Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Day in the Life...Part 2

The rest of the team that was not working at the hospital compound rode in a van to a village close by to construct a home for a family of AIDS orphans.  I use the term "village" loosely.  What it really felt like was driving down a winding, rough country road, stopping in the middle of a field of corn, and walking through the corn until suddenly there was a cluster of homes--again, "home" is used loosely. The two orphans lost their father already, and their mother is dying of AIDS.  Their grandmother is what we would consider their primary caregiver, and this is where they were living:

As I took pictures of this shack, I realized that I am taller than this "home."  I could see on the top of the roof.  I caught a glimpse of the inside of it, and I don't see how three people could even begin to sleep inside of it because it was so small.  And this is what we saw time and time again, family after family.

We built for them a two-unit home, each unit being 10 feet by 10 feet with a tall ceiling.  We used no power tools at all--simply wood, a few hammers and saws, and nails.  Simple.  Not fancy.  But it worked, and the home was complete in less than four days.  Here's the finished product:

The black is not paint; it's creosote, which is a nasty tar-like substance, but it will keep the home bug-free and termite free for the family.  We were asked to put the date and the names of our churches on the front trim of the house.

No electricity.  No running water.  Cement floor.  No kitchen or bathroom facilities.  In the U.S., the structure would have been a nice-sized tool shed.  To these orphans and their grandmother, it was a mansion--truly "manna from Heaven," as one hospital official called it.

The thankfulness and appreciation of this grandmother when we dedicated her home and gave her the keys was almost indescribable.  In a culture where people are so desperately poor and where there is so much corruption, it is simply unheard of to receive ANYTHING for nothing in return, much less a new home.  She raised her hands in praise to God and sang and danced like you've never seen.  It was very inspiring and very moving. 

To be an instrument of hope to this small family was worth the trip itself.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I promise "Part 2" of the previous post is coming!  It's just that getting back to life, including starting a new year of homeschool and preparing to celebrate Benjamin's 8th birthday this week, is keeping me more than busy!!  But until I have more time to write "Part 2" and others, I have a few quick pictures to post.

Have you ever wondered what it must be like for a momma to come back home to her babies after 12 days?  Well, here's what it looks like:

Sweet, sweet reunion!

**For the record, I missed Mark as much as I missed the kids--I just don't have pictures!  :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Day in the Life of our Mission Trip

**NOTE:  If you want to see more detail on the pictures I've included here, just click on them.  They then show up a lot larger.  Just click your back button to return to the post.

The majority of our trip was spent in Maua, Kenya.  Our hotel rooms at the Maua Basin Hotel were small and very modest, but clean and very adequate. 

The mosquito nets took a little getting used to.  They never really bothered me in the night, but it was a bit of a pain to get the net situated all around your bed, making sure it either went all the way to the ground or was tucked under the mattress--only to then realize you still needed to turn off the lights!!  That's when I became very glad that I had a flashlight--I could turn off the lights, get situated, and read by the light of the flashlight, and then switch it off when I was ready to sleep (or attempt to sleep, as was usually the case!).

We began our day with breakfast at our hotel.  The staff at the hotel included about four super sweet ladies who bent over backwards to take care of anything and everything we might need.  By the end of the week, they knew who drank what and how we wanted our eggs cooked!  Our breakfast was very "American"--fruit, juice, eggs cooked to order, choice of meat, and toast.  There was also cereal, but the milk always made me nervous (justified or not, I don't know), so I always stuck with what was cooked.  The first day or two I ate some fruit and drank some juice (hibiscus juice, no less!), but after getting sick, I avoided those both in case they contributed to me being sick.  (I got sick the day after we arrived in Maua.  My sickness wasn't severe and lasted about 24 hours--it was not horrible, but bad enough to keep me from doing what I wanted to do.  Remember the nice ladies who bent over backward to serve us?  One of them brought a tray of food to my room the evening I was sick--room service is NOT the norm for them, but once she heard I was sick, she so wanted to accommodate me.  Enough of that bunny trail...)

After breakfast, we walked 10 or 15 minutes to Maua Methodist Hospital (MMH).  The road we walked on (which was a street to the locals) was very rough--lots of rocks.  The first few days, I really wanted to gawk and look around, but I also didn't want to end up flat on my face due to those rocks.  So I really had to pay attention to my walking!

The street was lined with store-front shops and kiosks where people sold their wares in an attempt to put food on their tables.  Later down the road was a market area where people would come, spread out their tarp, and lay out whatever produce (or chickens!) they had that day to sell.

The market area--Market days were Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, which means the amount of traffic--foot traffic and otherwise--was crazy on those days.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we went to the chapel to start our day with the hospital staff and administration.  Chapel was one of my favorite parts of the day.  Nationality and skin color melted away very quickly as we joined our voices together to sing familiar hymns and to pray to the God of us all.  The last day of chapel found me very teary to be leaving that behind.

After chapel we would break up into teams to work for the day.  We had a "hospital team" and an "house team."  Those who stayed at the hospital either painted or worked on the construction of some staff flats they are building there in the hospital compound.  The painting is not a glamorous job or one that preaches well or inspires much, but it was a vital job to those who worked at the hospital.  We all know how much good a simple coat of paint can do, and if work teams did not come in willing to do that work, then it probably wouldn't get done.  Some of the funding that the hospital receives is based on the quality of their facilities, so the painting is vital in those terms as well.

Much of our painting centered around the X-ray department.  MMH had recently received a new X-ray machine, and they decided if they had a nice, shiny new X-ray machine, then the department needed a new coat of paint to go along with it!  (In case you wonder as you look at these pictures, that "Bermuda blue" as they called it is the official color of the Methodist Church of Kenya.  So the whole hospital is painted cream and trimmed with Smurf Bermuda blue.)

This is me with the two local men in charge of the painting--Messiah and James.
I can't for the life of me get this picture to appear as it is supposed to!!  When I upload it, it is right side up--but then it suddenly appears sideways!!  Sorry for the crick in your neck!
A perk to working at the hospital compound was getting to break at 10am each morning for tea at the home of the missionaries!  I could SO do tea every day!!  The tea we were served is probably considered more of a chai than what we would think of as just hot tea.  To go with the tea was fruit (fruit that was safe to eat--including yummy fresh pineapple and these delicious little baby bananas that are so much sweeter than anything we have here in the US!), cookies, bread, and........drum roll, please.....fresh cut chunks of the most heavenly avocados you could ever hope for!!  Oh. My. Word.  I loved those avocados.  (Hmmmm...that could be the reason the scales showed about five pounds more when I returned home than when I left for Kenya!)  Once during the week, we were also treated to maandazi, which is what I would call a Kenyan doughnut.  (OK, there's another reason...)  It was all quite yummy (in case you haven't picked up on that yet)!

As for the "house team"...that will have to be Part 2 of this post!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Home From Kenya

I have now been home from my mission trip to Kenya for 72 hours, and the "re-entry" process is much harder than I imagined!  I spent 12 days fully engrossed in all that was involved with the trip--long travel, painting, constructing, worshipping, loving, crying, rejoicing, bonding, and more--and no where in any of that was laundry, child-rearing, bill-paying, grocery shopping, house cleaning and more!  Throw in jet lag on both ends of the trip along with the stark contrast between life in the US and life in Africa, and whew!  No wonder I'm struggling!

There is so much to tell and so much to process that it is hard for me to even know where to begin in the sharing of this trip.  I haven't even gotten half way through all the stories and pictures with Mark and the kids yet!  But I have to begin somewhere, so here are a few generic thoughts to get us started:

  • As heart-wrenching as it was to say goodbye to my family for 12 days, it was that joyous and more to be reunited with them upon returning to Texas.  I could not get off of that plane fast enough!  (Thank you, God, that my seat was at the front of the plane and not the back!)
  • As heart-wrenching as it was to say goodbye to my family for 12 days, God was so merciful and sufficient in making the time apart more than just bearable.  It truly was okay--for all of us.  A miracle in itself.
  • I never realized how much I would miss a hot bath, paved roads, a drink from Sonic with ICE, Mexican food, and falling into bed without having to arrange a mosquito net around me!
  • I never knew how much of a blessing an upgrade to Business Class or First Class could really be!  For this 6' 1" gal with long legs, it's a huge blessing I was able to enjoy TWICE!!  Grace indeed.
These are things I can type without tears running down my face.  I'm not sure I can say that for the rest of what I have to share.  But that will have to wait another day or two--this day has had enough tears already.

I will share a few random pictures with you, though!

For this mom, it took all of half a second for the children of Kenya to steal my heart.



Once again.

In all things in life, the good and beautiful can be found even in the midst of heartache.  Kenya was no different.

Stay tuned for more!