Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Lian with Wema and Amani at the Indian Ocean- best friends forever after this past week.
Yes, we rode a camel on the beach.
And we got to see a lion basking in the sun.
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A few more

Amani (Ann's son) and Anna
Ann and Jen
Dano, Dave (Ann's husband) and the kids
Our breakfast buddy (he was literally right outside the breakfast window)
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While we were never able to get a charger for my camera, we were able to use Dave and Ann's camera. Mine was definitely clearer, so we were very disappointed to miss some key moments in our trip due to the lack of clarity, but at least we have enough pictures by which to remember this trip.

Here are just a few - the rest can be found on Picasa. Just click on the slideshow on the sidebar to the left and it will take you to our album

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Scriptures We've Reflected Upon

I tried to read a Proverb each day of our trip (i.e. Proverb 16 for the 16th of the month, 22 for the 22nd of the month, etc.) On the 22nd and 23rd we were discussing many of the things we had seen and I remembered I had not opened the Scripture yet. Here are a few of the scripture that jumped out at us:

Proverbs 22
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the Maker of them all.

16 He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.

22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,

23 for the LORD will take up their case
and will plunder those who plunder them.

Proverbs 23

10 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Defender is strong;
he will take up their case against you.

We Made it Home Safely

After traveling for 28 hours straight with no down time in the airports for the girls to run around, we made it safely to Seattle. There is nothing like coming home. Our girls are really great travelers, but 28 hours was definitely their (and ours) limit.

We've been without internet access for several days, but we had such a great time in Kenya with Ann and her family. To go from seeing the poorest of the poor to being treated like royalty by our friends was quite an adjustment, but we are grateful for Ann and Dave's incredible hospitality. Mombasa is a beautiful city, set right on the Indian Ocean. We swam, Dano went scuba diving, Lian and I rode a camel on the beach, and we had three evenings of great one on one time with Ann and Dave where we discussed everything from U.S. politics (everyone we met wants Obama to win), foreign policy, economic development, Kingdom business, miracles, parenthood and marriage. We learned so much from these two...and our kids had a blast playing together.

We returned to Nairobi for only one day in which Ann drove us around the entire city, took us to the Masai market, had lunch with her sister, whose husband is the U.N.'s Director for Communicable Diseases in Africa, visited Good Shepherd church, where our friends, the Nsimbis, grew up, had tea with Ann's entire family, and then took off for our return flight home.

Our farewell tea with Ann's family was truly touching. Her father prayed for us as we went and we just felt we were in the presence of a holy man and woman (her mother). In their retirement, these two devote themselves to preaching around the country in open-air crusades and healing those who are ill. Ann's mother had a miraculous healing 20 years ago and since then God has used her to bring healing to hundreds of people. She said that she believes Africans see miracles because of their commitment to fasting before God. We felt so loved by her family and do hope we will see them again soon. Ann also had a good friend of her's come to the tea because she wanted us to meet. Dollee just left her job working for a granting organization that takes international funds directed for Africa and disperses them to various NGOs. She believes the Lord is calling her to start a foundation that provides money from African-led businesses to serve Africans. She really desires to see Africans move away from dependency on the West so they can take care of their own people. We heard this message often in our travels.

Other blogs about our trip to Africa

Here are three other blogs that went into greater detail about the places we visited, as well as some of the places the rest of the team saw before we arrived.

Pastor Jon -

Brandi -

Daniel -

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Other Side of Africa

We arrived to the welcome embrace of my college friend, Ann Mugofwa. If she is indicative of African hospitality, we have a lot to learn. We feel like royalty. While we were really looking forward to sleeping in the same bed for a few nights for a change, Ann informed us that we needed to be up at 6 am in order to catch a flight to Mombasa. We had no idea what a treat we were in for…

Ann, her husband, Dave, and their two children, Amani (5 1/2) and Wema (8) traveled with us to Mombasa and then a three hour drive through the Kenyan savannah, finally reaching the Sarova Salt Lick Game Reserve. We had a two night stay at this Game Reserve that is out of this world. Unfortunately, probably one of the worst things that I could have done on a trip like this happened – I left my camera’s battery charger plugged into my wall at home. And guess what – no one in Kenya seems to use Canon cameras! I asked everyone at the lodge and we had also gone to a store and no one carried a Canon. Ann’s camera had also run out of batteries and since we were really out in the bush, it was not easy to obtain a new set. So…we had to rely on Lian’s kid camera for our first game drive, which is really unfortunate because we saw a male lion, which was incredible. Fortunately, Ann got her camera fixed so we have a few from the second day. Again, the internet reception is so bad where we are right now that it takes 10 minutes just to open one email, so I will post my pictures upon our return.

I’ll try to give you a quick glimpse – if you can imagine opening your bedroom window and seeing a troop of elephants walking royally towards the water hole that is underneath the windows of the dining hall. Once the elephants leave, the water buffalo arrive…and I’m not talking one or two…I’m talking of dozens of elephants, hundreds of water buffalo, then scores of zebras, a few wart hogs running through, and then when all is quiet out come the baboons (or as Anna says – the “baba boons”) carrying their children on their chests. It is absolutely surreal.

The juxtaposition of this portion of our trip in comparison to where we were just a few short days ago is almost shocking to the system. We drive for three hours past mud huts and tin roofed-houses, passing people carrying water jugs on their head, only to end up 30 minutes from any humans at a game reserve that feels like it is out of a storybook – and it has plenty of running water. There is something wrong with this picture. Don’t get me wrong – we definitely enjoyed our time, it was truly unreal and we are relaxing after an intense week – but the stark contrast just reminds me that there are solutions that are already out there. We can get water to people who are thirsty; we can feed those who are hungry; we can care for the orphan and the widow; it just takes a lot of resolve and the right people to make things happen.

That’s what has been so refreshing about being with Ann and Dave. They are people who are making things happen. They are successful young professionals and parents who care deeply about their country - and not just for this generation. They care about what will be for their children’s children. It is so uplifting to hear what they are learning about putting kingdom principles into action. They see changes happening in their government that are honoring human dignity. They realize it takes time, but they are not waiting around for the government to make things happen. They are doing it themselves. It has been so wonderful to be with them and to have our children playing together non-stop.

Following the game reserve, Ann and Dave surprised us again by treating our two families to a three night stay at a resort in Mombasa, right on the Indian Ocean. It is absolutely beautiful and feels so good to rest and be refreshed. I do believe that in the midst of seeing much pain, you still have to take time to enjoy God’s goodness and refresh your soul.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The hearts of our children

***I've been trying to load pictures, but it took 50 minutes to load the last two and I can't stay up another hour. We'll post them on Picas after we get back.***

After we left the orphan-led household, we all got on the bus in silence. I turned around to ask how Lian was doing and she had her journal out. We hadn't written anything in it except for some fun facts about animals since we'd arrived. She had pulled it out on her own and written the words "Poor Kids." She drew six children who were crying. Dano asked, "Why are they crying?" She said, "Because they're poor. They have no mommy and daddy." They were poor because they had no mommy and daddy - not because they didn't have money, but because they didn't have a mom and dad. I turned towards the window with tears streaming down my face - I thanked the Lord for my daughter's heart and for her perception.

Today we were at Caring Hands ministry that provides work for widows. There was a woman there who has four children with AIDS. The youngest was about 6 months old and was with her. Not even realizing the impact of what she was doing, Anna went up to the baby and said, "Hug? Hug?" Finally they hugged each other. It was a beautiful and yet tragic moment all in one breath.

99.9% of orphans are never adopted. It seems unfair when I sit there holding our precious girls and I'm surrounded by boys and girls who would give anything to have a family love them. Tonight, a woman who works in the front office of the hotel asked me if I would adopt one of her nephes and nieces. THeir mom is dying of AIDS. I was in shock; yet also not. THis woman loves her nephews and nieces and she loves her sister. TO her it makes complete sense. I have adopted two already and I am a Christian, which, in her words as a Muslim, makes me have a good heart. I tried to explain it's not as easy as that. But, now I have a place I can direct her to to receive the help she needs.

In teh midst of all the tragedy, we decided that our family needed to have a down afternoon and we took the girls swimming. It was such a blast.

We leave for Kenya tomorrow morning, bright and early. We cannot wait.

I'm sitting here in my room at the Hotel Africana with African dance music playing in the background, my children asleep in their mosquito netting, yet feeling so far from the pain we experienced over the past three days. We were able to Skype my parents this afternoon and both Dano and I felt overwhelmed with tears as we shared with them. We realized that with all we've experienced, we haven't had a chance to really sit with what we've seen.

Our leader asked us last night what were one or two moments that really stood out to us on the trip. The first for me was meeting Beatrice, a widow who started a widows outreach ministry that no has 20,000 widows registered with them. Beatrice lost her husband to a boda-boda (moped) accident. He was a pastor. She was taken in by her brother, but he took advantage of her financially, which often happens. In Uganda you are considered a "problem" if you are a widow. FOr some, they cannot even drink water out of the same well as others because it is believed they will bring their problems to the water. Beatrice told me that one night as she lay crying, God told her to stop mourning and that he couldn't do what he wanted to do through her until she stopped mourning. Beatrice then had a dream where there was a widow in shackles, laying on the ground. ALl of a sudden, the woman stood up and broke free. Beatrice knew then she was to help widows break free. She turned her mourning into dancing. THen through a series of miraculous events, she met this guy, Dave McPherson, who helped her start this widows ministry. At her first conference for the widows, they had 4000 women show up. THey didn't even have money for food. Beatrice said she had two sacks of rice and beans, but didn't know how they'd feed everyone with that. THey prayed and then she said she saw a miracle take place. Every time they took food out, it was as if food was put back in. And they were able to feed everyone. We also went to a hospice center she runs. This was a very beautiful, yet tremendously place to be. Dano took the girls out for this part because the women were so sick - many had cancer all over their bodies. The only drug that could be given to them was morphine to take away the pain. Nothing else would work.I sat there holding hands with a woman who is the same age as my mother and yet looks at least 20 years older. Her son was killed trying to escape Uganda - shot down. Now she has no one to look after her.

The second moment that really stuck out to me was my daughter. Yesterday was very difficult. We visited an orphan-led household. You'll notice when I finally get to upload my pictures that I don't have too many of individual children. Personally, I really struggled with whether or not to take photographs. I felt like I was invading their space - a stranger coming in to their world for only a brief moment and yet asking if I could do such a personal thing as capture them in a photo. This was a real struggle for me at this camp because watching their faces, and their sadness, they knew we were only there for a brief time. And that broke my heart. I have never seen such destitution as I saw in this little village, located so remotely from town. Six huts stood around a common area. The food supply is extremely limited. William, the eldest, is now 18, and he is in charge of his family of six. Both parents died. They cannot go to school. He cannot feed them. We only had juice and biscuits to give. There are six other orphan-led households nearby. If we could get a carepoint in here and have all six families sponsored, then we could get these kids to private school, provide them with food, provide them with padlocks to prevent rape, provide them with a uniform to replace their tattered clothing. So I am praying for a sponsor for William and the other six households.

Monday, October 13, 2008

We Made it to Africa

Internet access is very slow and limited here, so I am afraid I don't have any picture to post and this will be rather limited. It will be also hard to explain all that we've seen and experienced in the past 48 hours without pictures. We made it into our hotel in Kampala at 2:30 am. (Lori - thank you for arranging for Lawrence to drive us!). Lawrence then picked us up at 11 am to drive us to Bugiri. A three hour drive became a four hour drive. We met our group in Bugiri, rested for 20 minutes and then drove another four hours to Soroti. Our girls are doing so well though. They definitely deserve some treat for being the world's best travelers.

The rest of the group had already experienced so much. I began to think we wouldn't really see as much as we had hoped, but I was wrong. We started our day visiting a children's hospice. It was actually so encouraging - the place is run by a woman named Else who works for YWAM. She started this hospice because she believed children have the right to die with dignity. The amazing thing is how many children who came to die were nursed back to health. We just held the infants in our arms for as long as we could before having to leave. Lian and Anna played outside with the older children. Yesterday, Lian was so eager to play with kids that when we pulled over to get directions, she jumped out of the car and said, "Mommy, can I go play with those kids and say hi?" To her - they are not orphans, or sickly, children - they are children, friends. It has been refreshing to see this trip through her eyes.

We then drove to Otuboi which is a school for older orphans that was run by the government ten years ago, but they asked CHildren of the Nile to take over this. Children of the Nile primarily works with widows, so they have asked CHildren's Hope Chest to take over this school. We had such a great timew ith these older orphans, but the needs are so great. Over 90 children attend teh school, 60 of whom are orphans. When you are an orphan you lose government sponsorship, so they have no money to buy their books. They hope to find work "digging" in people's gardens in order pay for their school books. THeir school is a cement building with two classrooms. The other two classrooms are dormitories - 30 beds in each room. 10 of the boys didn't even have a bed; they sleep on the floor. THere are only five mosquito nets. THey only eat meat once a month. So our group committed, on the spot, to purchase beds for those boys and mosquito nets for all and then we went to the market to buy fish for everyone for one meal. The passion to learn and to move beyond what they have is overwhelming. And convicting.

After lunch, we drove to an IDP camp (Internally Displaced People) and this was very difficult. THere are only 5000 people int he camp right now. THere used to be 25000 when the LRA was more active here. WHen I say camp - these are 8' huts spread all over. We purchased biscuits to hand out to the kids and it was as if kids came out of nowhere. We must have had 500 kids surrounding us. Lian was so thrilled to play. I met a 17 year old mom, Ann, who had a one year old and her child was stricken with malaria. Precious child, precious boy. But the future is limited.

THere is much more to process. I feel very newsy in this post. Tomorrow we head to a widow's hospice and another children's home.

Our new plan or twist in the trip is that Dano and I are headed to Rwanda on the 22nd. We will arrive at 6 pm and leave the next afternoon. Dano was invited to visit some water distribution workt hat Food for the Hungry is doing. We will have the chance to see our friend, Seng Thor, who works for FHI.

Thanks for your prayers.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We're off!!!

We're off to Uganda and Kenya...and possibly 24 hours in Rwanda (still TBD)...that's another story for another time. Still hard to believe this is happening. We'll try to post when we have internet access. Another place to check on what we are doing is on the blog -

Lian is so excited. She brought in her atlas to school today to show her classmates where she is going. A mom came up to me and said she was in the classroom when Lian did her presentation and was very impressed. She said Lian even took questions. One of the questions was "What is different in Africa?" Her response was "Children's Hope Chest is there." :)

Anna keeps saying, "Africa? Africa?" While her memory will not recollect this trip at age 2, our prayer is that her heart will remember it.

We'll be in touch!!!