"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

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Before we moved our family to Kenya five years ago, many of you asked how we thought our children would handle this change. Both being optimistic in nature, Rick and I chose (blindly at the time) to focus on the positive impact it would have on them.  And it has.  Our children have learned to decipher want versus need, to find gratitude in simplicity, to embrace dirt.  But they've also seen and experienced things we never anticipated and would have protected them from if we'd seen them coming.  Our children are blessed by their experiences in Kenya and they are also scarred.  We all are.

At our home on The Hill - a place of beauty and pain.

Most of you know Katie, our oldest.  She turned 18 a few weeks ago and is planning on attending Notre Dame University in the fall.  While we are so proud of her academic achievements, we are more proud of her character and her heart.  She is a joyful and passionate wonder, and we're humbled by her willingness to bring each experience before God and learn.  We are thankful for where God has brought her in her journey and excited about her future. This month, we want to share an excerpt from Katie's journal that walks through some of the raw issues we've dealt with living in Kenya and the way she has processed them. 

Katie and friends visiting Notre Dame in 2013

Please use discretion if reading this to young children. 

I've always known that with growing older comes knowledge and experience. But man, I was wrong in thinking that these things would lead to walking an easier path towards Eternity.

Over the last five years, I have come face to face with so much loss. I watched a girl pass away due to a curable disease simply because she 'wasn't allowed' to go to a hospital. She left a child who spent her first two years of life in a home filled with deceit, selfishness, abuse and witchcraft. The memory of Dennis continues to haunt me. Dennis was a full-of-life, enthusiastic boy who was taken home after a grand mal seizure due to epilepsy. Not two months later, another child I loved went to heaven. She only lived a month on earth, and spent most of that time on life support, desiring preciously what we all take for granted - being able to breathe.  I've battled with the memory of two infant lives which were thrown away, literally, into pit latrines.

Amid all of this, a prominent man in our community has ruined countless days for our family, hundreds of opportunities for those we serve, and stolen money, hope, motivation, and dreams from God's beloved. It hurts watching people who claim to be Christians do harmful things.

I check the news each morning and I struggle with seeing people lined up in orange jumpsuits being beheaded for their belief in Christ Jesus. Sometimes, what hurts more than the images or stories of these Christians being tortured and murdered for their belief is that it's become normal. People are no longer shocked at the continual oppression of Christians in the Middle East. A friend pointed out to me that there was more media coverage on the "Top 10 Celebrity April Fool's Pranks" than the 147 shot dead in Garissa and wrote to me, "I was seething."  It's true that the world keeps spinning, and I find relief in knowing I am distanced from the situation, but is it right to watch this on the news and do nothing? Shouldn't we be drowning in prayer for our beloved brothers and sisters suffering and enduring trials literally right before them

My own heart has suffered through the trials of grieving loss and enduring burdens. My head spins because of all this and steals space in my mind. Processing is exhausting. I'm tired, really tired, and not the kind of tired a lot of sleep will cure. Counseling and prayer have helped me regain my balance, but I am still torn over the evil in this world.

On Good Friday, we sat down as a family to watch the Passion, a movie I've seen several times, but one that always gets to me. What struck me this year was different than in the past. After Jesus had been beaten multiple times, is covered in blood, exhausted from lack of sleep, and is wearing the greatest earthly shame, He next must walk through the streets carrying His cross. The cross falls a few minutes into the scene, and despite His condition, he stoops down to pick it up.

A few minutes later, He is knocked over. His eyes are blurred red from blood and His back shoulders splinters on raw skin, yet He stands up and again picks up His cross.

This doesn't only happen twice, but several times. Wrecked, gory, and exhausted He stoops low, grinds through the pain, and keeps carrying His cross. While I know this was an artistic interpretation, it puts a vivid picture in my mind of the verse "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. "(Luke 9: 23)

In the exhaustion, pain, and grief, we better crouch down low and pick up our cross. It doesn't matter if we're broken, bloodstained, or near the edge of death, we pick up that cross. We bear that burden. We take the shame and humble ourselves in each situation so that we carry the burden like Christ Jesus.

So, as I look around, I am reminded that we all suffer as and because Christ has suffered. The challenge now is giving up enough of myself to pick up that cross and endure the evil and pain together with Christ. The love-strong relationship found in suffering with another is unmatched, and imagine the tie we have with Christ Jesus when we choose to endure with Him in a time such as this - this time of ISIS, health issues, divorce, spiritual manifestations, deceit, Ebola, terrorism, and death.

I have the phrase, "endurance, not indulgence" written in my planner at school, on the wall next to my bed, and sometimes on my wrist as a reminder that life with Christ requires the endurance of hardship so that bright Love can be spotted amid this darkness. Indulgence is taking the easier path so that I may forget pain, succumbing to myself and throwing out the opportunity to carry my cross- but then, I forget that He is using it to refine me. 

I am realizing that the best way I can walk this path towards becoming more like Him is by picking up my cross daily and following Him, because that's what He did - that's what He does together with us. I love and serve those around me, even those who will never love me in return, because that's what Christ does.

 "Love does not necessarily mean bless or agree with - 
 it means sacrifice or suffer with. 
 (This is how we) practice resurrection. 
 This is unspeakably hard. 
 This is unspeakably holy." 
 - Ann Voskamp

As you prayed for rain, we ask you to pray for spiritual protection of our family and the orphaned children we serve.  There are many struggles we are currently facing which are not against flesh and blood and we would appreciate your joining the battle alongside us in this way.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Drought and Growth - March Update

We are experiencing significant drought in Kenya during this typically rainy season.  The grass has withered, and plants and bushes are dying.  Dust devils rise to the sky and fill the air with eye-irritating and face-stinging particles. Crops remain unplanted, and the few entrepreneurs, who sought early harvest by prematurely sowing seeds in anticipation of the rains, succeeded in growing crops that reached mere inches before they ultimately withered.   Food prices are skyrocketing. A five-shilling cabbage is selling for eighty-five shillings. We expect this price elevation to continue throughout the year as time advances through the growing season and the allotted time for the long rains approaches an end. The already unyielding burden on the poor has become weightier - as if that were possible.  Kenya literally can’t afford to miss a growing season.

Paradoxically, during this time of drought and death we’ve watched new life take root in a young girl named Mary.  By Kenyan standards it was consensual, but then again not many countries have legal defense for date rape, particularly in a male dominated culture. Her word against his wouldn’t hold weight even in a loving family discussion.  As she was taught from birth not to question her father’s authority, she transferred this now firm belief to all of her male relationships.  Would that he’d been an honorable man…

Consensual or not, the result was the same, and walking through her nightmare alongside her has not been easy.  Pregnancy forced her to leave college and with it her dreams for the immediate future.  Upon returning to her childhood mud home in the bush and to her mentally challenged mother, she quickly found herself fleeing for her life from the wrath of her brother, who threatened to kill her for becoming pregnant - as if this was what she wanted. Seeking refuge in the home of a distant cousin, she dragged herself to a bush clinic monthly with the money we’d given her.  While gazing at her swollen belly from across the room, the inexperienced nurse nodded that things appeared as if they were going well and dismissed her with nary a touch. When she became sick, the selfsame nurse determined it was malaria and overdosed her with quinine, nearly terminating the pregnancy.

Can we really afford this responsibility, we ask?  Can we afford not to? If we leave her in the bush, she will probably die, or the babies will.  Babies?  Yep, babies. The appointment we made for her at Kijabe Hospital before she traveled “home” confirmed twins.  Our minds drifted back to that first appointment where Dr. Pete spent time listening to her story, gently broke the news to her about her special pregnancy, verbally encouraged her and prayed over her and her unborn children. OK – Kijabe Hospital it is. We’ll figure it out later.

The 37-week ultrasound showed they were sharing a placenta and the smaller twin would not survive unless a C-section was performed.  Early Wednesday morning, I scrubbed in to the operating theatre and held Mary’s hand as the doctor first prayed over her and then inserted the epidural needle.  She was terrified.  Within minutes little Anna Grace emerged, umbilical cord around her neck but screaming, followed by her bigger but younger sister Catherine, in identical twin fashion, also screaming with the cord around her neck. I left the theater with the two of them, and we waited together for their mama to get stitched back together. “There is no way they would have survived in the bush,” I thought marveling at their smallness and sameness as I cuddled them under the warming lights.

Not long after, I bundled them up and walked with joy in both arms down to the recovery room to introduce them to their mother.  Anticipating her delight at seeing such darling girls, I smiled as I scooted back the curtain with my elbow ready for the big presentation.  Mary wasn’t alone.  There were several doctors and nurses surrounding her as she lay in a pool of blood, hemorrhaging. The weight of the girls in my arms increased in significance and sat like a rock on my sinking heart. I deliberately walked back to the nursery, as if the weight were slowing my steps. I rocked babies, prayed and waited.

Several hours, hemorrhagic episodes, pints of blood and pleadings with God later, I tentatively approached Mary, girls in tow, in the maternal intensive care ward.  Weak and exhausted, she turned towards me with effort only a mother can muster to finally fully see her precious daughters.  “These are little angels sent from God,” she exhaled, and then breathed in their intoxicating newborn scent. She pulled them close, and they slept, content to be together again. 

A week later, under the expert watch of the Kijabe Hospital staff, Mary and company were discharged, alive, healthy and grateful. 

There are times when the impossible seems rational, and the decision to bring Mary to Kijabe was one of those.  Our faith has grown as we’ve watched God rescue her and her children by providing in miraculous ways. Isaiah 58:11a says “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, a spring that will not run dry.”  As I think of the sun-scorched earth outside my door, I am humbled at God’s provision not only for us but for Mary, Anna Grace and Catherine. Just as Kenya can’t afford to miss this growth season, we definitely couldn’t have afforded to miss this growth season either.