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Thank goodness for Kenyan Time

July 30, 2009

Sorry for the lack of pictures! This is a quick update post- it’s a copy and paste of an e-mail I sent out, so sorry if it looks too familiar! And thank goodness for Kenyan time because our time left in Kenya is short! Oh no!

Jambo! Wow, I officially have a week until I fly away from this country that I’ve grown to love more and more with each passing day. We’ll actually be heading back to Makueni this Thursday to set up for the Southeast Christian Church medical team that will arrive on Saturday! There will be a free medical camp from August 4-6th for anyone who can make it to Makueni. We’ll be traveling a few days before the SECC team to set up the medical and living facilities!

This past week, we were in Kisumu, Kenya, located on the eastern side of Kenya on Lake Victoria. Life in Abundance began a partnership in Kisumu about one year ago, and the three staff members- Oke (pronounced “Okay”), Ephantus and Mary have been there for the last 4 months. LIA is partnering with 5 churches in Kisumu- and we had ample time with each church, pastor and congregation! LIA is in the process of working with the 5 churches to establish a program for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) within each church. The LIA team along with the TOT’s (trainer of trainers- church members who have undergone training in Community Health Evangelism through LIA’s partnership with their church) has been identifying homes in which there is great need.

Our Mi2 team split up into 3 groups, each with an LIA staff and a TOT from a specific church. We went around in the slums to these identified houses to carry out a baseline survey that will show the LIA staff how to help meet the communities’ needs. Most of the homes we have been visiting have a widowed mother taking care of anywhere from 3-14 children (some take in other orphaned children from other friends or family). The baseline survey asks simple questions about the health of the mother and her children, about how they earn money, about church involvement, and about relationships with their family and other friends. Many of the women are making 50-150 schillings per day (which equates to about $0.75-$2 a day) by selling charcoal, vegetables, by braiding hair or by selling other food items or groceries. The women also make so very little profit at the end of the day that there isn’t any left for saving. One of the strangest survey questions at first was “Are you involved in a merry-go-round?” A merry go round is a group who meets each day to contribute a small amount of money (10-40 schillings) to a group ‘pot’, and each day, a different person gets the lump sum. Sometimes, the merry-go-rounds are members of the church coming together, sometimes the women have the groups with their neighbors. While it may sound a little strange, it’s the only way for some of them to have enough money at once to purchase the needed supplies for their small businesses for the week.

Another question on the survey asks about their salvation status- “Are you saved?” I think my heart literally breaks each time someone says no. It’s so very apparent when the head of the home is in a relationship with Christ- they have such a faith and trust in God for EVERYTHING in their lives and those homes in which God is present is just so very apparent! Amen! We have gotten to experience many women who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior! Amen again! We also heard many heart-wrenching stories of loss, abandonment and illness. I’m sure I could all go on for days about what these families have encountered.

There are a few selected stories that will be posted on this blog at some point in the future- but be praying for the people that we had a chance to visit with. The Post College team of 25 from Southeast also joined us in Kisumu. They were in Kenya for only 10 days, and they arrived in Kisumu on Wednesday night and traveled back to the states this past Friday. We broke into 5 groups, with a Mi2 “leader” and 3-4 Post Team members. Our groups did home visits, handouts of maize meal and laundry soap to families, and we had a chance to give short messages at church on Sunday.

LIA is also working on a “street kids” project in Kisumu, and we had the opportunity to join the staff in one of the very first “street kids feedings”. We gathered in one of the churches on Monday afternoon and waited a few minutes. About 30 rough looking guys poured into the church. These guys are literally living on the streets- many are orphans, others have been so badly mistreated that they ran to the streets. The boys had an opportunity to get up on stage to introduce themselves- Mary of LIA told us that this may have been the first time in a long time that someone cared to ask them their names. Can you imagine that sort of isolation? The boys group together- they have their ‘areas’ and their leaders, kind of like the structures found in gangs. The boys were ages 12-17, they wore tattered clothing, some had flasks of liquor in their pockets, and many had glue for sniffing as well. We gave them bread, juice and biscuit cookies before sharing a few words with them. These kids have poor manners, and the women ended up leaving after about an hour because some of the boys said or did inappropriate things to them. The thing that I had to keep reminding myself was that the boys are just reacting. They are so isolated from the community- no one talks to them; everyone thinks they are very bad people. The boys haven’t felt LOVE in so very long.

There is a Street Kids program that has been established for about 3 years in Ethiopia (another place where LIA is stationed)- they have seen such transformations in the boys who decide to enter the program. In Ethiopia, boys have come off of the streets, others have accepted Christ and they have transformed their street group to be God loving boys. After the Mi2 and Post team guys finished their ministry to the street kids, 4 of the boys decided that they didn’t want to be on the streets any longer- and 2 gave their lives to Christ. Praise the Lord! It was such a blessing to see the rawness of these boys. They walk around with their tough attitude and tattered clothing, but when you look in their eyes- you can see the deep scars and the empty void that only God can heal and fill.

LIA is doing some great work in Kenya (and in other parts of Africa, I’m sure!) I’m so blessed to get so much exposure to the wholistic ministry that they are spreading. We’ve really gotten the opportunity to be the hands and the feet- I’ve seen and heard so much, how will this look when I return to America in just a few short weeks? I mentioned that God had been placing the idea of a college transfer on my heart. I’m happy to say that I will be attending the University of Kentucky this coming fall! Why UK? I really want to be somewhere that fits me better spiritually. This summer experience in Kenya has taught me a lot about myself, and I need to be somewhere where I can grow in my faith. There are so many more opportunities to just dig in deeper in my relationship with God and with other Christians at UK. I also really want to be closer to my family. Again, Kenya has just shown me a new picture of a family, and I want to bring Christ back into our home! And of course, Daniel Cooper, my boyfriend of 13 months, is an important factor in this decision. We’ve both really been praying for God’s timing in our relationship, and we are both feeling a “yes, it’s time to be closer together” from the Lord. We’ve both grown a lot this summer, and we’ve got a lot of sharing and preparing to do together.

I’ll be living with a great friend named Amber whom I’ve known since 6th grade. God has just opened so many doors to this transfer, I am so blessed! I have no idea how much longer I’ll be in school, at this point, I don’t even know what classes I’m taking! So please be in prayer with me during this time of transition! If anyone in Lexington knows someone who will need a babysitter or who needs someone to work part time- please let me know. I would like to get a job in Lexington, so if you know of anyone who is looking for someone (I’d rather not work in fast food or retail), please pass my information along!  Keep our 2 Poland-guy friends- Dane and Erich- in your prayers, they are in Poland. Honestly, our Kenya team can’t wait till we meet up with them again in the Amsterdam airport on August 6th, but they’ve also got a few busy weeks of camp until then! Keep Daniel (www.godismyjudge.wordpress.com ) in your prayers, he finishes up his internship in California soon (I can’t wait to see him again!) Be in prayer for my family, God works miracles. And be in prayer for our team as we continue strong till the end of our stay! I love you all, thanks for keeping up with everything!

I’ll see you soon! Kwaheri (goodbye) and Bwana akubariki (Lord bless you),

Holly

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