Sunday, March 20, 2005

Keeping busy at Beacon...

I hope you all are doing well this Holy Week, as we prepare to celebrate the greatest miracle of all time – the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have been doing well and have been keeping busy at Beacon working on the child sponsorship program and setting up a file system for all the families we work with. I’ve also been doing a lot of home visits in the slum, visiting and praying with people in Kware.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had more opportunities to connect with the women in the programs at Beacon. One of the women, Paris, has been undergoing treatment for TB. Her daughter, Cassandra, is one of the kids we sponsor at a local Christian day school. Paris also has two other sons, ages 6 and 2. She hadn’t been feeling well and didn’t show up at Beacon so I went with two of the women to visit her and make sure she was ok. We didn’t find her in her house or in the TB clinic that she had been visiting for treatment every day. So we started asking people if they had seen her. We returned to the clinic and found out she had been admitted because we was too weak to walk home. She had been in the clinic all day connected to an IV. We brought her lunch and then myself on one side and one of the other women on the other side practically carried her through the slum and back to her house (she was at the very end of her treatment so the TB wasn’t contagious).

Thankfully, Paris has been feeling much better and has completed her TB treatment. (This is the same woman who had been kicked out of her house and the tailoring class spent a day washing her clothes and dishes.) Please pray for Paris and especially for Cassandra. Cassandra is an extremely bright girl but is very vulnerable right now because of her family situation.

All of the schools are closing for a one month holiday at the end of this week. So starting the Tuesday after Easter, we’ll have all of the sponsored children coming to BOH every day for a holiday program (at least 20 kids). I’ll be working with one other person to plan and run the program. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to get to know the children more and it will also be a good opportunity to practice my Swahili!

I’ve started taking a lay counseling class at Nairobi Chapel. It can be intense but I’ve been enjoying it and I think it will be very beneficial for the work I am doing at Beacon. I am also hoping to start taking a weekly child counseling class offered at a local hospital here in Nairobi.

I’ve attached a picture of some of the children from Grace Children’s Center. I visited Grace Children’s Center in 2002 when I came to Kenya for the first time, and I fell in love with the kids there. There are about 52 kids ranging in age from 8 months to 14 years – 35 are HIV negative and 17 are HIV positive. This home is only about 10 km from where I stay so I have been going there every weekend to spend time with the kids – we play soccer, read books, run around outside, and some of the older girls have even taught me some dances they made up to Mary Mary and Kirk Franklin songs. My time with these kids is one of the things I look forward to most during the week. The girls in the picture are (from left to right) Wairimu, 8, Hellen, 8, and Sharon, 6.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Going to the hospital...

I had my first hospital experience here in Nairobi (and hopefully my last!) Two weeks ago I was talking to my parents on my cell phone in the evening outside of the Wathome’s house. They have two big German Shepherds who they keep fenced up during the day and let out at night for protection. I had been talking for about 45 minutes and the dogs had ignored me. But then, after I hung up, I was sitting on the driveway and one of the dogs came up and started sniffing me and then started barking. I stood up and as I did, the other dog came running over and both started barking and growling. Then they started biting my legs, so I turned and ran, screaming for the gardener to come and help me! They chased me for a few steps and then lost interest.
But they broke the skin on two places on my leg – one place was not bad but the other was pretty deep. Of course, this was the night that Ken and Jane went out of town so I was at their house with the kids by myself. I finally got through to Ken after two hours. He called his sister who lives in Nairobi and she picked me and the kids up at 10:30 pm and took me to Nairobi hospital, where they cleaned the wounds, gave me a tetanus shot, and gave me antibiotics to prevent infection. I finally left the hospital shortly after midnight.
My leg has been healing fine – I still have some bruises on both legs still but there has been no sign of infection. The dogs have been up to date on their rabies vaccines, so I don’t have to worry about that. And thankfully, the Wathomes have decided to get rid of the dogs since they are so vicious. Because they are kept fenced all day, they are never around people and they actually bit another person a few years ago.
Things at Beacon have been busy as usual. Last week, we had a visitor who runs a large community based orphan program in Kisumu. He visited the center and told us about all of the administrative systems that he uses to run his ministry. So for the past two weeks I’ve been working to type up forms on excel and compile files for every family that we are working with, which is over 200 families. I’ve also been continuing to work on the child sponsorship and doing home visits to people in the slum.
It’s been amazing for me to see how Beacon is not just providing a way to earn an income, but a genuine sense of community among the members. We have one lady, Paris, who is in our tailoring program and had been kicked out of her home by her landlady, who came in the middle of the day and completely removed her doors and windows to force her out. She has three small children, and the oldest, Cassandra, is one of the girls in our sponsorship program. For several days Paris didn’t know where her family would sleep. Although she has finally found a place, she has not been doing well. She has very little food and has not been able to afford water for washing for a month now! So, this week, the other eight women in the tailoring class spent several hours at her house washing all of her clothes and dishes for her. They even cleaned the baby’s soiled cloth diapers that had not been washed in one month! Please keep this family in your prayers and especially Cassandra, who is a very bright and well behaved grade 3 student.
Yesterday one of the women who is involved with Beacon had a baby! SHe is only twenty and already has two children - a 3 year old and an 18 month old. Her husband is HIV positive, and although she tested negative the HIV may have just not shown up on the test yet. So we wanted her to give birth in the medical clinic so she could get the drugs that greatly reduce mother to child transmission of HIV. We went to visit her yesterday and brought her some lunch (the hospitals only provide bread and tea and your relatives are supposed to bring you food) and so I got to hold the 16 hour old baby girl! She was SOO cute!
Last weekend, I went with the Wathomes to Machakos, a rural area about 1 ½ hours from Nairobi. Ken’s mother lives there so we went to visit for the day. On the way back to Nairobi, we stopped at Ken’s aunt’s house in Machakos as well because one of his cousins had just passed away from AIDS. Although AIDS is a huge problem in Nairobi, there are so many resources here and a good transportation system so people can access them. In the rural areas there, there are very few resources and finding transportation to access the resources that are available is much more difficult.
This week I have started Swahili classes here. I took classes for several months in the US but once I came here I realized how much I still don’t know! Although many people speak English in Nairobi, many of the women and children in the slum and the younger children at the children’s home I visit have little or no knowledge of English. I found a language school that is right on the way to the Beacon center where I will take four hours of lesson with a tutor each week, so I am determined to improve my Swahili skills.
Please continue to pray for Beacon and especially the orphans that we are supporting. There are so many children here who cannot afford secondary school. Please pray that God will give me wisdom since there have been a few women looking for support for their relatives who have been deceitful and have tried to take advantage of us. Please also pray that God will continue to give me strength, energy, and good health as I work with Beacon. Thank you so much for all of your prayers and encouraging emails.