"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
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Today was well planned. I spent a good half an hour speaking face to face with the scheduling coordinator last week confirming the plans to see Dr. Bovie, the ENT, today and planning surgery if necessary for tomorrow morning for three of our kids. We talked about how far we were coming and why it was important to have open time on Friday morning for the surgeries. In fact, we had done this exact same thing in September with another child and it was ‘no problem,’ she assured me. I watched as she entered the names into the scheduling book and saw indeed space was available. We arrived at Kijabe last night all prepped for the 9am appointment today.
At 8:55 am we marched down to the clinic, cameras and video cameras in hand, ready to see Dr. Bovie. And he wasn’t there. I looked at the self-same scheduling coordinator with incredulity, reviewing the conversation we had less than a week ago. As if it was my fault, she looked at me and in broken English replied, “The doctor is off on Thursday and he is in Nairobi today and he doesn’t do surgery on Friday.” “But we talked about this last week and it was ‘no problem.” “Yes well his schedule has changed.” “Since last week? Why didn’t you call?” “You need to see Isaiah, the intern, first anyways, and then you will be scheduled to see Dr. Bovie, and then we schedule surgery for another time.” “But we talked about this last week, how we are coming from very far away and how we scheduled this same event in September and you remembered us and how it worked before.” “You just see Isaiah and we will see if he thinks you need to see Dr. Bovie tomorrow.” No apologies, no humility… that’s the way it is…
Angry – ohhh, I was SO angry. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been that angry before, which, I know, is a completely ungodly response, but I was very angry. Biting my tongue – HARD, I walked out with the three children to register them anyways. While waiting at the registration office, this sweet, old, American lady (probably 85 years old), came up to me and said, “Do you need some help?” With tears in my eyes I unloaded my frustration on her. She looked at me and without saying a word to me she put her hand on my back and started praying, “Lord, we know You know why these children are here and You know the timing that is best. We give this to You and know You are in control.” And she hugged me and left.
We spent the next hour getting them registered and then went back up to see Isaiah. Yes, he confirmed, they all three needed to see Dr. Bovie! REALLY?! We just needed to come back after lunch for hearing tests…
So we went back to my parent’s house and ate some lunch. During that time, my dad called from the hospital. For some miraculous reason, Dr. Bovie had returned from Nairobi and my dad was somehow able to speak to him. He relayed our situation to him and Dr. Bovie wanted to see all three children right away in the clinic. We rushed, excitedly down to the clinic. He walked in with a huge smile and said, “Don’t even start talking to me or I will start crying, come on back.” I was already teary. And he took the time out of his day off to see each one of them and to explain what each one needs and to make a plan to get them hearing again! One of them is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning, the others will come back in a few months for their surgeries. It was a truly miraculous day! Miraculous!
So what was this all about? I think partly it was a reminder for me, in my Type A, first-born desire to keep things organized, that I am not in control. And despite my best efforts, I ultimately will fail unless I recognize that God is in control.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
This last week, we had the rare privilege of being invited to participate in the much anticipated ‘initiation ceremony’ that marks the transition from boyhood to manhood in the Maasai culture! While the traditional ceremony is different from the one we experienced, the Christian men in this community felt the need to re-define tradition and hold a new ceremony that is honoring to God. About a year ago, the boys at the Children’s Home asked if they could participate in this new kind of ceremony because they wanted to be ‘agents of change’ in their community and do something ‘more honorable.’ Needless to say, we are extremely proud of each one of them for making a stand against tradition and for setting an example of living like Christ would! They joined 24 other boys making a total of 30 boys to make this stand!
Preparations began long ago as the proper location, day, and schedule were determined. Speakers were invited and choirs and dancers were booked. Cooks were hired to come in from the Maasai Mara game parks.
The week before, people went shopping and choirs started practicing. The boys all had a new set of clothes and shoes, gifts of ‘shinys’ were purchased by community members, good clothes were washed and ironed, hair was braided, nails were painted, and jewelry was picked.
The day before, the food and grounds preparations began. Chipatti and rice were cooked, and potatoes were peeled. Tents were raised and sound systems were tested.
Then the long anticipated morning came! Two large bulls were rounded up and slaughtered for the meal. Around 11 am the men started arriving. They were served a treat of soda along with their meal. At 12 noon, the women and children started coming. They too were given the same treats with their meal! The men talked together in excited groups. The women arranged their ‘shinys’ and made plans as to who would give them out. The children practiced their dances under the shade of the trees and everyone was happy!
Around 2pm, the ceremony began! Over a thousand people crowded into the large field facing a long row of tents. First the elder men slowly marched in dancing with a choir leading them in. They were followed by the mothers of the boys, who were also dancing and singing. I was among these women, as I represented the sponsored parents of the children! Next came the fathers and pastors led by another choir. Rick came with them. Finally, the boys came in led by the Children’s Home choir among whom were our children! Once everyone was seated introductions were made and the ceremony began! There were various speakers, choirs, and dancers that celebrated for the next 3 hours! It started raining and we still celebrated! There was a special dance in the rain!
Finally, the boys all lined up and we passed out the gifts of ‘shinys’ and candy. They were paraded around and danced around and finally were permitted to go take pictures with their family members!
Then the crowds left and the boys and men went into the house. At around midnight, they individually went into a private sterile room and underwent a circumcision process by a professional surgeon. The boys will remain secluded as a group for the next week while they recover. Then our 6 boys will move to a tent in the bush to spend 3 weeks together. There they will be visited each day by elders, pastors, and leaders in the community, who will speak to them about leadership, being a man, and being a strong Christian. Rick will have the opportunity to visit them during this time!
We are so proud of each of the boys and their determination to make a stand! The will be another weeklong celebration at each home that participated in the event when the come out of seclusion! We look forward to the one hosted at Joseph and Annah’s house!
We went to church last Sunday at a church again, in the middle of nowhere. Three churches came together deep in the bush where no white people have ever visited (as far as these people recall). They were a group of colorful, Maasai, Christians who gather each Sunday to worship God. Because it was three churches together, some of them walked from up to 20 miles away to join us!
These people are new Christians. The church here is only about 2 years old but the good news is spreading fast! It was so exciting to see a group of young Christians that were so enthusiastic about Jesus!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
October 24, 2010
We just tucked our children into bed. Tonight it was 7 of them – 7 of the 81. Today was one of the most amazing days in the life of our family. The timing was incredible - down to the minute. The plans completely unforeseen from our perspective, yet carefully and intricately laid out in detail from above. It was truly a miracle day.
Today is Sunday, October 24, 2010. Location, Middle of Nowhere, Kenya. We were supposed to attend church in a town to the east of here and indeed had been planning to attend there for weeks. However, the pastor’s son unexpectedly became sick and needed to be taken to the hospital, so yesterday, he requested that we reschedule. That left us with nowhere special to go today. Joseph has wanted to go to ‘the bush’ to take care of some business there so he made plans for us to go to church there today.
It was a glorious service. About 50 of us, 20 adults and 30 or more children, sheltered under a tree, singing in Maasai and worshipping God. Rick preached from Psalm 1, and seated under that strong tree we were reminded how a tree firmly planted by water bears fruit, and has leaves that do not wither, and prospers from God’s perspective. Katie sang Chris Tomlin’s song “Our God.”
Then we had lunch. While we were eating we started discussing what the rest of the day would look like. Dan, Joseph’s son, had heard about a family that was housing some orphans that needed help. So we talked. Should we see them today? We needed to come back to that area later in the week to visit another potential child so maybe we should wait and see both families the same day. For whatever reason, Joseph decided we should just make the visit. So we loaded up the van and headed out. It wasn’t far, but the roads were rough. When the hill got too steep we got out and walked the rest of the way up.
We approached what looked to us like one of the largest and nicest homes we have seen in the bush. Still a mud hut, but it had a nice new roof and several rooms with a hallway down the middle. The family room where we were seated was quite large with nice sofas. Admittedly, my first reaction was, who are these people kidding? They can obviously house extra children. We’ve been to many places with far fewer resources and far more children. But we sat down and waited.
It was an unusual meeting. This would be the 7th visit we’ve been on to hear stories of need and of course, they all begin the same – with introductions and a welcome. Somehow that got skipped and the mother of the home walked in, sat on a chair in the hallway, and started talking right away about this little girl. She told us how she had been moving from home to home with her two brothers and that the last home they were in, she had been beaten and forced to leave. Both brothers, worried they would suffer the same fate, had followed her to make sure she was safe and they came to this home – the home of a family friend. Later we found out they had walked there alone - 85 kilometers. That’s over 50 miles through the bush, to get to a safe place!
We went back and forth with questions about the family and the death of the parents. She was standing right there the whole time, this sweet 10ish year old girl, hearing all of this with her head down. Then Joseph called her forward and asked her name. Sharon. Sweet Sharon. A beautiful, beautiful child. We were all appalled at the story and were wondering why this woman was even asking for our help when clearly she had the means to help her. Sharon left Joseph went and snuggled up to Katie and stayed tucked under her arm the rest of the time we were there.
‘So where were her two brothers?’ we asked. Just then, they were outside, getting ready to mount a motorcycle hired by this family to take them back to the home they had just escaped from. The safety they had found in this place was over. They were not wanted here so they were being sent back. The girl could stay until another place could be found, but the boys were going back. So we asked to see them and they came into the room. They walked in with their heads down. They were sad, deeply sad. And we asked whether they wanted to go back. There was no reply from either, just tears - tears streaming down the face of the younger and the older trying to hide his moist eyes. And we cried with them.
And then someone came in and served chai. And all during this time Rick, Joseph and I kept looking at each other and talking under our breath. “They can’t be sent back. I know the older boy is 15 and would be considered on the old end for the Children’s Home, but we can’t send them back. And clearly they are not wanted here. And if they are not wanted, then we can’t leave them here, even for a day. For a child must feel loved and safe and wanted every single day. And why are we even here if not to rescue the needy and the oppressed? God brought us here today for a reason.” And all the while our children were begging for us to bring them home. They were desperate to save them.
It was so crystal clear. They must come with us, because we loved them even though we had just met them. So we told them about God’s love for them and of God’s plans for them. We told them of this divine meeting that was taking place because we weren’t even supposed to be there. We told them about the Children’s Home and the 74 children that live there. We asked if they wanted to come with us. And their faces changed and there were no more tears. Now they wore the face of hope. The fear was gone and they smiled and said ‘Ndio’ Yes! And so plans were made.
We’ve never had such tight quarters in a van and so much joy. The rain started as soon as we picked up our last few passengers and God pushed us up the hill to the Children’s Home. Caleb had somehow decided to bring exactly 9 suckers into the car that morning so each of the 9 children in the van had one.
When we reached the home, the children were waiting for us in the dining room. They greeted the new children with a song. These new children had nothing but the clothes on their backs, so Peter asked if any of the children at the home had clothes to spare. And there was a traffic jam at the door as the children pushed their way out to bring clothes for these new friends. We were SO proud of them. You all know these children have nothing and yet they were pushing each other over to give something away. I stood there with tears in my eyes, overwhelmed at their generosity. Katie and three of the girls went to the kitchen and brought them some food. And then they prayed for them and sang this beautiful Maasai song that says, “God you rescued me and because of You I will fall down and worship You.”
There isn’t a bed to sleep in at the Children’s Home yet so we brought them home with us. The boys are snuggled together in the hallway bunk. Shelah is snuggled in with Rachel. And Naimutie who usually sleeps in the hallway, is next to Katie. And Rick and I are sitting here marveling at God’s incredible plan for three orphaned children in the Middle of Nowhere, Kenya.
As we reflect on the details we are astounded. If the pastor’s son wasn’t sick we wouldn’t have been attending church in the bush. If Dan had not heard this story, we wouldn’t have known about the need. If we decided to wait a few days to go, the boys would not have been there and we would never have known of their situation. If we turned away at the sight of the house, we would have missed the opportunity. If the meeting hadn’t begun so unusually, the older boys would have left on the motorcycle. And why would Caleb bring 9 suckers?
Verse 2 of the song Katie sang in church this morning is ringing through our minds….
“Into the darkness You shine.
Out of the ashes we rise.
There’s no one like You.
None like You.
Our God is greater.
Our God is Stronger.
God,You are higher than any other.
Our God is Healer.
Awesome in Power.
Our God, Our God.”
- Chris Tomlin
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Last week we had the chance to travel 5 hours to Kisumu to take another step in the process of getting our work permit. We traveled to the Church of God headquarters and met with the Bishop who is helping us. He has a pastor in Nairobi helping us. The last step is to turn in Rick’s passport and pay the fee. We turned these documents over and are praying this will complete the process. Please pray with us that things go very smoothly.
Because we traveled so far, we took the opportunity to spend the night at the Kakamega Rain forest, which is near by. This place was unlike anything we have seen before! We had Joseph bring his wife, Annah, and Emmanuel our good friend and driver bring his wife Patricia and his baby daughter, Hope. It was a much needed refreshing night! We even had warm water and showers!!!
This is Julia’s journal entry from the trip:
“At Rhondo, we had so much fun! We went hiking through the rainforest and saw all these monkeys and cool looking birds. I was trying to look for a blue bird with a red Mohawk but we didn’t find it. The Kakamega rainforest is the only place it lives in the whole world. We saw black and white Colobus monkeys and a blue monkey. At Rhondo, 40% of the butterflys in the world live there so we saw a lot of butterflies. They were very pretty. It was a wonderful place.
Today was another day, atypical from my life in America. After school, Katie and Esther washed the laundry, while Julia and Rachel played with baby Paranai. Caleb was chasing Msuni and I finished grading papers. Then Caleb, Julia, and Esther slaughtered a chicken while Katie, Rachel and I tidied up. Then we all met in the kitchen where Esther and Katie taught Rachel to make chipatti. I shared the stove with them and made chicken soup while Julia, Caleb, Precious, and Msuni ran around our feet chasing eachother because it was raining outside.
After reading my post on the ‘Little House on the Prairie Day’ a good friend sent me the following e-mail, which caused me to stop and think. As I begin to get frustrated with the complexity of accomplishing the smallest tasks here, God has used this e-mail to remind me to pause and look around and appreciate the people I am doing life with here and to simply enjoy community. Thank you Linda for the reminder and the fresh perspective…
“What you did today doesn't sound simple. But, it sounds relationally rich. Almost every sentence had a person's name in it. If we were to describe making dinner, we would say....went to Jewel...bought a chicken....put it in the oven...and then add the names for who would eat it. I would describe washing clothes as walked to the mud room, took out the detergent, and started laundry. No names.
I grew up on a farm in the 60s. Uncle Wayne butchered the chickens. Aunt Ruby pulled out the feathers. My mom prepared the meal. My mom and I hung laundry out on the clothesline. My grandparents, parents, and I tipped beans and shucked peas to freeze for the winter. There were lots of names in my life growing up.
You are living a life that is putting lots of names in sentences. I envy that. And I am inspired by that, Ann. I don't diminish the work involved because I have no idea. But I do have bits of memories that are dear because I had to join in the work of living with the people I loved. Praying for you as you adjust...give Katie a hug for me and have her give you one from me, ok?”
Thursday, October 7, 2010
So we are the proud owners of a goat and 4 chickens! Three of the chickens we purchased for dinners – one of which as been laying eggs so she gets to live for a while. (Yes as you can see in the picture, she lays eggs on a spare bed). But the last was a gift along with the goat!
This last weekend we were able to travel to a remote village with two of the children from the home to visit their church and meet their community. The people were from the Kurya tribe, which is different from the Maasai that we are getting used to.
We traveled for 4 1/2 hours over very rough roads. When we arrived, the people greeted us by hugging us on one side and then the other saying ‘Karibu’ (Caribou), which means ‘welcome.’ They served us a light lunch of rice and avocados with chai. They have the biggest and best avocados here!
We were then escorted in to church with singing and dancing. During the service, the children we brought were recognized and were called to the front of the church where they were celebrated and prayed for. It was very special to be with them and to see a village so excited about the care these children were receiving. At the end of the 2 hour service, they started singing a special song and called our family up to the front of the church. They presented us with a goat and a chicken! Rick held it’s front legs and danced with it as was expected! Picture that one in your mind…yes it was funny! Fortunately they gave me a woven basket so I didn’t have to dance with the animals.
After, we had lunch of cassava and millet (kind of like purple, tasteless dough), chicken soup (head and feet included), bananas, chapatti, and soda! Joseph ate the feet just to prove to us it was delicious. We wouldn’t know as we took a pass on this one.
We did find out that from this area there are many orphans as there were border skirmishes between this tribe and another several years ago. Maybe some day there will be more children from this tribe represented at the Children’s Home here or at site two. Please pray for this community!
We are living in the home of Joseph and Annah. They are the pastor and his wife that we've stayed with before. They are wonderful! They have gone above and beyond the call to make us comfortable. They live in a 4 1/2 room house and have given us two of the bedrooms. It is partially a mud hut and partially a mud hut that has been covered with plaster and concrete. There is a separate mud hut that serves as the kitchen. The roof is made of tin so when it rains it is REALLY loud. No one can talk. Living with them has worked out well. We enjoy their company and when they or we want to be alone, there is space we can go. Joseph is an engaging storyteller so living with him is like having an audio library on hand. He has TONS of thrilling animal stories and stories of the adventures he experienced growing up in the bush. Joseph and Annah have two 12 year old girls living here that needed a place to stay. They are becoming good friends with the girls and Caleb. They also have 3 of their grandchildren here as well. One comes up during the week to go to school while her mother works. Her name is Precious - and she is. They also have Ruth, one of their son's wives here while he is away at school. She has two small children - a boy Msuni who is 2 and is the cutest thing you've ever seen! Also a baby girl, Paranai, 6 months, who is SO sweet. They live in a mud hut just a stone's throw from here.
We purchased a tiny stove last week! So even though I have to turn the propane on to make it work and manually light it with a match, I feel like I can cook better and faster for our family. Cooking over the fire and the 'jico' (basically over hot coals) is extremely time consuming as it takes longer to heat, more effort to keep it hot, and you can only cook one thing at time. We even made cookies the other night.
We have hired a house worker who helps with laundry, dishes, and cooking as well. Her name is Esther. She is the best gift to our family we've had so far.
We start our day and I start boiling water for coffee and chai. Then my quiet time. Then I make breakfast. After, we fill our camping shower with water and set it out in the sun to get hot. Then we move on to school. I leave the dishes for Esther and I let her know what to begin making for lunch. It would be nice to get a refrigerator in the future as this would make meals easier. Because we can't keep things fresh in a fridge, we have to cook every meal from scratch. This is tedious to me already. There are usually several visitors that stop in to say "Hi' to us during the day. We finish school around 3:00 - 4:00 which is when the kids on the 'Hill' get finished and then we go up to spend time there. I have been organizing the office and the clinic so we can figure out where things are at and start moving forward with getting things running more smoothly. Esther starts washing veggies and may get some things started for dinner so when I come back, I can finish making it. Evenings are spent sitting around talking and listening to stories or reading to the kids.
Saturdays we have had meetings and we work and play with the kids on 'the Hill.' Last week, we brought the Wii up to the Children's home and introduced the kids to video games! It was a BLAST! They loved it! They played Mario Kart and were cheering for each other and laughing at each other. It was very, very funny to watch them try to figure out the remotes!
On Sunday we walk to church or travel to a distant church. Rick preaches which he has done every week so far! Then we have sodas with the church leaders. This is one of Caleb’s favorite things of the week. And that just about sums it up…
Monday, September 27, 2010
Rick and I, not knowing what safari ants were, were relatively surprised but not afraid. We didn’t find out until the next morning that Joseph spent a good part of the night battling them to keep them away from the house with ‘Doom’ – the bug killer.
So, Safari ants are these amazing creatures that plan and strategize attacks on certain areas. They march in lines and follow the very large commander ants. Each commander leads a troupe of ants. The commander stands erect on his back legs with his very large pincers open wide. All of the smaller ants march in front of him. They plan their ‘attacks’ during the day and they always attack at night. They will go great distances around and area to surround their prey. They have been known to surround and kill large animals. And they bite hard! Unfortunately we have all experience this…
Sunday afternoon, Julia and Msuni accidentally stumbled across their new nest, which was about 20 yards below the house. In a matter of seconds, they were both crawling with ants and started screaming. We stripped them down and got all of the ants off. And then we went to work.
Being uninformed Americans, we followed Annah and Naimutie, one of the 12 year old girls living here. They gathered hot coals from the ‘jico’ and started pouring them over the piles of ants. Then we gathered dried grasses and lit them on fire and placed them all along their trail. We were trying to create a barrier to drive them down the hill towards the creek. Some people here actually leave their houses for several days when these ants come. The ants kill every living thing in their path, including spiders, bugs and unwanted creatures living in the remote corners of the house. They see it as a blessing!
This morning, we found them near the dish-washing station in the back yard. Caleb and Emmanuel worked to light them on fire today. We are wondering where they will turn up tomorrow! Anyone want to come and visit Kenya?
I have found myself experiencing joy these past few weeks in several very unusual circumstances. Here is one story…
On Saturday evening, our family was enjoying a rare meal together alone. We were talking about our day and savoring the roast beef and mashed potatoes I had prepared when a chicken wandered into the room. He was looking for a place to lay and egg. Kenyans think nothing of this. As Joseph would say, “Why would you shoo something that is food out of the room?”
We crazy Americans think chickens are unsanitary so as this chicken wandered in, all of the kids started screaming. Then they tried to chase it out. Every time they got it close to the door, the chicken would dart under the table or the benches and the chase would begin all over again. It was pandemonium in the room. All the kids were screaming and yelling out directions. Rachel was the only one committed to actually picking the chicken up and capturing it. However, she didn’t want chicken germs to get on her hands so she had a napkin in each hand that served as a germ barrier. Several times she reached out to snatch the chicken and grabbed the very back end of it. The chicken would squawk at her and she would scream and let go. This happened several times and as I sat there and surveyed the room I started to laugh. Not just a chuckle, but a deep down satisfying laugh. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Had a 'Little House on the Prairie' day yesterday. Can't believe I actually had a day like this. Never thought it would happen in a million years.
After my QT, I started my day by soaking my laundry in a bucket full of rain water and detergent. Then we drove it (fortunately my parents were leaving and we were able to drive it up) the half mile up to the top of the hill. After saying our good byes, we (the kids and I and some of the mama's from the home) spent about an hour scrubbing clothes and rinsing them in the great well water. (Got a blister on my fingers and sunburned my arms doing laundry! :) - never thought I'd say those words...) Thank God for this water! SO helpful for doing laundry. Then we (me and the kids) hauled it back down the hill on our heads and hung it on a line to dry.
Schooled the kids - so great to be able to do this outside!
Then we helped 'prepare' dinner. Caleb helped cut the head off of a chicken! Then we dumped it in hot water and Katie helped pulled the feathers out while Caleb ran around chasing everyone with a chicken head. I made one of our family favorites 'Mango, Chicken, and Corn Salad'. Spent about 2 hours preparing it over a fire. The chicken boiled over the open fire (I encourage you to try this outside on your fire pit). They have these small metal buckets called 'jiko's' that hold hot coals. Julia and our houseworker Estther cooked chipati (like a bread pancake) over one of these while the chicken cooked. Rachel took the donkey with Faith, one of Joseph's 12 year old granddaughters, to the bottom of the hill to get water - twice. Then I de-boned the chicken. Was going to get rid of the skin and bones but the Maasai actually eat these. So I cooked the 'meat' in spices for everyone, and then I cooked the skin and bones in spices for them! We really enjoyed our American meal. They must have too - everyone had seconds...
CRAZY!!! I'll tell you what - water is a GIFT. A GIFT! I hasn't rained here in two days and we are out of rain water. It is VERY challenging to get enough clean water to cook with, wash with, and drink. Today, we are praying for rain!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
This past week week we have spent with one of the children at the Oasis children's home at Kijabe hospital. She has had multiple ear infections and had ruptured her left eardrum. A fantastic doctor from the States has arrived at Kijabe and we were able to have her surgery scheduled with him! She was very shy but did a great job! Remarkably, with many prayers, she was able to return home the following day and we were able to escort her! This was our initial trip to the Hill and it was great to have her along to join in all of the excitement of our arrival!
Friday, September 10, 2010
After the last baptism we hosted at the Mundelein Campus, Julia approached Rick and requested that she be baptized ‘Up North’ in front of her whole family in the lake! How could we say no to that? So, last Sunday, in front of all 25 of the extended Smith family, Julia publicly proclaimed her love for Jesus and commitment to follow Him the rest of her life. It was truly exhilarating to say the least! She was so precious and so sincere in her testimony of how God has worked in her life. She was followed by all 4 of the Mascari cousins!
And now she is having a chance to demonstrate her commitment to Jesus. This weekend was very hard for her – VERY hard. She sobbed on several occasions at the thought of leaving her cousins and aunts and uncles, especially Paige and Aunty Bevy. We will miss them all deeply. We had several significant conversations with her in moments of calm where she affirmed her commitment to going to Africa, even though she didn’t want to leave everyone. We are SO proud of her choices, even at this age!
We have spent the last two weeks on the receiving end of multiple gifts, experiences, and encouraging words from our family and friends. Being in ministry, as Rick noted, typically puts us on the giving end, so it has been ‘uncomfortable’ for us being on the receiving end of so many generous friends. But despite this, we have been deeply touched by the authenticity and encouragement of so many of you through your words and prayers for our family. I know they will carry us through the days ahead as we venture into the unknown. Below are some of the fun pictures.
Our first major event was with some of our dear friends from Arlington Heights…
Next, we were surrounded by our family, as we all traveled ‘Up North’ for a relaxing and memory filled vacation.
Then, we spent an evening with our Chapel family at the Griffins.
Finally, we had a friend and family filled send off at the airport.
Through many tears and lots of hugs we boarded a plane for Kenya. And so the adventure begins in the next chapter of our lives…
Monday, August 23, 2010
This last Sunday, we were blessed to have our Chapel family officially commission us to Kenya. During family time at each of the three services, the new campus pastor of the Chapel in Mundelein, Thomas McArthur, invited our family to come on stage. He challenged us and our children to hold true to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Thomas specifically reminded our children that God will be with us every step of the way. And they heard it - we all did. We are so grateful for the time we have walked along the road of life with the people at this Chapel campus. And we are so proud of them for paving the way and sending off the first Chapel missionaries. We felt privileged to know these awesome people. We love them dearly and are so thankful for their support and encouragement.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
You can see our updates and that we are 73% of our goal. We are encouraged and prayerful.
Remarkably we are quite non-stressed over this all. Definitely a God thing. Also the result of a tragedy we felt last week. One of our family's friends lost their precious daughter last week. She was a darling girl and will be very missed. It has definitely put things into perspective for us. Her family also generously requested that donations go towards Oasis in Lauren's memory. What a blessing to the less fortunate in the midst of their pain. We were humbled by their request.
This week we will focus on getting our bags packed. The next week we will focus on finishing up the house. Please continue to pray for us. I have updated the prayer wall with things specific to our current needs.
Friday, July 16, 2010
While we were in Kenya in June, we had a chance to meet the Bishop of the Church of God to move things forward. We definitely experienced what it was like to feel Kenyan that day. We got up at 5:30 am and drove for 6 hours (supposed to be 4) over horrific roads (hence the additional 2 hours) to arrive 10 minutes late to our meeting. These 10 minutes cost us an additional 6 hours as we 'just missed' the Bishop. He had left for a funeral - which lasted - you guessed it - 6 hours.
But we waited, we didn't drive 6 hours (and fly 24 and drive another 6) for nothing. When we finally had our audience, we sat with him for a sparse 10 minutes. He asked a few questions and requested 2 documents - a passport photo and Rick's diploma.
And that's when we had our God sighting - when the Bishop asked for the diploma. Rick and I looked at each other and laughed. Out of sheer respect for my dad, Rick has been working on finishing his Master of Divinity degree at Trinity. After 10 years, he finally graduated this May. This May - May 2010! No one here cared that he had that degree, not the Chapel, not our campus - no one. But we needed it to get a work permit in Kenya. And God knew that. And that's why following Him is so cool!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Rick and I led our first trip to Kenya together from June 11 - 23! Although leaving the kids was difficult, we had a chance to prepare for our move there which proved to be very helpful.
We led a team of 11 people (two of whom were my parents!). Day 1 was spent Nairobi visiting the Tea Farm, the Nest, and Kijabe Hospital. We then headed out to 'The Hill' for a week of loving on the kids, teaching the kids, and running medical clinics. We ended the week enjoying God's creativity on safari!
This was our team:
Rick and Ann
Mike and Rose Matlak - resident Doctor and loving mother
Jeanette, Kara, and Joel Gitskin - teacher and 2 energetic and engaging teenagers
Dan and Noah Huffman - Children's pastor and teen musician
Lynda Toner - Physician's assistant and lover of Maasai women
Barb Anema - Nurse
The highlight of the week was definitely Pastor Dan, Joel, Kara, and Noah and their amazing kids programs! All the children at the home LOVED participating in the games and teaching!
We ran clinics on 4 days and saw lots of interesting 'Third World' diseases unfamiliar to our American experience but, having Dr. Mike there who has been in Kenya for the last 6 months proved to be invaluable. We were able to help many needy people and were blessed by their grateful spirits.
During the week we were also able to meet with a woman named Dinah Timuti from Kenyatta University. She is the mother of our friend Abe Timuti (Chapel friend). She spearheads a program at the University that partners with developing areas to raise the standard of living. Her work was inspiring and extremely interesting. We look forward to partnering with her to help this area of Kenya. More to follow on the 'Model Home' we will be building in the future!!!
Rick and I were also able to work on getting our work permit. This is an exhausting process in Kenya and being there before we move was very beneficial in pushing this process forward.
Overall, we were most impacted by the grateful spirits of the Maasai community and the warm hospitality. For people with literally nothing compared to our lifestyles here, they have a sense of gratitude unmatched by anyone I know here. They recognize God in every blessing. The children are all so well loved and are doing such an amazing job caring for each other. They are so diligent in their studies and have such a joy about them. It is a privilidge to be with them and we SO look forward to getting to know each of them more personally when we move there.