"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...and go out to dance with the joyful." - Jeremiah 31: 3-4

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the world but not of it.

I will be writing a blog soon about my visit with Jackson, the child I sponsor in a village east of Meru through Compassion International. It was an incredible day and I do want to share it with 'all of you, but this blog is about the night following my visit. I should warn you that it isn't a pleasant chain of events…

We had booked tickets for a night bus leaving Meru at 10:00. Nate and I arrived at the bus station around 8:30, prepared to wait. There were not many lights around and you could tell that it wasn't the best area of town but there were plenty of people there and we were not worried. Yes, it is Africa and anything can happen but we have both been here long enough to not be clueless or foolish in any situation. We sat up against a glass wall of what looked like an office building. After a little while, the security guard for the building came over to us. He informed us that people were not allowed to sit there, but it was okay if we stayed… the benefits of being white. You get a lot of special treatment.

After a few minutes a street boy came up to us and Nate initiated a conversation with him in Swahili. The boy was young, probably no older than 10 or 11, and spoke very quietly. There was no joy in his eyes, only emptiness and sadness. Nate leaned towards the boys and asked him where his parents were. He didn't know his father and his mother was at home. Nate then asked what he was doing on the streets. The boy did not have a clear response. It was sad watching this conversation take place, I felt for the boy. He was someone’s son but they didn't care enough to keep him off the streets in the middle of the night. They didn't love him as a child should be loved.

I didn't even see the guard walking towards us. One moment, I was observing this little boy talking to Nate, probably the only attention from another human being he had received in a long time, and the next moment I was watching a grown man hit this small child in the back of the head, twice, with so much force that he almost fell to the ground. As if that wasn't enough, he then strongly kicked him in the back. The boy ran away without even a glance back at me and Nate. It was obvious that the child was not okay. I was livid. Angry tears began to well up in my eyes. Injustice. Horrible, cruel injustice. Nate said something to the guard… letting him know he was out of line and then went after the street boy to apologize and attempt to justify the situation at least in some small way.

As soon as Nate disappeared behind the bus on my right, I began to hear a lot of yelling from an alleyway to the left. I looked over and saw about ten men chasing another man. They caught him and threw him down on the ground. They began to beat him. I could see everything. There were a lot of people around but no one did anything. Not ten feet away from the scene were at least four guards, one of which just had no problem hitting a small child, sitting on chairs doing nothing but watching this man get brutally attacked. A car pulled up right next to the mob, stopped to watch but did nothing. I was sickened with humanity. I was aware that this sort of thing happened a lot in Kenya, but to see it with my own eyes was unlike anything I could have been prepared for. I couldn't believe that no one was doing anything to stop this.

My first reaction was to call for Nate because he still wasn't back yet but then the spiritual side of things hit me and I knew I had to pray. This was spiritual warfare as I had never experienced it before. As I was praying, the mob pulled the man off of the main road and back into the alley, out of my sight. That is when I saw Nate walking casually back towards me. He did not know what was happening yet.

I’m going to stop here to announce that I was not afraid. Not because I’m tough and stuff like that doesn't affect me (it does) but more so because I knew Jesus was there with me. I wasn't in any danger; He made sure I knew that.

I’m not exactly sure how Nate found out what was going on. We don’t remember if I told him or if he just noticed everyone in the area was looking in that direction, but either way he figured it out.

The spirit was that of anger. Evil was everywhere. The Enemy was at work.

Nate got up and walked towards the alley. He stood across the street, far enough away that he was in absolutely no danger, but close enough that he could now see what was happening. All I could do was pray… I was paralyzed where I sat, in shock of what I was witnessing. I could still hear shouting… screaming… what sounded like a whip... and loud thuds. I was thankful that I could no longer see anything. I watched Nate, wondering what was going through his mind. didn't seem angry. He just stood there, watching. Then he turned towards me and asked if I was alright. I didn't understand why he was asking but as soon as I nodded, I saw him leaning forward to take a step in the direction of the alley. Before his foot even hit the ground, a million thoughts raced through my head. I said his name. The voice that came out of me didn't feel like my own. It came from deep inside of me. Right away he walked back to me and sat down without saying a word. He later said that the tone of my voice was what made him stop. He knew wasn't annoyed that he was trying to be a tough guy, or bothering me by his grandiose attempts to be a hero or something… I just needed him to be with me in this battle. I needed another light around me. I couldn't handle it on my own. He did his job as a man and he did it well. He protected me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

That’s when I began to cry.

Nothing in Kenya has ever overwhelmed me to the point of tears. Not the children picking food of the trash, not the sight of crippled women begging on the side of the road, not the realization that most of the people I speak to every day have HIV and will die. Nothing has ever made me cry. But this did. I am not too proud to admit that I was sobbing almost to the point of hysteria. I hid it well enough so that no one besides Nate was aware. The last thing I wanted was to draw more attention to myself, being an American does that enough already.

The spirit of anger was almost overpowering. The darkness seemed to be everywhere. It was oppressive and I hated the evil that was unmistakably all around us. It was truly the most present form of Satan I have ever felt. I was overcome by grief and sorrow for every person involved. They had no love inside of them. They were soulless animals, apparently incapable of human sympathy.

How do they justify their actions? The man they were beating was a thief. In the minds of these men, a thief deserves to be beaten to near death in the streets. Jesus says “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The sad part is, if you asked them… most would say that they are Christians and attend church every Sunday. They have probably heard a teaching on that very passage in Scripture. Maybe they weren't listening that morning.

When I thought it was over because the noise had calmed down, I heard even louder yelling and saw people running down the next street over… they were chasing the man. They were not going to let him get away. They were set on destroying a life, it seemed.

After we finally boarded the bus, we had to drive to the police station to go through a check. They do this with most night buses to make sure they are no weapons on board. When we pulled up, there were about six street boys sitting on the bench outside the station. They were smiling, high on their glue. We got off the bus and lined up to get our bags checked. There was a line of men and a line of women and then a line of white people - Nate and I. We were treated so differently than the Kenyans. In my heightened emotional state, I began to laugh at the thought. Just as I was about to tell Nate why I was laughing he suddenly told me not to turn around. “Don’t look,” he said as he glanced over my head. I listened. I trusted him to know what I could and could not handle at that moment. My laughing stopped abruptly as I felt the evil of the night again. I had to rest my forehead on Nate’s shoulder to release some of the heaviness I was feeling… the magic of physical touch. It wasn't until we got back to Kitale the next day and were telling the whole group what had happened that I discovered what he had saved me from seeing – the man who had been beaten was walking out of the police station. Nate said he had never seen so much blood.

I was able to debrief from the situation the next morning during breakfast after we arrived in Nairobi. The hours following the events, I was mostly silent. Praying and thinking. The tears came back every once in a while as well. I didn't want to discuss it then, but it felt good to talk after my emotions were in check.

It may be surprising to hear that I’m glad this happened. Of course not for the man who was beaten or for the street boy who was hit by the guard, but God showed me a lot in those few minutes. He showed me the reality of the world, of evil men that I may have been slightly na├»ve to before that night. He showed me that it is okay to need someone and I don’t always have to keep it all together. I’m a strong person. I can handle a lot without becoming emotional, but I wonder now if I prided myself on that too much. Sometimes it’s not until you are actually in a situation that you can know how you will react.

It has been a couple of days since that night. I’m not sure how to express how I’m feeling about everything now. Honestly, I just feel like I need a hug most of the time. Faith has been helping out with that. I keep reminding myself that although there is evil, there is also good in this world and great things are being done every day. We cannot expect to save the world. It is an impossible task. But we can do our part to spread the happiness that we have received from our Father and being in the presence of such darkness made me want to do even more to share the light of the Lord. The Enemy is at work here in Africa and everywhere else on earth. There is darkness. There is oppression. There is anger. But there is also hope. There is also love and joy in Jesus Christ and that is the world I wish to live in and share with others.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

I am so sorry for the lack of blogging and updates. The Internet has been down on the compound for 10 days now so my only option is to go into town to use the Internet cafes where I have to pay by the minute. My main priority during those times is to inform my family that I'm still alive and well and update my facebook status, of course.

But now, I'm prepared to spend a little bit of money to inform you all of what's been going on during the last few weeks.

Our work with the Shimo girls is going great. They are an absolute joy to be around and their work ethic is phenomenal. They are making up to five bags each time they meet with us and that is more than we expected, which is incredible! They have improved so much and I can tell they are proud of what they are accomplishing. I only wish I could have more time with them.

Happy Valentine's Day! This morning I made french toast for the guys and was surprised with a bouquet of roses. It was much more than I expected and I was very thankful. As I was sitting outside on the patio, I remembered where I was this time last year. It was the lowest point in my life. I was saddened by the thought at first but then I recalled how much has changed since then. I am no longer at a low point. I am in an extremely happy time in my life! I am surrounded by incredible people who care about me as much as I care about them. I am doing what my heart loves to do and I am following God's will for my life! Could I really ask for a better way to celebrate today? Nope!

One of the highlights of my week is going to HBF every Saturday. Last week I had to opportunity to go with some of the children to the hospital for some routine check ups. Lillian and Lyna were due for an HIV test, Patrick's nose was hurting him and Valentine needed to have her eye checked on following a surgery she had on it a few months ago. Mark (a Kenyan that lives on the compound and works for TI) went with Patrick and Valentine and I took Lillian and Lyna with me to the HIV section. The hospital is a strange place. On a large board hanging on the outside wall it lists the services the hospital provides, how much it will cost and how long you will have to wait. For one service the waiting time was 30 minutes - two weeks. Yikes. The lines are long... very long. I waited with Lillian and Lyna as long as I could until I had to leave to meet with the Shimo girls at 1. They had an auntie with them so I wasn't leaving them alone. Mark did not get back to the compound until around 5:00 that evening. It is a whole day event. It was hard sitting in the waiting area. Although I relished the time I got to spend with the girls alone, without 20 other children running around, I wish it could have been better circumstances. The girls rested their heads on me and held my hands as we waited with about 40 others, all most likely HIV positive. It was an odd feeling, being surrounded by men, women and children with a fatal, incurable disease. With my hands on the girls, I prayed for healing for Lillian and for Lyna's miracle to continue. Lyna was HIV positive when TI first brought her into the children's home. A little while later, tests revealed she was HIV negative. An impossible occurrence by anything other than God's power. I have not heard what the results of either test were, but I have faith that God will continue to do amazing works in these children.

I wish I could fully explain how incredible it has been having Faith here with me. We have been meeting every other day and studying the book of John, as well as going through Exodus with the whole group. Her wisdom and encouragement have been more than I could ever ask for and I am truly thankful to God for putting her in my life.

Tonight, I'm leaving Kitale on the night bus to Nairobi. From there I'll get on another bus and be on my way to Meru. After spending the night in Meru, I'll leave early in the morning for Tharaka. In a small, hillside village in central Kenya I'll get to meet Jackson, a six year old boy I've been sponsoring through Compassion International for the past year and a half. It was through Jackson that God initially placed Kenya on my heart. I am overjoyed to finally meet this little boy who changed my life.

I have become more aware of what God has planned for me since arriving in Kenya. I realize that my goals and dreams are not the same as most of my friends. I understand now that my life will not look like I had originally thought it would. It was a surprise to me when my thought process brought me to a place I had never expected. Of course, I am living my life one day at a time and would never try to get ahead of God. I am just now beginning to hear answers to some of my prayers. Although I do not know the ultimate plan of God's will, I am ready to take the next step on my journey. I have no plans of my own, which leaves plenty of room for Him to work and I am more than willing to let Him. My life will not be the life I had wanted for myself when I was in high school and someone asked me "where do you see yourself in ten years?" It will be better. Much better. I am living for Jesus now.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Slightly scattered blog...

Today was our first time meeting with the Shimo girls. It was great to see them again and they all looked excited to see me too. I wished I could have spent more time with them on my internship but my mind was other places. I'm just glad that I have another opportunity to get to know them. They have been making cards for a few months now so Faith and I thought we would change it up a little. We taught them how to make bags.... and instead of trying to explain what they look like, I'll just upload a picture of them in the next couple of days. The girls really seemed to enjoy it and they surprised me quite a bit with how skilled and creative they were. I'm really looking forward to spending time with these girls and building relationships with them.

I was on Facebook earlier and noticed that there are a lot of status updates about how cold it is back home. I had to laugh. Today was hot! This is the kind of weather I always imagined Africa having. I remember being shocked when I had to wear sweatshirts when I came in July and how cold it would get in the evenings when I was here this past fall. Our coldest months in America are the warmest months here and vice versa. But the nice thing is, although it can get pretty warm it's never the kind of heat that we can get in the States. It's not humid or sticky. It's just very warm. You can easily sit outside and read a book without dripping sweat. It's actually kind of perfect. And the evenings are unbelievable.

We sat outside and ate dinner in the gazebo tonight. There's only eight of us here now, not including the Kenyans that also live on the compound. It's a lot different than before when there were at least sixteen people living here at all times. I must say that although I loved every single person that was here during the internship program, I enjoy the smaller group.

I've grown a lot since going home and coming back. I can see that now. I think differently about situations. I feel differently about people. My relationship with God is different. A lot of things are different. Most importantly though, at least in my opinion, is that I now have a clear view of what's important. I'm no longer distracted by the things that once caught my attention. I see flaws in my previous thoughts and am now able to focus on what Jesus wants for me, not what I want for myself. Praise God for that.

I'll upload pictures soon..... as soon as I take some.