were welcomed for about 2 hours! What an honoring tradition!

It was so awesome to finally meet the orphans! We recognized so many of them from the pictures we have been looking at over the last several months! They were so excited to see our kids! They are such beautiful children – their smiles are remarkable – the sight of white teeth surrounded by soft black skin is strikingly beautiful!

We ate dinner very late that night and went to sleep in our small but very cosy beds! We can’t believe we are finally here!