Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Long Awaited Visit


When we first arrived in Kenya, one of my greatest fears was the hiring and sustaining a house helper. This was an entirely foreign concept to me, for I did everything a housewife does…all by myself. How would I know who to hire? Would I be able to live with someone else in my house all day, 5 days a week? What does an employee-employer relationship look like, especially here in Kenya?

One of the wisest decisions I made was taking the advice of a veteran missionary who told me to ‘interview’ several helpers before hiring one. In other words, I shouldn’t hire the first person that comes my way. As soon as I arrived, I met my first interviewee. She was lovely, had a huge smile and was a great cook. After she worked with me a few days, another beautiful lady came to work. She was equally lovely, had a bigger smile, was wonderful with the kids, had tons of energy, but could not cook. Both ladies were so sweet and would (and do) make wonderful helpers, but I still had one more person to try. Joyce was my third helper. She was quiet, very hard-working, self-motivated and smart. She couldn’t cook but expressed interest in learning. After only 2 days, I knew she was my perfect fit. God answered my prayers and gave me this women who met all my expectations! He is so good!

It is customary for a helper to invite their missionary family to visit his or her home. Joyce lives in a small apartment very close to the hospital, but her real home is about an hour away. She was eager for us to meet for parents and to see her land. It seemed like we just couldn’t find a time when our weekends were free at the same time. Well, it finally happened! We visited Joyce and her family last weekend. (Unfortunately, we didn’t take a camera.) Let me share some of the highlights of the visit.

We left the compound shortly after 10 a.m. in a large, green safari truck (the same one we took on safari and got stuck in the mud). Donald, our driver, and Joyce know each other, so they chatted the entire way. The boys listened to Adventures in Odyssey, and Aaron and I took in the beautiful landscapes. The rolling hills covered in tea fields helped distract us from the bouncing and almost constant attention from on-lookers. (Believe it or not, rural Kenyans still stop, stare and often point and laugh at white people. Some of them have never seen a white person!) After about an hour, we arrived at Joyce’s family’s home.

Many family members and their pastor were waiting to greet us as soon as we got out of the truck. Hands were shaken all around. Then, we were ushered into the sitting room. Chairs lines the walls and tables (like coffee tables) filled the center of the room. It looked like the walls were recently covered in fresh newspaper, and several posters with Scriptures decorated the walls. The pastor, who spoke some English, and our driver were the source of the majority of our conversation. Joyce’s father and her mother’s brother joined the conversation when it changed to Kipsigis…but then we were left out.

Chai was served shortly after we arrived. As soon as the boys finished their chai, they went outside to play with Joyce’s nieces and nephews. Lunch was served at noon, so the boys came inside to eat. They served us sukuma, ugali, some kind of stew, millet ugali, homemade yogurt, and water. I was quite proud of the boys. They tried everything, even the chunky-gritty yogurt. Fortunately, we eat Kenyan food at least once a week, so nothing looked too strange and tasted too weird.

After lunch the pastor and Joyce gave us a tour of the land. Three of Joyce’s five brothers have build houses on their portions of their inherited land. We got to meet these brothers, their wives and their children. Among the four families they grow many crops: maize, tea, potatoes, millet, etc. They also raise various animals: cows, chickens and a goat. We learned how to pluck tea leaves, picked some maize, and visited the river where Joyce had to fetch water when she was younger. (Now, they have a rain tank to collect cleaner water. They drink and cook with this water, and they use it to wash their clothes and dishes.) It was quite the hike, and parts of the path were very muddy. I wish I had pictures of us straddling the mud along one particular part of the road. On the way back up the hill, Jacob slipped and his hand caught himself in a pile of cow mature. He almost threw up from the smell! Joyce was gracious and took him to the closet house to clean his hands.

When we arrived back at Joyce’s parents’ home, we were served room temperature soda in a bottle with straws. (I love that the soda comes in reusable bottles and has no high fructose corn syrup! I’m not crazy about the room temperature part, but no refrigeration means no cold drinks.) The boys were delighted when the pastor handed each of them their own bottle of orange Fanta! I’m sure they’ve never had that much soda in one sitting…at least not under my watch!

Shortly after we finished the soda, chair was served again. This time it came with mandazis. Levi, being the closest thing to a Kenyan in our family, drank down his chai and devoured his mandazi. Then, he ran back outside to play in the dirt. Noah occupied most of his time looking for chameleons. When he’d find one, he’d chase the Kenyan kids around to make them scream. (Kenyans are afraid of reptiles.) I’m not sure what Jacob did. If I had to guess, he just watched Noah and laughed.

Everyone gathered in the sitting room around 3pm. The pastor opened with a word of prayer. Then, everyone took turns introducing themselves and giving a short speech. (This is totally customary here. No introductions at the beginning. We knew no one’s name up until this point. In fact, I was under the impression that Joyce’s uncle was her father and that her father was her eldest brother until people began to introduce themselves!) Joyce has 5 brothers and 4 sisters. Not all of them were able to attend, but the room was full of family. They all welcomed us and were so happy that we visited them. Joyce’s father went first. Since he doesn’t speak English, Donald had to translate for us. Apparently, he welcomed us, wanted us to return often, thanked us for giving Joyce a job, and hoped that Joyce was taking very good care of our home. Next, Joyce’s mother spoke. Then, each sibling followed.

On a side note: The women cooked and washed dishes all day. During this introduction/speech portion of the day was the only time we got to see them. I think it was the only time they got to sit down all day! I spent most of the day in the company of all men! Maybe I should have gone outside to help!?!?

After each person took a turn to welcome us, it was our turn. Aaron spoke first. Then, I thanked everyone. I reassured Joyce’s father that she was taking excellent care of us. Donald translated our messages back to her parents. They were pleased. Then, the pastor prayed for us again. That marked the end of our stay. We shook everyone’s hand again.

On the way out, Joyce showed us the kitchen, which also served as her bedroom. I so wish I had a picture of this, because no description will do it justice. In one corner was the place to build a fire and cook. The wood was stored of a loft. There was one shelf for storage. Then, there were two beds: one for Joyce and one for her daughter. The ceiling was black from the charcoal smoke. My mind immediately thought of Joyce’s lungs! I hope they aren’t as black as that ceiling!

We couldn’t leave quite yet. We had to receive gifts! While I brought a typical Kenyan hostess gift of sugar, tea leaves and bread, they far outdid me. We went home with maize, bananas and a chicken! Instead of saying “Thank you,” Kenyans give gifts. Practical gifts. We ate the chicken on Wednesday. The bananas are still ripening in the store room. I’m cooking the maize tonight…It’s a little late, but I have to try to eat it!

The boys and our gifts!

The boys and our gifts!

Overall, it was a lovely day. One highlight was Joyce’s father’s account of the way Tenwek evangelized the village. Almost everyone in the room could share a testimony of how Tenwek Hospital has impacted their lives, in both practical and spiritual ways. It was so neat to hear how they revere Dr. Steury, the first full-time doctor who served at Tenwek. And it’s humbling to be a part of his legacy. Tenwek Hospital has and is changing the world for the better. Thanks be to God!!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for doctors like Dr. Steury who blazes the way for all the current missionaries all over the world today!

2. Praise God that He is the same Redeemer for all people!

3. Praise God for the way He answers prayers! He is so faithful!!

4. Please pray for us as we prepare to move to a new place and attend 8 weeks of language school. (I’ll give more information in an upcoming blog.)

5. Please pray for some friends of ours: Emily and Colleen. Both of these young women are preparing for their first mission trips to Africa. Colleen will be living with us! Please pray that God will be with them as they prepare and that He will show Himself real and faithful during their times in Africa, far away from home.

6. Please pray for the many heart patients recovering at the hospital. A cardiac team just performed two-weeks worth of heart surgeries. Please pray that the patients will heal completely…AND give God all the glory!

7. Please pray blessings over Joyce and her family! She works so hard for us. We appreciate her so much. Please pray that God would reward her for her service to our family.

I’ll close with the portion of I Peter that I’m currently memorizing. “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” I Peter 3:10-12




Our Loss is Heaven’s Gain


It has been a rough week. Too many young people died. Too many families lost a loved one. Too many mommas are left with broken hearts. Let me take a break from sharing our experiences in Greece to share my heart concerning two losses that occurred this week.

The first happened right here at Tenwek Hospital. A Kenyan missionary from our church here on the compound serves a people group in northern Kenya. She is a widow, and has been for a long time. She has only two children: one boy and one girl. They are young adults. This week, her only son died at Tenwek. I don’t know all the details, and I certainly don’t understand all the cultural differences between Americans and Kenyans. But my heart breaks for his momma. She left to visit her ‘people’ in the morning because her son had stabilized. Then, that afternoon he took his last breath without a his mother by his side. My heart cries Why? Lord, why did you take her away from him? Why did you take him away from her? How is this bringing you glory? 

My head must remind my heart that God is sovereign and He is good. All the time. He ordained this, and He will be honored in it. More than usual, because of my lack of understanding of this culture, I will not see all the ways God will use this. I just have to trust that He will use it. To make matters worse, the death of this only son brings about a lot of legal issues for this momma. With no husband and no son, she and her daughter may loose her land and/or may need to purchase the land from the husband’s family. Again, I don’t know all the details of the way this culture works. I just know that it’s very different from min and that this woman has a lot on her plate. Please pray for her!

The second family isn’t as close to home, but somehow it hits closer to my heart. Many of you read the blog I shared on our facebook page. The Sauer family lost their five-year-old son, Ben, this week. I won’t share too much of their story, for you can read their blog at if you want to learn more. My heart breaks for this family. Ben has a twin brother, a young sister and another sister on the way. As I struggle with the tension of joy over the new life developing inside of me and the sorrow over a loss of my own, I so relate to this momma’s heart. How do you reconcile such joy and sorrow? How can one heart handle two opposite emotions at the same time? How can I feel both? How can I not?

Boys with Parthenon in background

There has been a tension in my heart since Hannah went to heaven. I look at my boys and I’m so thankful for them. But at the same time, my heart is so sad that Hannah isn’t here. My family picture can never be complete. No matter how full the picture frame gets, no matter how many children God blesses our family with, it will never be complete. I choose to rejoice in what I have, but I long for what I’ve lost. Will there be a day when my heart doesn’t hurt? Right now, I hope my heart never heals completely. Yes, I want it to be perfect and complete…in heaven. But I don’t want to get over Hannah. I don’t want to forget her, to replace her, to loose the emptiness in my heart that her absence created.

Kelley Family October 2012

Love how full Aaron’s back and my lap are!

I was going to share this later in a Greece post, but I think it’s appropriate here. I met two ladies at the CMDA conference who had lost children. Each lady has a unique story but both have lived more than 10 years without a child. It was so encouraging to speak to them. Like I said before, I had a really hard time in Greece. Grief overwhelmed me on more than one occasion.

As much as I love this picture of me and my boys, I don't like that my princess isn't in my arms.

As much as I love this picture of me and my boys, I don’t like that my princess isn’t in my arms.

When I was speaking to the first lady I met, I didn’t want to hear her say, “But it doesn’t hurt anymore.” Oh, how that broke my heart to hear that this pain will be gone! On this side of heaven! Then, a few days later, when the grief had subsided a little, I experienced the highlight of the conference. A woman told us her story of loosing one child and then God calling her and her family to adopt 8 more children. To date, she has 10 living children! With my heart not quite as raw, I was encouraged to see how God can continue to use someone as broken as me to do His good work. As many of you know, Aaron and I have felt called to adoption for almost as long as we’ve been married. Her passion for God, for obeying God no matter what, and for adoption was captivating, inspiring and contagious. As soon as she was done talking, I looked at my friend (who also has a heart for adoption) and said, “So, where are the papers?” (referring to adoption papers). We were both ready to take babies home that day!

I left the conference with a new hope that God still has a lot of work for me to do. I’ve known this all along, but these two women reaffirmed this truth. Yes, I’ve lost a child. Yes, my heart is still broken and hurting. Yes, I could loose more children or other bad things could happen to me. BUT, God is bigger. God is sovereign. God is good. AND, He has a plan for the remainder of my days. He can take a broken vessel like me and turn me into something beautiful. He’s been working on me, one of his masterpieces (see Ephesians 2:10), for many years. For too many reasons, most of which I’ll never understand, He needed to break me by taking my daughter from me in order to finish the masterpiece. In the remaining days I have on earth, I can choose to either work with God in transforming me into something beautiful or work against Him. If I work against Him, I’ll turn into a bitter old woman who hasn’t done anything more to serve God. If I trust Him and allow Him to continue His work in me, I’m confident that I’ll be as radiant as the women I met at the conference.

For now, the tension remains. Joy or sorrow? Holding on or letting go? Either way, I’m resting in my knowledge that heaven is for real, that my daughter and these precious ones that were taken home before and after her are healed and happy, and that I will get to join them when my ordained days are up. Today, I’ll be content with baby steps…one baby step at a time…until I meet my Maker.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
Praises and Prayer Requests:
1. Praise God that we who are believers in Jesus Christ can grieve with hope! Pray for these mommas who just lost their sons.
2. Praise God for you! My prayer for you comes from Philippians 1:4-6, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
3. Praise God for the weather here in Kenya! After being gone so much the last couple of months, I’ve really come to appreciate the beautiful weather here! The sun rises and sets at almost the same time year round. The suns shines almost every day! This means the boys can play outside every day, which is hands-down my favorite thing about living here!! I’ve been thanking God in my heart for this, so I thought I’d publicly praise Him for this blessing. 🙂
Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Greek School


I must first make a disclaimer: The sum total of all my Greek knowledge comes from two movies (My Big Fat Greek Wedding and My Life in Ruins), my use of the Greek alphabet in my math classes, and my incomplete viewing of Drive Thru History. Please keep this in mind as you read (in this post and in any that may follow) about our adventures in Greece. 🙂

Our purpose for traveling to Greece was to attend a CMDA conference. It’s a yearly medical conference designed for medical missionaries (but you don’t have to be a missionary to attend), and this is the first time it was held in Greece. Since we’ve never been to Greece, we were super excited to go!

While Aaron attended medical classes all day, the boys and I got to have fun. An entire group of adults traveled to Greece from the States to run a children’s program. (Another small group of ladies came to offer a spouse’s program, but I’ll discuss that in another post.) As soon as we would finish breakfast each morning, I’d drop the boys off at “Greek School.” They did an awesome VSB program on Paul’s mission in Greece in the mornings. The boys learned memory verses and songs, made great crafts, and learned some Greek history and culture. I would pick them up for lunch at 12:30. We’d eat and then it was time for more fun. They swam and played in the afternoons until 4:30. Sometimes, Levi and I would take a nap before meeting his class at the pool, but he did attend several afternoon sessions without me. From 4:30 until 6:00 was free time. Then, it was time for supper; bedtime quickly followed.

Levi's favorite part about Greece was the pool. The water was freezing!

Levi’s favorite part about Greece was the pool. The water was freezing!

Noah and Jacob: on their way to Greek School one morning.

Noah and Jacob: on their way to Greek School one morning.

After playing all day, the boys crashed at night!

After playing all day, the boys crashed at night!

One evening, the boys did get to attend the evening session because they were the performers! Levi and his preschool buddies sang songs. His favorite was “This Little Light of Mine.” Then, the elementary school kids sang and danced for us. It was great! I wish I could post the pictures, but I can’t. Too many of the missionaries serve in closed countries, so we were asked to avoid posting pictures of anyone (including kids) to protect each other. Noah and Jacob LOVED their songs; they still sing them! One song even involved a Greek-style dance. Too, too cute!

That completes my little review of what the boys did in Greece. I’ll try to post more about the rest of our adventures soon. Thanks for reading! We are honored that you care about what is happening in our lives.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for all the people who made the conference a success, especially the people who loved on our kids!

2. Praise God for the way the boys are learning God’s Word and His love for them. Seeing them sing praises to God brought tears to my eyes.

3. Please join me in praying for the eternal salvation of my kids. My #1 prayer is that each of my children would get to heaven! I pray that God will do whatever it takes to get them there. (One down, at least 4 more to go!)

4. Please pray for all those people serving in closed countries. It was humbling to realize how much people are willing to sacrifice to spread the Gospel. People literally put their lives at risk to reach the lost. Pray for their safety. Pray for the people they are serving, that they would receive salvation.

5. Pray for the Church, that we would not be religious like the people Paul was preaching to in Athens. Pray that we will have a personal relationship with the Living God!

Acts 17:22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 



Too Young to Lament


As I mentioned in a previous post, I just finished Mary Beth Chapmans book Choosing to SEE. While I was reading the part of the book where she told of her younger two daughters going to counseling, my mommy guilt started to shout. The what ifs began to whirl around in my head. Are the boys really doing as well as I perceive? Should I have taken them to a counselor? Could I find a counselor now? Do they have guilt about the death of their sister?

Rather than worry and fret over the voices in my head, I prayed. I needed to know if these questions were guilt (lies from the enemy) or conviction from the Holy Spirit. God very clearly calmed my fears. He reassured me that I was doing just fine, and he reminded me of the Lamentations exercise that I purposed to do with the boys. So, a few days ago we started our alphabetical list of things they miss about Sissy.
It has been frustrating, sad and reassuring all at the same time. The boys don’t remember! Can you believe it? They have so few memories of Hannah! I knew Levi would struggle to keep those precious memories alive in his young mind, but I thought Jacob and Noah would certainly recall fun times with their sister. But they don’t.
After MUCH probing and prodding and picture looking, we have completed the list! Here it is. I tried to keep it as true to their language as possible, with my thoughts in parenthesis.

A – Hannah was always happy. (They remember her being happy, which is a great blessing to my heart.)

B – Wanting to buy her everything at Target. (I specifically remember a time that I took all 4 kids to Target. I was in the market for footie pajamas for the boys, and they found these size 12 big girl footie pajamas. I think they were pink with huge white snowflakes. They insisted that 6-week old Hannah needed these ‘when she got bigger.’ They loved spoiling Hannah almost as much as her daddy did!)

C – her Cuteness

D – The times she crawled into the dishwasher to find a straw to play with.

I miss my little helper!

E – “Ewwww! Hannah ewed!” (The boys love the story of Levi trying to change Hannah’s diaper and finding a poop! As soon as he saw it, he yelled, “Ewww! Hannah ewed!” and refused to continue with the diaper change. Fortunately, Hannah didn’t move until I was able to come to the rescue!)

Levi, my little helper!

F – Levi feeding Hannah the entire box of Rice Crispies. (He has always been so very helpful…)

Levi's cereal help

G – Seeing Genesis and Hannah play together.

This was taken at Hannah's 1st birthday party. I think it's the last picture I have of these two together.

This was taken at Hannah’s 1st birthday party. I think it’s the last picture I have of these two together.

H – Levi says, “I liked when she was happy about me!” (I’m not really sure what that means, but it’s beautiful!)

I – Hannah was into everything! (And she loved getting into everything because her brothers thought it was cute and funny…and they’d laugh at her and tell her how cute it was…I’m pretty certain that she would be one rotten little girl!)


J – Jacob playing with Hannah (All Jacob could say at first was “I just miss Hannah!” He couldn’t think of anything specific. He just misses his sister. Totally understandable!)

Jacob and Hannah

K – Kissing Hannah and getting kisses from Hannah

Hannah kissing Jacob

L – Levi and Hannah playing together. (Levi and Hannah were ALWAYS together! I miss watching them play.)

Levi and Hannah playing together

M – Hannah’s monkey hairbows. (the boys liked to wear them too!)

Levi with Hannah's monkey hairbow

N – Noah and Hannah time

Noah giving Hannah a bottle

O – when she turned one (Noah wasn’t thrilled about sharing his 7th birthday with his sister, especially because her portion was princess themed. Now, however, he loves that he got to have a party with her!)

Noah's 7th and Hannah's 1st Birthdays

P – Playtime

Q – Quiet time with Hannah

R – Noah remembers rolling Hannah onto her tummy just so that she would roll onto her back again. It was a fun game!

S – “Stop laughing!” (I wish I could upload the video of this. Noah is yelling at Hannah to “Stop laughing!” Hannah is cracking up. It’s quite funny.)

T – Levi and Hannah sucking their thumbs together. Tea party times!

My two little thumbsuckers

U – Hannah’s unexpected screams. (I’m not sure if was related to the tumor or not, but Hannah would randomly scream. It was funny at times, but embarrassing at other times. I’m not surprised that the boys remembered this one without help!)

V – Hannah was Jacob’s van buddy. (They sat in the middle row together. Levi and Noah were in the back. Each big boy had a baby to take care of.)

W – Hannah wearing dresses.

The boys loved this dress. They would say that Hannah looked like a princess when she wore it.

The boys loved this dress. They would say Hannah looked like a princess every time she wore it.

X – They miss opening xmas presents with Hannah, and Noah misses hiding behind the tree with her.

My 4 kiddos last Christmas

I still love this picture!

Y – Yelling with Hannah. (I guess they liked joining her scream-fests sometimes!)

Z – Her soft purple and white zebra outfit. (I couldn’t find a picture of this…I’m sure I have one, but I couldn’t find it. It was really cute and soft.)


Well, there you have it. I don’t think I’ll force them to do this exercise again. While Aaron and I found it extremely helpful to write out our alphabetical lamentations, the boys thought it was torture. I guess God clearly answered my prayers! I have no need for mommy guilt…at least not in this department. My boys are doing just fine!


Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for a wonderful two week ‘vacation’ in Greece! While the majority of our time was spent in class, we enjoyed sightseeing and lots of ice cream whenever possible.

2. Praise God for His missionary community. Please pray for us as a group, that we would be united for HIS glory and honor.

3. Praise God for His heart for orphans. Please join me in praying that every orphan in the world would hear about Jesus’ power to save!

4. Please pray for us as we travel back to Tenwek. Our flight arrives in the middle of the night, so please pray for cooperative children as we gather our luggage and load the van. Please pray for our protection while we’re in Nairobi (just for the morning for a quick shopping trip and lunch with friends) and during our long drive to Tenwek.








First Impressions of the First World


As most of you know, we moved from the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, USA to Tenwek Hospital, Bomet, Kenya on January 29, 2013. At that time, we thought we were wishing the first world good-bye for a full 24 months. Little did we know, six short weeks after our departure from everything familiar, we would find ourselves back in the USA to bury our baby girl. Obviously, that was a difficult time. We spent six weeks in PA with friends and family before returning to Tenwek. This re-entry back into our ‘home country’ was challenging on many levels. We were grieving, I mean deeply and painfully mourning, the loss of Princess Hannah. But in little moments of clarity, this time away from our new home at Tenwek revealed a couple of important truths to us: #1) It convinced us that reverse culture shock is a real thing, #2) This reverse culture shock would become a part of our lives, for we should experience it every time we moved from one home to another, #3) Most importantly, it made us realize that God wanted us at Tenwek, that Tenwek needed to become our earthly home for as long as God ordained.

We travelled back to our Tenwek home April 30, 2013. It was even harder than I expected it to be. We had to go through all the emotions and motions of leaving our friends and family, traveling all the way to Kenya, and re-entering our new life at Tenwek that had just begun. BUT, we had to do this without the adrenaline rush…and more painfully, without our daughter. Every ounce of me wanted to crawl in a ball and die…or at least cry and cry and cry. I didn’t want to deal with customs and visas and Nairobi traffic and shopping and then make the long trip from Nairobi to Tenwek. And I certainly didn’t want to face all those doctors and friends who cared for Hannah or re-enter the house where Hannah began to die!

I just found this picture of Noah playing in Hannah's room with the few toys we took to Kenya. So sweet!

I just found this picture of Noah playing in Hannah’s room with the few girl toys we took to Kenya. So sweet!

Last year at this time was so very painful. And now, May 1, 2014 I sit in Greece. My womb is full of life. My family is healthy and enjoying all the adventures that God is taking us on. And yet, my heart is still grieving Hannah. The pain might not be as deep today as it was last year at this time, but I miss her just as much today as I did the day I said good-bye to her. I’m sad that she isn’t here with us. I’m heartbroken by the way life has moved on without her. I struggle now to know what I’m missing. What would life look like with a two-year-old spunky little girl in the mix? Would I be more stressed? Would I be crazy overwhelmed by trips like this? But this post isn’t about my grief. It’s supposed to be about my re-entry into the first world…

After seeing nothing but Kenya for the last year, I’m back in the first world for two whole weeks. It is surreal to say the least. As soon as we departed the plane in Istanbul, Turkey, I thought to myself “Oh! First World, you smell so good and you’re so beautiful!” Directly in front of me was an internet cafe. (I’m sure these exist in Nairobi, but I’ve never seen one. And we certainly have nothing like it in rural Kenya!) To my left, I saw a cafe with American looking food. To my right was a Victoria’s Secret (selling body lotions and such, not lingerie). I’m attributing the good smell to this Victoria’s Secret. My overly sensitive nose loved the mixing of fragrances! (This is the opposite of how I usually am with perfume counters. I typically hate them!) I guess I had prepared myself for being in Greece, but I didn’t even think about meeting the first world during the layover! As we meandered our way from one end of the airport to the other, we passed store after store, kiosk after kiosk, cafe after cafe, person with an iphone after person with an ipad, white person after white person! It was so bizarre!

Part of me wanted to explore every retail establishment in the airport. The other part of me wanted to weep over the over-indulgence of it all. Fortunately, our layover was on the shorter side, which prevented the first option. The fact that we were traveling with friends helped to distract me from the second option. What did we do for an hour? Aaron used his credit card to buy me a can of Sprite (craziness!), and Aaron got a Turkish coffee. The boys just played and watched the planes come and go. Somehow, they weren’t as aware of the drastic differences between the world we were leaving and the one we were entering.

Anyway, we were very quickly off to Greece! It was a short flight from Istanbul to Athens, and then a long drive to Evia. We’ve done some exploration and have more planned for the weekend. I’ll do my best to post more pictures and give you more impressions as we go along the way. For now, here are a few of the contracting/conflicting aspects about the First and Third Worlds:

1.) I grew up in the land of cleanliness; now I live in the land of yuck! The sight of garbage cans and garbage trucks is wonderful. I’ve always taken these things for granted, or sometimes complained about how they’d wake my kids up early on Thursday mornings. Now, I’d delight in having someone to clean up all the trash that is everywhere in Kenya.

An unfortunate but typical scene in Kenya. :(

An unfortunate but typical scene in Kenya. 😦

2.) I’m from the land of freedom; now I live in the land of fear, disease, death and poverty. Tenwek is a plush missionary assignment. I admit that. However, it is NOT little America. Sometimes I like to think it is, and it can sometimes appear to be. Tenwek has been greatly impacted by all the missionaries that have served there, but it is still a far cry from the America I call home. Kenyans, even born-again Christian Kenyans, still hold onto animistic beliefs. So many Kenyans loose children and aren’t allowed to grieve them. Disease is rampant and so often goes untreated because preventative medicine isn’t a part of the culture. Even if we tried to make preventative healthcare available, most people struggle to provide food for their families. How could they be concerned with trying to prevent an illness that may or may not affect them? So many issues have been brought back to light since leaving Kenyan just a few days ago.

3.) I love clean water more than I ever thought possible! (On a side note, Noah cracked me up the first night in our resort. After brushing his teeth, he asked “Now what?” in response to how he was supposed to rinse his toothbrush. When I told him to use the tap water, he got really bright eyed  and acted like it was so weird that the water was clean!)

4.) Greece is not America. While there are certain things (like clean water) that make me feel more at home here, it’s still not home. The food is great. The people are white. The cars, and steering wheels, are on the “right” side of things. Everything is clean and pretty and well-maintained. Women wear pants. Couples can hold hands. I can take the city bus without fear, and I can afford to buy the boys a new toy! However, we are not home. We don’t speak or read or understand Greek. We don’t know our way around any part of this country. Our hotel room has 5 twin beds lined up for the 5 of us to sleep in one room! The doors and windows leak when it rains. And now, I have to convert the US dollar to Euros! My head is spinning…

5.) Heaven is my real home. Missionaries know this all too well. It’s not because we are holier than most Christians. It’s because we never feel at home. Kenya is a place I call home. I miss it. I miss my bed and my simple life there. I love my life at Tenwek, but I’m always aware that I’m an outsider. Pennsylvania is also a place I call home. That’s where most of my friends and family live. I know how to find the grocery store, the library, the playground, and wherever else I want to go. I know how to communicate to people. I miss sales and coupons and yard sales. Being here in Greece, though, makes me more aware of the fact that I won’t feel quite as at home in PA as I did before. The mission field changes people. It should. God uses all things to mold us into the people He wants us to be. Because of the simple fact that I, and everyone I know back in PA, have changed and will continue to change, I’m beginning to dread the re-entry back into my home country. I’m acutely aware that I won’t be able to pick up right where I left off. I can’t just jump back into life as I knew it in the Lehigh Valley. That grieves my heart. The only way to handle that grief is to look to heaven, my real home. The sacrifice of a missionary is great. The families of missionaries sacrifice a lot too. We do it willingly and joyfully because we serve a God who is worthy of such gifts. It may sound trite, but it’s true: When I get to heaven, it will all be worth it! I believe it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do what I do.

As my protocol, I’ll end with some thought provoking quotes.

I just finished the book Choosing to SEE  by Mary Beth Chapman. It was a good read. It was good to hear her say so many of the things I say to myself. She quoted C. S. Lewis, and I really love  this quote. “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Then, yesterday, during our morning worship session, the pastor quoted David. The story is found in 2 Chronicles and 2 Samuel. God tells David to buy a specific piece of land for the building of an altar. When David asks to buy the land from Araunah, Araunah insists that David take the land for free and offers him oxen and other supplies in addition. I just love David’s response: “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24) Wow! Sacrifices should be costly. That gives me a lot to ponder.

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for the reality of heaven! Oh, how I long to be there!

2. Praise God for the life growing inside of me. I’m overjoyed by this new little person to welcome into our family, yet I’m heartbroken that our family will never seem complete. No family picture will ever show our complete family. Please pray for our hearts as we make this seemingly huge step of faith in the direction of healing and pressing onward to the blessings God has for us in the future.

3. Praise God for this respite. It’s good to get away from home. It always provides much needed rest and relaxation, time to reflect, a chance to miss home. Please pray for us as we process all the mixed thoughts and emotions we’re experiencing. Pray that we’ll be joyfully obedience no matter the cost.

4. Praise God for the good work He continues to do through our story! We are overwhelmed by the number of people who know us through our blogs or through a mutual friend or through some other random avenue. I personally did not prepare myself for this. It’s been an emotional week. Too many people have shed too many tears over us. It’s humbling. Please pray for us! We are clinging to God. We just want to honor HIM!

5. Please know that we are praying for you! May God bless you for helping us carry this burden, for diligently uplifting us in prayer, for not forgetting, for being our prayer warriors. We love and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know!

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.