Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sunday in Eldoret

On Sunday, I stayed at the Adventist Guest House and my work came to me. The rest of the Education Care Projects Kenya team headed out to Hands of Hope Academy.

GRV Children's Ministry Training Day

Pr Abigail Gichaba, the Children’s Ministry Director for this conference - the Greater Rift Valley Conference - and I worked together to put together a special day of training for her regional children’s ministry leaders.

When I headed to breakfast at the Adventist Guest House, I noticed a flurry of busyness in the hall where I was meant to take the meetings. I popped my head in and said, “Wow! This looks great, what’s happening in here today?” I was told there was to be a wedding. “Have you ever seen an African wedding?” One of the florists asked. I told her, “Yes, on television.” She laughed.

I then went to the front desk and inquired about today’s venue for the Children’s Ministry training. A few minutes later the receptionist brought me a piece of paper with the name of the church on the other side of Eldoret where the meeting was happening. By this time, Leon was with me and he called Carole in their hotel room to get more details. Pr Gichaba had said it would be here, at the Adventist Guest House. Carole came to the dining room and gave me Pr Gichaba’s business card. I rang the number and she said, “I am just driving into the compound. I will see you shortly.”

When Pr Abigail walked in she listened to the story of our dilemma and said, “I am here now, everything will be fine!” As she walked out of the dining room to arrange things, I looked at Leon and said, “Now that’s leadership!” He laughed and said, “Especially in Africa!”

There’s a phrase “TIA - This Is Africa” used by locals and travellers alike to describe the “anything can happen” attitude and reality of the African people. Pr Abigail was right. Not only was everything fine - it was amazing. She arranged the most beautiful setting imaginable - outside, under the big tents, on a mild sunny day with a gentle breeze. Pure magic.

Pr Abigail and I shared the teaching load and presented material on Sabbath School, Gracelink, Vacation Bible School, children’s choirs and storytelling. The theme for the day was TCI - Total Child Involvement. TCI is Pr Gichaba’s mission for the churches in this conference.

Nearly 100 people listened as we spoke. My words were repeated by a translator for those who do not understand English. It is always fun working with a translator when the audience is adult. They all help the translator with words they struggle with - and sometimes words they did just fine with. Then a discussion ensues as to the correct word. It certainly keeps people listening!

Pr Abigail started the day with introductions and then I presented worship - my favourite sermon, God's Storytellers which demonstrates that both Children’s Ministry and Storytelling are at the heart of the end time mission of God’s people. The next segment I did was about building and telling stories that teach a key point. In the next section I taught them how to plan and present a narrative sermon which will keep people listening for the entire time. My final section was on Sabbath School. I taught the four purposes of Sabbath School, the NEW Church core material and I demonstrated a workshop they can run in their churches.

It was a full day and finished with a photo taking session in which nearly every participant wanted a selfie with the Mzungu. I’m glad I wore my new Maasai shirt. It was well received by the guests and made me look the part in the photos!

Parents Day at Hands of Hope Academy

While I was participating with the GRV Children’s Ministry Training Day, the rest of the team from ECPK were out at Hands of Hope Academy. Courtney Tyler ran a special program for the older girls looking at their health, wellbeing and self-esteem. Leon ran a program for the older boys called ‘Valiant Men’ in which they explored what it means to be men of God. Carole hosted a beautiful experience for the new families.

A Matatu (mini bus) was sent to pick up all the parents and they were brought to the school to spend a day seeing the new environment where their children were being educated.

Each parent of the six children came along and sat together. They all greeted their children and watched with joy as their little ones played with the 60 other students. Carole told me it was a beautiful experience and the parents showed their appreciation many times during the day.

It was important to Leon and Carole that the families of these new children understand they are always welcome at Hands of Hope Academy and their family is still intact. Their children are being educated to bring a better life to their families, not taken away from them.

I was very moved by this gesture. I spend my working life with children as a state-school primary chaplain. My goal, everyday, is to empower the children to return home and honour their parents through compassion and cooperation. To see these Kenyan children separated from their families was very hard for me as it goes against my daily practice.

The integration of the family into the Hands of Hope experience is exactly what my aching soul needed for these families. I too went to boarding school and know that it can seperate or strengthen families based on the way the school connects with the parents. I believe Hands of Hope Academy is on a very healthy track.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Sabbath Testimonies at Hands of Hope Academy

Sabbath afternoon at Hands of Hope Academy we sat outside in the shaded quadrangle between the buildings and shared stories from our lives.

Leon’s Story

Leon started with the story why he decided long ago to follow God’s leading. When his daughter Karen was just 17 months old, Leon ran out to the car in a rush to make it to a meeting he was late for. When he arrived at the meeting, a lady at the venue came rushing out to the car. She pointed at the space between the car and trailer it was towing. “Do you know your daughter is on the back of the car?”

Leon said, “It is impossible that a 17 month old child could stay in place inbetween a car and trailer at those speeds and conditions. We were saved from a horrendous tragedy. At that moment, I heard God say to me, “Keep working for me and I will always look after your family. I have not stopped listening to his leading since that day.”

Leon continued, telling of the beginning of Carole’s work in Kenya. Nine years ago, the first time Carole went to Kenya, she went with friends and Leon stayed home. “I didn’t feel God’s call for me to go to Kenya,” Leon said.

Three years after that trip, Leon went to Kenya  because he wanted to support Carole’s passion. But it still wasn’t his passion. A year after that trip at a men's meeting, a friend said, “Do you know you’re unequally yoked with your wife?” The call then came, loudly, from the Lord, “Join with your wife. Make her mission yours as well.”

“The devil has put many problems in our way.” Leon said, “This just firms my resolve that we are doing the Lord’s work! I am convinced I must serve the poor children in Kenya and I will keep doing this no matter what the devil does to try to stop us.”

His story finished, Leon invited others to share their stories.

Kevin’s Story

A young man named Kevin came forward and shared his story. When his father left his mother for another woman, his mother murdered the new partner. This resulted in life imprisionment for Kevin’s mother and his father abandoning him. “When I was still on all fours, before I could walk, my father left me,” Kevin said.

Kevin’s aunt looked after him until he was two years old and then she didn’t want him anymore. Just a toddler, Kevin wandered into the streets and lived with the many homeless children in Eldoret. When he met Eucabeth, he was approximately five years old. She asked him if he wanted to go to school. Kevin said yes and Eucabeth took him to meet Nestor and enrolled him in Hands of Hope Academy.

Kevin finished his testimony by thanking the school and sponsors for saving his life and making it possible for him to be safe and have an education.

Francis’ Story

Francis was born under a cloud of confusion about who his father was. The man married to his mother said, “Where did you get that baby?” Believing Francis wasn’t his, he threw her out.

They lived in many various places as his mother followed work to support him and his sister. After another unsuccessful marriage, the poverty became too much for her and she moved onto the street. An aunt looked after Francis and his sister.

Francis knew where his mother slept and went to find her one day, as she had been sick. He found her blanket but she was not in it. When he told his sister, she responded, “Yes, Mother left us today. She died.”

Francis, then ten years old, became a street child himself. He went into care homes and back to the street numerous times. During this time his leg was broken when a car hit him, he had dental trouble, and he started using drugs. One day, Eucabeth took Francis and three of his street friends to see Nestor. Only having enough sponsorship for three, Francis was sent back to the street.

Some time later, Francis was arrested and Eucabeth called Nestor. Sponsorship was available and Francis was taken to Hands of Hope Academy.

Francis concluded his testimony by thanking God and saying when he has graduated and is making money he will sponsor kids like himself to come to Hands of Hope Academy.

Judith’s Story

“I faced many challenges before I came here.” Judith said, “When my parents died, I lived with my older sister.” Her sister went out looking for work all day and often didn’t come home until very late. “I had to find food for the other children.”

Judith wasn’t able to go to school when she was old enough because she was too busy surviving. “When I asked to go to school, my sister would not allow it,” Judith said.

“Bigger kids would abuse me and I would cry because I knew if Mum was still here, she would protect me,” Judith said. Finally, Eucabeth convinced Judith’s sister to allow her to be schooled and she was brought to Nestor and enrolled in Hands of Hope Academy.

Judith finished her testimony by thanking the school and her sponsors and saying, “When I graduate and have a job,” she said, “I want to help my sisters.”

Judith graduated from Hands of Hope Academy in 2016 and passed the entry exam to go to High School. She left for High School on Monday morning.

Marion’s Story

Marion’s parents died when she was in 3rd grade. She moved in with her aunt but her aunt was very sick. In a short time she was living on the streets with friends. She tried to continue going to school as a street kid but failed her high school entry exams.

Marion spent many years living on the streets, begging for money and sleeping rough. She would occasionally go back to her aunts house but always ended up back on the street.

“When I met Eucabeth,” Marion said, “she told me ‘Don’t roam around town. You need a home.’ ” When Eucabeth took Marion to meet Nestor he said, “If you want to pass school, you will need to repeat grades.” She said she was willing to do that.

In 2015, Marion started grade 5. She is now in grade 7 and hopes to successfully pass her High School entry exam after grade 8 next year.

Marion finished her testimony saying, “The life I left was horrible. There were no rules and no future. I would like to thank everyone at the school and my sponsors.”

Morris’ Story

Morris ran away when he was abused by his step mum. He was welcomed by street boys and began a life of crime at a very young age. They walked from town to town, stealing from people.

“Once,” Morris said, “my friends stole from some people and were chased, caught and beaten to death. I was so scared I ran away. I got to Nairobi.” He was arrested in Nairobi and put in juvenile detention for 3 years. Then, the court sent him home.

“They gave me 1000 shillings ($10US) and told me - go home!” Morris said. He went to Eldoret and was put in jail there for criminal activity. He was a street thief, drug user and seller. He tried to sell drugs in the wrong area and, as punishment, was beaten and molested by the criminals who ran that area of town. He was taken to hospital in Nairobi.

Getting out of hospital, he travelled across the border to Tanzania and joined a crime gang. When one of his friends was beaten, he went back to Kenya. He made his way back to Eldoret and, arrested again, a friend introduced him to Nestor.

“Nestor told me, ‘What would you do at school?’” Morris said, “I would study.”

Morris was just 12 years old when he started at Hands of Hope. Now, three years later, he’s in grade 6 and is doing very well.

Morris finished his testimony by thanking everyone for giving him a chance to change his life.

Jeremiah’s Story

Jeremiah spent most of his young life avoiding school. He would make his parents believe he was going to school and then would go to town instead. Finally, he got so tired of being forced to go to school that he ran away from home.

Jeremiah walked to Eldoret and lived on the streets. A local school rescued him and he stayed for two weeks before running back to the streets.

When Eucabeth found Jeremiah, she told him to meet her at a church the next day if he wanted to change his life. He came and she prayed for him inside the church. Eucabeth then asked him if he wanted to take education seriously. He said yes and was taken to Nestor.

Jeremiah has been at Hands of Hope for five years now and is doing better each year.

He finished his testimony by thanking the school and sponsors for helping him.

Silas’ Story

Silas and his sister were treated like slaves by their family. Silas was forced by his grandparents to look after their sheep instead of going to school and was caned if he didn’t please them. His sister ran away when she was accused of something. Silas was sent to his mother and she forced him to work preparing vegetables to be sold by street vendors. Finally Silas ran away as well.

After living on the streets, Silas went home. He was sent from his grandparents to his mother to his brother and back and forth. He met some friends who were stealing money from people. They made him work for them.

When Silas finally met Eucabeth, he was more than eager to go to school. He was brought to Nestor and enrolled in Hands of Hope where he is thriving.

Silas finished his testimony by saying, “Thank you Nestor ans sponsors for saving my life!”

If you would like to support the work of Handers of Hope Academy fine to Education Care Projects Kenya today.

Sabbath at Hands of Hope Academy

Sabbath at Hands of Hope Academy was a very full day. After picking Eucabeth up in the city and driving the 30 minutes to the school we arrived at 10:30am. The children were already in one of the classrooms singing songs.

We joined them and listened to their beautiful music. They have song books in English and have learned lots of songs that I am familiar with. Courtney commented that they have changed a number of the tunes. They have adapted the western hymns and choruses to tunes that suit their style and rhythm. The songs are the better for it!

After a few songs, a teacher named Kelvin invited me to come into the adjacent classroom with a group of students. They were the platform party for the church service. We planned who would do which part and then we headed back into the worship room.

The church service was a typical one but with extra singing. When it was time for the sermon we explored Luke 15 together. I told them every time God finds one of his lost children, He throws a party. It is so amazing how the three stories of lost things in Luke 15 speak to this culture.

Loosing a sheep is a very real danger. One boy told - in the testimony time later - how he had to count the sheep every night and if he did not have them all in the pen he would receive a beating.

The next story, the lost coin, is very meaningful to those to whom a 20 shilling coin stands between starvation and their next meal. Losing a coin is a desperate situation - especially in the background of these orphan children.

Finally, to an orphan, the story of the lost son - embraced by the father - is a powerful desire in each of their hearts. I assured them their Father in Heaven loves them so very much and when He returns, He will hug each of them. Then there will be an amazing party with the longest table and more food than they have ever seen. We finished with prayer and then sang more songs.

During the afternoon, we had lunch - rice and beans - and a time of testimonies in which a number of the children told their stories. It was a moving time filled with tears of remembering and thanks to the sponsors and school for the lives they have now.

Christianity really has skin on it here in Kenya. There are so many people making a difference in the lives of orphans and widows. It’s like the stories of Jesus coming to life all around you.

After the testimony time, we walked out to the garden plot where they grow some of their food. It was a leisurely and lengthy walk through Kenyan bush and past numerous houses made from mud and sticks. As we walked, kids took turns holding my hands. When we stopped, I was asked lots of questions. My favourite was, “Why don’t you Mzungus shave your head like normal people?”

I spent time telling them stories about living in Australia and America. They spent time stroking the hair on my arms and slapping my hands to watch them turn red. They asked me to lean down so they could feel my hair. “It is so soft!” They said, “Do your children have the same hair as you? Can you show us pictures?”

Then it was a game of flipping through photos on my phone and showing it to a circle of kids eagerly waiting to see the next Mzungu teenager.

I learned some Swahili as well. I can now point at my nose, teeth, ears and eyes and say the Swahili word for each. Many of the kids speak passable English as they learn it in school. The older the student, the more likely they are to understand most of what I say.

When we arrived back from the walk we began making dinner - Ugali and cooked cabbage. One of the teachers cooked soy-meat in a beautiful sauce for the Mzungus. It was delicious.

Finally, almost 9pm, we drove back to town, dropped Eucabeth off at her home, drove to the Adventist Guest House and fell into bed exhausted just after 10pm.

It was a wonderful day that I will not soon forget.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Eucabeth's Story

Eucabeth Owino has a God given passion for helping poor children in Eldoret, Kenya.

“I love people!” Eucabeth said, “I walk in all these areas. I talk to people in the slums. I visit the street kids in the fields.”

When she returns from visiting the slums and dump, with information about people who need immediate help, Eucabeth connects them to the organisations who can provide their needs. “I check to see that it is safe to go out there, for other people,” She said.

Eucabeth runs a clothing business in Eldoret. She uses this as a base from which to connect the two worlds in her city - those who need and those who provide.

“While my marriage was falling apart,” Eucabeth said, “I wanted to die. I tried to die. But God would not let me die.”

“One night I dreamed about street children.” She said, “They were brought to me in my dreams.”

When she woke, Eucabeth decided it was just a dream. Then she had the dream again the next night. And the next.

“For two years,” Eucabeth said, sadly, “I refused to help them. Then, one night in my dreams, God said, ‘You died two years ago. I gave you your life back. Now it’s time for you to live for me. Go and give life back to these children!’ ”

Eucabeth has now worked with the street children for four years. “I do spiritual counselling.” She said, “I tell them what God says they should do and what He says they should not do!”

“Sounds like parenting,” I said.

“Yes!” She laughed, “They all call me Mother.”

“They appreciate someone telling them the truth,” She said.

Eucabeth connects the children she meets with a number of organisations. One of these organisations is Hands of Hope Academy. When she finds a child who seems like a promising student, she calls Nestor and once they have sponsorship they arrange a rescue (for the orphans) or a recruitment (for the children with families). Then the child begins the process of Christian education providing a hope and a future.

“Some children on the street,” Eucabeth said, “I take them home. This is my reconciliation work. I reconnect them with their parents, and make sure they do the right thing. If they have a home, they need to live there, not the dump. But other kids have no place to go. They really suffer.”

“The street children have no hope without help.” Eucabeth said, “I organise people to teach them skills. Some are very good at sport. Some music, drawing and painting. These skills give them hope.”

Eucabeth is a living breathing example of incarnational ministry. Just as Jesus walked and talked with the poor, shared His life with the destitute and healed them one by one - Eucabeth is changing the world one child at a time.

Oh that the world had more like Jesus!

Hands of Hope Academy

We arrived at the Adventist Hotel in Eldoret late Wednesday night after a full day of travel. After carrying my luggage into my room, I had a shower. While it has a long ways to go to be a shower like home, it was water falling from above and it was a beautiful experience!

The bed was wonderfully comfortable and the second shower in the morning was another gift from above! The showers here use an instant heat mechanism that you must switch on before entering the shower. After waiting for it to kick-in you turn on the single knob and find the sweet spot where cold and warm are equalised to your liking.

Interestingly, the shower is above the toilet. The one room serves as shower, toilet and sink. The toilet is completely soaked as is the entire tiled floor of the bathroom. This leads to slippery moments and a constant mental reminder to check the floor before entering the bathroom later as it will most likely be wet and as slippery as a wet fish.

After showering, I put all of my dirty clothes together and took them to the housekeeping people. For a small fee, they washed, dried, ironed and folded all my Maasai muddied clothes. This is a true blessing for Adventists travelling Kenya!

In the dining hall at breakfast, Amos came to visit. Amos was Leon and Carole’s very first sponsor child here at Hands of Hope Academy. They had not seen him for four years and it was a joyous reunion of storytelling. Rescued as an orphan as a small boy, Amos attended Hands of Hope Academy and showed himself to be a committed student. Amos is now a few months away from graduating from university with top marks. He has been studying mathematics and statistics. He told us of his desire to become a statistician and how difficult it can be to find a job. He said he was intending to do further study after his attachment (placement) at the end of this term.

At breakfast the next day, I entered the dining room and introduced myself to the only man in the room. A laptop in front of him, Hesbon was preparing for a meeting he had in a few minutes. I asked him what he does for work. He said, “I work at hospitals all around Kenya.”

“Do you see a lot of traumatic injuries?”

“No, I don’t work in that part of the hospitals.” Hesbon said.

“Oh, what is your work?”

“I am a statistician.” he said, “I collect and compare data from all our hospitals and help them provide the best service by analysing the data.”

I told him about Amos and he said, “I have just sent a young man from his attachment to Nairobi where he is to start a new job this week!”

“Do you need another attachment?” I asked.

“If I do not use him,” Hesbon said, “I will arrange for an attachment in medical statistics for Amos.”

Leon walked in and I introduced them, giving him a quick update. They swapped stories and details and it looks like Amos will not struggle to find an attachment!

When we were all sitting down at our second breakfast here, Leon said, “That is a God thing!”

Carole said, “God does things like this for these children over and over. He truly blesses them because they are His special children.”

Inbetween those breakfasts was an amazing day filled with meeting children in situations both before and after being taken to Hands of Hope Academy.

First we drove to the Academy and met Nestor, the passionate leader behind all that happens there. Nestor is an administrator and insures that the students and teachers have all they need to provide the best education possible for the children rescued from the Eldoret area.

Most of the 59 children at Hands of Hope Academy were living on the local dump before they were rescued, cleaned up and taken to the boarding school just outside Eldoret. Among all of the children rescued, only one has left the school and returned to life on the street. This is their choice but the change in their lives is enough to keep most focused on a better future through Christian education.

Late last year, the students participated in an evangelistic program and 29 of the 59 were baptised. This combination of faith in Christ and education gives them the best possible start in life and leads them toward eternal life as well.

The other children at Hands of Hope University, like the five we met today, came from slum areas around Eldoret. The parents of these children have decided to send their children to the boarding school to provide a hope and a future for them outside of the slums.

After visiting the students and sharing a time of worship and games with them, we entered each of Eldoret’s three slum areas to meet the families of our five newest recruits. It is hard to describe the poverty and dire need we encountered.

The mother of one child, Margaret, explained to our translator that when they cannot come up with the 200 shillings a week rent ($2 US) for their slum house, the landlord comes and locks the entire family outside until they give him the money. I asked the translator how much rent was, just a few blocks away, in the city. “About 7000 shillings a month,” she said. To leave the slums, a family must afford nearly 10 times the amount for rent. It is an impossible situation. So they continue living in makeshift housing with their livestock and children all sharing the same tiny room.

All of the children we visited in the slums were about seven years old - ready to start school. First we met Agnes and her parents. Our translator, Eucabeth, showed the parents photos of their son John who started at the school a couple of months ago. At first they looked at the pictures not sure it was really him. But as she flipped from one photo to the next they realised the gorgeous clean boy wearing the school uniform was, indeed, their son John. Laughter and tears followed as they showed the pics to the other children in the room.

The transformation truly is amazing. As I am writing this, the others are outfitting the five new students with clothing and shopping for their needs this term. They will return here soon and we will scrub the kids down and give them fresh haircuts. Then, in their new clothes and looking their very best, we will take them to meet their new school friends.

Margaret (pic by Courtney Tyler) 

The second child we met was Margaret. Excited about going to Hands of Hope Academy, Margaret stood by the open door the entire time we were there. When we explained that tomorrow we would meet them in the city to shop for school and then we would go to school, she shook her head. She said something and the translator said, “She says, ‘I want to go now!’” We assured her than we truly would take her there tomorrow and she relented.

The third child we met was Mary. Her mum, a single lady, lives with her sister and struggles to feed her children. Both Mary and her mother were so excited about the opportunity for a new life for Mary.

To reach the final stop we put the Prado into low gear and crawled up a steep hill to the poorest part of the slums. Turning left and driving down a long walking track, we found a tiny shack made from corrugated siding which housed Sophie, her mum and many other children. “Where do they all sleep?” Courtney asked as we walked across the rubbish strewn ground toward their home.

With her long dreadlocks and intelligent eyes, Sophie was my fast favourite. She was dirty from head to toe but exuded beauty and wit. As we talked to her mum and played games with the kids - they love shaking Mzungu hands and jumping like rabbits - our final recruit walked up with his mum.

Mentally challenged, his mum is cared for by the community around her. Through the translator, Collins’ mother expressed her joy that we would educate and care for her beautiful little boy. Clearly a bright young man, Collins is a perfect candidate for Hands of Hope Academy.

Carole just stuck her head into the dining room where I am writing and said, “We are back! We have six, not five!” Leon had been praying for a certain boy - if it was God’s will for this one too, although a sponsor is yet to be found - and this morning at breakfast he said, “God has put this boy on my heart. We must see what we can do.”

Finding these five students amongst the thousands in the slums of Eldoret is the passion of Eucabeth who served as our translator on this trip. Eucabeth walks the streets of the slums every day and talks to the people. Walking with her, it is clear that everyone knows her. She exudes the compassion of Christ as she embraces and exchanges greetings with the people.

Most of the students sponsored to attend Hands of Hope Academy are orphans rescued from the Eldoret dump. These children spend their days rummaging for food and doing odd jobs for shop owners to earn enough to buy glue. The children on the dump put the glue into bottles and strap the bottles under their nose. This shoe glue is highly toxic and gives them a quick and consistent high. It also damages their brain.

Eucabeth walks the dump talking to the children. When she finds a new child - one with a fully functioning brain - Eucabeth calls Nestor at Hands of Hope Academy and says, “I have found a child who is able to go to school. Do you have another sponsor?”

Without Eucabeth, it would be impossible to find the needles of potential in the jumbled haystack of Eldoret’s children. We will learn Eucabeth’s story next.

First World Problems

In life, there are occasional days that open up the world to you through the difficulties you surpass. Today was one of those days.

Leaving Joseph’s property, we drove to the school that Education Care Projects Kenya is building to provide safety and education to the children rescued in Maasai Land. We stopped and snapped a few photos of the school’s foundation and the beginning of the walls. Leon will be back in April to continue building. Any builders willing to assist, Leon would be very grateful!

Once finished at the school, we headed back down the worst road in Kenya to get to the nearest village where we purchased lunch - chipates - a local flatbread served hot which is cross between a tortilla and a crepe. Very delicious and very hot!

We then headed back up the road toward Joseph’s but turned left before reaching it. We then weaved our way along the dirt track that took us through many small villages. Using google maps and Leon’s local knowledge we navigated our way to the Tarmac road more than 2 hours drive from the beginning of our day’s journey.

When we reached Kissi, the first large town, we stopped to have two punctured tyres repaired. This was an amazing opportunity to watch the Mzungu master of local bartering at work. Leon knew what to expect.

As we pulled into service station we stopped in the repairs area rather than at the petrol filling pumps. This gave the sharks their first scent of blood. A couple of repairmen walked leisurely toward the vehicle. When Leon, a Mzungu man, stepped out of the vehicle it was like throwing a bucket of blood in shark infested waters. They came from everywhere!

The repair work at petrol stations in Kenya - to say it in a nice way - seems to be a cooperative effort between the petrol station manager and numerous small business owners. They came from around the petrol station, down the road, across the road and in the middle of the road. “Leon loves this,” Carole said, her tongue planted firmly in her cheek.

Leon carefully selected one man and began dealing with him. Later, Leon explained, "They all want money. Every man who does anything will want to be paid substantially for his small part.”

Leon took a flat off the back of the vehicle and explained, to the man of his choice, "It has a hole in it. Soapy water and plugs are all you need to do. I will give you 150 for the job.” The man took the wheel, rolled it across the road to his puncture fixing stand, and began taking the tyre off the rim, “NO!” Leon said, “Just the holes!”

Back in the car, Carole said, “We should get some drinks. They might have something in the shop.” After a brief search, we found a refrigerator with some Fanta, Coke and fruit drink.

As I returned to the Prado with the bottles, I was accosted by a local superhero, “I am Puncture Man!” He pointed seriously at the rear tyre and said, “Flat tyre!” I agreed that the tyre was definitely low. “I fix now!”

“I am not Boss Man,” I said. Pointing across the road at Leon who was defending the abused tyre on the other side of the road, I said, “He is boss man. He decides.”

“You talk to him,” Puncture Man said, sweeping his cape aside and valiantly stopping traffic to lead me across the road by the arm. When I arrived at Leon’s side, I explained the other tyre to him. “Yes, it will be fixed next,” he said.

I said, “This is Puncture Man, he is here to rescue the other tyre from certain death and destruction.” (I may have said something less witty at the time, but stories get creative in the retelling!) Leon explained that he only hires one man at a petrol station to keep costs in control.

I explained this to Puncture Man and he was not happy. “It’s faster for two men with two tyres!” He said. I pointed sadly at Leon and said, “Boss Man.” Then I shrugged my shoulders and raised my palms in front of me.

“So bad.” Puncture Man said, “So very bad.”

“I’m sorry,” I said before I walked back across the busy Kisii road, alone and unprotected by any local super heroes.

When the two tyres were repaired the fun really began. They wanted 700 shillings for the 300 shilling job. Leon explained, before he began, that the job (which he has had done many times at many places in Kenya) is worth 150 a tyre.

Among the many comments that exceeded their language barrier were Leon saying, “I will not!” And “Come off the grass!”

“You will pay each man!”

“I will not!”

“You will pay 700!”

“Come off the grass! I will not!”

The ladies in the back seat were giggling uncontrollably. Anyone who knows Leon, loves him for his gentle nature. But, as Leon says, “When it comes to God’s money, I will not waste it!”

To save money, Leon does most of the repair work on the Prado himself. He has two shock absorbers he will be installing before we head out of Eldoret on Wednesday for our next long drive. With all the skills to repair the vehicle himself, and the knowledge of local prices, highway robbery takes Leon’s righteous indignation to unknown heights!

After leaving Kisii we had driven an hour or so when the Coke and chipates combined in an explosive brew and caused my stomach to began behaving very disrespectfully. Every bounce and jostle sent gases wheezing through my internal pipes in all directions.

After an hour or two of shifting my position repeatedly in an attempt to ease the discomfort, I mentioned my agony to the other passengers. Graciously, no-one mentioned that they were already aware of my situation. “We will stop at the next service station.” Leon said, “They will have a bathroom.”

Some time later we came into a town and found a service station. We asked about a bathroom and they lead us through a warren of backstreet rooms behind the station and she said, “You want washroom?” I nodded and she pointed at a door.

Upon pushing the door open, I knew I was out of luck. I entered and closed the door because I did not want to show disrespect. This was no washroom - there was nowhere to wash anything. There wasn’t even a recognisable toilet. Instead, it appeared that someone had installed a urinal by placing it, on it’s back, into the floor and concreting around it.

I couldn’t imagine how to use it.

I exited and the next person took their turn. Leon explained to me, “It’s not an easy task. Take off all your clothing from the waste down, brace yourself with one hand against the wall behind you and hope for the best.”

“I’ll pass,” I said.

“We can look for a western toilet in the next town,” Leon said.

And we did.

In the next town we stopped at a hotel and I was lead to the back, then outside, then around the corner of a building and shown a brick outhouse. The door was around the backside of the building and broken off the hinges. Inside, two wooden slats hovered precariously over a pit of gurgling goo.

I returned to the Prado for another hour of intestinal disrespect.

As we pulled up to the final petrol station, Leon said, “Hopefully this one will have what you need.”

“At this point,” I said, “Anything will do. This ends now!”

As I opened my car door, I said, “Here goes everything.” Laughs of sympathy rippled out of the door behind me.

Four hours after my stomach first announced it’s unwillingness to comply quietly, I entered the third toilet block. There, gaping up at me, was a concrete version of the first room. Following Leon’s advice, I removed everything within range. Then, pressing my knees firmly against the walls on either side, I became a world traveller.

The clearest defining line between two sides of the world, has been made clear to me. Those who use squat toilets and those who do not. While it is not an opportunity I will actively seek out, it is one I can now safely negotiate.

Returning to the vehicle, I was in much better spirits. As we joined the bustling Kenyan traffic and continued on our journey, I felt a new sense of solidarity with the wider world and comradery with my three gracious travel companions.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Leaving Kapune

Our first and last mornings in Maasai Land had the same story. During the nights a neighbour had cows stolen. The wailing began and Maasai men from all around came running.

This time, they caught up with the cows and the thieves ran away in fear. The cows were taken back to the rightful owner and the men all returned home.

“But first we must sing a song,” Joseph said.

“A song?” I asked.

“Yes,” Joseph said, “there is a special song we sing only when the cows are rescued safely.” He looked at me with a sly smile, knowing what he was about to say would make me laugh. “And we kill one cow and roast it up for a celebration.”

“You kill one of the cows you just rescued?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

“Yes!” Joseph laughed, “It is required.”

“Then you come home to sleep?” I asked.

“Little bit,” Joseph said.

When Carole was talking to Joseph about last night’s raid , she asked, “Do your cows ever get stollen?” Joseph looked at her like she had asked a rediculous question.

“No, of course not!”

“Because your pen is so close to your house?” Carole asked.

“No,” Joseph said, “Because I have God.”

Yes you do, Joseph. Yes you do!

This morning was filled with packing and pictures. The kids were all packing to head off to school. We were packing to head to the next leg of our journey at Hands of Hope Academy in Eldoret.

But all of the packing and planning was interrupted many times for pictures, farewells, hugs and handshakes.

My resized Maasai shirt arrived this morning and Joseph presented it to me. It was a perfect fit!

When Courtney wore here Maasai clothes to church, she was given a Maasai name - Nashipai. It means “someone who is filled with compassion on the inside and joy on the outside - always caring and always happy.”

Our time here in Maasai Land has left a permanent mark on our hearts. Last night during the farewell speeches from the leaders of the Kapune Adventist Church the deep darkness of a Kenyan night had fallen but the hearts in the meeting tent in Joseph’s yard were filled with the light of God.

Such kind things were said by each person, thanking us for our ministry to them during this week - and the ongoing ministry of Carole and Leon to their little Maasai community here in Kapune. At some point in each person’s speech, we were begged, “Please do not forget Kapune!” When Joseph asked me to say a few words, I told them, “In our country, we say ‘home is where the heart is.’ Because this is true, we will never leave you. Thank you for loving us.”

Our hearts will always be with the beautiful and deeply passionate people here in Kapune. Their story is now our story and we will not forget them.

The Walk-ins

Yesterday, on our final full day here in Kapune we had a number of walk-ins. The stories of the Mzungus teaching about Jesus and helping children was reaching the areas further than our daily visitors were walking.

Mid-morning four children walked in. Joseph explained that the oldest girl, Purity, was expected. Her grandmother had called the night before telling him about Purity and asking if she could meet the Mzungus. Once it was clear that she was coming, Purity invited three street children to join her. Their mother is mentally handicapped, spends her days eating food scraps off the road where people throw them and occasionally becoming pregnant due to men who take advantage of her simple mind to get to her body.

Purity and Lekini

As we sat before the four children, who had walked 20km to reach us, we heard their stories as Joseph interpreted their questions. Purity is 13 years-old and lives with her grandmother. Her parents are both dead. She loves school and wants to go to High School this year but grandmother cannot afford it. “If no-one takes her,” Joseph said, “she will be married.” The grandmother considers her job finished. She is ready to move on to marriage or education.

The other three children, Angela (13), Faith (10) and Amos (6) are looking for education as well. They are being cared for by family as their mother is unable to care for them. Angela will most-likely be married off to provide for her mother and siblings. When faith reaches 13, the same thing faces her. All three of them are only receiving education when the problems of life allow them to attend the local government school where the education is very poor.

As the children went outside for photos - to be used to find a sponsor - Joseph poured his heart out to me. “How do I know who God wants me to take?” He asked. “These three with the sick mother are just like baby birds fallen out of a nest. They are needing help to live.” Joseph paused. “I am taking phone calls and walk in’s like this so many times - maybe three times a week - and I add them to my book, then an emergency comes where I must act.” Joseph clearly overwhelmed by the scale of need in his community continued, “I ask God to give me direction so I know what to do.”

As the first meeting finished and we broke for lunch, Joseph approached me, “A handicapped woman has walked all day to get here. She wants prayer.” Carole, Courtney, Joseph and I gathered in the mud house lounge room and received the woman and her friend.

Rose lost the lower half of her left leg to a horrible infection caused by a thorn. After it went black, she went to receive help. Living so far from town and even further from medical attention, small injuries become life threatening illnesses often. She was told she would die if the dead part of her leg was not removed. The leg was amputated last March. Her prayer request was for strength and courage.

Rose lives with her husband, a school teacher in their village, and five children aged between 2 and 18. She is very proud of them but frustrated that she cannot care for them as she used to. We each took turns praying for Rose and then gave her words of comfort - telling our own stories - and encouragement. Then hugs and handshakes were exchanged and Rose stood with the aid of her crutches and left.

Later that afternoon four more children arrived. Brian (4) is the child of a teenage rape. He has lived with a kind lady with a large but poor family in his village. His mother ran away in shame the day he was born. He is ready for school but has no family to fund it.

Miriam (12) is being looked after by her aunt as her mum, also, ran away in shame after her birth. She is in school and doing well but seeks sponsorship for a boarding school where the educate and care is much better than government schools.

Charlene’s (14) mother died giving birth to her and her father ran away because he had no wife. She lived with her grandmother until she was 2 years old and was then given to her older brother. Much older than her, he has a house but no wife. It is clear that Charlene has been taking care of all the wifely duties in the home of her brother since she went to live with him. Charlene would love to go to boarding school.

Lekini (13) was asleep in bed next to his two brothers when seven men broke the door down and hacked his brothers to death. They left Lekini with three huge knife cuts on his head and a gash on the top of his forearm from wrist to elbow. Thinking the three boys were dead, the men went outside the house and sang a victory song before disappearing into the night.

Joseph was called and he carried the dying boy on his lap for the next 10 hours as they tried to find an open hospital which could help with such severe wounds. “Most of the skin on top of his head was hanging off the side,” Joseph said. “This boy is a miracle. He bled so much. But he is alive because of God.”

As Lekini sat before us, seeking sponsorship, he told us he wants to be a lawyer one day. The police have told Joseph they have the names of all seven men, “But who will be a witness?” They asked him. The stories have been told, but the crime was not witnessed. Only with a witness can these men be tried. No wonder Lekini wants to be a lawyer.

As Lekini walked out of our mud hut, our hearts were heavy. There was so much need revealed in just one day. Carole asked me a few times over the evening, “What will your blog be about tomorrow morning?” I said, “The walk-ins we had today.” During the night, Carole couldn’t sleep. She was so deeply affected by Lekini’s story, she wrote it up and placed it on Facebook.

Lekini, who has been living with his uncle since the attack, has been invited to come back to Joseph’s house today. We have something wonderful to tell him. By the time the sun rose here in Kenya, a friend of Carole and Leon in Australia read the post and was moved to help. Lekini will be going to school today.

Today is the first day of school. All of the children in Joseph’s program who have been on holiday for the past two months are heading back to their schools of safety and education.

Purity stayed the night, intending to walk home today. Instead, due to another amazing sponsor found overnight, Carole and Joseph told her this morning that she will be walking to school with the children.

“She was beaming!” Carole said.

“Yes, she was most excited!” Joseph added.

Today, two children - Lekini and Purity - will not return back to their lives of trauma but will be sent to receive an education. “They need hope,” Carole said. “Education gives them a hope for the future because they can choose a better life.”

Angela, Faith, Amos, Brian, Miriam and Charlene have headed home where they will hope for sponsors who will send them to school, giving them a hope and future.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Vivian's Story

We’ve already met little Vivian. She is the beautiful seven year old girl who rolled and chipped her ankle Thursday night, running down the hill in the dark.

Sunday night, Joseph sat with Carole and I and told us why he rescued little Vivian. Carole already knew the story because Joseph had told her all about it when he called to check if ECPK could sponsor Vivian’s future before he attempted to rescue her.

When you see Vivian’s deeply trusting eyes, her happy face and gentle personality, it is hard to believe she has come from such a terrible place. Just yesterday, while listening to the choir sing and dance, Little Vivian sat next to me, her bandaged food resting on a chair in front of her and her head resting on my arm which was draped across the back of her chair.  She was completely at peace trusting me, a Mzungu man she had only met this week.

When Vivian was two years old, she watched from the corner of the room as her father beat her mother into unconsciousness. How many times Vivian had seen her father do this is unknown but one thing is sure - she remembers watching. “Still,” Joseph said, “Sometimes she is crying because she remembers.”

When Vivian’s mum didn’t wake up, she was taken to the hospital where she died. Because Vivian’s mother had been from a different tribe than her father, no-one around her wanted to care for her once her mother was gone.

Not wanting to accept the murder for what it was, the man’s family did not have a burial service for Vivian’s mother. “The buried her like a dog.” Joseph said, “Just in a hole with no service.”

When word got back to the Vivian’s grandmother that her daughter was dead, she came to claim Vivian and her three month old sister. When she arrived, the parents of Vivian’s father tried to give her a cow to replace her daughter. She rejected the cow saying, “A cow is not worth enough for my daughter.” She then asked if she could have the two children.

Even though they did not want the children, they refused to give them to the grandmother because they knew Vivian could remember what she saw. They did not want the story to get out. So they kept her, hoping she would forget.

Vivian’s grandmother went home without her granddaughters and without any sense of closure about her daughter’s death. She had put together that there was a murder because of the stories she heard and the way she was treated.

The girls went to their other grandmother instead. This grandmother had no compassion on the children and treated them poorly. Within the year, she decided to make some money by selling Vivian to a barren woman. A dowry was paid for Vivian and she moved into the home of the barren woman.

In primative Maasai culture, barren women can take a girl to be their wife. They raise her and train her to be a good wife, to bear children for them - to continue their linage. Some girls are taken very young. These girls are called the barren woman’s wife because they physically replace the barren women over time. Vivian was being trained to be a surrogate womb for this woman.

In their years of prepubescent training, the girl will often sleep alongside a man of their ‘wife’s’ choosing - not for sexual purposes but to help them become a woman faster. Primative Maasai believe that a girl will grow her breasts and hips faster if she is sleeping next to a man. This makes her ready to have children as soon as possible.

Barren women marrying young girls as wives is still very common today - even among modern Maasai. It is perceived as the only way out of barrenness. “This is child slavery.” Joseph said, “This child, as soon as she is old enough to bear children, will be sold for the night to whomever her ‘wife’ demands. She has no rights.”

“Vivian had been told by her wife,” Joseph said, “‘We are the only people protecting you. Everyone else will murder you like your mother.’ The brainwashing, in four years with no school and all these lies, leads to the girl believing this is the life for them.”

The elder of the local Adventist church was a woman who knew Vivian’s ‘wife’ and was trusted by her. She came in and out of her house as a trusted friend. The elder also was a friend of Joseph. She called him and told him Vivian’s story. She said, “If we do not rescue this girl very soon, she will be brainwashed for life.”

Joseph called Carole and asked if Education Care Projects Kenya had received funds recently and could support one more. He told Carole the whole story and due to generous donors, Vivian’s safety, clothing, schooling and basic needs were assured.

“When I first started,” Joseph said, “I wanted to save just one life. Each time I do, I start again. Vivian is the one life, this time.”

Sponsorship assured, Joseph called the elder and told her he would come rescue Vivian. The elder went in for a visit while the barren woman was doing chores and told Vivian, “God is sending a special man to save you. He will take you to a safe place.”

“Vivian was already believing the brainwashing,” Joseph said. “The years of hatred from her father and grandmother and now the fear of death instilled in her by her ‘wife’ - she was not willing to be rescued.”

The elder continued visiting Vivian until she saw hope in her eyes. She called Joseph and said, “She is ready to be rescued.”

“It was a very small one room house.” Joseph said, “Very poorly built. I rescued her at night. The barren woman was sleeping in then man’s house who was helping train Vivian. The elder and I quietly went into the house to rescue Vivian from where she was sleeping, alone.”

“I took her straight to the school,” Joseph said, “It was her first time to wear shoes. First time to sleep on a mattress.”

“I reported the rescue to the government.” Joseph said, “While they appreciate what I am doing, they fear the cultural consequences. It is a difficult situation.”

As he was telling us Vivian’s story, Joseph mentioned another barren widow to Carole who also has a young girl as a ‘wife’. Carole was amazed. “But she is a lovely lady!” Carole exclaimed, “How can she do something so horrible?”

“She is destitute.” Joseph said. “No-one will care for the widows and she believes she must care for herself in this way.”

“But she is an Adventist,” Carole said. “She needs to find a better way!”

“Yes,” Joseph said, “I am telling her this. I am telling her to treat her ‘wife’ as just a daughter. Raise her as her own child. The child she has is an orphan and needs a mother. I am asking her, ‘Do not teach her as a wife. Please, sister, do not teach her these things.’ She is saying she will do this.”

“Will she?” Carole asked.

“She will,” Joseph said. “She is. She is telling me she is only raising her like a daughter now.”

“Oh, Joseph,” Carole said, “We really need to do more for the widows. Don’t we.”

“We are trying.” Joseph said, “We give them work to do and pay them. We provide some food. We are rescuing the widows, too.”

If you would like to help rescue children like Vivian from child slavery and widows from such abject poverty that drives them to this end, please donate to Education Care Projects Kenya. Every dollar comes to the work here in Kenya. There is no costly organisation taking a cut. It’s just Carole and Leon Platt, and many passionate volunteers, donating their time and energy - and here in Kapune, Joseph and Mercy changing the world one person at a time.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Joseph’s Story

Joseph was the oldest of 10 children in his mother’s house. His father had two houses with two wives. The other wife had 12 children.

Because of the number of children his father had to support, they were very poor. Education was a big challenge. Joseph stayed in school and finished high school when he was 18 years old. These were not easy times for him. To earn a little money he would go out at night with his friends, chop trees down and make charcoal. While the government is against charcoal manufacturing in this way, it is a common practice and many of the poorest of the poor make the little money they have in this way.

While here in Maasai land, we have cooked our meals, boiled water for hot drinks and dishwater, on top of pots filled with smouldering charcoal. It is the primary way to create an indoor heat source for cooking.

One night as Joseph was chopping a tree down he fainted. When we woke up, he was in hospital. “They told me,” Joseph said, “I need to eat more to work so hard. They said, Joseph you are starving.”

When Joseph finished high school, his father told him there was no money for college. His father told him to go into the military. The military provides a regular pay check, prestige and a lifetime plan of wealth and job security. “I refused.” Joseph said, “I wanted to do something to change the lives of people. If I go to the military I will fight and become rich but whose life will I change.” Joseph paused and looked up at me. “Helping people,” he said, “This is my calling.”

“Since I was young, I always liked helping people.” Joseph said, “I have always wanted to see justice for others. Poverty is a challenge. I knew I wanted to help those without family, those who are destitute like the widow and orphan.”

After struggling for a couple years after high school, Joseph decided to go to Nairobi to help people. A politician he had met in town one day had told him, “You come to Nairobi with 1000 shillings and I will give you a job.” Joseph was hoping that once he was in the city he would be able to help destitute people.

When he got to Nairobi, the politician took the thousand shillings and said, “Sit here in the hotel until I return. I will go get you a job.”

“I sat there all day.” Joseph said, “He never came back.” As it began to get dark, the hotel manager told Joseph he could not sit there anymore. “I told them I was waiting for the politician,” Joseph said, “I refused to leave. They called the security guard in from the street to make me leave.”

“It is a disgrace for a Maasai man to be grabbed and moved.” Joseph said, “I told the soldier, Don’t touch me, I will come.” As Joseph follower the security guard (which the people call a soldier) out of the hotel he was so angry and frustrated. “I started to pray out loud to God, in Maasai language.” Joseph said, “I was asking God why this happened to me.”

When they got outside, the guard turned to Joseph and said, “I understand Maasai. Tell me what has happened to you.” Joseph told him the entire story and the guard said, “Stay by the door until 10pm then I will be back for you.”

During the night a street patrol of two police came past and through Joseph was a loitering homeless person. They did not believe his story and handcuffed him. They were going to take him to jail for the night. Joseph begged them and told his story with such passion they believed him, unruffled him and let him stay.

At 10pm the security guard returned. He fed Joseph and led him to an empty room in the hotel. “Brother,” he said, “You sleep here until 4am. Then I will come and fix the room to look like you have not been here. If we get caught, I will have to pay for your  stay. I cannot afford this.”

“This was my first time ever in a nice hotel.” Joseph said, “It was so nice!” At 4am Joseph rose. The guard who was also the night manager came and removed the sheets and prepared the room.

As Joseph walked down to the lobby, the morning desk person assumed he was a guest of the hotel and told him breakfast was ready. “They fed me until I was very full!”

That day Joseph looked for a job. He knew that Indian men ran the biggest shops, so he went looking for Indian run shops and asked for a job. In the fifth shop, a lady was running the shop. She wanted to hire him but when the husband return, he tried to scare Joseph away by telling him it was very hard work. They decided to employ him as an industrial worker.

Although Joseph had a job, he had no place to sleep, no money and no pay for one month. They fed the workers one meal a day of beans and maise.

“Life was a real challenge.” Joseph said, “I have no friend, no money. I started living like a street child even though I knew I was not a street child. I slept on the back of parked trucks. It was so cold, some mornings I would push ice off my clothes. I was was promised 6000 shillings a month, but each month I was given just 300 shillings ($3 US).”

To make enough money to survive, he and other factory workers would use their time off to sit in a “Matatu” - a bus with 14 seats - and make it look half full. This would get other people to believe the bus would leave soon. As the bus would fill, Joseph and his friends would get out one by one to make room. The Matatu driver would slyly give them 10 shillings as they exited. In this way, once he had 30 shillings he would buy soap, roasted maise (corn cob) or Irish potatoes to eat. Then he would go to the river, wash himself and his clothes with the soap. Then go back to work.

“During this year,” Joseph said, “I was crying to God to get me out poverty. I had come to change people’s lives in the city and now I was a street child.”

“Some nights while sleeping with the other street children on the trucks or in hidden areas,” Joseph said, “police would wake us and force them to leave or take us to jail. Sometimes other boys would mistreat you. Abuse you. The life was so tough.”

After one year, the Indian man said he trusted Joseph. He made him his agent. As the agent, Joseph did 3 things:
1. Go to the bank and get in the queue. When the time came to sign, he used the man’s mobile to call him and say, “Come sign.”
2. Go to tax department and get in the queue. When time came to sign, he would call the boss.
3. Go to the post office or airport and collect the mail or post things that needed to be sent.

Joseph was also given a storeroom in the man’s factory in which to sleep.

After doing these three things each day for a number of weeks, He met a Maasai man in the tax department. The man asked Joseph why he was  in the line every day. He explained he was an agent waiting in line. The other Maasai man said not to wait in line. “From now on,” he said, “come straight to me and I will do the papers.” The Maasai man was one of the primary tax agents.

It didn’t take the Indian man to notice that Joseph had a direct line at the tax department. He told other Indian business owners and they started using Joseph as well. “I was paid 200 shillings per queue.” Joseph said, “I was making 600 shillings a day, visiting the tax department for three Indian men.”

Joseph could now afford his own small bedroom in which to live.

One day, on an airport run, Joseph saw a Muzungu woman crying. He asked her what was wrong. She said, “I’m absolutely finished.” The husband came over and explained they had come to Africa as missionaries to drill bore holes to provide water for tribes. They had been waiting for two weeks for the expensive drilling machine to pass customs. They had decided the machines had stolen. It is not unusual for imports to be stollen and sold when they come into the country.

Joseph said, “Don’t leave. Let me see what I can do.”

“The immigration minister was a Maasai Seventh-day Adventist from my region.” Joseph said, “I knew this, but I did not know him. I knew his family were friends with my pastor. I called the pastor and asked him to convince the minister to help these people do God’s work in Africa. The water from these wells will come to our people.”

20 minutes later Joseph's phone rang. It was the immigration minister. “I am send a vehicle for the three of you. Get in and it will bring you to me.”

“I told the Muzungu man we were going to see the minister of immigration.” Joseph said, “He did not believe me but his wife convinced him. She said, ‘We have no alternative. We must trust this boy’.”

When they reached the minister, he asked Joseph to come in alone, with the customs papers. Once Joseph had explained the situation to the minister, things happened quickly. He picked up his phone and called the principal immigration officer to come to his office immediately.

When the man arrived, the minister asked him two questions:
1. “Who is the minster of immigration? If you think you are the minister, I will resign right now!” The other man was terrified and sweating.
“2. If I am the minister, I need these things right now.” Then he handed the officer the import papers.

“Give me three hours,” the imigration officer said, “after that you can fire me or do whatever you wish.”

“You’re request is well granted!”
The officer left quickly.

The immigration minister said, “Go wait with the Muzungus.”

They paid for Joseph to stay the night in the same lodge as them. The next morning, the minister called and said, “I am sending you a car. Take it to the airport and see if the package has arrived.”

As they drove toward the airport, the driver took them to the VIP section of the airport. When they got to the desk, everything was there. The immigration officer had also pulled out all the stops to ensure he kept his job.

1. No custom duty was charged.
2. No Value Added Tax for further purchases. This meant anything these missionaries purchased, during their entire stay there would be no government tax charged.
3. Governmental transportation for both the missionaries and the bore drill was given to any location they wished to go.

At the hotel, the Mzungu missionaries asked Joseph what they could do for him in return.

“I want you to do two things.” Joseph said, “I want you to give thanks to God. He made all this happen. I want you to give thanks to the minister. If you will do those two things for me, I will be blessed.”

They insisted to do something for Joseph. For three days they called him every afternoon and asked to meet him. They would buy lunch and ask again, “What can we do for you.”

“I stood by my principals,” Joseph said.

They asked, “We will decide what to give to God. But we do not know what to give the minister in thanks. Please tell us what to give him.”

“Give the minister textbooks for school children and he will give them to the children of Kenya.” Joseph said, “You will have helped the children and made the minister look very good.”

We went together to macmillion publishing in Nairobi. They explained they were missionaries from America and wanted to buy school books for children in Kenya.

That couple purchased 700,000 shillings worth of books and delivered them to the minister in seven Nissan minibuses filled with books.

The minister was so happy. He wanted to give them a present. They explained he had already given them back their ministry in Kenya.

“This Adventist couple have become friends to me.” Joseph said, “My focus is to help children. Theirs was to give water to the people. They have put water access many places, even here in Kapune. They also helped me form a constitution for my organisation from Isaiah 1:17 to help children.
1. Seek justice
2. Plead for orphans
3. Defend the oppressed
4. Plead for widows
This is now the constitution I use in helping the children I rescue.”

A few months later, another American Adventist couple had there imports stolen. They were missionary evangelists coming to install satellite dishes. They told the first couple about it and were told, “Call Joseph!”

This time, Joseph called the minster directly and he acted quickly sorting everything out in less than an hour.

They asked, “What can we do in thanks, Joseph?”

“First, Thank God!” Joseph said, “Then build a church in my village. They built a church 300 metres from my Grandfather’s house. They also installed a satellite and projector and screen for the church.”

Three years later, a satellite evangelism program (being broadcast from South Africa) was held at the church. 37 Maasai were baptised as a result of the two week program.

Joseph continued working in Nairobi for another year, until he had earned enough money to come home, buy land and start his his work as a rescuer of children.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Closing Sabbath

After the service was finished, we had communion as this was 13th Sabbath. First we did foot washing. Then men outside and the women in the church. Joseph and I washed each others feet and prayed together. Then he washed my hands and offered his to me, to wash. It is customary to wash your hands after foot washing to prepare for taking the bread and wine. But, I had never had someone else wash them. It was a remarkably humbling and touching moment. As we finished the hand washing, Joseph took my hands in his and prayed for me.

Then we went into the church for the bread and wine. Courtney and I were unsure if we should drink the ‘wine’ as it could be watered down with river water - which the people drink - and we could get sick. After being assured the juice was received from the conference and then boiled, Mercy said to Courtney, “But you need not worry, it has been prayed for. You will not get sick.” She was right, we are both fine and healthy, a day later.

Communion finished at 2.30. Leon had arrived at the end of the service and gave his greetings to the people. He told them how much he and Carole had enjoyed their time with them and how much they would miss them when they left on Wednesday.

As we exited the church and stood around outside, a few ladies started looking over at the Prado, parked just beyond the fence, and laughing. A wet weather jacket was hanging from the window as it has not been closing properly. I said to Joseph, “Are they laughing about the coat in the window?”

“No,” Joseph said, “they are talking about you.”

“Me?” I said, “Why?”

“They are wondering if you will fit through the hole in the fence to get to the Prado.” Joseph laughed.

The fence had a gate that you ducked through, rather than opened. It consisted of a number of sticks crossed and nailed together. There was a hole, clearly big enough for a Maasai to go through, but not a goat or cow.

I laughed and headed toward the fence, “I’ll show them!” I said over my shoulder.

I ducked and squeezed through the hole as casually as I could. Then, popping up on the other side, I spun around and blew them a rasberry. They all laughed.

Heading back up the hill in the Prado, Leon gave us an update. Michelle had a badly infected ankle. It was treated and wrapped, she now has medicine to take regularly to get rid of the infection.

The X-ray shows that Little Vivian has a chipped bone in her angle. Her leg is now wrapped and she is under strict orders not to walk on it. She gets around with a stick and a smile. She will need to stay home for the next week and then join the children who are heading to school on Wednesday after their two month year end holiday.

After a lunch of Spagetti on toast we all headed up to the ridge for a walk, surrounded by the most amazing views. All of the children walked with us and we were joined by neighbouring kids as we walked.

Walking along the ridge, I was intrigued by an empty metal frame. Clearly it once had a sign in it. I asked Joseph about it.

“People from the Netherlands planted trees and put up the sign.” Joseph said.

I looked across the barren mountain top. “What trees?” I asked.

Joseph pointed at one lone tree some ways up the ridge, “That is the last one.” Then he pointed at rocky circles in the ground, “These are holes where the trees were.” Perceiving them for the first time I saw a huge gridwork of holes in all directions.

“What happened to the rest of the trees?”

“They planted them and left,” Joseph said. “The government said they would care for them but they did nothing.”

“The people from the Netherlands went home thinking they had done a great thing,” I said. “I wonder what they would think now?”

“True.” Joseph said.

“Why did they plant the trees here?” I asked.

“The government owns tops of all the highest ridges,” Joseph said, “They allow good things like schools and clinics there. But, the government does not run them, so they keep going.” We continued walking up the ridge.

Leon led songs as he walked with a group far in front of us. I made animal noises at the occasional donkey, cow and sheep. The kids laughed and joined in.

A top the ridge, we were blessed with the most amazing views and a beautiful lengthy sunset. The children ran and played as the Mzungus took photos of themselves, the kids, the views and everything else.

As we walked the children held our hands. Some got rides of the shoulders of Joseph and myself. It was a perfect finish to a blessed Sabbath day.

The day that had started with frustration and angst at the slowness of this place ended with a gratefulness for the same thing. The peace and tranquility are revitalising. Knowing that the two girls who were injured are now on the mend allowed everyone to rest their worried minds and enjoy the ebbing minutes of the Sabbath.

We returned to the house, had a quick dinner of pan fried potatoes - Leon’s specialty. Then we headed into a time of singing and stories about the great plan God has for our eternal lives and the intricate plan he has for each of our lives here on Earth, should we choose to follow Him.

We closed the Sabbath, as we had opened it, with prayer. And we all headed to bed.

Opening Sabbath

Sabbath began with a sense of frustration and need.

Courtney and Carole had driven all the way to the St Joseph’s in Kilgoris, waited for more than three hours in a typical Kenyan queue, only to be told there was no X-ray machine at this hospital and they would need to go to different one tomorrow as closing time had passed. Little Vivian was untreated, her ankle still immobile and in pain.

As they were sitting in the hospital, the skies opened up and the stony, rut strewn road became a mudslide. Courtney did her best not to careen off the road and managed to get all the way back to just a few Kilometres from home when she noticed something wasn’t right with the vehicle’s handling. They stopped and explored. One of the rear tyres was flat.

After a bit of phone tag with Leon and I, pictures were exchanged and Leon decided it was too flat to drive on. He called a motorcycle taxi and waited. When the taxi arrived more than 30 minutes later, Leon chased it to the top of the hill as it wasn’t powerful enough to take two people up steep hills. At the top of the hill, Leon hopped on and was at the Prado and fixed the tyre quickly.

Soon (Kenyan time), everyone was home. Vivian was back resting in her bed, Courtney and Carole were happy to be back and able to get out of the car! The time, now about 7.30pm, was nearing for opening Sabbath.

A quick meal of potato and pumpkin mash and beans on toast was eaten as the children filled the room for opened Sabbath worship. The topic was prayer as the day had been filled with prayer! We sang, laughed, prayed and worshipped together.

All the children headed to their beds and so did the adults. It had been a tiring day!

Sabbath morning, I arose about 6am and, after a trip down the hill the the toilet and back up the hill to my room, I grabbed my towel and toiletries and headed back down the hill. As I headed down, I saw a fire going. This is where they heat the water for the Maasai shower. I went to the fire with my towel over my shoulder and say against a tree to enjoy the flames.

Soon, Mercy came over with a large pot of water and put it on the flames. I was amazed to watch as she moved the burning logs with her bare hands. I greeter her and she offered me a chair - The Maasai are wonderfully polite people. I said the ground was closer to the fire. She said, “Yes, but maybe it is wet.” I smiled and gesturing at the fire I said, “Joseph told me that when a Maasai get’s wet they build a fire.” Mercy laughed and said, “True!”

Later, Joseph came over and I asked him about touching the burning fire. “Doesn’t it hurt?”

He laughed and said, “No, these black hands do not absorb so much heat.” Then he took the pot off crackling logs, reached into the fire and started moving things around. I was in pain just watching. Finally, he said, “Now that is better for the pot.” He replaced the pot on the more even arrangement of fuel and showed me his hands. They were fine.

Mercy returned to join us at the fire and tested the water, pouring some into her palm. “Your shower is ready,” she said. She then picked the pot up by the rim, poured the water into a large plastic bowl and carried it to the other room next to the toilet.

A Massai shower is the fine art of throwing water at yourself from a bowl, soaping up, and then throwing more water at yourself. Washing your hair is done last above the bowl so there is some water remaining, you rinse into the bowl and the water in the bowl get’s more soapy as your hair gets less soapy. That’s the theory anyway!

As I reached into the bowl of water, it was so hot I could barely touch it. I dipped my hands in quickly and rubbed them together. Doing this a number of times, I was soon able to handle the heat. Then I began the throwing, soaping and rinsing process. It is remarkably pleasureable.

After returning to the house, dressing in my Sabbath finest and having a breakfast of porridge, Joseph and Mercy came in for a visit. They had gifts. “Please accept these poor gifts as our thanks,”  Joseph said. He then proceeded to hand out the most amazingly beautiful Maasai clothing to us. Leon and I recieved handmade shirts. Courtney received a young woman’s outfit of a skirt, top and shawl. Carole was given a adult woman’s dress. All of the items were truly remarkable in craftsmanship and design.

They waited for us to put them on. Leon and Carole’s gifts were a perfect fit. Courtney’s had some extra room in it. Joseph said, “You must eat more ugali, there is room for you to become a woman!” Courtney laughed. We are all noticing small differences in cultural niceties. Body shape and size is just another topic for discussion like the rain and the cows.

My shirt was too snug to get over my impressive  girth. Joseph said, “Let me help. I put the beautiful shirt over my shoulders and he began to tug at the waistline of the shirt. “No problem,” he said, “We will have the maker of the shirt add some.” I removed the shirt from my head and returned to my room to grab one of my collection of pullover Indian-style shirts that my mother-in-law makes for me. They are my absolutely favourite shirts! I had noticed the cut and design of the Maasai shirt was the same as my other ones. I gave a shirt to Joseph and said, “They can use this as a sizing pattern. It fits perfectly.”

“That will help, I am sure,” Joseph said. We put the two shirts in a bag which Carole and Leon took into Kalgolis when heading to the hospital. Joseph called the tailor and the bag was retreived from Carole at the hospital.

“I am very sorry,” I said, “I feel bad for not receiving your gift well.”

“Do not worry,” Joseph said, “I guessed all of your sizes and I am sorry I got yours wrong. You are bigger than you look!”

I laughed, “Yes, I put on weight very evenly everywhere so I do not have just a big belly or a big bum, it is all big together! Most people are surprised when they hear the number of Kilo’s I weigh.”

Joseph looked around, we were alone one, he leaned in and whispered, “What is that number?!?”

I laughed. The cultures are so different but it is truly amazingly disarming when you realise they are not being rude but are truly honest, open and interested in you. “125 kilos,” I said. His eyes shot wide open. “Two months ago the number was 135!” I added, “I am getting smaller but it takes time.”

“True!” Joseph said, “I will make the shirt to fit you now! You come stay in Maasai land for three months and you will be much smaller!”

“True!” I said, “There is so much walking and very healthy food. This is a very healthy place.”

“Very healthy,” Joseph repeated in his way of showing agreement.

A few minutes later, Leon and Carole headed back to Kalgolis with two girls to the district hospital. Vivian was able to put a bit of pressure on her foot and slightly wiggle her toes. The second girl, Michelle, had developed an infection on her ankle overnight. It was so bad she could hardly walk. The four of them got in the Prado and headed to Kalgolis as the rest of us prepared to walk to church.

Courtney and I joined Joseph and Mercy for a 20 minute walk to church. Down through the bottom gate, we walked. Then onto a road that was more of a walking track, past a number of houses - Joseph telling us who lived in each. We entered a valley with a stream in the middle and crossed a small bridge made from a concrete pipe. Then we walked up the hill to the church.

As we were nearing the church building, I said to Joseph, “I am going to use a word you taught me yesterday.”

Everyone stopped and looked at me, evidently this was an exciting moment. What word had Dave learned?

Now,  a bit embarrassed, I smiled and said, “I need to make a ‘short call’ before church.”

“Ah,” Joseph said.

“We will wait for you up there,” Mercy said.

Joseph led me to a small building standing on it’s own behind the local school building. “That is the good one,” he said, pointing at one of two doors.

I opened the door and faced an empty room - the floor a concrete slab with a hole in the middle. Luckily, a short call does not require squatting!

Walking out a few moments later, Joseph said, “Good?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m ready for a day at church!”

We joined the ladies and headed across the field to a group of people clustered under a tree, studying the Bible together. As we walked we went around the children, sitting on a grassy slope having their Sabbath School class.

We were seated in a position of honour in the front and joined the conversation. Visitors are given respect in Maasai culture and Mzungus are clearly visitors. So, before you even introduce yourself it is known that you are a visitor and you will be shown respect. Courtney and I were given comfortable chairs with backs on them while everyone else sat on the ground or benches.

The lesson was on Job. Hearing about his return to health and wealth - having many goats and cows - the pastor taught as the local livestock created the backdrop behind him. The sun shone and a gentle breeze blew through the trees. I turned to Courtney and said, “I could do Sabbath like this every week.” She nodded and whispered, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

After Sabbath School there was a lengthy time of singing. One person would start singing where they were sitting. Then they would stand, walk to the front and gesture to the people they wanted to join them. Soon a makeshift choir was formed and the entire assembly would join in the singing. Then they would sit and another song would start in the same way.

After a few songs, Joseph invited Courtney and I to go into the church building to plan the service. A church worship plan book was handed to him and we divided up the responsibilities. Courtney would do opening prayer. Joseph and the pastor would do the welcome and pastoral prayer. I would do the sermon (yes, I knew this already!). We then returned to the outdoor church setting and sat behind the table, facing the audience, ready for the service.

The service started with a local choir who performed a beautiful item. The service then proceeded as planned and concluded after Joseph and I finished our sermon on “A day in the life of Jesus” taught from Matthew 14. It was a joyful and beautiful experience worshipping God with such lovely people in such an amazing setting!

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...