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:

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.

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