Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was just brushing my teeth and now I should really be in bed, but God reminded me of something while I was avoiding gingivitis. This was my odd train of thought: brushing teeth . . . I know I have a cavity . . . I need to go to the dentist . . . we don't have insurance . . . we don't have jobs . . . what are we going to do if the money runs out . . . Lord, please don't let all the money run out . . . what if we run out of toilet paper . . . what are the alternatives to toilet paper?! . . . I wonder what kinds of food we're allowed to get with food stamps. And the thoughts just dip into the murky waters of worry . . . deeper and deeper. 

I've been in these waters before. Everyone has. We've all faced trials, and worry comes naturally; obscenely naturally for me. But worry, I've learned, is a waste of time. It took me a long time to learn this, and I still have to be reminded often. 

Worry is me telling my Maker that I don't trust Him; I don't believe that He's really got this. Not really. I know He loves me. But when I worry, I'm saying to him, "I'm gonna freak out right now and give myself a migraine and another knot in my shoulder because I'm choosing to believe that everything is not under control." 

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Matthew 6, part of the prayer included "daily bread". I was reminded (because I heard this in a Francis Chan talk) that the line in that prayer is about today. Jesus didn't tell them to pray, "Give us this month, our monthly bread." And He didn't tell them to pray for "daily bread" and then spend the rest of the day worrying about the next day. All he ever told them was to pray for today.  And later in Matthew 6, there are specific instructions not to worry about tomorrow. 

Today. Just today. And tomorrow morning, I'm just going to focus on "today" again. And God will be faithful, because He always is. And I will write again and share with you about God's provision and His faithfulness to our family, and you will see, and I will see. 

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread."  Matt. 6:9-11

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Planes, pains & automobiles

The day we arrive in Seattle--this Thursday--will mark exactly 7 weeks since we left our home in Kitale.
That's 7 weeks of not being "home"; 7 weeks of living out of suitcases.
We will have traveled, either by plane or car, for approximately 51 hours.
We will have stayed in 5 different people's homes, 1 trailer, and 1 hotel room.

We have loved our time traveling and visiting. We loved the holidays with our families, and we have loved every hug, every question, every meal shared "catching up", and every picture. We have the most generous friends and family who have encouraged us and loved us SO well.

All that being said, we are ready to be home. We're tired. We are ready to unpack for good (something which we never even fully did in Kitale).

Just tonight one of our children was crying and saying they wanted their "old life" back. Ouch. But . . . me too. I'm craving normalcy. I'm sure that I'll soon crave a little adventure again, but for now I'm content without any immediate travel plans.

We're off to a new city, a new home, new school, and praying for a new job. New church, new ministry opportunities, and new weather. We'd even like a new dog eventually.

Please pray for our family if you think of us. Howie is still looking for a job, and we need to get all the kids settled into their new schools soon after we move.

More from Seattle! . . . . (hence the new rainy day blog motif).

P.S. I've thought many times about not writing here anymore. I only started this blog because we were moving to Africa. I've been encouraged by a few friends to continue. Now that we're back, I'm not sure what I'll write about, but I'm asking God to use it for His glory, and we'll see what materializes. SO, even if it's only the 4 of you who keep reading, I'll try to make it worth your while. :-) Thanks for the love and support! -Amy

Monday, December 19, 2011


I don't mean to forget; it happens very organically. One moment I have a thought in my head--an important one--and then it's gone. 

I have a grocery list in my head, but only half of the list comes home with me.  

I vow everyday to be a better mother--patient, kind, loving--and then they start arguing and I start forgetting that I wanted to be a Godly mother today. 

I promised my husband I'd love and cherish him "as long as we both shall live" . . . but I've forgotten to do that almost every day of our marriage. 

I promised Jesus my heart, and I forget to remember Him almost every day. I forget his sacrifice. I forget that he was a fleshy, crying baby born in a barn. A BARN. Most of my friends freak out at the fact that I gave birth to 2 of my children in my bedroom. But a barn?!--like, I'm giving birth next to a cow? Gross. But I digress. 

Humans are forgetful. Some days I feel I'm the worst of the humans. 

I really want to focus on Christmas--Cristes maesse--the Mass of Christ; a celebration of His birth. Then I go shopping and people are rude and I'm in a hurry and the lines are long and I mean to smile at the guy in red ringing the bell but I have a list in my head and I can't be bothered to make eye contact with anyone or I'll lose my train . . . 

I can't blame "the world". It's me. I can't sit here with my bible and my coffee and point fingers at how we've lost our way and forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. I forget.

How to remember: Thanksgiving. I know, Thanksgiving is over. The Fall leaves are raked. But that's the way back; the way to remember. Giving thanks

And now, I'm going to plug the book again. No, I'm not getting paid. If you only get (or buy yourself) one book this Christmas: "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. It challenges it's readers to part with forgetfulness and keep God's love and promises fresh in our heads through constant thanksgiving--even in difficult circumstances. Don't forget to read it. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Choose Joy

It seems like "having joy" should be easy this time of year. Ya know--"Joy To The World" and stuff like that. But the longer I'm home from Africa, (it's been almost 3 weeks!) the more I'm realizing that joy isn't "abounding" for many people around here--myself included. 

We're one of the richest countries in the world, and yet I'm finding that I sensed more joy in the small, smelly, mosquito-and-disease-infested corners of Kenyan slums than I'm finding at Starbucks and Target as I watch people wield all sorts of worldly goods in their carts that most of our friends in Kenya wouldn't even understand the use for, let alone have the resources to purchase. That was a run-on sentence. 

Where's the joy?  Well for me, the joy has been a little hard to come by as well. And then tonight, as I was contemplating our situation--my husband and 2 of my children sick, no insurance, an E.R. bill, our CA trip postponed to have $600 worth of work done on our van today, tough family situations, etc, etc, I remembered something that I wish I would quit forgetting. 

Joy has to be chosen. 

It has already been offered in the form of a Baby, born to give us Life. I choose it. 

If people in the far corners of the world's most poverty-stricken countries can chose joy (and I've met some of them), then I can too. If my Kenyan friend Gladys, with HIV, no food in her (mud-hut) home, and no one to take care of her can chose joy, then I will. 

In sickness, financial stress, car trouble, holiday traffic, dysfunctional families and botched Starbucks drinks . . . I chose joy. It's mine for the taking. Pure, unaltered Joy To The World. 

"May the God of hope fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him . . ." Romans 15:13

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Home but not "Home"

We're safely back in the U.S. and we're happy to be home, but we're not really "home" yet. We've been living out of suitcases for the last 2 weeks and will continue to do so for 4 more weeks until we're finally in our new home in Bellevue, WA. 

We had a wonderful trip home. First 3 days in Nairobi with some great new friends, visiting the Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Park and the Nairobi Safari Orphanage. We were all totally exhausted, but the kids did great on the planes, and we even had an amazing 6 hours downtown London on our layover, walking all over the city on about 5 hours of sleep. 

We've been in AZ with Howie's parents for the last 2 weeks. Mya got sick with an ear infection and pneumonia, so we had a trip to the E.R. and are now trying to get all our paper work turned in for free AZ health care so that we don't have to pay her E.R. and prescription bills. She is on the mend--thank you to those of you who have been praying for her. 

Being back in the U.S. has definitely been an adjustment. Besides some really severe jet lag and everyone in our family feeling sick at one point or another, we have experienced a little of what feels like spiritual attack--just feeling a little defeated at times. We are also having some financial issues with our support which has been very discouraging to both of us, but we're holding on to God's promise that He is in control, and that He always provides. 

We can't wait to get to CA next week and see all of our SoCal friends and students from Kitale, and then spend 2 weeks with Amy's parents in Mount Hermon for Christmas. 

Thank you so much for reading this, for keeping up with our family, and for your support and prayers. We almost feel like we need more prayer now that we're home, with all of the challenges that moving countries (again) brings. 

Please also be in prayer for a job for Howie. He has a few solid leads, and we're just asking the Lord to bring a job for him quickly so that he can start working as soon as we get there!!  

Hope to see as many of you as possible very soon! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kwaheri, Kitale!

That's "goodbye" in KiSwahili--our time in Kitale is quickly coming to an end. It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to our good friends that we have made here. We didn't want to leave them, and certainly not this soon, but we know that God's plan is the best, and that this move is the best for our family. There have already been tears and there will certainly be more, but we will forever be grateful for our time in Kenya, and will look forward to the next time we can see all of our dear friends here.

We will be leaving Kitale early on Thursday morning, Nov. 17th.  We will stay with friends for 3 nights in Nairobi, taking in the giraffe park & elephant orphanage, and maybe some shopping at the Masai Market. We depart Nairobi at 11:30 pm on Sunday night, Nov. 20, and will arrive in London early Monday morning. We happened to luck out and get a 9 hour layover during the day, so we are venturing out!!  In just about 6 hours, we have mapped a route to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the British Museum. If time allows, Amy will slip into Harrods, but Howie would rather slip into a football stadium. :-)

From there, we'll be flying direct to Phoenix, and will arrive on Monday evening around 6:45 pm. It will be odd to spend all day on Monday in London, and then fly for 15 hours, and then arrive in Phoenix--still on Monday! And you thought your Monday was long!  We will be in Phoenix for about 2 weeks, and then Orange County for about 2 weeks in early December, and then Santa Cruz for about 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year's. We'd love to see as many of you as possible. Please feel free to contact us via Facebook or email, as we don't yet have our stateside phone #'s. Email: howienamy@yahoo.com.

We would appreciate your prayers as our Safari of Six travels back to the U.S. We have been talking to friends are praying about our "re-entry". I think (and pray) that it will be easier for our children--they have been through so much transition. We know that there will be times when it will be difficult for us to be back in the hurried pace of America. Please be patient with us, and please pray that we will give ourselves permission to cry when we need to, to relax, to sleep and get back on U.S. time, and to just soak in time with our families and good friends.  The images that we've grown to love here in Africa will be burned into our minds forever, and we will miss it.

We are still fundraising for travel and moving expenses, and are now very close to our goal. If you would like a year-end tax deduction, we would be grateful for your help.

Most of all, we appreciate all of the love and support from all of our family and friends. We could not have made it through this past year without it. Sending one family to a third-world country is truly a "group effort", and we love and adore our group.

See you on the other side of the pond!!
-The Biemecks

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Orphan Sunday & Meet Our Son!

          There are an estimated 100 million street children in the world. Children who have no parents and even worse--no homes. Some of those children are on the streets in the U.S. Some of them are down the street from me in Kitale, Kenya, huffing glue. 
          This Sunday, November 6 is Orphan Sunday. In honor of this day, I'm going to share the story of Michael--one boy who was an orphan but who now belongs to our family. And you get to hear it in his own words.  
          This summer one of our summer college students, Kyleigh, spent extended time getting to know our son Michael. She sat with him and wrote down his words as he shared his life of despair, hope, and finding ultimate healing in Jesus. Here is his story:
             "I was born in the province of Turkana in the village of Kerio. My mother was the youngest of five wives to my father. Because she was married so young, my mother never went to school. She was treated like a slave and forced to take care of my father’s animals. When my father died (I think from a liver problem), my father’s brother wanted to take my mother as a wife. She knew that if she didn’t accept, our lives would be in danger and I was only 4 years old.
In an attempt to protect me, my aunt took me to Kitale. We lived in a slum called Kipsongo. My aunt was unable to provide for my two cousins and I, so we were forced to leave to town to beg for money and food. It was for survival. I learned how to gamble with other street kids. My auntie wasn’t happy with what we were doing but didn’t care as long as we brought home money. This continued from the time I was 4 until I was 6. Many nights we slept on the streets. When I was 6, I followed my older cousin to his school. I didn’t have a uniform but there were so many of us street kids that we were overlooked.
When my auntie became sick with tuberculosis, a man from Turkana who knew my father (a pastor at the church I might have gone to when I was younger) took me back to Turkana. He took me to school. When he asked me what class I was in, I told him standard 2. (I pretended like I knew everything.) When I went, I passed God-willing. So I was allowed to continue and progressed normally, almost through class four.
My mother knew where I was but didn’t take me back in. In the Turkanan culture, a man buys his wife. They pay the woman’s father “dowry.”  My father’s brother, who bought my mother again, wanted me because I was part of what he paid for. But somehow, I was able to stay with the man who took me to Turkana.
Although the man was good to me, his wife Madam Arii was a bad woman. Every mistake was my fault and she would threaten me and tell me I would be taken away. I knew that she hoped I would. One night, I was quarreling with their son and when the mother came in, she beat me. A beating I will never forget. So I left. I hadn’t finished standard four yet and was about 8 years old. 
I left Lodwar with what I was wearing, my report card and one more shirt. I jumped into the back of a semi truck as it passed by. I was hiding behind a tire when the truck stopped due to a punctured tire. The drivers found me hiding. We were in the middle of nowhere, far from any kind of town. There were two Somalian men and a lady. They were speaking in their language and switching back to Swahili. They were speaking about punishing me but the lady asked them to leave me alone. I knew that they were on their way to Kitale and I begged and cried that they would take me there. They assumed I was there to steal but after I explained myself and situation, and how bad life was, they understood. I showed them my report card, and they were baffled as to how someone could treat me so badly. They told me to come to the front with them and I came with them to Kitale. They shared their food and I guess we kind of became friends. I convinced them that I had a family here in Kitale, and they let me be once we arrived.
When I got to the slums of Kipsongo, I heard that my auntie had already been dead for a month. She died in the hospital and no one ever went for her body because my cousins didn’t have money. I realized I had no home.
I heard that my one of my cousins was taken to an orphanage called Tumaini (which means “Hope” in Swahili). The only option I had was to sneak into Tumaini to visit my cousin and stay there for a few days. When I wasn’t there, I would sleep on the streets. I would find sheds or something and sleep in them. This wasn’t really a problem because I had done it so much when I was younger. I only huffed glue twice, but my cousin beat me for it when he found out. I’m thankful I didn’t get addicted. I lived on the streets for about 4 months, before Tumaini offered to take me in permanently—but they couldn’t help me get to school. I would borrow my cousin’s old uniform to go to school. They’d have holes in them but I didn’t care because I loved school so much. I was always curious about everything, in terms of anything new to learn. School intrigued me. I loved it.
Triple life is an organization that sponsored me (through Tumaini’s church) and sponsored me through standard 8.
I was calloused and had a negligent attitude toward life. I was hot tempered and would easily quarrel with other students if they provoked me. I was full of pride and would often blow off school just because I knew I was smart enough to. With my bad attitude in mind, the headmaster rejected my request to take the National Examinations (necessary to get into Secondary) and because I wasn’t “full time” in school. With the help of a teacher from Turkana (also a neighbor to my grandmother), I registered and passed the National Examinations (they could be taken anywhere).
It was in high school that I became a Christian. I knew that Christ could change my life. I decided to study at an all-boys boarding school (Lodwar) in Turkana and to finish Secondary school there because TripleLife only sponsored me through Form 2.
I had to hustle on the streets in order to get pocket money because the food at school was never enough. Everyday, we had Getheri (beans/corn) for lunch and ugali with sukumawiki (means “push the week”—a vegetable which looks like spinach) for dinner every night. The slang “bora roho idunde” is a popular saying that we’d use to refer to the food amounts. It means “as long as the heart beats.” We all knew that it was never enough, but I endured life there because I had made many friends.
I didn’t know what to do to pay for the two years left in school. Over about a month, I talked to about 70 of the 144 students in my class (as well as 30 faculty)—explaining my extenuating circumstances. I told them I wouldn’t be able to continue unless I got a sponsor, unless another white person would come to my orphanage and decide to sponsor me. But I would have to wait for that, and I wouldn’t know if or when that would ever happen. I convinced them all to commit to giving 20 shillings every month to the school register to put me through school. Some would give more than that if they could. Most of them were my good friends so I knew I could rely on them—they wanted me to graduate with them. This made history at Lodwar; the headmaster thought it was a brilliant idea and today still uses it as an example for students who have trouble with school fees. He really supported me and never sent me away if my fees weren’t paid on time because he knew they would be paid eventually.
Although school was paid for, I still had my personal issues. I could never forget what happened to me, or figure out why I was abandoned. It took away from being able to produce the maximum of my studies. I finished high school and only passed as an average student. Going to college was a far off dream. The government wouldn’t support me with my grades. But I had the heart to go. I wanted to do something with college.
I got a job as a registration clerk for voters. This job enabled me attend Moi University (the most recognized public university in Kenya), to pay for first semester of school with the money I got from this job. I went in as a student in Business Management Diploma (like a major in the US).  Everyday, I walked 10 kilometers to and from school. If a class started at 8:30 am, I would begin walking at 6 am. I was determined. I started school knowing I could only pay for one semester but somehow I knew that God was going to provide for me in some way.
I first met Howie when he came to visit Tumaini in 2004 when I was about 9 years old. When Howie came back the next time, I had just finished my first semester of college and I remembered him. After I met him the second time, I fasted and prayed that God would make Howie my friend. My two prayer requests to God were that I wouldn’t feel rejected anymore in my personal relationships, and to be close to Howie. We communicated over Facebook until he and his family returned to Kenya, but this time for a year! I was so excited to meet his kids and wife. I was so happy to meet them, and I knew God was doing something. I was feeling more accepted and felt myself getting closer to Howie—God was answering my prayers.
The first week that Howie and his family got here, some of the students with them, Jason & Cody surprised me with a new bike. It was the first gift I had ever received from a person. I broke down and couldn’t contain my emotions. God was doing something huge and my world was changing. I had never felt love in a personal relationship—this love in itself changed my life. That was the beginning of understanding that there is hope for my life. God changed my way of thinking. I didn’t know that I had the capability to impact anyone or that I mattered. My apathy for life morphed into a new hope to live and to love. Life mattered for the first time, thanks to the Love of God in my heart that I experienced through other people.

Michael with his new bike!
I never had a father, so it’s weird to say I felt that Howie was like a dad to me. I felt that way when I first met him, too. As soon as he had gotten his phone when he was in Kenya to stay, he texted me, “Hi, Son.” I broke down crying. No one had ever called me that before. It was incredible to see God mend my childhood right before my eyes. It’s never too late I guess. They continued to introduce me as their son… I knew God was using them to love and heal me in this way. I can’t explain the transition of being someone Howie met to now calling him my dad, but I do. He’s the only man who’s acted as a father to me. He and his family have taken me in as their son and I love them so much.
             All these things, and the transition of my life history from what it was to what it is now, it makes me love the Perfect Lord so much. I’ve seen His plan at work and His timing is always perfect. I could have never controlled it or made it so. He gave me meaning in life." 
Swinging the kids on the hammock. Such a great big brother.

Celebrating Mya's 4th birthday together
Michael has been such a joy in our lives. We can't legally adopt him because he is already 18--turning 19 this month! But we have adopted him into our family and he will always be a Biemeck from now on. 

To meet Michael and have a conversation with him you would never imagine the pain, suffering and rejection he has gone through in his short 19 years. He is incredibly kind and compassionate. He has been with me many times on our mobile medical clinics speaking to people, hearing their stories, reassuring them, and translating for me. He has also come with me several times to visit Sarah so that he can translate for me. Michael is extremely intelligent, and speaks Turkanan, KiSwahili and English fluently. He was at the top of his class this past year in Business at Moi University. He is a perfect example of the gem that is hiding inside of every orphan--every street child. Sadly, most of those gems won't ever be uncovered unless we help.

I love the way God can redeem any life. Even Michael's. Even mine. God is not finished with any of us yet, and we're excited to see how God will work in Michael's life and use him for His glory. 

This Sunday I encourage you to find a way to get involved, or just learn more about the plight of 100 million children. Don't be afraid--it doesn't mean you have to adopt a child, but there are a lot of ways that you can help. www.orphansunday.org

"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. 
Defend the cause of the fatherless . . ." 
Isaiah 1:17