"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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Legacy in a Library

Last year, right before we moved to Kenya, some school friends of ours suffered a devastating tragedy and lost their 13 year-old daughter, Lauren. Our daughter Katie was the same age and was a friend and a classmate to Lauren. All of us as parents and friends who knew this wonderful family ached for their tremendous loss. We cried for them and with them and tried to walk alongside them. But in reality, who, but God alone, could truly know what they were going through and why.

A friend and I sat with Lauren’s mom for a time the night after she died. It was late – and we could only listen and cry tears of sorrow because words could not express how deeply we felt. After a while, her father came in and we talked…this was a first meeting for me. He asked a little about my life and I shared a small bit about our family moving to Kenya because we loved some orphaned children there. It seemed that it was just a short story that filled a small space of time because really we were there because we just wanted them to know we loved them and we cared about them and we hurt with them and for them.

As a result of this short story, a few days later we heard from Lauren’s family. They had sat together and talked and decided that the gifts from the funeral should be donated to Oasis for Orphans because their hearts went out to these orphaned children and they wanted to be involved. Who does that? What kind of family thinks of missionaries and children on the other side of the world when their own world is reeling? Overwhelmed and humbled we sent a letter to the family to thank them for their gracious act of kindness in the midst of such tragedy and we set up a Lauren fund.

And then these generous donations began pouring in because so many people clearly loved this family. So we, at Oasis set aside this money and prayed that God would make it clear what we should do with these precious gifts given out of love and in the midst of pain.

I’m not sure who thought of it first, but amidst multiple conversations this idea evolved that we should build a library in honor of Lauren because she loved to read and she loved vulnerable children. And we had a whole host of vulnerable children who had never read a book before. So that was it – Lauren’s Library. That’s what we would call it and plans began.

We first contacted Lauren’s art teacher and she, along with many of Lauren’s friends began making pictures of the continents of the world to hang in the library. And then we contacted the literature teacher who began making a book written by children who were friends of this family. And we painted the room, and purchased book shelves and books and tables and benches and a rug…

And today, this 14th day of July, I sit and write this after the official opening of ‘Lauren’s Library.’ In true Maasai fashion, we celebrated! We welcomed the women dressed in their colorful kangas and beaded jewelry. We welcomed the men wrapped in shukas and we welcomed the children to come and see the library. We welcomed a whole community of adults, many of whom never learned how to read and are hopeful that their children will not suffer the same plight. There were more than 300 people there! There were dances, and poems, and songs, and speeches. For 3 hours we sat on the grass and celebrated God’s blessings!

And most importantly, we prayed and thanked God for the gift of a library. As many as could, crowded into the library and we prayed and dedicated the room to God. In a community that is forgotten by the government and suffers the lowest school ratings in all of Kenya, we thanked God for a family who lives with a different perspective than that of the world and can see that this is not our home but we are only here for a short while to do whatever it is that God asks. We praised God for a family that did something noble and generous despite their personal pain.

On behalf of our family and all of us at Oasis for Orphans, we extend our deepest sympathies and our most heartfelt gratitude to the Doherty family. We know Lauren can never be replaced and that she is in her true Home now. For the 324 Kenyan children at Hill Springs school, the Doherty’s are heroes and Lauren’s memory lives on. We are humbled by theirr generosity and are proud to call them our friends.