Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Will you please sign my name?


Brad was honored to be invited to a community civic meeting...
Helping to educate the poor before elections, informing them of their rights, and hearing their voices...

He sat in the back.

The community made space for him - "Welcome, Baba Sam".

You are one of us.

He happened to sit next to a mama we know. 

The meeting was deep... 
the poor voiced their hurt...
their lack of representation...  
their longing for justice...


But the moment that stood out...

Was when the register was passed around.

With a humble look, a Mama passed Brad the pen.

"Will you please write my name here?"

Illiteracy
 - it showers shame
- it limits employment
- it dooms a mama to poverty
- and most often, it spells the future of her children as well...

My heart aches for this Mama - and so many others who don't know how to write their own name.

God knows your name, dear mama... 
He knew you even before you were born!
And He loves you dearly!




Monday, May 15, 2017

If only I had a million dollars...


If only I had a million dollars...

Those words actually came out of my mouth yesterday.  I'm not even sure I've ever thought those words before!  

... But the overwhelming grip of need overtook me 
as I walked back away from a visit.

Earlier, I had been chatting with a group of mamas, helping to wash chairs - a Saturday rainy season job - so that when people come to church on Sunday, they will have a clean place to sit.  

A mom and her friend walked past us, then stood in front of the church.  The somber mood immediately drew my attention to them.  I noticed the bundled package of 2 month Abrahim was the focus.


I left my "chair washing task" and joined the ladies.  Abrahim was sleeping.  He'd been sleeping since noon the day before  - which was the last time he had eaten.  30 hours!?!?  He was limp as we raised his arms.  Unresponsive.

I was already picturing a late night hospital visit ... or worse yet, another infant's death in our community (there were 2 that I know of only last month).

Together we entered the church.  We must get this boy to breastfeed!   As a group of mamas, we gathered, coaxed and prodded.  After awhile, Abrahim awoke and ate a little.  We cheered. 


We sat together.  Because sometimes in moments like these, that is what we do....  It's not all about words - it's about being... being together.

After I stepped outside, I was told - this mama herself has not eaten in 2 days.  She and her 4 children (including Abrahim) have been in a desperate place for some time.  The local church has been reaching out to them.  They have been responding to that love! 

But when there is no food, then mama doesn't have much breast-milk... depression sets in... and babies get sick... and the desperate cycle spirals down and down all too fast...

Mama Abrahim in front of her home

So... this is when I wished for a million dollars.  Because this is not the only hungry family that we know!  Actually, there are quite a few precious kids out of school too - they lack school fees!  And a church that needs some repairs.  A victim who needs rent money...  The list is absolutely overwhelming to us - every day!  We could probably blow through a million dollars pretty quickly!  Maybe I should be wishing for 2 million!

I've continued to ponder these painful stories.  And my response.  

You see, as I left Mama Abrahim, I had not given her food.  But I sat and prayed with her.  I encouraged her that God loves her deeply.  I actually wept on that visit. I long for her to find HOPE and GRACE even in her time of need.

(We did send the church some money to make sure the family would eat that night!)

But my brain is joggled.

Could money REALLY solve these problems?  If we bring food and pay school fees yet don't bring HOPE in Jesus, what have we really done?  

My heart aches as I pray.  As I look into a mama's hungry eyes - who I know ache more for her children's hunger than her own...  As the words come out of my mouth that Jesus knows and cares about her pain.  That He loves her deeply.  That He wants her to long for Him as much as she longs for food and safety.  

I wonder... is that even possible?

Honestly?  If my children were hungry would I be able to turn my heart and longings toward GOD?  To find His peace and joy in the midst of my situation?

Our prayer is that as we walk with the local church that walks with this mama,  we will see her find His PEACE and JOY  and HOPE.  She has been invited into our women's Bible Study group - which will also bring her the opportunity to learn beadwork and many other practical skills.  

But, God please protect us always from the temptation of solving earthly desperation with earthly solutions (a million dollars would be great!)... without addressing the enormous eternal desperation with God's GRACE and HOPE which are the truest, deepest answers!

Abrahim's big brother




Today, my prayer for myself is this:
That I learn to DESPERATELY long for Him.
That I recognize Him as more important than anything else in my life.
That I see HIM as a more valuable gift to others than a million dollars would be!

Psalm 63:1-8The Message 

God—you’re my God!

I can’t get enough of you!

I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, 

traveling across dry and weary deserts.

So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,

drinking in your strength and glory.

In your generous love I am really living at last!

My lips brim praises like fountains.

I bless you every time I take a breath;

My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

Because you’ve always stood up for me,

I’m free to run and play.

I hold on to you for dear life,

and you hold me steady as a post.



Monday, May 8, 2017

May this story change me... may it change you too!!!


I want to tell a story... but I'm struggling a little.  

While this story is interesting, I don't want anyone to hear it just because it's interesting - that would somehow be disrespectful to the enormous ways that lives were impacted yesterday...

I want to be changed by this story.

I want you to be changed by this story.

Saturday night, a stark text broke into our home... a 10 year old girl had been raped by her step-father.    The pastor in that community took the girl home for the night.  But there was no rest.  

You see, amongst the poor, there is often no justice... so the community will take it upon themselves to administer their own "justice".  

This crime was bound to be paid for.  An early morning - desperate call from our pastor friend...  this man will be killed - please, can you help us find some police!  As Brad arrived at the scene - only a few hundred meters from our home, he encountered an enormous mob of hundreds of men.  In the front, leading the way were 2 policemen - armed with machine guns... and a shackled criminal.  

The mob followed - chanting "rapist... rapist...rapist" as he was paraded through N'gando.  The pastor was in the crowd, holding the hand of the 10 year old victim.  Brad followed along - staying to the side - out of the way.  

The mob made sure that the man was deposited in the cell at the chief's camp - many stayed, some dwindled back to their day.  

The "cell" is just a corner of the room where the girl and her mother (remember, she is "married" to the criminal) are questioned about the whole story.  Hours passed, while Brad waited outside - with mamas who were friends of the lady - children who had followed the crowd - men who were determined to see that justice was done...

Once the full account was recorded, the policeman came out.  Brad had taken our car (which seats 5) down to the chief's camp - ready to drive the girl and her mama to the hospital. 

The police informed him that he would also be dropping the criminal off at the prison.  

So, our car carried - all together - the rapist - in the back luggage compartment.  Two police, armed with their machine guns.  Pastor.  And mama with her baby girl who had already been through so much trauma.  (That's 7 people crowded in!)

When they left the police with their charge in the prison, Brad was asked to give fare for the police to get back to Ngando.

Now the girl and her mama were finally attended to.  The hospital they went to is sponsored to treat rape victims for free... but the first thing they did was to demand 1000 shillings before seeing the girl.  (This 10 dollars US may seem small - but it would have been prohibitive to this mama, whose rent, that she struggles to pay is 15 dollars).  Brad questioned this charge - reminding them of their claim of philanthropy and they immediately dropped the charge.  Once again, we see the poor being left out - if there is no-one there to stand up for them, they don't see justice.

Mama was handed paperwork to fill in - the look of humble bewilderment immediately revealed that she didn't know how to read.  Pastor gently took on the task for her.

And this story will go on... 

A girl - wounded for life - may she find GOD'S love in this church that has so carefully reached into her pain.  (Hatua is praying for a counsellor who would be wiling to walk with her and so many other victims in our setting)

A mama - now a single mama - struggling to provide - may she find hope in the GOD who saved her from an absolutely devastating place... may she reject the cycle of abuse and harmful men in her life... may she learn to read so that ultimately she can provide... (Hatua is praying for funds to launch a literacy program for desperate mamas like this one)

A man - whose life is now ruined by the alcohol and poor choices he had made up until now... 

A community - who want justice - who want to protect their own - who need Jesus to flood each home.

A church and a pastor - who faithfully walk in the middle of this pain... who tirelessly stand, give, love, and long to see lives change - because of the love of JESUS.

Brad and I see it as a privilege to get to walk into these stories... we pray that we can be faithful... that each horrible situation gives us a chance to help churches gain credibility in their settings and position to disciple people.

So, how does this story change me?

How can this story impact you?

I have no application... to be honest, Brad and I are still feeling that this is all surreal... right now, this story has only made me more determined to be faithful.... to keep perspective.... to focus on the eternal.... to love well...

(This little girl was a part of our Bible Clubs all last week!)

Let's all reflect together... 
let's let suffering change us... 
to help us become more like Jesus!!!








Sunday, April 30, 2017

Village Life In An Urban Setting

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Home-life in our Ngando village enables us get to know people we otherwise would not cross paths with on a regular basis: repair guy - things are always breaking. Repairs include – things around the house like plumbing, electric or leaky roof. Usually works out well since labor is inexpensive. Shoes repaired, button or clothing sewn  (20 shillings/cents).  Water delivery guy (these guys work hard!)- since our neighbor siblings in the homestead started arguing, we haven’t had running water coming to the house, so we get it delivered weekly by pull cart (10 cents per 20 liters but I always give them a little extra since they work so hard. They only pocket 3 of the 10 shillings).  Our local produce lady - village life allows us to get fresh produce around the corner and at a better price than the grocery store.  Pretty much anything and anyone except ice-cream.  I always keep a few coins in my pocket since I never know when I might want a cup of tea or a banana on-the-run or Camie might call asking me to pick up a couple tomatoes on the way home (each only 10 cents).

While we probably could fix our own repairs or shop conveniently at the big grocery store, the important thing is that purchasing from each one of these people gives us an opportunity to make a friend and position for discipleship. It’s tough to do that with someone you don’t see regularly. And it also helps support their business, puts food on their dinner table and keeps their kids going to school.   Pray for us as we do life in our neighborhood.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Does My Life Really Count?


I was born...
I have had my birth certificate since that day...
I have a passport...
A driver's license...
Even a Kenyan ID card...

If I were hit by a car and died today, someone would look in my purse, see who I was, and my family and friends would be informed, know, and care...

and I sort of take all this for granted!!!


Recently, we've run into a situation with a young boy in Ngando.
He was accepted into a school with full scholarship - based on an exam he took.
Yes, he's really smart!

... on the way to take the exam, on a small stop for tea, he self-consciously shared that he had never used a serviette (napkin) before and wasn't sure how to.




Yes, this dirty, barefoot boy has struggled and been thankful for each meal he's eaten - and gone hungry much of the time too!

After passing the exam, we were given the "next steps" to get him enrolled.  Top on the list was to submit a copy of his birth certificate.

But when your mama is a prostitute... and your grandpa is the known drunkard, odds are against getting that ID!

As a matter of fact, as we dug in deeper, his mama doesn't have a birth certificate or an ID either!

And so they have lived...
Uneducated...
Uncared for...
Unidentified...


I try to imagine this life - this struggle for identity.... 
this feeling that "I don't really matter"...  
"Does my life really count?"

It is the root of so much hurt and pain 
that has gone into the downward spiral for generations in this family!




Our prayer is that they will find their identity... first in the GOD of the Universe - who cared for them so much that he sent his own SON to rescue them!

And then, that we can help them to get their national ID's as well!

Isaiah 49:15

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast

walk away from the baby she bore?

But even if mothers forget,

I’d never forget you—never.

Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.


And as this boy and his mama realize 
how loved they are  - that they will also realize that 
their lives in Ngando matter too!









Thursday, March 16, 2017

This isn't my dream life!


I looked across the table into the eyes of a good friend

"This is NOT my dream life!"

There... I had said it... 

My words echoed in the silence that followed - the relief of admitting what has been echoing in my head flooded into my being.


I think it shocked both of us!



This has been a week for me wherein I have focused on counting the cost of living here in Kenya... grieving over small and big sacrifices that God has called us to.

I've taken 2 showers in the last 3 months - both on a camping trip, where the site had outdoor showers!...  I LIKE showers!  I don't love bucket baths...  

My daughter will be going on her first school break with no family to go "home" to (Kenya is just a little too far away!)  I cry every time I think of how I wish I could spoil her - knowing this has been a tough semester for her!  Wishing I could take her out for a long breakfast, with endless coffee refills and conversation... cook her her favorite meal... wash all her laundry for her.

I'm missing my son like crazy - being so far away, it's hard to even know how he is really doing!  I want to be able to pop in on him - see his smile... to feel that he is OK.  

The needs around us feel overwhelming...

Struggles in ministry have been intense.



These and other costs have felt very deep to me - the costs of living here in Kenya- sacrifices that GOD has asked of us.  They stand tall along with some hard situations we have faced here on the ground in Ngando - and I wonder - is this all really worth it? 




This is definitely NOT my dream life!

But, I'm lucky... I don't have to look more than a few meters outside my front door to find people who have NEVER had a hot shower... who's child is with them, but dying... whose dream life includes food for supper, $30 dollars for the month's rent, and a husband who will come home sober tonight...

This pushes me to gain perspective!!  How spoiled I feel when I realize that the things I feel like I'm "suffering" without aren't even on my good friend's list!



I've spent a lot of time this week, forcing myself to face this question...

What is my DREAM life?


And when I dig deep, when I truly answer that question, I realize - 
maybe THIS is my dream life after all... 

Because these are my deepest longings, my truest desires, once I get past those things that would make my life feel better today:

I long for a deepness... 
a purpose... 
a commitment... 
a walk with GOD that goes far beyond my hot showers and family nearby... 
a faithfulness... 
courage to grieve, yet to embrace the life that God has given me...
and a HOPE...

And so, I lean into the HOPE that he has promised me - not a hope that my life will ever be exactly how I wish it was - that I will attain my "dream life" - But the HOPE that I get to live out GOD'S purpose for my life with the promise of His  love, mercy, grace and presence.  

This is the ANCHOR for my SOUL 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God 
Hebrews 6:18-20

 I Thessalonians 4:13
...don't grieve like people who have no hope











Brad didn't even know I was writing this blog, wrestling through this things, and he brought me this video last night... it hit me right where I'm at and provided great encouragement for me!
Click here for ENCOURAGEMENT!





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March Monthly Partner Update

















Family:
  • Keep praying for our kids back home: Abby at Bible School, Nathan and a possible promotion at work and Gené with college studies.
  • Sam is doing well in school.  Pray for him as he desires to lead his friends to walk with Jesus.  Being in a multi-cultural school is a special and unique experience for Sam but also can create other relational tensions.  Pray that the school would be free of any prejudice.
  • We still do not have running water at home.  Pray for a solution.
  • For continued spiritual cover over our home and our lives.  We are at war against the enemy.
Hatua Centre: ministry on the ground
  • The women's ministry - Girls With Vision - has begun monthly training for making household items for them to use and sell.  Pray that this may lead to continued discipleship.
  • Pray for our Bible school students.  Encouragement and determination to work hard.  The online technology and tablets is an uphill hurdle for some of them.
  • Pray for a new group of interested Bible school students in the town of Meru. There are 18 new students from 5 churches currently going through the Firm Foundations/Story of God Bible study.  Pray for Pauline as she is leading the training - travel safety, energy.
  • Pray that our engagement with the local churches will deepen.  Not more programs but deeper things for the sake of the Gospel.  Pray against false teaching that tends to creep into local churches/pastor's bad theology; such as prophecy, animism, traditional beliefs, prosperity gospel.  This is spiritual warfare! Pray that they will be open to the Holy Spirit's leading and seek the truth of the Gospel.
  • Praise/Pray for open doors relationally as we plan to expand Hatua Community Centres to other slums in Nairobi.  Looking for "persons of peace" as we enter into new areas.
  • Upcoming presidential elections in August - pray for peace and unity.  Elections are very divided within tribal lines and can easily turn bitter or violent.

Friday, February 3, 2017

What Do I Do When I See Suffering?

Arriving back in Ngando, 
the SUFFERING has smacked me in the face.  
It’s unavoidable… it’s lucid… 
It’s behind each pile of trash and stinking pit latrine… 
.. under the ringworm on a child’s bald head…
.. inside the home of a bed ridden mama… 
.. lurking behind hungry eyes… 
..weighing down the lowered head of a child who can’t go to school…  
...Suffering…

I long to relieve the suffering!
My heart aches as I encounter it!




But come to find out, most of the time I can’t… 
…not here in Ngando, 
…and not back in the US (where the suffering is just as present though much more “unexposed”)






And so, Brad and I often ask ourselves - why are we here?  
If we can’t relieve the suffering, how do we even know that God is working through us to transform people’s lives?





Yesterday I saw the most BEAUTIFUL picture of God’s healing GRACE… His work… transformation…



In checking all of the jewelry that was finished last month - checking for quality, to our dismay, Sally had made 38 of her bracelets wrong!    

They would ALL have to be redone!  
We knew she would be DEVASTATED.
We also knew she DESPERATELY needed the pay for the work on those bracelets!

I arrived at the center the following day wondering how she had taken the news.
When I entered the room where beadwork is done, Sally’s bracelets were spread across the table… but Sally wasn’t even there!
Two other ladies were carefully redoing her work for her.
She may never even know what they fixed.

As I watched these grace-filled, work-worn hands repair another’s mistakes, in my mind, I reviewed the needs they have in their own lives.  The work they could have been getting done for themselves, in order to earn more money for their own pressing problems.  But, they had chosen to take this day to bless someone else.
To take their eyes off of their own blaring needs and comfort another…


This is GRACE
This is not NORMAL suffering…
This is wholeness, community, love - love that only comes from HEART TRANSFORMATION!

Self-preservation is the first law of nature, 
but self-sacrifice is the highest rule of grace



We have actually come to measure healing amongst the poor by a different standard… 
NOT whether suffering has been eradicated… Even Jesus didn’t have the goal of wiping out poverty!
Healing is apparent as we answer this question with a “yes”…   
Can I give even in the midst of my own neediness?
But this isn’t just for the poor!!!  
It’s for ALL of us!!! 
You see, when I suffer, most of the time I focus on myself.  While others around me suffer deeply, my own need DEVOURS my attention - I have nothing to give.
But this is NOT what God intended.
When I have encountered suffering… in my own life… I have received such abundant GRACE and COMFORT!  And I am blessed.
When I suffer I can’t just stop there…  When I am comforted I can’t just stop there…
Because when the river of blessing flows through me, I can’t build a dam and keep them to myself!  That is not GRACE… that is not what God intended!  I need to be a conduit through which that GRACE and COMFORT flow on to others.
That is TRANSFORMATION!!!
This is something only Jesus can do in my life… and yours… and in the lives here in Ngando!





2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NLT)

 God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.  
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 


* Names changed in this true story
*If you'd like to support the ministry by purchasing any of our jewelry, find the link below! 








If you'd like to support this ministry, you can find this jewelry at our little shop over here: