{Relationships}

Relationships. That is the reason the Lord has us here at Huruma. Each day, these kids draw us closer to them as we learn their hearts, deepest desires, struggles, needs, and things that make them laugh. It is so sweet.

We are in the middle of VBS and our teacher’s conference. A lot of preparation and thought has gone in to what we should share with the teachers. And we are very thankful for all of your prayers because so far the teachers have been very responsive and excited to try these new ideas we are presenting to them. Many have begun implementing strategies in the afternoon on the same day we have taught them! We are blessed by their excitement. Before the trip, I didn’t really consider the relationships that would be developed with the teachers. I expected it from the kids, but it has blown me away by the friendships and camaraderie that has been established with the teachers. As we love on them, they love on us and it is a beautiful thing! Today, we were challenged to a volleyball game. Tomorrow at 4pm, it will be Kenyan Teachers vs. American Teachers! We will share with you the outcome tomorrow.

This afternoon we had Awana. As soon as we arrived, it was clear the kids wanted us to participate in the activities with them. Before we knew it, they had entered us into running contests and tug-o-war games. Nothing can describe the joy it is to be with them as they give glory to God through their activities, scripture memory and singing.

In the evening, we took in another night of incredible spirit-filled worship in both Swahili and English.

It has become our nightly routine to hangout out in the kids’ bedrooms. We climb on to the top bunk, three beds up, and listen to music, share pictures, play games, and most importantly, hear their hearts. The Lord is building up relationships and showing us His plan for having us here at Huruma! Please pray these relationships continue to build, that trust is established, and God is glorified!

Teacher Conference/VBS!!

Today was a busy day, as we started our first day of the teacher conference and VBS for the kids. We enjoyed getting to show the teachers here some of our tricks and watch them carry them over into their classrooms. The Kenyan teachers are so appreciative and we have enjoyed getting to spoil them a little. In Kenya, the teachers have very limited access to school supplies and it has been fun getting to bless them with pens, highlighters, sticky notes, and other fun things for their classrooms. It has been such a joy getting to bless others, since God has blessed us with so much!

VBS was also amazing and we enjoyed getting to help the children decorate pillowcases, make spiders out of cookies and twizzlers, and play crazy games. At the snack area, we watched the children lick their plates clean of any frosting and devour any extra crumbs their friends left behind. We take for granted our access to sweets in the U.S. Also, it was fun to see them act out some Bible stories during a melodrama. One of the kids who played Gideon was told to offer a sacrifice. We all thought he would just pretend, since we had no props, but instead he went out into the sea of kids and plucked up a small child from the audience. He then proceeded to place him on a table and turn him into a sacrifice. The creativity and artistry of these children amazes us daily!

We ended the day with an amazing time of worship with the children, which never ceases to bless our hearts. The kids here sing with so much emotion and passion that tears well up in your eyes each time you hear them. It was amazing to see one of the children who is deaf and cannot speak, raise up his arms and praise God! Each day is such a blessing here and we are always eager to see what each new day will bring. We are praying Day 2 of the teacher conference will be amazing and that we will know how to bridge the culture gap in order to support these teachers. Please pray that we will present everything in just the right way, so that the teachers will feel empowered with new ideas for their classrooms. Also, please continue to pray for our health, as we are all starting to feel the effects of little sleep. Lastly, just pray that God would use us mightily in these last few days in Kenya!

Day 8 at Huruma

Up early (as usual)…chaos at breakfast with almost 30 of us around the table and trying to eat before chapel. Chapel was lead by a group of students called the “Gospel Dancers”. An hour of praise and worship is always invigorating early in the morning. Monday morning consisted of: working in the classrooms, preparing for VBS, yard work (even Mama Zipporah wielded the hedge trimmers and helped Joshua), Teacher Conference preparation, playing on the field with kids, taking pictures (ALWAYS taking photos!), teaching RED ROVER, DUCK DUCK GOOSE, WHO STOLE THE COOKIE FROM THE COOKIE JAR, naps, showers, and a day of shopping for Lisa (where she didn’t bring back one single thing!). Lunch consisted of sandwiches, and homemade guacamole! The guacamole our cooks made for us was the best ever! FYI…avocados are 22 shillings a piece (approx. 25 cents) and the avocados are HUGE…the size of a mango in the U.S. The cooks had to make 2 batches of guacamole due to the excessive consumption by all!

After lunch some napped, worked again in classes, played with kids, and pretty much the same as the morning. Dinner around 6 p.m. followed by worship and devotions was next. The older students stay in the main room for studying and completing homework. They have to be there until 9 p.m. (Side note: High School kids start their morning at 3:45 a.m. to study before breakfast. Singing begins at 5:30 a.m., followed by breakfast and then chapel at 7:15 a.m.) The highlight of the evening for ALL is going into the dorms and reading stories, singing songs, doing finger plays, dancing, and just sharing with the students in their rooms.  10 p.m. comes WAY too fast when they have to turn the lights out and go to bed.

We all come back to our dorms WIRED and wanting to share about our experiences such as “their stories” (the reasons that the students have ended up in Huruma). Their “stories” are so so sad and we have spent many of the evenings crying over the sad stories. Some stories are tragic, others are saddening, but they still have smiles on their faces. Huruma has given them hope, family, the story of Jesus and a safe place to live.

You can also visit KENYA JULY ’13 to read more about the VBS and the high school groups’ experiences.

Days 4 to 7

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.

Day 3

The day started with Josh Marquez-Wells leading chapel for the High School children, while we were with the other children. He spoke on purity, identity, and forgiveness. It was so powerful that he was asked to speak twice more in the upcoming week. His impact on the High School children was obvious through the connection that he had though his sharing his honest testimony.

The morning was divided into small groups, some going to the HIV clinic for well checks, and others doing classroom observations and teaching. Later, we prepared and hosted the teacher luncheon.  Roberta, Sara, and Iris went to the HIV clinic, however not enough of the vans were operable to take the 22 students, instead they rescheduled the appointment, but returned with enough medication to last until Monday. Amazingly, the test results from the last appointment showed that for 17 of the children, HIV was undetectable. Please continue to pray for all of these children as they continue to receive medication and care here at Huruma.

The classroom observations continue to reflect how amazing these teachers are and how respectfully the children behave, and how eager they are to learn. Some of us took over the class and taught, as we realized that several rooms had teachers absent for the period, yet the children were quietly studying and working out of their books.   We are truly blessed to know that they are opening their classrooms to us.

In the afternoon, we hosted a luncheon for the teachers and the support staff consisting of a party of forty-five. They enjoyed grilled chicken quarters and “chips” with cookies and reese’s pieces, which most of them had never had before! This gave us time to connect and laugh with the teachers. They truly enjoyed the goodie bags of post-its, hand sanitizer, chapstick, keychain, measuring tape and highlighter pen. The male teachers thought that the chapstick was lipstick and found it humorous to see each other apply it. They then went around measuring each others heads, neck, height, etc. We truly did appreciate this rare opportunity with them.

Again, we ended the night worshipping with the children and showing Iris’s video of Huruma from last year. The kids were excited to see their faces on the TV.

Finally we had the chance to build one on one relationships with the children in their dorm rooms by painting their nails, listening to music, singing, looking at pictures, and talking. We are truly amazed at how loving these children are and the bonds that we are creating one smile, one hug at a time.

14 missionaries + 180 orphans = Blissful Joy

Tomorrow we leave for safari, more updates when we return!

Day 2

Up early before the sun – awakened by both roosters and voices of 185 children singing in worship. After getting ready, we went to the morning worship. There were a lot of tears and emotions-especially during Redman’s 10,000 Reasons.

There is one word we can use to describe the worship: Awesome. Not awesome like “dude, that shirt is awesome!” but awesome as in something that inspires ‘awe.’ The voices of the children rang throughout Huruma, being heard by all.

Mama was teaching out of Mark. She discussed ‘having it all’ in terms of worldly possessions, yet losing your soul. She showed a clip of a famous Kenyan politician  who ‘had it all’ yet died abruptly while attempting to escape authorities.

Once this was completed, we were able to meet everyone who keeps Huruma working: teachers, cooks, counselors, dorm mothers, and of course Mama.

We divided ourselves up and off we went into the classrooms! We were able to observe a couple of classes each in order to take notes on how school was done here. Some of us even had a chance to teach the class! Dawn observed a class that did not have a teacher, nor sub, so she ended up teaching that class for the day.

The first thing that blew all of us away is the amount of respect and self-discipline that the students showed. It was amazing. Nay, not amazing, stupefying.

All this, and it’s barely past lunchtime here.

Day 1: Arrival

Roughly twenty-nine hours of travel time later, exhaustion was evident within our group, but it wasn’t until we were greeted by a crowd of cheering faces that made all of this anticipation come to life. As soon as our bus pulled in, their faces lightened, and little bodies jumping up and down swarmed the vehicle. After unpacking and attempting to unpack our belongings, we were given a tour of the orphanage by Mama and picked up a few kids along the way. We were introduced to the entire Huruma team: teachers, cooks, security, house moms and dear friends who have supported Mama along the way. Mid afternoon included a trip to town with a market run, some last minute Malaria meds, and Lisa showed us the ropes as far as venturing into the open air market in the Ngong Hills. Once we returned to the home, the night was concluded with a lovely Kenyan dinner prepared for us. We reminisced over adventures thus far with the children, even in a day’s time. A surprise visit from the Vice Principal of the school led to discussion about the work prepared for all the teachers, with excitement for tomorrow. On that note, we were all very ready for tomorrow, meaning sleep – a full night’s worth of sleep.