Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day Eight: A Day of Worship


Craig:

As we were saying goodbye at the Learning Center yesterday, Evelyn the head teacher made a statement that they had little to give.   We had each received some beautiful gifts from Evelyn and the Ray of Hope team; we were also given warm, delicious meals each day prepared from scratch over a charcoal fire on the balcony; we learned many lessons about how we might live our lives differently, as well as lessons about ourselves and our attitudes; we experienced effusive love at every turn.  Our blog is full of examples of what we have received from our Ray of Hope friends.  
It’s difficult to say that we could offer anything close to what was given us if the tables were turned and we were the hosts in San Francisco.    This all comes back full circle to the question we asked ourselves at the start:   “How can we make a positive, lasting impact?”     Of course we can offer material possessions and money-   the uniforms have not been replaced in some time and they are frayed and tattered; the concrete floors have large craters in them; pay raises have not been given in some time.    Ray of Hope is like most other non-profits:  they struggle to make ends meet.   Their website shows what our gifts will do:
More importantly, we can continue our work to build a long term relationship with Ray of Hope that will yield many lasting benefits.    We can help guide the organization’s future with our support:  for example, what is the vision for next steps in the computer lab?     We can tell Ray of Hope’s story-  more sponsorships  (about US$550 per year) are needed for the children ready to go to public schools.    We see some of the children turning into men and women- for those who will not get into college, how can we help them learn a trade?
The Ray of Hope model works- projects are guided by the aspirations and self-identified needs of the communities served, and with just a few exceptions Ray of Hope employees live in the communities served.
Craig and Angela viewing the inside of a classroom
at Dr. BT Cooper School
It’s difficult to believe that we could give the people of Ray of Hope as much as they have given us.   If you had just two pieces of bread left, would you give one piece to a visitor?   If you had just $1 left in your wallet, would you give it to someone who needed it even more?   These are the lessons we saw first-hand in Kawangware; truly practicing these lessons is how we can make a lasting difference.
Angela:

TO GOD BE THE GLORY

Today we worshiped at another UMChurch in Nairobi, which was a distance from the guest house, it gave us an opportunity to see another section of Nairobi, It is a church that has been established for some time. It was a sizable physical structure , given Kenyan standards, that has several worship opportunities during the week for adults and children.
Rev. Karen preached the sermon of the morning, with Pastor Freda translating. It was a pleasure to watch them work together spiritually to give the message, "It is Well With My Soul."

After service we walked to the school that the church sponsors for children who are orphaned in the neighborhood.  Their enrollment is 132, classes will start on 4 September for the Fall semester.  The teachers are not paid a standard teacher's salary. The school teaches from pre-school to high school. Most of the children who attend the school live with their relatives or guardians. The church is currently renting the structure where the school is housed, they are hoping to raise the funds needed to purchase the property.

When we returned from the tour of the school, a sign of traditional Kenyan hospitality, we were served a delicious meal. Another example of people who have so little willing to graciously share what they have with strangers. The generosity that has been shown to us has been overwhelming.

The pastor and members of the Praise Team, were given CDs of the Glide Ensemble as a token of our appreciation of their hospitality.

The members were very welcoming, and were very accommodating in answering  our questions as we walked to and from the school.

It has been a blessing to be a part of this team, everyone brought their best self to this trip, and gave their all to the children.

I was received warmly by the team, for that I am grateful. Now there's a bond between us that shall bind our hearts forever.

Miscellaneous Facts I've Learned or Observed of Kenya

-Because the electricity is so expensive and unreliable there are phone charging shacks, where you pay 10 \= (the symbol for shillings) to charge your phone. The majority of Kenyans have cell phones.

-The majority of Kenyan men I observed to be clean shaven, I saw a few goatees but no full beards.

-At the Crocodile Park, non-Kenyan citizens paid more than Kenyan citizens. I was told that I looked too American, to "pass" for a Kenyan.

-Kenyans work a six-day work week.

- Lotto and Scratchers have come to Kenya, and there are several Casinos in Nairobi.

-Their presidents are elected for a five year term, and can serve two consecutive terms.

-There are 40-45 tribes in Kenya.

-For weddings the bridal cars are decorated with fresh flowers.
Following worship, a group photo

-Addiction to glue has become a problem, initially it is sniffed to take away the hunger pangs.

Kirsti:

What is Community?

I learned a long time ago as I was raising my family, that family is not necessarily defined by blood. Family is whoever you consider to be your family. But when it comes to community, I have always had a strong sense that I want to give my time, efforts and gifts to the community I live within. It's not hard to see the needs of people all around me.

This week has changed my definition of community. I now have friends that I care for deeply, that are a part of my community. They are geographically far away, and yet, they are still a part of my community. Their needs are as real and as important as the needs of the people in my geographic community. 

The question now is, how will I continue to serve them?



Karen:

The Dr. B.T. Cooper school
Today we worshipped at the Kayole United Methodist Church. It is the first United Methodist Church in Nairobi (1996). The worship was spirited—almost like contemporary Pentecostal. I had been invited to preach the sermon, and as I was preaching it was being translated by a clergy sister, which was a wonderful experience of sermon-sharing!

Following worship, our hosts gave us a tour of a school they run. It was a small compound with a gravelly courtyard. Classes—with rough floors and tin roofs, were on the perimeters of the courtyard, as were several (pit) bathrooms. The school mainly serves orphan children, and once again I have been so moved by witnessing the depth of our new friends’ commitment to serve the most vulnerable in their communities.

Please keep Robin in your prayers. She stayed in bed all day and is running a high fever.



  
Classy:

As I sit here and write about today. Listening to the rain became so painful when it use to feel to relaxing. Thinking of the children who live in small homes that sleep on the floor. With holes in their roofs and rain easing in under the door. I feel so sad knowing that they are suffering right now. I pray that they remain safe from thieves, who use the rain as a distraction to make their way into the homes. Every time I listen to the rain, it will remind me of the children we served this week. It will remind me to never forget what our mission at Glide is. To serve the marginalized. To feed the hungry, to cloth the sick, and always show unconditional love and acceptance. Let me not forget that no matter what, I can always help, even if its a simple payer. God, thank you for everyone we have encounter this week. We ask the you keep us all safe. We ask that you feed our souls with your presence.  Cloth us with your arms and heal us with your word. Amen

Christina:

Half a world away, the Temple at Burning Man is getting prepped to burn.  The Temple burns every Sunday before Labor Day, and rather than it being the party of all parties (like Saturday night's celebratory burning of The Man when 50,000 people gather in a circle 50-people deep to watch fire dancers perform and the wooden effigy burn). The Temple, on the other hand, is more a quiet place of reflection.  It's beautiful and silent in all its enormity, and it serves as a sanctuary that evokes reflection.  It's cathartic.  It's intense.  It's a quiet, yet spiritual safe-place that serves as time for pause, release and going deep. Real deep.

Offering a token of our appreciation to our hostess
While friends from all over the world are winding down after a week full of dust storms, interactive art, community, spiritual awakenings, intense emotional revelations, art-car hopping, radical inclusivity, radical self-reliance all while having moment after moment - - - while leaving no trace they were ever there in the first place, I sit at the Guest House our last night before we depart for our retreat tomorrow and am beyond grateful I was exposed to Burning Man 5 years ago.  I would not be on this journey today if it weren't for the experiences I gained on the Playa in 2008, 2009 & 2010.

This week, just like the transformative weeks that unfolded in Black Rock City, Nevada (the home of Burning Man), our team came together for one heck of a pilgrimage.  We experienced dusty conditions.  Food was sparse at times, but love was abundant. We made art.  We were self-reliant, yet, also taken care of by each other. We're even leaving Ray of Hope with no trace, or any burden of trash, per Kirsti's spot-on suggestion.

We depart for our retreat tomorrow, where we will all be able to begin our own decompression and self-reflection. However, before the mind can go there, I listen to the rain outside and can't help but wonder how this weather is affecting our new friends in the slums as their homes are being soaked.  Our new friends in Kwangware - and beyond - will be in our thoughts with the different seasons, with every bite of food, with every privilege granted, every breath taken and every fire burned.

Kwame:


Today we bring the body of our time here in Nairobi to a close.  We visited our second church during our stay, and the hospitality was once again warm and accommodating.  This church was in a part of Nairobi we hadn’t visited before. The area hosted a different level of living, more affluent then Kawangware, but still a slum.  It was something to see the disparity in lifestyles in such small vicinity.  Brand new large single-family homes on one side, slums on the other, all separated by a twelve foot wall.  It looks like the have-not’s are in the process of being pushed out.  All that said, it was good to experience another side of Nairobi.
Knowing our time here in Nairobi was coming to an end, I noticed something today.  I realized that in this short time that I had grown to become acclimated to Nairobi life.  I wasn’t so on guard at every moment as I once was.  Traveling on the Matatu’s didn’t seem to be as much of a death defying rollercoaster ride. And crossing the street today, a group of us signaled to each other and just crossed, amidst the speeding cars. When in days before it had been a well-choreographed group production, looking like a group of Americans I’m sure.  This past week has shown me that over time we learn to survive, whatever the situation wherever it may be.  I am proud to have been reminded of this in Nairobi visiting Ray of Hope     


Pastor Karen and Pastor Frida were sermon partners today

The Glide team enjoying a wonderful meal, provided by the Kayole congregation



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day Seven: Play Day

Agnetta the cook couldn't join us last night, so we gifted with with a GLIDE apron this morning!




 Kirsti:

Roomies Angela and Kirsti
I can't get enough of the singing around me. The children at the Ray of Hope school,  at church on Sunday, even here at the guest house where we are staying. People sing with such joy. Families in the park, kids on the bus. It is a language that has no boundaries. 

I recorded the kids on the bus singing today. Clap clap stomp, clap clap clap stomp. When one song ended, another started. They sang in Swahili and English. Everything from If You're Happy And You Know It, to hymns that now sound familiar. 

The music fills my soul. It is the end of a great day, with some amazing kids, playing in the park, and singing on the bus. 



Craig:

Craig talking with Evelyn
Today we had a chance to play outside.   The Learning Center does not have any open space or grass, so the children do not get any regular exercise while in school.     After a trip to a local animal park, we spent the afternoon at a very large city park near downtown Nairobi.    Soccer balls, basketballs, jump ropes and hula hoops were flying around everywhere.   The shrieks of laughter, cheering, racing, singing and dancing said it all-  it was great to take time out from the day to day worries of life and just play.
Our goodbyes were expressed by hugs with each child, and we promised we would be back again soon.
Ominous sign at the crocodile park: No Pets Allowed and
management will not be responsible for lost children!






Angela and Kirsti and a baby crocodile












Christina:

Day after day, the spirit of generosity rings true at Ray of Hope. 

Christina and the children
If some food remains after all of the children and staff are served lunch, a few (not all) of the children may get seconds.  Nothing goes to waste - and more importantly - those that don't get seconds never complain.  The same was true playing games or doing creative projects.  No one snickered or sneered if someone received more furry balls or pipe cleaners than the person sitting next to them.  This is going to sound cliche, but when one child is happy, the other children are happy for them.  Truly.  And it's genuine.  There is no bitterness or animosity.  No greed or entitlement.  Just love.  Having spent 6 days straight with the children, relationships and trust were formed, and each of their respective personalities had the chance to shine. Some kiddos had sass.  Some were shy.  Some loved attention.  And others, without many different material items than the rest of their peers except, perhaps, an item or two, had a fun flare or distinct style - however, one thing is true: these children look out for one another and love each other deeply.  Alfred teaches all of the children, primarily the boys that come in, to be role models for each other - regardless who is older in age.  A moving story Hendrika shared today was learning about Richard's transition to Ray of Hope recently.  Again, he came homeless with barely any clothes on his back.  One of the girls (if memory serves, it was one of the Sharons)  was the first to give him an extra shirt because she had two. And quickly thereafter, Richard had a pair of socks, a pair of shoes and a sweater.  All of these items were immediately gifted to Richard within 2 days by the children without prompting.  They wanted him to have what they have.  As Alfred explained, this is simply their nature.  This is how they show love.  They are kind.  And they are selfless. And they are generous.  May we all be inspired to be as giving - and loving - and compassionate as these individuals. And while I'm 20 years their senior, *they* have been *my* teachers this week.

Angela:

IT IS WELL

Today was the last day with the children, the week went faster than expected.  The children were not given a meal before we left today, because in the past they were so excited about the trip, they got sick.

Angela ensuring that teacher Evelyn can see the
children dance
The Crocodile Park was our first stop, and it was a new experience for everyone. The crocodiles were plentiful. I have never touched a crocodile before, but our guide picked up a baby crocodile and allowed us to touch it. The adults were just as excited as the children.

I was impressed with the number of older kids who on their own brought their small journals with them today, and were taking notes as the guide spoke.  We also got an opportunity to touch and hold turtles.

The ostrich and giraffe were an interesting combination of animals to see in the same fenced-area together. In an open field, without any restraints were several beautiful horses, who were not bothered by the presence of the children.

After a short visit to the Crocodile Park, we went to a park that was large enough for the kids to run free, play ball, jump rope, play basketball and be kids. Seeing the kids unabashed joy while running, reminded me of the small spaces that they spend most of their time in, home and school.  The yard as school, is a courtyard of an apartment complex; where at times games are interrupted by a car either coming in or going out of the courtyard.  But today they could run,run, and run. The kids singed on the bus, one of the songs that Classy taught them, and religious praise songs, to and from the Ray of Hope.

Back at Ray of Hope, we lined up to receive goodbye hugs from the kids. The kids, gave great hugs, and said thank you repeatedly. Kids who less than a week ago were total strangers, today were a part of my extended family. I did not feel sad, it felt as if I was saying goodbye to a relative that I expected to see in the near future.

One of the hardest things for me during the week, was looking at the Ray of Hope neighborhood kids, who would stand in the gate, or on the stairs looking at our kids, wanting to play or go to class. Every day the same kids would gather, and you knew that these kids were not getting, nor probably would ever get an education.

I am physically tired from activities of the week, but it is well with my soul!

Robin:

Robin playing with a hula hoop

This is always our favorite day, when we go on an outing with the teachers and students of Ray of Hope. We had a great time at Nairobi Mamba Village, where everyone got to touch a baby crocodile (with big teeth!).

Then, on to the park, there the children (and all of us) get to play.  After an afternoon of play and eating chicken and chips (French fries) we were presented with gifts. This is one of the hardest parts of the trip for me, because they have so little, and yet they give each of us a gift in front of the children.

I am aware that the children probably don’t receive a Christmas or birthday gift, yet we are given so much from Kenyan friends. My hope is to remember this generosity and do likewise.
Robin, Angeline, and Hendrika doing the Macarena











Classy:

Today was a bittersweet. We had a wonderful day with all the children and staff. We took them to the African zoo and the park where for the first time this week they got to run wild.... It was good to play with them for hours none stop. The day went by pretty fast. At the end of the day we said our goodbye to the kids and staff. We all lined up and each kids and staff gave us a hug and said thank you...I told them I would see them again and they smiled. All and all, I am blessed and looking forward to next year!!!

Classy and the children dancing for Evelyn, was out sick all week.
Evelyn watching "her children" dance.


Karen:

Words cannot describe what it is like to see these children, who live in such tiny cramped quarters and then spend hours in a school room that is equally cramped, run wild through the park, playing soccer, jumping rope, hula hooping, and even (thanks to Kwame) playing basketball.

It is like seeing a spirit run free, unfettered. There is joy. There is laughter. There is blessedness.

Thank you, children and staff of Ray of Hope, for opening your lives, your community, your heart to us. We have been touched and changed by you!
Karen being dressed by the Ray of Hope staff

Agnetta taking on Kwame in soccer



With our Ray of Hope friends

Kwame and a new friend




A tired but happy team!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day Six: Surprised by Joy


Craig:
Craig walking with Ray of Hope children
through Kawangware
The porridge had been served, a cup sitting before each hungry child in the younger class of 5-8 year olds.   The adults had left the room.   The children had been alone for a moment and as I rounded the corner there sat the children, hands folded, eyes tightly shut, reciting a prayer of thanks in unison.   Once the prayer was completed, no one touched their food.  They waited patiently for permission to begin.   Some had more in their cups than others but there were no comparisons and no complaining- just a concern that everyone had a cup in hand before beginning to eat.
No matter the urgency, when greeting someone for the day it is impolite to launch into a discussion about the business at hand without first taking the time to ask about the individual and his family.  It’s surprising how often we do not do this in the U.S.
Craig and a budding symphony conductor
On our way to the hospital the other day we saw a bus on the side of the road.  The driver was on the ground beneath the bus, the passengers with raised voices crowded nearby.  Our taxi driver chuckled and said, “there seems to be a drama unfolding”.   Apparently the bus had broken down and the driver was trying to avoid refunding the passengers their fares.   Women were shouting for the driver to come out from underneath the bus, hitting him with their packages and trying to pull him out.




Angela:

JOY

After our morning ritual of camp songs, all of the kids and our group went to the homes of several of the kids.  The children were so proud to show us where they lived. It was heart-warming to see how some families are not together because of  blood, but because of love. Some kids are living with classmates' family or other relatives, because they were being mistreated or unwanted by their relatives.
Angela working on backpacks













I was surprised at the distance some of the kids walk to get to the Ray of Hope. One home we visited brought us to a lush green valley, where corn, cabbage and other vegetables were grown. It appeared to be a farm that was community operated. I believe it took us all by surprise because it is so different from the hard-stoned dirt that we've been walking on for the last few days.
Much to Evelyn's (Head teacher, who has been sick) surprise we all went to her home, which gave the children an opportunity to see her and give her a hug. Evelyn was so happy to see the kids, and got hugs from all of them.
Kwame and Angela walking in Kawangware
Today, we were to wrap up all of the activities of the week, and give the kids their backpacks. The first surprise was the project that the kids had been working on with Christina and Kwame. All week they had been decorating this square, that they were told not to decorate the middle. Today they received the square with reflective plastic in the center of their decorated frame. It was heart-warming to see their reactions, because most of them do not have mirrors at home.
Then there was the distribution of the backpacks. I reviewed the journals that the kids wrote in my class and attempted to give them a backpack in their favorite color. Inside the backpack was their journal, pencils, erasers (they call them rubbers-British term), a blank journal, coloring books, crayons, and a Warriors t-shirt. The joy that those kids expressed, almost brought me to tears. They were so appreciative and expressed their appreciation with hugs and repeated thank yous. One boy was so overwhelmed by the Warrior's t-shirt that he began kissing it.
To wrap up Classy's class was the Afro-Hawaiian song and dance, complete with hand-made hula skirts, and leis. There were two versions of the Hawaiian song. The first version was the Hawaiian, and then there was the African-Hawaiian version. It truly was a sight to behold, it was followed with the Macarena, and then the cha cha slide, all in hula skirts and leis.
Today, was the day that made all of the work, planning, and personal expense seem like a mild inconvenience given the joy that was on the faces of the kids.

Kirsti:

Kirsti with Teacher Alfred, who is wearing a shirt that
 former Ray of Hope team member Josh Biddle gave him.
Now if we can  only replace that Cardinal's hat!





There is an old Kenyan saying that if you wake up to the sound of birds calling, you will have much to sing out about all day. 

I woke to the call of birds this morning, and there has been so much to sing out about all day. 

As we walked through Kawangware today, we heard the usual "how are you" as we passed the children on the street. There is such a difference between our cultures. We don't ask strangers how they are. In fact, we hardly say hello. But here, in the heart of a slum in Kenya, the children ask, "how are you"?  Of course I don't expect that they really understand the social implications of what they are asking. 

But when the do ask, it's generally with a smile on their faces. They don't seem to notice, the way I do, the litter in the streets, the goats roaming around or the chickens picking through the trash. How are you? Many of the children at the Ray of Hope school will tell you they are fine. They were proud to take us to their homes today. They are proud to introduce us to their families. They are happy to be walking with their class and their visitors, through their town. 

How are you? I am grateful to have learned so much from so many this week. My heart is full. I have so much to sing out about. 

How are you?
Kirsti with Boyce and his daughter


Robin:

Robin with Evelyn in her home
Karen and Robin with Ray of Hope friends
Today we walked for miles in Kawangware to visit the homes of many of the Ray of Hope children.  It is always shocking to see this level of poverty but the children are so happy that we come to visit them at their homes.  Two of the boys lived with their grandfather who has severe malaria and can rarely work. Teacher Evelyn worries about what will happen to them when their grandfather passes away. Juma, one of the boys, told me that he and his brother do the cooking, and they can make anything, though there is rarely food.  I feel so inadequate and wonder what I can do. Karen and I sponsor two children to go to school and we hope each of the children will have a better future.

Karen:

It has been a very full day as it was our last day in the classroom with the children. This is usually the day that challenges me the most, because my North American understanding of time and work kick in big time: what have we accomplished? What do we need to finish before we leave? Hurry, hurry, hurry, time is running out!

What my Kenyan friends remind me is that doing is not as important as being. There will always be unfinished projects, things that should have been done, items on the “to-do” list that await completion. But the bigger question is: have I taken the time to talk with someone, listen to the stories of their life, deepened the relationship I share with them?

Glide and Ray of Hope enjoying a festive dinner
Tea time!
Today, we deepened our relationships with our Kenyan friends by walking with the children around Kawangware and visiting several of their homes. Children would come up beside me as we walked and shyly take my hand. And soon they would point to their home, to a friend, to an aunt walking by. They were so proud to share their lives with us.

This evening, we invited the Ray of Hope staff to dinner. We gave them gifts from Glide and they gave us gifts from Kenya. We danced together, told stories, and laughed hard.

It was a blessed day!












Classy:

Classy enjoying manazi with tea
Today was another full day. We wrapped up our curriculum with the kids. We brought them down at the end of the day where we did our performance. We had all the teacher, the clinic staff, and the cook come down and join us. We made outfits for them and they were so happy to be part of the celebration. It was a wonderful thing to see all the staff and kids dance to the Cha Cha and the macarena. All in all today was a good day....good night sleep, here I come!!!






Christina:

Over the course of 2.5 hours, with the entire RoH Team, while accompanied by almost 50 students, we all took a walk through the village and visited the homes of a few students - Bravin & Sharon's, Oliver & Electine's, Richard, Faith & Treza's and Jack & Juma's. What a privilege to have almost 50 tour guides through Kwangware!  I spent a lot of time with Oliver, Kevin, Richard & Bravin. 

Christina handing out reflection projects
I didn't realize Oliver lived with Electine (their moms are sisters), or that many of the other children were related.  Oliver wants to be a lawyer and has a dog named Pinkey, who was bartered for manual labor. He is exceptionally inquisitive, a clear communicator, outgoing, proud to be a brother to two siblings, loves doing somersaults and football, tells good stories about the hyena and the hare, and loves to be photographed. 

Also got to spend QT with Kevin, a very quiet, gentle soul - who doesn't speak much English. Because of the language barrier, the challenge of the week was how to show him love in other ways besides using words. So after a handful of days with helping make his hula skirt, gifting him an orange ring made of pipe cleaners made by Joy Bet, and always scooting next to him on his stool when chatting with other kiddos on that side of the room - a bond had been established and this walk was icing on the cake. 

Richard was a new buddy made today, who is very quiet and shy, who asked (with Oliver chiming in) if I knew Naima. Naima was originally intending to come back to Ray of Hope for her second visit, but regrettably had to back out, which is how the opportunity presented itself to me... Naima - both Richard & Oliver have exceptionally fond memories of your time together, they reminisced about your killer breakdance skills and remember songs you would sing with them.  You left quite an impression! You are missed here!

The children looking at their reflection
Last, Bravin (pronounced "bra-veen" with a rolled "r") was the 3rd new friend made on this excursion. This little guy, probably around 7ish, is advanced academically - so even though he's a little peanut, he's in class with the taller, stronger, older guys. He warmed up to me today and it unexpectedly melted my heart.  Like Oliver, he's also a great story teller (ironically, another hyena and the hair story - but a different one), he lives near a farm and explained all of the veggies that are grown (cabbage, corn and an unfamiliar sounding green). He also learned many words in Ukrainian, including "cabbage" (his favorite), "cat" and how to pronounce "Christina" with the same rolled "r", which took about 20 minutes to master. 

These kiddos were SO. DARN. PROUD. to show us their homes.  It was beautiful, actually!  We walked a long time together, it was super hot, and a new perspective about this land was formed.  They were little rockstars - walking around knowing all of their neighbors and friends - and it was neat to experience Kwangware through their eyes for a brief blip. Between Oliver, Kevin, Richard & Bravin, I've never held hands with children for so long - and it was brilliant.  What a day.  My soul is happy.


Kwame ready to greet our guests for dinner





























Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day Five: Mixed Emotions


Kwame:

Kwame with one of the class projects
Day four at Ray of Hope was an incredibly eye opening one.  Six of us from the Glide team were escorted by the staff person I discussed in yesterday’s blog through the Kawangware slums, where we visited the homes of three of the clients she looks after.  The level of poverty was shocking.  What I saw will not soon leave my memory.  The experience was one I been waiting to have but the words to properly express my feelings have yet to come me.  I am speechless now, but the words will come.









Classy:

Classy and Hendricka caring for a sick child
For me, today was an emotional day. Started my morning off hearing the sad news of a good man, Tyler. It really set the mood for my entire day. I don't mean in terms of feeling sad and not being in the mood for seeing more sad things today. Instead, I focused on how precious life is and we must take advantage of everything GOD has given to us, and not take advantage of the families and friends and total strangers who can help us when we need it the most. We must always remember that no matter what, things do get better.

Visiting the families today really felt good. I've always heard stories and photo being shown, but it really opens you up to a whole new level of poverty and what people face every day. It also made me respect them that much more. With little they have, they are the most grateful. We should all be grateful. Rest in peace to Tyler Shaw and all the lost souls all over the world.


Robin:

Robin and Craig outside Ray of Hope waiting
for a matatu to take them downtown
I am at Nairobi Hospital with Evelyn for her follow up appointment and my heart overflows with gratitude for Evelyn’s improvement, and to be on a team with such amazing, talented people.  I am constantly in awe of their gifts, their openness and their capacity to love.  I am grateful to Craig, our team leader, for bringing us “The Carnival of the Animals” which is exposing the children to symphony music, different animals, and geography.  Craig is willing to strut like a lion (his elephant looks remarkably like a lion, too).  And I am very grateful to Craig for accompanying Evelyn and me to the hospital.  I am grateful to Karen for keeping us centered, and for her amazing ability to do magic, songs and games with the children at any moment.  I am grateful to Angela for bringing journaling to the children, for helping out anywhere she can and for keeping me humble.  I am grateful for Kirsti whose eyes have sparkled and whose smile has been contagious all week.  She has brought creative crafts that the children have loved and has also helped out in the clinic.  I am grateful to Kwame for his laughter, his easy ability to connect with everyone, and for saving my life twice so far (from moving vehicles).  I am grateful for Christina’s passion and vision to help children feel good about themselves and for keeping us on schedule.  I am grateful for Classy’s sheer joy of dancing with the children and for making me laugh often.  I am also grateful for my Glide family, wthout whom we would not be here. And for all those who have supported us, given supplies and donations.  We carry each of you in our hearts as we work in Kawangware.  Asante Sana.

Karen:

Today Hendrika took us out with her into the community to visit the people under her care as a community health care worker. She is a remarkable woman, providing advocacy, support and community for people who are suffering and have often been shunned for their HIV status.

The first home was Josephine’s. Like others in Kawangware, it was a small tin room with a small window and door. The six of us who made this trip with Hendrika felt a little claustrophobic, yet this is the type of home where often many adults and children live in. 

Josephine was HIV positive and also had TB which had progressed to a point that she could no longer use her legs and her back could no longer support her. It was difficult to sit with her, seeing her face contort with pain and watching tears slowly run down her face.

Hendrika softly spoke about the woman’s health history and her prognosis, all the time gently stroking Josephine’s foot. Another woman sat behind Josephine, providing support for her spine that could no longer hold her upright. Watching the way the women cared for her was a profound testimony to the power of community. 

As I sat there, I realized what a humbling experience ministry is. We are invited into people’s lives, often at the point of their greatest pain and suffering. To sit with someone when they are most vulnerable, when there is no easy fix for what they are facing, is hard, yet it is precisely into this place that God sends us. Because if we weren’t there, to be a witness not only to the pain but to the peace and strength that God offers, who would be?

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours

St. Teresa of Avila


Craig: 

I was thinking about the selfless giving of some people here when a homeless child unexpectedly enters into their lives.   Their homes are bursting at the seams, food is stretched thin, and yet here appears another child who has no place to go.    Queries to find homes for these orphans are often in vain, and sometimes there are no options.
How incredibly frustrating it must be to slowly realize that your vision and dreams for the future- a trip home, replacement of worn out clothing, a special celebration for one of your children-  probably aren’t going to play out as you hoped because another child needs a home and God’s plan looks to be that that home is yours.
To the person considering taking on another child, taking this step might feel like a huge sacrifice, one that most people will never appreciate or even consider.  There could be a lot of resentment of the situation.   Why me?!?   When do I get MY turn?    It would be so much easier to take an easier path and let someone else worry about the issue at hand.     Being forced to make an impossible decision like this must be so difficult!
Craig, Angela and Christina listening to Steven, who
makes prosthetic limbs
I started thinking that there are parallels to the parable of the prodigal son.   One man stayed home to meet his family obligations and in the end the family fortunes went toward his brother.  We often toil, working unrecognized, and then we are asked to sacrifice even more for the good of others.   Things don’t work out as planned or hoped for.   The situation just doesn’t seem fair.
But there is a much greater plan, and the payoff will be in ways we cannot imagine.    Life hands us situations that require large doses of selflessness for the betterment of others.    Time and again we are hearing stories here in Kawangware of people whose incredible faith has allowed them to keep strong, keep going, and make enormous sacrifices for others, confident that things will somehow work themselves out. What an inspirational lesson for us all. 
Angela:

VISITATION OR INTRUSION



Today we did not spend the entire day with the children. After the morning round of camp songs, we (6 + Hendricka and Angeline) were off to accompany Hendricka as she conducted her home visits. The walk took us deeper into the slum close to Ray of Hope, even walking through a garbage dump.
We were able to visit with three of Hendricka's clients: Josephine, Joseph and Helen ( 7 years old). All were HIV+ with complications of TB, and some having negative reactions to some of the medication that was prescribed. Josephine was in too much pain to even sit up in her bed, without leaning back on someone for support. The spinal surgery that she needs, she cannot afford, the landlord wants to evict her, and her mother has recently been hospitalized and she is unable to visit her mother, because she is unable to stand on her own.
All of the homes were in tin roofed and walled structures, that were the size of a SRO in San Francisco. Like a SRO there was no inside bathroom. There was no running water, electricity, and each home housed several people. During our visit there were eight of us (six of whom were strangers) attempting to fit in this very small space with an individual, that in Josephine's case was in constant pain.
We offered pray at each visit, and said that we would continue to hold them in our prayers.
These visits were troublesome to me, and I felt that it was an intrusion and stole some of the personal dignity of the individual being visited. I'm still troubled by the visits and I am attempting to work out the 'dis-ease' that I am feeling about the visits.
We also started to load the backpacks that we brought for the kids, with a Warrior's
t-shirt, pencils, erasers, coloring books, crayons, a small journal book. Tomorrow we will add the items that they made this week. We placed in the supply closet the supplies that Evelyn requested that can be used for the Fall semester.
The trip downtown on the bus, during rush hour, was like running an obstacle course. We paired up, and discussed the bus number to take if we became separated. We did not lose anyone, and we managed to get on an empty bus, so we could seat together. The buses have posted signs that we found interesting, and today we got to experience one of the prohibited acts on the bus. The signs say: "NO PREACHING, NO SMOKING, NO HAWKING." This was our first experience where the toll taker allowed two men onto the bus, one was selling socks, and the other was selling candy. When the toll taker saw a policeman in the area, she hid the 'Hawker'. We assumed that she was getting a pair of socks and a candy bar out of the deal. We encouraged Pastor Karen to start 'preaching', since the rules were so loosely enforced, but she declined our invitation to preach on the bus (now that's a visual).
 



Kirsti:

Lilly and Gabriel
Kirsti helping a child make a personalized tee shirt



There is so much to be thankful for. At 9:45 this morning, baby Gabriel took his first breath on his own. His mother Lilly, did a great job in spite of being frightened and alone. Lilly is 20 years old and has been coming to the Ray of Hope clinic sporadically during her pregnancy. She lives with her older brother but doesn't have any experience with babies. Her mother died when she was young and she has no sisters. 

After labor, Lilly was moved into a room to rest. I got to spend much of the morning and some of the afternoon with her and Gabriel. It's funny how going through labor with someone gives you such a strong bond with them. By the time we had to say goodbye, we were both in tears and promised to keep in touch. 

Gabriel and Lilly have a life ahead of them that I cannot imagine. I am grateful to have shared such an important moment with both of them. 









Christina:

Christina getting ready to play
a game with the children

Wow. Today was deep. Before the 7a hour even rolled around, Classy (my roommate) received very heavy news about a friend she, Pastor Karen and many others within the GLIDE community unexpectedly lost. Sincere condolences to the entire community who lost a dear friend, mentor or loved one.

Before 10a, now at Ray of Hope, we learned the story of one of Alfred's students.  This boy immediately stood out to me in an impressive way since Day One. Always helpful with cleanups after projects, kind, sweet eyes, softer spoken, and one heck of a dancer (which is actually an understatement) - this kiddo has great style with his Superman embellished belt, coupled with the way he wears his socks and kicks with purpose, and has a certain joie de vie that is truly endearing. However, he comes with a very dark, scary past. His father passed away leaving his mom a widow, and he was the only son among a few other sisters. In due time, his mom went on to have 5 more children with another partner, who immediately demonstrated pure hatred towards this boy - even threatening to kill this boy's mom if she ever brought her son home again.  This lovely boy was ultimately found homeless by Hendrika - sleeping underneath the table at street vendor near the ROH Learning Center. He was so dirty, and so drenched with filth and stench, that no one wanted to come near him.  Hendrika, after learning more about his situation by visiting his mother, brought him up to the Learning Center at Ray of Hope to give him a freezing sponge bath (their running water comes through a garden hose). However, Hendrika intuition enabled her to deal with the situation uniquely - by also taking two of this boy's step sisters at Ray of Hope - and now fast forward, due to the relationship Henrika created with the boy's step father, he is now accepted by this man, and safely living at home and off the streets. THIS is the kind of magic that Evelyn & Alfred (both teachers), along with Hendrika (case worker) do on a daily basis.

However, before the Noon hour even took place, the heaviness continued with trips to the respective homes of Josephine, Jaqueline, Joseph & Helen, all HIV+ patients in Henrika's Support Group. HIV is detrimental because it is a gateway to other life-threatening diseases, and most of the individuals we saw today also have TB. Josephine's story will be shared another day; however, we had a peek into tiny, little Helen's life...

Helen does not attend Ray of Hope at the young age of 7 - instead, Helen is a patient of Henrika's. Helen has HIV.  Both of Helen's parents died, leaving her behind with her little brother (age 3 or 4) and her older sister (age 20). Forcing the sister to provide for the family (with payments in bread slices), she leaves early every morning to go fishing and ultimately sell the fish, returning around sundown.  This little girl - who I would have guessed was 4 years old herself - is left alone all day long to tend to and watch over her little brother who runs around the slums playing, exploring with other children. Helen, with poor vision and bad hearing (a side effect from HIV drugs that never went away) is a blessing. A precious little soul, with the responsibility of the world, on her tiny un-knowing shoulders.  

Today, my soul is heavy.  I've never had so many individuals in my thoughts and prayers - it's an entire community - with some names I will never-ever forget.  Tonight, I will be sending them love, light and healing energy.  Tomorrow, I keep them in my thoughts, while continuing to send love, light and healing energy... and next week... I will continue to keep them in my thoughts.  And next month... they will still be in the same exact place.  Endless thoughts.  Endless energy.  Endless healing lights.  Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, too.