Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kissing My Comforts Goodbye


 I know, I know, I just got home from Kenya a few months ago. And you all know what a dream come true that journey was for me. SO many people were sure that I would return home from Africa and just ache to go back, never again content to live life as an ordinary, apron swinging, housewife from the mountains of Maryland.

 And that just didn't happen.

 I enjoy central air, traffic laws that are generally obeyed, identifiable meat on my plate and water that doesn't taste like bug spray. I like predictable routines, letting the water run while I brush my teeth and bubble baths every other day. And oddly enough, I have a new affection for my commode. Gleaming white. Sturdy. Dependable. Secured behind a carefully locked door. Adorned with a spray of silk flowers and a lovely, avocado green seat cover.

I had hopes and plans to make another trip over there in a few years, yes I did. Plenty of time to regroup, save up my dollars and see where God might lead me next. I like my plans. And I like my plans even more when life cooperates with them.

But an opportunity and more accurately a NEED has come up that requires me to book another 22 hour flight to the land of unlocked, hole-in-the-ground toilets. The sweet part of the deal comes when I understand that I will be spending ten days with 43 needy children living together in a home in the Kewempe District of Uganda.

THIS makes me SMILE!

And shake my head with wonder.......

Forget the absence of the comforts of home.....and look forward to spending my days with the children I dance with in my dreams!

The black and white details look like this: I am taking two weeks to travel to an orphanage that our church supports to size up the possibility of starting a sponsorship program. We have worked with this group for over a year and a half and it is simply time to physically assess the needs, weed out potential problems and play hide and seek with those kids!

Now picture me in a photograph with all of the kids in this orphanage, and all of the volunteers who work with them, as well as the numerous, hard working and generous members of our church who have given so much to carry this little band of orphans along the way. In the picture you will find me in the very back row, obscured by dozens of heads and blotted out by a shaft of sunlight. That is the image of my contribution thus far for this mission. I have done the least, so please do not set me up for some kind of award for laying my life down for Uganda.

But I AM willing to go and do what I can to teach and train for the potential sponsorship opportunity, and I am honored to have the gift of time with some of God's most loved boys and girls of Africa. I'm a combination of sleepless excitement and gut twisting dread. I really do not have any idea of what to expect. I will be alone, unless you count the 43 kids who will no doubt be fascinated with my white skin and fly-away hair.And I will probably be very homesick by day three.

This mission is completely separate from my work with Compassion International, but I DO have a twelve year old boy in Uganda who is one of my Compassion sponsored children. His name is Alex and he has three sisters and one older brother who he names as being his best friend. He loves to play soccer and hopes to do well in school and become an engineer someday. In one of his letters to me, he expressed that if he could travel anywhere in the world, it would be to the capital city of his country; Kampala. The orphanage is located just outside the city limits.

As his sponsor, I have the opportunity to request a visit with Alex while I am there. He will be so close....and yet so far! His village is located at least eight hours from where I will be, and while it CAN be arranged, the cost of his journey may prove to be well over my ability to cover, especially on such short notice. So if you would like to help make Alex's Dream come true, I have added a chip in button to the right where you can donate to this fund. Any money raised above and beyond the cost of his trip will go entirely to the basic needs of the orphanage. I would love to set  them up with a good supply of educational books and tools for learning!

Several friends have indicated that they would love to be a part in bringing Alex to Uganda, so there you have it; an easy way to lend a hand. Not to mention the possible overflow onto the orphanage.

Thanks for reading. That was really long. But I wanted to make all of you aware of this fast approaching trip! And thank you for donating and especially for those who are committed to pray for me. I need much wisdom and also a truckload of protection and endurance.

Love you guys!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Eight year old Elizabeth sent me some incredible photos the last time she wrote to me. Go HERE if you missed that picture-filled post!

My "dream-come-true-trip" to Kenya took place in March of this year and this latest letter from Elizabeth was written just a week after we spent the day together, along with nine year old Mary and ten year old Naituati.

Here are some of my favorite lines from her letter. And I must say, this little girl has better handwriting than me and churns out impressive sentences for a second grader writing in her second or third language. (First comes the language of her tribe, then Kiswahili, followed by English.)

"I was so happy when I met you face to face. So happy even words cannot express my joy!"

The feeling is mutual, sweet girl. Your smile from that day is imprinted on my heart. All I have to do is close my eyes and go back to when the Compassion staff ushered you out of the crowd of children and into my arms. You were so brave! And infinitely more beautiful than your serious Compassion photo let on.

"I thank you for the visit...and for the gifts, support and letters. I still have my doll and I gave her the name Mercy."
My mother, who shares your name, found that doll for you. I could tell from your reaction that you loved that doll more than anything. And I just love the name you gave her!

"I really like the white dress you gave to me."

You mean this one? That was my favorite dress out of all the ones I stuffed into your bag of gifts. I don't think I could have fit one more pencil or pair of socks without some serious zipper damage! I imagine you look so beautiful in that dress.

"My brother George likes his ball and my mother likes the shawl."

 Hmmmm....I definitely remember the ball for George, but am drawing a blank on the "shawl". Maybe you are talking about the zebra stripped blanket? That would look just lovely as a shawl for your mother. (Or maybe she used the butterfly bed sheet?)

"Do you still remember the Kiswahili name for crocodile?"

I love it when you ask me questions and I think I DO remember the name of those crocs! Was it MAMBA? They were so big lurking there in the water at the park and there were so many of them!

 "I enjoyed walking with you."

That had to be my favorite part of our time together, Elizabeth. Having all three of my girls with your hands in mine as we made our way around the paths of the park.

"How is your son Caleb doing? I always pray for him to recover."

I remember when I showed you the pictures of Caleb when he was so sick and thin in the hospital, and you said, "I'm so sorry." And then I pointed out how healthy and big he is now and that smile of yours reappeared.
I love to know that you care enough to pray for Caleb and that he is covered from the other side of the world!

"My journey back home was safe and I found our home was full of joy and we all praised the Lord."

(I was told by her social worker that when a child gets a visit from their sponsor, a rare occurrence, the child is viewed as a celebrity by their village and are the "talk of the town" for a long time afterward.)

Enclosed in this letter was a picture that Elizabeth colored for me. I think I recognize this page from a coloring book I had given to her little brother. I love it!

Friday, July 6, 2012



  This was her photo on the Compassion website and when I saw her my heart stopped. It really did. I could not continue my casual browsing of waiting children. I loved her instantly and at the same time knew that she did not belong to me. There was no escaping the urgency I felt to find her a sponsor. I had never had such a strong sense that a child needed rescued and have not had it at the same level since. I lost sleep over her and her face and name interrupted  my brain space constantly.

  I posted her little slouched being on Facebook.

  Her sponsor stepped forward.

  You can read the full story that I published back in February called  A Fourth Girl .

  Come with me now to Kenya, Africa to the very last day of my stay there. It had been a very full week on this tour with Compassion and my senses were on overload. So many life changing moments happened in the space of a few days. I couldn't keep up with it all and I was so afraid of losing all of those small but significant details.

  I woke up early on that Wednesday morning, (or was it a Tuesday?) already exhausted but running on a huge adrenaline high. Today was my day to meet the little girl who God dropped like a beached whale on my little path called life. There was no going around her. And I was anxious to lay eyes on Naomy and hopefully discover why God was so intent on setting her before me.

  My Compassion escort and driver picked me up at the hotel in Nairobi and we set out for a four hour drive into a land that was eerily remote and yet comfortingly beautiful at the same time. My eyes were fixed on the scenes racing by outside the car window.

  We stopped at a bustling little market to purchase food and supplies for Naomy's family. My white skin and fly-away hair drew lots of attention and I didn't have to wonder why it felt like I was being watched. The children either stared or clutched their mother's skirts and hid their face when I walked by. I stared at them too, because I thought they were so stinking cute and I had a hard time focusing on the task at hand.

  Thankfully my escort knew exactly what to buy, and after we settled on an amount, I simply followed behind while he dropped item after item into the basket. Salt, sugar, soap, ugali (cornmeal), tea, beans, matches, lard, vaseline and some cookies for a real treat.

  We arrived at Naomy's Compassion project and they took me to her right away. She was understandably shy and she kept her head down more than up, but her eyes were full of curiosity and wonder. Here was this white woman from across the world representing her new Compassion sponsor, here to see HER.

  I pulled a gift out my bag right away, wanting us to have something to do besides stare at each other. I handed her a soft, cloth doll and she smiled!

   The temperature there had to be over 100 degrees. Notice that Naomy is wearing a sweater! Her Compassion assigned social worker helped her peel it off eventually while I had nothing left to peel off without creating a scene.
  Boy was it hot.

Here you can watch Naomy in real time, nibbling on a cookie while the adults talk to her in Kiswahili. She looks to be suppressing a smile here and there. Those smiles would eventually emerge later on in our day together.

 We had tea, a Kenyan custom I was well acquainted with by now....

 ...while Naomy's mother watched me like a hawk. This look she was giving me felt like a death wish and I was wondering if she thought I was here to take her child back with me to America.

The Compassion staff brought out Naomy's records that they keep on each of their sponsored children and it was so interesting to look through them. Recorded there were the gifts her family was able to purchase because of the extra donation her sponsor sent, as well as remarks from her teacher.

I pulled out some photos to show Naomy....

...while her mother apparently decided I was harmless and spent the next half hour playing with Naomy's new doll.

The Compassion staff stood before me and expressed how honored they were to have me there, their very first visitor from one of their children's sponsors. They had me write my name and description into a notebook and then proceeded to tell me that we would now head for the playground where they wished to plant a tree in my honor.

It makes me smile to know that there is a fruit tree in all of Africa with a little bit of me to go with it. The staff said that the tree would produce fruit and that the Compassion children would eat it and remember the day I came to their project. I hope the tree lived. It looks rather small and vulnerable there in the African sun. I was ready to stick my head in that hole by that point.

A tour of the project followed the tree planting ceremony. This is the "kitchen" they use to cook meals for well over a hundred sponsored children who are living in extreme poverty. A nutritious meal for these kids is hard to come by and Compassion includes all aspects of a child's development physically, spiritually, socially, and economically.

Water is scarce and here is this project's attempt at preserving every bit of rain that falls from the sky.

Naomy led us into one of her classrooms....

...and then lit up the room with her smile...

We all piled into vehicles and headed for Naomy's home. The drive seemed to take forever and I couldn't imagine how Naomy got from her house to the Compassion project. They told me that she walked. She rose early in the morning, met up with other children and walked two hours one way. She is only seven years old.

When we pulled to a stop and got out of the car, we walked up a dusty hill and then down another into Naomy's compound. I remember whispering under my breath, "Oh my God....."
Here was a family of around twelve people living in conditions that made my head spin. It was hard for me to grasp. To know that these were not pictures in a magazine or even on TV. These were real people living with just the most basic necessities to live from one day to the next.

I was introduced to her family members and they were all smiling and talking and Naomy seemed much more at ease with me now that she was on her own turf. I unloaded the bags of gifts her sponsor had sent with me, while she was home in America sitting by the computer waiting for me to post "Mission Accomplished". 

Here Naomy is showing me the letter she received from her new sponsor!

This day also just "happened" to be Naomy's seventh birthday and I came prepared! Birthdays are rarely celebrated by families living in poverty, but the special day is always recognized at the Compassion project. I unwrapped the heavy cake I had purchased in Nairobi, opened a can of vanilla frosting that traveled all the way from Maryland and a dagger-like knife was brought from one of the huts of the family. I added colored sprinkles from home, placed seven twisty candles which refused to light, and they all oohed and ahhed and clapped over this magnificent birthday cake. I cut it and Naomy proudly delivered a piece to each family member (which took a looong time). I went to hand her a piece at last and she shook her head no and pushed it towards me. The translator explained that Naomy wanted me to eat a piece first before she had hers.

Without me asking, they brought out the brand-new mattress they had purchased the day before I arrived, with the money from her sponsor.

This is where the mattress will go once it is unwrapped, and believe me, it will be shared with her little sister and several cousins who all share this small space to sleep.

I was also introduced to her new goat, a gift from her sponsor. It was obviously the pride of the family and I marveled at the difference a family gift can make in the life of their sponsored child.

I had a flight to catch that evening back in Nairobi, so our day together was brought to a close. We traveled together back to the project where we washed up and had one final meal.

I felt like the luckiest, richest person on the planet, having spent the day with Naomy and her loving family. What a huge gift, to be able to step into their world and talk, eat and walk hand in hand with her. I will never forget it.

Here is another little girl, much like Naomy, who is waiting for you to step into her life and change her story through sponsorship. Her name is Naeku Emily and she is eight years old. She lives with her mother and six siblings in Kenya and she loves to sing and run! She is ABOVE average in school and has been waiting 246 days for YOU. She lives in an aids infected area with a high risk of exploitation and abuse and the average wage is 20 dollars a month.. You don't have to travel to Kenya to make a difference in her life. Sponsor her today and she will begin to know that she is loved....chosen.....prayed for......seen.

 Choose Naeku Emily to be your Compassion sponsored child. Follow the link and instructions on the website, and then let me know of your commitment to this needy girl! You can also email me at with any questions you might have.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

                                       SNAPSHOTS of SUMMER

Caleb and his friend Tre making their way into the creek for some crayfish catching and eventually a swim further down where it gets deeper. 

                                        The view from our little corner of the world.

Caleb's week at Antietam Recreation Day Camp was spent canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and forever being dropped into the cold water of the dunking booth.

Maggie signed up for a week of Nursing Academy at our community college. She came home every day reeling with new found medical knowledge and doing demonstrations on anyone and everyone.

Spencer has been working 14 hour days on a roofing job and he was thrilled with just how dirty he was able to get.

Last week's humdinger of a storm broke a large tree limb off and dropped it on our roof. Caleb was right up there with Dad taking care of clean up. (He really is wearing clothes in this photo.)

Spencer's graduation party involved a ton of food, good friends and chicken soccer! (Hose down a huge tarp, douse it with lots of dish soap, add a stuffed chicken for the ball along with 25 crazy teens and you have yourself some serious entertainment.) Alas, I did not get any photos of this epic soccer match. You will have to be satisfied with food and friends)

We've also had a bit of a speed bump in our summertime adventures. Caleb has had two episodes of blood in his urine which is frightening, simply because bloody urine was our first indication that something was up, back in 2008 when Caleb was diagnosed with kidney cancer. We are in the process of narrowing down the reason for these symptoms. Hang tight and we'll let you know what the tests reveal. Hopefully it will wind up being something simple and we can get away from the anxiety and stress that comes with not knowing.