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Thika: To Kill and to Bury (but a really awesome place)

July 13, 2009

We visited Thika, Kenya again this past week. We were actually in Thika for a full seven days, spread out between two weeks. Over our 7 days, we visited with 5 churches that LIA is partnering with in the Thika community. Thika has a history of being a factory town. Thika used to be very neat and clean, but as times have gotten harder, you can now see piles of trash along the dusty streets. Thika is like a little Nairobi, in the next couple of decades, there probably won’t be much distinction between Nairobi and Thika as they move towards each other.

Life in Abundance is actually partnered with 8 churches in Thika, but we only visited the 5 which have active OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) programs. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we visited three different churches that needed help with various “plaster repair” projects.

On Tuesday, we joined members of Christian Church International (CCI) in building an outhouse for one of their members. Before we got disgustingly muddy, we visited with the children at the CCI Early Childhood Development program. I made a little friend named Maggy, we spent most of the morning chasing each other around. The children were pretty young at this school, so we just spent time tossing them into the air and spinning them around. The family we were building the toilet for lived right behind a concrete-block Catholic Church. The church had two outhouses within 100 meters of the home, but that family is not allowed to use them. CCI had come together to raise support to help this family build their own toilet. When we arrived, men from the church were building scaffolding made of sticks and rocks to enclose the “toilet”. A hole had been dug about 3ft. down into the ground, and planks of wood were nailed to a square brace (to create a floor) that was just larger than the 3×4 ft hole. There is a hole cut out in one of the planks for the waste to fall into the hole. Next, the men began mixing dirt and mud (with a hoe, right on the ground) to create the plaster. I went to get water from a well with some of the women, then we all started plastering the structure once the mud mixture was made.

We finished the toilet in about 2 hours, and the family was very thankful. After we were all mucky and dirty, we headed down the road to the pastor house where we helped make Banana jam and Body oil. CCI has started these two economic empowerment programs to bring in extra money for the church. The banana jam was simply smashed bananas, mixed with sugar and boiled till the sugar dissolved, then fresh squeezed lemon juice was added for tang and as a preservative. Dollops of the delicious yellow goo were dropped on to our palms, and we eagerly licked up the banana-goodness. The body oil was a mixture of melted candlesticks, cooking fat, lemon juice and an antiseptic. The churches sold the products for a meager profit, but I think that banana jam would sell for crazy amounts at a store back home!

We visited another church called Good Hope International this week on Wednesday. This church had started a chicken project to generate more funds for the church. Pastor Peter’s wife taught the students at Good Hope. After our visit, we learned that she was a trained teacher- and you could really see the amount of time she put into helping the kids learn. She would use every opportunity possible to continue educating the kids- she used the back of our LIA van to quiz the kids on their knowledge of the alphabet! We met a little boy named Bernard who will remain in each of our hearts forever. Bernard was an interesting boy. He wasn’t more than 5 yrs old, but he had enough confidence to get up and toddle out of the classroom whenever he desired. He was definitely the troublemaker of the class, but his little infectious grin and quirky mannerisms captured each of our hearts. He wore his little toboggan on his head and waltzed around the active football game with no regard for anyone but himself. What a funny little kid.

We were helping Good Hope with another plastering project; their church was constructed of mud bricks held together with mud cement. They are currently working on expanding their building, and some of the funds from the chicken project will go towards their expansion. This day, we were helping to put up walls to a kitchen. The OVC programs often include a feeding program which feeds the children porridge, and they needed a better space for the porridge to be prepared! Some members of the church had already put up the stick scaffolding enclosing an area of about 7ft by 4ft. There was a sheet of tin nailed to the top of the structure to serve as a roof. We started out by placing some bricks made of mud in the structure (you kind of sandwich them between two layers of the sticks), then we packed mud in between the bricks. There were lots of small pebbles (just another new challenge) in the mud mixture! We finished in about 2 hours, we worked along with 2 guys from that church as well.

There was also a little girl named Mbithi, she had a huge wound on her ankle, it was super infected, lots of dead skin all around- pretty gross. My team mate Daniel Bachman cleaned her up with the first aid kit we brought, and I just set her on my lap and hugged the living daylights out of her. I just felt like I needed to sing her a song, so I hummed some songs and held her tightly when the alcohol pads made her wound hurt. It was just such a beautiful time of love- God was loving on me, and I got to love on that girl, it was such a special moment. Keep her in your prayers as her wound is healing!

On Thursday we visited End Times Restoration church where we helped to rebuild the church. The church existed, but it had been so weathered that it was the stick structure filled in about 60% with dirt/grass clods and mud. Before we started the “plastering”, we played with the kids (of course). We played some fun games with the kids, one was called “Meaty” (basically Simon says, someone in the middle shouts “Meaty” and then the kids shout back and clap, then they repeat that; then the person in the middle starts naming types of animals, and the kids repeat the animal named and clap, but if they clap on an animal that they DON’T eat, then they’re out! The kids were pretty young (2-8?) and they didn’t exactly know what kind of meat they ate. They just jumped and clapped happily (they thought that they ate snake and zebra- we had no idea what the correct answers were, so we just hopped along with them!)

There were many church members (mostly women) who were helping to mix mud and pack the walls with clods of grass & dirt. There was lots of thorny brush that had been used to fill in the scaffolding, so it was really hard to get the mud in there without poking yourself. A few puncture wounds later, we had pretty much finished the church! We were running short on time; we were heading to take tea with Joseph and Alice Muula. We stepped inside the finished church to pray, and they brought out giant bowls of rice and beans. We did our best to fill our stomachs (which already had lunch in them) with the delicious rice and beans! It was rough. And Lauren’s stomach was feeling upset, but she ate it like a champ.

We departed and arrived at the Muula’s house about an hour late (Kenyan time). We had an awesome time talking with them, they leave for Jamaica in about a month (this was the couple I mentioned about in the previous post), so we were asking how they thought things in Thika had been going. Anyways, they shared so many positive things with us, I wrote about 4 pages of notes in my Moleskin. So much has happened with the churches since LIA came in last year, and the whole idea of LIA is to create a sustainable atmosphere for the churches- it’s not like they pour tons of money into the churches- no dependability is created! The churches learn how to provide for themselves and for their communities!

Okay, so now we’re to Friday! We ran around to a few stores to pick up some odds and ends. We purchased 2 mattresses for the family of children that were sleeping on wooden beds. We delivered those and said goodbye to some of our new friends in Thika. Then we traveled back to Nairobi and chilled for a few hours before going over to Dr. Emily Obwaka’s (LIA country director) house. We had dinner with Dr. Emily where some AMAZING food was served! Dr. Emily was just asking us what we had learned since we arrived and stuff. My 3 things were relationships, faith and prayer.

As the title suggests, the meaning of Thika is “to kill and bury”. I had been struggling for a few days with the slightly violent attitudes I had seen in Thika. God is needed in that community- witchcraft is a large issue, as are HIV and AIDS. The churches are growing in unimaginable ways, and as they continue to put their faith and hearts in God, they will be able to absolutely transform their community!

We’re headed to Kisumu this week to help LIA get their “Street Children” program started. We’ll also be with the Post team from SECC at the tail end of this week heading into next week. We’re all pretty excited to hang out with ~20 other college aged kids! Our Poland counterparts are thick in their summer of camps, be praying for their continued patience and strength in dealing with lots of children! Daniel had the opportunity to go home for his older sister’s wedding this weekend (I wish I could have been there!), the pictures looked beautiful! He’s headed back out to California for a few weeks before his internship with InnerChange comes to an end. The InnerChange group decided to get out on the streets a bit more to minister to people, so pray for their protection- and pray that God brings those who need help to the places where his crew will be! The summer is winding down quickly, we only have this 10-day Kisumu trip and another trip back to Makueni to prepare and help out at the medical camp with the SECC medical team. Then we come home?! Wow.

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