June 22, 2012

It's actually a happy story

I love a good story!  A big part of our journey here in Africa and in working at the orphanage has been us as a family learning from other people stories.  Throughout this time we have been praying that God would make our hearts break for what breaks His, and make us more like him.  There was a night at the orphanage when one of the staff called us into the office and told us they wanted to tell us the stories of some of the kids from the home.  They began to let Danielle and I read stories about how each of the kids came to be adopted by Joel and Susan (the orphanage directors) and what their life was like before coming to house of hope.  As Danielle and I read it felt almost holy and sacred to read what these kids had been through.  You would think that it would be sad to read these stories, but as I finished I have to tell you that the overwhelming word that came to mind was, "rescue".  The kids at house of hope have been rescued!   They have been taken from that which was horrible and awful and brought to a wonderful and loving place.  In Psalms 13:5 it says, "But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me."
That is the sense at House of Hope.  There is no sadness or despair or frustration, there is true joy.  The kids living there feel like they have won the lottery.  I want to tell you some of their stories, not to glamorize them or betray them, but maybe you can learn like we have.  I will do my best to be careful and vague because these kids mean a lot to our family and I don't want to exploit them.

These are the babies of House of Hope.  There are 5 of them, and all they know is living with the family at House of hope (most of them were under the age of 1 when they arrived.  Their names are Ruth, Jack, Faith, Julius, and Gideon.  They are really cool kids.  They are all born between late 2007 and 2008.  Two of them were left at the hospital by their mothers.  They walked out and could not be found, so they stayed until House of Hope took them.  One of them had a rope tied around his neck, was put in a bag and thrown away by a fence.  A passerby saw the bag moving and contacted child service.  He had hypothermia, but eventually recovered and stayed with child services until coming to House of hope, he has a scar from the rope.

These two guys are brothers:  Wamae and Mynae.  They have great smiles and Wamae is missing 3 front teeth.  Their mother abandoned them with their grandmother.  Grandma didn't do much for them and neglected them.  When they were very young she locked them in a room for days at a time and when they were found by child services they were both very malnourished and sitting on a urine soaked matress.  Mynae has learning disabilities in school due to his malnourishment.  One day when we were playing soccer Mynae scored and the smile that came across his face was priceless. 

This is Gideon, he LOVES to be held and to cuddle.  When he was a baby he didn't move and the staff at the orphanage had to take him once a week to physical therapy to learn to walk.  Now you can't stop the guy, he's everywhere and doing great.  He wasn't supported at 100% so Danielle and I and Titus and Addie prayed about it and along with some of our family, are going to start sponsoring him and make sure that he is taken care of.  (You too can sponsor kids at heartofthebride.org)

This is Ian he has a great smile and amazing facial expressions.  He was by far the "best friend" to Titus and Addison.  They both said they would miss him the most.  He was a street kid before coming to house of hope and no one is sure of his age.  When he was picked up by child services he was on his own on the streets of Naivasha, Kenya and he was too young to know his own age.  He's a great kid though and really friendly.

These are the older girls at House of Hope.  Row 1 is Pauline, Myriam, Irene, Esther and Sharon.  Row 2 is Shelia, Freshia, Luciana, Julia, Angelica, and Esther.  They are growing up to be amazing young women.  Right now they are between ages 6 to 14.  A number of these girls lost one or both parents to death or abandonment.  Most of them were at an age where they realized what was going on.  Two of these girls are HIV positive.  One of the HIV positive girls got it from her mother while her sister (also in this picture) from the same mother is HIV negative.  All of these girls do an amazing job taking care of the younger kids and helping out the staff with chores.  At the home everyone is required to have short hair for sanitary reasons.  At first it throws you and it's hard to tell the boys from the girls.  However, the longer you are there the beauty in these young women comes out and they shine.

This is Jeffery, he is 12 and the oldest guy at House of Hope.  I worked with jr. highers for 9 years and let me tell you this guy is amazingly mature for his age.  That's probably because he's been through so much.  Both of his parents died and he has 6 other brothers and sisters that are spread out in homes and orphanages across Kenya.  When his parents died the government did the best they could to find places for the kids and he they all ended up separated.  He takes such good care of the younger guys in the home.  He lives in a room  with 6 other boys under the age of 8 and he acts like a big brother/dad to all of them.  He also helps take care of his grandmother who lives just down the street from the home.  During our time at the home he worked on pronouncing Titus and Addison so that he could call them by name.  Both of our kids loved him and he wrote them notes before we left.  What an amazing young man.

This is Luciana, she is great at soccer (that's why I'm kicking her) and if you look at pics from an earlier post you'll see her taking care of Addison.  She is the oldest girl in the primary school and even though she wants to be with the big girls she does her best to set a good example for the young ones.

The girl on the far right is Pauline (This is a picture of a group of us playing "Go Ape" (It's like Go Fish, but when you ask for a card you have to act out what the "Ape" on the card is doing.)  She is the newest kid at House of Hope, she's only been their six months.  She has one of the best smiles I have ever seen.  Her  parents died a few years ago and she had an Aunt taking care of her, but the Aunt finally had to give her up for to the government, because she had her own kids and she was having a hard time providing for them with no real income and only a garden to feed all of them.

This is Sho Sho.  It means grandma in Swahili.  She is the matriarch at House of Hope.  For 2 weeks she had to show this Mzungu ("Whitey" in Swahili) what to do and how to do it.  She is one of the hardest working people I know.  I know what it's like to live with 20+ kids, but I don't work nearly as hard as this lady.  She and her other co-workers Esther and Rose take care of these kids 24/7 with 1 day off a week and 1 month off a year.  The schedule at the home looks like this:
4:45 - wake up and start warming water on the stove in the kitchen
5:15-6:00 - help the kids get warm water for bathing, and work on breakfast
6:30 - have breakfast of warm porridge and mendazi (Kenyan croissants) ready
7:00 - older kids off to school and then wake up the 5 babies
7-8 - get the babies bathed and dressed and ready for primary school along with the 10 other kids in primary school
8-10 - do the dishes from breakfast, cook porridge and tea for tea time at 10:30, do laundry BY HAND for 25 kids (including washing 5 babies bedding on a daily basis.  This is due to "accidents" during the night), get ready for lunch
10-1 - do the tea time dishes, finish laundry, get lunch ready
1-2 - do the lunch dishes and start working dinner - heating the fire, picking through beans and rice, going to the garden to get food, etc.
2-4 - Try and rest
4-7 - Dinner prep and taking care of the kids as they come home from school
7:30 - Dinner and a short rest of drinking chai while the kids help pick up the dishes
8:00 - prayer time with the kids and working on cleaning dinner dishes
8-10:30 - cleaning up: dishes, mopping, sweeping, etc.  Tucking kids in bed and getting porridge ready for the morning
11 pm - go to bed and get ready for the next day which starts in less than 6 hours!!!!!

The final three shots are of Joel and Susan.  They have their names down on the adoption papers for all 25 of the kids at House of Hope.  They are mom and dad.  The kids even call Joel "Papa" when he comes in the building.  Joel grew up working at RVA and through his connections there and his faith he started House of Hope 5 years ago.  He is an amazing man of faith and he and his wife have 3 more kids who live under their own roof (2 biological and 1 adopted.)  Part of our story in coming to Kenya was Danielle and I praying that our hearts would be more in tune with Gods and more like his.  A few posts back  on June 7th I wrote about how we both read different parts in the Bible and came to the same conclusion that God wanted us to do this.  During that reading time Danielle and I felt like God was whispering is your worship/sacrifice/tithe, easy or costly.  Here's the story:  When we sold our house in Morton in 2009 we actually made a small amount of money (amazing I know!  The entire housing market was at a low during that time and yet our little house on Tyler street somehow went up in value from 2000-2009).  For the past 3 years I have loved being "comfortable".  It's nice to know that you have a little savings and that you are "secure".  As we prayed about this trip we felt like God was asking us to step out, trust him, and give some of that money away.  So the first picture you see is Joel and I and Titus and Addie standing on a plot caddy-corner from the orphanage.  Joel currently lives about 30 min. away from the orphanage and he wants to be closer.  So during our trip Danielle and I heard about the need, prayed, and we talked with Joel and Jason (the heart of the bride point person in Kenya) and we realized that we could help Joel with this endeavor.  So here we are saying, "God we trust you".  Along with this plot we also committed to helping with the drilling of a well at the home and taking care of some van maintenance needs.  I'm not bragging (I still have way more than I need and I still probably need to trust God more and give away more of my excess) I'm just wanting to share God's story.


During our time in Kenya we also wanted to take a chance and do something special as a family.  So for the past 2 days we went on a safari (1 game drive at night & 1 in the morning).  This was kind of a bucket list thing and we are really glad we did it.  We stayed in tents . . . that were nicer than hotel rooms.  The kids loved it and didn't get bored once.  The amazing thing to me about the safari wasn't just the animals it was the scenery . . . it is incredible.  At one point the sun was shining through the clouds and Addie goes, "Look God is smiling on the earth."  It is easy to worship God in that environment.  We saw all kinds of animals and I can't even name them all so just enjoy the pictures (and click on them to make them bigger), there are 76 of them and I think I took about 1000 in total, so these are some of the better ones. . . . and please read the post below to see my favorite moment on the whole safari!

We stayed at place called "Fig Tree" and it is located inside the Masai Mara game preserve.
This guy was literally outside of our tent at the very end of our safari

 We got stuck

This is Titus' favorite animal

 The Fig Tree camp!
 Our "Tent"

 I loved the light on these giraffes