Wednesday, April 4, 2012


   I finally feel like I can walk a straight line again after five days of being sick. I do believe that the last two days of feeling unwell and exhausted was because of simple dehydration. Once I smartened up and started downing some water, I felt much better within an hour.

Maassi Land  KE823

   This was our first full day in Kenya as a team of about thirty sponsors and Advocates from all over the United States. I was the only one representing Maryland. We filled six vans after being briefed on our upcoming day with the Maassi. This was to be the first time that a Compassion sponsor team was welcomed into their community and we were enlightened on how to greet men (depending on your age and their age), women (clasp their hand) and children (place your hand on top of their head).
   As our caravan pulled into our destination, we were welcomed by a throng of singing, chanting Maassi women with babies strapped to their backs and some men as well. See the video here.
   Stepping out onto the dry, dusty soil, my gaze went immediately to one solitary child standing off to the side. She was wearing a purple school uniform and as I explained in a previous post, the sight of her nearly stopped my heart, as she was the poster child of my heart's desire and God's "yes" on the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I was so grateful and honored and blessed to just stand there and take it all in. I think I could have stood there transfixed all day long.

   Their clothes and beaded jewelery were stunning, especially against the backdrop of the desolate land we were surrounded by. I was told that the Maassi had cut and burned all of the trees in the area for cooking fuel, but that Compassion had organized the planting of over 200 trees to replenish the area with shade and beauty.

In Kenya you are always welcomed with tea. They call it "taking tea" and it is done mid-morning whether they have visitors or not. The first order of business is to wash your hands over a bowl as a Maassi woman pours the water for you. Tea consists of steaming hot milk with a tea bag and some sugar if you'd like. Obviously you don't need to add any milk since the entire cup is all milk and no water. Some sort of bread is served with the tea and the type of bread varied with each project we visited.

As we all took part in this ritual, I wandered outside to attempt connections with some of the women and children. One Maassi mother promptly handed me her baby. I looked down at the little fellow and saw flies gathered in the corners of his eyes. As many times as I've seen photos of African children with those maddening flies lighting on them, I finally had the opportunity to brush them away for the little boy in my arms.

The photo album I carried with me containing pictures of my own family was a quick way to bridge the cultural and language gaps. I was soon surrounded by children and mothers all jockeying for a position to see my baby pictures, Moses in Zachary's arms and Caleb zipped up in a snow suit. The Maassi had a distinctive smell.....a combination of wood smoke, sweat and animal dung. Moses (my dog) quickly confirmed this upon my arrival back home when he took great delight in rolling in a scarf  that one of the women there had given to me. I do wonder what I smelled like to them. Maybe a combination of coconuts (Bath and Body Works), pineapple (from breakfast) and sweat masked by baby powder scented deodorant. They are probably still talking about me.

It was incredibly hot there and rain is a rare occurrence for these people. The women walk nine miles one way every day for a container of water for their daily needs. The wind was kicking up clouds of dust and my teeth were grinding sand for a few days afterward.

  Our team broke up into six groups and we headed out for individual home visits. We pulled in to the family's compound and were welcomed with handshakes and smiles. Their home was constructed of mud and sticks and was about the size of my living room. This housed the mother and father, several children plus a daughter-in-law and her baby. A total of eleven people. The parents spoke through a translator and expressed how Compassion has helped them as their young daughter was enrolled in the project. They proudly displayed all of the letters she had received from her sponsor

 They also posed with great pride amongst the small herd of goats they owned. For the Maassi, owning goats gives them status and standing among their people. All of the goats were bought with money sent by their daughter's sponsor and they were very grateful indeed. When you sponsor a child through Compassion, your 38 dollars a month supports the child AND their entire family in many ways. You also have the option to send extra financial gifts through Compassion and 100 percent of these gifts go directly to the family to use towards their most pressing needs.

I thought this young girl was the teenage daughter holding her baby sister, but was told that she was their son's wife and the baby belonged to her. The Maassi have a cultural practice of circumcising their young girls and then marrying them off very early. Compassion has been making progress in teaching the Maassi about the dangers of female circumcision  and the benefits of letting the girls remain children. This is not an attempt to manhandle the Maassi way of life, but to educate them on the true dangers of these practices. I was impressed with Compassion's gentle yet persistent way in dealing with this problem.

I presented the family with a big bag of food from all of us and they in turn hung a strand of Maassi beads around my neck.

When we returned to the project, the women and children performed some amazing traditional dances and songs for us. The women were clearly worshiping God and the children had no fear and were not self-conscious at all. Even with this huge group of white Americans watching them. See the video here

Lunch involved more hand washing and helpings of various vegetables, rice and meat. I never ate the meat at most of our field visits simply because I like to know what kind of beast I am consuming. If it's unidentified, it stays in the pot. There were plenty of other food choices anyways and no one seemed to notice my vegetarian ways. (Well, now that the picture is loaded, I see that I did indeed put meat on my plate. But that was the last time.....

Later in the afternoon the women set up their handmade jewelry and crafts and we all moved in to do some serious shopping. It was a delight to buy from them, knowing that we were supporting their families with some well deserved income.

I will leave you with a few more snapshots of my memorable first day in Kenya.

I had the packet of a little girl named Tampet from this very project whom I was going to post on here in an attempt to find her sponsor. She had been waiting for over eight months, but her wait is over thanks to Shaina.
Thank you!
 I know Tampet and her family will be so excited and encouraged to receive this good news. She is a beauty, don't you think?