Tuesday, December 4, 2012

He didn't deserve to die

Wow, this one's a hard one to write...last year I wrote several blogs about a street boy named Peter Lojore.  Here're a few of the posts about him:  PETER LOJORE and the final one here: NO REGRETS.  I had hoped to one day write another blog about Peter.  I just didn't think that it would be this blog...

The short version of the story is that last December I found Peter on the streets in Kitale.  He was very badly beaten up and almost dead.  I managed to get him to the hospital where he was treated.  After a few weeks of spending time with him, I put him into a home and thought that he would do well.  Unfortunately, he lasted only 3 days before running back to the streets.  He had a very bad leg injury that became infected.  With no treatment, I knew that it would get worse.

As I went home to the States last March I got more word about Peter.  He got to the point where he was unable to walk across the street on his own.  I worried about him a lot.  When I got back to Kenya this year I so badly wanted to find him.  Some of my other friends in town said that his cast was finally taken off but he was still not doing very well.

A few hours ago I found out that Peter died on the streets a few days ago.  I don't know the details yet, but am trying to find them out.  All I know is that he died where he slept on the streets.  Peter made his choice, I get that.  Really, I do.  He had an opportunity to get off the streets.  He had a bed, food, clothing, medicine - everything he needed was given to him.  Still, he chose to throw it away for the street life.  But still, he deserved so much more than this; to die in the streets like a dog.  I can't say that I'm surprised that he died.  But that doesn't take the hurt away.  I love that kid so much.  I had really hoped that he would come around and start making some better decisions.  I had hoped to get to see him again.

I wish that there was more I could have done; I hate it that there wasn't.  I see so may kids on the streets every time I'm in town.  I know that death is waiting for them too.  Either from fights with each other or police and security or from the glue.  Peter was in his mid-twenties; that's an old age for a street boy.  And it sucks.  He was meant for so much more.  The more I think about it the more I realize I how little I know of the street culture.  I made some good friends on the streets last year and I can't stand the thought of losing them like this too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thoughts from Thanksgiving day

I know I'm a bit late in posting this, as Thanksgiving was last week already.  But, that's how things go.  

This year Thanksgiving was a lot different than last year.  Last year I was sitting at 40 Thieves on the beach of the Indian Ocean.  It was great!  I couldn't get Skype to work with family back home, but at least I had a decent phone connection.  This year, I couldn't even keep a phone call connected in Sibanga.  A few of us celebrated Thanksgiving at the Karibuni Lodge.  Dinner was fantastic!  The food there always is!  

But, Thanksgiving started with more of a difficult time emotionally.  I woke up in the morning and had my morning coffee and morning routine.  Around 8:00 I loaded up 4 of the kids into the van to drive up to the tai stage in the Sibanga market.  I was taking them there along with In Step's social worker because they were on their way to a medical office in Kitale to have their HIV checkup.  Each of the 4 is HIV Positive through birth/breast feeding.  These are 4 very intelligent kids.  4 kids who deserve so much better than this.  All I could think as I drove them was "this is just wrong".  There is something so wrong about the whole situation.  I know that "life isn't fair".  My dad preached that message to me most of my life.  But still, this goes somewhere beyond life not being fair.  To know of the desperate situations they have come from and to know of the horrible disease in their bodies...it's just wrong in every way.  No one deserves HIV; no one deserves HIV at all.  But to have done nothing at all and still have it...it just doesn't make sense.  

That was the morning.  In the afternoon, I was shown how to change the head dressing for Tracy.  You can read Tracy's story here http://www.rehemainstep.com/?post_type=photo-gallery&s=tracy

Tracy just returned last week from a hospital where another skin graft was done.  Still, a piece of it seems to not be taking right.  As Hoglah showed me the process and we slowly removed the wrap and bandages, I had to force back the tears.  How could any parent do this to their own child?  Again, it's just wrong.  I don't get it.  Not one bit.  It doesn't make sense to me.  How could any parent so badly burn their child and then continue to scratch the wounds open to use that child to beg for money on the streets?  I was talking to Carla about it later and she had a good answer.  She said I don't get it either.  The day I do get it is the day I've been here for too long".  What Tracy's parents did was pure evil and I pray that I never understand that level of evil.  But in the spirt of thankfulness, Tracy is a beautiful, happy little girl!  The whole time that we were with her in the medical room, she was giggling and smiling.  I cleaned and changed the dressing on Saturday again.  She was a blast to be around.  Her smile during the whole thing said that she was going to be okay.  After we were done, I picked her up and walked around with her.  She wouldn't let go of my neck.  We hummed songs and laughed.  I'm thankful that she has overcome the evil done to her.  

While these things do not make any sense at all to me, I'm thankful that I am here to be a part of the healing process for these kids.  I'm thankful that these kids here have a very bright future ahead of them.  It's a huge blessing to watch these kids grow up.  I can't wait to see them as adults.  Leaders in the community and in their jobs.  I'm thankful that what was meant for evil is in the process of being redeemed for good!  

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!  


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The gift of touch

This week has really flown by!  I woke up this time last week after spending the first night at my new home; In Step.  It's been an incredible week too!  We got two more babies this week.  Baby Nate came early in the week.  He was no more than 1 or two weeks old when he was abandoned.  Towards the end of the week baby Ray came.  He was only a two days old when he was abandoned.  He's an adorable little guy too!  Last week our older boys also took mid-terms at a local school.  Next week is finals (crazy, but true schedule because of a teacher strike).

With 121 kids, it gets pretty crazy here sometimes.  It can be loud.  Very loud.  In fact, right now the kids are out on the veranda having church and singing songs at the top of their lungs in Swahili.  I no longer need an alarm because around 6:30 when all of the kids show up in the veranda for breakfast, I wake up.  There is rarely a time in the day where it's totally quiet when the kids are not in class. Even then, there are a bunch of babies making nosies.  Still, it's such a joy!  To hear so many happy voices and see so many giggling faces is a blessing.  Especially when you begin to know some of their stories. They have come from seemingly hopeless situations and are now in a home filled with love and hope.  Hope of a bright future.  Their pasts are in a process of being redeemed.  And that's why I can't help but smile at the noise.  Or when I see a group playing.

One of the things that I've realized this week is that I can't play with every single child all day long.  There're just too many of them. But I've realized that I can at least hold their hand as I walk by.  Or pick them up for a few moments each.  There is something so powerful in that gift of touch.  The kids long for it.  And I think that if we're honest, most of us do too.  It's wonderful to walk past a group of kids and hold them each.  It can be tiring after a dozen kids ask to be held.  But it's a joy too.  To see their smiling face is awesome.  It's as if a child walking by saying "pick me up" is really saying "will you love me".  For me, it's become important to say "yes".  Even if I can't always pick each one up, I can hold their hand, of give them  a hug.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Last week I booked a plane ticket to Kenya.  My flight was supposed to be tomorrow (Tuesday).  This past week has been absolutely crazy.  There have been so many details to work out and goodbyes to say along with packing.  I found myself getting so stressed out about everything.  I have so many more people I want to spend time with but there just enough enough time to see every single person.  By yesterday morning (Sunday) things were getting crazy as I tried to figure out rides to the airport as the hurricane was approaching.

At some point I stopped and thought about why I was getting stressed out.  I started to think about the story where Jesus calmed the sea.  One fascinating thing begins that story, and it's one that we tend to not pay enough attention to.  The story begins with Jesus telling His disciples "we're going to the other side".  Then he goes and takes a nap in the back of the boat as a storm hits.  The disciples must have also forgot that Jesus told them that they're going to the other side.  It's why they got upset with Jesus and questioned if He cared that they were drowning.  It was this moment that they woke Jesus and He calmed the sea.  And they went on to the other side.

As I thought about that, I thought to the physical storm that is currently hitting us as well as the emotional storm of everything building up.  I remembered that, like the disciples, I'm going to the other side.  I have my support in.  I have my plane ticket.  In Step is awaiting my arrival in Kenya.  I know that I'm going.  I stopped worrying and chose to no longer allow myself to be stressed out.

This was tested last night as I saw that my flight was cancelled.  Again, I know that I'm going.  Sure, it was disappointing to see my flight status as cancelled, but I knew that a new flight was a phone call away.  So, I sat down with my laptop and called Travelocity.  I waited on hold for an hour and half.  My heart sank when the representative told me that he couldn't help me.  Even though I booked through Travelocity, I had to call the airline directly to change anything.  Still, I thought, why worry?  I knew that they were rebooking everyone free of charge.  I just had to wait on hold some more.  Turned out that it was only 30 minutes this time.  About 10 minutes later, I had a new flight booked.  And with an exit row seat too. Trust me, if you're tall, you understand the HUGE blessing an exit row seat really is!

So, the new flight is Thursday, November 1st.  I am mostly finished packing; I just have the last minute things to pack, along with unpacking some clothing to wear for the extra couple of days.  Like the disciples, I am going.  Worrying and stressing will not get me there faster.  So I chose to enjoy the extra few days and what they will bring.

What storm are you facing?  Are you believing that you're going to drown or that you're going to get to the other side?  I guess it all comes down to focus.  You can focus on the bucket and try to bail out the boat, or you can look to the One who can calm the storm.  What strikes me as interesting is that the boat was still in the middle of the sea after the storm was calmed.  They were not taken out of the dangerous sea.  But they had peace as they shifted their focus.  It's still a little of a journey to get to Kenya.  There're still things that I have to do.  I still have the responsibility of getting to the airport on time and being diligent with my time.  Yet I have peace in it.  And believe me, it's a far better feeling than stress.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The adventure continues

I got back from Kenya just over 6 months ago now.  What a crazy 6 months it has been!  It's been almost exactly one year since I set off on my last Kenyan adventure.  So much has changed in the past year.  Relationships have changed.  Some for the best, others, not as much.  I've changed.  I feel different now than one year ago.  I've learned to trust even deeper in God's provision.  Since being home, I have been given rent free housing.  I got a part time job with the company I used to work for.  With it came the advantage of a free car.  I've had some awesome opportunities to speak about Kenya to some wonderful people.  I feel so much more alive.  St. Irenaues said that "The glory of God is man fully alive".  When I made the decision to leave my last job and chase my dream in Kenya, I've come far more alive than ever before.  It's as if I woke up one day and realized that I was killing myself going to work.  Nothing against that company, but it wasn't my passion anymore.  My passions were calling me elsewhere.

First coming back to the US was hard.  Jet lag aside, everything just felt... off.  I longed (and still do) to be back in Kenya.  Again, God was good.  I think that men especially long for a sense of purpose (maybe I'm the only one, but I don't think so?).  I found purpose in Kenya.  Sitting on the streets with kids that are typically ignored.  Playing games with those kids.  Standing up for them when no one else would.  I had purpose.  Being back in the US has shown me purpose here too.  I've continued to grow since being home.  I've had some great opportunities to meet, pray with and encourage people here in the US.  I remember the first time that someone stopped to write down what I said because it meant something to them.  I was blown away!  Not because I'm some great speaker or that I am full of wisdom.  I was blown away because it was awesome how God was still using me!    

Stil, I long for Kenya.  With every blog post of friends in Kenya, every picture uploaded, every message back and forth, my heart longs to be back home.  Right now I am looking at mid September for plane tickets back to Kenya.  The whole process over the last 6 months has been wild.  As I've been meeting with people and raising support, I've learned to truly depend on God to provide.  And that provision has come in amazing ways!  I remember looking at my numbers for monthly support as well as one time needs and thinking that I don't know how this is going to happen.  Not too long ago I was looking at my budget sheet and entering in different donations that came in.  My friend Kevin held a fundraiser for me the other weekend.  Over 1200 dollars was raised that night!  That was added to other one time gifts and I realized that all of the one-time needs were met and exceeded! 

Monthly support is also going well.  I need to have 1500 dollars a month raised before I buy my ticket.  As of right now, I am down to the last couple of hundred dollars left to raise!  Again, a number that used to frighten me as I wondered if it was ever going to happen has suddenly become much smaller and more attainable.  

So, as summer now comes to an end, it appears that so does my time in the US for a little while.  It's very bittersweet.  I hate goodbyes.  I'm a relational person and I so dearly miss my friends and my family when I am away.  Being away for Christmas last year was so difficult.  It was the first time that I can remember that I wasn't excited for Christmas.  But I thank God because technology has made staying in touch easier than ever before.  There's a joy that comes from being where I know I belong.  As hard as it is to leave so many people here, I have a deep joy for the work I am privileged to do in Kenya and I am very excited to go back and continue!  I can't wait to start working with In Step Foundation (http://www.rehemainstep.com).  The kids at In Step show how much hope there is in Kenya.  And I look forward to seeing how that is played out in their lives.  I look forward to seeing their lives transformed.  I look forward to watching as their deepest wounds begin to become their testimony of grace and God's sovereignty.    

If you are interested in learning more, I'd love to set up a time to meet with you.  Please email me at RayDSmith84@gmail.com and we'll set up a time to share.  Hopefully at a Starbucks because I've fallen in love with those Very Berry Hibiscus refreshers!  :) 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kind of thought provoking

Worth reading this to the end...it's a really unique take on this important issue.  I heard this passage a few weeks ago at my Elijah House class and finally bought the book; can't wait to hear what else the author has to say.  

"I don't want to be closed-minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle. I personally believe it's a choice, not something predestined or forced upon anyone by anyone. I understand that parental upbringing is undoubtedly a big factor and that some people believe genes play a role in predisposing people to this orientation, but I also know that adults are responsible for their behavior, and the behaviors associated with this lifestyle are no exception. 

On the one hand, I believe that we live in a free country, and people should be free to do what they think is right. But on the other hand, I believe freedom has limits-one limit being where others are hurt by the chosen lifestyle. And this lifestyle, there can be no mistake, is hurting a lot of people. Families are being torn apart by it, and churches and denominations too. 

Everybody has an opinion on this controversial lifestyle, but I believe God's opinion is the one that matters most, and there is absolutely no question what God's opinion is according to the Bible. This orientation and the behaviors associated with it are thoroughly condemned, especially by Jesus. He was very compassionate toward many groups of people, but there is one group he had an absolute and uncompromising commitment to confront and expose, and it was those who dishonor themselves and others as humans made in the image of God by engaging in this lifestyle and its practices.

When people choose this lifestyle, they often cut themselves off from everyone who doesn't agree with them. They end up being assimilated and absorbed into closed communities where only their own voices and views are heard, and everyone who disagrees is mocked and condemned, often with very strong language. They often see their community as superior and become incapable of speaking respectfully to or of those of us who cannot in good conscience agree with them. Some of them go so far as to claim that God made them the way they are, pushing onto God the responsibility for their own choices and behaviors. 

Some, after giving themselves over completely to the lifestyle, have a crisis of conscience. But when they want to leave, their leaders and peers depict their changing perspective as a betrayal and pressure them to stay, often using fear tactics to intimidate them and keep them in their community. Special ministries have formed to help people exit the lifestyle, recover from the abuse and pain the community has been known to impose, and be reoriented to a healthier life and perspective. But even with professional therapy, many people feel they have been wounded for life by what they've experienced, and many, looking back on their years "inside," compare the lifestyle to an addiction. 

Spokespeople for the lifestyle can seem very educated and scholarly. They claim that their position has a long history behind it. They often quote scientific studies and back up their assertions with emotional anecdotes. Sometimes they seek to gain sympathy by claiming they are being mistreated and persecuted for being outspoken about their views. But they tend to ignore other strands of history and scientific research that contradict their position, and they ignore anecdotes that don't fit with their predetermined conclusions, and they minimize the persecution they inflict on others. 

Advocates are eager to recruit others into their "love" as they call it. Many organizations raise huge sums of money to recruit youth and children into their chosen way of life, and they have been extremely adept at using media-radio, TV and now the Internet-to gain an aura of credibility and legitimacy. They organize huge events and mass rallies to celebrate their growing clout and demonstrate that they are proud of who they are and what they stand for. Everyone knows how much influence they have in our political system, and how one political party in particular panders for their votes. But look at the countries where this lifestyle runs rampant, and you'll get an idea what our nation will be like if some of us don't have the courage to stand up and speak up. Wherever this lifestyle spreads, a whole host of social problems inevitably follows. 

Yes, activists may use the word love to justify their behavior, but those who disagree with them are seldom treated with love. Many of us have already faced the scorn of the activists who promote this chosen lifestyle and defend it as legitimate and even godly. For doing so we have received hate mail peppered with a wide range of threats and abusive speech, with many calling for our damnation. But even so, we have learned that we must not respond to hate with hate; we must love these people and seek to help them, even though we do not approve of their behavior.

You've probably realized by now that this parable isn't talking about "the gay lifestyle" but rather "the judgmental lifestyle," the kind of "take-the-splinter-out-of-your-brother's-eye" religiosity that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. (If you didn't realize it, try going back and rereading it in that light.)"

Andrew Marin. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (p. 12). Kindle Edition. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

setting the record straight

Got to be honest before I start here...been a long week already.  Been one since Sunday.  

I started writing this earlier this evening.  I got annoyed with it, closed the laptop and spent some quite time.  I got home and sat outside by the fire pit and my attitude somewhat changed.  So I'm rewriting this blog using my "nice words".  

A lot of people have been calling me a name.  They've used this term many times and I've even called my self this name on more than one occasion.  The name has actually become rather offensive to me though.  I really don't like it and I don't like that I call myself this name too often.  That name?  Missionary.  I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not a missionary.  Not as you may think of the term.  

People tend to think of missionaries as having their life all together.  Missionaries don't have bad days.  They don't say bad words.  They never have a drink or smoke.  They have perfect families and relationships.  Life is perfect.  Right?  WRONG!  At least, it sure is for me!  

I had a glass of scotch and smoked my pipe sitting by the fire.  Sometimes, I say a bad word.  Family?  HA!  I love my family, but there're still parts that are messed up.  My mom and I haven't spoken in over a year.  I reached a point where there's nothing I could do to fix it.  Life all put together?  Really?  that's a joke!  I've led a pretty crazy life so far.  I've done a lot of things that I'm proud of.  But I've done a lot of things I'm not so proud of too.  If you know me from back in the Friars' Society, you probably saw some of them.  Perfect relationships?  Yeah, I wish.  I wish I could fix them.  I'm going through something right now with someone I've been friends with for a long time.  After a conflict, this other person is refusing to work through it.  Instead, has said that they are unwilling to put effort into trying to fix things.  I wish I had perfect relationships.  I really do.  

I was reading the book of Ruth recently.  Great book from the Old Testament.  Quick back story:  Ruth and her sister in law are married into this woman named Naomi's family.  Both of their husbands die - no children.  Naomi tells them to go back to their fathers' homes to remarry.  The sister in law does this.  Ruth, well, she doesn't leave.  Here's what she says to Naomi:  

Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if 
even death separates you and me

That's what I want.  I want that same level of loyalty in my relationships.  And I'm not willing to settle for anything less.  I may not be a perfect person.  I've been broken and I have my problems.  But you know what?  I'm still being used in really awesome ways.  I may have a family member or two that I don't talk to.  I have a friend that has stabbed my in the gut.  I enjoy a cold beer or a scotch.  I love a good cigar from time to time.  I'm not what people think of in their heads when you say "missionary".  And you know what?  I don't know many people that are.  What am I then?

I'm a man chasing a dream.  I'm a man that is following a leading in my life to Kenya.  I'm a man who has failed many times.  But with each failure, I've learned something.  With each and every failure, I've become that much better of a man.  I've failed but I'm not a failure in any way.  I love the journey that I'm on.  I love my kids in Kenya.  I can't wait to be back there and start my work.  But not as a "missionary".  As a man.  Plain and simple.  A man.  Nothing greater, nothing less.  Just a man.  

So there it is.  The term that so many like to throw around like some blue ribbon at the fair...it's not so blue anymore.  

And there're my random thoughts for the night.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

thoughts on friendships

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be someone's friend.  I touched on it a bit towards the end of my last blog.  I've been thinking about what it means to be in relationship with others.  I'm not talking about a romantic relationship.  I'm talking about really being in relationship with another.

Since I've been back from Kenya I've noticed a few relationships changing.  Truthfully, most of the changes started either before I left for Kenya or while I was there.  Some have changed for the best.  I've made decisions to set healthy boundaries with certain members of my family and I've expressed those boundaries to them.  It sucks, but it was necessary because of where this specific person is and the effect it had on me.  It shows me that being in relationship with others means speaking the truth, even when it sucks.  Even when it means that the relationship changes.  For this family member, I've always had a rocky relationship.  But I often tried to keep a front up that I wasn't bothered by it.  I had to learn that that wasn't the loving thing to do anymore.  Relationship means being truthful.

I've had a very close relationship change due to some conflict.  The conflict took a while to resolve (I take some of the blame there as well).  As we moved towards resolution I thought we had found it.  Until I was told that this particular friend didn't want to put effort in anymore and asked me not to either.  Relationships are work sometimes.  There is conflict.  And that conflict, when handled properly can bring growth and closer unity.  It's in these times that we must fight for the relationship.  Still, the question arrises - and I don't know the answer - how long to you fight while being met with nothing but utter failure?

I  talked about King David's friend Hushai in my last blog.  Hushai saw David being betrayed and rejected by so many.  Even at risk to himself, he remained loyal to David.  It couldn't have been easy for Hushai to remain David's friend, but he did.  He chose relationship over everything - even his own life!  I don't know about you, but to me, that's the kind of friend I'd like to have!  In our world our lives may not be at stake for remaining friends with someone.  But our reputation may be.  Our jobs may be at stake.  Our image may be at stake.  I made a decision to remain loyal to some of my close friends and have lost some of the above things.  You know what?  It was worth it in every case.  Sadly, I've also been on the other side where people that I thought were friends chose their reputation or image over our friendship.  It sucks.  It's really dishonoring.  Relationships are hard.  They require work.  Sometimes, more than we feel up to.  But in the end, it's worth it.

Last week in my Elijah House class we were talking about relationships.  We talked about how so often our Western World is more task oriented whereas much of the rest of the world is focused on the relationship.  I saw this in Kenya with my friend Daniel Juma.  There were many times sitting at his home over the last 3 years where we set aside the for and talked.  We encouraged one another.  As I thought to my relationships here in the US, I thought of my friend Jim.  I've known him since the 3rd grade; we probably became good friends sometime in the 9th grade.  I call him one of my best friends.  We don't talk terribly often and see each other even less these days.  But Jim is that guy that I know is a friend like Hushai.  Our friendship isn't based on what we can take from each other; it's a friendship that enjoys being around one another.

Yes, relationships are difficult.  They require work.  But man are they worth it!  We're relational beings.  We were created for relationship.  Healthy relationship.  And when we find a solid one, it's so important to fight for it.  Because the difficult times don't last forever - unless you want them to.

Just my random thoughts as I try to piece things together.  Sometimes I almost miss being younger when the biggest problem to face in the day was where to ride my bike to.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I didn't ask for this...or did I?

It's been a crazy week.  Really crazy.  I had some really good meetings with people and was able to share some stories of Kenya and catch up with dear friends.  I was able to encourage others through conversations as well as be encouraged.  It was great.  Then, a few things happened all at once that forced me to sit back and really question.

Without going into too much details, the end of this week wrecked me a bit.  I heard some updates about a dear friend that just plain hurt.  Someone that I love dearly had some some things that weren't in the character that I had come to know.  That's really all I'm going to say.  It was hard to hear some things, and I know there is much more that I probably do not know and honestly do not need to know.  The experience of it all left me questioning is there really hope?  Where is it?

Since I've been back in the US a few relationships have drastically changed (they started to change before I got home).  I may not have been 100% at fault, but I know that I was partially to blame.  I've been really making an effort to mend lately but feel as though I've been met with nothing but utter failure.  By the end of the week I was left again questioning.  Is there hope for it?  Should there even be?  It is simply time to be thankful for what once was and move on, accepting that several (not just one) relationships are far from what they once were and maybe that's not a bad thing?

Friday was a really hard day.  For several weeks I've been trying to meet up with one of the pastors at church to catch up.  We've seen each other for a bit of time at church but we both wanted a time to sit and talk over a coffee.  As I was sipping a coffee at Wegman's, he walked in and said that he had just gotten en emergency phone call and asked if I'd go with him to help out and pray over the situation.  Again, I'm not going to go into details, but it became a difficult day.  Nothing can even begin to prepare you for a day sitting in the ER waiting room with a mom who has been through a tragedy like this.  I began to share with her and offer what comfort I could.  The morning came and went as afternoon set in.  I thought that she was starting to grasp what was begin said.  Maybe in some way she was.  Then, as I was preparing o leave, she went right back to where she was hours ago.  The same things we had discussed and she was seeing answers to were back on the table with the two other pastors who came out.  I left questioning.  Did anything that came out of my mouth all day matter?

By Friday night I got home and asked the big question:  When did ask for any of this?  I meant it too.  When did I ask to become the one that people could come to.  When did I ask to be the one that has to offer encouragement to others?  When did I ask for conflicts in relationships.  Hard times.  Betrayals.  When did I ask for any of this?  I was convinced that I hadn't.  Truth is, I did ask for much of it.  Maybe not in those words, but I did.

After my first trip to Kenya I was hit with some hard truths about my own heart and where it was.  I made a choice when I got home to address issues in my life that need addressing.  I made a choice to allow my heart to be healed.  I made that choice because I knew that there was something more for me.  I wanted to be used in new ways.  I wanted to be made whole to walk others through the same.  So, when did I ask for this?  When I chose to walk a new path of true relationships with others.

My good friend Chris sent me a passage from 2 Chronicles last night that really nailed the point home for me.  In chapter 27 David lists people of importance in Israel.  It talks about those in the treasury, those who work fields, suppliers of wine, those in charge of the flocks, etc.  Then it lists something important.  Verse 32 lists the king's advisors and counselors.  But 33 calls out King David's close friend.  When Chris sent me this he also sent me back for some more of the story.  It's found in 2 Samuel.  The counselors and advisors betrayed David.  But the one listed as his friend - Hushai - remains loyal.  The parallel that Chris drew was that "being a true friend is a hairy deal.  It can be super awesome, it can be super emotional, it can be super terrible, it can be super inexplainable, it can be super overwhelming."  

When we chose to be a real friend, it can get hard.  Being a friend to King David wasn't easy.  But Hushai remained true and did as David asked him.  Being in relationship with someone isn't always going to be easy.  There will often be times where it's downright hard.  Conflicts arise.  Situations come up that test the fabric that holds friendships together.  Sometimes maintaining a relationship is a fight.  Sometimes it means speaking truth to someone in the ER who is afraid to hear it.  It means speaking the truth even though the truth sucks and is hard to hear.  And maybe it's not about it getting through.  Maybe it's more about stepping out in boldness and being real.  Maybe what people need isn't someone to tell them the "Christianese BS" that "everything will be totally okay after this" but the truth that people make choices.  Things may get worse before getting better.  It's not about things being okay right away.  Life is a journey; it's a process.  We're all on it.  Maybe being in a true honest, vulnerable relationship with someone is telling them this.  But not leaving it there - still offering hope.  Offering hope that even though it may get worse first, that we can still rejoice in the hope that we have.  After all, 1 Thessalonians tells us that we do not grieve as men with no hope.  Rather, we grieve with a hope.  We still grieve.  We still walk through the process.  We still journey.  

Maybe I'm totally off base here.  I don't know.  Long blog for a long week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kenya: from 2009 until 2012

I've seriously condensed everything I own to just a few bags worth of things.  My dad has been kind enough to store a few sedimental things for me in a closet at his house.  A few weeks ago I stopped by his place to pick them up and condense a bit more.  In one of the boxes I came across a journal from the first trip to Kenya in 2009.  Here's a few excerpts from when we got back:

Aug. 6, 2009:  
We've been back for 9 days now. I feel empty.  People are ignorant, stupid and hard to love.  I so badly want to share with them but they don't want to hear...it's funny to them that street kids walk around huffing glue - as one man said, "now that's the life!".  I feel discouraged and lonely...I want to go back.  

Sept. 4, 2009:
We've been back for a while now.  People are still just as ignorant.  It still bothers me how insensitive people can be.  But I've found that I can't waste time and efforts on them.  Instead, I choose to focus on those who want to hear...My heart still longs to be in Kenya.  I miss it so much.  I left weeks ago, but part of my heart is still there.  I long for my feet to touch Kenyan soil again.  I long for the embrace and friends I left behind.  Simply put, I long.  I am certain that an even larger Kenyan adventure awaiting.

It was interesting reading those two pages this afternoon.  I definitely remember struggling each time I've come home.  I seemed to be very quick to judge others.  The truth is that I had an experience that most people in the US never get.  Many of the people that I am surrounded by daily haven't been outside of the comforts of the US.  Coming back to the US this time was even harder.  I no longer viewed people as "ignorant, stupid and hard to love" (well, I tried not to).  But I did find it difficult to not judge others.  I still felt a great deal of discouragement.  I still felt lonely.  Very lonely.  I came back to welcoming friends and family, but was still lonely and longed for my home in Kenya.  Moving towards the second entry was even more interesting.  I can still relate in a way.  I have learned that not everyone wants to hear everything.  Some people really do just want to know how the weather is and what kinds of food I ate.  And that's fine.  I can tell them that.  But I really come alive when I get to tell stories about Peter.  Or the glue dealer that I spent time talking to.  I'd much rather share stories about Alex-Juma and the other street boys that became my friends.  And I love that I have a community that allowed me to share those stories.  I have a community that allowed me to cry as I shared many of the stories.

I really loved the very end of that entry.  Even three years ago I knew that there was something more to Kenya for me.  Before that trip I had an irrational fear of flying over the ocean.  I say irrational because my fear was not the plane crashing.  My fear was the plane crashing in the ocean and me surviving and getting eaten by a shark.  Yeah, I know - it was dumb!  Three years ago I didn't know that I would be able to go back to Kenya.  A good friend in Kenya saw some wounds in my heart that he called me out on.  Some wounds that needed healing before I could do anything longterm in Kenya.  Now, three years later I am planning my 4th trip to Kenya.  A trip that will truly be a long term.  Three years later and I am certain that life in the US is not where I belong right now.  I love the USA and my family and friends here, but my heart really is in Kenya.  Three years ago I penned that I longed for the embrace of friends left behind.  Today I still long for those embraces, but they are from friends who have become family.

A lot has changed since I wrote these two entries.  While I still struggle with coming back to the US, I've learned to be more content.  I've learned to love better.  As much as has changed, the underlying theme of longing to be back in Kenya has remained the same.

See you in a few months Kenya!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A car in flames, yet people laughed

I haven't blogged in a few weeks; I try to only blog about big events or updates.  Today, something happened.

I'm in Salisbury, MD doing a book buyback for work.  A little while ago I was starting to doze off (been a long week).  It's a bit too early to go to sleep so I went outside of my hotel to walk around and enjoy the last bit of sunshine.  As I was walking (barefoot) I saw some smoke from a little ways off in another parking lot.  As I walked closer I could hear bangs and saw flames.  I ran.  Towards the flames.  I didn't yet hear sirens to signify help.  As I closed in on the flames I saw a pickup truck engulfed in flames.  My thought was that I have emergency first aid and CPR training.  But more importantly, I felt a draw to make sure no one was in that truck.  Training aside, I knew that I had a responsibility to help.

I met a man, Anthony, and his toddler son near the truck.  Anthony informed me that no one was in the truck and it was in fact his pop pops truck.  Apparently, the AC wasn't working and all of a sudden the truck caught on fire.  I'm don't have a mechanical mind, so I have no idea why.  By this time a firetruck had arrived and began putting out the flames as more loud bangs came from it.

What struck me, as with so many experiences, was the crowd.  There must have been over a dozen people around snapping photos while watching.  Others driving by with camera phones out the window.  Then there was Anthony and his family.  Forcing back the tears.  I started talking to him and encouraging him.  I even got to pray for him and his family.  As Anthony shared with me he said that this was his pop pops only vehicle and didn't know how he'd be able to get another one.  Of all the people around, only one other woman took the time to talk with the family.  It seemed like everyone else was just focused on watching the fire burn.  A few were even laughing about it while this family watched their truck burn beyond repair.

I guess this just makes me ask one simple question:  will you stop?  I mean it.  Will you stop?  Will you put aside the Facebook picture opportunity and talk to someone?  Will you put aside fears and run in to see if someone needs help?  Why is it that our culture is so focused on self preservation and self-centeredness that the majority of us can't even offer some comfort to a hurting family?

Maybe this is a little of a judgmental side of me coming out here.  But it truly breaks my heart to see this over and over again.  I remember it happening once while I was in TN after seeing a bad car accident; no one stopped...It happened with Peter in Kenya; the crowds simply mocked him...It seems to be a common occurrence.  What would life look like if we started putting others first?  What would life look like if we took the time to see hurting people and show them compassion?  I am by no means saying that I'm perfect at this.  But it's something that I want to make an effort to practice more every day.  So, what will it look like to you?  Believe me, if you make a commitment to live ONE WEEK putting others first, you'll have an experience like this too.  Will you do it?  Or will you be the one sitting by watching?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

So, what's the next adventure?

I wrote this blog almost exactly 4 weeks ago as I was flying out of Kenya.  Now I can post it :)

Greater things are get to come...

While this blog will not be posted for a little while (I want to share with my family first), I am currently I'm writing this from somewhere over the Gulf of Sidra and approximately 36,000 feet in the air, traveling at 495 ground MPH.  Oh, and the outside temperature is about -65 degrees.  Maybe I spend too much of my flights monitoring the display showing where we are.  It can almost be depressing at times...I still have another 3 hours or so before my first flight lands!  Somehow it seems fitting to be writing this blog now as, according to the display screen, I am officially no longer over African soil.  

I left Kitale yesterday and traveled by shuttle to Nairobi for the night.  It was a very long shuttle ride.  One that saw several tears and many more memories flashing by with the scenery outside the window.  This afternoon my flight departed from Nairobi.  I leaned against the window and just stared out as we were taking off.  One thought has been racing through my head:  I'm leaving my home now.  I've lived in Kenya now for 6 months.  I've come to call this beautiful land my home.  I'm far more comfortable in Kenya than I am in the US.  The other week I was talking to my dad on the phone as he asked me a rather tough question.  He asked if I was excited to be coming home.  I had to be honest with him.  I told him I'm excited to see my friends and family - I really am.  But, I'm not sure that I quite "fit in" back in the States anymore.  Life seems to make so much more sense to me in Kenya.  My heart officially belongs to Kenya.  That's not to say that I am turning my back on America or my family and friends there.  That's not that case at all.  But it is to say that I think that, for the time being at least, I belong in Kenya.  So what does that look like?

Last month I found out that the job I thought I had at camp was taken away.  Honestly, I was crushed by that.  All of a sudden so much of what I was planning for when I got home was gone.  I was talking to my friend Adam that was also living on the TI compound in Kenya one night.  I told him that I just want to find a job that matters - I want to be passionate about it.  As we talked more I said that I want to work with youth in ministry.  And I want to be able to practice an inner healing ministry that I took a class for a couple of years ago.  My passion is to see the youth's past wounds healed.  Then something wild happened...

I was helping my friend Carla out with a few computer things about 2 days later.  Carla and her husband Jeff run a children's home called In Step.  Currently they are home to 108 kids!  In Step takes in kids 4 years old and under that have been abandoned.  Some have been simply let by parents while others the parents have tried to kill the child.  While they take in kids 4 and younger, they commit to these kids for life.  That means that right now there are several older kids.  As I was working on Carla's computer she brought up the emotional needs of the older boys.  She started to share with me how she wants to find a man to work specifically with the oder boys and focus on their pasts.  So, everything that I told Adam I wanted was right in front of me.  Carla offered me a position at In Step to do this very thing.  

After taking some time to think and pray about it as well as seeking counsel of others, I accepted the offer.  I will be living in the dorms that are being built this summer.  My role will be to mentor these older boys into young men.  I already have several ideas and lessons I desire to teach them such as how to be a Godly man and how to treat women with the respect that they deserve (this is not a common belief for many in Kenya).  I will be meeting each one of the boys to begin talking about their past.  Many of them still have memories of the abandonment of their biological families.  I've seen first hand how the particular style of ministry that I will be doing can change a life.  I'm looking forward to what this opportunity brings.  

So, right now I am on my way back to the US for a little while.  Personally, I am hoping to be back home in Kenya by August.  I have a lot to do between now and then.  Mainly, I need to raise full time support (about $1000  month).  I also need to find some health insurance before booking a ticket back.  The course on this style of ministry has a 2nd level that I am also beginning the week after I get back as another way to prepare myself.  

I have much to do but the first priority is to rest when I am back in the US!  It's been a great 6 months and I've loved the adventure.  But now I need to rest a bit and process everything as I try to get over the culture shock that is waiting for me in the US.  Along with this is some much needed time with family and catching up with friends.  

"Greater things have yet to come.  Greater things are still to be done in this city." 

PS - we're now over the Mediterranean Sea

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How was Africa?

Tomorrow I will be back in the US for 3 weeks.  I still haven't really unpacked.  Seriously, my passport is still in my laptop bag.  I have a few dollars in US currency, a few thousand shillings (sounds more impressive than it really is) and a few Euro all in the same bag.

A question that so many seem to keep asking is "How was Africa?"  I wish that there was a simple answer but there isn't.  Africa was great.  It was an incredible experience to live there for 6 months.  Seriously, I never expected that I would spend so much time overseas.  I always imagined possibly going to Germany one day but I always had an irrational fear of flying over the ocean.  I wasn't afraid of the plane crashing in the ocean.  No, even crazier (do you expect anything else from me?) - I was afraid that the plane would crash and I'd live and get eaten by a shark.  I know, crazy.  But the point is that I never dreamed of living overseas for any amount of time.

Being back now has been...difficult.  I think that I'm going through more culture shock coming back to the US than I did going to Kenya.  I keep having to remind myself not to judge people for their actions because they haven't had the same experiences that I had.  I started a part time job with the last company I worked for.  It's strange.  I haven't had a job in 6 months.  Now I'm back to working.  It feels so...well, dull and lifeless.  There are no orphans to hang out with.  There are no street kids to play checkers with.  There are no random power outages to deal with.  I guess it's more than work that seems dull.  To be honest, most things do.  I mean, I love begin around people back here.  It's been great to see so many awesome people.  At the same time, I find myself longing for home back in Kenya (I promise to post more about this soon...).  I was talking to my friend Ryan yesterday and he asked me when it comes to day-to-day life and culture, which do I prefer.  I said Kenya.  It may not have a choice of 5 Starbucks within 10 miles of me to choose from.  But when I do get that good cup of coffee from somewhere, I love it!  Things seem to slow down and become a more restful pace in Kenya.  Things seem to really make sense there.  Even when they don't really make sense, it does my the simple phrase "this is Africa".

I'm feeling lately that people expect me to be over joyed to be back and full of laughter all the time.  And I am joyful to be with people here.  But lately I feel like I'm wearing a mask and pretending to be more enthused than I really am.  But on the inside, I'm homesick now.

I don't know if this makes any sense at all.  Thank you Wegmans for your free wifi in your marketplace!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A few favorite photos from Kenya

I was going through some photos and thought I'd share a few favorites and why...

This is from the time I went to talk to the local glue dealer.  The conversation he and I had was one of the most enlightening conversations I had the entire 6 months.  It's so easy to judge from a distance.  It's harder to judge him when you hear his story.  When you make time to spend with him you realize that he's looking for someone to show him compassion too.

This is my friend Alex.  He is 15 years old and he sleeps on the ground behind this building we're standing on.  Alex is a great kid to talk to and lots of fun.  He tells me that "one day" he'll quit glue.  I certainly hope that "one day" comes soon.  He spends about 50 shillings a day on glue - that's 350 shillings a week.  To give you an idea on this, you can rent a cheap apartment for 600 shillings a month...

This is Martin.  Martin is a walking, talking, breathing miracle!  I first met Martin three ago at his sister's funeral.  Martin is HIV positive and lives at Transformed International's children's home called the Veronica Home (names after his sister).  Three years ago when I was first to Kenya and only a few days after his sister was buried Martin got sick.  The doctors said that he wouldn't live through the night.  The team that I was in Kenya with didn't agree and we got together and prayed over this young boy's life.  Imagine the surprise of the doctors to come in to work the next day and not only see Martin still alive but moving around!  Go ahead, look at this picture for a while - this picture that was taken a few months ago, three years after Martin was supposed to die - and tell me that God isn't in the miracle business.

I love this picture!  First, you should note that I'm IN the photo...so who took it?  Another of the street boys took this picture on my camera.  I love this because it represents the relationship that I had with some of these boys.  These are boys had a deep trust for me and I trusted them.  They never tried to steal anything from me.  One day I left my sunglasses on the ground and one of them came running up to me and handed me my glasses.  These kids knew that I cared for them and they reciprocated.
Okay, this was just awesome!  In Kitale street boys are considered a nuisance.  It's not very common to see someone taking the time to talk with a street boy.  It's even less common to see what you see here.  This man runs a small shop just down the street from here.  After a few days of seeing me with the kids he finally came up to us and asked if he could play a game of checkers.

Something else about this photo is the boy he is playing checkers with.  Notice how his shorts aren't yet ripped and his shirt is rather clean?  I saw this young boy on what was likely his first day in town as a street boy.  As the days turned into weeks his appearance changed.  The shirt that was once buttoned all the way to the top became undone.  The clean clothing soon became ripped and dirty.  It was sad to see his transition.

Alex-Juma.  I'll go ahead and say it.  Alex-Juma was my favorite to spend time with.  He loved playing with that little red ball.  Alex-Juma is one of the many street boys that have families back at home.  His family forces him into this lifestyle to earn money for the family.  A child that young should not be the one making money for his family.  He should be a kid.  He should be outside playing.  He should be in school learning.  For a short time during the day, Alex-Juma played.  He was a kid again.

 I can't recall his name.  But this photo represents life to these boys.  "Life" is found in a bottle of glue.  Yet again, we can sit and judge while looking at photos like this on our laptops.  But let's be honest for a bit - I'll start...If I was wearing as little clothing as these boys wear, walking barefooted and hungry.  If I was beaten by security guards and rejected by everyone that should love me.  If I lived like that and then had to sleep on a dirt or cement ground at night and someone gave me a bottle of glue to help me sleep and numb the pain of my heart...I'd probably do it too.  I'd like to say that I wouldn't, but I can't.  After a few days - a few weeks maybe? - in that life, I'd probably do it too.  That doesn't make it right by any means.  But it does shed some light on things.

My attempt to be artsy with a shot from above.

This was a fun day!  After spending weeks with these boys I decided that it was time to do something new.  I bought some bread and make PB&J sandwiches.  We spend a few hours hanging out that morning and by lunch time I sat down and gave them all some PB&J.  And I sat there, on the ground next to the main street, ate lunch with them.  I showed them that I wasn't ashamed to be seen with them at all.  And when town locals asked for a sandwich, I told them no, this was food for my friends here.

These two pictures are special for a reason that will come in another blog soon.  I have it written, but before I put it here I want to talk to some family first.

How can you say no to that face?  This is Regan and he is the son of Virginia and Ben, the house parents at the Veronice Home.  Regan is an awesome little guy!  He's cute and he knows it too!  He's a mischievous one and loves to goof around and have fun.

This is Peter Lojore.  I've talked about him a lot in my blogs.  This was shortly after I had him discharged from the hospital.  They wanted him to stay there for 6-8 weeks to let the bone heal.  The doctors there treated him poorly and were already not giving him his medicine.  When I discharged him they made it clear that they wouldn't be held responsible if anything happened to him (they even made me sign a waiver).  My reply:  "you haven't been responsible with him since the day I brought him in so what's the difference?"

Hard to believe that this is the same man, isn't it?  This was after Peter had taken his first bath in a long time (he actually forgot how to bathe, it had been that long).  Sadly, 3 days after this picture was taken Peter went back to the first picture.  He chose street life over the home we got him into.

This guy was a fun guy!  He is one of the conmen that threaded to kill me many times.  He and another man that is a pastor were in charge of the group.  They had a scam and made off with tons of money each day.  Finally, I had enough and I started warning everybody that I saw them scamming.  After a few people walked away from them these guys began to shout threats about cutting my head off with a machete.  The old me may have run away scared.  But I didn't.  I made it my goal to walk by them a few times every day. And I began to teach the kids in this photo and the locals in the area about standing up against evil.  The locals who worked around here would always thank me for standing up to these guys.  I told them that they need to do the same if they want a chance.  In December this man here told me that they will "never be arrested" and that they "are bigger than the government".  I told him that one day his bribes to the police won't be enough anymore and he'll be in jail.  And I'll be laughing.  Just before Christmas the police finally stopped taking the bribes and arrested the whole gang.  And I laughed.  A lot.  I still laugh thinking about it!  :)

Some things were really fun!  I rode a camel.  It was a short ride at a local fair type thing.  But it was a great time.

Speaking of fun, this was awesome!  This was a few of us from the day we went snorkeling.  Kenya sits along the coast of the Indian Ocean so we went there for Thanksgiving.  What a great time!  This was my first time snorkeling and I loved every minute of it!  And the people in this picture are really amazing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why do we do it?

A while ago I learned to stop asking the question "why God.  Why did this happen?" and start asking "what am I to learn from this?".  A few weeks before I left Kenya the resolve to ask these types of questions was put to the test.

It felt so good to help Peter.  I watched as he went from a street boy who probably would have died when i first met him, to a boy with a future and a  hope. No longer was he an orphan but he was a member of a family.  Then, 3 days later I watched him choose to go back to being a street boy.  It was a devastating and crushing blow.  I felt like helping Peter gave me a purpose for this trip.  When he ran away I felt as though he took my sense of purpose with him.  I cannot even begin to describe just how much that hurt me.  How badly I was crushed and brought to tears over it.

Last night was my first night back to my home church - Providence of West Chester (Check them out - we love visitors and it's a no judgement zone!).  A few months ago they had me make a video in which I talked about helping Peter on the streets.  A few weeks ago was Global Missions Sunday and the story of Peter getting off of the streets was told.  I listened to that podcast forcing back tears of disappointment.  I wished that it was still true but the hard truth was that before that message was preached, Peter was gone.  But not everyone at Providence knew this and last night was hard.  I was met with many people asking about Peter and so many pleasant remarks towards Peter and that story.  A few said how it touched them and they were so proud of that story.  Do you know how difficult it is to look people in the eyes after that and tell them it didn't work out?  Well, neither do I.  At least not the looking in the eyes part.  I started to feel a bit ashamed of how everything turned out.

I was talking to the lead pastor, Phil Carnuccio.  I told him that I was still trying to figure out the lesson here.  Then he told me what my heart knew but my mind needed to hear.  In a few seconds, in a few short words, he told me the lesson.  Actually, one word sums it up.  Obedience.  We help others because we're being obedient to God.  We do not help others because we hope that they will show gratitude or because we desire a set outcome.  We help others because in Matthew 25:40 Jesus says that "whatever you have done to the least of these you have done to me...".  We help because we're being obedient.

Do I wish that there was a different outcome here?  Of course I do!  Would I do the whole thing over again?  YES!  I would do it all over again because it was the right thing to do.  It was obedient.  Maybe the whole process was for me to learn that?  Maybe there was something planted in Peter that will stay with him for a long time.  I may never see the end result.  There may still be a great ending to the story of Peter Lojore and I may not have the honor of seeing it.  And that's okay!  Because I was obedient in helping him when I did, Peter saw hope where there was none before.  That hope will always linger in him.  And one day he may cling back to that hope with his very last breath.  For now, I'll keep enough hope for the two of us.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I have no regrets

I've been avoiding writing this blog for a little while now.  Sitting on my flight back to the US seems as good a time as any.  

Some of you have been following the story of Peter Lojore, a street boy that I took to the hospital just before Christmas.  When I first met Peter I knew that I had to do something for him.  He was really in bad shape and no one else around cared enough to do anything.  As the weeks went by I began to spend more time with Peter.  I looked forward to my visits with Peter in town.  

During those times I thought about more ways to help him.  Peter seemed like he really wanted to get off of the streets.  So a few weeks ago I began talking with my friend Daniel Juma who runs a children's home.  Juma often takes in street boys and does very well with them.  

Because Peter is a bit older we decided that it would be best to get Peter his own place just around the corner from Juma.  We found a place that was in the right in our price range and got it set up.  I needed a sponsor from back in the States to sponsor Peter monthly, at least until his leg was healed and he could begin to work again.  I posted something on Facebook and within a day I had a sponsor for Peter.  I got a hold of a bed for Peter and a few essential items and we moved him into his new home.  It was such a joy to see Peter in a home and off of the streets.  

About 3 days later my phone rang; it was Juma with some disappointing news.  Peter ran away.  After 3 days of living in a home, sleeping in a bed and eating food he had had enough and ran off.  Peter took the sugar that he was bought and sold it to pay for transport back to town.  I went to see him the next morning and he had so many excuses for running away.  He began to tell me that Juma was conning me and ripping me off.  Here's where I got really upset with Peter.  I've known Juma for years now and he is one of the most honorable men I've ever met.  I gave Juma some money to pick things up and without me asking, he always presented me a receipt.  There is no way he was conning me.  Not Daniel Juma.  

Peter's now been back on the streets for a couple of weeks.  His leg is getting worse all the time.  Juma found a doctor that wanted to treat his wounds free of charge.  Peter has a very deep cut on his ankle (on the same leg that is broken).  This doctor said that if it isn't treated properly, Peter will lose his leg.  It's evident that it's already infected.  My piki driver friends in town tell me that Peter can no longer walk across the street and he has to be pushed on a bicycle. 

I haven't seen Peter in town now for a few days.  I worry about what may have happened to him.  To be honest, part of me wonders if he's still alive now.  As disappointing of an ending as this is to this story, I have no regrets at all.  Not a single one.  From the moment I first met Peter I knew that I had to do something.  I couldn't just leave him there.  had I ignored him I am convinced that he would have died that day.  I do not regret at all getting him into a home.  That too was the right thing to do based on the circumstances.  Maybe I was fooled by his attitude.  Maybe I still use don't have a clear enough grasp on how tight a grip the street life culture can have on these guys.  No matter what, helping his was still the right thing to do.  No, scratch that.  It was the human thing to do.  And i'd do it over again without a second thought.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm going to be a great dad!

My friend Adam and I just watched the movie Courageous.  I definitely think that it's a movie that all dads should watch.  Right from the beginning I was hooked.  The opening scene is of a man stopping for gas.  As he turns around to pick up the window washing squeegee someone runs over and steals his truck.  This man turns around and climbs onto the window and starts fighting with the car thief.  Barely hanging on he causes the truck to swerve and finally crash into a tree.  The thief runs out and gets away.  But what happened next was incredible.  The man is thrown to the ground and crawls over to the truck.  Another car had stopped and told him to stay still and not worry about the truck.  He responds that he isn't worried about the truck as he opens the back door to check on his baby boy in the car seat.  It reminded me of the only happy memory I have of my biological father.  We were at a BBQ and swimming.  I remember going over to the pool when no one was watching and trying to jump into a round inflatable (I'll admit it - I haven't grown out of that adventure yet!).  I missed as the inflatable floated away and I sank to the bottom of the pool.  The next thing I remember is my dad jumping in the pool, fully clothed, and pulling me out.  Strangely, I remember his watch, of all things, still on his wrist and not working after.  I remember that my father saved me without concern for his belongings.

As the movie went on there were more encounters with dads (mostly all police officers) and their kids.  Another powerful moment is when two of the cops were driving while off duty.  The one dad had his daughter in the back and they were waiting for the other cop to come out of a building.  The daughter's favorite song came on the radio and she got out of the car and begged her dad to dance with her.  The dad was more concerned about what other people would think and he refused.  He told her that he was "dancing with her in his heart", but from inside the car he just watched.

There were more examples as these fathers began to really understand their roles as dads and as husbands.  As I watched more, I saw more and more how important it is for fathers to be their for their children; not just provide a roof over their heads.  Dads need to BE THERE for their kids.  Do things that their kids want to do, even if they hate it.  Earlier we watched an episode of the new show Person of Interest.  In it a character talks about how his dad walked out on him but always send him $200 a week.  One day he went and found his dad who had a new family.  The dad just gave him another $200.  The character said that he didn't want the money.  What he wanted was a dad.

My biological father was a drunk, abusive man - not a good role model.  But yet, that one memory of him can still bring me to tears because I know that on some level, at some point, he must have cared - even if it was just a little.  I have an amazing man that I now call my dad from when I was adopted.  He took me out back and taught me to throw a ball.  He taught me to ride a bike.  We went camping and took day trips together.  He came to my concerts when I was in the band in school.  My dad was present.  Since I've been coming to Kenya he has been incredible!  He's been so supportive of my decisions in every aspect.  I call my dad and start telling him current events here and he knows most of it because he's keeping on up Kenyan news.  Sometimes he knows more than I do and I've been living here for nearly 6 months now!

While I'm definitely not a father yet, nor will I be anytime in the near future, I can honestly say that I look forward to fatherhood.  I know that when I have children they will be my priority.  In that first scene two police officers were talking about how the man wouldn't let go of that steering wheel when his truck was being stolen.  The one asked the other, "there are a lot ways he could have died there.  Would you have kept holding that wheel?".  Such a thought provoking question!  Look from a different angle.  Your child;s life may not be in danger as your car is being stolen, but his heart is in danger!  Will you hold onto it so tight that you are willing to sacrifice anything for him?  What I mean is will you sacrifice your time to spend it with your son?  Will you sacrifice your pride and dance with your daughter in the park?  Will you sacrifice your income to live below your means so that you can be present with your wife and kids?  Ultimately, will you sacrifice your life to save your child's?

Up until a few years ago the thought of having my own kids scared me half to death.  I was filled with fear that I would turn out like my biological father.  But after taking the time to heal those wounds in my heart, I now know that my kids will grow up with a dad who is there.  Not just financially or physically there.  A father who is there emotionally and spiritually too.  I know that I won't be a perfect dad; I'll make my share of mistakes, but I'll be a great dad when that time comes.