Thursday, June 30, 2011

Meet Theresa and Grace

Me and Theresa

I first met Theresa and her granddaughter, Grace, the first day we were in Marurui.  Theresa was translating for us in a couple of the homes.  It was Grace's 3rd birthday.  Brenda suggested we give her a juice box to make her day special.  

Sunday at church, Theresa came and found me and told me that Grace had been looking for me and that she wanted to play with me.  So I gladly took her into my arms.  She giggled.  Then, Theresa asked her to recite to me her memory verse.  In a tiny munchkin voice, she said:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Me and Grace

After Theresa walked away, I tried to get Grace to repeat it because it was so adorable and I wanted to capture it on video.  I later found out that she doesn't know English very well, so that's why she wouldn't do it for me.  We played for a long time.  She chased me around the trees, we jumped rope, we sat on the swing.

Later in the week, we had a conference for the women who sew with Jacaranda.  Theresa was telling me her story.  Her daughter (Grace's mother) was unable to take care of Grace, so she abandoned her.  She said that she took in her
granddaughter and began to care for her as her own.  During this conversation, Rhonda came up and she began telling us that Grace had been sick and she had taken her to a clinic.  They had given her medicine, but it didn't work to get rid of what was wrong and now Grace didn't seem sick, but she had a bad smell coming from her nose.  I had actually noticed this the first day I held her.  She looked much cleaner than the other kids and her clothes weren't covered in dirt.  But she smelled.  It was a foul smell and it was very strong.   She was asking Rhonda (who is an RN) what she should do.  Rhonda told her that she needed to go back to the clinic and tell the doctor that the medicine didn't work.  It had been two months since Grace first got sick.

I found Grace and took her over to Rhonda.  She said that more than likely, Grace had a sinus infection that had turned into a fungus. Maybe the medicine they gave her wasn't strong enough, or it wasn't treated correctly, but it had continued to worsen.

Please pray for Grace - that she is able to get the proper treatment that she needs to feel better. Pray for Theresa to have continued strength for raising Grace.  She seems to be doing a great job, but I'm sure she will need encouragement.  Pray for women who are in similar situations where they don't know what to do or how to handle or pay for medical treatment.  It's not easy for them to be able to get to the clinic, or to pay for it if they're able to.  And even then, they're not guaranteed proper treatment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Meet Sharon

I honestly don’t know very much about Sharon other than her name and her age.  She kept telling me that I had the most beautiful hair she’d ever seen.  So of course, I took it out of the ponytail it was in and let her play with it.  I mean, if there’s an eight year old telling you that you’re so pretty and have beautiful hair, I bet you’d do the same.  Even though I don’t know a lot about her, I know that she was so happy that we were there that day.  Sharon just needed love.  But as she put her dark hand into my pale, white hand I felt just as much love from her. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Meet Rose (One of the Many)

Jacaranda Creations is a sewing ministry the Keans started within the slums of Nairobi to give women a skill and a way to provide for their family (instead of brew making and prostitution that are so common).  The women that sew (or stitch, as they call it) with Jacaranda are not only taught how to sew, but are also able to live life with each other and have Bible study and discipleship together.  I fell in love with this ministry and these women. 

Me and Rose with my bag

After visiting the Jacaranda office in Marurui, I noticed a fun fabric that I loved.  I even pointed it out to a couple of the girls and told them how much I loved it.  When we went to visit Tassia slum and met the women who sew for Jacaranda there, I noticed that there was a bag that was finished in the same fabric.  I asked who made it.  Out from the group, a sweet lady states that she is the one that made it.  She was incredibly soft spoken and seemed very shy.  I told her that I wanted to buy the bag and that I had seen that same fabric the day before and loved it.  She smiled.  

I told Rose that I would always remember her and that I would be praying for her.  She was very excited I was getting to take the bag home.   

Rose needs prayer.  It is very hard for the women in Tassia.  They have a ton of work set out for them each day before they even begin sewing.  They have to carry their pedal sewing machines through the slum each day...walking through mud, trash, and waste to get to the small grassy area of the church they use to sew.  The church is partially covered on one end with no walls.  They can put up walls, so they can leave the sewing machines there locked up, but there is fear that as soon as they make the building nicer, that the landlord will take it away from them.  Once the women reach this area, they are able to begin work on their items.  Once their day of stitching is complete, they carry the machines back through the slum.  I can't imagine how discouraging that must be for them to do this day after day.

Walking through Tassia

The church where the women in Tassia sew

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meet Virginia (and Kevin and Beatrice)

Virginia held a special place in my heart even before this trip began.  I heard her story while I was having coffee with Rhonda back in October.  Rhonda met Virginia on her trip two summers ago.  When she first met Virginia, she was making brew in her home in the slum and spent most of her days drunk (When I say "brew" I'm talking about a very unnatural drink, not beer - It was dark and murky looking, made in a large pot with pieces of burlap and other unknown objects floating in it).  She came to know Christ while Rhonda and Brenda were visiting and reading her Bible to her.  Her two youngest children were very sick and they ended up taking them to the clinic.   Kevin was a year old and weighed 11 pounds. They were not expecting him to make it because he was dying from malnourishment.  Beatrice was 4 and had pneumonia.

I was excited to meet Virginia because I'd heard of the transformation in her life and I wanted to see it.  We went into Virginia's home trying to fit everyone in so no one would miss hearing her story.  We heard the story of Rhonda and Brenda's visit two years ago and the impact knowing that God loves her.  She told us how she felt that day before giving her life to Christ.  She was sad.  Empty.  She didn't know how she could take care of her kids and she didn't want to.  She told us that she hoped baby Kevin would die so she could continue to make brew and not worry about him.

But all that changed that day in that same home two years ago.  She gave her life to Christ and was transformed.  She now tries her hardest to care for the children that still live with her.  She washes their clothes, she cleans their home, she feeds them, and she tries to provide for them the best she knows how. She spends time telling others how God has changed her life and she's truly a light in Mururui to those in darkness.  We met so many people and when we asked them how they started going to church, their answer was simple...Virginia.  While her life is still not simple, and while she still struggles, baby Kevin is alive and healthy and happy. He's got one of the sweetest giggles and loves having his picture taken.  

(Kevin - alive, healthy, happy)

(Beatrice and Rhonda)

Beatrice is now 6 and when we got there, she was sick again.  Rhonda reached over to me and said, "This little girl had a fever when I was here two years ago and she has a fever now."  I could see the pain in her eyes.  She had a runny nose and a cough.  As we prayed over Beatrice in her older sister's home, it occurred to me that this child was sick and it became reality that even something as simple as a cough could be deadly.  My heart sank in my chest as I watched her and realized how hard it must be to not feel well in such circumstances.  Rhonda and some others took Beatrice to the clinic, and it turns out she has tuberculosis.  She was able to get treatment at the clinic (while not easy, it's possible).  She'll have to continue with the treatments and take her medicine.  Several days later, she seemed to be doing so much better.  She was smiling and laughing and skipping rope.  I know that God has huge plans for Beatrice and Kevin.  Just look at those smiles.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meet Monica

One of my absolute favorite things about this trip was visiting with some of the people in their homes, listening to their stories, hearing about their lives, their struggles, and their faith in God.  

Meet Monica.  Her home was the first one I was able to visit in Marurui slum.  It was tiny.  Held together with cardboard boxes and old wood pieces with a rusty tin roof.  We walked into the dark room with the little light there was creeping through the door.  Rhonda, Beth, Lauryn, and I sat with barely enough room for all of us to fit.  Huddled together, we listened to Monica's story.  She's a single mother raising six kids.  She reached into a plastic bag hanging on the side of the twin bed she was sitting on and pulled out a photo.  She handed it to us.  I looked at the picture of Monica with her beautiful children and she beamed with pure joy.  One of her sons is crippled and goes to school outside of the slum where he is lucky enough to have a sponsor who is able to pay for his schooling.  Her husband left her after her youngest child was born so she has been alone to raise the children.  She tells us that she is HIV positive.  She tells us that she is feeling good but has been very sick in the past.  We asked how she was able to care for her kids and she confidently stated that she was only able to do it through God and without his help she wouldn't be able to.  Despite her circumstances, she is not angry at God, but she relies on him to get her through.  

We asked Monica how we could pray for her.  She told us that she wanted us to pray for her children and that they would grow up knowing Jesus and that they would choose to love him.  As we sat in Monica's home praying for her health and that she would be able to provide for her children, I felt God's presence and it was so much bigger that that tiny room we were sitting in.

Beth, Monica, Lauryn, and I after our visit 

Pray for Monica, for her health, for her children.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

African Adventures - The Prologue

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put into words everything I'm feeling right now.  I knew Africa was going to be big for me, but I don't think I realized the impact it was going to have on me.  The way it was going to make me feel. Something so foreign that I feel tugs at my physically aches for these precious people I've met.

I want you to meet them too. I want to tell you their stories.  I want to make you love them. I want you to feel as deeply as I do, but unfortunately I don't think that's possible.  So I'll do my best to bring their stories justice.

Due to unreliable internet, I wasn't able to blog while we were over there.  So I journaled the old fashioned way - in my favorite leather bound journal.  I tried to write about the people I met, some of the things we experienced, the things we saw, faith so huge I might never understand, beauty, pain,  disease, amazing cups of coffee, friendship, and love.  Of course, some of those things are more exciting than others, but its all real and raw.

Our African adventures started months ago with fundraising, events, and meetings in preparation.  But finally, Friday morning, June 3rd it became real.  Our flight left Nashville late Friday morning with 12 of us on board heading to Atlanta.   We boarded our international flight to Amsterdam where we had a layover that was long enough to let us enjoy the crisp early morning air and a brief walk around the beautiful city (and a quick visit to Anne Frank's house).  Then, back to the airport to catch our flight to Nairobi.  We landed in Nairobi and headed to the guest house after over 30 hours of travel.  As we sat in the van and stared out the windows and got our first taste of Nairobi, I had no idea how I would feel at the end of those two weeks and how I would leave a huge piece of my heart there.