Sunday, July 14, 2013

She called me "Mum."

June 24, Monday

Today I experienced two things I never thought I would see in Kenya: hailstorms and romantically garnished bacon.  Well, I didn't actually see the romantically garnished bacon, but my imagination is vivid enough on its own.

I don't want to get too ahead of myself, so I'll start from the beginning.

We woke up bright and early to have breakfast and then walk to Ringroad Orphan's Day School around 8:15.

I had a long list of CRF tasks to do, so I asked Nicole to serve with me.  The job involved writing ID sheets and taking photos of new, unsponsored children.  We asked three seventh and eighth grade girls to help us: Neema, Vivian, and sweet Lavin.

They first helped us fetch benches from a building on the school grounds that was packed full of desks and planks of wood that towered to the ceiling.

These girls were brilliant.  Neema was easily the leader and took charge of the others.  They began by bringing us the unsponsored children we needed and translating their broken English into what we could understand, and Neema ended up filling out the actual ID sheets right next to me.  Neema, Lavin, and Vivian are all three such bright, talented girls.  I cannot even imagine the beautiful futures the Lord is opening up for them through education and sponsorship.

Kevin and Travis soon joined us in filling out ID sheets, which was a huge help.  We managed to finish everything I needed to get done in only a couple of hours.  About seventy new children will soon be in the CRF sponsorship program.
The hardest part of this entire process is getting the children to smile.  In Kenya, being photographed is rare and an honor, so one wants to look solemn and dignified in front of the camera.  However, I like to see smiling kids on our promos!  The kids at Ringroad are darling and so joyful.  Their pictures should show this!

It takes a lot of maneuvering to convince a child to smile for the camera.  I say, "Cheka, cheka!" in Swahili, which means laugh.  I'll make silly faces, tickle them, and speak in purposefully Texan-accented Swahili, but even with all of this effort it is difficult to get a true smile... in front of the camera.  Away from the lens, everyone is all giggles.

Today I gave out hundreds of bracelets I brought from home to anyone who would say a memory verse.  It's amazing how these children are being actively taught the Word here.

It took some searching, but I found my Nawnie's sponsored girl, Jecinter.  I had a letter, photograph, and journal for her from my grandma, and the delighted look on Jecinter's face made my day.  Such a sweet little thing.

I got to pass out letters from sponsors to the kids.  Sponsor letters are a source of great excitement at Ringroad.  These children are nearly all orphans, so they consider their sponsors to be their family.  They love their sponsors, know their names, and can recite their letters almost by heart after reading and re-reading them day after day.  Lavin got two letters from me this time, which made us laugh.

Lunch was excellent: rice and beef.

George showed up around ten in the morning and stayed until we left Kisumu later in the afternoon.  He is truly like my African big brother, so every time we see one another, there is a joyful reunion.  My entire life, I've asked God for a big brother, and He has provided me with a blessing through George.

George walked through the slum with me on the way back and pointed out some of the teachers' homes.  Seeing the community that surrounds Ringroad Orphan's Day School more from the perspective of someone who grew up there was a powerful experience.

My heart was broken today.  I cried for the first time since I've come to Kenya.

When I found out it was time to leave Ringroad and head to Bungoma, I went to Lavin's class and pulled her out to say goodbye.  She immediately gasped and said, "No!" and then clutched my hand as she began to walk with me to the gates.  Lavin wouldn't look at me and I could tell she was near tears, which hurt my heart.

After a few moments, I began to say my goodbye speech, telling Lavin that I was proud of her and that I would continue to write her every month.  When I said I loved her, she crumbled and fell into my arms, weeping into my shoulder.  My heart truly felt as if it had been torn into pieces.  Even now, it aches to think of this moment.

What heartache it is to leave a child to a life you know is full of pain and impossible challenges.  The last three days, Lavin has been calling me Mum and treating me like her mother.  Yet in two weeks, I will be living in prosperity in the United States and my daughter will be struggling daily in an abusive household and impoverished community.  Some things like this make me cry, "Why?" to my Father when we are alone together. 

The look on Lavin's face when her sobs ceased was devastating.  "Will you come back in a week?" she asked after a moment.

"No, I must go back to America," I said, and she started to cry again.

Finally, Lavin told me she loved me and allowed her three best friends (Susan, Doddie, and Emily) to embrace her and lead her away.  She has sweet friends.  I am thankful for them.

Every time I think about these last moments with my sponsored daughter, I tear up.  Lavin is so loved, by Christ and by me, and she weighs heavily on my heart.  All I can do is place her into her Heavenly Father's hands.  

Jake and Francis drove from Eldoret to pick us up from St. Anna's Guesthouse.  I said goodbye to George and most of our American team before the rest of us boarded a matatu to head to Bungoma.  The ride was great fun.  The Kenyan landscape is so different from what I'm used to seeing in Texas.  Beautiful trees, mountains, and green forage, as well as all sorts of people walking about.  The women carry the largest packages on their heads.  Wherever we went, people would nudge each other and point at our matatu.  It's impossible to go anywhere here without receiving long stares. 

About two hours into our drive, it began pouring rain.  The hot air turned cold, the wind picked up in a way I had never seen in Kenya before, and hail began to rattle down upon our poor matatu.  Combined with the terrible roads and unpredictable traffic, I thought a wreck was inevitable.  There was hardly any visibility at all, yet our driver kept on and we remained safe!  The trip took nearly four hours in total.

We arrived at the Bungoma Tourist Hotel a little after 6:30 in the evening.  It was still cold and pouring rain, so we all braved the chilly air to run to our rooms.  St. Anna's was nice; this place is a Kenyan experience.

Amy and Cassie share the room next to mine and Naana's.  Their bathroom is disastrous.  The pipe constantly drips water onto a flooded floor.  The window is jammed open, so rain has been pouring in as well.  Electrical wiring hangs down into the standing water.  The ceiling has partly collapsed due to previous rains.  Needless to say, we four girls will be sharing Naana's and my bathroom.  Our toilet won't work, but it's something.  

The bedrooms themselves aren't bad at all.  The floor is concrete, but we have two beds and two mosquito nets.  It's all a blessing compared to many of the dilapidated huts we've already seen on this trip so far.  The only worrisome parts of the room is that our ceiling bulges ominously from dampness, spotted with black mold, and our window is jammed open, which is letting in several mosquitoes.  As we drove into Bungoma, we saw a sign that said "High Malaria" as a warning to travelers.  The Lord will protect us. 

By the time dinner came around, our entire group was feeling tired and goofy.  The first restaurant we visited couldn't serve us because they had no food, a sad problem that reveals the poverty that burdens this community.  The next place took a few hours, but we eventually were served something to eat: chicken, fish fingers, chapatti, rice, and ugali.  It was delicious.  Being hungry makes almost anything taste excellent, and this food certainly did tonight.  While waiting for our dinner, we watched a Mexican telenovela, dubbed in English and played on Kenyan television.  Only in Africa, right?

We also read the menu and had some good laughs at the titles for each dish.  You could order dry beef, wet beef, or carbonated beef... mmmm.  Another big hit was "a plate of romantically garnished bacon."  I think we were all curious about this one, but in a ramshackle restaurant in a rural area of Kenya, you've got to stick with the basics.

We had many good laughs tonight.

Bungoma has a high Muslim population, so the call to prayer comes every few hours: an eerie and heartbreaking reminder of how many lost people there still are living in this world.  It's easy to get caught up in the joyful worship services at church and all of the precious Bible stories told by children, but the Gospel still needs to be shared here.  We have been called to shine Christ's love in the darkest corners and most desperate regions of Kenya. 

It's dark outside and I'm tired and dusty from our eventful drive through Western Kenya.  I am eager for a shower and some sleep. 

Four years ago: The African Safari
Two years ago: Embarrassing Moment


  1. I almost cried when you said that you wouldn't be able to see Lavin again for your trip. Real upsetting. I was thinking, "aww can't you sneak and see her at least the last day of your stay!", but I kept reading and you had to leave for another town. I know it is still heartbreaking to you now; but the word for today is that God is bringing us down from the mountain of testing and we shall be stronger in faith in Him and filled with joy, truly knowing and believing that He has it all under control.

    1. I know, when she said, "Will you be back in a week?" and I had to tell her know, it crushed my heart. I am praying that the Lord will bring me back to her again soon.

      Thank you for your word of encouragement!