Bo and I arrived home safely on Monday. Vanessa and Taylor had a bit more adventures return trip home. Their flight out of Nairobi was delayed until 3am. So when they finally flew into Doha, Qatar they could not catch their originally scheduled flight to Dallas. But the airlines comped them a hotel room and meals, so they turned it into an adventure and went dune bashing and camel riding in the Doha desert. Not a bad way to end their trip. They stayed the night in Qatar and caught their flight a day later and arrived safely in Texas yesterday.
I received great news today from Esther. She took all the children in their home to the hospital yesterday to be tested for HIV. I did not realize, but Esther was quite concerned about some of them. The government center had not tested the children before giving them to Esther. With many of the children we know nothing about their parents. But we do know that one of the newer kids has a parent that was HIV positive. Esther prayed and fasted before taking the kids in for testing. So either the Lord protected these kids or He healed some of them through Esther’s prayers. Either way we are thankful that they will not be faced with this challenge in addition to everything else they have dealt with in their young lives. Thank you to those who have been praying for these little ones.
Bo and I are at the airport awaiting our flight from Nairobi back to the US. The girls will head out a little later tonight. Plans changed the last few days in Machakos, as they always seem to do. The chairmanthat oversees the public space where Onesmus planned his crusade reneged on his commitment to give Onesmus the space this weekend. We had to cancel the crusade. Onesmus was devastated. I don’t know if I have ever seen him so disappointed. But the Lord is always one step ahead of us. Friday afternoon, about the time they would have started the crusade, a rain storm blew in and brought rain for the rest of the evening. It would have been a disaster – damaging equipment and scattering everyone to find shelter. God had other plans.
Vanessa and Taylor felt a burden for the girls at Sha’s school, so we arranged for them to go up on Friday. They shared with all of the girls that afternoon and had a really powerful time. Many girls responded in prayer and tears which, for high school girls listening to unknown westerners, is rare. Sha’ said the very next morning she walked by a group of kids who were having early morning prayer in class and heard all of them weeping and crying out to God in intercession. It seems something changed. Taylor and Vanessa spent the rest of the evening with Sha’, which I know was really important and encouraging for her.
Friday Bo and I had time meeting with Onesmus. We received architectural plans for a new temporary structure to put on their current property. They have a good amount of space on their compound and the landlord will allow them to stay for 4 more years. Rather than wait for the resources, legality/lands issues, etc, it seems the Lord is leading us to do more and as much as we can right now while we work things out on the land. The first thing we need is more space for the current children. So we are praying and making plans for a 3 room place to be completed before the end of the year. Because Emily (Children’s Department) is really trusting and looking to Esther, the extra space will probably mean more children. But after seeing the Government Rescue center and hearing more of the stories, I don’t know how we can say no. Please pray for God to lead us in all of these decisions. There seems to be a endless number of needs. But seeing the growth and healing taking place in the children at O and E’s home gives hope and encouragement to keep going.
Saturday the girls spent the day playing with the children. Bo and I met with James to discuss his business that we helped him to start in Kibunga. It has been about 7 months and he is turning a profit of about $100 per month. Being profitable in the first year for any business is difficult, so we were encouraged. Kibunga is suffering a major drought, which has also made doing business there a challenge. We are praying for the Lord to bring rain and water to Kibunga and for James to reach a point soon where his business can care for all of his family’s needs. Esther and I also spent time talking about the future and updates on many of the children in the program. I hope to share more about that in the coming weeks. Thanks to everyone for their prayers. We are all really encouraged heading home from this trip.
The highlight of this trip for me thus far has been the noticeable change in the children. We have seen their personalities come to life. Mercy, who has normally been stoic and reserved, is now excited to jump in and play. We have discovered that William is the trouble maker of the group, but he has become comfortable enough to allow that personality to come out. Emmanuelle (Muoo) is much less defensive and aggressive towards the other kids. You can see he is feeling so much more secure since his first day last week. He is also a great dancer. He joined the dance team at the church and jumped right in the first week (Click here to watch IMG_2866). When the children first came, Dorcas was the most behind developmentally – physically, emotionally, and mentally. She was very sick (bloated belly, worms, sores on her body). She had a harder time playing and participating with the other kids and was having a hard time in school. She is now healthy, her coordination has improved, and she’s much more confident to play. She is also doing well in school.
Taylor and Vanessa have played with the kids nearly every day from late afternoon until evening. They have organized boys vs girls soccer matches, taught the kids jump rope, and played frisbee and hacky sack. We have prayed for God to do a work of inner healing and restoration of innocence and we have seen God begin to answer those prayers through joy and playfulness. This is the most joy and freedom I have seen from the children on any trip. I have loved every opportunity to join in on the soccer games and jump rope. Usually around 7PM Momma Esther walks out, says a few words, and the kids quit playing and start running to clean up, eat, and do their homework.
We introduced guacamole to the family a few nights ago, so now the kids and the family are hooked. It has become a staple for our meals together. It’s such a joy to see the kids and the family feel more comfortable with us. Less and less we feel like guests and more and more like family.
Yesterday Taylor and Vanessa led another women’s meeting. They continued to share on forgiveness. Many of the women responded in repentance and tears, allowing the Lord to deliver them and heal past wounds. These girls have done an amazing job on this trip, ministering not just to the people in the church meetings but everywhere they go. Tonight they are at Sha’s school meeting with the girls there.
Tomorrow is another busy day, our last full day here before flying out on Sunday. I’ll try to send out another update before we take off. Thank you so much for your prayers. We have really felt God’s grace on this trip in a unique way.
I’m so grateful to everyone who has been praying and I’m sorry for doing a poor job of keeping folks updated. This has been such a busy and constantly evolving trip. Poor wifi has not helped either.
Thursday we went to meet with the grandmothers. As always, they were full of joy, smiling, singing and dancing. Vanessa and Taylor helped to distribute food and seemed to have a great time laughing and connecting with the women. They also had a women’s meeting that afternoon with Esther and about 25 women. They shared on forgiveness and prayed for those women who wanted to help in that area. I asked Esther how it went and she said, “Great. They are so good (Taylor and Vanessa),” so I know it went well. Taylor, Vanessa, and Esther will meet again with the women tomorrow.
On Friday we went to visit Sha’ at the I Can Fly campus. It’s always such a joy to be with her. I know the girls loved hearing her testimony of faith. After visiting the school, we took Sha’ to dinner at the restaurant in Machakos People’s Park. The park is a recent addition to Machakos It has some attractions that are new to the area. One of those attractions is a zip line. They have built 3 towers with 2 ziplines attached. For $5 a piece, we decided to take a different step of faith and go zip-lining in Africa. I’m pretty sure there are no security standards or inspections, but everything worked and we had a blast. We even talked Sha’ into doing it with us.
Sunday we all went to the church in Machakos. Bo shared from Daniel 1, and then Vanessa and Taylor spoke. Vanessa had a great word about the simplicity of following Jesus and even sang a song over the people. It was amazing. Taylor shared a word the Lord had given her prior to the trip regarding blood crying out from the ground here in Machakos and in Kenya. Her word was so well received and the people responded in a time of repentance and prayer for their land. The messages and the response were so great that I didn’t feel the need to say much at all. So we finished the meeting and then had some time to meet with the youth group in the church.
The rest of our time here has consisted of conversations with O and E, and time with Isabel and the children. I am amazed to see the transformation in Isabel and the children. I’ll share more specifically on that in the next update.
Thanks for praying!
Today I had probably the most encouraging and productive meeting I have ever had in Kenya. I met Emily, who is 2nd in charge of the Department of Children’s Ministry in Machakos. Emily is one of the most impressive combinations and competence and compassion that I have ever met. She loves the Lord and truly loves the children of Kenya with the love of Christ, which allows her to do her job with great integrity and skill. Emily is a new transfer to Machakos from Nairobi. A few months back she came to visit Esther’s home to inspect. We now know that following poor advice from various government officials over the last few years has added up to a number of issues that need to be corrected. When it comes to documentation, legal paperwork etc, there is even more red tape here in Kenya than the US. Emily could have really thrown the book at Esther and devastated the program. Instead, Esther found favor with her and she saw Esther’s heart and saw the excellence with which the children were being cared for. She even snuck into a food distribution with the grandmothers and was amazed at the job Esther has done there. So instead of threatening to shut us down, she is actually going to help with the process of establishing a CCI (Charitable Children’s Institution). Not only will this protect the legitimacy of the program, but it will also open doors to receive government funding, grants, etc and to establish a legal entity to operate on the land.
I received the list of every requirement and all of the necessary steps to receive a CCI. You must have a minimum of 20 children for a CCI, so one can imagine the list of requirements for staff, resources, housing etc is extensive. But we now have a clear vision to work towards. While most organizations would have to get everything perfect first, Emily is actually encouraging us to take our time and just make consistent progress. She has even suggested constructing new temporary structures at O and E’s current home in order to establish a CCI there first.
In fact, she trusts Esther so much that she was the one who asked her to take in the new boy, Brian. Emily said that has found Machakos to be an area with one of the worst issues of orphans in the country. And at this point she is more interested in saving the kids than doing things by the letter of the law. In short, Emily is an answer to prayer. This process has also caused Esther to find a clearer vision and focus for the future. I’ll share more about that as we talk and as trip progresses.
Yesterday Bo and I traveled with O to visit a fellowship in Nairobi. Although it was not in the bush, it was a hidden place. We turned off the main highway that goes into the city and started winding our way through alley ways. The neighborhood was very poor and the streets were filed with mud, trash, and a few skinny cattle picking through the trash to find food. Many of the residents there are trying to transition from the slums and find work. The leader of this fellowship, Abednego, met Onesmus through a divine connection. He had previously worked as a successful expert in the oil industry before the Lord told him, “I need all of your time and My people need you.” There were about 35 people in the fellowship today and it was one of the stronger fellowships we have visited. It was so encouraging to see a mature group who are hungry to receive the Word of God.
Bo shared on love and I shared on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. We prayed for the people and saw the Lord move powerfully with repentance and the power and fire of the Holy Spirit. Onesmus carries this fire constantly, so it makes our job easy to turn this part over to and allow him to bring the power of God.
I’m leaving soon to pick up Vanessa and Taylor from the airport. I’ll update again once back in Machakos. Thanks for praying!
Click link below to see some of the kids dancing at the church service. They were pretty great.
Bo and I arrived safely in Machakos late Thursday night. We spent the last 2 days talking and praying with O and E. It has been some of the best time of discussion and prayer that I can remember. The Lord is really giving clearer vision and wisdom as to how to approach that vision. One of the challenges here is knowing the difference between what your local government worker tells you or allows and what the law really requires. If you rely on your local government worker’s advice, it may not protect you in the future. We have run into that problem again. Esther has had to work the last 4 months to fulfill all of the required reporting for every child in the program, both those with the grandmothers and those in her home. This has been a huge challenge, but it has also forced the ministry to set things in order and have a clearer perspective of the work. We have also run into trouble in housing for all of the children according to regulations. They have had to keep the twin girls in a different home until in compliance. We are looking to add on additional temporary housing by next week in order to keep all of the children here.
Esther has found favor with a Emily, a new Ministry of Children manager, who is enforcing the law correctly but also showing grace to help us set things in order. It will pay huge benefits for the future and allow for growth. Emily really cares for the children. She sees Esther’s heart and realizes she is someone worth investing in. In fact, the rescue center asked Esther to take in another child. Upon hearing the boy’s story, it is hard to blame Esther for saying yes. So now there will be 8 at their home. I hope to meet with Emily next week so that we can have a clear plan for the children’s program.
Tomorrow Bo and I will travel with Onesmus to visit a new fellowship in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Nairobi. Monday we hope to handle some different business chores here in Machakos and then make our way to Nairobi to pick up the girls. One of the girls, Kathryn, will not make this trip. She lives in Houston. Thankfully, she is safe. But the Lord has spoken to her that it is best and wise for her to stay back and hopefully come on a future trip. We are looking forward to Vanessa and Taylor’s arrival in Kenya and for everything the Lord will do in their time here.
Thanks for praying!