Flight #2 – Detroit to Amsterdam

We’re now midway through our flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, and the plane is hushed. The cabin lights are off with the exception of a few reading lights and the glow of small screens showing movies. A college student sits a few seats away and is working on something that appears to be important to her. A few minutes ago I had gotten up to stretch. In the process I met two ladies likely in their sixties who are going to be spending ten days floating down the Rhine. A mother was feeding her infant while her husband attempted sleep. My kids, on the other hand, are more like their dad. I doubt there will be much sleep on this flight tonight. Its somewhat of a strange thing. We took off at 4 p.m., were served dinner two hours later, and nearly half the plane is trying to sleep at 8 p.m. It begs me to ask why so many people can sleep at this time of day? Are our lives so filled with busyness that we crave sleep even at 8 p.m.? Or perhaps there is a possibility that people can fall asleep much easier than me. I recall taking naps in the middle of the day on those trips from Michigan to Colorado when I was a kid, waking up in a different state without realizing the boredom, was pretty cool. Waking up was even better when we had changed time zones.  So perhaps sleep is a means to kill the boredom and wake up bouncing onto the runway in Amsterdam is the prize. Regardless though, flying distances is an odd thing. We walk onto a plane with hundreds of people whom we do not know by name, place, or nation. Yet, we are stuck together at 40,000 feet hanging in the atmosphere for eight hours with no way to leave these people. Some of us will strike up conversations or sell their wares to perspective clients while others simply speak only to the flight attendants between their studies, games, or movies. What to think of it all I do not know. To imagine Freud or Shakespeare reflecting on an oddity such as this would intrigue. Yet, one thing is certain; we are all up here, and we are all in this together. Perhaps this is the way of Kenya Matters too. For those who have traveled with us, and for those who have not, we are hanging together with the hope that the world will become a better place for our efforts.  Knowing these orphaned kids and the people of their community by name, infusing it with goodness, kindness, and financial capital will alter this community and these people for the better. Now for the slowest part of this flight – the last two hours and thirty-nine minutes. Perhaps I too should try...

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Mission: Unforgettable

Mission: Unforgettable

In July, I traveled to Kenya to the “safe house”, the orphanage Elijah and “Mama” run, where the children had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. For me, this mission trip has been “life-changing.  Last year, Elijah came to Spring Valley to show a video of the kids playing in the water from the well that we helped donate money to have dug. I knew right then, I needed go.  I wanted to understand what it was like to live without some of the most basic needs and be happy, simply because of their faith in God. The very first day there, we were welcomed like family. Every greeting and goodbye was met with hugs all around. We laughed, cried, talked and played and I learned some great dance moves also.  I felt connected so deeply to the children. I learned something from every one of them.  Every night, during devotions, we would stand with our arms wrapped around each other.  It was so humbling to see the passion these children had for God and how they never questioned his love, no matter how difficult their lives have been.  Mary, an 18 year old girl I became close with taught me not to fear praying aloud (a phobia I´ve always had).  She prayed with such grace, intimacy and commitment for God.  I learned it doesn´t matter who is listening, if I loved God, prayed from my heart, the words would come. I prayed like I had never thought possible.  I prayed through fear, inferiority and tears and still the words came. I prayed aloud in Kenya and I pray aloud now. Despite living in cramped conditions, the children seem so happy and content. They were so gracious and humbled by the little gifts we brought. We gave an 18 year old boy some bright pink crocs and a new pair of oven mitts.  He makes bread in a large oven, and often burns himself. It didn´t matter the color of the Crocs, and the oven mitts, he was so proud of them, he wore them for three hours that night with a smile on his face! We visited villagers to bring them gifts such as sugar, flour, soap and tea. Their homes are much smaller than our homes – about the size of a large bedroom, and made of cow dung. Kitchens are simple: a roof with a hole for smoke, because they cook with fire. They collect water from the rain off of their roofs, or sometimes walk miles to carry fresh water home.  At night, chickens and small calves sleep inside the kitchen, so thieves can´t get to them. The villagers confirmed why I felt so compelled to come to Kenya in the first place.  They praise God for everything they have while living without many basic needs. Even with very little food and no running water, they graciously served us Chai tea and at times had prepared it hours earlier in anticipation of us coming. It was difficult to comprehend them praying for US so intensely and genuinely so that our cups may be full. They are so thankful for EVERYTHING in life.  There is no resentment.  They have been blessed with God´s love and everything else is extra.  My experience with them was so humbling and I am grateful to see Gods grace, through them. One of my most memorable moments of the trip was when our group decided to make pizza for all the kids and staff (of about 50).  I was simply amazed that they had never had pizza before.  We received a compliment that I will never forget.  They said they were overwhelmed and overjoyed that we (white American´s) would make and serve a meal for them (black Kenyans) and that they have never been served by people white people before.  In a way that comment made me sad but also taught me so much about Kenyan lifestyle, their perceptions of Americans, differences between Kenyan and American cultures and their appreciation for us.  Personally, I thought it was a privilege and was so excited to treat them to pizza.  I felt like I was making dinner for my family, albeit, a very large family and loved every minute of it. We all had a difficult time leaving.  Whether it was our first or seventh trip to the safe house, we all wanted to stay and not let go.  I felt like I was saying goodbye to my own children when I left. So, how has the mission changed me? I pray out loud from my heart now, without the fear of sounding like gibberish. I love differently.  I express my love for my family and friends better. I love the warmth of a good hug. I feel blessed to have a house that I love.  I am no longer embarrassed by all of the imperfections, the work that needs to be done and how inferior I used to think it was to my friends and families homes. I appreciate the little things so much more. Running water, good road infrastructure (Yes I did say that and will never complain about Michigan roads again) and enough food to nourish my body. I give more and need less.  I no longer buy anything without necessity and think hard about that need. “Elijah has a saying in Kenya: “Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka” – it means “Hurry Hurry has no blessings.” This IS the Kenyan way. I´ve slowed my life down, focusing on what´s important; family, friends and eliminating anything that causes me to be too busy or lose focus. My loved ones in Kenya are always on my mind and I pray for them everyday.  My heart often aches with such a desire to see everyone again.  I pray about when I will return to them and pray God has a plan for me to return soon. Most of all, I thank God for this trip to a little orphanage in Kenya, Africa that has changed my life in more ways than words or feelings could ever express. Cathy...

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Kenya Reflection…

A refreshed and revitalized mind is able to sort out what is important in life and what is not. A trip to Karai, Kenya can do this. It is an opportunity to unplug, if you are willing, from the world as we know it. On my return trip to Kenya I promised myself to do exactly this, to unplug, to only focus on what God wanted of me, to not allow the outside world to crowd my mind and heart. The people of who make up the Safe Home are in the business to change the lives of the children and community, but one who visits cannot help but be changed. It is up to us, however, how long we allow that change to impact our lives back home. The rooster crows and the donkey brays early every morning reminding you of where you are. “I´m in Kenya.” A walk over to spend a little time with the children before they are off to school, you would find they have all been up for quite some time, cleaning, praying, and prepping for school. The children begin singing, worshiping God, signaling it is time to eat. With their piece of bread and cup of chai tea in hand they stand to have their breakfast. Don´t be surprised to be handed the same provisions to share in their breakfast. It is a short walk to school where with a hug, we send them off for a full day of school starting at 7am. They skip off, excited to be at school. These same children will work in the shamba or shuck peas singing to our same God, ending their day with devotions and prayer. If you are still, you can see and feel God at work all around and in you. Through Dorcas and Margaret when they greet you every time you walk through their door, you feel you are finally home. From Elihjah´s wise words to Ben and Milka´s warm smiles and kind words, you feel as if you have arrived in a place where God is painting the very scene before you and working in and through His people. One can only hope to be as humble in appreciating what God is doing in our own lives. It is evident they all wait on God´s timing and His will. I bring home with me the same sense of wanting His will be done in my life, not my own. It was on the last day that God seemed to speak the loudest to me through Elihjah´s vision he shared for the Safe House to the verses I came across during church. In Habakkuk 1:5, The Lord´s Answer after hearing Habakkuk´s complaint: “Look at all the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” One can struggle not knowing why God has brought you to this place and what you could possibly do to serve His people. Do you need to travel all the way to Kenya to serve and be changed? I left with this verse to share with others at home: Ephesians 4:1-2, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” I feel I know more clearly what God is calling me to do, but what is he calling you to do and what will you do about it? Kenya Matters has created an opportunity for all of us to help those in need, those whose hope is in God for their next drink of clean water, food in their hand, and a safe home in Kenya. Are you willing to be still, be patient, be humble, listen, and serve who is most important in life? Teresa...

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August – September 2012 Report

The provision of water has seen our lives get enriched in many aspects and we thank God. Not only has the water quenched our thirst and that of the surrounding community but has also enabled us to enlarge and diversify our farming. We are currently in the process of growing different crops and the good news is we now do not have to wait for the rains to cultivate!               The installation of irrigation drips was done in august and we already have crops on the farm, the children will now be able to enjoy a variety of vegetables; cabbages, beetroots, carrots, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, lettuce and in addition, we can take the surplus to the market and thus generate some income to offset the intensive labor and farm inputs. We hope that this pilot irrigation project will be successful. In august, our family enlarged again, Simon Wanyoike who is eight years old comes from Munyu, about 30 kilometers away from the safe house. His mother had been chronically ill for a long time and when her condition worsened; his father abandoned them forcing them to seek help from the maternal grandparents. Simon´s mother succumbed to death and this seemed to have hit Simon very hard. His grandmother reports of him having strange behavior and mannerisms ; withdrawal, running away from school, signs of depression, and prolonged mourning his mother(spending hours by her grave). She felt the need to have him get away from home and integrate him with the kids at the safe house to hopefully bring him out of this condition. He has a very big challenge academically. In spite of him having been in third grade at his home, his level was very low and he was taken to grade one which still is a challenge for him. However, extra work is being done with him to ensure he gets a good foundation. We thank God for everyone that makes this work a success! God bless, Ben...

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Tasted and Savored

On this Friday night there are many thoughts as we move towards the end of our time here in Kenya. The team has been a masterful group of various sorts coming together with countless gifts for our staff and children. The team has also been generous recipients of the most incredible hospitality to be found anywhere on this planet. These brief fourteen days on the soil of this continent have again changed lives – specifically the seven of us who are visiting, whether it is for the first time or the seventh time. Our American mindset tells us that we have much to give peoples of other places. And while this may be our financial reality, we have so very much to learn. There is a saying here in Kenya that says, “Haraka, haraka, haina baraka.” It means “Hurry hurry has no blessing.” These people work from sunrise to sunset. Yet, in the midst of the hand tilling of gardens, the washing of clothing, and the hours that go into preparing each and every meal, they find time. There is time for tea. There is time for the neighbor who stops over just to say hello. There is time to take the sick to the hospital simply because you own a car. There is time to be more hospitable to the strangers and aliens within their literal gates than we even begin to imagine. Life is simply different here. It is meant to be tasted and savored

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Surreal Moments

Surreal moments are the theme of this trip. It would take pages of writing beyond my abilities to describe all of the details and nuances that gave color to this day, but here are a few glimmering stars. We visited a couple of the local boarding schools where Kenya Matters children are attending. At the first school we met Margo; she is 74 and from California. After her husband died, she wondered what was next in life. In 2005 she came to Kenya and started a Girls Catholic School. Today nearly three hundred girls attend this school. As we climbed into our cars to leave, Margo accepted our invitation to visit our project. She arrived around 2 p.m. in the midst of a downpour. We invited her into the house, and as we sat on the porch talking and sipping tea, she told us her story. At 74, she is filled with more hope for life than most of us at 20. Her organization can be found at KenyaHope.us An hour after Margo left, we welcomed Stephan Lutz to the site. He works for the CRWRC as a project manager. His specialty is agriculture, and we happen to be designing an irrigation project for a third of an acre. Thus, crop rotation, fertilizers, pest control, among other things were discussed. Additionally, he gave us official channels by which Kenya Matters could work more directly with the CRWRC. The opportunities for partnerships are plentiful here. Tonight we found ourselves helping oversee the homework of the children, share devotional time, and then direct them toward bed. Our housemother for the children, Jane, is ill. So the team of us filled in the gap. While Alyssa was tucking in the girls, Kathy was talking with a few of the older boys. Those of us who remained stood in the courtyard encouraging the kids to use the bathrooms before they climbed into their bunks for the night. Who in America wakes up in the morning and imagines tucking Kenyan children into bed at night? Before I hit ten years of age, missionaries and the mission board in the church basement were a curiosity. Yet, never did I imagine that helping thirty-two orphan children in Kenya would be a slice of life. Nor did I imagine lives of Americans and Kenyans intersecting in surreal ways that would bring so much goodness, kindness, justice, and mercy to a very small speck of the world. Yet, it is still a speck. And on this speck there are children thriving who would have otherwise been thrown away as orphans. Instead, hopes and dreams are growing into realities. As I am about to slide into my Kenyan bed, I wonder what tomorrow brings, and I trust we at Kenya Matters have only begun this journey here in...

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