Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Words Aren't Enough

In the week since the team returned home from Kenya, I have been asked many times over, "How was it?" I have to be honest with you - that's a really hard question to answer. Not because I don't know the answer but because mere words just inadequate to describe everything I have to say about this trip.

There are no words to describe the million shades of green of the tea fields we pass.

Or what it's like to drive through the hustle and bustle of Chuka Town.

I can show you a picture of Humphrey's smile when he showed us the progress on the technical school, but it just doesn't do the moment justice, standing there with him and beaming at all he has accomplished.

Words fail to describe the joy of being reunited with our sponsor children at Kenya Connection Kids.

And our partners at Tumaini and Huruma.

How could I possibly describe what it sounds like to hear the Kenyan church pray, be it adults or children? Or their praise and worship? There's really nothing I can compare it to that would do it justice.

My point is this - please bear with us when you ask us about the trip. We want to talk about it. Oh do we ever! But sometimes it takes a while to articulate just the right words that will help you understand all the things we saw and smelled and heard and felt there. Longer than the split second we see each other in the hall at church, or the check out line in the grocery store. We'll often give the short reply "awesome," "amazing," "wonderful," because it was. But it was so much more than that. So be patient with us as we try to expand our vocabulary to find the words to tell just how awesome, amazing and wonderful it was. And thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts, for the prayers you wrapped us in while we were there. God heard them and answered every one of them.

Mungu akubariki sana,

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Coming home

We've been shuffling through airports since last night, and between security points and check-ins and moving walkways, our conversations keep turning back to answered prayers.
Every goal, every hope, every fear for this trip has been met by God's faithfulness in a breathtaking way.

Praise, the little boy from the KCK home who's been waiting for surgery to remove a tumor behind his eye, was finally successfully operated on while we here. Emily, who is his sponsor and on our team, got to see him before and after. We were able pray him through the entire process and he's home today and doing great. Praise God!

We had hoped this trip could be more about people than projects, and indeed it was -- in ways that were beyond our planning. We developed new and deeper friendships with ministry partners, children and even alums of Tumaini, who helped fill out for us the full picture of the ministry's impact.

We all had a little fear heading into Kenya this time because of the security situation. While we felt very safe the entire time, our Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ reminded us that insecurity and increased Christian persecution is the new normal for them, and that it was a profound encouragement that we would come, especially now. We stand for Jesus together as the body if Christ.

So now we are about to board our Atlanta-bound plane here in Amsterdam. As we make this last leg of the journey, please know that the impact of your prayers and support has been felt halfway around the world, in the lives of kids and faithful adults who think of you as family. God is so big, and so is His church. We are in awe.

In Christ,

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mungu ni Mwema (God is good)

Beth getting Nancy (manager at Huruma) set up on the laptop we brought her.

Leslie stirs porridge at the primary school. 

Home visit with single father if three Tumaini kids

Jambo! Apologies for not updating the last few days, wifi has been out because of a few power outages, but we're happy to be reconnected after a few days. 
It's hard to summarize the past three days, but here are some highlights. 

Hope at Huruma: We spent all day Thursday here and were thrilled to see huge improvements in the 5 disabled adults who live here. They seemed more engaged and able to interact with us than we've experienced before. We sang, danced, prayed and had heart-to-heart talks with Nancy, the spirit-filled manager of this home. The irrigation system that our 2013 team laid is whirring and watering a garden that is supplying a healthy variety of vegetables to feed the children. A desperately-needed washer/dryer is up and running. There are still many, many physical needs at this home, but the loving care of the Godly staff here is evident in the children and adults who call Huruma home. 

Home visits: The team packed into the back of the small Tumaini van, along with three board members and four Tumaini kids, who took us to visit their homes. It was humbling to see where these children call home, and meet the parents and guardians who aren't able to  care for them without the help of Tumaini. We learned that mental illness is a common root cause of the vulnerability that leads to kids needing to be rescued by the ministry. It was an honor to get to visit briefly with each of these families, share God's love for them and pray over them as a team. 

Friday night worship/Saturday devotions: Tumaini is a place that worships--constantly. Student-led worship happens every Friday night and Saturday morning, and it is a foretaste of heaven. It's impossible to  describe the beauty of their voices singing praises, or the vibrating hum of their simultaneous prayers rising to the rafters in the dining hall. As always, it is the highlight of our time here. 

Time with the kids: Today Leanne preached on the Fruits of the Spirit, and we shared lots of games and a some creative time with pipe cleaners. We also interviewed and photographed ALL 130 kids. An awesome but tiring day. 

Tomorrow is our final ministry day. We will worship first at the church next door to Tumaini, and then go to Huruma to lead worship, and interview/photograph the 70 kids there during the afternoon.

We have felt all the prayers! God has shown us so much, has been so gracious, and has grown us closer to him, to our partners here and to each other. Our hearts our full. 

Bwana Asifewe! (Praise The Lord!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thursday morning

Good morning from Tumaini. We're beginning our second full day here today.
We'll be delivering the laptops and tablets to the computer training center today. Anne Wandimi it us up to date yesterday on the progress of the computer program and how they have launched a successful mobile computer training course, where they bring computers to two sites at churches in the community, and offer inexpensive two-week classes to people who could not afford to come to the full course here at the home. Until now they've been transporting large desktop computers back and forth each day of the classes, if you can imagine! When I told her we have brought 6 laptops and 4 tablets for them, she was overjoyed.
God is certainly using Anne and the computer training program to bring light and hope for a future, not just to the kids at the home but for an entire community. Thanks to all who donated laptops and tablets!

Monday, June 1, 2015

More Connections

We headed out early this morning to make the 1+ hour drive to Tharaka for Connection Day. When we were here two years ago, the guardians at Tharaka greeted us with singing. We were hopeful that experience would be repeated and we were not disappointed! They were waiting and sang to us as we made our way to the shade of the tree where Connection Day is held.

After opening with prayer and formalities, the fun was underway! Leanne did another fantastic job talking with the kids about the fruit of the spirit. Notice I didn't say teach because these kids ... they already know about the fruit of the spirit. We sang the Fruit of the Spirit song for them, and they laughed at our singing. Can't say I blame them! After hearing the singing voices of so many of our Kenyan brothers and sisters so far already on this trip, we really pale in comparison! The kids in Tharaka did the same tote bag craft we did in Kirubia.  Again, such a privilege to be able to provide the children with a token of thanks to give their guardians. After the craft were games - which wore the team out but not the kids! It is such a joy to watch Julie run the games for the kids. I don't know who has bigger smiles - the kids or Julie!

Emily and Leslie handed out sponsor gifts, which is always such a treat for the team. Then the children lined up to present gifts to their sponsors for us to bring home. How humbling it is to be given gifts from the children that we're supposed to be helping. It's a beautiful example of the Kenyan hospitality we experience while we're here.

After we left Tharaka, we went with Humphrey to check on the progress of the technical school. The slab of concrete we saw two years ago now is a three-room (and huge rooms at that) school with walls and a roof. Such amazing progress! There is still much work to be done but God has been with Humphrey and his team every step of the way on this journey, and we know God will continue to provide the resources to see this work completed.

Today was a gift, start to finish. We will be wrapping up our time here at KCK in the next hour or so. While we are very sad to say kwaheri to our friends and the children here, we are excited to be our way to Tumaini and Huruma tomorrow. It has been an honor to serve along side Humphrey and his staff the past three days. They are doing the most incredible things here in Kenya to serve Christ through the ministry to the children. It is an understatement to say the team feels blessed to be a part of it. We are so excited to see what comes next for Kenya Connection Kids. Bwana asifewe!

In Christ,

P.S. Praise has been admitted to the hospital and it appears that surgery is definitely on for Wednesday.  Please lift Praise up in prayer, as well as Humphrey, Pauline, and Praise's doctors.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Making connections

Greetings from Chuka! We arrived here late Friday evening after a busy morning in Nairobi, visiting with some Tumaini alums, buying supplies and beginning a 4 hour ride north. Emily's bag made it thanks to our terrific driver Geoffrey who fought Nairobi traffic to get it at the airport early Friday morning.

Our travel has been uneventful except for a flat tire in the rice mill town of Mwea, halfway between Nairobi and Chuka.  Once again, Geoffrey and David (our other driver) took excellent care of us and we were back on our way.

 We pulled through the gates of Kenya Connection Children's Home to the smiling faces of the 28 kids who live here, along with their amazing caregivers. It was a short but sweet reunion before we headed on to Thuchi Lodge, which is our home away from home until Tuesday.

Yesterday (Saturday) was our first full ministry day, which included a Connection Day program for 70 children and their guardians in Kirubia. Leanne led a terrific lesson on the Fruits of the Spirit and we helped the kids create decorated tote bags to give as a gift to their guardians. It was touching to see the kids get to experience the joy of giving for themselves, and even better to see how much the guardians loved it. We delivered gifts from many of you here, took pictures of your kids receiving them, and chatted with the kids about you and your families.  It's an incredible honor to be this bridge between you and your sponsored child.

In the afternoon we held the same program with the kids at the home and delivered gifts to them as well.  We ate dinner outside with everyone under the moon (and a few swooping bats) and headed home to Thuchi bone-tired but hearts full.

We worshipped this morning at Kiereni Church PCEA, where Humphrey is an elder, and where we've worshipped before. The four elders on our team helped plan worship and serve communion.   It's a joy to be introduced to the congregation not as visitors anymore but as friends. Leslie and Emily were liturgists and we heard an excellent sermon by Pastor Wilfred on "Arise and Rebuild" based on Nehemiah 2.  I'm pretty sure they cut short the service for our benefit -- it was only three hours this time (after an hour of worship planning in the vestry of course).

Right now the rest of the team is helping the kids in the home write notes to their sponsors (many of you!).

Tomorrow we head to Tharaka -- a very dry rural region east of here -- where we will hold another Connection Day for the field kids there. 

Thank you for your many prayers, which we've felt every step of the way. We have seen God's graces and interventions, and are being knit together as a team and with our ministry and church partners here in a tangible way. Mungo ni mwema (God is good).

In Christ,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Good morning from Kenya!

We are here safe and sound after a smooth flight yesterday through Amsterdam. Emily's bag didn't make it all the way to Nairobi, but should be delivered today (you can pray!).
We're headed now to meet Grace, a Tumaini alum who is studying Community Development here in Nairobi. It'll be great to share breakfast with her here at the hotel along with two other Tumaini grads -- Peris and Peter (from Huruma). What a privilege to get to see how God has worked in their lives over the years. More on that later.

Thanks for a warm send off and all the prayers. We are grateful for each one of you!

In Christ,