Thursday morning most of our team left for safari. There was great anticipation about the trip. We were hopeful to see a great number of varied African wildlife species. We were not disappointed! We were divided into two vans and hit the road for an adventure. After a long and dusty drive we arrived at Maasai Mara which contains the wildlife park we would explore.
During the first evening of our trek we spotted elephants, water buffalos, giraffes, impalas, dik diks, and zebras. It was exciting to see how protective the mothers were of their young. We were thrilled to have seen so many different species although we saw only a few of each type—we had no idea what was in store for day two.
Day two yielded close encounters with lions and cheetahs in addition to great numbers of the animals we had seen the day before. Shortly after observing a pride of lions eating a wildebeest, we each had a chance to “mark” the Serengeti ourselves…
On the final day of our safari we were hoping to see a “kill.” That was not to be, however, we did see some interesting species of birds and a few giraffe. Later that day we visited a Maasai village. Traditional dancers greeted us upon our arrival. Villagers showed us how to make fire, told us some of their traditions, and welcomed us into their homes (which are constructed entirely from sticks, dirt, and cow dung).
Our accommodations during the safari were rustic. After a few quick repairs to fix the leaks created by some rogue monkeys and removing the giant slugs from the floor and walls we felt at home.
On the journey home we reflected on the good time had by all! We felt fortunate that none of our team were lost to falls out the van windows (Jana) or accidentally luring in a lion with beef jerky or peanut butter (Ashur/Josh).
Three members of the team stayed behind at Huruma. We had an amazing time getting to know the children better. The first morning we had the pleasure of accompanying class 2 on a field trip to the Giraffe Centre. The children delighted in feeding the giraffes and watching Iris giving one of them (the giraffes, that is) a kiss. The day was made even more special when each of the children had their face painted and was treated to sugar cane on the ride home. Their sweet voices sang “Jesus, You are a Winner” and “We are the World.” It was absolutely precious!
We spent that evening with Emma, a long term volunteer from Canada, who was leaving the next day. Seeing Emma prepare to leave made us keenly aware of how little time we really have left to spend with the children and to impact their lives and the lives of their teachers who we came to serve. On Friday, when it was time for Emma to leave, our hearts broke for her and for the two little boys who had become most attached to her in the seven weeks she lived at Huruma.
Friday evening, the kids worshipped Jesus with singing and dancing. It was awe inspiring to watch the way they can move and the joy on their faces while they danced and sang. After a couple of hours, the younger children went to bed and left the upper primary and high school kids to hang out. A lively debate, cleverly disguised as an opportunity to share favorite Bible characters, ensued. It was both entertaining and enlightening. The Kenyan constitution was recently amended to establish greater equality between men and women, however, culturally, women are still considered inferior. The bright, well-spoken, and sassy females at Huruma aim to change that belief!
Saturday means a half-day of school for the students at Huruma. They are preparing for national examinations in November so the teaching staff requires even more from the children in terms of time and effort toward their studies. Upper primary and high school students wake at 3:45 am to get in an hour of study before they prepare themselves for the day. Our American children would be shocked at the high demands made on their Kenyan peers.
Anticipation was high Saturday afternoon. The children and staff were all excited for the return of our team from safari and the arrival of the second Cornerstone team. Worship Saturday evening was especially spirited. Our entire team joined the children for three hours of Jesus-inspired Zumba! We attempted to learn their dances but quickly realized that God has gifted them with moves that we will likely never master.
Everyone was too excited to sleep because the July VBS team was expected to arrive around 11pm. When their bus pulled in children shouted and ran to meet them. “Pastor Tim, Pastor Tim” was enthusiastically chanted while we waited for the bus doors to open. A number of the team members were returning for a second time so it was poignant to see them reunited with children they’d fallen in love with on previous trips.
Day seven began with Sunday morning church services. Sara and Christy attended the intercessory prayer meeting. The presence of the Holy Spirit there was extremely evident. The two dozen or so teenagers sang together and then one by one began to pray fervently, earnestly, and unashamedly. We have never experienced anything like it before. We honestly felt we were treading on Holy ground.
In the main church service, Pastor Jo Jo followed up the beautiful, moving music with a message on pain and forgiveness that touched all of our hearts. Many of the kids were obviously touched as well. Mama shared her heart and the pain she feels when one of the children she has loved and cared for turns his back on her. It was heartbreaking to see this strong, woman of God weeping over her pain while simultaneously thanking God for Roberta and Mama Lisa whom God has given her to confide in and share her burdens.
Sunday afternoon was spent organizing and planning for the week and spending time and/or playing with the children. They are quick to laugh and love to be hugged and kissed. A smile from one of us means so much to these children! You can watch them look around the room for the person (or persons) they have made a connection with. In one short week we have forged relationships that we pray will last a lifetime.
At bedtime, the women from our team hosted a “slumber party.” We crammed dozens of girls into one of their rooms and played silly games like butt-spelling, performed puppet shows, did the hokey pokey, and sang a sweet version of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Laughter filled the room. It was a blessing to see a smile on every face.