Monthly Archives: September 2013

It Could Have Been Me

I wasn’t in Westgate Mall when terrorists took over the building, but I could have been. It’s my favorite mall. The one I usually go to whenever I am in Nairobi. I love its global feel. I love the free wifi at Arts Café (my happy place). I love the posh atmosphere. After spending time in Kenya’s more rural mountains, Westgate is always a little piece of paradise.

The last time I was there I ate spinach ricotta lasagna. It was heavenly, the first real cheese I’d eaten in three months. I caught up on emails, watched the adorable little Indian girls sitting at the table next to mine, and soaked in the buzz of life happening around me. I went to Nakumat and bought chocolate bars for my co-worker, Alyssa, as a peace offering for leaving her to take care of the kids while Ruthann and I went into the capital to take care of visa issues. I bought cute little toothbrush holders for the kids and wandered the supermarket aisles feeling like I was back in the US wandering the aisles of Target.

When I think of Westgate I think of culture, beauty, mango smoothies, family outings, and movie theaters. Now I’ll always think of grenades, gunshots, children screaming, and people jumping from the upper floors in order to get away from the terror.

I can’t wrap my mind around the thought of all those families trapped in the mall—a simple family outing turned into a tragic nightmare. What is the point of attacking a mall, killing children, and destroying a place a peace? It’s been four days now. We are still waiting to hear how it is all going to end. Every time I read an article about what is going on at Westgate the death count is higher.

What if it had been me sitting there enjoying my spinach ricotta lasagna when the gunshots started? What if it had been me when they asked the hostages to recite an Islamic prayer or be shot? What if it had been me taking one of the kids from the children’s home where I work on a special treat into town? I can’t imagine being unable to protect my child from terrorists with grenades and guns. I can’t imagine how those mother’s felt last Saturday when they had to live through hell.

What kind of person targets a mall? What kind of person attacks children simply going about their day? It’s heartbreaking. Yes, they created terror but for what? It’s sickening just to think about it.

If it had been me, I pray I would have been strong—strong enough to forgive such evil, strong enough to help those weaker than myself. But, it wasn’t me. I’m here safe in my rural mountain home away from the chaos, away from the pain of hundreds of families aching for their loved ones. But, I am not untouched even here far away from it all. My heart hurts for Kenya, for the injured, for those planning funerals, for those whose memories are forever scarred by choosing the wrong day to go to the mall.

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Filed under Contemplations, Grief, Kenya, Travel

Make Me Believe in Make Believe

We forwent the dreaded naptime and decided to go for a walk instead. It’s my favorite walk up and down the hidden paths of Maraigushu overlooking both Lake Naivasha and Mount Longonot. It’s hard not to fall in love with Kenya on those walks.

We had the seven youngest kids plus the neighbor girl who practically lives here at the children’s home. The kids skipped ahead racing each other and making toys from sticks and dirt clods. I took in the scenery and thanked God that warmer weather was finally starting to show up.

Then we reached the spot. The magical spot. Bushes surround a small fence post opening and through that little opening is an almost surreal scene—a field of golden wheat grass shining in the sun. Trees gracefully sway throughout the enchanted land, and there are no houses or roads for as far as you can see.

“Are you ready to enter Narnia?” I yelled out to the kids as we reached the opening to the field. The kids recently watched the first two Narnia movies and have talked about nothing else for weeks.

“Yes,” they yelled back excitedly. I thought, “I hope this doesn’t disappoint” knowing that the last time I had gone on this walk a tractor was in the process of mowing down some of my precious wheat.

Fortunately, the experience didn’t disappoint. My little munchkins were happy to play along. They ran through the wheat pretending to be centaurs and fauns. It makes my heart happy to see them thinking outside of the confines of this physical world. I want them to dream. I want them to imagine. I want them to believe in the impossible because we serve a creative God who delights in the imagination. Maybe something is not real in this world but what about in the next one? I’m sure heaven is going to simply blow our earthly minds.

I suppose that’s one reason I enjoy working with children so much. The faith and imagination of a child is a beautiful thing. I never want to loose that. I never want to forget what it feels like to dream. I never want to loose my ability to imagine. I always want to be able to bask in the beauty of the King of Kings

Let me see new places

Let me see new places

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Filed under Contemplations, Kenya

Inside in a Green Desert

Sometimes I wondered why I had come. It was a last minute decision. I missed my kids. I was surrounded by doctors, nurses, dentists, and evangelists who spoke the language way better than I did and who had skills to offer that I could never come close to offering. It was me, a team of 80 Kenyans, and one other American. Sometimes I wondered why I had been invited, but I came, observed, tried to communicate, and helped were I could.

The jobs were never glamorous jobs counting out pills in the pharmacy and helping peel a literal mountain of carrots. But, I was happy to be apart of a team ministering in the remote mountains of Kenya no matter how small the job.

Pokot reminded me of a desert, cactus, camels, and thorns everywhere. But, this desert was a green one with leaves mixed in with the thorns and a muddy river nearby. The people dressed more like the remote Maasi tribes of Kenya—large beaded necklaces, gauged ears, and men and boys in plaid wrap around skirts. Small boys with walking sticks in hand herded scattered flocks of goats. Camels rambled through our makeshift dwellings. It felt at times like a whole other world tucked peacefully in the mountains untouched by the stresses and noise of modern life.

Green Desert

Over 500 people showed up the first day for medical and dental care. Councilors were on hand to provide spiritual help to those who wanted it. Evangelism teams walked miles to talk to people in their homes and were greeted by receptive listeners seeking a relationship with God.

 

I joined the Sunday school team. We taught the children Bible lessons while they and their parents waited to see a doctor. The first day we had a small group. The second days we were mobbed with children. I still felt more like an observer than an actual teacher as our translator seemed to be doing such an excellent job of teaching the kids that I  didn’t want to interrupt her flow.

 

Bible story time

Bible story time

Then I met Kipilat. I had seen him come in that morning a slender boy on crutches. He was nimble despite only having one leg, but when all the other kids trooped up the hill to hear a Bible story and to play games he shyly stayed behind. I invited him to come join us in the little broken Swahili that I know. He answered me in Pokot and stayed right where he was. I went to get Elizabeth the other American on the team she works with people who need artificial limbs so she sat with Kipilat for awhile and with the help of a translator they talked for awhile. He was still hesitant to join the other kids. Elizabeth told me that many children born without limbs are seen as having been cursed, so they are often afraid to be around other kids their age. Kipilat seemed to have one good friend a little boy around his age who would come and check on him and hang out with him. We finally convinced him to join us. He still sat away from the other kids, but near enough to hear the story. I gave him a pen and some paper to draw, and he seemed to do well as long as he wasn’t getting too much attention.

 

Elizabeth and Kipilat

Elizabeth and Kipilat

Elizabeth has taken it upon herself to help get Kipilat get an artificial leg so that he can walk to school (right now he is attending nursery school even thought he is 12 years old) and have a more normal life. The boy has been living with an uncle so getting the leg paid for is going to take awhile, but the doctors have agreed to do the surgery now and then raise the money to pay for it. The cost of the leg is only $500 and the cost of the surgery is $800. I’ve asked Elizabeth how I can help because this little boy touched my heart. She told me that for those living outside of Kenya money can be given to

AIC-CURE International Children Hospital
Account Number: 7336323
Bank name: Barclays Bank of Kenya Limited
Bank address: PO Box 14403-00800 Nairobi, Kenya
                      Tel: +254-20-4442685; Fax:+254-20-4453164
Branch: Westlands-Nairobi
Swift code: BARCKENX
Branch code: 022

and for those in Kenya money can go through a pay bill account or brought in person to Cure Children’s Hospital in Kijabe.

 

Kipilat and his friend

Kipilat and his friend

I am excited to see how God will provide for Kipilat. He is scheduled to come on Thursday to begin preparations for surgery. He is such a sweet boy, and I hope I get to see his face when he takes his first step on his new leg.

Kipilat

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