Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The latest in the MOM saga...

Since I've been home MOM has a job now and she has been there three weeks. We are very excited for this step in her life. She has checked in on the children each week and has let us know she would like us to take custody. We are not all that hip on custody. It really doesn't change much for us or the children and she could still take them back at anytime. It also gives the children no sense of belonging or security in their future with us.

We have told her that if it is her intention to be their full time mother at some point, then we are asking her to sign guardianship to us. That would allow the children to be on our insurance and go to our doctors and allow us full parenting privileges like getting them enrolled in school and things like that. The main reason for wanting this is if she does want them back, she has to prove her competency as a parent to the courts. This is the only way I will be able to return them to her, if it is proven that she can be a good parent to them and we have given her a six month window to get in that place to be able to do that. That would mean the children had been with us a year. I know that seems like forever and I cannot imagine giving them back but if, in the course of their young lives, if this one year is the only time she needs help, then I would hope someone would help me for that amount of time. I would hope someone would give me another chance. After that six months, if she is not fit, we have asked that they are signed over for us to adopt. The six months would allow her time to become a part of their life again and she would have to work in cooperation with us so the children know that we all love them and working hard for their futures. That would mean doing things all together and her allowing us to mentor her and help her with some skills she may need. This would hopefully build a relationship that could continue for the rest of their lives.

IF she doesn't want to get them back at any point in the next six months, then we are asking her to sign adoption papers right away. We feel it is in the children' s best interest to feel fully a part of our family and that guardianship for an extended amount of time would not be good for that outcome. I want them to know we want them and they are loved completely as our own. I do not want them to question their security and future with our family. I think permanency is the only weapon we have against that.

We are waiting to see what MOM says. She has been kind lately and appreciative so I am praying she sees this offer as her best option. I think this is the only way we can love P and L and their MOM. Trying to be Jesus in this situation is so difficult but it is so not about ME. Pray she sees our heart in this situation. We have prayed and prayed about what to do and we think this is the plan God would choose. Now we just have to trust HIS soveriengty for how it pans out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Struggling a bit

So, I'm struggling a bit. It seems that the elusive post mission trip haze has set in. I was in an intense all out serving God experience for two weeks with no distractions. Now I feel a bit small, a bit insignificant and alot like I'm not doing enough for God. I know I have my family and they are my first priority...it's just not near as exciting as a trip to Africa. I realize how ridiculous it sounds and as I type it, it makes me sound quite pathetic but it is what I'm feeling.

There's another thing...life continued without me while I was gone and most people weren't exposed to what I was exposed to so in this season of holiday wants and wishlists...it's hard for me not to want to nicely remind people how excessive our lives are on a global perspective. It's hard for me not to struggle with my own luxuries and wants. It's hard to not tell my children that they are getting goats, clean water and immunizations for Christmas for the children in Kenya. Merry Christmas! I know it's silly. I know it is not our existence. I know we can appreciate and enjoy our blessings. I'm just struggling.

It also appears that I have a slew of children that need me and want me and the two weeks of only being responsible for myself spoiled me. My patience has to be built back up:) Not everyone wants to see all one thousand pictures of mine and hear the story behind each one of them. Not everyone wants to serve in Africa or serve at all. Not everyone cares that these people are children of God and it doesn't matter if they are born in the USA or in a land far away.

So I'm just adjusting to this reverse culture shock. I'm sure it won't be long til I'm letting the water run longer than I need to, not thinking of all the people I could be feeding with the scraps I throw in the trash, dreaming of my new carpet and sectional again...but for now....I think of Africa and it's people and it hurts. It makes me sad that the difference between the haves and the have nots of this world is so vastly different. It challenges me to think of ways I can live my life more simply so that others may simple live. It pressures me to step out of my box and make a difference in the life of many or one. The images haunt me. The experience changed me but for now I have to wait patiently to see what God asks of me. I have to focus on the hope I saw there. I have to focus on the hope that Jesus brings and how there will be a day when there will be no suffering, no famine, no sickness and we will all truly be One in Heaven with Him. What a day that will be.

So I'm struggling a bit but I'm sure that's what He wants of me. The real work begins now for me. Digesting all of these images and experiences and listening for His call. I'm hoping that I don't forget or become non-chalant about the feelings this trip brought to the service of my soul. I want to remember. I want to have His eyes. I want to be used.

Our God amazes me. He is strong and mighty and vast and sovereign and I trust this process and the fruits that will come from it. Thank you, Lord, for this internal struggle. Thank you for breaking me. Use it to Your Glory.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top ten signs dad's in charge

I don't have to tell you my husband rocks. He did an amazing job while I was gone and I don't know a single man who could've handled our brood other than my man! So this is in fun: Top ten signs dad's in charge and momma ain't home:

10. everyone is jumping over the couch again
9. we need milk, eggs, bread and fruit
8. homework was done but not signed on for two weeks straight. good thing the teacher has a sense of humor
7. the children know daddy's fantasy football line up
6. leftovers everywhere and empty containers from close friends stacked up on the counter
5. even the three year old knows the flag football plays
4. are they singing reggae?
3. when bathing, ears are skipped
2. the hairdos or dont's :)
1. children's fingernails....oh my.

Monday, October 19, 2009

10/12 and 10/13 Safari


10/12 This morning we left at 6am for our Safari. It was completely awesome. We saw giraffes, gazelles, tons of zebras, warthogs, ostrich and an entire pride of lions. We watched them eat a zebra!!! Seriously. We were close enough to hear it!!! WOW! They went to a watering hole and we watched them for a long time. I wanted to bust out in song,"the circle of life." On the afternoon ride we saw hyennas, cape buffalo and elephants. The elephants are wonderous!

We ended the evening around a fire outside looking up at the incredible stars and I actually saw a shooting star. It feels like a dream...I have such mixed emotions about this being my last night in Africa. I cannot wait to get home to Trevor and the kids but for some reason this white wild child from the midwest feels at home in this sea of brown faces. I love Africa. I love Kenya, the people, the land, the beauty and the struggles. I love seeing God at work here and in me.

10/13 This morning I watched the sun come up on the African horizon with zebras dotting the plains. It is my last day here, my last sunset until I come again. Our safari brought lots of hippos which I've been waiting for and more lions, this time the males. We loaded up afterwards for a very bumpy dusty six hour trip back to Nairobi to catch our plane. I will miss this team. I have learned something from each of them, seen God in each of them at some point, cried with them, laughed with them and experienced the most intense, God filled moments of my life. I am not ready to leave here although I am ready to go home. My work is not done here. I know I will be back. In Kenyan culture they do not like to say goodbye. They say farewell, until we meet again. Farewell Africa.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

10/11


We worshipped this morning at another area of the slum called Kosovo. Our children we did the VBS for showed up to suprise and sing in church the songs we taught them this week. It was great to see them.

We headed to the Bush afterwards to pick up our team. It was great to see them and start to get glimpses of how God's been working through them. The ride there was so bumpy and dusty. We toured the Health Clinic which is a wonderful facility. Our team did great work and it is fun to see our friends again.

It is cool to be driving along the plains and to see nothing but dirt and trees on the horizon and then to see a pop of red and it is a Massai herder. They herd cattle, goats and sheep and walk for days with their walking sticks. The drought is evident here and painful to see. There is no water anywhere and we can drive throught the riverbeds. Cattle skulls are here and there where they have been overcome by the conditions. We saw baboons, tree monkeys, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, impallas and wildebeasts and we're not even on the safari yet!!! It was way cool!

It was another roller coaster three hour ride out to our base camp, half of which we spent at a 30 degree angle because we were driving in the ditch because it was smoother than the actual road. We got a flat tire and stopped near this little village to change our tire. Children appeared and wanted to touch us. They were so dirty they appeared gray. Some had no pants on or one shoe because that is all they had. They were malnourished and sick and carrying even smaller siblings on their backs.



We made it to our camp and were greeted by cool wet towels to wipe off the dust with and fresh pineapple juice. It is a great place and very beautiful. It makes me want Trevor with me. On the way out here we watched the most amazing sunset and I had to remind myself again that I am really in Africa. It was a such a huge sign of God's genius. The stars are bright as can be and you can't even count them there are so many. We can see the milky way clearly! It is spectacular. Our 'tents' are gorgeous and have running water and flushing toilets with seats!!! PTL!

I have a mix of emotions about being here and leaving such poverty and devastation behind. I am just trying to have a heart of gratitude and appreciate God's magnificent creation. My soul needs this before I go back to real life. My heart needs to see God's beauty and greatness.



As a side note, I have a pretty good case of sun poisoning, major stomach issues and my tubes in my ears are crushed in from the plane ride still and causing me lots of pain. If I had to have stomach issues, I am just glad it is hear with a real toilet:) Hoping my ears pop before the plane ride home or it could be quite painful! Dr. Suzie gave me some meds so hopefully that will help. I am in Africa, I don't have time to be sick and I will not miss this!

10/10


Each day seems more powerful than the next and I find it hard to believe. It is my fervent prayer that everyone have an experience like this that makes them truly feel God's presence in their life and that He is using you. Joska was different today than I thought it would be. Most of the place is still temporary structures and the opportunities for God to move through us there is HUGE. The new dorm is a permanent building and it is fabulous! (Joska is the boarding school for ages 10-14)

We again had presentations by the students and it was great fun. There are over 600 children there and we had the time to visit with them for about 2 hours. Impressed in an understatement. They are bright, articulate, well behaved, smart. They too have that hunger for human touch and affection and cling to your hand or just reach out to touch you. I hugged and kissed foreheads and held hands and patted backs. They were a joy! We talked about their families and mine. They loved my brown skin family and thought I did a good job on their hair!



We talked about living away from home and they said it does not make them sad. They expressed feeling loved and cared for there and safe. We spoke about movies and they love Jackie Chan. They like some american artist like Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. They all had big dreams for their futures and I told them God dreams ever bigger for them than they can dream for themselves and that my dream was to come to Africa and I was finally here. They want to be surgeons and electrical engineers, pilots and sargeants...and they will be. I trust fully that they can be. My little group that circled around me most of the time was Lucy who is 12 and very inquisitive, Gladys who was 12 and beautiful and kept holding my hand, and Terri that was 10 and loved to ask questions. Peter was quiet and handsome and will be a pilot someday. Felix was a bit shy but warmed when I showed an interest in him. He told me I was beautiful:) Joel was a timid little guy who did not leave my side. I loved my time with them and was sad when it was time to go. Before we left, Lucy and Glady ran to the van and told me they loved me and would miss me. They asked for the pictures I had shown them of the kids so they could pray for my familiy. I handed them over. What a full heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

10/09


Today was a day of rejoicing and celebrating. We met at Pangani Center and children from several of the 10 centers performed songs, poems, memory verses and dances. At the very end they grabbed our hands and we all danced together for 10 minutes are so celebrating the work of the mission. It was the best moment. They presented us with t-shirts and traditional wraps. The children and the staff were so unbelievable. It was so beautiful and gracious that I sat and cried and laughed and danced. We should all take a lesson from the people of Kenya in hospitality and service, they are something special!! We were able to see the Mathare Valley 2 kids we had spent so much time with. It was their first performance since the school is only two weeks old and they did great. Mercy was there so I was able to hug her and kiss her goodbye. She is a gem and I will miss her.

After the celebration, some of the microenterprise businesses set up their craft/sewing store for us. Beautiful handmade bags and jewelry. We then headed to Massai Village Market and we bargained for souvenirs. It was an evening of fun bonding with my team and hard bargaining. I got two very special things as a remembrance of my time here....a gorgeous ebony nativity and a huge colorful batik to hang over our fireplace that is a scene from the slums. I will definitely be leaving a part of myself here.

10/08


Today was our last day of VBS and the highlight was of the chicken dance that Malissa taught the kids. It was hard to know we wouldn't be back tomorrow to spend the day with them. Since we came, I've just been drawn to this one little girl. Her name is Mercy and her smile is large enough to light up Mathare. She is tall and thin and bright and giggly, smart as a whip with a shaved head and little hoop earrings and huge eyes like my Gracie. Today I found out she does not have a sponsor so we were able to add to the Harris Clan!!! We are now her sponsors and will pay for her education and the food program through CMF. How cool is that?!

The afternoon was filled with giving the children their new socks and shoes. They were so excited!!! They kept showing them to each other and laughing. Wonderful to serve God.

10/07


VBS was another big success. The highlight was when Rachel a teammate from New Hampshire remembered a Swahili song she must have learned as a child. Such a God thing. We were able to teach it to the kids and they LOVED it. You could see their pride that we knew their language:)

The women had a wonderful treat in the afternoon. The orphanage we visited was state of the art, top of the line. The children were well loved by the staff and many many volunteers. They have an ICU there and rescure abandon babies under the age of three months that are brought there by the police. Many of them are HIV+.

I first held a little six month old named Suzanne. She was precious and liked to stand on my legs and bounce-we played outside together. When it was time to go in, I scooped up little Angela who was a beautiful chubby cheeked curious baby with down syndrome. I fed her dinner and her bottle. She just kept looking up at me and studying my face and my heart just melted. There was a little Noah toddling around, a little guy named Hayden (my maiden name) laying on the beanbag taking his bottle and a tiny baby named Sid (my dad's name). God is SO in the details:)

In the infant room their was the chubbiest baby ever named Bosley. He was busting out of his jammies and couldn't have been cuter. He had a big fan club with our group.

When we first arrived they were lined up in their strollers in the parking lot getting ready for their walk. The first view of the infant room revealed a metal track that hung from the ceiling with six jumperoos attached and six little babies bouncing away. So so cute! There was not one child laying in a crib...except for the ones in ICU. The grounds are beautiful, the place is immaculate, and the children are the focus. The orphanage does not take any money for adoption agencies so it takes the business out of adoption. It puts the focus on the children and this place should be an example of how things can be. We met the lady who started it and she said everyone told them they wouldn't be able to have a place like this, that it wasn't possible....but it shows what one can do if they strive for excellence for Jesus! Amen, Sista!! If a child has to be without parents and waiting for it's forever family, this is where you would want them to be. Kenya has strict policies in place and you have to reside in the country with the child for six months before you can adopt. :( I'm sure that is best for the child but it sure makes it tough on me:)

It was an uplifting wonderful day to spend an afternoon. I think God knew we needed it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

10/06


Today we started VBS and it was amazing. We had only around 75 kids because of the limited space. It was great though because we recognized many of them from the health clinic and by the end of the day knew many of their names.

They greeted us with songs and memory verses. We made nametags, played with the parachutes our family brought for them, and at my station we taught them the story of Jesus birth. They dressed up in costumes and acted it out and they loved it!!! Giggles all around. The time of VBS was one of the most fulfilling of my life. The children have so much hope and crave the attention and affection we loved to heap on them. Watching my teammates felt like watching Jesus with the children. The men ended up serving at the VBS too and it was completely not what they were expecting but it was a total God thing. They were stretched and blessed as was I.

After lunch we paired up with some CHE trainers and social workers to ''bring the light.'' This program is installing fiberglass panels into the roof of their homes to allow light into them and to remind them of the light of Jesus. While workers installed the panels, we visited with the owners/renters in their homes and prayed with them. Our first home was Anne's. She is HIV+ and lived with her four children in a home the size of my area rug. She has been there for 20 years. The heat was oppressive, flies swarmed everywhere and the home was dark except for the light peeking in from the propped open door. As I sat there while Robert, our CHE trainer spoke with her, I noticed some pages from magazines covering her walls in an attempt to decorate. In the middle of ads for hair products and couture clothing was a picture of a beautiful colonial home with the caption, "My dream home." I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. It was a picture I would put in my dream folder. What were her dreams? What did she want to be when she grew up? Anne was so much like me except for these circumstances. She asked us to pray for her health and I walked over to her and sat next to her on her bed and embraced her. I held her hand in both of mine and wept as I prayed. She was gracious and lovely and she said throught the interpreter that she was blessed by how we touched her. I walked out of her home and broke down. It is was the most intimate time with our Savior. For the first time in my life, I felt like His vessel....like He gave me the words and used me to touch her life. Indescribeable. My teammates and I hugged and collected ourselves for the next home.

Bencoretta was next. She was actually bathing behind a curtain with a bucket of soapy water when we came in and stuck her wet head out from behind the curtain and welcomed us. Her sister Christine was visiting from the rural area and we prayed with her for her job search. As Bencoretta was behind the sheet, she was animated and spoke loudly and would laugh with us. When she appeared from behind her sheet of security, she sat quietly and would not make eye contact with us. She is HIV+ and scared it will kille her. She wants to be healed. She tried to cover us from the dust as it fell from the ceiling as they shook the place cutting the whole for the light panel. Polly and I held hands with her and prayed. I just kept rubbing her hand and arm wanting to somehow say I love you and you are worthy of so much more. I am not afraid to touch you.

When we were done, she asked if she could pray for us. WOW! An HIV+ woman in the worst slum in Nairobi and she wants to pray for me. I am beyond humbled.

We were able to go out to dinner that night as a team and I found comfort in the form of a milkshake. The joke of the day was how hot I was. My shirt was soaked from neck to navel. It was a good look. Tomorrow is a new day of VBS and a trip to an orphanage. I'm not really ready for that. How can this possibly get worse? The good news is the team is great and we are able to share and cry and laugh with each other. Their encouragement and support is invalualbe and the prayers of people at home are getting us through.

10/5


What I thought was difficult yesterday turned out to be worse today. Our entire group went to the new Hope Center in Mathare Valley 2 in a different section of the same slum. The main road was wider but even more trash covered the area. We held a medical clinic from 9-8:30 and we saw 125 patients in that time.

I held a child whose ear infection was so bad both ears were draining cloudy liquid and the flies were swarming them. He smelled of urine and infection and his skin looked gray because of all the dirt. I am ashamed to say but it was the first time I really had to remind myself to be Jesus to him. Jesus would hold him tight and not wince from his condition. Jesus would wipe his ears and shoo the flies and clean his hands and face. Jesus would treat him as the prince he was and pray for him.....So I did. I will never forget this boy or his mother. She had a 3rd degree burn covering her arm from shoulder to elbow that our team cleaned and treated for her. She was so brave and strong. She didn't cry out or flinch as they peeled away the dead dirty skin. The pain of it would have brought the best of us to our knees. When we were done, she wept with gratitude and hugged and kissed each one. Her name is Elizabeth. (God would put her in our path for the next two days as well and Elizabeth accepted Christ for the first time on the 3rd day. This is what it is all about.)

The road in and out of this area was very narrow and the first time I have felt any fear. The thought of travleling that road for the next four days is not one I'm looking forward to. It takes about 15 minutes and the bus windows must be closed so the heat is intense. It is lined with desperate men who have turned to unhealthy coping conditions to survive. They bang on the windows and shout at you. The bus cleared the roofs by maybe 3 inches. It felt like hell on earth. It is their existence. I can manage the drive in.

In some ways, today was amazing because we weren't just taking a tour, we were actively helping. We were doing tangible things. Part of our team played with the children as they waited. I worked the second station half of the day taking height, weights, temperatures, and blood pressures. They then saw the nurses or doctors. I helped with patient exams the 2nd half of the day. Each patient was then prayed for and given meds and multi vitamins.

We saw an undending case of worms one after the other and fungal infections on their skin and in their hair. We saw hernias and pneumonia and countless colds. We saw chicken pox and a suspected case of TB in a baby. We saw this beautiful baby girl with pneumonia, a double ear infection, and a fever of 103.3. She also had worms and would have for sure been hospitalized in the states. We gave her an antibiotic. I'm not sure how she can make it in those living conditions. It was one of the many times my limits crushed me.

I played with children, comforted nervous mammas, took vitals and saw patients (I'm not a real doctor, I just play one on the mission field) prayed for people, and felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I could serve God in this way, in this place, at this time....alongside our amazing team! I am struggling with my feelings. Many tears have come. Laughter too. I have seen the ugliest of uglies and the beauty of Jesus. I am wreaked. I am devastated. I am trusting God to show up big in the next few days.

We ate dinner at Mary and Wallace's home. It reminds me of Trevor's house in Jamaica. The food was yummy and it was good to share about our day. The bumpy road and the bus fumes have worn this tired body out. Tomorrow we start our VBS and ''bring the light.'' Our Bush team will head out tomorrow and I will miss them. I love those girls.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

a few journal notes....


Over the next few days I will try to share parts of my journal from our trip to give you all a snapshot of my experience there. It is wonderful to be home and to see my children. How amazing was my husband while I was gone?! He's the cutest!! So proud

Our luggage didn't make it home yet so I will post pics as soon as I can. I know you all are waiting:)

10/04/09

Okay, this is crazy, I woke up in Africa. The breakfast was great. The place we are staying is pretty nice and has running water for showers. I got a surprise letter of encouragement from a friend and it felt so nice to know that people were praying for me. After a 4 hour church service of worship that would blow the speakers out at WRCC, the social workers of the Hope Center and the CHE trainers gave us tours in small groups of the slum where we would be working. Our social worker assigned to my group is Mary and she is in charge of 180 children. She knows where they live, home dynamics, school attendance, reason missed and does counseling. She is amazing. The Kenyan workers blew me away.

The Mathare Slum was like nothing I've ever seen before. It was sensory overload. It smelled of livestock and sewage. That kind of smell that is so intense you feel like you can taste it. There is dirt everywhere. On everything. By the end of the day it lined my nostrils and ear canals. Trash piles of old tires, plastic bags, human and animal excrement, maggots and human and animal hair all lay on the streets made of uneven dirt and large rocks. The water for the community runs through it all. The water they drink, wash clothes in, play in and animals walk through.....it doesn't stop. The sheer size of this slum is completely overwhelming. There are 800,000 people in the Mathare slum alone living in these conditions and it sickens me to my soul.

What I saw today will haunt me. Children with flies on their snotty faces. Children with a very worn soiled sweater and nothing else, five boys under the age of 7 trying to light a fire and a four year old girl carrying her two year old sister on her back while the youngest one toddled alongside. Men next to the river brewing illegal alcohol to take the pain away. Babies helping babies. Women doing their laundry in the river that is almost dry and filled with sludge.

At church there was a little boy dancing with a winter hat on his head, a tattered sweater, and pajama pants. For four hours he was there. I never saw a parent and he was maybe 3.... Another image I will not forget is one of a mother barely 5 feet tall carrying her special needs son on her back. He was probably ten and she carried him in a sling on her back walking tall and proud. A glimpse of love and sacrifice unrivaled. At church Pastor Dan helped with the baby dedication. One of the infants was the newborn of a couple he helped marry last year on his visit. How cool is our God?!

We visited several homes on our tour and one was a great great grandman living with a family of seven in a room that was very drak and about 8x10 in size. She has lived there in those conditions ''uncomfortably since 1963." I cannot imagine the hopelessness that must yield. She was gracious and a blessing. It was a hard day--a devastating heartbreaking day. So hard to process and wrap my brain around it all. Mary and Wallace Kumaw started this all. It is amazing to see what one person can do to change the world. CMF and Hpe Partnership have truly brought hope to the darkest places int he world. It is an honor to be serving God here.

As I fall asleep, I can't help what God must feel when He looks down and sees His precious people suffering like this. It is my instinct to wonder where He is and how He could allow this to happen. But I know that He is looking at me, at us and wondering where we are and how we let this happen. We are His plan. We have to step up.