October 7, 2019

Our last week in Kenya began with a wedding. Our new pastor, Tom, was marrying his wife. Well, technically not his wife, but as far as Kenyan culture, she was. Most couples had prayers said over them and no marriage certificate, so we had a full-blown wedding. Isabel, the house mother, lent her a dress and veil. Some of the young women fixed her hair, loaned her jewelry, and I had wedding rings available. Thank you Amazon.

The ceremony takes time, just walking the bride with her entourage, takes quite a while. The cake even has a procession and takes almost as long as the bride to get to the front of the church. But everyone loves weddings, and they always get excited to see one.

Everyone in the church received a small piece of cake. It was dry and had little sugar in it, but it didn’t matter. Everyone wanted a piece!

A few days later, we had our last widow’s meeting on this trip. But on the way to the church, we had a “puncture”. Within minutes, even before Coney could get the spare down, we had a small crowd of helpers. They jacked up the truck, took off the lug nuts, and tried to get the spare down. Coincidentally, we had helped one of the volunteers the day before. His truck had slid into a ditch because of the muddy roads, and we pulled him out. I am always amazed at how willing everyone is to help in the time of need.

Once we arrived at the church, the widows were singing and waiting for everything to start. We had beans and sugar for each one. Sugar being the one that made them smile.

The store where we bought the sugar gave us 70 bags of sugar with 2 kilos in each bag. We give each widow one kilo. We have 140 widows, so this presented a problem. We had to split each bag in half. Quickly, everyone got upset. We had a small riot, and I had to get Coney to come in and keep the peace. His voice was the only one loud enough to quiet everyone down. We had to pair each widow/widower and let them divide the bag between them.

A small amount of chaos but with a happy ending. Sugar here is a blessing to each one. They can have sugar in their tea, which gives them energy. Especially if they have little else available. We have heard of people breaking into houses in Kitale and only taking the sugar.

I understand completely. I feel the same way about doughnuts!

We will return next year. I will miss my mamas. They are a delight and a blessing!

Kwaheri from Kipsaina,

Mama Lani

September 18, 2019

This was our third trip to outlying areas in 5 weeks. And the longest driving. We were heading for Kakuma, where the U.N. Refugee camps are located. We stayed in Lodwar for the night and left early on Sunday morning for service. It was a 6 hour trip from Kipsaina to Lodwar, and the road in not like anything in America. As the tarmac (roadway) is being built, there are dirt side roads that you continually drive onto, enormous potholes and bumps that jolted us high in the air. I miss the I-10 if you can believe that.

About 2 hours from Kipsaina, we start driving in Turkana land. This is a massive area for the Turkana tribe, some very desolate landscapes, washes that flooded out areas and villages, and some with mesquite trees covering everything.

Camels along with sheep and goats are the main herds. We saw very few cows, goat being the main dish. It was fascinating when we came to waterhole areas, especially with all the camels.

The Turkana people are peaceful now, but up until about 12 years ago, they were making raids to areas just north of Kipsaina, stealing livestock and murdering people. The Turkana and the Pokot have warred against each other for hundreds of years and still have occasional raids into each other’s land. There are many, many widows and orphans.

We reached Kakuma about 2 hours after leaving Lodwar, just in time for church. We had been to the Congolese church 18 months ago, and the change was huge. We had built them a new building and it was packed full. We had 5 different choirs from the area, and the worship team had African drums, a guitar and bass guitar and was loaded with talent!

The building seated a couple hundred people and flowed out onto a shaded area.

We were there for the grand opening of the building and the cutting of the ribbon.

This was just one camp, where the Congolese gathered. Their church was filled with different nations, South Sudanese, Somalian, Ethiopian and the Turkana of the area.

The last choir to sing was Turkana women and girls in full dress. This was a real miracle because the Turkana are heavily into witchcraft and superstition. This song is about Jesus.

It was a blessing to be invited here for the grand opening of the church. We ate lunch with some of the pastors. Coke, peanuts, deep fried pieces of beef and French fries (chips). And some kind of donut that I ate exclusively. I was happy.

The trip back to Lodwar was highlighted when we came through a village where the men were readying for a wedding. They were doing a “dona” dance. Usually, they prefer not to be photographed, but these guys welcomed and enjoyed the cameras.

Frank (in the middle) prayed with the men. They respectfully took off their headdresses when they prayed. This was a really cool moment!

***

The trip home on Monday was again bumpy, jolting and long. But we had stopped and bought bread and bottles of water for some of the children along the way. Coming in, they had stopped us begging for water and food. We were ready this time.

The trip was educational, full of cultures and a blessing of which to be a part. We will return next April. I’m believing for another adventure.

Kwaheri from my couch in Kitale,

Mama Lani

September 9, 2019

I think I can say, from my own personal, sometimes sarcastic point of view, that the two most precious things we have in America are: a functioning toilet and running water.

Now I understand there are many wonderful blessings of America GREATER than these, but after the last two weeks, I am going with those two.

Two weeks ago, we drove to Turkwel, which is in Pokot Country, with around 20 people from the church and two visiting pastors from America.

I had been there last year, so I knew how things would go, but going out into the Bush country, there’s always a possibility for something new.

The people there are sweet, generous and loving. They love hearing the Word, and dancing in their worship. Just because of that, I enjoy going. But then, there’s the few, white person moments that take place and remind me of how good we live in the States. And how I don’t appreciate them as much as I should.

In Turkwel, there are latrines that are built up on a staircase, with cement sides going down over 8 feet. Of course, they are close to where most everyone gathers in line for the meals, so anyone going up, will definitely be noticed. Especially, the muzungu.

So this time, Coney brought his faithful, portable toilet for me to use. Especially when nature calls at night, and pitch black isn’t even dark enough for what’s outside.

First time using it lasted less than 10 seconds before I crashed on the floor, cracking my head on the wall. Second time using it, I crashed again, scraping off the skin of my elbows as I tried to break the fall. Of course, this had never happened to him, so obviously I had done something wrong. I used the latrines after that, and never drank liquid after 4:00 p.m.

We were fed every meal, breakfast consisting of chapatis or mandazis with milk tea. Delicious, I looked forward to it every morning. Lunch was ugali or rice or cabbage and dinner was roasted GOAT! Unfortunately, tea was my main dish of choice, beans and cabbage becoming problematic, along with so much liquid.

But eating together was great fellowship.

Turkwel is next to Lake Turkwel, a man made lake providing power to the generating plant below and to the outlying areas. The only power we had was a plug in our room where everyone borrowed cords to keep their phones alive.

The women there are mostly wearing t-shirts, skirts and a cloth (lasso) tied around them. but stylish hair-dos have come to the village and many of the young girls had braids and beads adorning their coiffures. And some chin jewelry.

We bathed each night in a cement-like room the size of a latrine, with a drain out the back. Using a basin of warm water, and with almost nothing on which you could hang your towel or your clothes except a thin piece of twine sagging a good 5 feet, you try to get clean. If you’ve forgotten your soap or a cup to throw water on you, good luck, no one is around.

We had 4 services each morning and another at night, and usually the crowd met in the church (which became an oven with that many people) and sang and danced all night. They were happy to be there, thankful for 3 meals a day and appreciative that we came.

On the last day, we stood in an enormous circle, praying and singing, It was very moving and emotional.

We came home, as I was sniffing and coughing the entire trip, thankful for a regular shower and my own bed. And some cold medicine. Which they don’t carry over here, but thankfully, I had brought some.

4 days later, we took off again, for Kapatawoi, Uganda. We stayed in the same mud hut as last year. Home, away from home.

Again, we had latrines and water fetched down by the stream with big containers carried on the young women’s heads. I had a headache just watching them.

We had church again 4 times each morning, once at night, and singing and dancing all night long for those who showed up. The first night, I doubt any of us slept until at 5 a.m. when Coney roared out of the hut yelling at the musicians to ‘Shut it down”. Effective, but a bit too late.

The people there try very hard to make the muzungus comfortable. They wait on us each meal, bring us tea twice a day and provide as many amenities as they know. This was one of the “bathing rooms” constructed for us.

They had a cooking shed for just the pastors and visitors, and they worked from dawn to dusk every day. Again, their favorite dish…goat.

Water for tea, and a women shredding cabbage, up above.

Upon departure, we were given gifts. Coney and Frank each received a goat, and many of the boys and members of the church were given gourds filled with sour milk. Someone got a chicken.

Heading home was again looking really good. I was ready to sleep in my own bed, not worry about insect bites and eat something normal.

But, a day and a half after arriving home, we ran out of water at the house. Thankfully, our visitors were leaving so they didn’t have to deal with toilets w/o flushing and funny things like that.

Four days home, and we still have no water. We did get barrels of water from the boy’s home to get us by.

But a functioning toilet and running water, we do not have. I will never complain about anything ever again…

At least not for a while.

Kwaheri,

From Mama Lani, Latrine expert

August 17, 2019

We’ve had visitors here for a week. Three had never been here before so this was their “rookie” visit. And I must say, they’ve done really well. They’ve joined in with everything we’ve done, supported all of the events and loved and been loved by the people here.

We started on last Sunday, with a church service and dinner afterwards. At church, the team was escorted to the front by the women of the church, to receive sparkly leis and show their dancing skills. The more you dance with the people, the more they want to continue, so everyone got quite a workout.

On Monday, we had a jigger outreach in an area around Bwai. Because we have been working in that area for several years, locating a village that still had any kind of infestation took a while. We set up at the Bwai church and had our trucks bring people to us, including families with other medical conditions. We also distribute pills for intestinal worms and apply a salve for ringworm.

After inspecting several people with medical problems, we arranged transport for them the next morning to the hospital where they received a doctor’s attention and x-rays.

They stopped by on their way.

On Wednesday, we had our widow’s meeting, with the visitors buying beans and sugar (thank you Evelyn) for them. I wish I could express how happy they are to get the sugar. I know I’ve written it before, but sugar to them is the one item that makes their days better. Tea is available, but they don’t always have much to eat. Sugar in their tea gives them energy and helps fill their empty stomachs. I would compare the joy it brings to me being given a dozen donuts. And eating them all.

On Thursday, we had clothes and shoes and a few backpacks to hand out to the village kids. I’ve learned that there is a bit of jealousy between the village kids and the boys in the orphanage. Over the years, our boys have received gifts from all the teams that visit here. The village children know what’s going on and realize how much they are missing out on. Although we buy uniforms, school shoes and pay a lot of the exam fees for the village kids, so they can continue in school, the difference between what they get and what the boys get, is noticeable. So…last year the team came with 75 outfits and a considerable number of shoes for the village kids. We ran out. This year, the team came with several lockers of clothes and shoes, and between them, the members of Grace Covenant Church in Phoenix, and New Hope in Christ Church in Denver, Colorado, we gave out clothes for every child that showed up.

Friday was another jigger ministry, this time over two hours away on an incredibly muddy road that had us slipping and sliding through it. Again, jiggers were attended to, ringworm was medicated and stomach pills distributed. The team did an exceptional job of helping everyone.

Saturday, was just a day for fun. The team brought frisbees, jumping ropes, and bags of little army men and dinosaurs. Smokies were grilled, cake was eaten (before the meal of course) and soda pop purchased.

It’s been a great week! People were touched, bellies were filled and smiles abounded. All I need now, is a donut.

Kwaheri from Kipsaina,

Mama Lani

July 23, 2019

I wanted to give a few highlights about what we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. The last blog ended after our widow’s group met and received beans, sugar, salt, matches, jewelry and shower caps.

Our next widow’s group took us to Mount Elgon, a village up north with whom we’ve just recently made contact, and found another 150 widows in need of food. When I say “in need of food” it’s because most people here farm maize. It is planted in April and harvested in November. Beans might be planted along with the maize, but many can’t afford it. Until the maize is harvested they have little else to live on. So we passed lots of beautiful landscapes, lots of maize growing, and found that there is not much food available.

When we arrived, it was obvious there were more than widows showing up. The village found out food was being distributed and many more came in hopes of receiving something. We again had beans, sugar, salt and matches. And too many people hoping.

As we started distributing everything, people kept cutting in line, more than just widows were coming through and it became apparent there were people were not going to be happy if they received nothing.

We sent Frank to buy maize (from a previous harvest) from another village, and started handing it out to mothers with children. A group of young men were asking for food and telling us they were orphans. It became quite chaotic and eventually, we had to shut it down and leave.

So we tried one more time in a village named Mileycuminamoja. I can actually pronounce it now, although it took me a couple of weeks. It stands for Mile 11.

This one was more orderly, almost exclusively widows, and was received with appreciation.

We also had a birthday party in between village visits, with cake (which they always serve first), smokies, beans and soda pop. And of course, the singing over the cake.

And then last Sunday, we had a fundraiser at a sister church, down the road at Aruba Junction. A hilarious auction was held for just about any possible item, and then the pastor was given that money to buy chairs for his church. Our Praise and Worship Team sang. Always a blessing.

Next month we will have 3 different teams arriving, with medical missions, widow’s meetings, conferences in Pokot and other villages. I will keep you updated!

Kwaheri from Mama Lani

July 5, 2019

Today was a wonderful day for our widows! They received more than we’ve ever given to them, and the appreciation and thanks were incredibly evident.

When we arrive, they always stand and sing. They have such beautiful harmony, and when they sing and clap as you walk in, you feel like some kind of royalty.

Dawna Lackey and her daughter Erika, came specifically for the widows, providing an abundant bounty for each of them after giving a pertinent and timely message. They were given a kilo of sugar, two kilos of beans, a package of salt, several boxes of matches (necessary to start your fire every morning for tea) a shower cap (it rains a lot here) and some jewelry. The mamas were thrilled! I’ve never seen them so thankful and excited.

The appreciation was overwhelming, just trying to get out the door. Pictures were taken, hands shaken, shoulders hugged and still, they wanted to keep saying “thank you”. It was a wonderful, wonderful day for our mamas.

Kwaheri from Kipsaina,

Mama Lani

June 22, 2019

Just a short little post. I wasn’t able to get out to the boy’s home since the Sunday before, due to some sort of “bad meat” incident. I won’t be eating “mincemeat” (our hamburger) for a while.

These pictures were taken just over a week ago when I was able to hitch a ride while Coney was working on our house. But first, a glimpse of a tree in our front yard just outside the front door.

These are black and yellow Weaver birds. They strip bushes, trees and plants to create their nests which they enter in through the bottom. They are extremely noisy and energetic. The noise starts at sunrise and ends at sunset. It is believed here that if weaver birds gather in your yard, you are blessed.

This time of the year, maize is grown in our area from April to October/November. But in the warmer areas, it is started early and is now available in Kipsaina. The early maize is usually roasted since it is softer. There is a lady near the boy’s home where I can buy the maize and beg one of the boys to roast them for me. This is Augustine helping me out. Obviously you can feel the joy he expresses.

Coney’s not a fan of the roasted maize, preferring butter on his sweet corn. And these ears were really long and chewy. By the time I had eaten 3/4 of it, my jaw was tired.

While I was eating the maize, Robin and Isabel were cleaning some kind of vegetable that she mixes with cow peas and then boils and eventually stir-frys with tomatoes and onions. I call them weeds. We use to have them in our back yard when we lived in Peoria. Isabel insists they are not weeds but some delicious green the boys like.

I’m not falling for it!

So, this is definitely a short post. But we should be out and about starting next week. We are expecting 11 people from Delaware next Saturday and they’ve asked to do medical missions, help build a widow’s house and work on the farm. I will write more then.

Kwaheri from Kitale,

Mama Lani