With Mug in Hand

•November 13, 2014 • 2 Comments

I think I’ve sat down to write this blog probably 100 times (ok that might be a slight exaggeration), and each time I just can’t quite get my thoughts to combine into words and cohesive sentences. There’s plenty to say, and even more on my mind – the problem is I’m not sure how to share it all with you. I think sometimes I imagine a blog should have something decisive to say, something the Lord has shown, some sort of insight. But right now all I have are mostly wrestlings and questions and ponderings a plenty… I guess the beauty of a blog is that it doesn’t always have to be insightful or profound; sometimes it’s just the cup of coffee I wish I could share with a friend. So, with mug in hand, I guess I’ll just dive right in and hope you can track with my seemingly cluttered train of thought.

 

 

To be white in Kotido means that you’re wealthy, educated, wealthy, affluent, wealthy, probably here to ‘help,’ and, oh, did I mention wealthy? It means we get asked for stuff a lot. “You give me a banana,” in the market as I walk down the road. “You give to me money for my baby,” from the woman who just borrowed someone else’s malnourished child to come solicit. “You give me your dog.” ”You buy for me this land and build me a hut.” “You… … ….” It never ends. In fact, it tends to get more and more extravagant. Sometimes the asking is out of genuine need, sometimes it’s out of a desire to continue drinking the local brew, and sometimes it’s just opportunistic in hopes of seeing what you can get from the mzungu. It’s all a bit discouraging, and the fact is that giving what they ask may actually be the least loving and the least responsible thing I could do. This is something our team has been wrestling through in regards to our Moses project, which was begun some time ago out of a need for milk supplementation for babies whose mothers can’t provide for them, for one of any number of reasons (like being struck and killed by lightning, or having twins but not enough breastmilk). It has been a beautiful thing to see severely malnourished babies, who would likely have otherwise died, continue to not just survive but thrive in their own homes. But like any program, it has its downfalls and it can be hard to know exactly how to handle each situation, even the program as a whole.

What do you do when you find that the alcoholic grandmother of one of your babies is no longer giving the formula to the child but instead is selling it for money to further her drinking addiction? How do you handle the mother of twins who already lost one baby to the ruthless practices of witch doctoring and is neglecting care of the remaining child? There is no such thing as Child Protective Services here, and I can’t very well march in and remove a kid from his home (no matter how much I might want to at times). So what happens to each precious child as he bears the weight of his caretaker’s poor choices? It’s an awful lot to wrestle with as life and death hang literally in the balance, but that’s still just dealing with the practical; what about the core of the issue – the heart? We do a Bible study with the women in the program each week, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting their lives. Is the gospel actually taking root, or are we instilling a ‘once-a-week’ type Christianity that leaves compartmentalized lives and luke-warm hearts?

 

As a team we’ve been talking a lot about our core DNA and how it fleshes out in our lives here in Karamoja. We finally have our entire team in the country (woohoo!) and so we took a few days to have an orientation of sorts and here was the result:

 

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Our heart is to see the individual people as well as the region of Karamoja transformed by the redemption only Christ can bring. That transformation changes everything – from the way health care is done to the way communities take care of each other; from family dynamics to politics, to work ethic, and everything else. The problem is that we come from a culture and a mentality that perhaps prioritizes too much the results instead of the process, and we find ourselves in good company with ministries seeking to see the Kingdom come without the foresight and sometimes the patience to see it start in the heart and move from the inside out. We end up with well-intentioned projects desiring to see the poor fed and communities rid of corruption; but to bring the Kingdom without the King to reign as Lord breeds chaos and more corruption. So with a vision to see transformation start first in the heart and then spread throughout every aspect of a community, we make relationships themselves our ministry. To start from the heart takes a lot of time and it means our lives are our ministry; making disciples that make disciples and planting churches that plant churches.

 

There are plenty more thoughts roaming around my brain, untamed and unkempt, but perhaps I’ll continue to work those out with you over still more cups of coffee in coming weeks and months. To make disciples is a beautiful calling, but by no means is it easy, and still less is it timely. I covet your prayers and love hearing your wisdom as I learn more and more each day what it is to be a follower of Christ in Karamoja.

 

Love,

Eileen

 

Elise and I, about to eat dinner (along with the whole team) on the banks of the Nile

 

 

Let Light Shine Out of Darkness

•September 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

3 weeks away from home. 2 weeks in Uganda. 1 week in Kotido.

Where do I even begin? I don’t feel yet well equipped to tell you about the Karimojong people; they are a bold and vibrant culture, an ostracized people with a million variations between tribes to an already difficult language; they are friendly and kind, and they think it hilarious that I have a Ngakarimojong name but can hardly understand when I’m being called. Trust me though, it’s way easier to tell them my name is Najip (that’s na-jeep for those of you who are not Karimojong) and endure the laughter than to try and get them to say Eileen.

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I live in a one-room hut, which is actually quite comfortable; just across is the kitchen hut with a lovely sitting area where many a quiet time has transpired, and many a morning has begun with prayer. My hutmate, Elise, is wonderful, and I’m excited beyond belief for the rest of our team to return to Karamoja so I can get to know them as well. It’s a beautiful life and I’m soaking it in.

IMG_4375.JPG(Elise and I on our first day in Uganda)

Many of you have sent me notes to say hello, give an encouraging word, and ask how you can be praying for me. I genuinely don’t think it’s possible to express how much I love getting your emails, and how encouraged and blessed each of you has made me. Thank you!
It’s been almost difficult for me, however, to come up with prayer requests that seem at all adequate. I feel like a blank slate, seeing this new life written, ever so slowly, upon a new and empty page. I’ve been asking you to pray alongside me for a heart like the Lord’s and more specifically, a heart from The Lord for the Karimojong people. I’ve been praying that The Lord would invest me here – even if it is only for 9 short months; I want to be all in. It’s only been 1 week in Kotido, and already I can feel Him tugging on my heart and beginning to answer those prayers.

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Elise has this phrase: “Where there is no Jesus, there is evil; where there is no Light, there is brokenness.” And while I have no doubt Christ has always been here, He is not well known; even as we are blessed to see pockets of light breaking through the darkness, there is overwhelming brokenness. And the brokenness I’ve been witness to thus far comes in the form of children needlessly dying at the hand of witch doctors; of women forcefully and violently taken as wives and then expected to provide for their homes. Brokenness is the child begging on the street; the sluggard and the drunk passing away the day and its troubles with the local brew. But perhaps most terrifying is the brokenness that allows me to mount the high horse I have named Righteous Anger and trot straight toward cold, hard distain for those I see perpetrating injustice.


“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 4:6

Now, to be sure, there truly is an aspect of righteous anger. Evil is evil, devastating and inexcusable; what a gift to be able to share our Heavenly Father’s heart in that. But it is ultimately never mine to condemn, for “Vengeance is mine…’ says The Lord” (Rom. 12:19). What is mine is to share also in The Lord’s great love and compassion, “for at one time [I was] darkness, but now [I am] light in The Lord” (Eph. 5:8). And after all, wasn’t it “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8)?

And so, being brought once again to the all familiar and lovely place: flat on my face and humbled before Him, I can begin once again to wrestle through what it means to be Christ to the one right in front of me; the broken, the poor, the suffering; the calloused, the abused, and the ones seeking to use. God, grant us the courage to love as You do, and the wisdom to see it through.

IMG_4355.JPG(sorghum – the preferred crop in Karamoja after which I am named)

I know the plans…

•July 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares The Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Ah Jeremiah 29:11… the verse we put in graduation cards and encourage one another with as we make those big life decisions.  And what wonderful opportunities to remember that our God is one who gives only good gifts and has already ordained every day of our lives. But sometimes I think we miss out on the beauty of this verse when we forget what was going on when God said this to His beloved Israelites.  At this point, Israel had said far too many times to the Lord, essentially, ‘We really don’t need you God, nor do we want you. Actually, thanks for your help, we’ve pretty much got it from here. [*ting* insert sparkling smile and a quick wink here].”

Ok, so that was a bit of a paraphrase with some liberties taken, but Israel had once again broken its covenant with the Lord and because He is a loving God who is also righteous and holy, He had just used the nation of Babylon to discipline His children.  In fact, Jeremiah 29:1 addresses this letter to the surviving elders, priests, prophets and everyone else who was carried away in exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.  And it is in this moment that the Lord comforts His rebellious children by reminding them that, even in what seemed like the worst possible situation, He has only good plans for them, to prosper and not to harm them.

Well, I haven’t been exiled to Babylon recently, but all the same – this is the verse the Lord has been using to comfort me over the past few weeks.

 

 

Just a few weeks until departure.  I was wrapping things up, packing things up, and trying not to say goodbye.  And in the midst of what was already chaos, I got a wrench in the gears – or maybe more accurately, (what felt like) a punch straight to the stomach: the Lord said, ‘Don’t go to Kenya.’

 

At first I tried to brush it off as a weird batch of nerves, but the Lord was persistent. And throughout the long process (you can imagine just how long too if you know anything about how stubborn and hard-headed I can be) He kept reminding me, ever so gently and yet firmly:

I have only good things for you.  Eileen, my precious daughter, I have brought you through so much – do you still not trust me?

You know my voice.  It is not fear or nerves or insecurities. Listen and obey.

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So, with such blatant instructions, I’m listening and trusting and obeying.  And to be honest, it’s sort of hard. It’s hard to let go of seeing my friends and family in Kenya – I was so close and I miss them so much.  It’s hard to feel like I’m letting down my Kenya team – Abbie and Aaron are still going, but I threw a wrench in their plans too.  And it’s hard to write this post – to tell you all that I won’t actually be doing as I planned.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”   It’s not really my plans that matter in the end, it’s His.  Maybe part of this process is a necessary and humbling reminder that none of this is mine; not the planning, the resources, the logistics; not this trip, and not this life.

I’ll no longer be leaving on July 7th for Kenya, instead I’ll be heading directly to Uganda on August 26th.  I don’t completely understand, but already I can see His hand moving and weaving and pulling everything together. I’ve now 7 weeks in the U.S. that I wasn’t expecting to have. I don’t know what all the Lord has planned for me in that time, but already He’s using it to encourage and grow and draw me closer to Him. Praise God that we have a loving Father who works all things for good!

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Missionary Toursists

•May 14, 2014 • 1 Comment

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Perhaps my biggest fear within the ‘mission work field’ is a spirit of self-righteousness or arrogance.  I’m finding that it can be all too easy to lose sight of our purpose to glorify God and get caught up with good intentions of making a difference, and then find ourselves seeking our own glory instead.  We all know the warm feeling you get inside when you help someone else, and my fear is that we can begin to seek that feeling, that self-satisfaction, instead of the Kingdom of God.  At that point,  mission trips become self-glorified vacations, and we become what my aunt Vanay would call “missionary tourists.”

I’ve encountered a number of missionary tourists in my time in Kenya (though certainly not just there), and I don’t know if I can effectively communicate the frustration that rises up in me, or the terror and humility when I see it rising up in my own heart.  This attitude is one that in many ways takes the humanity away from the people we have come to love and serve. It’s almost as though the poverty, the huger, the illness, the brokenness, and even the people themselves become projects we try to fix instead of brothers and sisters and neighbors whom we have come to love as ourselves.   We don’t want to get attached; we want to go and help so we can feel good about ourselves; so we can feel like our life has meaning, that we’ve accomplished something good.  But do we go because our hearts are broken at the injustice in the world?  Because we want to fall in love with God’s people?  To have our hearts broken with and for them – to mourn and rejoice and live and love with them?  I fear sometimes that we, both here in the US and overseas, won’t dare to fall in love with the poor but prefer to only “show them love.” The people of Nairobi, of Mathare or Karamoja, of Atlanta or Denver are just like you and me – real people with real hopes and dreams, joys and triumphs, and not just pain and poverty.  As simple and as obvious a statement as that sounds, I think our actions betray us to reveal it’s a truth too often forgotten.

 

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This week was an interesting one for me, and to be honest I’m still processing through all that happened.  I met a woman who has been living in Kenya for the last 25 years – a strong and bold woman who I think felt it her duty to protect the people of Kenya from missionary tourists like me.  In the brief time I spent with her, my thoughts and emotions seemed to be jumping all over the place – from excited to defensive, then to hurt and on to almost desperate – but there was no time and no amount of words to convince her that I was not the well-intended threat to her community that she thought me to be.   And yet, isn’t it funny how God uses things like this to reveal our hearts and then mend them?  I wonder now how many missionaries, ignorant or otherwise, that I’ve imposed the same assumptions on?  Humbling to be sure, but beyond that I felt the Lord asking me whose approval I was seeking. Was it the acceptance of even the most admirable of mentors, or the ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ of my loving Father?

Also this week, I got to talk a little bit with my housemate for next year, Elise.  We email back and forth, sometimes we get to Skype, and every week or so she’ll send me a text just to say ‘hi’ and ‘how are you doing?’  (Guys, this girl is seriously a gem.) But this week when I asked the question back the reply was heart-heavy. There has been some death and pain in our community over the last week.  And yet even in the face of suffering and abuse and oppression of some of the people closest to her, Elise’s response was not a desire to flee or return to the comforts home. No, her response was an increased desire to stay; to never forget the evil that still exists, to wade through the muck with her brothers and sisters and neighbors, and to long and pray for the redemption that only Christ can bring – both to our souls and our circumstances. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also a special kind of poison.  Lord, give us enough strife that we long with every ounce for your presence and your return.

 

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As I’m preparing to leave for East Africa and sharing my plans and dreams for the next year with family, friends and sometimes even strangers, I find myself getting a variety of responses.  Some are encouraging and excited as I am.  Some think I’m absolutely crazy and what I’m doing is ‘a little too much’.  And more than I’d like to admit seem ready to bestow a cape and send me off to save the world.  Sometimes I wonder how many of our mission trips truly are for the glory of God, and how many are for the glory of man. We claim to send and go in the name of Christ, but we don’t do so in the image of Christ or with the heart or the humility of Christ. Instead we don our cape and tights and venture off to fix the world’s problems.  To invest our lives would be too personal, too close to the heart – and that might lead us to radically change our lives.  But radical is uncomfortable, so we shy away from it and label it as “extreme”  and “unnecessary.”  I’m becoming more and more convinced every day that radical, though uncomfortable and perhaps even extreme, is entirely necessary if we are going to live out the gospel and be Christ to the nations.

I pray that you’ll embark with me on this adventure, that you’ll pray and email and Facebook.  I pray that together we’ll be both bold and humble enough to fall in love with the people of East Africa, of Denver, Fort Collins, Nebraska …etc., and that together we’ll radically invest our hearts and our lives in the people and the communities God has placed us in.

 

 

Griffin

(photos courtesy of the lovely and talented Hanna Guenther)

 

 

Watoto Tumaini: The Kids of Tumaini [Round 2]

•January 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Alright I know it’s been a while, but there are more children to meet and more stories to tell, so here goes!

Rose Nyokabi

Rose

Last year Rose was a bit of a grumpster – good luck picking her up without a good cry, much less a decent smile. But this year we got to see those beautiful teeth on a daily basis. One of my favorite things about Rose is definitely her smile.  A full-blown smile would light up the day, but if you got her to pose for a picture, her grin looked an awful lot like the Grinch’s. This pic happens to be a combination siding more on the genuine side!

 

 

 

 

 

Elija Ngigi

Elija Ngigi

Elija may look like your average and adorable goof-ball, but don’t be fooled by those innocent eyes – there’s mischief lurking behind them.  He and Uncle Charles are “the terrible two” – seeking trouble at every turn, then dazzling you with that precious face and tiny little giggle. Let me tell you, discipline can be hard to implement, but staying mad is absolutely impossible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercy Muthoni

Mercy

Mercy isn’t quite a teenager yet, but she has maturity beyond her years and the attitude to prove it. But behind that confidence is a shy and sweet sweet girl with an incredible voice!  It can be pretty hard to get her to sing in front of people, but let her think you’re not listening and I promise you’ll hear the voice of an angel.  One night during one of our many sleep-overs she and I got to harmonize a little bit to one of her favorite songs, Here I Am to Worship.  It must not have sounded too terrible because pretty soon we had some of the boys trying to peek into the common-room window of the hut to see what was going on!

 

 

 

Elizabeth Nekesa

Nekesa

Nekesa doesn’t like me.  It’s sad but true.  Last year she and Wahu were my girls – it was rare to see me without one attached to each hand. The problem was that neither liked to share and would get pretty upset if I played with another kid and would push them away. I of course tried to mediate as much as possible and one day Nekesa got so mad that I was playing with the other kids that she just walked away.  The next couple days we spent painting a mural away from the kids and when I came back Nekesa would have nothing to do with me! This year she didn’t completely ignore me, but I certainly am no longer on her list of favorites!

 

 

Issa

Issa

Issa is nothing but tough on the outside and sweetness on the inside.  He likes to play Sorry the board game, but only if he can be red, and only if you’ll be on his team.   He also loves hide & seek and being chased.  One night we spent probably a couple of hours taking turns hiding my camera case and chasing each other around – all more than worth it for that twinkle in his eyes.

 

 

 

Francis Nene and Dennis

Francis Munene

Francis was most famous this summer for his ‘President’s speech’ and desire to grow up and be president of the United States.  His signature line was pretty catchy: “Don’t kick your brother! Don’t kick your sister!”  I think he’s got a good shot! Francis also has some pretty great dance moves – flips and tumbles and karate kicks all included.  He can be pretty shy at times, but when he gets his goof on you’ll be rolling on the ground laughing.

 

 

 

 

Angelina

Angelina

This is Angelina as we made bead bracelets and necklaces.  She can melt your heart with that smile,  and she’s always good for a laugh.  I don’t know anyone who can come up with as many silly faces and songs as Angelina!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dennis Mwangi and Dennis MainaDennis and Dennis

They don’t always wear matching sweaters, but they are the best of friends.  Even at age 8, I think the two of them could run the Tumaini household all on their own!  Both of them can be shy to start out, but even then you can see their love for their siblings.  Dennis Maina will be the first to quietly comfort a crying child, or gently guide them to where they need to be.  Meanwhile Dennis Mwangi makes sure you eat all of your dinner and are in bed by just the right time.  Don’t worry, it’s not all business with them – they love to run and jump, play soccer, and they really love their puzzles too.

 

 

 

Grace and Hanna

Grace

These are the two best friends that anyone could have – inseparable by every definition. To be honest I’m not quite sure how it happened, but at some point Grace decided to latch on and if Hanna wasn’t in sight the first thing out of Grace’s mouth was inevitably, “where’s Hanna?” But aside from her attachment to Hanna, Grace’s most memorable attribute is her laugh. Oh I could pick that laugh out anywhere!  It’s loud and explosive and impossible to keep from laughing yourself whenever you hear it.

 

 

 

 

Albert and Ester

Albert Raju and Ester Mura

Albert is the eldest brother at Tumaini, and he takes his job as role model and care-taker very seriously.  He plays with and cares for the kids, but will also discipline them when it’s needed. And somewhere amidst all of this he keeps up with his chores washing the bus, laundry, doing school work, and soccer.  He’s one of the people I admire most at Tumaini.  Over the last couple of years we’ve gotten pretty close. I try and help out when he has girlfriend problems, and he’s taught me how to play Kenyan poker and roast corn on the fire.

Ester Mura on the other hand took quite some time to warm up to me.  She can be pretty finicky but seeing her smile makes every moment worth it.  I got to help take care of her quite a bit this summer – in fact she induced my first Kenyan-diaper-changing experience, which unfortunately came in handy all the time!

 

 

 

Griffin Mwenda

Griffin

Difficult to say for sure, but Griffin just might be one of the most adorable kids in all of Kenya.  He has a wink and a grin that will melt your heart in .3 seconds flat. He and I would play hide and seek an awful lot, but I think my favorite time with Griffin was story time.  He would hand me his school writing book (most of whose pages were empty), sit in my lap, and then listen while I told a new story of frogs or fairies, or maybe elephants or trees.  Every once in a while he would interject with sound effects or a plot twist, and each story time would of course have to end with the singing of a silly song.  🙂

 

 

Micah Kariuki

Micah Kariuki

Micah has both a captivating smile and a perfected puppy-pout.  He loves piggy-back rides and playing chase, although usually he would want to help me chase the other kids, rather than be chased himself.  He definitely loves to be the center of attention though. I can remember countless evenings when the kids were getting ready for bed in their designated rooms (each room has about 7 kids and an Auntie), and Micah was sure I was in the wrong room.  He would come and find me, take my hand, say “Eileen, come” and lead me back to his room for bedtime stories and superman jumps off of the top bunk and into my arms.

 

I hope that perhaps you’ve gotten a glimpse into my everyday life in Kenya, and that maybe you’ve fallen in love with these kids just like I have.   As I’ve slowly been writing about each of the kids from here in the States I’ve been reminded again and again just how much I miss them.  They grow up so quickly and I can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown as I head back this summer.

 

Love,

Eileen

 

 

 

Watoto Tumaini: The Kids of Tumaini [Round 1]

•July 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I thought I would take a moment (or several as the case may be) to introduce you to the kids that have captured my heart, and the family I can’t imagine leaving.

Joy

First off is Joy.

Joy is incredibly sweet and most often also very shy, but every so often she ventures out of her shell to gift you with her wonderful smile. I think one of my favorite moments with Joy was last summer as our trip was coming to a close and Joy ventured up to ask me if I would read to her.  Then she pulled out a torn and tattered Bible, opened to the Psalms, and sat quietly in my lap as we read.

Tony and Mose

Next are Tony and Moses.

Tony has a goofy smile that is nothing short of contagious, and a wonderful heart that loves to care for his younger siblings.  But getting him to talk is often a challenge, even for his siblings because he is sooo shy!

Moses is quite the chubbster, and always full of smiles – a combination you can’t help but love.

 

Peter and Ryann

 

Peter Kahiga

Peter is best known for his “pee-pants” and his friendship with Ryann. They’re quite the pair as you can see.  The poor kid can’t go through a day without peeing his pants, but he really is a sweetheart, and is always ready to lend a helping hand.

 

 

 

 

 

Stacie

 

 

Stacie

The first word that pops into my mind when I think of Stacie is “precious.”  She is incredibly smart, and even at age 5 has an incredible take-charge attitude.  But she certainly has the joy of a child and will bring me handfuls of sequins or leaves, to be tossed up and danced in with a sparkle in her eye that lights up the room.

 

 

Mary Wanjiko

Mary Wanjiko

What a little bundle of fun!  I can hardly keep up with this girl as she zooms all over the place, loving to be chased and tickled. And oh my goodness everything goes in the mouth! Whether it’s leaves, the chair, food, or your hand – if it’s in her hand, rest assured it will find its way to her mouth.

 

 

Isaac Kimani

Kimani

Kimani has cerebral palsy, which makes life more difficult, but to see him make progress and overcome is a joy beyond words. A year ago when we were here, although well loved, Kimani was limited in his abilities. But he attends a special school for children with disabilities and now is constantly on the go! He has a wheel chair here, but loves to crawl around and climb up on the couch to look out the windows or play with the light switches.  He’s learned to control his movements and is much more gentle now, and I can only imagine with excitement the progress he will continue to see as his brothers and sisters all lend a hand to see him to learn and grow more and more.

 

 

Michael Leposo

Michael Leposo

Ok just look at that face… is there any way not to fall in love when he looks up at you with those big brown eyes and chubby cheeks?  (The answer is no, just in case you were wondering.) Last year Michael was quiet and reserved, wouldn’t come near a mzungu (white person) and good luck getting him to smile! But we’ve broken him out of his shell, and now he not only smiles and laughs, but will seek you out and try to make YOU laugh!  His favorite trick for the week is to call out “I-een!” and then give the cheesiest smile you can imagine until I begin to laugh.

 

Elizabeth Womboi

Elizabeth Womboi

This picture captures Womboi perfectly: the complete goof-ball always making silly faces and noises.  Lately she will run up to me, jump in my lap and give me a kiss on the cheek, and then offer up her cheek for me to return the favor. Then when I kiss her cheek back she says “asante sana Eileen” (thank you very much) and kisses me again to repeat the cycle.

 

Uncle Charles

Uncle Charles

This one is a trouble-maker to the core, with a face that he knows will get him out of any trouble he can think to get himself in!  His favorite game with me is to call my name and when I look over raise his eyebrows and wink at me, but sometimes his wink is more of a blink, which just makes me laugh all the more.  This is the adorable Uncle I remember from last year, but the rebellious Charles is one who decided one day while we were taking a lunch break from painting the school that he would help us with our work. He took the paint brush to a just-finished room and decided to do a little designing of his own. Not only that but when we found him he had paint in his mouth!  Needless to say, our just-finished room was not longer finished.

 

Jacob Kamau

Jacob Kamau

Teacher Winnie will tell you that Jacob is the future pastor of the Tumaini kids.  He is well behaved, helps the other kids do the same, is probably the most polite child I have ever met, and still has a flare of fun to him. What more could you want in a child?  Today as we finished up painting he wanted to help (of course) and when told that he couldn’t because we didn’t want him to get in trouble, his reply was, “oh thank you!” and he scurried out the door and back to class.

 

 

 

Amos

Amos

What a bundle of energy!! I’m not kidding this kid runs around all day (usually with drool falling or spit flying out of his mouth) with an unbelievable stamina unmatched by any child before.  My favorite part of the day (ok one of many) is when we arrive and you see Amos’ face just light up and he runs full-speed into your arms. But it doesn’t end there, as you lift him into the air he keeps his legs straight out, with leaves you holding the smallest and most excited Superman in the world.

Nema

Nema

Nema is the once shy but now bold little girl with a contagious smile on one hand and a pout face that melts your heart on the other.  In this picture she had just caught a deflated basketball rolling towards her and was about to roll it right back with every ounce of excited strength she had.

Ok there are a few more kids I want to introduce you to, but it will have to wait for another day!

Love,

Eileen

Broken Homes, Broken Hearts

•July 18, 2011 • 1 Comment

This week at the government-run children’s home I grew quite attached to a little boy who arrived just a couple of weeks ago with his twin sister and older brother.  His name is Diego, he is somewhere between a yr. and a half and 2 yrs. old, and after 2 weeks of nutritional injections and medication, he now weighs approximately 17 pounds.  His story made me physically sick as I heard it, and has continued to break my heart and provoke my mind, so I thought I would share it with you:

In Kenya, polygamy is not only legal, it is entirely socially acceptable, and practiced widely.  In Diego’s case, his father had 2 wives and 2 families.  When Diego’s mother committed suicide, his father locked him, his twin sister Christine, and his older brother James (around 3-4 yrs. old) in the house, and left them to die as he moved on to continue life with his other family.  After some amount of time, a neighbor heard them crying and called the police, who brought them to the govt. home. I’m not sure what will happen to them now – if they will somehow wind up back with their father, be placed in a more permanent home, or remain in the govt. orphanage indefinitely.

Diego’s family isn’t the only one that’s divided in Kenya.  Nancy and Veronica are two of my closest friends here, and their father has another family as well, with daughters who rival Nancy and Vero.  The girls cannot stand to be in the presence of their half-sisters, and yet this is just life. It’s not devastating or abnormal, and in their opinions, it’s better than the divorce we as Americans understand all too well.

Too many families have stories like this.  Too many children have a father with 2 families, or don’t have a father at all.  And too many have been orphaned or abandoned, left to grow up in orphanages or struggle on the streets.  I can’t help but wonder what they must be going through and struggling with – or what they will struggle with in the future.  I have plenty of my own fears and insecurities, and my mother didn’t commit suicide – she’s one of the most incredible women I know; my father left me to live a different life, but he didn’t abandon me to die; and I haven’t been thrust into a completely new and unsteady environment, left to fend for myself.

And yet, one of the things that has continued to amaze me about the Kenyan people, is their appreciation for life, even in the muck of day to day struggles.  From the youth living in the slums of Mathare, to my boda boda (motorcycle) driver, and everywhere in between, those I’ve been blessed to talk with have an immense appreciation for the life they’ve been given and the day with which to enjoy it.  To see broken families I pray will always break my heart, but to see the joy and appreciation in people who are more concerned with survival than depression certainly puts into perspective what I consider my own trials and tribulation.

Love,

Eileen