Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ready or Not…It’s Time for School!

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The Tenwek MK School started on Wednesday, August 27. Praise God!

Ever since we returned to Tenwek from language school, we’ve been overwhelmed with meetings, unpacking, school preparations, reorganizing the house, failed attempts at Swahili use, informal meetings of the minds, and trying to get back to life as normal. All of this activity had a deadline: August 27. As we all know, once school starts it’s hard to get much else accomplished. School schedules tend to dictate how our remaining time is used.

 

We somehow managed a picture before Aaron left for work. My camera wouldn't turn on so this is the only picture I have of the entire day!

We somehow managed a picture before Aaron left for work. My camera wouldn’t turn on so this is the only picture I have of the entire day!

Well, August 27 came and went, and we’re all still alive and well. Wednesday was a very good start to the school year. In fact, the first three days of school were considered a success by all…well, at least by a majority of the people involved in schooling here at Tenwek.

Wednesday morning began with my alarm clock. Once the boys were up and everyone was dressed, we sat down for breakfast and morning devotions at 8:00 a.m. By 8:30, Noah and I were in our schoolroom doing math. A half hour later, all three boys ran out the front door to their classes and two other boys entered my house for Algebra I class.

Levi goes to the Bemm basement from 9am until 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Aunt Katie is his teacher, and he loves every minute of it. Jacob goes to the Chupp basement for first grade with 3 other kids and Aunt Erin as the teacher. They begin at 9am and are done between 11:30 and noon. Being the most eager student of my kiddos, he couldn’t wait for school to start. In fact, a few days before school started, he looked at me and said, “Momma, when is school gonna start? This playin’ is getting’ kinda boring!” Then, we have the opposite end of the spectrum in Noah. He has multiple teachers from 9am until noon in the MK schoolroom. There are 3 other boys and 2 girls in his class. When he got home after the first day, he said, “Well, that was no fun at all!” When I asked a few follow-up questions, he admitted that school wasn’t too hard, but it certainly was NOT fun! From noon until he’s done, Noah must finish up his math. He doesn’t understand why he can’t just use a calculator and write in his chicken scratch the rest of his life. Oh boy!

Next week, we’ll endure our first full week of school. Jacob and Noah will have a few afternoon classes added to their morning schedule. On the days they don’t have PE or art, I will try to expound on our morning devotions by doing fun crafts or activities and reading to the boys. Plus, the older boys will have homework most days.

My mornings aren’t quite as full as they were last year. (I tried to reserve room for Joshua!) I teach Algebra to two boys in my schoolroom from 9am until 9:45am. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Levi and I do a little school together. Then, Noah and Lydia arrive a little after noon to do third-grade math and pre-Algebra in my home.

So far, things seem to be going well. I’m sure we’ll need a little time to re-evaluate things once Joshua is here. At the very least, we’ll need to be more flexible! I’m praying for another 2 months of baby-free teaching. I’m also praying that Joshua is a good sleeper!

 Praises and Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God for the way He has orchestrated our co-op this year! Please continue to pray for us moms who teach all these kids!
  2. Praise God for the local church. Today was children’s church. Everything, including the sermon, was run by the children who attended VBS last week. It was fun and amazing to watch these Kenyan youth take charge of the service! Please pray for these kids, that they would become strong leaders in their churches and communities here in Kenya.
  3. Praise God that Joshua and I have made it to the third trimester. Please pray that he’ll stay put another 2 months.
  4. I’m taking a 1-hour glucose tolerance test on Tuesday morning. My OB had to improvise. I get to drink a Fanta and eat half a chocolate bar instead of drinking that nasty glucose drink. Pray that I don’t have gestational diabetes.

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7

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Birthday Season

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The July-August birthday season is finally over! After almost a month of celebrations, I can take a break from cake baking and decorating, surprising, gift wrapping and party planning. Here’s a little recap of how we rejoiced with Noah, Levi, Aaron and Jacob this year.

We actually started with Noah even though his birthday is in January. We realized that Jacob and Levi would get extra partying and treats, so we decided to take Noah to a half-birthday dinner. He ordered a half-sandwich and half-portion of soup. No, we didn’t make him do this. He enjoys celebrations more than the average kid!

Levi kicked off the official birthday season with a July 24 birthday. He turned 4, and he has never been so excited to have a birthday! We started his day off with breakfast table surprises: a Hulk t-shirt, green balloons and a special breakfast.

 Levi's birthday breakfast

 Following breakfast, we went to school as usual. During our morning devotions, Levi (barely) endured “Happy Birthday” in English, Swahili and Korean. Then, right before lunch, Jessica and Colleen hung balloons and prepared for our lunch celebration. We ate lunch as usual but enjoyed more singing and cake for dessert. He opened his presents and shared superhero pencils and notepads with the kids. After school, Aaron and I took Levi to the Brackenhurst café for a snack and to the gift shop for a special gift. He chose a lion for Joshua and a wallet with a lion on it for all the money he has earned this summer. The day ended with a very special dinner: Kraft mac and cheese and hot dogs!

 Levi's birthday date

 The next day was Aaron’s birthday, so it was more baking for me! We kept it simple with brownies with Reese’s peanut butter cups for our lunch dessert. He was properly serenaded during devotions in the same 3 languages. Then on Saturday, we had our first restaurant date since moving to Kenya! We ate at a nice restaurant and did some grocery shopping while Colleen stayed with the boys at school. It was very nice but I still owe him his gift. (I gave him an IOU for artwork for his office.)

Just a couple of weeks later, Jacob turned 6 on August 6. He was especially excited for this birthday since it was his golden birthday! We surprised him with Turtle Mutant Ninja Turtle decorations in the living room, Frosties (aka Frosted Flakes) for breakfast, and a TMNT hat. 

Jacob's Birthday Breakfast

 Then, it was off to do our morning devotions. The boys helped us by reciting Scripture in English and then Aaron and I read it in Swahili. Jacob utilized his new hat to hide his face from the crowd…or the crowd from himself….I’m not sure which. Then, he was serenaded with the “Happy Birthday” song in 5 languages! English, Swahili, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish versions of the song were each sung twice because another girl shared her birthday with Jacob! He was totally embarrassed.

Since it was Wednesday, our half-day at school, we took his cake to chai time. We shared TMNT tattoos with the kids and some of the adults. Then, we had an indoor picnic for lunch and his date at the café for dinner. At the gift shop, he chose a basket to keep his special things in and a picture frame for a picture of Hannah. Though he didn’t say so, his all-day, beaming smile told me he had a great golden birthday.

 Jacob's new hat

 Fast forward a few weeks and we’re back at Tenwek. As I promised, we threw a joint party for Jacob and Levi to celebrate with their best friends. I pulled out all the party favors, decorations and gifts we had saved for this occasion. I baked two cakes. I had games planned and party favors ready to go. The party was scheduled for our first Thursday back at Tenwek.

Then, at 10 o’clock Thursday morning, the power went off. Ugh! I forgot Thursday was my power rationing day. I’m not supposed to have power! How am I supposed to make icing from scratch without my electric mixer?? No problem, I think. I can call my friend and mix my icing at her house, because not everyone looses power on the same day. Then, I go to gather my ingredients…I’m out of powdered sugar!!! WHAT? I’m never out of powdered sugar. No problem…I’ll find another recipe. I find a recipe that calls for regular sugar and other ingredients that I have in my house, but of course it must be cooked. No problem. My stove is gas. I get everything ready so that all I have to do is find someone’s mixer. I call my friend but she has no power either!! Apparently, Thursday was a scheduled ‘no power for anybody’ day due to upgrades with our hydro-electric plant. Ugh! Why didn’t I know this?? Someone suggests that the Guest House always has power, so I head up the hill with all my ingredients to use their mixer. It’s dark. You’ve got to be kidding me!! Fortunately, they tell me that my friend was able to get her generator working so I can go to her house to use her mixer. Praise God!

By the time I was finished whipping the icing, it was 3:30pm. The party was scheduled to start at 4. I had two cakes to decorate, and I had done nothing to set up for the party outside. Again, God provided. Aaron came home early, and several of the older kids came to help. They set up the cake tables with decorations. They hung the piñata and other decorations in the trees. They carried everything down the steps for me. All the while, I was decorating the cakes in record time. By 3:45, the cakes were complete with candles. I was able to join the decorating crew for last minute instructions and preparations for the games.

Double Birthday Bash

At 4pm, the kids arrived and the party was a huge success. Levi and the littles played musical chairs, got tattoos, dressed up like superheroes and made superhero gliders. Jacob and the big kids had fun with a ninja obstacle course and a piñata. Then, we all gathered around the cakes for a round of “Happy Birthday” and blowing out candles. The kids were stuffed with cake and Kool-Aid. The boys ended the party with opening their presents and then giving their friends a cup full of party favors. Smiles all around! Praise God! Birthday season is over…at least for this year!

Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Praises and Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God for healthy, happy boys! I am so blessed to be able to celebrate with them. Please pray blessings upon them!
  2. Praise God for the upgrades on the hydroelectric plant. Pray for the safety of the crew who is working on it.
  3. Praise God for a successful first day of school! Pray for unity, flexibility and discipline for all involved in the Tenwek MK School.
  4. Praise God for the ways He is blessing and expanding Tenwek Hospital! Please pray that all the work will be done to bring honor and glory to HIM. Pray for the engineers who are living among us, that they will be blessed in their efforts to manage so many building projects at once.

 Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:57-58

tumemaliza!

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Tumemaliza shule ya lugha. Tunafurahi kurudi nymbani yetu. Sasa tutajaribu kusema kiswahili kila siku! 

(We have finished language school. We are happy to return to our home. Now, we will try to speak Swahili every day!)

Yes, indeed. We have finished language school for the summer. We have moved back to Tenwek, and most of the house is in order. Now, we need to put what we learned into practice! There are a few obstacles, however.

1.) We’ve lived here for over a year without Swahili, so we have established the habit of speaking to everyone in English. Even when I tried to use my (very limited) Swahili today, people would just revert back to English. It’s just easier for all people involved in the conversation!

2.) The accent here is different. I expected the local people to have a different dialect, but I didn’t expect is to sound so different. Just like in the States, where each region has it’s own version of English, each region of Kenya has its own dialect of Swahili. The helpers were speaking words I knew. I just couldn’t understand it!

3.) The last two weeks of language school were overloaded with information but my heart and mind were already in Tenwek. Not a good combination! Since we need at least 3 months of language school in order to be conversing at an acceptable level yet we only got 2 months, the teachers tried to squeeze a lot of technical stuff into the last two weeks. I’m happy to have that knowledge. It’s just crammed into a tight space somewhere in my brain and it’s having a really hard time coming out. I’m hoping that with daily practice that all this knowledge will start to assimilate, organize itself and start finding its way out of my mouth.

4.) So many other things seem more important than studying and using Swahili. School needs to start soon, and we aren’t ready. The house needs to be reorganized. Joshua’s nursery needs to be set up. I need to finish his blanket and Christmas stocking. The boys actually expect to eat several times a day! And they want me to play with them and talk to them and stuff! We can’t forget Aaron…He wants me to act like his wife. Man! Life is crazy demanding, huh? While I know this demands are legitimate and never-ending, I feel like they’re so urgent. It feels like it would be easier to push Swahili aside. 

On the positive side, though, we are truly happy to be back at our Tenwek home. The boys are loving every minute of their playtime! I’m so thankful to have Joyce here to help me with the cooking and chores. It’s good to sleep in my bed, wash clothes in my washing machine and sit around the table for meals. And it’s SO good to see sun every day! 

Thank you so much for praying us through our 2-month language learning. We could not have done it without you!! Now, keep on praying please!

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for His provision! We were overwhelmed with gifts when we arrived home. Both short-term visitors and long-term missionaries spoiled us upon arrival.

2. Praise God for Tenwek weather! I love that I see sun almost every day of the year!!

3. Please pray that we’ll be disciplined in using what Swahili we do know and in continuing our learning now that we’re back at Tenwek.

4. Please pray for Shade Language School. It’s an important link in making missionaries more effective on the field.

5. Please pray for Tenwek MK School. We are quite large this year…about 30 kids, ages 3-13. Please pray for God to work miracles this year, for the kids to excel, and for the teachers/parents to do their bests in serving God by serving the kids here at Tenwek.

 

 

Dreams

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So much has happened since my last post. Overall, I’ve been feeling great and joyful. In fact, on Tuesday I had plans to write a post thanking you all for your faithful prayers, for I hadn’t had a bad day since I wrote the post about having a long wave of grief. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

I’ve titled this post Dreams because that’s the only link I could find throughout all the things I want to share.

Let’s begin with the dream that has been in our hearts before we ever had children. God gave us a heart for adoption at least 9 years ago, and we are waiting for this dream to come true. We saw a small glimpse into the future at the fruition of this dream earlier this month.

World Gospel Mission supports a baby center in Nakuru, Kenya. There is a wonderful group of missionaries who work with over 60 Kenyan employees to run the mission and care for almost 200 orphaned children ages newborn to 4. One of their goals is to become self-sustaining, so they have goats and cows for milk and meat. They grow as much fresh fruit and vegetables as they can. And they’re trying to raise tilapia! In addition to all this, they take excellent care for the babies. Their chubby faces would make your heart smile. (I’d love to share some pictures of them, but I want to be respectful of their privacy. You can find the ministry on facebook at Africa Gospel Church Baby Centre.)

Although I’ve been involved in the orphan ministry at Tenwek and initially anticipated visiting these babies quite regularly, I’ve been putting this initial visit off ever since Hannah died. To be honest, I was too afraid. What if I couldn’t handle holding babies? What if I just wept? And ended up looking like a fool? What if I met a little girl that was just too much like Hannah? Was my heart that needs a baby ready for all the precious babies who need a momma?

Well, the time came when I finally felt ready. I wanted to show Colleen as much of WGM as possible. We were able to coordinate a weekend that worked for all involved parties. God has blessed us with a little bundle of joy bouncing around in my belly. It was time. We loaded up the van as soon as lunch was eaten on Friday and travelled a couple of hours to Nakuru. We arrived just in time to speak with a Kenyan adoption agency to declare our intention to adopt. This was a technicality. There’s some law against seeking out a baby for adoption. Then, we visited the room with the preschoolers. One baby immediately attached himself to me, and I instantly knew I was going to be ok. Later, we visited the baby room. Some of the babies were so small, but all were doing well.

For supper, we enjoyed an indoor cookout (it rained so we couldn’t use the grill) with some of the missionaries who serve at the baby center. Then, we all bunked in the guesthouse for a not-so-restful night of sleep. After breakfast on Saturday, we visited the toddler room. It was fun to see them scoot and toddle all over the room. All too quickly, it was time for us to pack up the van and head to our next destination.

Sometimes our life here in Kenya just feels like a dream. After visiting the Baby Center, we enjoyed one night in Naivasha. We stayed at Mt. Longonot Lodge Saturday night. It was so peaceful and fun. The boys loved exploring the land, watching zebra drink from a water hole at each meal and chasing the wildlife. (If you haven’t seen the pictures that Aaron posted on facebook, you should check them out!) The owner of the lodge even had two pet gazelles!

Mt. Longonot Lodge

Boys chasing gazelle…they didn’t catch any!

The next morning we loaded up the van again to visit Crescent Island. Since we had been there before, we decided to tour it via boat this time. We saw countless birds, hippos, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck and cape buffalo. I think my favorite part was watching a kingfisher dive for his lunch. It’s times like these that make me want to pinch myself. While living in Africa isn’t always a walk in the park, getting to see God’s creation in various parts of Kenya is an amazing blessing!

Crescent Island

variety of animals on Crescent Island

We got back to our language school home in plenty of time to rest, which was a good thing. Monday was class all morning and dentist appointment all afternoon! Tuesday was class all day followed by Bible study and Jacob’s birthday preparations all afternoon and evening. At Bible study, my friends asked how I was doing, and I answered honestly that I was doing really well. I was. Ever since I posted about my long wave of grief, I could feel your prayers. Like I said, I was planning to publicly thank you all for coming alongside me during this tough time. Of course, I didn’t have time to write because I was too busy making supper, baking and decorating a cake and getting all of Jacob’s birthday surprises ready. Then, that night I had a dream that knocked me back into grief mode.

The third and final dream is an actual dream, a very bittersweet one that featured Hannah. I know most pregnant women experience crazy dreams. I have with previous pregnancies but not so much with this one. On the contrary, I’ve had more insomnia with Joshua than ever before! We had to present our first devotional for language school on Wednesday morning, so I was anticipating a restless night. (When I’m not sleeping at night, my head is usually spinning in Swahili!) To my surprise, I slept better than expected. And at some point, I dreamt of Hannah.

It was short and sweet. I was standing in a warehouse waiting for Aaron to finish his work. Apparently, he wasn’t a doctor in my dream. While I was waiting, two ladies asked if they could take pictures of the pictures of Hannah hanging on the wall behind me. As soon as I had agreed, Hannah appeared in my arms. I remember thinking how strange this was since I knew her picture was only on the wall because of her death. Nevertheless, I enjoyed feeling the weight of her in my arms. She was wearing her pink fleece footie pajamas. She was still 14 months old. Her hair was pulled on top of her head as usual. In response to how she looks, I smiled but also noticed she looked pale. I wondered if she was sick. Then, she pointed to her own picture and asked for a Minnie the Mouse doll that she was holding in the picture. This is weird because she never owned anything Minnie the Mouse. Anyway, I put her down and handed her the doll. I’m not sure where the doll came from or when she learned how to talk and stand so steadily. Dreams are weird. She smiled her big smile and hugged the doll. Then, I woke up.

Pink Fleece Jammies

These are the jammies from the dream!

I spent the rest of the night on a roller coaster. One moment I was thanking God for such a gift. I loved feeling her and hugging her and making her smile. Then, I’d start crying because it was only a dream. Reality would set it and remind me that I don’t have those privileges anymore. As soon as I’d dry my tears, I’d praise God again. The roller coaster continues until my alarm went off Wednesday morning.

As I was getting ready for the day, I tried my best to stay strong. I had to speak in front of the entire school in a few hours. I couldn’t spend the morning crying! Well, that lasted until I told Aaron that I had a dream about Hannah. I didn’t even tell him the details. I just sobbed. He held me until I was done. Then, I reapplied my makeup and went about my day.

Our devotional went really well, or just as I expected. Noah said his memory verses very well despite the fact that he couldn’t get them right during any of our practice sessions. Jacob had a little stage fright so he said his verses behind his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hat. Levi just refused to say his verse. Aaron and I managed to lead songs, pray and read our Bible passages in Swahili. It was a success.

As soon as it was over, we went into birthday mode for the rest of the day. It’s been several days since the dream, and I’m still wavering. Bittersweet has entered my vocabulary once again. Oh, how I want the dream to be reality! Tears flow as I recount the dream. It was such a sweet embrace. But it was only a dream. I hope that it’s a picture of what I’ll have in heaven. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Revelation 21:1-4 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

Revelation 21:7 (Jesus speaking to John) “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

Praises and Prayer Requests:

  1. Praise God for speaking to each of us! I pray that each of you can hear His voice!
  2. Praise God for a successful summer of language school. Thank you for praying us through these 2 months.
  3. Praise God for a fun birthday season. I hope to post a separate blog about all our celebrations soon.
  4. Please pray for us as we transition back to life at Tenwek.
  5. Pray that God will provide teachers for our kids. Pray for us moms as we meet to make all the last minute decisions regarding the school year.
  6. Pray for the persecuted church.
  7. Pray for the orphans around the whole.
  8. Please continue to pray for our hearts, for Joshua’s health and for Tenwek Hospital.