Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day Three: Ray of Hope Team in Action


Today was beautiful. I worked with the children on the books we started with them yesterday, in which they are writing details of their lives that they wish to share, such as the names of their family members and their favorite colors. My favorite part was helping them claim their stories in front of the class, reading their partially completed books aloud. I love to witness them speaking up about who they are and what matters to them.

 I wore a shirt today that reads, “Love one another.” In one class today, a student wrote this mantra in his book. It is a wonderful phrase to manifest the way of the culture here, where loving one another appears to come more naturally than any other place I’ve been.


I realize I didn’t check in with you yesterday as promised. I was deliriously tired at the end of our first work day---- I must have been still feeling fatigue from our 28 hours of travel 2 days prior.

Today was our 2nd day teaching at Ray of Hope in Kawangware, 8am – 4pm….a full schedule of activities! The children are beautiful, energetic and wonderfully receptive. And the staff is amazingly welcoming. Yesterday we were greeted with gifts, song and warm embraces. The outpouring of love was so overwhelming I was moved to tears.

Today we all started with our planned curriculum. I have to admit, I was so nervous! I kept thinking --- any time now these kids are going to figure out that I have NO idea what I’m doing! But they all seemed to really enjoy my projects. I was DELIGHTED (and relieved).

We are staying at the Methodist Guest House in Lavington, a small suburb/district within Nairobi. The Guest House is a fairly large, well maintained compound --- a peaceful refuge to come home to! …..I have to mention, there is a cat that has made this compound his home – so friendly – sitting right next to me, purring.
Heading off to dinner now. I’ll check in again soon.


I have been thinking a lot about something that happened yesterday. Craig and I had to go into Nairobi city center to pick up some computer supplies. Public transportation in Nairobi is an experience, to say the least: matatus—vans in various stages of disrepair—are packed to overflowing with passengers, many of whom have barely climbed on board before the driver has zoomed back on the road, with music blaring; buses, both private and government-owned, belch dark plumes of exhaust, with onboard signs proclaiming “No preaching/No hawking”.

We climbed aboard a bus and had to sit apart from each other because the bus was fairly full. I looked out the bus window, seeing diverse snapshots of Nairobi as we headed into the heart of the city. Colorful fruit stands sat in front of gated homes. Tiny one room tin shacks gave way to condos. Women sat alongside the road, cooking over a small charcoal burner, selling corn on the cob to those walking past. And oh, the number of people walking! Hordes of people, some dressed in traditional Kenyan clothing, others in modern business attire, all on foot, making their way home, to work, or to market.

I was also aware of the smells around me: diesel exhaust, sweat, garbage. The bus ride was truly a multi-sensory experience as I took in the sights and smells of this city. Suddenly, my ears picked up a small voice, singing, in the background. I strained to hear better, and at first I couldn’t identify the words or the tune, but I knew it was something familiar. The small voice grew less timid, and suddenly I heard could make out the words:
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine! O night, when Christ was born!

My little friend with the soft angelic voice reminded me once more that God shows up where and when we least expect. Whether in a Bethlehem barn or a city weary of poverty and disease, God breaks in with grace, beauty and love. Thanks be to God.


The children with their face masks
Today was a day of laughter. Whether over breakfast, at tea with the staff (yes, daily tea at 10), playing games outside with the children (led by Naima and Karen), the children singing (led by Katie), a child's birth (assisted by Kelli--her first participation in a child's birth), the children wearing their masks of someone they love that Benita lovingly taught them to make, or Kelli shouting at the bus when it started to leave before I was off it ("Don't you dare!" she threatened), I am so grateful for this team and for all the laughter we share.

The Ray of Hope Learning Center provides the kids two meals each day.  Agneta is the cook, and she prepares all of the meals over a charcoal stove on a narrow second story balcony.  The food is delicious.    We learned that the kids don’t eat their breakfast until 10am, because for many the only food they get is breakfast and lunch at the school, M-F, and their bodies can’t handle the nutrient-rich porridge too early in the morning.   When these children arrive back at school on Monday morning they are very lethargic and sleepy from hunger.


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