Monday, July 23, 2012

Kenya: Day 6

July 23, 2012

This morning we went and met an incredible godly man named Jeffery and his wonderful wife, Jane. Jeffery is a pastor in the slums of Lunga Lunga. He had previously been a pastor in the AIC church here in Kenya, but as I’ve written before the church here is not Gospel Centered, and Jeffery quickly realized this was not God’s calling on his life. He could have prospered greatly financially in the church here, but he couldn’t get past the true calling that had been placed on his life. Can I just say that the slums of Lunga Lunga were unbelievably difficult to look at? These slums are in Nairobi and the population is 4 million people. 2 million people, half of the Nairobi population, lives in the Lunga Lunga slums. What makes this statistic even sadder is the fact that these 2 million people take up only 5% of the land in Nairobi. These slums have no sewer system, or trash pickup, or running water. You can see in the photos below how streets have a small latrine that runs through them and it’s basically the sewer. The smell is overwhelming. The organized crime there can also make this a very difficult and dangerous place to live and exist. The people there seem to not care about anything.

Pastor Jeffery has started a preschool where 100 children come to learn more and be educated. They have three school teachers and meet in a single room. There is also a tiny room for little babies, whose moms need to leave and go find work. The room is very small and the babies are usually dropped off around 6am with one bottle of milk and they will have one meal of porridge and that’s it until their parents pick them up around 6pm. It is the same for the other children in preschool. The babies have one house mom to take care of them all. I would guess there were around 15 babies in this one room. To us it would seem those ratios and conditions we horrendous, but this is the only hope these children have. Here at these preschools, the children are learning so much. Pastor Jeffery explained by using the analogy, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” He explained the current generation is almost unchangeable, but if he can get in here with these younger ones, he could possibly be used by God to change the course of life for these people.

We enjoyed our time with Pastory Jeffery. I’m not sure how he has done the work here that he has. We learned that he has struggle greatly and faced much persecution here. He has received many death threats from the organized crime here, because of his integrity, in refusing to pay them a cut of his money in order to secure their protection of him. He trusts in the LORD’s protection and lays his life on the line every day he works here. Pastor Jeffery is dreaming of feeding all 100 of these children lunch as well. It would cost around $26 US dollars to feed all these children each day. We are praying the LORD quickly lets this happen. Pastor Jeffery’s dream is to also buy a piece of land in the slums that is much larger where he can actually build a legit school for these Children. The land would cost around $5,000 US Dollars and then the building would cost $15,000. Some of our sweet Village Church friends who were here in Kenya not too long ago, fund raised and this morning they received a call here saying they raised over $20,000 for Pastor Jeffery so the dream and vision he has for these children can begin materializing. We were overwhelmed with gratitude at the way the LORD constantly provides. He is so good.

We noticed right away when entering the slums that there was a very small boy and a little girl who were glued to Pastor Jeffery’s hip. The little boy truly enjoyed Crew’s company and continuously held his hand and wanted to be around him. Crew was so loving to him. We didn’t get a too much of a chance to speak with him or share the Gospel with him, but Pastor Jeffery said he was going to be talking to him soon. Be praying for this boy, Abdul. He is a Somali refugee and lives here in the slums. He is seriously skin and bones. He is positive for HIV and then they also found over a month ago that he tested positive for TB. We aren’t clear if his mother regularly gives him his retro anti viral drugs, so they were going to make sure they checked in on his family and made sure he was getting the proper care he needs. He was too precious.

While we visited the children they welcomed us with cheering, chanting and singing. It was too sweet. I’m not sure if they had ever seen a white child before so they literally swamped Crew. At one point I saw panic in his eyes so I literally had to lift him up out of the crowd and hold him. They loved petting his blonde hair. Crew was such a trooper and was deeply moved by the conditions these people live in.

After we got back to Naomi’s Village, Crew led the bed time devotional one last time. We read Daniel in the Lions Den and then Crew led the discussion questions as well as shared what Jesus did on the cross for them. He also led them in some singing. Of course there was also more loving on the sweet babies here and then we went to tuck the boys in and say prayers with them. They were precious as usual and what a blessing to pray with them.

We came back to our rooms and began packing our bags. We start our travels home in the morning. Here in the room we found all of our 4 kids horribly sad this is their last night. They have struggled processing all the excess we have at home vs. the absolute nothingness the people have here. The people here still have so much joy, in spite of their circumstances too, which makes it even more difficult to wrap our heads around. We had a lot of good conversations tonight. It was a sobering night, where we could all be moved to tears easily. Eager to be home and see the rest of our families, yet feeling like we are almost leaving a dream here, because could people really live like this? Is this even real? We are so thankful to GOD for his sovereignty in placing us here right now. There is no where else we are supposed to be.

To GOD be the glory, great things HE has done.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Kenya: Day 5

July 22, 2012

Today started with breakfast and then we had a church service here at Naomi’s Village. The church service was really a sweet time. Lauren was able to lead worship and also lead in bringing the word. We quickly left and went to lunch at a beautiful place, which was really a hotel, but they call it a country club. The scenery was incredible and we had really good food. Crew had a friend his age named Rachel. Her parents are Isaac and Esther, the pastors of Rift Valley Fellowship. Esther is a ferocious woman of GOD. She does not hesitate in how she ministers to others. She is in the home of prostitutes. She goes to the homeless. She tirelessly meets the needs of others and considers them first. She speaks truth loudly and boldly. I reminded Crew of how his dad and I always tell our boys that one way they can judge one of their future wife's character is to look at her mom. I told Crew this might be the first young girl that I would say, if she grows up to be like her mom, PLEASE marry her! He assured me, "Mom, you know Rachel is just my friend." I love that boy.

After this we finally had the opportunity to go to the church service of the Rift Valley Fellowship in Maai Maaihu. We were wondering who all would be there and we were all so excited when we saw that two of the prostitutes we had visited two days before, Mary and Zipporah. I had the opportunity to speak with Mary and hear more of her story. She said she had come to know Jesus two years ago, but because of her poverty and no opportunity for any other job she has had to resort to “hotel” work. With huge tears, she talked of how she hated that work, yet she did not want her five year old daughter as well as mother to not be provided for. She talked about how much it would mean to her if she could go to driving school, because then she could get a better job as a driver and be able to stop her job as a prostitute. I asked her why she couldn’t do this and she said there was never any way she could make enough money to afford to go. I asked how much it would cost and she said $11,000 shillings, which is $132 US dollars. It breaks my heart to think that $132 could get a prostitute off the street. I was so encouraged to see the many people flooding into the church. The gospel was clearly presented and the new people in the congregation were shocked at the fact that the pastor was in there with the people. He allowed prostitutes, addicts, and the homeless in his church. He doesn’t wear this big pompous robe and beg everyone for money. He prays for the needs of his church people. He is in the daily grind of life with them. It spoke so much to these people, because the “church” in Kenya is nothing like this. I believe having a church like this that clearly preaches the Gospel is going to draw people in by the thousands. I am so thankful for the work of Pastor Isaac and his powerful wife, Esther.

We came back in time to have dinner with the children here at Naomi’s Village. Two days ago, one of the boys I had previously written about, pulled Crew aside and gave him a cross necklace. He has really bonded with Crew and has even asked that I would leave Crew here to stay. These children do not have much so for him to part with this necklace was an incredibly selfless act. Crew was very moved by this and has not taken the necklace off. Crew decided to make him a necklace as well, so tonight we took him on a walk. They decided to sit on one of the swings outside and give him the gift. The little boy was so thankful and excited. He told Crew thank you over and over and then they took a series of photos with one another.

I had the opportunity to sit outside and listen to one of the missionaries who lives here and also pray with her. While we were praying Crew ran up and told me, “MOM!! I just finished praying with each boy in their beds as well as the house moms and they all wondered where you were!” It’s moments like these that I’m so thankful to God for the leader he has made Crew. He didn’t even ask for or need direction from me. He just stepped out and prayed over each child by himself. Please pray for each of these boys because it is hard for them as people come in and out of their lives here and they make incredible bonds with some of their visitors. Pray for our hearts as well as they are going to be so broken to leave each one of these children.

We ended the night with allowing the school aged children to finally have their turn at dressing up and having a fashion show. They had so much fun and loved every minute!!

Again, please continue to pray for us. Tomorrow we will be going to a place, which we’ve been asked not to disclose, for the sake of safety. We will be able to write about it after our experience there. Pray we will bold in bringing the Gospel to these people. Pray that the Holy Spirit will be on us and that the people there will feel Christ through us. Pray that the LORD might rescue these people. Crew asked me a phenomenal question this morning while we were getting ready for church. He asked me why God would allow the people to live like this in Africa. We have seen such extreme poverty, and yet tomorrow I feel like we will be seeing an even more extreme picture of this. We had such a great conversation about Adam and Eve and sin entering the world. We talked about how until we meet Jesus face to face there will be hardships for all to bear. I prepared him that there will be a day or days where his heart is greatly grieved and hard situations and loss will come his way, but that we can be so thankful that we will never walk alone. Christ will always be there to bear our burdens. He said he totally understood, but his little face just continued to contemplate and look down. I’m so thankful the LORD is teaching him these things so soon. Pray he is moved to be a man of GOD who is not complacent, but that is forever being a doer of the Word. Thank you for praying for us. I can’t wait to write about our adventures tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kenya: Day 4

July 21, 2012

Today was a slower day, but still a great day! We woke up and had breakfast with the children. Then we finally got to do something with the kids with all the things we had brought for them from the United States! A fashion show was on it’s way! One of Crew’s most favorite things to do in the world is to dress up in different costumes. We had asked Julie from Naomi’s Village if the kids would like it if we brought costumes and she replied with a for sure YES! So we were off to buying costumes as well as having many friends donate them! Needless to say the kids had a complete blast and we had so much fun on the red carpet with them!

After this we took the school aged children from Naomi’s Village to a place called Crescent Island. It is a beautiful place located on Lake Naivasha. It is also where part of the movie Out of Africa was filmed. It’s beauty was stunning and the children had so much fun running and seeing all the wildlife there.

We returned for dinner and watched a bible story movie with the kids. I quickly realized Crew was exhausted and put him to bed at 8:45. I think the nights of staying up until almost midnight and getting up early had taken a toll on him. He quickly fell asleep. Pray for strength for him and to fully get rested.

I did want to share one last story about the older lady, Jane, who we bought the mattresses and the water tank for. The first time we went to her house she was telling us the story about the post election violence that happened where she lived in 2007. She said everyone came to their village and started setting it on fire. She said to escape the fire she and her family had to run for miles and days on end. They found themselves sleeping under the stars in the jungle on certain nights. They didn’t know where they would be accepted and safe. Jane told us she ran and ran until she literally could not move any longer. It was the most pain she had ever felt especially in her knees. The pain has still been there for her and she usually walks with a cain as well as cannot even fetch her own water, which happens to be right around the corner from her house. The first day we met her we asked the LORD to heal her knees and take away the pain. She prayed in agreement for us and begged the LORD for healing as well. We all happened to notice that the day we delivered all those things to her, she greeted us without a cain. After we had prayed and spent our time at our house, we asked Isaac to translate for us and ask her where her cain was. She told us that after we prayed, the next morning she woke up and felt no pain. She then even decided to walk to the store to get a few things. We estimated that the store is at least 2 miles from her house and that round trip she had walked 4 miles. This is not an easy 4 miles either. It is farmland as well as roads with huge holes all throughout them. We rejoiced with her and thanked the LORD for truly healing her for today and giving her such strength! We were so excited and so encouraged and asked for continual healing!

Tomorrow we will be going to church and lunch with the missionaries here. We are hoping to make it in time for the church service of Rift Valley Fellowship around 3pm tomorrow afternoon. It will be held in the heart of Maai Maaihu and we are so excited about this. Again, thank you so much for the prayers and support each of you have given our team. We are truly blessed.

1 Peter 1: 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kenya: Day 3

July 20, 2012

This morning started out early again. Maury and I led the 6:30a.m. devotional for the school aged children. It was a really sweet time and we had lots of laughs as we butchered the song that went along with their memory verse for the week.

One of the things I prayed for right when I went to bed last night was that I could possibly sit face to face with one of the almost 600 prostitutes in Maai Mahiu, who live on what is called the HIV Highway here, and is five minutes from where we are staying. This morning we knew we were headed back to the IDP camp so we waited for our ride from Esther and Paul, our driver. Our purpose in going back was that we had gathered money among our team, from the money our supporters so generously gave us, and we were going back to deliver a sewing machine and table to Eunice, a mother of seven with absolutely no way of income, since her sewing machine burned in the post election terror. She is also the mom of Joe, the boy we took to the hospital to get the cuts all along his face cleaned up and treated. We also were going to deliver two mattresses, with several blankets and sheet sets, along with a large water tank to store water for the 93 year old woman we met the other day, named Jane. We waited for a couple of hours before our ride showed up, but luckily in that time we were able to help the Naomi’s Village housekeepers and fold, what felt like, one million loads of laundry they had hung out to dry.

As soon as Esther and our driver Paul picked us up, Esther said she wanted to take us into the heart of Maai Mahiu to meet with some of the wives of the partners of the Rift Valley Fellowship church that she does bible study with. We also took Margaret with us who works on site here at Naomi’s Village. We quickly picked up two ladies, Ann and Dorcus, and then Esther told us she wanted to take us to a house of three sisters who took care of their grandmother. When we arrived we quickly realized these ladies were prostitutes and lived in a lot of shame, not only at their work, but at the condition of their house and their inability to feed us a meal or offer us anything upon our visit. I was in awe. I leaned over to Carri and told her what I had prayed the night before and not only did I meet one of these prostitutes, I was sitting inside their house, on their couch, praying and singing Life over them. There were several teary eyes and the ladies made it clear they were shocked that a Christian would come in their house, and that prayer had not ever had a place in their home. Esther is a faithful woman here and told them she was in this for the long haul with them and would not be leaving. I am so grateful for the work she does here in Kenya as a pastor’s wife. So thankful she doesn’t sit back and let her husband do the ministry, but that she has her own passion and heart to serve. We took several photos with all the sweet ladies. We had lots of laughs and hugged lots with tears in their eyes. How faithful is God that he answered my prayers so quickly?

Since we were already in Maai Mahiu, we stopped at a local store and bought two huge bags of corn and beans to bring along with our gifts to the two houses at the IDP camp we would be visiting. We arrived first at Eunice’s house and she invited us in. She opened the box with the sewing machine in it and she could not believe her eyes. She was overwhelmed with joy and there was a peacefulness that filled the room. Esther told her she would be picking her up to take her to buy the fabric and supplies that would be the most helpful in helping her start making dresses to sale again. We were so blessed by our experience with her.

Next we went to Jane’s house. As soon as we pulled up she started walking down the path from her house to the road and when she saw us piling out of a truck with two mattresses, bedding, a huge bag of food and a large water container she lifted her hands to the sky, immediately began weeping and praying in Swahili, praising the LORD. She laid her head on each of our shoulders and just wept and wept. There was not one dry eye there. Not one. We went into her tiny house and made up the two beds with the sheets and the warm blankets. We then went down to where you get water and fetched several buckets of water to fill the large water bin we got her. Lauren was able to let her know how much we were encouraged by her great faith in the Lord through such major losses. This was one of the most moving things were were able to be a part of. What an amazing experience.

We finally came back and had dinner with the kids and learned about what our own children did here all day at Naomi’s Village while we were away. They played a lot of soccer and also we packed food to make trail mix for all the children this afternoon. All of our kids led out incredibly in this and served the children here. Crew took several silly pictures with the kids here at dinner and after dinner we had our evening devotion with the kids. Gracie, Courtlyn and Audrey led out in a play about Jonah and the Whale. It was so cute and the kids loved it! They did so awesome.

We closed the night by again praying for the boys before bed. It was such a sweet time and Crew is who everyone wants to pray for them at night. Even the youngest Quincy asked Crew to pray for him and when I asked if he wanted me to pray for him he said NO! We laughed so much.

Again, please continue to pray for us. We have had an incredible time here. Tomorrow we are taking the school aged children to Crescent Island on a field trip. We have heard it is absolutely beautiful. We are very excited. On Monday we will be going into the slums at Lunga Lunga. We have heard that it is a very devastating thing to witness, but our hope is that we will be able to listen to the stories of the people there and as they share, hopefully more and more healing will come. Thank you so much for all the encouragements and prayers! We are soaking up every minute here!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kenya: Day 2

July 19, 2001

Thank you so much for praying for us and encouraging us on this journey! We have had an incredible day! This morning started off for Crew by sleeping in way longer than normal and struggling to wake up. For me, my morning started with Maury at 6:30am by heading to the dining hall to sit in on the dining hall morning devotional with the school-aged children. They are memorizing and studying 1 John 4:7-8. Tomorrow morning Maury and I will be further teaching on that same passage!

We quickly left then with our friend Josiah. We had a lot of work to be done. We thought our first stop was going to be to the Kijabe AIC CURE hospital to drop off two of the children at Naomi’s Village for their HIV checkup. We quickly drove to the end of the road and to our surprise they had arranged a ride for Eunice and little Joe to be waiting for us at the end of our dirt road! We started yelling and cheering and welcomed them in our vehicle. Little Joe was finally going to get help for his face and his mother was glowing in thankfulness. Again we were reminded as a team of how thankful we are to our supporters. Joe was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that turned into impetigo that had also turned into staff. He was able to get his wounds totally cleaned and washed out, an oral antibiotic and a topical antibiotic. Praise the LORD. Eunice, his mother, was so worried because she knew she could not even afford the hospital card that you have to have in order to even be able to be seen at the hospital. That card cost 1 US dollar. So thankful that we were able to give out of the funds we raised and got him all the care he needed. The two Naomi’s Village children’s HIV reports came back awesome as well.

We then went to visit a dream of a church planter here in Maai Mahiu, Kenya. He is building a three story house that will host missionaries and short term teams who want to do a work here in this city. Isaac and Ester, the church planters, want to name this house the Bridge. They long to bridge the way for people who never thought they could serve in a place such as this, make it here and have a safe place to stay. It was in the final stages of being built and was beautiful. Esther also cooked a traditional Kenyan breakfast item for us called Mandazi's. We ate them with Chai Tea and it was delicious. She was such a sweet hostess.

We toured much of Kinjabe, where the founders of Naomi’s Village live, and had lunch in a city nearby. This place had American food so all the kids were really excited!

We then had noodles for dinner, which Crew loved and then we went to the nightly devotional. All 30 something children here at Naomi’s Village attend this devotional and usually the pastor onsite or one of the missionaries leads a bed time bible devotional with the children. Tonight Crew decided to be in charge of the bible study. He stood and told the story of Noah’s Ark, while Auntie Ruth translated in Swahili for him. I’m not sure if you have ever spoken with a translator, but this is very difficult! He struggled in a few parts of it and at one point while Ruth was translating he leaned over and whispered with a giggle, “I’m awful at this!” We both laughed and I just encouraged him quickly that it was great and he continued on with the story. My favorite part was at the end where all the people populated the earth again, yet they returned to their disobedience and disregard for God. Crew was so excited to tell the children, “Yet this time God didn’t wipe them out for these things. He died on the cross for those very things to offer them life with him.” It was truly a sweet time for the children and they loved hearing a peer teach them about God. At the end Crew said he wanted to teach the children the song, Never Once by Matt Redman. It goes like this:

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

They quickly sang along and I couldn’t help but think about how these words meant so much more to these children after all the terror they have faced, than they ever have to me. I was thankful for the depth this brought to those words. I will never be the same when I worship the LORD through this song for his faithfulness.

We closed our night with prayer for the children, the house moms and the missionary girls here. Again praying over every single boy was an incredible opportunity. Crew prayed strongly for salvation for each and that they would grow to be strong men in the LORD. A funny thing that happened during this time was when one of the boys was praying and crew and I were kneeling beside his bed. Crew tapped me on the shoulder and when I looked at him he whispered, “Mom, could you believe how good I sang that song tonight?” I punched him in the arm and we both quietly laughed and finished praying with this boy.

The last story I will tell is about this boy who we got to hear his story today. The boy is barely seven years old and lived in a mud hut with an alcoholic mother and a few siblings. The chief of their city decided to send these boys to Naomi’s Village at the request of the people there who saw the children both had one potato a day or no food and were never bathed. The children ended up at Naomi’s Village, however this one seven year old boy caused such a problem that every other child here cried about him every day. After exhausting every idea they decided to return to the chief with the boy to ask him for help. The chief came up with the plan to return him home for two weeks as punishment so he could see what he was missing at Naomi’s Village and then they would discuss if he should return. Legally I believe this was what they were forced to do, yet they soon found out that the chief had dropped the ball and had not enforced anything for this boy or even checked on him. Naomi’s Village Staff would go back and check on him and quickly found he was living on the streets alone and was still pretty hostile. He continued to say he did not want to return and that he was having fun. Finally after almost two months the boy was starving and tired and hurt and began approaching Naomi’s Village staff as he would see them in town and mentioning he might return. He also started regularly visiting his chief to tell him of his desire to return. Finally, by God’s grace Naomi’s Village accepted him back in. The boy made sincere apologies on his own and confessed he was wrong and made a horrible decision. The part that hit me tonight was that we saw him crying at the end of devotional so I went over to ask him what was wrong. He said that he and some classmates had gotten in trouble so they had to do the dishes and that he was so sad because he missed hearing the story about God and singing the worship song to God. Crew and I quickly wrapped him in our arms together and Crew said, “Go brush your teeth and get in bed and I’ll come tell you the whole story again and sing you the song!” We did just that and he worshiped every second with us. This was the same boy who just returned six weeks ago to Naomi’s Village. I cannot comprehend a child living homeless on the streets, and much less in the city that he was in. I have seen this small city. It is one long truck stop and is known to have around 600 prostitutes here. To think six weeks ago his heart was hard and he was running on the streets and now he is crying because he missed out on God’s word and worship is just incredible.

I am so thankful for the work the Lord is doing here. We have big plans tomorrow and I don’t want to spoil any of the things we are doing for you so I will write about them tomorrow night. Please continue to pray that we can selflessly pour out. We are so thankful.