Wednesday, August 24, 2011


The rainy season is supposed to be winding down here in West Kenya, but today we had a crazy-hard downpour, complete with wind, thunder and lightening. 

I stood upstairs in my bedroom window watching the rain fall furiously.  I was thanking God for a roof that doesn’t leak . . . I have many friends in mud huts whose roofs leak a lot—right into their homes.

I was watching our trees, flowers and hanging bird nests being flogged by giant drops. I looked over to our huge, beautiful pink hibiscus plant. The rain was hard pouring, and each delicate hibiscus flower’s petals were bending backward in the rain, but each flower was still facing the heavens—still intact. In that moment God spoke these words to me: “If even these delicate flowers will bend and not break when the harsh rains come, then neither will you.”

Like you, I sometimes feel like I’m in the middle of a torrential downpour, a furious storm. But when the rains stop momentarily, and I am still intact, I am overwhelmed by God’s love. I will bend but not break. And more often than not, the rain that I thought would destroy me has actually made me stronger and more rooted, just like our flowers.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9


Monday, August 22, 2011


Things I'm Used To That I Wasn't Used To 6 Months Ago:
  • Driving on the left side of the road (I'm pretty good now).
  • Being honked at (people here do it as a warning signal--most aren't angry or suffering from road rage). 
  • Making small-talk in Swahili (I'm not good, but learning).
  • Not owning a T.V. 
  • Flipping on the hot water switch before I get in the shower.
  • Sleeping under a mosquito net.
  • Being called "Mama Kenya". It's common for children to call a woman "Mama" and the name of their child. In America a child might say to me, "Hi Kenya's mom!"  Here, they say "Mama Kenya", because out of all 4 of my children, Kenya was the first name they could all remember (go figure). So to at least a hundred children in Kitale, I'm "Mama Kenya". Kinda makes me sound like the mother of the whole country.
  • African greetings: usually a handshake for men, even if I just saw them yesterday, and a handshake and double-hug for women, starting on the right and then on the left. This is a source of a lot of head-butts and inadvertent kisses for first-timers. 
  • Losing electricity on a regular basis; usually several times a week, sometimes for over 24-hours. 
  • Having dirty--no, filthy--children most of the time.  
  • Wearing "crunchy" clothes (if you've ever hand-washed and line-dried then you know what I'm talking about).
  • Bed bug bites. I wish this weren't true, but these little devils are hard to get rid of, and I'm kinda used to the itching now. 
Mya's little leg, after being eaten alive. 

  • Mosquito bites. We thank God that only one member of our family has had malaria so far--just Little How! :-( 
  • Chapatti, green grams & rice -- the Dinner of Champions.
  • Unrefrigerated milk.
  • Unrefrigerated eggs.
  • Cheddar cheese that smells like feet.
  • Buying things in the store that are already expired--only to find out once I'm home.
  • Haggling for prices on produce. 
  • Street children--most high on glue--running to see us when we get to town.
  • People begging for food or money almost anywhere we go in town.
  • People assuming I'm rich because I'm caucasian. (I'm used to it, but I don't like it!)
  • Having "Mzungu!!" yelled at me. (Mzungu means white person, and is used for almost anyone who is not black, whether they're European, Mexican, Asian . . . )
  • The sounds of some crazy tropical birds in our trees . . . some sound like monkeys. 
  • Brushing my teeth with bottled water. Ok I'll be honest, that only lasted a month, but I still make my kids do it. 
  • The metric system. Still learning, but it is a better system--sorry America.
  • High-altitude baking. 
  • Hangin' out with monkeys.
Howie and his little friend hangin' out at the Kitale Club

      Saturday, August 20, 2011


      Well, this has been a lonely few days. Less than a week after our college team left to go home to the U.S., Howie and our remaining "team" (6 of them, along with 2 other Kenyans) left for Lodwar. Just me and the kids and Manu, and our house helpers in the daytime. A big change from 35 people on the compound!

      Lodwar is in the Turkana region of Northeast Kenya, and has been heavily effected by the drought and the severe famine that is happening in the Horn of Africa. They spent the last 2 days distributing food in 4 different villages. They had an armed guard with them the entire time, to keep the peace. When you have children at home who are dying because they are starving, you'll do just about anything for food. Howie said that these people were very aggressive today and it got pretty intense. But they aren't savages--they're starving. I can't even wrap my mind around the thousands of people who have died. So thankful that Howie and our team had the privilege of distributing 11 tons of food to help fight this famine.

      I know that the starvation over here is hard to comprehend. You've probably heard the numbers, and it just goes in one ear and out the other, because who can actually make sense out of thousands and thousands of people dying in only a few short months? I'm actually IN the same country and it's hard for me to comprehend. Maybe we can't wrap our brains around it because if we did, we'd never stop crying; don't know.

      I get stressed out about what to make for lunch but I can't imagine not having anything to make.  I try to get my kids to drink water instead of always wanting juice but I can't imagine not even having water to give them. Even though I live here, I'm still an American. I'm still privileged. I'm still ignorant to what life is like for someone living in poverty, for the sole reason that I've never experienced it. I can get close to it, but I'll never really know.

      Today I went to visit my friend Gladys down in the slum near our house. Gladys is a widow living with HIV, and taking care of 2 small children. They live in a mud hut that is small and stinky, and most days they only eat once, if they're lucky.  I go and see Gladys and pray with her, and have met some of her needs, but when we say goodbye, I always come home. To food. And water. And soap. And medicine. And a shower. And Skype with friends and family back home telling me that they love me and miss me and they're praying for me. Gladys just stays in her mud hut.

      As you can tell, I'm processing the concept of poverty right now. It seems hopeless. I'm in the process of helping another family who I will write about later, who are also living in extreme poverty. Sometimes it's too much. I wrestle with feelings of guilt, anger and hopelessness when I'm with them. Those things aren't of the Lord, I know, so I pray a LOT. God is slowly showing me that Mother Teresa's words are worth repeating: "If you can't feed a hundred, feed one."

      God is not calling me to change the world. I can't even change the circumstances for my friend Gladys. But I can take them a bar of soap. I can hug her and pray with her. I can listen to her needs and her concerns, and be a friend. To an American, these things don't seem like a lot. They seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But God works in the little things. They matter.

      If you're reading this feeling like I am, like it's too much, like the numbers are too high; there's too much need; too much poverty; too many people: be encouraged. God never asked us to do everything, He just asks us to do something. "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . . ." James 1:27

      Sunday, August 14, 2011

      Birthday Boy

      Our son Isaiah turns 6 in two days, and we've decided to do something a little bit unconventional for his birthday, but something with lasting results. We've talked to Isaiah about this birthday and what we're doing, and he's on-board and really excited. What an amazing boy we have. 

      Isaiah with his new toy horse--an early b-day present.

      Please click the link below to find out what our family is doing to celebrate Isaiah, and how you can join us. Thank you!

      Friday, August 12, 2011

      Choosing to See . . .

      I'm not normally a "reader". That doesn't mean that I don't like to read. But being a mother of 4, I find that usually when I try to read a book I either get interrupted or end up asleep--even with the most captivating book. I simply don't have the time or energy to devour books like a lot of my friends. My intentions are good: someone will recommend a book, and I will check it out, download it to our Kindle, and begin reading. But only begin. As I write this, I have 3 books that I'm in the middle of. 

      Today our summer team left Kitale. The last 10 college students that remained here drove out of the driveway. This was a hard summer for many reasons, but I absolutely loved having each of those students here, and my life is richer for knowing them. We took pictures, hugged, and exchanged encouraging words as our eyes welled with tears. And 10 minutes after they drove off the compound, I threw out my back. 

      Discouraged and in severe pain, I went upstairs to my bedroom while my dear husband held down the fort, helping to get things on the compound in order after a whirlwind summer. 

      I laid down on my bed and twisted and turned like a giraffe in a canoe until I was somewhat comfortable. I got our laptop to catch up on email and Facebook. And as fate or Africa or God would have it, our internet was down. ALL day. 

      I don't believe that it was a coincidence that my back was out and our internet was down. My only choice: pick up the Kindle. I had just downloaded a new book a few weeks prior that I really wanted to read, but hadn't had the opportunity to start. Forsaking the other 3 half-read books, I dove into the new one. And, in a rare moment in my personal history, I actually read the entire book in one day. ONE day. Most books lately have taken me 6-9 months to finish. I'm not proud of that, but it's just my life. 

      God used this book today to speak to my heart and shake up my soul. I spent most of the day in tears, with a few breaks for laughter. Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman was exactly what I needed to read. Her story was candid, real, raw, and saturated with God's love, mercy, grace and healing. 

      This summer was difficult living and working in Africa, trying to parent 4 children, manage and mentor 15 college students, minister to our Kenyan friends, and try to keep my marriage somewhat healthy despite having to stay in a separate bedroom from my husband all summer (long story--don't ask). I have felt sorry for myself a lot this summer. I have robbed God of glory that didn't belong to me but to Him, complained to a God who loves me despite my grumbling, and have neglected my First Love. I was only thinking about myself: this sucks. This is hard. I gave up my comfortable, safe life in America for this?! Somehow, in all the chaos of the summer, I slipped up. I failed. Today, this book helped me to realize (maybe for the thousandth time in my life) that it's not about me, and that God is always good, even in the storms of life. My story has absolutely nothing to do with the story of the author, except that we have both faced difficult circumstances, and we have to make a choice to either be selfish, or to Choose to SEE God's plans unfolding in every aspect of our lives, all for His glory; even if it hurts. 

      Today hurt. I'm still in pain as I half sit up, trying to type and hold my legs at the right angle to keep from wincing. But today, God used the pain to get me to sit still and finish a book that He is using to continue to change me and teach me. Praise Him. 

      "May this be your experience; may you feel that the Hand which inflicts the wound supplies the balm, and that He who has emptied your heart has filled the void with Himself". -James Hudson Taylor