Saturday, June 29, 2013

Unlikely Things

I have now been home for 24 hours and finally feel that I may be able to write coherently!  My summary of the previous 36 hours of travel: Kenya is a LONG way away!  But 4 plane rides later -- it was worth it! :)
                             Safari Plane
 African Sunset
But back to the traffic jam on the Rift Valley!  We eventually arrived in Nairobi where we stayed for two days and on Tuesday morning left for Masai Mara, a famous safari land in the middle of Kenya.  We departed from a a little airport and flew in an even smaller airplane to the middle of, well, it seemed like the middle of nowhere and landed on a dirt landing strip.  From the plane window we could see herds of zebras and I even spotted a lion!  The only building in sight was a small stone pavilion and next to it, a forest green jeep.  We were greeted by the driver Tony and his helper Daniel dressed in full traditional Masai-wear.  It didn't take long to feel like we were in the "Lion King", as on the 45 minute drive to the campsite we passed giraffes, buffalo, and impalas.  Upon arriving we were shown to our tent.  Now when I think "tent", I generally think "roughing it"…but this tent had hardwood floors and a nicer shower than I have at home!  The camp was definitely targeted at tourists.  I just wanted to put everyone on a bus, express them to Busia and say, "this is the other half of Kenya you're not seeing!"  But we spent the afternoon driving around the savannah and observed zebras, hippos, cheetahs, birds, and elephants.  We even woke a sleeping lion!  We saw both the sunset and the sunrise; an African sunset is truly something to behold.  I think we probably were Tony's first group to ever stand up in the jeep, the wind whipping around us, and belt Meredith Andrew's "Open Up the Heavens"…it definitely ranked high on my list of "favorite places to sing"!

On Wednesday afternoon we flew back to Nairobi and drove to the international airport.  It was there we had to say "farewell" to our driver Richard.  Richard was the same driver who had picked us up 31 days earlier, driven us all the way to Busia, written us pages of "Swahili" to "English" translations, faithfully took us all of over the Kenyan countryside (even after Gladys and I diagnosed him with malaria), kept us safe, and gave us "free massages".  Yes - whenever the road was extremely bumpy (which was quite often), Richard would yell, "Free massage!!"  He is the man who should write the Kenyan version of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" because with 5 minutes and a bottle of Coke, that man can become best friends with anyone!  I tried not to cry as we said bye to Richard.  And then we began the long journey home. 
There was some confusion at London Heathrow as Taylor, Susan, and Ashley were already half way through security when we learned I must go my separate way.  After giving them 2-second hugs, I headed for Terminal 3 and sat in the London airport alone, waiting to board another 8 hour flight.  I began skimming through my pictures, starting from day
one -- from orientation in Dallas all the way to Masai Mara.  When gazing across the savannah, I couldn't help but remember a Bible verse on a wall decoration my grandmother once gave me, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever".  Whenever the Bible, especially Psalms, describes the beauty of creation, I've always had the image of freshly-fallen snow or an Iowan corn field in my head.  But now my mind is full of different images -- of an African sunrise, a sleeping lion, or elephants in the sunset.  But also of children in dirty uniforms playing in a school yard with old tires and deflated balls, yet beaming, contagious smiles.  I hope that this blog has been a testament to the fact that no matter where, no matter the circumstances, the word of the Lord is powerful and it stands, unshakeable, forever.
It's good to be home, and it was awesome to see my mom waiting for me through the EXIT
security doors at the Minneapolis airport.  My SUBWAY sandwich piled with fresh veggies and bacon on the drive home was great too!  But it's sad to want to be in 2 places at once and know it's simply impossible!  We called Ann and Peter before our flight left Kenya, and they informed me that Abigael was back in school on Monday.  The medicine worked quickly and she is back to good health.  I can only pray that God will send another person, in the season He has ordained in their life, to watch out for little Abigael.  
As I ponder the last month, sitting in my kitchen with a cup of Kenyan tea I just unpacked, I can't help but smile.  When I told my group members I had never left the country or gone on a mission trip before, it was evident they thought I was crazy.  And beforehand, it was obvious a lot of other people thought so too.  And looking back, I was!  But back in my kitchen, I can only chuckle and marvel at God and His ways.  Sometimes he really does use the most unlikely things!  And this time, that unlikely thing was me.  1 month later, after reluctantly leaving the place where I have been most humbled, completely amazed, and utterly blessed, I sadly close this chapter.  But it's comforting that with every closing chapter, another one opens.  And after this, I can only say that God's plans are unfathomable.  So dear friend, faithfully wait and listen.  Because who knows where God will take you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

As I am writing, I am in a van stuck in a traffic jam at the top of the Rift Valley.  If you're thinking it's a strange place for a traffic jam, I agree wholeheartedly with you! But I must say it is quite picturesque!  Before this hold up, we were slamming on the breaks for baboons crossing the road.  The mountains are beautiful and the sky breathtaking, and even Mr. Bennet in the front passenger seat is clucking with contentment!  But it's hard to gaze out the window and wonder if I'll ever see this place again! 
This week flew by as I knew it would!  On Tuesday I worked at the school, but this time in a very different role -- school photographer!  I set up my camera and tripod and a wooden chair a few feet outside the school.  Taylor and Ashley helped me call out the children one by one, straighten their crooked collars, and put their little hands in their laps.  Then I would smile and say "CHEKA!" (smile!) And If that didn't prove effective, I called in the tickle expert Taylor.  Brian (pictured left) was so excited he didn't stop giggling from the time he left the classroom to the time he returned.  My little friend Phillip smiled from ear to ear; but I noticed that his picture somehow wasn't quite complete.  At recess the children play with old tires, and Phillip and his tire are inseparable!  So we took a few more.  Note the picture on the right :)
Meeting Ed
On Wednesday and Thursday, we went with our NGOs Ann and Peter on more foster child school visits. Peter would always remind us that the key to good work is FLEXIBILITY! - a deviation from the schedule nearly always arises!  Case in point: one school boy was sick so we visited his home, another boy needed to be driven to the clinic for medicine, and we learned upon arriving at another school that our foster boy had run away!  And we were the first to discover him missing.  Despite all of these "surprises", school visits have been both meaningful and unforgettable.  At one school, we met our foster child Ed. When his parents passed away he went to live with his brother, who lived adjacent to Ed's school.  But his brother beat him and Ed was forced to move to his sister's house, which is a two hour walk away from school!  Poor Ed sets out every morning for his long walk without breakfast.  But what is really humbling…upon meeting joyful Ed you would never imagine the daily challenges he faces.
New Hat :)
When Friday, the "Dreaded Day" arrived, we woke up early (as we couldn't really sleep with such a sad day ahead) and toted all of our humanitarian aid items to the Buckner office for sorting. Then we headed to the school where we played and played with the children!  The only class held on Friday was religion where I taught the story of Samuel and God calling to him in the night.  Again, it seems that the main characters' names "Samuel" and "Eli" are pronounced a little differently here! :P Then we sang "Jesus Loves Me" for the last time and the children happily received the bracelets that my Aunt Sissy and her friends in Texas knit for them.  After lunch we sucked on lollipops, took pictures, and gave each child their "departure gift" (we gave each a clothing article from our humanitarian aid).  My favorite gift was the monkey hat for Nelvine.  Her green hat, which she wears daily, is unraveling; she was quite pleased with her new one!  We gathered the children and took one last photo.  And then we had to say good-bye.  It was so sad…Teacher JoAn says that although we explained we must leave, the children will probably still expect next week :(  What was also sad -- my little friend Abigael was not at school!  Ann let us stop by Abigael's house after school but no one was home. So I hoped we would try again Saturday.
Saturday was crazy running to the clinic, squeezing in a few more foster home visits, and to my delight, another attempt at seeing Abigael.  After walking down a dirt trail and emerging from the brush at her house, I froze at the scene before my eyes.  Abigael was sprawled on the dirt.  Peter pointed to where she had just vomited.  Her little siblings and cousins just stood staring helplessly at her.  Peter learned her dad was in another city and her mother was gone for the entire day.  Her grandfather talked to Ann and Peter, but said that even if they could see a doctor, they had no money for a lab test or medicine.  I knelt down and patted Abigael and gave her water from Susan's bottle as she cried "maji, maji!" (water!).  Her sister brought her an old sugar bag to lay on, and we put her in the little red coat, the size for an 18th month old, that she had missed receiving at school the day before.  I asked Ann if Gladys could help, so we climbed in the van and bounced along the bumpy road to the clinic.  I held Abigael tightly as she got her finger pricked, and upon the test indicating she had significant amounts of malaria in her blood, a shot in her bottom too.  Gladys prescribed medicine, then we drove Abigael and her grandfather back home.  By the side of the dirt road I said good-bye to the big, hurting eyes of a too tiny five-year old in a little red jacket.  Then I got in the van and for the first time this trip, I cried.
Waiting at the clinic
There is a sign in the Buckner office that says, "Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  I don't understand everything -- why some are blessed with abundant food and a loving family and others none at all.  Or the intricacies of African culture and government and the international problem of "hunger".  But I do know God allowed me to come here in this season of my life and meet little Abigael in this season of hers.  One of my favorite songs says, "After All, [God] is Constant, Good, and Sovereign" -- over my life, over Abigael's and friend that is reading this, over yours too.  Driving away, I thought of how God has recently revealed His Sovereignty to me.  Saturday, it was my time in Busia ending with my two worlds colliding: humble and awe-inspiring Gladys saving the life of my dear little Kenyan friend.
Saturday afternoon, as we visited our last foster child, we drove past the road leading to Abigael's house.  A group of children emerged from the road, running behind the van and yelling "Mzungu"! And behind them I caught a glimpse of a little child in a red coat, scampering along behind them.  
Yes - God is Sovereign.  Yes - His timing is perfect.  Yes - it is time to leave Busia (though i say so with a BIG frown :( )  And yes - it was Abigael.  As we drive back to Nairobi and spend our last few days there, I am so very sad.  But I know that I was here in this season for a reason.  And while I can't see the future, I leave Busia with the peace that our Sovereign God can.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Jesus Loves Me"

It's the beginning of our last week here in Busia (we are leaving for Nairobi Sunday morning and will be there for several days before returning home) and I'm trying to treasure every moment of it!  Since our visit to Kisumu last Thursday, our schedule has been rather hectic as we began making school and home visits to children in the Buckner foster care program.
(Chicken #2) Grandmother of foster child, Max, in middle
Saturday we set out in the van for foster-child home visits.  It was the first time we'd been off the main road in a "neighborhood".  After driving for a while on a skinny road lined with banana trees, we hopped out of the van, walked down a narrow dirt trail, and emerged from the brush into a cluster of little huts and homes made of cow dung and mud and roofs of tin.  We approached one house and were greeted by a beaming grandmother, delighted that "mzungus" were paying her a surprise visit.  She had her relatives bring in plastic chairs and little wooden benches and told us, "If I had known you were coming, I would have taken a bath!"  She was so happy that she decided she would give us a chicken!  Although we tried to graciously decline the gift, she insisted and tomorrow we are going to pick up Chicken #2.  I must note that we ARE NOT going to name this chicken!!  I suggested we make it a traveling companion for Mr. Bennet (Richard's chicken) but our NGO Ann insists we will eat it tomorrow for dinner!
The rest of the day we spent traveling from house to house and even stopped at several boarding schools.  We entered the homes of many elderly women (most of the "foster mothers" are the childrens' grandmothers).  It was incredible to see how many of these ladies take care of not only their one orphaned family member, but also many other relatives and sometimes even orphans.  The grandmother pictured to the lower left takes care of a foster child, six grandchildren, and three orphans!  All of the houses we visited were tiny two-room homes with concrete or cow-dung/mud floors, no electricity, and generally floor mats instead of beds.  Water is drawn from a well and food is cooked at a fire pit outside or in the house.  It is so humbling to enter the homes or huts of such generous and loving women - especially the grandmothers at the first (chicken #2 lady's house) and the last (pictured) houses we visited.  Even with so little, their hearts are full of so much!
Grandmother (center) and all of the children she cares for!
Sunday was bittersweet as it was our last service at Mudoma Baptist Church.  Yesterday I taught the story of "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho", choosing two children to be spies and hanging a red paper chain from the church window.  Then we made paper horns and marched in a circle outside and fell down when we shouted and blew our trumpets!  There is something about telling the story of Jericho and Rahab's scarlet rope in a cow dung-walled church that really makes it come alive! Then we sang and clapped and danced with the congregation during "adult church".  I am going to miss worshiping with Africans!
Sunday after church was full of new things: Kenyan pineapple, using a pit toilet for the first time, and stepping into Uganda (we visited the border)!  But today I mainly worked with Gladys at the clinic.  It's especially fun because even when working in the clinic, the voices of joyful children singing "Jesus Loves Me" (one of the songs we taught them) travels across the school yard and into the exam room!  As we were getting ready to leave today, I was holding the hand of the little girl I fell in love with on the first day here - a tiny, malnourished five-year-old - when I noticed the fungal infection beginning to spread on her scalp (very common and contagious)!  Earlier this morning we had seen other cases of head fungal infections and the wounds and scars that can result!  So I took her to Nurse Gladys for medicine.  When Gladys talked to her and learned she was starving from being given no breakfast, we gave her our extra food from lunch, half of which she devoured on the way home in the van.  We were only able to take her part of the way home and watched from the van window as she hurried, alone, down the dusty road in her little flip flops, struggling to carry her chips, half a PB&J sandwich and zip-lock bag full of medication.  So we found a bag in the car and I chased her down the road, placing the items in a little black sack and giving her a hug. 
It's amazing that I have never been able to have an actual conversation with this little girl because of the language barrier.  But her eyes speak louder than words.  One of my favorite songs says, "Father, break my heart for what breaks yours."  And today, my heart was broken by a little girl with big eyes and a gentle spirit who I will never forget.  My heart is saddened when I realize there are only a few days left here and after this week I may never see her again or be sure she is provided for.  But I have to smile when I think of her singing "Jesus Loves Me" - because while nothing I can give her will last, Jesus will.  And because of Him, I trust in heaven Abigail and I will meet again.
Putting Abigail's things in a bag

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This Cup of Tea

 The Buckner Clinic
Monday morning we arrived at the Buckner clinic to a sea of patients waiting to see Nurse Gladys.  Taylor and I headed inside, and within 10 minutes Gladys had us counting pills, filling out medicine and lab receipts, and teaching us how to do Kenyan medical paperwork.  I was soon both amazed and inspired by seeing Gladys "in action".  She fills the role of clinic nurse, doctor, receptionist, book keeper, pharmacist and accountant.  She was originally a nurse at a big hospital, but applied for Buckner because she believed the hospital nurses treated the patients poorly and worked only for the money.  As a result she works for less and runs the clinic by herself.  While the clinic mainly attracted from the local area when it first began, people now come from far and wide., some even from across the border in Uganda, just to see Nurse Gladys!
                            Nurse Gladys
The number of patients fluctuates greatly from day to day.  But on Monday the patients just kept coming!  We saw patients with malaria, typhoid, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and a blood infection.  Also, on Monday the new lab tech Moses arrived (the previous one left a month ago and they have been greatly anticipating the arrival of Moses).  He showed us how he pricks the patient's finger or takes an IV to draw blood, rubs it on a slide, stains it with dye, and then looks for an organism or abnormal number of neutrophils in the blood under the microscope.  While the laboratory's instruments are very basic (literally a microscope and a centrifuge - just like the ones we use in Biology lab at school), it is incredible to see the practical application of such laboratory practices.  When Gladys asks Moses to perform a test for malaria, he can take a blood sample and let the patient know if they have the disease in less than 20 minutes!
On Tuesday, our first patient limped into the room.  Albert was 10 and suffering from cellulitis.  He had a respiratory infection a month ago, but the infection moved to his now terribly swollen leg.  Gladys had to cut his shin and remove a large amount of pus, then give him a shot and an IV to treat the infection.  But Albert was terrified!  He started crying the minute Gladys told him what had to be done.  His eyes grew with panic and were full of fear.  I started by holding his hand and singing, but by the end I was restraining a 10-year-old screeching boy, whose leg was being cut without any pain medication.  As Albert took deep breaths, wiped the tears from his eyes, and listened to me telling him he was "big boy" (the Hagan way of saying "I'm proud of you!") Ashley and I decided he definitely deserved a "treat".  So we blew up a balloon for him and sent him, still sniffling, on his way.  On Wednesday Albert returned, but I barely recognized him.  His smile was beaming - from ear to ear!  Although he had to get another shot, he was so happy because the pain in his leg had subsided, he had stopped limping, and he will be back to playing football (his favorite activity!) soon.
     Taking Inventory of the Medicine
It is sometimes a puzzle to figure out what exactly is going on with the patient as they speak to Gladys in Swahili.  But Gladys graciously translates the important things: symptoms, medical history, etc.  My favorite part of the day is tea time with Gladys.  When there is a lull in the line of patients, Gladys gets out her big pot of tea and pours it into three cups -- one for me, one for Ashley or Taylor, and one for herself in a big pink mug.  Then she bows her head and says, "God, we thank you for this cup of tea".  Gladys' tea is the best I've ever tasted!  But I think there is something about the prayer of blessing that makes it even a little bit sweeter!
After the Albert incident, Ashley and I brought Gladys a big bag of sweethearts and plastic bracelets to have on hand for children that must get a shot, test performed, etc.  Gladys thanked us many times, then shyly asked, "Do you mind if I try one of these candies? I've never seen these before."  As she tried her first sweetheart, her expression reminded me of the children's faces when we blew up balloons for playtime, gave them a piece of colored construction paper, or gave them a crayon instead of a pencil.  It is an expression of delight and thankfulness.  Since I was little, I have started every prayer with, "Dear God, thank You for this day and your many blessings".  But the past few days I have said "blessings" with a renewed appreciation.  I ask that for those of you who have been praying for me, please join me tonight in taking a moment to think of the little things and thank the Lord for the blessings that we sometimes take for granted!  Even those as simple as a little cup of tea.  

P.S. - Today was our "day of rest", so we went to a city called Kisumu to exchange money, buy groceries, and visit a "Impala Park" (kind of like a zoo…just a little different :) ).  And besides being five feet away from uncaged zebras and closer than I've ever been to a lion, we also ate lunch on the shore of Lake Victoria and took a spin on a boat!
A "Simba"!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Tell Me the Stories of Jesus"

David and Goliath
On Friday, we taught Religion class and I was designated "narrator" of the story of David and Goliath (note: I learned after getting some funny faces it is pronounced Go-lee-ath in Kenya!), while Ashley "played" David and Taylor, Goliath.  It really is rather convenient when telling the story of the little shepherd boy David and the giant Goliath to have team members who are a foot apart in height!  We learned that "God is BIG" and "God is STRONG" (with VBS-like actions of course :P) and I wrote a simple song the night before that tells how we praise God by dancing, praying, waving, playing instruments, etc.  We sang while the children did the actions.  I wasn't sure if the teachers liked our lesson, but at the end they told us, "Very good! Now the children will never forget the story of David and Go-lee-ath!"
Mr. Bennet
I must also mention that we have acquired a new team member!  We climbed into the van, but after sitting for a few minutes, I heard a sound from right behind me.  I swung around to find a chicken in the trunk!  Where had this chicken come from?  We learned that our driver Richard had just bought the chicken at the market because it was 40% off!  We have affectionately named our new travel companion Mr. Bennet.  We learned today he will be accompanying us all the way back to Nairobi.
Sylvia a foster child, Ashley, Susan, Taylor, Me, Rose
Friday night, the NGO coordinator over the Western region of Kenya, Rose, came to Busia for a meeting and stayed in our hotel.  We were making macaroni in the kitchen for dinner, so we invited her to eat with us and try some American noodles.  (We bought the noodles in Kisumu, but at least they were made by Americans and had cheese sauce on them!)  On a tangent, we have an arrangement where every other night we eat in the hotel restaurant and on the other nights, we cook in the restaurant kitchen.  And as a result we are becoming friends with all of the kitchen staff here.  For some reason, they think we're hilarious.  They like to hear stories about American food and weather and what we think of Kenya.  I think they are also entertained by our attempts at cooking and the things that we cook…I must say it is rather humerous to cook noodles and canned vegetables in front of three trained chefs! Hopefully I'll get some tips! :) Back to Rose: we had an awesome dinner with her!  She told us all about Kenyan marriage customs, which include that if a man wants to marry a girl, he and his family must bring the metal head of a hoe to the girl's family, who gives them the wooden stick of the hoe if they consent to the marriage.  But if they don't, the man's family leaves with half a hoe!  I don't think I will ever look at a gardening hoe in the same way again!
This morning, we returned to Mudoma Baptist Church and taught sunday school.  After much discussion on what to teach, we settled on the story of salvation.  I was the narrator and it was incredibly fun to tell this story (as well as the story of David and Goliath on Friday) as I felt God's nearness, taking away my nerves and giving me a special clarity of thought and speech.  We then made bracelets with plastic beads representing our salvation through Jesus: Green = creation, Black = sin, Red=blood, etc.   It was so fun to see the children's excitement as we tied the beads around their little necks and wrists.
Our NGO Peter then "brought a message" to the children.  He stood up and began to preach, and I have never heard such a powerful account of the salvation of Jesus Christ - ever.  And I was also stunned.  Peter had actually planned independently to teach the story of salvation.  We had no idea he was even preaching when we planned our lesson!  Afterwards Peter said, "Isn't it amazing how the Holy Spirit works? That we choose the same topic for the same day! Thank you for laying the foundation for my lesson."  
     Sunday School Bead Necklaces with little Esther
During Peter's message, I was thinking of how the word "different" has infiltrated my team's vocabulary recently.  We really like America, and we really have come to like Africa too!  But nothing is quite the same!  The sprite is not bad…just different!  We order fish in America…but it's not proper to dig in with our hands!  And people go to school and get married…but hoes don't play a role! And yes, we eat chicken…we just don't normally drive 12 hours in the car with one before we eat it!  But as I listened to Peter preach and thought about these differences, I realized that in this world only ONE thing is truly NOT different.  It is Jesus.  He is the thread that that ties all of of humanity together.  In this sea of differences, the words from Peter's mouth today were resoundingly the same words I heard all of my life.  There was no difference.  And it's comforting to know that no matter where I go, the story of Jesus is still the same.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

No Title

In case you are wondering if I am sleep deprived and forgot to title this post, no worries!  I have finally somewhat recovered from jet lag and purposely titled this post "No Title"  :) I love words, but today, I could not land on a noun, adjective, or verb that adequately summarizes the past few days.
On Monday, we arrived at the Buckner pre-school around 8:30 to a room-full of singing children.  They sang to the "visitors" and Ashley and I headed to work in the classrooms and Taylor and Susan in the medical clinic (we will swap next week).  Upon entering the room, I was introduced as "Teacher Christina" and was told to take attendance and begin teaching the class -- let's just say I wasn't expecting that one! :) One of the most difficult barriers is that while many in Kenya do speak English, preschoolers do not.  Somehow, by God's grace, we managed to successfully talk about the theme of the week "family and home" and make up songs about our family members, and draw pictures of them, and count them, and every other activity I could possibly think of concerning families!  As the children drew pictures of their homes, Teacher JoAn said, "Teacher Christina! Come look at this drawing! See how accurate! She (a preschool student) drew both her family's house and hut!"  Thankfully, it came to light yesterday afternoon that "Teacher Christina" is not actually a teacher in training!  The teacher thought that I was an elementary education major, and now that she knows I am not, I am happily teaching only some (not all) of the classes and planning fun activities.
Yesterday we brought crayons and colored paper and traced the children's' hands.  And today I brought musical instruments from "my box" for music class and the children really enjoyed them. We are teaching them to sing "Jesus Loves Me" and "King of the Jungle" -- they especially like the "bubble, bubble, bubble" part.  The children love to sing and spontaneously sing and dance quite often.   
The children call us "Mzungus" which means "white person", and during the three hours of playtime each day, we each have at least 4 children holding our hands/hanging on us.  Being in "the country", we REALLY stick out, especially since most of the young children have n

ever seen white-skinned people before.  They stroke our arms and hair and even push on our fingernails which they think are a funny color.
While some of the children come from good families, a few are foster children and others come from very sad family situations.  But even those from good families have torn clothes, shoes, and sweaters (Yes, it's winter here, but it's in the 80s and 90s and the parents still send their children in sweaters and hats).  Nearly all 70 children are sick.  Nap time is a chorus of coughs and there are always multiple runny noses and fevers and children falling asleep at their desks or on the dirt outside.  And when they get hurt, it costs money to see the nurse and the school doesn't even have bandaids.  I was excited today to bandage up a few wounds with the first aid kit.  
On Monday, the number of children seemed overwhelming.  But after four days, I have learned a lot of names and now have many 3-7 year olds I call my "little friends".  I have fallen in love with a little girl who is 5, but only looks 2 or 3 as she has been malnourished.  
Ultimately, I find it rather ironic to be called "Teacher Christina" as yes, I can bandage a knee and sing songs, but this place and these children are teaching me more than I could have ever imagined.  Today the song in my head is "Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World".  And never have I hummed this song with such vivid images of beautiful little faces in mind.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Road Trip, Church, and Chickens

The past few days feel like such a blur! 
It all started in the Dallas airport when our first plane was ready to board and a storm blew in, delaying our plane about 30 minutes.  This would have been a rather insignificant delay if our lay-over in London had not been only 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the crew kept the door open for us as we dashed through security and through Terminal 5 to our gate.  We arrived in Nairobi Thursday night (Nairobi time) and were warmly greeted by the Buckner staff and a drunk man who wanted us to pay him $20 bills for helping us carry our luggage!  Thankfully we got the airport without anything stolen and only a few delayed pieces of baggage.
The next morning, Susan, Ashley, Taylor, and I left for Busia in a van with our Non-Government Organization staff member (NGO for short) from Nairobi, Beverly, and our van driver Richard.  We drove past the Rift Valley, saw baboons crossing the roads (they have "cow crossing" signs here too!), and passed multitudes of little children in uniform walking home from school.  Late in the afternoon we stopped in a large town, Kisimu, to exchange money and buy groceries for the first time!
I have been on a lot of long road trips, but Friday's journey topped them all.  First, while the roads nearer to the capital Nairobi are fine, the roads farther from the city are BUMPY.  Also, Kenyan drivers sit on the right of the car and drive on the left side of the road…and are not afraid to drive into oncoming traffic or use their horn!
We finally arrived in Busia after our 12 hour road trip.  Our hotel is fine, but not quite like home! :P I found bugs in my towel, my bed, my tea, and filling the bedside drawer.  I have a feeling I am going to have a different view of bugs when I return home!  But I must say it is pretty fun to sleep under a mosquito net!  
This morning we attended Mudoma Baptist Church.  The walls of the church are made of dirt and cow dung and are topped with a tin roof.  Yet I must say it was one of the most beautiful church services I ever been to!  We were "the visitors" and were greeted very warmly…officially greeted in the service by at least 8 different people and afterwards by all of the children and other adults.  We introduced ourselves and told our favorite Bible verses and sang for them.  And really, there is no better way to worship than with African children singing their hearts out. There was one little boy, probably about 2 and a half, that I will never forget.  He would waddle in his little flip flops to the front of the church to sing with the "Praise and Worship band".  Then he would fold his hands in a praying position and step back and forth from foot to foot to the beat of the music and sing every word to every song.  I have never seen a child worship with such a look of earnestness on his face!
Finally, this afternoon we went to the shore of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.  We visited two different fishing ports, and the port managers were so excited to have visitors that they brought us into their offices to sign the guest books.
Tomorrow we begin our first day of work at the Buckner school for young children and the Buckner medical clinic, which is about 30 minutes away from our hotel!  My team and I would greatly appreciate your prayer, especially concerning:
  • Adjustment - We are all having a hard time adjusting to both the time change and the culture.  We have all experienced sickness in some way upon arriving.  Please pray that God will Give us strength physically, mentally, and spiritually.
  • Impact - Please pray that even in our weakness, God will fill us up with His love and let us overflow with encouragement for the children here!  Also, that God will sustain us as we work in the school and in the clinic.
  • ~ P.S.: I wrote this update yesterday but our wifi stopped working last night and I was not able to post it…the same prayer requests still apply :) But as of today I have worked in the Buckner pre-school.  After saying hi to the children, I went into one of the classrooms as was introduced as "Teacher Christina"…as I was wondering how I suddenly gained such a title, I was told to begin teaching the language arts and science lesson…so as I taught preschoolers about the plants and animals God created, I had to marvel at His sense of humor. Just after I asked the children to practice saying the word "animal", a chicken wandered into the classroom (this happened periodically throughout the day)…talk about a convenient visual aid!