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My Treasure Box My tresure box is full of friends who were once strangers, unexpected beauty upon the path and those who travel with me in the suitcase of my heart. These treasures have brought more meaning and beauty into this wonderful life God has given me.

Excerpts from my Journals in Kenya Jan. 2013

KENYA | Monday, 25 February 2013 | Views [160]

Jan 15th

34 minutes till we land on African soil.  My body is tired, my heart happy.  I slept on and off throughout our over-night flight and awoke to a brilliant sunrise with bold streaks of orange, red, midnight blue, and purple.  I’m anxious to get to Kaswanga and excited to see what all God has in store for us.  I pray we leave here with deepened faith, more vision, humbled, grateful and on fire to share God’s love and goodness with others.

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Jan. 15th

The first day in Kenya we stayed with a friend in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi. There I became friends with a young girl named Cody Acheing who goes by Angalerta. I’d like to share her story.

Both her parents died when she was young, her auntie raised her for a while but abused her so she left and went to live with her older brothers.

During the 2007 post election violence in Kenya all her brothers died, leaving her with no family. 

She now has 3 children, the oldest one is 8 and she is only 24.  Some days she has to beg for food to feed her children and recently has been selling used mismatched socks at the market for what is equivalent to 6 American pennies.  She sells the socks mismatched in an effort to promote peace amongst people of different tribes in Kenya as people fear more violence with the coming elections this March.

She has managed to keep her children in school with no support.  She said she is so blessed.  After her brothers died she said God gave her a voice and some songs and now she not only sells mismatched socks for peace amongst tribes but she sings for peace and advocates this amongst the youth. 

She wants to start singing more gospel music so she can praise God and give Him the glory because He has been so good to her.

And He has.  She has learned English and can read and write even though she has never gone to school.  She is also blessed because although she has little, probably less than what I carried over here on my back-she believes that she is rich and I know she will be one of the richest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I’m so thankful that God has blessed us with the opportunity to be here and to work alongside His dear children that He loves so much.

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I sit on a bus waiting to travel to the shores of Lake Victoria and bear a ferry to Mbita.

Men are loading items on top of the bus; bags of rice, petrol, a goat, our backpacks.  Men, women and children are walking around selling soda, water, biscuits, sunglasses, bananas.  Next to a man selling biscuits is a small child-dirty, bare foot, in rags.  She cups her hands and raises them to me for money.   Brian is going to the bathroom and I only have 1000 shillings which is equivalent to $11.50 and this is a lot of money here.  I shake my head no at her as I don’t want to encourage her begging, but at the same time my heart breaks.  She shakes her fist at me, I shut my window as I have said no to enough people today.  She stands there and although I don’t look at her I can feel her eyes piercing me, I can almost hear her cursing me-the life I have, the privileges I have, the opportunities-that I can even afford to travel half way across the world, the things I have…the list goes on.

Brian comes back on the bus, I glance at the girl-I can’t help it, she mouths I love you to me.  I see how desperate she is, I understand it is her state of poverty speaking, trying both extremes to make me give to her; love and hate.

How could I look away?  Another man selling biscuits enters the bus, Brian gives me some coins and I buy a bag, open the window, hand them to the child and she runs off.  Soon after we drive away. I pray.  Often here I have to look into the eyes of the poor, the hurting, the hopeless.  Often I have to realize I cannot help them and I cannot change the life I was given nor theirs.  All I can do is rest in His promises for eternal riches and trust that in His Kingdom-which will last forever-these children- the poorest of the poor will be the greatest.

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Jan. 22nd

Sometimes when you’re here in Kaswanga Village you forget about the poverty here.  We are never hungry and sit down to eat 3 times a day.  The children in the lunch program play and laugh and behave like children do, everyone you pass walking greets you warmly and most laugh with joy when they discover you can say a few small things in mother tongue.  Its beautiful here with the sunrise in the east, the lake north, sunset west and mountains south.  Tropical birds fly from flowering tree to flowering tree and children constantly run to greet you and touch your hands, excitedly shouting ‘Musungu (white person/foreigner) how are you?

Yesterday we went into 7 homes of the children from the lunch program, we have at least 23 more to visit. This is where God speaks to my heart and empowers me to want to give my time, my energy, my devotion to advocate for the needs of these beautiful people.

Every home has a story with a common thread of single mothers caring for many children, usually between 5-11 praying and asking God for a bright future for her children with the families greatest needs being food and education.

We ask questions and Ezekiel translates; we’re trying to get to know the families while building portfolios so we can take their needs home with us and try to find small groups of people to step up and take on their needs, invest into these families so they can better provide for their own children.

We bring a small bag of rice as a gift and pray with each family but it is so hard to sit in the homes of these families and tell them we are going to try and meet some of their needs and we will be back in a years time.  We have been asking the families to pray together with us that God will lay their needs on someones heart. 

We have much faith and are grateful to be here and be a part of this work, I know we are going to see God meet the needs and provide for these families.  We’re hoping to build mud homes, start rain water harvesting, plant trees, start gardens, build fences, find support for widows and sponsor children to go to school.  The needs are many but our God is BIG.

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Jan. 24th

Sometimes I think I begin to understand poverty, but how could I ever understand poverty if I have never lived without?

I don’t know what its like to live in a home made out of mud the size of most American bathrooms with a garbage bag as my door and a piece of sheet metal as my roof.  I don’t know what its like to have 4 children and nothing to feed them.  I don’t know what its like to have my children stay home from school because I can’t afford a $12 uniform or 60 cents in school fees a month.  I don’t know what its like to have to lose most of my family members to AIDS or malaria and depend on the father of his children to care for his children when he is drunk, arrogant and doesn’t even know their names.  

I don’t know what its like, but Monica does.  And her children do.

Daily we hear of loss, hunger and sickness but today I saw a new level of poverty and I will never forget today.  We took the 2 oldest children, both boys; Hilary and Evans to get sized for school uniforms.  Tomorrow we will pay their school fees for the entire year. We also added them to the lunch program.  I took their hands and they followed me with hesitation for lunch.  When we got there and they saw a big picture of all the kids and drawings hanging on the walls they became more comfortable. I made them a bowl of beans and rice and gave them a cup of water.  I had an older boy tell them to make sure they come back for lunch every day. 

Tomorrow Brian and I are going to buy them some clothes and shoes, I traced the size of their feet in my notebook and the oldest boy especially needs new pants as his entire bottom was exposed.

We want to build them a new home; one that won’t collapse when the March rains come.  We’re hoping the construction of this home can start by next week, it is only $500 to build a home here.  I’m thankful for the support of many back in the states and I’m humbled by the life I’ve been given-I pray I can make the most of it.

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Jan. 26th

I will never fully understand this place or know what the best way to help is.  There are so many cultural barriers here that make it so hard to believe that we’ll ever see real change.  But our hope is still greater than our frustrations.

Last night after finding a 2 year old lying on the ground behind her family’s mud home in much pain with a high fever and learning that her arm was severely burned by boiling water 7 days prior we called for a piki piki (motorcycle) and made sure she was given medical attention immediately.  Jen went with the mother and child and Ezekiel, Brian, Bruce and I made our descent down the hill to get Bruce a piki piki as well.  The last bit of light illuminated the lake in dashes of pinks, purples and blues and the full moon gave light to our path as it came up the mountain behind us.

We passed the home of Monica, Hilary, Violet and the baby.  The mother and children that we want to build the new house with.  And one of the most beautiful gifts was given to us.  These children-Hilary and Evans who were so hardened by their living circumstances, so hungry with little life in them just 2 days ago started to greet us, shouting excitedly ‘How are you’ singing Brian’s song Revolution and saying ‘We’ll see you tomorrow, we’ll see you tomorrow.’  We could see their little silhouettes dancing in the moon-light and I couldn’t believe the transformation I was seeing in these little boys from just simply buying them a school uniform, getting them back in school, bringing them to a lunch that they know they can come to every day, giving them shoes and a few new items of clothing.

This keeps us going.

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The next morning we rose with the sun and symphony of all the animals of Rusinga-roosters, goats, donkeys, and cows.  We got on piki pikis to Mbita and had breakfast before heading to ICIPE for stool samples.  We all had worms-fish and round.  Not a big deal, we’ve done this before and really see no way of avoiding it while living in Rusinga and eating from plates and utensils that are washed with lake water and bathing there ourselves.  We got the medicine and will take it on the plane when we leave.

After this a friend helped us buy food to distribute to the families.  We decided that we would end the lunch program on Sunday and send each child home with enough food to feed their entire family for the month-1 meal a day with beans and maize every day, rice 3X a week and porridge for every baby in the family.

I quickly did the research on how many lbs converted to kgs someone eats in 1 serving of beans, maize, rice, etc.  We then figured out how much each family would need based on the number of people in the household.  It was all added up to be 250.5 kgs of beans, 166 kg of rice, 332 kg of maize and 44 kg of porridge for 166 people.

We had a few hours before sunset to gather up all this food, luckily our friend knew all the ladies in the market and started delegating jobs to all the mamas.

This was one of the most fulfilling moments of our trip-tangibly seeing this amount of food and knowing the people it will bless.  We filled the back of an entire pick up truck and emptied the supplies of several mamas’ stocks.  As the sun set into lake Victoria we rode back to Kaswanga Village sitting on top of all these bags of food-excited and ready to spend the night dividing it up by families into smaller bags.  We have set up a system so the families can continue to collect this amount of food on a monthly basis at one of the mothers homes. 

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On the last evening in Rusinga we walked up to check on the home that was being built, the frame and roof were completed and Monica and Julia had moved furniture from Julia’s home (the 2nd wife) into this home without walls.  They were sitting there with the children eating in anticipation and joy for this new home.  When we walked up we were greeted warmly with smiles, hugs and thanks, this was the 1st time I had seen Monica smile.  As we walked away Brian said turn around and look at these two houses in comparison.  I wish we could have taken a picture of this, I imagine it’ll stay in my mind for some time to come. 

Next we went to deliver the 86 year old widow her mattress, beans, tea and sugar (her favorite).  We got lost on the way but it was a blessing as we ran into her grandson and he was then able to translate everything for us, even her prayers. 

This woman is very special and meeting her was such a blessing.  Few people have I been privileged to meet who are so close to God.  I know her prayers will carry us this year and I feel so much strength when I think of all the people in Rusinga that we can stay united with through prayer this coming year.  I’m excited to see what God does and honored to be a part of it.

Tags: africa, culture, humility, kaswanga village, kenya, lake victoria, poverty, rusinga island, village

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