Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day Five: Mixed Emotions


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 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 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.


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


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. 


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).


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 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.


  1. I'm sending thoughts, love, and light to you all! I have been reading the blogs daily and my heart aches that I am not there with you all for this experience! Much love!!!!

  2. I'm proud of all you going out to help change the world.

    Tyree Leslie

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