Going back to Kitale/Seed of Hope

I will be traveling back to Kitale, Kenya, come March 11th!  For perspective, I have been able to visit two main groups of kids during my travels to Kenya.  The primary group (the one I've visited the most) is from the Baptist Children's Center in Nairobi.  When I travel in December, as I've done four times, these are the kids I get to see.  The second group is from the Seed of Hope orphanage in Kitale, a town located in western Kenya near Uganda.  I have been to the SOH twice - three days in December 2008, and an afternoon and morning (took a side trip) last December.  The Seed of Hope is a larger orphanage, hosting 60, 70, 80 kids, maybe more...I'm not quite sure.  I also believe it is the more rudimentary of the two, less developed in terms of foster/kinship care, etc.  They have less space for more kids, fewer get the idea.

But fear not!  The staff I have met there on my two previous trips are absolutely amazing.  As has been my experience with Buckner, there are very competent, caring staff surrounding these kids.  Fine people looking after their health, their education, their spiritual life, their needs.  Good, good people.

And great kids.  I am beyond excited to see these kids again.  I just saw many of them in December and am thrilled to be going back so soon.

Finally, say a prayer for me (and the group!) as I'm going as the volunteer leader.  Certainly I have some anxiety about such a responsibility, but I'll be in the capable hands of Buckner in-country staff (Tom Alexander, one of my very favorite people in the world), so we should be just fine.  Still...

I'll update the old blog as time draws near, and hopefully while I'm over in Kitale.  Not sure what kind of internet access I'll have, but I'll do what I can.



What is the most a person can lose?  A spouse?  A child?  A family?

Just this week I went to a funeral for a father and his two daughters, ages 14 and 16, all three killed in a plane crash.  I went because I know the family, knew the two girls, knew the father.  It was perhaps the saddest thing I've ever been involved with.  Seeing the three caskets on the stage, the father in the middle, one precious daughter on either side, was almost more than I could take.  Almost more than any of us could take.

The service was, of course, a celebration of how these fine people had lived, not how they died.  These were people of vitality, integrity, passion and honesty, of genuine, passionate faith.  The girls were beautiful, talented, charming, funny, smart...the list of superlatives could go on forever.

They are all in presence of God now, no doubt.  If I believe in anything, if I have one ounce of Christian faith, I have to believe this.  Otherwise, why bother.  But here the rest of us are, still mucking around in the here and now.

What is the most a person can lose?  I certainly don't know, I've never been tested so much.  But Mrs Cooper, wife and mother, knows, and my heart will break for her for a long time.

If you'd like to read about the service for Dr. Cooper and his two lovely daughters, Catie and Libby, click below.

Cooper Family Service


More Photos from Kenya - BCC and Seed of Hope

I've posted some additional photos from my Kenya trip.  Most of the photos are simple photos of the kids.  The photos are on my Smugmug site, but here are some examples:


Kenya 2009 - Day 4 at Brackenhurst

This will be a very short post as I am quite tired. We had another fantastic day with the kids: VBS, recreation time in the afternoon, watched a couple of movies, even had a hygiene clinic for the kids. They learned about germs, how to avoid getting sick, how to wash their hands, and how to brush their teeth. It was really a valuable time for the kids and they seemed to enjoy the lessons very much.

The kids also put on a talent show, something I've seen before but which never ceases to amaze me. The kids are so very talented! They sing songs, perform dances and recite Bible memory verses (some of them impressively long). Here is a short clip of the younger kids singing a song:

Aren't they awesome! The kids are really having a great time, I think, and they loved performing during the show. We only have one more full day and I'm trying to squeeze in as much time with the children as possible; it's kind of a desperate feeling, I hate to even spend one minute thinking about departing but I know it's coming. Pray for us all as we move to the time we have to say goodbye. It is a devastatingly difficult experience for many of us. In the meantime, though, it's all about fun and joy with the kids!

(Oh, and by the way, Jessica Garcia, our trip leader, is the best. Simply amazing! Pray for her as well as she has a very difficult task keeping this whole project moving in a smooth fashion. She is fantastic!)

Kenya 2009 - Day 3 at Brackenhurst

Day three with the kids, a very fine day. We have had beautiful weather here at Brackenhurst, the sun was shining all day with warm, but not too hot, weather.

Again, we did VBS in the morning. Today's lesson was about helping others, drawing from the story of Jesus helping the blind man. The kids spent time memorizing a Bible verse, doing crafts and playing games.  We are also getting ready for our Christmas Party so the kids are decorating stockings. The kids absolutely love doing crafts, and are very, very creative.  Besides their craft projects, you also see this in very subtle ways as you watch them create belts out of bandanas, earrings out of stickers and glue, and bracelets out of scrap paper and glitter.

In the afternoon we had a lot of time to spend just visiting or playing, what I think of as the “golden hours.” This is why I come, to spend time just talking. We talk about Swahili words I try to learn, favorite subjects in school, what it's like to be outside in snow (hard for them to imagine), favorite Bible stories, the best fruit, the names of the planets, Obama, songs, and anything else we think of.

I suppose all mission trips are similar in that they are the sum total of a thousand special moments. Each trip participant returns home with stories and memories and wounds of the heart unique to that individual. We are all touched, blessed and changed by the children here, by the realities they face and the challenges they must overcome, by their resilience and good spirit, and by their kindness and gentleness. For me, at least, it is a very powerful place to be.

In my mind, each is a literal God-send when I come to Kenya to see these kids. These kids, I mean. As it is my 5th trip to visit the children of the BCC, I have come to view these children as more than precious children (although they are that for sure). Much more. They are a part of my heart, my soul. The are my family in some ways. When we're apart I long to see them, when we're together I dread to leave. For many reasons, some I'm sure I can't put into words, these gentle, funny, kind, sweet orphans have completely laid claim to my heart. I love them all.

If I sound over-the-top sentimental, I do apologize. After having a day like the one I had today, though, it is hard to not be moved into a certain degree of sappiness. I'll try to clean up my language tomorrow.  

(By the way, all of us trip participants are doing fine.  No problems.)

Presenting some of the world's most beautiful children: