Sunday, June 26, 2005

June update

Things at Beacon have been busy but pretty status quo since the last time I wrote. The months of June, July, and August are busy for us at Beacon because we have many visitors coming from the US and Europe. Most of these visitors just come by for a day or two to see what BOH is and what we are doing, but in the past few weeks we've have visitors two or three days of the week. We also have 2 interns working with us from a local Bible school. One of them, Yotur, worked with the sponsorship program at Christian Children's Fund in his home village in Kenya for 3 years. This week, I'll be working with him to go through all of the forms that I've come up with for the sponsorship program to see how they can be improved. He has a lot of great ideas and experience so I am excited to work with him to improve our program.
The weather has gotten quite cold - June and July are the coldest months here. Even though the temperatures don't get too low compared to winter in the US, there is no heating in the buildings so sometimes it can even be colder inside than outside. Because of the change in the temperatures, many people have been getting sick, including me. I've had a cold all week - sore throat, congestion, and a bad cough. I stayed home from work one day this past week to rest and I'll be staying home and resting all weekend, so I hope to be feeling better by Monday.
There are many things coming up in the next two months - next weekend we have an overnight staff retreat, and then the week after that I'll be moving. My host family will be traveling to Europe for a month and I don't want to stay in their house by myself for transportation and security reasons. So I'll be moving in with a Kenyan woman who is around my age named Wanjiku - her roommate Melanie is an American who is spending June and July in the US so I'll be staying in Melanie's room while she is away.
Then, in the beginning of August there is a group of 24 from my home church, Chapel Hill Bible Church, who will be traveling to Nairobi to work with BOH and Nairobi Chapel for about 2 weeks. I have several good friends who are a part of that team so I am very excited for their arrival. After that, my parents and my younger sister will be coming to Kenya for 2 weeks, so of course I am VERY excited for them to come as well. While my family is here, I'll be able to move my things into school housing, and then I start orientation the first week of September.
So July will really be my last month of working at BOH. It's hard to believe I've been here for almost six months already. Although I am excited to go to school, I am disappointed that my time at Beacon is almost over.
Please pray:
- that I will recover quickly and completely, and that I will have good health and strength for the busy upcoming months.
- For one of our BOH families - I think I have mentioned them before. There are four orphans who are in our sponsorship program. In April, their aunt, Elizabeth, who is their guardian, was in the hospital for several weeks and found out she is HIV positive, which was really hard for her and for all four children who have already lost both parents to AIDS. Because she was sick and couldn't work, she wasn't able to pay rent and was forced out of her house. She was really beginning to lose hope, so we are helping her get back on her feet - helping her with rent and giving her some work to do with the tailoring department at BOH since she has been trained as a tailor. The three younger orphans are in school, but the oldest orphan Isaac has finished with high school but didn't score well enough to qualify for college. We have a sponsor for him and are trying to get him into a very good vocational training program called Don Boscos but the deadline had passed. The program is specifically for needy children, is a boarding school, and very affordable. So Jane and I visited them and met the director and begged him to consider this case. He agreed to give him an interview on the 14th July - but there are still about 800 boys who applied and only 80 or 90 spots for the boys so we are praying that he will be accepted.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A busy month

It has been about a month since I have posted an update - this past month has really flown by! May was a very busy but a very good month. Thanks to the efforts of the Chapel Hill Bible Church, all of the children in our sponsorship program now have sponsors! This has been very exciting because there have been several people who have inquired about child sponsorship, but our funds were already so stretched that there was no way we could consider other children until we found enough sponsors to cover the ones we already have in schools. Now that we have sponsors for all of them, I have spent a lot of time these past few weeks working with the social workers to follow up, collect case histories, and interview children and families who will potentially qualify for our sponsorship program.
Last week there was a visiting team of 6 people from Blackhawk Church in Madison, Wisconsin. They arrived in Kenya last Saturday night and left early yesterday to spend two days in Masaai Mara, a safari park, before they head back to the US on Tuesday. They were coming to work with Beacon and explore the possibility of their church forming a partnership with BOH. I was in charge of a lot of the logistical arrangements for the team and so I ended up spending a lot of time with them while they were here. On Monday, Thursday, and Friday, they spent the days at Beacon interacting with the women and staff, going on home visits, and helping us prepare for a medical camp. The visitors came to Jane's house for the afternoon on Wednesday because it was a public holiday so Beacon was closed.
On Tuesday, I went with the team to spend the day in Kibera. Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya and I think even the largest slum in Africa (or it might be the second largest or something.) But there are more than a million people that live in this community. There is a medical clinic there called Tumaini Clinic that was started by and is run by a woman from Nairobi Chapel. They have a doctor, lab, preschool, and a feeding program for children suffering from malnutrition and an education program for their mothers. After taking a tour, we split into groups and went to the different areas. I went with Rachel, one of the team members, to the nutrition program. The children and their mothers come from 9-12 every day, they are fed, and educated about nutrition, childcare, etc. When we walked in, Ann, the woman who leads the program, sat down and said to us, "ok, you can teach the women." Rachel and I just looked at one another because we certainly weren't expecting to teach anything. So Ann gave us a list of about 11 topics and one of them was Bible so I attempted to explain a Bible passage in Swahili. What I said was not very profound because of my limited vocabulary but I think the women appreciated the effort anyway. Then we prayed for the women and their families individually. After that we spent some time with the kids in the preschool.
After lunch, we did home visits in Kibera. Ann and two other women from Tumaini took us to seven different homes to bring food assistance and to pray with the women. But we only had about 1 1/2 hours to do seven home visits - we were really booking it through Kibera! It is the rainy season so we had to avoid mud and puddles of sewage because there is no sewage system in the slum. There are also lots of rocks and hills, so we were jumping from one rock to another and climbing up and down the hills. In addition, the houses were so close to one another that you can't even stretch your arms all the way out to the sides without hitting the houses. So to get to some houses we had to travel through a maze of very narrow alleys. It was an interesting journey!
Then on Saturday Beacon of Hope organized and hosted a big medical camp. There were about 7 dentists and dental students, 5 nurses and medical students, 4 VCT counselors (voluntary testing and counseling for HIV), and many other volunteers. My job was to help with the cooking for about 50 volunteers and washing the dishes as well. The cooking area is outside and we were serving tea and then lunch upstairs, so I spent a lot of the day running up and down stairs bringing up clean dishes and taking down dirty ones, refilling tea, bringing the food up and down, etc. I had a really good time and the camp was a big success - overall, we saw 506 people!
Personally, things have improved a lot over the past month. I had a really good time with the visiting team, although hanging out with Americans made me a little homesick and definately made me miss all of you!
For the time being, I have decided to continue going to Karen Community Church instead of going to Nairobi Chapel. Although I really like Nairobi Chapel, the distance made it really hard for me to form relationships there. KCC, on the other hand, is walking distance and they have a young adults group about about 20 that meets after the service. So I have really been enjoying that, I've met so many people, and I am finally beginning to develop a social life.
To end on a light note, when I went to KCC yesterday I got locked in the bathroom! I was in a stall and the lock was broken. Basically, I was still able to lock the door but I didn't realize that because it was broken it would be impossible for me to unlock it! There was only a few inches of space under the door so there was no way I could crawl under the door. After trying in vain for several minutes to open the lock, I called for help to another woman who was in the bathroom and she tried to find something that I use to unlock the door, but it didn't work. So finally, I stood on the toilet, jumped, and hoisted myself up to climb over top of the stall! At this point there were three women on the other side trying to help me so two of them took my hands and helped me jump down. I was quite embarrassed but relieved that I was finally out!