Monday, November 18, 2013

7 weeks of Kenya in one post

I’ve been back in Kenya now for 7 weeks. 7 weeks! Where did the time go? And what have I been doing? One of the things that I love about Kenya is that no two days are alike. Living here is a constant exercise in flexibility and going with the flow. So I can tell you what I’ve been up to over the past 7 weeks, but as for the weeks to come, only God knows! My part in this story is to choose contentment with where I am, and to follow God faithfully as he reveals the next step. Here are some of the ways God has blessed me and used me this time around in Kenya.

Living Room Hospice children’s room mural

If you haven’t heard of Living Room, you need to. It’s an amazing place. A hospice for the sick and dying in Kipkaren, Kenya and the surrounding areas. Many people come here to finish out their days in peace. Yet even though it is a place filled with people who are suffering and even dying, there is also so much joy. God is present at Living Room, working through the staff and patients alike. There are currently 8 children living at the hospice. They are children who suffer from cerebral palsy, HIV, tuberculosis, severe burns, epilepsy, malnourishment, and neglect.

Looking at these children every day, I hurt for them and wish I were some kind of medical professional. I wish I could offer them more than paintings on their walls. But I am here to use the gifts I have been given, and so I paint their room. A giraffe, an elephant, a monkey in a tree… I add a rabbit at the request of one of the boys who says it’s his favorite animal. And everyone at Living Room is nice to me and the children smile with happiness and I feel like I’ve answered the call God placed on my heart to serve. On the last day, I paint a verse above the window:

Psalm 150:6
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

The room before painting

And after

Big elephant, little birds

Norbert giving the lion a coat of paint

Finished Simba

Dan practicing his fundi skills

Sharon was happy to have the bed by the elephant

Theme verse for the room

I left Kipkaren last week to go back to Ilula where I am based, but I haven’t forgotten the children at Living Room. Dorcas, Jepchumba, Chris, Julia, Dan, Norbert, Emmanuel, and Sharon. I know that they are being well cared for, and I know their lives matter even in the midst of their pain. I hope you will take some time today to pray for these 8 beautiful children. 








Simit classroom paintings

Let's leave Kipkaren now and travel to Simit. It’s really hard to describe this place and the week that I spent painting there in October. Simit is a village situated deep within the breathtaking valley in Keiyo, and the hike down to the primary school of Simit is 6 kilometers of sheer natural beauty. I went with my new friend Colleen, who is another ELI volunteer living and working nearby in Kenya.

Hiking boots and Chakos with skirts

We spent the week staying with two wonderful hosts, Helen and Pastor Stella. We were shown such amazing hospitality and generosity while staying with these ladies that we dubbed their grouping of single room huts, outdoor shower, and pit latrine the “Five Star Lodge”.  If ever you find yourself in Keiyo, these are the people to call.

The Lodge at sunset

Pastor Stella and Hellen, hostesses extraordinaire

We arrived at the school on Monday with little to no idea what the headmaster had in mind for us to paint. In typical Kenyan fashion, we were prepared to need to be flexible and up for anything. The idea formed that we would paint learning materials on the walls of the 3 Early Childhood Development classes: Baby Class, Middle Class, and Top Class (aka 3-year-old class, pre-school, and kindergarten). 

The ECD building 

Warm welcome from upper primary students

We tackled the first room in typical American fashion, task oriented and driven towards completing the goal of 3 classrooms in 5 days. But after 2 days of fast and furious painting of the alphabet, animal charts, maps and other educational tools it became apparent that these two wazungu were never going to finish all three rooms on time. (It didn’t help that we kept getting called away from the job to greet classrooms of students, present speeches to parents, and or make other appearances as the token white people in the village). 

So many animals, so little time

Colleen learning to paint with an audience

Just when things were looking totally impossible, something really cool happened. The teachers came to us on day 3 and said to us, “We’ve seen what you do and we understand the process. We are going to help paint the other two rooms!” And so they did. We completed all 3 classrooms pamoja--together. By Friday Colleen and I felt completely a part of the community. We had worked together, taken meals together, laughed together, sang together, and become a family together. 

Top class teacher paints the parts of the plant

One almost finished room

Baby class teacher has avocado painting skills

The flag and map were a big hit

We hiked back up the valley on Saturday, singing Kalenjin hymns with the students who were helping us carry supplies, and praising God for the experience we had in Simit.

Tutaonana, see you later Simit


Home Sweet Home in Ilula

Besides my two trips out to paint in Simit and Kipkaren, I’ve been in Ilula working at Empowering Live’s Ilula Children’s Home.  I spend my days hanging out with the 102 orphans who also call this place their nyumbani, or home. We share meals, I work on my still babyish Swahili, we play basketball, sing songs, draw pictures, and hand wash clothes (I’m becoming an expert in this).

The usual suspects

Pack of washamba

Visitors outside my door

Basketball in skirts

Laundry time

Last month while the kids attended school, I busied myself giving the gate to the home a facelift. This gate was my first outdoor painting project in Kenya, and it was a beast to tackle. Not only is it very big, but it has to be painted with oil based paints which are about as easy to manage as painting with tar. It took me 3 weeks, and I amazed every Kenyan who passed by on the road by being the first female mzungu fundi (white craftsman) they had ever seen. Women don’t paint here, and being a white woman painting is a real spectacle. So I made a lot of friends, and put a smile on a lot of faces. 

The cutest friend I made 

This scenario ended badly...

Work in progress

The best part of painting by the road was I got to enjoy seeing the kids run home from school every day to check out what new progress had been made on their gate.  Usishike, don’t touch, I’d say. Ni mbichi, it’s wet. But inevitably, someone would end up with paint on their nose or school uniform. Their favorite part of the gate, and mine, is the chicken which they christened “Kuku Sarah”. So now, even after I am gone from Ilula, I will be remembered by that chicken on the gate.

Finished gate!

What’s next?

I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is, I don’t know. I will stay here in Kenya until it is time to go. I will paint in more places, and make more friends. It’s an interesting way to live, this one day at a time trusting in God kind of a life. The challenges are many, but so are the rewards. So for now I am waiting and trusting and enjoying today.

Ecclesiastes 7:14

When times are good, be happy;
   But when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
   as well as the other