Kenya Day 4

Perhaps the most emotional day of my life…ever!!!

For those that know me, you probably know that sometimes I get tearful. If someone else is crying, or I see God working the hearts of people, or there is great joy, or I see children, or we are blessed to help others, or it’s a day that ends in a “Y.” pretty much any of those things will do it.

Well this was the day that we would meet the children of the Shim orphans project along with thousands of other children in the schools. I was very excited, as were the rest of the team, but it would also be a day of broken hearts, great joy and laugher, thanksgiving unto God, and making many new friends.

What a blessing it is to be blessed and to use the blessings that God has entrusted to us to bless others. “To him who had been given much, much is expected.” But today we would embrace that expectation and find the great joy in being the blessing, in being an answer to the prayers of many people.

The journey started at Shim church when a whole gang of motorcycle taxies showed up and parked alongside the church. At first it was just fun to watch them arrive as they looked like a Kenyan version of a motorcycle gang. I did not know that they were there for us. The schools we would visit did not have roads that could be traversed by car. We would be leaving the highway and town area and heading out into the rural areas. Of course I was really excited to try out an African motorcycle taxi but some in our group were a little nervous. I was looking all around, taking pictures and enjoying the trip. Others were hanging on for dear life.

Pastor Mark’s driver was driving as a taxi for the very first time. He was very thankful for the opportunity to be driving us and having this job and he was really excited. He was also a believer in Jesus, so apparently he was singing and praying and having a grand old time the whole day.

The journey took us along dirt and mud trails into some outlying areas. The roads where not too bad until we got down near the river which would overflow the banks and spit in two when it rains. Well it rained the day before so there where a few places that where muddy and slippery and we had to get off the motorcycles, let them cross and we would walk through on foot. That was the best plan but we were slipping around, hoping puddles, getting splashed as our shoes got dirty, and I will let you do a scavenger hunt on Facebook to find out which member on our team slipped and fell and found him (or her) self, laying in the middle a huge puddle in the middle of the mud.

We got a new appreciation for what Edina our Social Worker goes through every time she goes to visit the kids. In fact, she said that she has been out there in the rain and the river was overflowing the road so she would take off her shoes and pants and have to wade through the river. We, on the other hand, had a few challenges but it was a beautiful sun shining day and we were on the way to visit the children.

When we arrived at the first school got swarmed by all the children. With the noise of the motorcycles and our talking and such, our arrival obviously disrupted the classes. When they looked out the doors and window and saw that we were “mzungu” or “white man” then the bedlam took over. They were very curious and excited that we arrived. They all wanted to shake our hand, rub our skin and even touch our hair.

When the teachers decided that the welcome attack needed to end, the teachers got the kids back into their classrooms and got the opportunity to visit the kids in the classes. The kids where working on two lessons that day; math and language which was an English lesson. But our interruption gave the kids a break from their lessons to have the opportunity to interact with us. I did a very poor job of trying to draw a picture of the world and then a made an “X” where they are in Kenya and then drew a long line over to an “X” where we live in Spokane. That seemed to make them giggle but I don’t think it meant much to them other than to say we came a very long way to be with them. The teacher rescued me by offering the kids a much better lesson as she asked them what kind of vehicle did I travel in to get from my home to visit them. After the guesses of a car and a bus, one child came up with airplane and the teacher made all the kids say the word “airplane” in English.

Then we got a treat as the teacher had the kids sing us a song. The first song in their class room was in Swahili so we did not know what it was about but we still help by clapping and dancing a little. This seemed to entertain them by watching the Mzungu try to dance. I also think they enjoyed a type of influence over us in making us dance. So there was some giggling and finger pointing along with the singing.

Then we gave each kid a piece of candy (great job Anne and Jessica in thinking up the idea of bringing big bags of different kinds of candy for the kids) and then we returned outside. So all the kids followed us outside to watch what was going to be happening. This is where things got mixed up with both heart break and joy. Edina, the social worker, helped to identify and separate out the kids that are currently in our orphan’s program. They were going to get some special gifts from us. The girls made some dresses that we gave to the girls and we had some bracelets, flip flops, flower shaped pins along with toothbrushes and toothpaste that we could hand out. Meanwhile the other kids did not get anything. There are so many kids and so much need that there is no way a person could ever bring enough to give to them all even though they all deserve of something.

We visited Bridge Academy, a fairly small but well-kept school in the downtown part of Kiminini with around 150 children.

There was also Mazuri Academy, a rural and rather poor school with mud structures and just benches for sitting on. I would say they were a school of a couple hundred.

Another school we visited was Shalom Academy which was a very nice private school of 4 to 500 children.

Then the last school of the day was Masaba, a public school with 1440 students in it. We caused the same disruption and chaos when we arrived so some of the staff began chasing kids back to classrooms with sticks.

So when I talk about being mauled by hundreds of children I am actually making and understatement.

But the day was not just visiting the schools, the excitement of all the wonderful children and adventurous of motorcycle taxies through the African bush. We also witnessed the children suffering with extreme poverty.

For example, Edina showed us the feet of a couple orphans that where very dry and infected with giggers (sp?). I am not sure I understand what that is but I think she said it is a bug that originates on pigs but the kids get it largely due to unsanitary living conditions. These bugs burrow into their feet and they are in pain and itch all the time. Their legs where very dry and scratched up. It is painful but they still walk to school every day. They sit in class but it is difficult to concentrate because they are itching and scratching their legs. It was difficult to see.

But we made another even harder stop. During one of the visits to a school we discovered that two brothers where not there. So Edina decided that we would stop at their house to check on them. When we got there, one of the brothers was just hanging out in the front room and the younger one was missing.

The story that we were told about these boys was that their mother died and the father decided he needed a new wife. So he abandoned the boys to go live with her. They have been living on their own ever sense with no adult to care for them. The neighbors know enough about them to know if they have been around but that is it. These boys are about 6 and 10 and they are living completely on their own. The older brother told us he would go find the younger brother but he ended up disappearing and did not come back. We were told later that they were probably hanging out in a little village area down the road begging for something to eat.

This gave us an opportunity to look around their house. I thought it actually had the potential of being a good dwelling place if someone knew how to take care of it. There was living room, back bedroom, a larger living space next to those. Plus, there was two more buildings on the property; an abandoned animal shed and a place for preparing food. The back bedroom had a decent bed with a mosquito net but we were told by neighbors that the boys are not allowed to sleep there. If the father happened to come by the house, like he did once a month or so, the boys would get into a lot of trouble if he found them in “his” bed. So instead they slept on the floor in the adjacent room which smelled of human waste and the clothes and blankets were filthy. I would not want to even touch them, let alone wear them. It was heartbreaking. What hope did those boys have?

We are their hope. At least we have Edina doing what she can to look in on them. Hopefully we can find them sponsors so that they could receive some care like the schooling, food, and clothing that sponsorship helps to provide. And one day, perhaps we can have a facility that can take boys and girls just like them and give them a home, an education, food and spiritual nourishment.

The need is truly overwhelming but we learned that we must do what we can. And that means that we are not able to help all the children, all around the world, nor even all the needs in Kiminini, but we can do something. We can do our part to help some. We will continue to pray and to work and help those children that God has given to us.

Now more than ever, because we have seen the struggles of these children, may God give us the strength and wisdom to do the best work that we can. Praise be the name of the Lord.

Posted by Cary Peden

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