Thursday, March 1, 2012

Challenges and Disappointments

It is Thursday evening here at Anajali. Challenges come every day. Yesterday the Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education results were released. Everyone waited anxiously to hear which school was the best, which boy was the top student in Kenya, and which girl was the top girl student in Kenya. And then the individual students waited for their results. Poor Flora found that she had not received the grade that would allow her to go to nursing school. Please pray for her as she needs to chose another career. The principal said that she could be enrolled in Early Childhood Development and become a teacher as she is very good with young children .

Godliver also faced a huge challenge today as she had to appear in court and testify concerning the brutal rape that she suffered. Testifying in court is not an easy thing to do and when it involves such a difficult experience, it is even more difficult. Please pray for her.

We traveled very bad roads to go out to Flora's school to clear her account and get her certificate of completion of secondary education. On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch. We had roasted meat, ugali; and tomato, onion, and garlic salad. We washed our hands at faucets over drums that had been cut in half to catch the waste water. We were served quickly and while eating, a number of men with the items they wanted to sell, came in and tried to get people to buy. One man carried a huge stack of Bibles - some kiswahili and some NIV English translations. Two ladies at the next booth were interested in buying but wanted a study Bible which he did not have.

Upon arriving back at school, I found the ladies of the knitting class gathering and the students of Anajali leaving on their break. The ladies want to meet again tomorrow to knit even though the school will not be in session. They are working on their sweaters. Some have both the back and front done and need to start on the sleeves. Lorna has done a great job with the cable stitch.

Rains came down again for a short while helping the dusty situation to calm down for a few minutes. Now we are home and waiting for the dressmaker to come with the dresses that he was fixing for three of the team members. Soon it will be time to eat and then to bed. Tomorrow we go out to the sewing school. It will be good to see how the students have progressed.

Signing off, Anne

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

by Anne Blodgett

This morning we all pilled into the van to head to the Anajali School for the work of the day.  It was so encouraging to see the posts for the walls all in place where the rubble had been.  The African men hired to oversee the construction and tell us what to do, had worked incredibly hard.  Wayne, Len, Steven and Andy worked on pounding two-by-fours every so many feet up the sides of the poles so that the corrugated iron sheets can be nailed on.  Later in the day, it was exciting to see the trusses for the roof constructed on the ground, raised up and hanging upside down from the frame of the building and then one by one raised into place by one of the men pushing them up with a another two-by-four.

The wind being very strong blew dust into our mouths, noses and eyes.  By 10:30 am we were ready to go visiting in the homes of some of the Anajali school children.  We were divided into four groups.  Each group was led by one of the teachers and at least one child from each home walked with us to show us the way to the home.  Some homes were fairly easy to get to.  For other homes, we had to walk down very steep slopes and then across the bridge and up extremely rocky, narrow, and often slippery paths.  We jumped from rock to rock, across sewer ditches, and down narrow passageways until at last the home was reached.  How grateful the people were for us to visit, read scripture to them and then pray with them.  The narrow five by ten living room with another section the same size for sleeping and curtained off from the main room made up the structure of the home.  Some families had five or more children living in this small space.  When the Citizen TV people came yesterday to Anajali  to do a video for the local TV, they said that Anajali was like heaven to these children.  After walking and visiting in the slum and returning to Anajali, it was so clear that Anajali is like heaven to these children.  It is clean and safe.  Children are learning as well as having a meal to eat.

In the afternoon, Lauren and Steven Siler, Alyssa Amsden, and Len Cooper went with Wellington to see an orphanage outside Nairobi.  This orphanage is home to over 100 children.  It was a moving experience for them to see these children.  Within minutes the little ones had made friends with Alyssa, holding her hands and tugging on her skirt calling her Auntie Alyssa.

Those of us left at the school found things to do.  Wayne continued to help with construction.  Linda and Debbie finished the de-worming clinic.  Bradford did a wonderful presentation on conservation of natural resources to Class 6, 7 and 8.  Then Linda, Debbie, Bradford and I worked in classrooms having the children write thank you letters for the gifts that had been given them.  Lori continued her knitting class.  All the ladies who signed up for the classes have attended each day and are learning very quickly how to knit and purl and do designs.  They are enjoying the classes so much.

By five o'clock, we were back at the house and showers began again.  Bradford is having his toe dressed.  Yesterday after carrying more bags of dirt he discovered that the back side of his toe had exploded due to the pressure on the foot.  It was bandaged up well by our two nurses.  However, he was not able to go into the slum with us.

It is impossible to be here without these people and children finding their way deep into our hearts.  We all discovered in each area where we went in the slum, how many children were not in school.  How blessed the Anajali children are to be in school and in Anajali in particular.

I thought, as I picked up a crying child who had fallen into the sewer ditch and could not get up and then tried to comfort him, that when we reach out and help one of these little ones, we are doing it unto Jesus.  Taking time to help one of these little ones reminds me of Jesus taking the children on his knee and blessing them.  How these children need the hope of Jesus Christ.

It is time for our evening meal and then the group devotions.  This team is working together so well and we praise God for all that He is doing in and through each one of us.  Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Created for Work

by Len Cooper

Eph 2:10 NKJV - For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Over and over again we hauled bags of dirt ranging from 40 to 60lbs to a pit about 300 yards away from the school.  We have been helping clear a location that a new classroom could be built.  Currently, classes are combined for lack of space making instruction difficult for teachers.  Each walk from the construction location to the debris pit is full of sites, sounds, and smells.  We are greeted by small children "how aRe yoU?" (emphasis added).  We see animals everywhere: goats, cats, dogs, pigs, and chickens and some creatures for which I have no name.  We cross a narrow alley on the way to the pit, avoiding corrugated steel roofs sticking out into the alley with the bags slung over are shoulders.  Along the way we jump 4 refuse streams.  The children are not only kind in their greetings but also come up to you to give hugs and handshakes.  There is garbage everywhere on the ground.  However, you find the mothers sweeping their portion of the alley to keep a cleaner place for their children.  Some of the smaller children just stop and squat wherever to "take care of business".   We carefully dodge hot little charcoal buckets used for cooking.  This is our walk from the construction site to the pit.

What is striking is how hard the Kenyans can work.  Some of the local men carry the load of three of our bags.   The children from the school volunteer at their break time and carry one of our size bags being much smaller than us.  I am also struck by the strength of our older lady team members, age 65 plus, who time after time carry a bag to the pit.

Yesterday marked the end of hauling dirt.  Today real construction is underway.  There are scarce tools, but knowledge among the local men of how to make a building happen with with just hands, an ax, and a shovel.

With this hauling work, I think we all finally joined the time zone in Kenya and are sleeping through stretches of the night.  

We also are getting to know the children in the classrooms.  Some are presenting lessons about reading ... some are telling about their fields of study and work in the United States ... others are sharing music and craft-making with the children and women.  

The teachers at Anajali work long 12 hour days from 6am to 6pm and their emphasis is still the children. They do well engaging the students with limited teaching resources.  Yesterday was very hot, and we are in the middle of what seems to be a drought. Dust blows everywhere in the hot sun, and these teachers do not know material comfort or much of what we call "personal space".

God gives us the privilege to walk with others in their work here.  Signing off now to get my stuff ready for another day. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"You found a quiet place, you know that’s not allowed?."

Dinner is finished and I sit at the top of the stairs pondering what to write when a fellow team member informs me that quiet spots are not allowed.  She is only the third person to pass by since I began writing and here comes the fourth person.  It's not that quiet spots aren't allowed it's just when you have 13 team members and 8 family members sharing a 4+ bedroom house with a small living room and dining room, quiet spots are few and far between.  Sometimes I wonder where the biggest lessons on a mission trip are learned.  Is it from spending hours hauling bags of dirt down the narrow alley of a slum and having your heart get a deeper understanding with each trip of what life is like here?  Is it from holding a crying child in baby class, who is very sad on her second day at school, but then seeing her transform to a smiling happy little girl who is sitting at a desk with her peers?  Does it come from working through issues that arise with such intimacy?  Perhaps maybe it comes from watching a fellow team member toil on and on without complaint?  Or is it a moment remembered from evening devotions and the sharing of the days blessings?  Each of us will have our own lessons to learn. 

A reflection by Susan LaSante

Monday, February 20, 2012

Covered in Dirt

Monday, Feb 20, 2012
by Steven Siler
Today began with our commute to the Anajali school with plans of clearing a plot of land in preparation for building a new classroom in that spot. I had caught a glimpse of the site just the other day and observed that it was very uneven and that much work would need to be done in order to level it out. Little did I know just how much work this would be. When we arrived at the site and surveyed the task at hand, we all quickly realized what we were up against. The classroom to be built on the site is to be approximately 15 feet wide and 40 feet long. This area was completely unlevel and covered in rubble - mud clumps, rocks, pieces of concrete, and a variety of trash. Our team of thirteen was eager to get started, but the only tools we had were two mattocks, one shovel, and about twenty burlap sacks. For most of us, this meant our tool of choice would simply be our hands. This was reasonable. After all, we are in the slum and did not expect there to be an abundance of tools. However once filling a few bags with mud clumps, we asked where they were to be dumped. We were led through the tight alley ways of the slum, under the clotheslines, across several streams of waste water, past the sharp edges of the corrugated metal roofs, over the trash-filled “sidewalks”, down the hill, and finally to a large hole in the ground on the other side of the main road. In total, this was about a 250 foot walk in one direction. I quickly began to feel overwhelmed, my mind racing trying to figure out a better and more efficient way of executing this task, but no solution came to mind. We simply had to buck up and carry our burlap sackfuls of rubble back and forth until the approximate 10+ cubic yards (or about 3 to 4 tons) had been transferred. 
My first few trips to the dumping point were very awkward, as I was trying to keep my dirty burlap sack from touching my clothes as little as possible. Then I realized that the task would be much easier if I simply slung them over my shoulder and carried them on my back. This continued on for several more trips, passing team members along the way in each direction. I could see the look of exhaustion beginning to set in on some of their faces. At this point, it was not certain if we would even get all of the rubble cleared by the end of our day. Trip after trip, we each grew more tired, and more dirty. The red dust of the Kibera slum was covering our sweat soaked skin. We were all acquiring a dirt-caked “tan” as the day progressed. 
We stopped for water breaks throughout the day, but after the first water break, I began to take notice of our surroundings in a much more vivid way. My own feelings of being weary and overwhelmed at our task began to fade, and my awareness of the living conditions of the people of the slum rapidly increased. The smell of feces and other waste was prevalent for the majority of our walking circuit. Most of the men and women I passed along the way were even dirtier than I was. Trash was everywhere. Worst of all were the children - some half naked, some sitting and playing in the dirt, some putting trash in their mouths, some with snot running down their faces, some crying, and all filthy dirty. 
Sometime about halfway through the day, some of the children that were sitting in the alley way between the corrugated metal houses began to take more interest in us. They began to speak as we walked by, “How are you!, How are you!”. We would kindly reply, “Good, how are you?”, or “Mzuri, habari?” This continued for several trips back and forth. Kids being kids, this turned into a game. They wanted more interaction with us, from each sack-toting team member that walked by. Eventually, they stood up and began to reach out for a handshake or a high-five as we went by. This turned into them running up to us and hugging us as we carefully maneuvered our ways through the alley. Initially I was taken aback by this. I thought to myself, should I hug them back? What if they have diseases, perhaps even AIDS? I reassured myself that I had received all of my shots - Hepatitis, Meningitis, Yellow Fever - and had taken all of my vaccine pills - Typhoid and Malaria preventative. But then I realized how shallow these thoughts really were. These poor kids, so starved for love and attention, are reaching out to us, just a bunch of strange “mzungus” (white people) that happen to be walking past their homes. Aren’t I supposed to be Christ to these kids? How could I even think of not hugging them back and showing God’s love to them? 
John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In Philippians 2:7-8 we see that “[Christ] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself...”. When God came down from heaven in the form of Christ, he stepped off of his holy and royal throne and into the slum called mankind. The One who was righteous, dwelled among the unrighteous and the dirty. But he didn’t simply dwell among us; he loved us. He ate meals with sinners, healed the sick of their diseases, and hugged all of the little children he came across. He certainly wasn’t concerned about getting dirty. We are, in fact, dirt. Made from dirt, covered in dirt, and with dirty sin in our hearts, he loves us still.
This was the picture that was painted right in front of me. Speaking to me. Hugging on me. Yet the disparity between my rich American self and these poor little children of the slum pales in comparison to the expanse between my holy King and the unholy mankind he came to save. This is something that I will never forget. This is something I wish everyone could experience - to see the humble position that we are all in, and to witness the need for the love of our Savior in spite of it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Eye Opening Experience

Alyssa Amsden 2/19/12

This is the first missions trip I have ever been on and already it has been worth every second of flying nearly twenty hours to reach Nairobi.  Yesterday the Anajali team had the opportunity to meet many of the children at the school.  Meeting these children in person has blown away almost all my expectations and thoughts that I had of the school before I came.  It is something I could not have imagined without physically being surrounded by all these little faces.  I believe their beautiful smiles and thankful hearts could open up even the hardest of hearts to the reality of what is going on in Nairobi Kenya.  Even these first few days have shown me how blessed I am to live in America.  These children and their families radiate the love of God, despite their circumstances.  They have almost nothing and still they choose to have good attitudes in where God has placed them.  I think we, as Americans can learn much from people who are happy with less but have the Savior in their hearts.  Right now as I write this entry a little boy is doing all he can to distract me and turn my attention to him.  He is one of God's children along with every face in the slum, but unfortunately thats not always what the world sees.  This has truly been an eye opening experience for me.  Visiting Africa has been a dream of mine for quite some time, but now that I am here it feels surreal, as if I am in a dream.  My wish is that everyone will be able to experience something at least close to what I have here in Africa.  I am so thankful that God sent me here to work with these people.  Nothing can be compared to how blessed I am to be here among God's people.

Friday, February 17, 2012

First Day Thoughts

Len Cooper here.  Wow, so much to take in!  We arrived at the airport at Kenya at 2:30am yesterday.   It was awesome to see our host Wellingtone for the first time since we met him at Lakeside Baptist Church this past October. As I am writing this blog Saturday morning, we are getting ready for our first trip to the Anajali Primary School in Kibera, so not too much to report yet.  Last night our group spent time getting to know each other.  We had a devotion entitled "God Can use Anyone" which centered on the life and calling of Gideon in the book of Judges.  We also shared how we have seen God work so far.  I shared how God relieved me completely of my fear of flying to get me through my longest plane ride to date.  Another praise is that all luggage arrived completely and in tact with no customs issues.  Following the devotion, we were surprised by the sound of rain.  We quickly had to move all of our luggage from the court yard to inside.  The rain was a blessing though .... it has been very dry here so water supply is low across the city of Nairobi.  This morning we are all adjusting still to the new time zone.  The rooster woke us outside the house, and later Steven and I heard in the distance the Muslim prayer call.  Pray for us today as we head to the school, most of us for the first time, to meet the children.