Saturday, June 25, 2011

Writer's bl . . .

Gotta be honest . . . I think about writing a new blog almost everyday. And then I don't. I desperately want to communicate with friends and family back home--to tell everyone what I'm feeling thinking and dreaming about . . . but the words won't come. 

I've been processing so much for the past few weeks. We had a team of 15 people arrive 2 weeks ago, which brings our grand total to 31 people in our family (living on the compound with us), and we're talking and preparing and planning and meeting and praying and singing and eating and sleeping (but not enough) and living and at the end of the day . . . no words. 

Some days I'm just home a lot--cooking and cleaning and being a mom and just trying to make it possible for the rest of the team to go and do ministry. Other days I go out and visit with people around town. I visit Oasis of Hope, or Shimo--a local slum--where I have come to know and love many families. On Fridays we host a bible study with the women of Shimo--just trying to get to know them and let them know that they're not alone--that they are loved by us and by God. 

Howie is working closely with our leaders and our college team; organizing, driving, leading devotionals, discipling, etc. He is a valuable asset on this compound and I'm so thankful for his leadership and his heart for the students and the team that is here with us, and mostly for the people of Kenya. 

There are a million stories I could tell. Orphans, widows, street children, ministries, schools, hospitals, diseases . . . it seems we have our hands in a little bit of everything, and some days it's overwhelming. I want to tell the stories, but I don't know where to stop or start. It's too much. Some days I feel tons of joy and peace, and other days I'm overwhelmed and, if I'm honest, just ask God to let me go home--wherever that is.  Bear with me while I collect my thoughts, download pictures, and write something that's worthy of your time. Thank you for coming back to this blog, and for standing with us. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Our Heroes . . .

Again, taking a departure from the expected what's-happening-in-Africa blog post to write about what's on our hearts. After all, it's our blog. ;-)

Let me (Amy) tell you about my hero, and then it's Howie's turn. 

A lot of people know Dave Talbott. Many of you reading this already know him, so you know that he is an accomplished concert pianist, an amazing writer and editor, a programmer, a visionary, a minister, a mentor, a comedian, and a master of homemade popcorn. He is strong when he needs to be, loving, compassionate, and gentle as any man ever could be. He is a devoted husband, and I think it's safe to say, one of the best fathers ever. You could argue, but you'd lose. 

Growing up I always knew my Dad loved me. Always. He was never afraid to tell us, show us, and remind us over and over that he loved us. Even in our awkward teenage years when we pushed him away and didn't want to open up, he never backed down . . . a "constant" in a sea of icky girl-hormones. 

He supported me through every stage of my life, and I think it might mean the most to me now. I'm old enough to know that a Dad like this is rare. I know enough people now to know that not everyone had what I had . . . what I have

Happy Father's Day, Daddy. I don't like being 9,436 miles away from you on this day or any day, but I hope you feel loved and honored today.

From Howie:
How do you honor your hero, your mentor, your role-model in 500 words or less? You don't!  What you do is express how much you love him for teaching you how to be a man.  How to love your wife, how to love your children, how to sacrifice your own desires for the everyone else.  

In a world that is focused on getting ahead at the cost of others, my dad taught me that it is better to be loving, caring and compassionate than rich, powerful or arrogant.  He was always patient with me, even when I pushed him so far that he would be justified in losing his cool.  He never did though; he was always loving.   

There are too many lessons I've learned to mention here but suffice it to say I wouldn't be able to throw a football or baseball, make a fire, use a chainsaw, balance a checkbook or manage a family without the influence and guidance of my dad.

Dad, I love you and I thank you for setting a great example to follow.  You are and have always been my hero. I continue to look to you for advice and direction in so many areas of my life.  Happy Father's Day to the GREATEST DAD EVER!  I love you and miss you and want you to know that you continue to influence me even on the other side of the world.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Please stay tuned . . .

Hello!! For those of you faithfully checking in with our blog, thank you!!
I promise we didn't fall off the edge of the earth.
This has been such a busy week.
Our leadership team arrived last week.
College team of 11 is coming in tonight.
Everyone is healthy and doing well, but we could definitely use prayer for our family . . . balance, family time, boundaries, etc. Living in community is rich and sweet, but not easy.
More to come . . .

Mya with her Rwandan brother, Emmanuel

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy Birthday Nuna!

On a lovely summer day, June 7, 1919, Eunice Arlena Smith was born. 
With one big brother, she would soon be the big sister of 7 more siblings.
She has been a loving daughter, sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, 
friend and mentor, and she is my hero.

Eunice & Carl Petersen with Carla, Candace & Scott
She doesn't remember me anymore, 
and this fact drives me to tears every time I think of it. 
But what matters is that I remember her. 
I remember everything . . . the smell of her house, her kitchen, her bread baking;
the feel of her hands squeezing me tight and her voice calling me "punkin" and telling me she loves me.

Making hand-dipped chocolates together, 
waking up in her house every Christmas morning of my childhood,
taking walks, talking, cleaning, working in the garden--
all of my memories of her are sweet. 
She was always hospitable, always gracious. 
She fed the poor, helped the needy, and welcomed everyone. 
She raised 3 amazing children, worked, cooked, cleaned, and loved.
Today she is 92. 
She doesn't remember much, doesn't do much, and doesn't say much,
but she has left a beautiful impression on everything her hands have touched.
Happy Birthday Nuna. I love you to the moon and back. 

My sister Carrie, my Nuna and me. Summer, 2009

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Baby Isaiah update

Just found out tonight that baby Isaiah's mom, who abandoned him at birth, is infected with HIV. All this time I thought it was terrible that he was never breastfed; turns out that it may be the biggest blessing of his life!  Only about 25% of babies contract HIV from their mothers in-utero, but the odds of contracting it through breast milk are much higher. We got him blood tests last week and he showed negative for HIV, but the nurse said I need to take him to District Hospital to make sure. Since he's so small, their tests can sometimes be inconclusive. I will take him sometime next week to get the blood test. Please pray that he does not have HIV.

I took him back to Sister Freda's clinic today for 3 immunizations: polio, whooping cough, and pneumonia. All three cost me 25 cents. I could not believe how dirt cheap it was to get this precious baby protected against these killer diseases. 

The best news of the day was that he has gained almost a full kilo since Friday! Pamela, his Grandmother, said that he's eating well and sleeping well, and getting very strong. Today while we waited at the clinic, he was talking to me and cooing, and I even got some smiles out of him. I'm absolutely in love. 

Also found out that Pamela still owes the hospital (where Isaiah was treated last month) 29,000 Shillings. That's about $365. Since she couldn't pay his bill, she is going to the hospital every Saturday (with Isaiah on her back!) and cleaning the hospital and doing laundry in order to pay off her bill. At a pay rate of 200 Shillings per day, it would take her 3 years to pay off the bill. Please pray with us for Pamela, and the 6 other people she supports. She has no other income, and has 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren living with her in a mud hut. Despite her circumstances, she is a lovely person who I've come to adore. She loves her family, and takes really good care of her grandchildren despite having almost nothing . . . some days not even food. I'd like to just pay the bill for her, but there are so many people in her same situation and we have to be careful about just handing people free money. We're trying to figure out a way to help her get a job or help with the baby, etc. In the meantime I'm buying formula for him, and we're helping get his medical care. Please pray that God would show us a practical way to help her get out of debt and provide for her family.  Thank you for caring and praying!