“We’re Adjusting to a New Normal”

During a recent telephone conversation with Ben Wachira he used the above phrase to describe how the project is proceeding in Karai. We talked about a possible visit this coming fall. We talked about the health of the children, their progress in school and some of the recent expenses. We had conversation about the new kitchen project that we are about to launch, and Ben mentioned how the staff is working well together including gathering daily for devotions and taking time to discuss the kids. His most memorable phrase was “We’re adjusting to the new normal.” We as a board believe we have a great staff in place as well as a competent Kenyan board overseeing the project. We trust that you as supporters will continue to walk alongside us in this transition time.    

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Kwaheri Friend

April 30, 2013 On Thursday, April 25, our dear friend and our field director of Kenya Matters completed his life’s work. The funeral for Elijah Wachira will take place in Karai, Kenya, on May 1. Writing about a dear friend who has passed is more than a difficult task. My first attempt read like a well written obituary, but that was not what I wanted to share about Elijah. So here is a second attempt. Overwhelmed with grief for the loss of this dear friend and visionary, we as the leaders of Kenya Matters will never fully express how difficult this is for us. Indeed, we really sense that a friend and brother has left us. He has also left us with a project to continue, and to that end we will move forward believing that this vision of Elijah Wachira has been deeply good for the community of Karai, Kenya. For a bit of background, Elijah began feeling pains in his back in late December. In early January he entered a Nairobi hospital for testing. After many tests and a handful of treatments, it was determined that he had a form of bone marrow cancer. We were not fully aware of his condition until early March. In addition to his cancer diagnosis and the treatments that ensued, his heart was strained and complications developed. After a discussion with Ben Wachira, Elijah’s son in early April, I decided to take a quick trip to Kenya. After spending a week with Elijah and his amazing wife Dorcas, along with our staff and board in Kenya, I returned back to the States believing that the project was in good hands. Elijah has built much competency and leadership into his staff, and our Kenyan board is capable. The community of Karai, Kenya has been and is being transformed with Elijah’s vision of caring for orphan children, reaching out to elderly widows, and digging a well that now supplies water to an entire community. Jason Anderson, one of the founding visionaries of Kenya Matters here in the States, game me the following words with the hope that I would convey his message to Elijah during my visit: “Please pass to both Elijah and Dorcas my sentiment of thanks for their friendship in both a past and present way.  Please convey to Elijah my sense that we have done a good work, and that the vision he carried has come to pass.  The future is all sugar in the tea, just the potential to become more sweet, but the fellowship has already been shared and born good fruit.” With these words, I ask for your prayers. We hope for the future – for more meetings of Westerners and Kenyans over tea and the breaking of bread over a meal around a table in Karai.  Lives in this community have been changed. Orphan children now have hope for a future beyond empty bellies and unquenched thirst. Lives of those who have traveled to Karai along with those of you who have heard these stories have also been transformed. We realize that caring for one another regardless of location is of the highest calling for humanity. The words of Jesus to care for the poor, to care for the most marginalized of children to come sit on our laps and invite them to feasts of food, education, and transformation are exactly what we as humans are called to do and be. When we follow Jesus with complete abandon, we become people who have much to offer this often hurting world. We help fill lives with joy, with goodness and with kindness. Justice and mercy still win the day when we chase after the kinds of vision Elijah instilled in us. Again I ask you to please hold in prayer the Wachira family, the orphan children who have lost their ‘dad,’ and those of us who knew Elijah as friend. We trust that we can continue to be voices of hope even in this difficult time. Grace & Peace, Randy Buist Board President, Kenya...

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A Spectacular Day in Kenya

Awoke to rain last night. It’s raining again tonight too. Elijah, our Kenyan director, always proclaims, “Rain is a blessing!” in his baritone voice. While it is not snow like currently is falling from the sky in Michigan, there has been plenty of rain here during the past two weeks. Plenty enough. Today the local church had declared the day ‘Youth Sunday’ so all the kids from the Kenya Matters home were involved with the leading of the service today. Today the Kenyans outdid most American churches. When they declare ‘Youth Sunday’ they allow a teenager to give the message, collect the offerings, and lead the entire service. And what a job of leadership these thirty orphan kids along with some of the other local kids did today! They were amazing. They would have been amazing had they been Americans or Kenyans. They would have been amazing had they had two parents or no parents. I am so proud tonight. On most days I’m appreciative of my own three children. Tonight I am so impressed and appreciative of thirty orphan children who are making a way in this world that is impressive. Sure, they will have their stumbles along the way, but today. Today was John Ngugi, the class clown if you will, as a sixteen year old teenager leading the worship service. For anyone who knows this kid, you’re thinking, ‘You must be kidding me.’ No. I am not. Tonight my heart is full. Our Kenyan director, Elijah Wachira, had the vision for this endeavor ten years ago. Today we have kids orphan children who are growing into adults, and they’re doing it with determination and conviction and character. Something good began when this project took wings in 2005, and  today I had the opportunity to see orphan  children soar. Well done Elijah and staff. You have shaped lives that this world often gives up on, but these kids are not giving up. They are doing quite the opposite. And I suppose that is enough for a great day in Kenya, but then there was a soccer game. For forty dollars we grabbed a local van owner and headed off to see a great match between two of the best amateur teams in this part of Kenya. There was no admission fee. Just the cost of the van. And with those forty dollars we got a ride to and from the game. And I had the opportunity to watch a dozen boys, a handful of girls, and a few adult chaperones enjoy a great game. And yes, we all fit in that one van. This is Kenya, and we do things Kenyan style here. So this day concludes with the rain on the roof, having shared conversations and worship and soccer and real life… and my heart and soul are full. I’ve spent nearly three months on Kenyan soil over the past five years. And today is one that rates right at the top. To all who have supported these kids, thanks. To those who have yet to do so, jump on this train. It’s going in a good direction, and life is too short to miss this one....

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Christmas Morning & the Church is Locked?

Having stayed awake past midnight to welcome Christmas, I did not appreciated waking this morning. It was my hope to sleep long and well, but the Christmas church service was to begin at 9 a.m. Getting the kids awake was just short of parental torture, but we made it out of the house by 9:30 a.m. Our orphan friends had either left for the service or were staying back to prepare lunch for the day. Walking without the kids to church felt a bit empty as they usually entertain us for the fifteen minute walk. Upon arriving, we found groups of kids scattered in circles in the field outside the church. A few adults were doing the same. It was 9:50 a.m., and the church building was still locked. We were to begin at 9 a.m., but this is Kenya. Time has a different meaning here. An elder arrived with a key just as we wondered about the service taking place. Most people arrived between 10 and 10:30 a.m., and the service began somewhere during that half hour. Life is different when time has a different sort of meaning. It is more about living in the moment and feeling less stressed about getting to the next thing. There are also shortcomings to this kind of life, but we certainly have much to learn about caring for those in our midst rather than moving to the next thing on our schedule. From Karai, Kenya – we wish friends and family back home a blessed Christmas!

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A Different Kind of Life

Slowing down for the holidays, breathing slowly enough that we consciously feel our breath enter and leave our lugs. It is often our hope that we get beyond the commercialism we’ve created and actually enjoy or families and friends in this Christmas season. Hopefully we succeed to some degree. Yet, our two weeks of holidays will pass. The kids will return to school. Adults will return to their jobs or whatever occupies their time. The speed of life will go back to 70 miles per hour with an occasional speed bump. Admittedly, when in Africa, sometimes I do miss our American ambition, desire for the next activity, and the conversations about what we accomplished on any given day. Yet, finding time for a long and deep conversation with a friend over lunch, coffee, or your preferred beverage, is most often the exception in our world. Life is different here in Africa. Stopping alongside the road when meeting a friend requires more than a quick hello. Ambitions and tasks subside to secondary positions in the life of a day when friends and family cause interruptions. Ironically, as my young son reminded me this morning, they still work harder than we do, but the work gets done when it gets done rather than pushing off relationships until what we generally refer to as ‘after work.’ The way Africans form the story and meaning of their lives is intriguing. Their neighbors, whether family or friend or stranger, matter to their life stories in a way we often fail to recognize in our American lives. The depth of the goodness of caring for both neighbor and stranger is embedded in our humanity, and too often we forget this reality. At this Christmas time, remember that Jesus calls us back to the best of our humanity – to find time and resources to love our neighbor and the strangers in our midst. Perhaps we can carry a bit of this reality into 2013 so we become a bit more human and a bit more like our Kenyan brothers and...

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One Ball Short

Eighty degrees on the sixteenth of December felt amazing against our skin on Sunday. A couple of us forgot sunscreen, but we won’t be doing that again. Kathy’s shoulders could compete with fresh Strawberries for the brightest of reds. Winter white Michigan skin doesn’t fare well under the Kenyan sun for more than a few minutes at a time. Late this afternoon we were invited to watch soccer practices of the local youth club. Arriving at the field, the junior team was practicing in what we in the States would call a pasture. It is made up of fifty percent dirt, forty percent grass and ten percent goat droppings. Fortunately the larger cow droppings were absent. As we watched the practice, the senior team arrived for their practice, but now there was a dilemma. There was one ball and two teams who wanted to practice. This was one of those moments when we realize so much is different here in Africa. Back in the States my kids go to their soccer practices with their own ball; then their coaches most often have a bag of team balls slung over their shoulder when arriving at practice. This is not to suggest judgment one way or the other; it is simply the reality that scarcity is the norm here and abundance is celebrated.

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