Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hungry Eyes

June 29, Saturday

Our team split up today.  Benny and Tori left for America a few days early.  Milton, Audie, Traivs, and Jim left for Turkana, a rural and more dangerous region in Northern Kenya.  Kevin, Amy, and Nicole left for Lake Nakuru to go on a safari.  Cassie, Jake, Naana, and I drove maybe an hour away to Naiberi, a small village near Eldoret.

My group got to sleep in until 8:00 this morning!  Can you believe it?  We were given fresh mango juice for breakfast and it was delicious.  Kenya has the sweetest of fruits.

Naiberi was pretty rural, dotted with traditional mud huts and wandering cattle.  Because it is Saturday, only the baby class was waiting for us at the school, but boy, were they excited!  They sang and squealed and giggled as we pulled up to the schoolyard in our matatu.  The Naiberi kids do not receive nearly as many wageni as the kids in Eldoret do, so they were all shy and afraid to actually touch us.  They laughed and laughed as Jake chased them around the schoolyard.

My attention was immediately captured by a 4-year-old boy standing calmly next to a waiting piki-piki.  David, the boy I was able to name when I was in Kenya last, has grown up so much since the time I held him when he was hardly four months old.  He is precious.

It was clear David had been told by his mother to be on his best behavior.  He stood with his little feet pressed together and his hands hanging straight at his sides.  He would try so hard not to smile, attempting to keep calm and solemn like a good Kenyan boy, but Jake and I managed to crack his wall a few times.

David's little mouth twitched when Jake put a cap on his head and then again when I set my blue sunglasses over his eyes.  He did like those big sunglasses, so I let him keep them, however funny they looked on such a small boy.

David took my hand and walked next to me as Barnabas showed us his maize fields, grinder, and school classrooms.  Everything on this CRF-sponsored property was made of metal, which isn't ideal, but it is much better than the crumbling mud huts all around.

Cassie filled David's pockets with trail mix as we walked; he ate it all!  Every few moments, he would look up at my face for reassurance and I would smile back at him.  He held my hand wherever we walked.  David is such a sweet little boy.

Philliph leaned down to speak to David in Swahili for a few moments and then translated for me.  Since David is too young to be in school, he does not yet know English.  "Do you know Emily is your sponsor?  Do you know she takes care of you?  Do you know she gave you your name when you were this big?"  To everything, David would nod and say in the sweetest little voice, "Yes, mmm.  Yes."

A very old woman in her eighties came to meet us.  They called her the grandmother of the community.  She had a deeply lined face and gaping holes in her earlobes.  She wanted several photos with the wageni, which we were happy to oblige.  This woman was truly beautiful and elegant in her old age.  Naana gave her some lotion.  She was thrilled, rubbing it on her hands and face.

They led us into the church where a worship service was held.  During the songs, David listened attentively, clapping exactly when he should and closing his eyes as tightly as he could during the prayers.

What I like most about Naiberi is the involvement of the adults in the community.  Women filled half the church and involved themselves in the lives of their children and the orphaned kids in the village as well.  They showed up because they've taken responsibility over every child in their village.  Love shines from this place.  Most of the women are several years past childbearing age.  Their children have died from AIDS, and now they work hard to provide for several children not their own by birth.  I loved meeting these women and hearing praise for the Lord come from their lips.

We were asked to speak to the members of the church, so we did.  With Barnabas translating, I praised them for their involvement in the lives of their precious, happy children. 

I had lunch at Barnabas's house.  Little David sat right next to me on the couch, leaning quietly against my shoulder.  I filled his plate with broth, chapatti, rice, and chicken.  He ate every bite, so I re-filled the plate and he finished it again.  David drank the broth from the bottom of the bowl and even picked off every little grain of rice that had fallen into his lap.  This little boy can eat!

An elder of the church approached me and asked, "Will you adopt this boy and take him back with you to America?"  His words broke my heart.

How I wish I could.  David has seen such hardship and poverty in his short lifetime.  His mother was forced into prostitution after her husband died, and this is how David was conceived.  He is the youngest of ten brothers and sisters.  They live in a tiny mud hut maybe the size of my small bedroom in college.  I cannot adopt David, but what I can do is continue to sponsor him.  Thankfully, sponsorship does make a huge impact on the lives of these children.  With my support, David does have daily food, an education, and hope for his future.

I filled a plastic bag with a new outfit for David, a book, small toys, and a bunch of snacks from Naana.  We set him atop the piki-piki, and I kissed his forehead and said, "I love you, David," before watching him ride away, the big blue glasses crooked on his nose.

The rest of the schoolchildren played with us for a while and then followed us out to the matatu, asking us to buy them soda.  Those funny kids.  They brought laughter when I was ready to cry!

Jake, Cassie, Naana, and I decided to go to Poa Place after visiting Naiberi.  Poa Place is a little park and zoo in Eldoret.  I actually visited there the last time I was in Kenya, but it has expanded since then.

We had strawberry and mango ice cream and then visited the zoo, where we saw several animals, including lions, cheetahs, monkeys, snakes, peacocks, and crocodiles.  There were also exhibits that displayed the traditional mud huts of each Kenyan tribe.  I've seen the real huts in Kenya, even today in Naiberi, but it was interesting to see which style was from each tribe.

Finally, our tiny team went to the Nakumatt to get pear-flavored Alvaro (the best Kenyan drink ever) and chocolate.  We ate at a pizza parlor on the first floor.  We watched an Ethiopian man and his two wives having dinner together, much to Naana's shock.

Today was a good day.  I didn't go on the safari, but I was able to serve and have some fun at the same time without spending hardly any money.  It was definitely worth it!  Seeing little David again was best of all.  I will never forget the time I spent with him, holding his hand and watching the way he stared at us with wide, dark eyes.  Philliph told me that this was David's first time seeing mzungus since I had visited when he was an infant.  In that case, David certainly is a brave little boy! 

Jake, Cassie, Amy, and I stayed up talking for a while back at the guesthouse after the safari team returned.  The thing I like about trips like these is that it connects you with people who share a calling for serving the least of these and loving the nations.  I've made some wonderful friends on this trip.

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