Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Day 3: Joy Blessed Girls Home

I started my day again with several cups of glorious Java House Espresso. Oh how I love coffee. Thank you Jesus for creating coffee!! After a quick breakfast and another cup of coffee we made our way over to the boys house with our wagon of shoes. Thank you Kristen! It was time to give away the shoes everyone bought to give the boys. We wheeled the cart up and started unloading the new tennis shoes for each boy on the couches, then we simply started calling them by name and seeing if the size we had fit them. Whew…it was a process. We really needed more size 7.5, 8, 8.5 and 9 in men's sizes because the bigger boys feet were growing like weeds! After multiple switches to get the right sizes some of the boys still wanted to switch because they had seen the other shoes we had left for home visits, but sadly they weren’t in the sizes the boys needed. So if you are out and about and see great deals on shoes please message me. Our best deal was $3.75 a pair at Payless and these were nice shoes y’all. Not just some flimsy little slip on. After our hard work was done there recording the US size and the Kenya size we went to resort the shoes for the girls home we were visiting after lunch.

Elizabeth was able to arrange a driver to take us over the river and through the coffee plantations to the girls home. While most of the driving was done on paved roads it was the unpaved portions that really give you a good shake up. Lauren, Elizabeth, and I were nice and cuddly on the bench seat in this car that I’m thankful to GOD for the doors in the back. It was a fairly good sized car, but most of the space was a hatch back for bags. It was super low to the ground so when we did go over the bumps it felt like parts of the car might have been left on the road. We were so cuddly, but not squished that I wasn’t able to turn around and see if parts had been left on the road or not. But I digress. We made it to the girls home after going over a river where people were in fact washing their laundry and through all the coffee plants, but I didn’t see one visitors entrance. Because you know I had the driver slow down to see, because who doesn’t want to go sample coffee straight from the bush/tree. I learned very quickly that this idea I had that coffee plantations should have you know a sampling/tasting room was a very American idea. Oops did it again, Girls home, focus. So we pulled into the dirt drive of the girls home area that was surrounded on both sides by tall trees and right over the entrance was the most ginormous  avocado tree I had seen yet. All I can say is wow, who wouldn’t want to live under an avocado tree. The small metal gate to enter was tiny and short. So short that I actually hit my head at the top, since I’ve never had to bend down before to really go under anything this was unexpected and made be feel instantly taller than I actually am. Inside were buildings on both sides. A kitchen on the left and meeting room on the right, in the back was the girls home. This girls home, we learned from Monica who greeted us, was rented. She had this vision from God to start this girls home and she and Sam and Samuel helped raise the funds and raise chickens to help provide a home for these girls. There were 20 girls in all from 3 to 14. After meeting and being welcomed by Monica we told her about our gift and our want to do a one day VBS at Haven for the girls in July to provide them new back packs, uniforms, and school supplies. She was most happy to hear this. I also let her know we would pay for the transportation to have them out since this was an expense they surely couldn’t afford. Then we were able to meet each of the girls and give them a new tennis shoe. We recorded their sizes as well to put in order for school uniforms. There were 5 older girls who were attending private schools and these uniforms have to be ordered from the schools. So we will be blessing these girls with shoes backpacks school supplies and the funds to buy a new set of uniforms. The school must  make something off these uniforms because these are close to $68 a set with all the different pieces needed for these schools. That’ s approximately $350, so if you feel the Lord tugging at your heart to help one of these girls with their uniform costs, feel free to click the Donate button and put school uniform for Joy Blessed. After our gifts were concluded Monica told us she had a small gift for us. She brought out freshly made chapatis which are like tortillas. Then she brought out plates of stew, chicken and potatoes… what a blessing. I tried to tell her how grateful we were, but I didn’t want to hurt feeling so after only having lunch 1.5 hours ago we ate a second lunch. It was delicious! Then on top of that she gave us a large bag of mangoes to take back with us as a gift. WOW these mangoes were super, super sweet. So we left Joy Blessed, feeling the joy and blessings of our host and I can’t wait to see these girls again. On the way back I asked Elizabeth to let our driver know we wanted to stop in town and get a coke. It was hot y'all and I was hoping they would have a coke zero sugar. Elizabeth giggled a little bit at that because only in the city, like Nairobi can you get specialty things like a diet coke. Someone remind me to buy a case of it this July at the Carrefore because of course she was right. That’s ok, I downed my ice cold water like it was from Heaven, because no matter how much sunscreen I put on my pasty white skin I was still burning. Being that much closer to the equator is no joke y'all. While Elizabeth and I hopped out of the car to get drinks for everyone, our driver was asked by a group of young men if they could talk to us, thinking we were rich American’s. By their standards anyone from America is rich. Our driver let them talk to Lauren and she quickly informed them, than no we were missionaries. They started laughing because everyone knows that missionaries are poor. Poor because once we see the vast economically differences between what the poorest has in America to what the poor has in Africa there are no comparisons. By Africa standards our poor are extremely wealthy. Someone making $30,000 in America is barely getting by, while someone making that in Africa is a Millionaire, living in a nice house with concrete floors, food on the table and steady income. So yes if you decide to come to Kenya with us be prepared to have your world turned upside down and instead of buying the latest… will be giving your money so children can have schools supplies, shoes to wear and uniforms to go to school, because barely getting by for them is the status quo and no you can’t change the whole world, but you can impact one child’s like. This impact is like throwing stones in a pond and as the stone sinks to the bottom and is gone the ripple effect has started on the surface and this ripple effect expands until it reaches further and further. Imagine the stone as one child who’s head has hung low bc their uniform has many holes and the shoes on their feet had holes and rips before they even got them, but the holes are good because it means there can keep putting in their foot even as it grows. This child doesn’t have paper or pencils at home to do the work or to practice anything they have learned. Now imagine this child getting to go to school one day and have a group come in and do a VBS for them where they learn more about this Jesus and at end they receive a new backpack with school supplies, new school shoes and a new uniform. The child’s head lifts and he/she now has a smile because they have seen that people do care and the world can change because it already has in their eyes. They went to school without and came home with everything they need for a successful school year. Their outlook for this next year of school has changed, they now have the tools to learn and grow more. The ripple effect has expanded, and who knows it could be this one child who then goes on to…..teach others, be president, open a medical clinic…change the world. So you may think your gift of $10 for school supplies doesn’t help, it does. Any gift helps. I’m writing this now thinking of the $15,000 we still need to raise to make this summer mission trip happen and I know that God’s got this, but the question is, is He going to use you to help us get there.

Stay tuned for day 4- a fabulous day at church and home visits to give out 60 plus pairs of shoes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Business Trip to Kenya Day 2

Our day started with a fabulous breakfast of boiled eggs, toast with peanut butter, and tomatoes! And of course I had my delicious Java House espresso already brewing with 2 cups before breakfast. So even though we didn’t sleep that well the night before the coffee and eggs made up for it. 

After Breakfast we sorted shoes for our home visits, for the boys at Haven and for the girls home Joy Blessed. Whew!  With that done and some time before lunch I wanted to visit Naomi Albert, the boys tutor at Haven before they were all enrolled in the private school they are currently attending. It is a great school but because of the hours and boys getting home around 6pm Naomi was no longer needed. She started her own business selling arrow root which I love sliced thin and fried like chips. She lives about a 15-20 minute walk from Haven down the left side of the valley. After several ups and downs we made it to her house, but she wasn’t home. We were able to speak to her brother and get her a message that we had come for a visit and we wanted to buy some arrow roots from her. When we got back I also sent her a message on Facebook to let her know. She faithfully responded and planned to come see us the next day.

Then we prepared for our visits to Rose, the lady whose shop is directly across from Haven on the Hill. She had faithfully sewn the girls’ uniforms for us each year at $7 each. She makes each one of these dresses by the measurements she takes from the girls. Then the machine she uses is foot powered, meaning she has to press her foot repeatedly to make each individual stitch. Why you ask? Well she doesn’t have electricity at her shop, and even if she did the electricity is dirty and is known to go out for an average of 4 hours a day at random times. On the plus side there is a lot less error in a machine that only does one basic stitch.

On the way to Haven yesterday, Elizabeth and I had started the conversation about the quality of the jumpers/sweaters we were getting each year. Because they were hand done and single loom they would snag easily and then unravel. For the price and the amount of labor that went into them the Henry Mutega shop we bought the shirts and shorts at, let me see the 3 different qualities of jumpers/sweaters. Then because I really didn’t want to promise our business there, she kept dropping the price to get our business. Being quiet paid off; she gave me an amazing price of 500Ksh or $5 each!!! This is $2 less than what we had been paying for a less quality sweater. So I bought one as a sample to see if we could get the same price and quality from the lady in the village who has made them for us in the past. We want to be able to bless several local businesses with business to spread the wealth around. So later that day after we visited Rose and she agreed to make the dresses and get measurements, we left and head to see Fidelis, the lady who makes the jumpers. I showed her the jumper and the receipt for the price the shop in town was going to give us and I still wanted to give Fidelis business so I had decided to let her make the girls’ jumpers even if we couldn’t get the same price if we could get the same quality, because I didn’t want the girls to have a lesser quality sweater. Well after some talking back and forth with Beatrice helping me explain the deal we were given in town for the boys’ sweaters, she agreed to give us the same price and kept the sweater to match the color and quality for the girls. Whew! God worked that out for us. So we left Fidelis’s and headed back to Haven where we were greeted on our way by many of the little school children we’ve come to know and love from Nduchi! Many of them had on their backpacks we gave them last year and several had on the new school uniforms. The uniforms were still in good shape, but many of the jumpers had snags. This made my heart sad and happy at the same time that we just negotiated for a better quality sweaters for the new school. Next year, God willing, I would like to bless the kids at Nduchi with a better quality jumper. Anyone want to just go all in and give $1,500? This would cover the cost of new jumper/sweaters for the children at Nduchi. Well, I’m throwing it out there, because if you don’t ask you can’t receive and our God is able to give more than we could even imagine. 

With day 2 of business completed we made it back to Haven to discuss plans for Saturday to visit the girls’ home Joy Blessed with Elizabeth, who worked as our coordinator for the trips and went as our communicator. The boys arrived a little afterward to play and hang out with us until dinner. That night we were blessed beyond our imaginations with the boys and Haven singing and dancing their hearts out to our Savior Jesus Christ. This worship experience is better than any revival you’ve ever been to. The praises from the children are genuine. It’s a completely different feeling than Sunday morning worship because this was unscheduled and just a time to praise and thank God for all He had done. It was what worship is truly about: I’m coming back to the heart of worship where it is all about you Jesus.

When I’m on the mountain in Kenya, it is a mountain top experience and I feel closer to God even though He never leaves me. I invited Him in to be my Savior many years ago. But, I’m the one with the busy life, so busy sometimes that I forget to praise Him when I wake up and I may go several hours without praying to Him and thanking Him for something. Yes, I always have my Jesus Jams on in the morning and get this praise time in, but I wonder if this is more of a habit than an act of conscience praise. If this continues I can let being busy replace my prayers and worship, so it becomes me that has stepped away. I always wonder how this happens, how we let our lives and the things get in the way of the personal time with our Savior. So right now let’s praise and thank Him for this day, for His unfailing love, and His Mercy, because He is always there with His arms open wide ready to begin again.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Day 1 Planning trip Feb 2018

Traveling back to Kenya this last week was a whirlwind experience that I had the pleasure of doing with Lauren Tennison and Tommy Culver. Our ministry that started just a few years ago has grown due to the willingness of many of you readers and friends to give of your time and money to help us change the world. It's always amazing to me the Network HE has already laid out, that just by saying YES to Him that one time, He inserts the people who act as His angels helping us find the places He wants us to support and give to. This last year on our trip I told you all about the poorer school we found: Munyu-ini Primary School. What I didn't know at the time I heard God calling us to do this school was that it had 460 kids versus the 278 we normally have been supporting at Nduchi Primary School. But God knew and He had already worked out the funding, the givers who gave so that on this trip we could do deposits of half to all those who are making the uniforms, jumpers, socks and shoes. Then He has already started the second half of the funding we needed. We have our 2nd annual BBQ Baked Potato fundraiser on April 28th and a donor who will remain anonymous who has generously given us $5,000 in matching funds for a campaign to raise the $10,000 needed for the second half of these contracts we made. I don't cry often, but when someone gives you $5,000 to help these kids, it makes me tear up. Because it's more than just the money, it's someone doing their part in HIS work for HIS Glory. By giving they become HIS hands and HIS feet.

Wednesday night at around 2am we finally arrived at the Mayfield Guest House in Nairobi, where after being up for 36 hours we just opened the windows, pulled down the mosquito nets, and flopped on the beds to pass out for 4.5 hours in order to get up and have breakfast at 7:30am and prepare for our journey and many stops on the way to Haven on the Hill. Our previous flight from Amsterdam sat on the runway for 2 hours while the computers that run the plane had to be reset twice then once finally working the route had to be reset manually which added an extra 30 minutes of airtime. Thankfully our driver from the Mayfield, Robert, didn't give up on us and waited the extra 2.5 hours for us. He was likely there for over 4 hours just waiting for us and then drove us to the Mayfield in the middle of the night. The upside to this was no traffic and the blissful breeze of around 65 degrees. But that breeze was blocked and stifled at the Mayfield which is in the heart of Nairobi, so to say it was hot under the mosquito nets was an understatement, but it was probably 75 and thank you Jesus I was able to sleep.
Thursday morning at 7:30 the breakfast bell rang and Tommy and I made our way to breakfast to drink all the coffee they had. Lauren who didn't sleep well stayed in bed. After breakfast we met and Tommy and I decided to walk down to the money exchange to get our day kicked off. Our driver, Issac wouldn't be arriving until 10am and Elizabeth from Haven was meeting us at Mayfield too, to be our translator and communicator for the day. With that decided we headed out the front door of the Mayfield into the bright sun, and down the alley to arrive on the street in the hustle and bustle of smartly dressed Nairobians who were on their way to work or school in slacks, ties, and dresses. The bright colors of their dress filled the streets as we made our way over broken concrete and red dirt. The dust and horns of cars filled the air on our 10 minute walk to the money exchange which was thankfully empty and had all the money we needed to exchange in order to set up our contract deposits. From there we headed to Java House to get our much needed espresso to drink at Haven and a breakfast treat for Lauren. When we arrived back at Mayfield Issac was there waiting for us and after we loaded his car with all our luggage and made our travel plans for the day Elizabeth arrived through the gate. Awe what a JOY it was to see her.

We left the Mayfield and headed to TRM to get the erasers for our pencil pouches for each of the kids this summer. They are too heavy to take with us, when there are other much needed things we need to take from US due to quality and price. After our lunch and our trip into Carrefore, the new African Walmart, we had lunch at Java House, our last real American meal for the next 4 days. From Java House we travel to Gatundu to meet with the Henry Mutega tailors to work out at contract for the boys at Munyu-ini. This shop is set up exactly like you would think a sweat shop would be set up. It was packed to the max with individually made uniforms in all colors and sizes for the local schools and had 2 seamstresses working to make more uniforms. When we entered they immediately got up so Elizabeth and I could go behind the counter to do business. The owner after we made our request was able to do the shirts and the shorts for us for 700 KSh each for the boys at Munyu-ini, which is roughly $7 each, a great price. Then when she found out I was going to get jumpers/sweaters made from another shop, she kept dropping the price until it was 500 KSh or $5 versus the $7 we normally pay. So, I bought one as an example and told her we would be back on Monday with orders for the boys at Haven, the girls from Joy Blessed Children's Home and possibly the order for the boys jumpers. They were so excited to get the contract from us she wanted to send her tailor with us to the school to get measurements, but we were already full, so she made arrangements and sent a tailor right after we left. From there Elizabeth called the Munyu-ini school and we went to make introductions and then make plans for the dates we wanted for VBS. We arrived at the school in a cloud of dust and the children rushed out to greet us as it was the end of their school day. Their happy faces were endless. The head teacher was out so we met with the assistant. He was very happy about letting us bless the children and agreed to the dates we wanted and times and give-a-ways. To thank the teachers we gave them pencil pouches full of supplies. From there we made our way to Ituramiro to stop at a fabric shop to get more fabric for Kathy to make things for our fundraiser. The shop was closed and we were exhausted, so we made our way to Haven and arrived around 4:30 pm where we set up our stuff for the next few days and greeted our dear friends from Haven before the boys arrived home. The boys arrived home, and I don't think they expected us, but after the initial shock of us being there they warmed up and gave us hugs. The one thing I noticed right away as the condition of the backpacks we gave them last year. They were falling apart. Because we had some extra space in our bags on Tuesday before we flew out I packed in some extra backpacks to take. God knew exactly what they were for. We gave each boy with a ripped up backpack a new one and only had one left. It turned out the quality wasn't great, but that was because the ladies had been washing the backpacks regularly with caused the lining to come out. We noticed kids from Nduchi we gave the bags to last year who didn't wash them, these still looked ok. After dinner that night we said our goodnights and headed to bed to get some much needed sleep....