Friday, August 31, 2018

A Tale from the Sewing Room

When I heard of the need for sewing notions to be taken to Africa, I started talking to my sewing friends, and gathering buttons, zippers and elastic. I also began to get excited about potentially using my basic sewing skills at the orphanage to aid with sewing or mending for the students and staff.  If you ever want to hear about my love/hate relationship with sewing, I would be happy to share the story of a 12 year old girl (me) that wanted a dirt bike for her birthday, but got a sewing machine instead! 

A few of my friends and family who have no idea about sewing, but caught my enthusiasm, gave me money since they had no supplies to donate, and I was able to order additional supplies on line before I left!  To each of you that donated elastic, buttons and zippers,  here was the "stash".  I packed over 3,000 buttons, of all shapes and sizes along with rolls of elastic in varying widths, and 300 zippers in all lengths and colors in my check bag!  

I apologize as this is not the best photo, but I think you get the idea!  The ladies in the sewing room were so happy with our donations, and frankly in my opinion, no one can have too many buttons!!  As a side note, the next day when I returned to the sewing room to work,  I found it empty. What I did notice was small stacks of buttons sitting around. They clearly had enjoyed sorted through them matching them up.  It made me smile as I remember fondly doing that with my grandmothers buttons, and my girls doing the same thing with my button stash!  Really there is just something so awesome about a huge stash of colorful shaped buttons! 

As part of our planned trip expenses/donations, we had agreed to purchase new school uniforms for the school age students.  This consisted of fabric for shorts and skirts (which would be sewn at Fiwagoh), new sweaters (purchased in town) and if there were funds remaining,  a new pair of socks for  each them so they could start off September in style when they returned to the classrooms! The government dictates what colors the students must wear at each particular school throughout Africa, so we purchased light blue fabric for the bottoms, skirts or shorts for the littles, and gray for the the trousers and skirts for the older students.  In addition we were also able to purchase fabric for play shorts and skirts! To round out the supplies, we brought girls and boys, men and women's underwear with us from the states, as it seems they are of better quality than what they can purchase there. 

The photo above is a section of all the children wearing their new school sweaters!  We were also able to purchase their socks!  What is the cost to outfit 265 kids for back to school with the basic clothing needs?  Underwear times one pair, one sweater, one pair of socks, and a bottom (skirt or pants) ? $3,912.82 or  $14.77 a child!!   Amazing!  

Again a huge thanks to each of you that had any part of donating towards this endeavor! The children were very proud and so very grateful for their new things!  We got many thank you notes in response to your generosity.  While this post in particular is about clothing their physical bodies, because of such an extensive amount of financial donors prior to our departure we were able to leave a huge footprint, providing for their other needs, through our small but mighty team! 

Now on the to cutting and the sewing.  The sewing room was a large open space that had sewing machines along the outside walls under the windows for maximum lighting. All the machines were in working order, while I felt like a couple of them were very outdated, they clearly did the job at hand and had been for many years!  

Once the fabric had arrived, the ladies got busy laying it out on the tile floor and measuring it to make sure they maximum their number of cuts and the "waste" was minimal.  As I mentioned in one of my first posts, nothing here goes to waste.  We had a paper pattern (pink and yellow in the photos) that we would lay down, pin and then cut,  repeating the entire length of the fabric or until the required number of pieces were cut.  This fabric was for boy new play shorts. 


Additionally we had the privilege to watch Eunice "whip" up a pair of play shorts (start to finish) including our elastic donations for the waistband, in under 20 minutes,  and Gladys made light work of the surging the seams of all the fabric pieces for all the shorts to prevent fraying and increase the wear time of the shorts. 

It was during one of these cutting times on our last day, that Ernie (our team leader) came into the sewing room to check out what we were doing.  He was dumbfounded as to why we were all crawling around on the floor cutting the fabric.  To him it seemed that it would hurt your knees and back and was not the most effective way to do the task at hand.  I agreed with him, but reminded him that when you go another place to serve, typically you just join them, doing the task at hand as they teach you the ways they have always done it.  

We had some conversation, with the ladies who added their occasional cautious thoughts, about other options beside cutting on the floor. One consideration was the mattresses in the rear of two of the photos.  We considered if stacking them would be a good option so the fabric was off the floor.  Upon further consideration we realized the scissors would sink/cut into the foam, it would not be a firm enough foundation to cut the patterns on. Additionally, how many mattresses would we have to stack to get to the height where the ladies could stand to work vs kneeling and crawling if the end goal was to make this "easier" for them.  Next we considered if we could locate any plywood "lying around" that was not being used.  Again if you live in a culture where you waste nothing, you guessed it, there was nothing to be found.  It was concluded the that tile was their best option currently (which they they already knew) hence why they showed us how to do the laying out and cutting of the fabric on the floor. 

It was a few minutes later that we (the team) headed to lunch.  During lunch Ernie began to sketch a work table for the ladies in the cutting room.  Initially, if memory serves me correctly, we were thinking that perhaps if we left the funds and the "sketch" or directions, the senior boys who were inclined and skilled in the area of woodworking could make the table in the coming weeks for the ladies in the sewing room.  In conversation, of course Eunice and Gladys had agreed with Ernie's assessment of what the the best option would be; approximately a waist high, long cutting table!  It was 1:30 PM on our last day at Fiwagoh, when Ernie and Pastor Benson left for the lumber yard to gather supplies for this project.  

Now let me just say this... I love a challenge!  And I love building stuff.  Last year in Peru I got to work the chop saw for an entire day and was in my glory!! I believe that it is safe to say that Ernie does as well!  He knew going into this last minute project, of which we determined he should just go purchase the supplies for,  was not going to be an hour long round trip, like here in the states when you run to Home Depot or the Lowes!  They returned to the orphanage at 6:30PM almost 5 hours after their departure.  While they had a list of supplies, and knew exactly the dimension of the wood needed, they had to wait for the wood to be milled and it was not one stop shopping!  Of course there is this thing called "Africa time"  which stands still for all reasons or none, and you are at the mercy of the shop owners and their sense of urgency. 

I can't recall at what point in this hunting, gathering and delivering of the supplies that we as an individual or a group determined that we were going to just go ahead and build this table with the help of any of the older boys that were willing. However, it became clear rather quickly upon Ernie and Pastor Bensons return that we had one more project to do!  

With only a few hours of our trip left, none of our packing for departure done, and hearts that desired more than reason, to leave one more mark behind, spent the last of our allotted project funds and time, and set out to get this project done!!  We grabbed a quick dinner, and off to the shops we headed.  

Now by this time the sewing ladies were home, unaware of what was happening in their sewing shop!  Which is probably a good thing, as we attempted to cram into this space, more people than we should have, more tools and supplies, and more chaos than they would have preferred I am sure! 

We called all the senior boys that wanted to assist with the project to come help.  But we also had promised all the seniors we would hang out and play some games with them, as it was our last night at the orphanage.  They had as a great a desire to hang out with us,  as we had to build this table for the sewing room.

As with all things in Africa, nothing seems to work just like you plan.  Ernie found that the wood shop equipment was not in the best working order and after some modifications, and a bit of frustration, we finally got everything and everyone situated in the sewing room.  Chairs were brought in for the games we would play with the kids not building. Over the noise and distraction of directions being given and power tools being run, we made the most of our last night at Fiwagoh! 

In the midst of teaching 30+ kids to play UNO, two rolling black outs, an abundance of laughter as they switched to their favorite game of signs, a sad awareness of our departure looming, pounding, leveling and a shortage of nails, we manage before 10:30 PM on our last night at Fiwagoh to finish our master piece!! 

* Ernie, if I have any of the facts above wrong, feel free to make corrects by sending me a message, I am happy to make edits to complete the story from all perspectives!


We quickly wiped off the saw dust, cleaned up the floor and our remaining supplies.  We carried bolts of fabric and stacked them on the shelves under the table.  We wrapped up by leaving a heart felt note on the table for the ladies the next day on the back of the only sheet of paper we had, the original sketch for the table, in anticipation that we would not see them prior to our departure the next morning.    

Then, in the typical African style our departure time was pushed back, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, and found smiles all around when Gladys and Eunice walked in to the sewing shop to start working to find a new work table in the center of their sewing room just for them!  

Of course as we hugged and chatted, we could not miss the opportunity to take a "selfie" to commemorate and celebrate the moment!  Some things in Africa are just the same as in the states!!  

These ladies and this project for them, is top of my highlight reel from this trip! Something not planned, but obviously meant to be! I enjoyed the fellowship with the young men that worked diligently beside Ernie and the men of the house, Pastor Benson and Nelson and Duncan. Sharing laughs as we leveled and nailed and held the table together.  Sharing in the joy of the finished project is a feeling that I just can't put in words.  Seeing the joy on the ladies faces when they walked into the room and were surprised by the table was priceless! 

In all this, it is my hope that the table will allow them relief on their backs, knees legs and shoulders, as they can now stand to cut uniforms. Also, they now have a great work space for other projects that need done, or for just organizing their supplies.  Additionally, it is my desire for them to know that the table was constructed out of our love for them, and our knowledge of how things could be a slight bit easier for them in the midst of the task of sewing for 265+ children.  

Never was it our intention to build the table, and leave them to think that we were snotty Americans that forced them to do something our way.  I recognize that even as excited as they were about the table, that making the switch to using it, after years of using the floor as the table, as silly as it may seem to our minds, will take some adjustments on their part. Overall, it is my prayer is that our "American" vision for improving their workplace actually was the blessing it was intended it to be, and that we were able to play a role in providing a hand up and an viable and workable option to help them work with more ease.  

It is worth mentioning that these ladies and their students, never once gave us any indications that the way their shop was set up was a hardship for them, or that they were dissatisfied in some way about how things were being done.  On the contrary they were generous, gracious teachers, allowing us to come along side them and "help".  Our returned trips to the sewing room showed them our intentions were to really work side by side with them and learn a bit about each of them and their life and ministry at Fiwagoh. 

The lessons that I learned from them were more too numerous to count.  I was reminded each time I went to the sewing room of many things, and here are just a few:   
  • With planning and effort, there is no waste (or very little).  Even the smallest scraps, what I would consider waste, were repurposed into handkerchiefs, and the small children found the actual waste, to be a treasure trove for their imaginative play. 
  • The children were encouraged and invited into the sewing room play at the feet of those working.  What a great way for them to learn by observation! 
  • It seemed daunting to me that the equipment that they had was going to get the job done, but to them it was perfect, and in the imperfections, they had learned along the way to manage, manipulate and coax the machines into exactly what their man created tasks were. 
  • Patience is tied closely with joy.  When you are patient in your planning and execution of the job at hand, you exude peace even when the snafus happen.  
  • No matter what you are faced with, just make do, and get the job done.  Do not expect others to do it for you or even with you.  Do not feel like you are entitled to more that what you have, as it is exactly what you need to do the task at hand. Less is more. 
Again, I am rejoicing that I did not have to make any of this adventure up! I lived it and loved it! I hope that you are encouraged through the recounting of the blessings of my time spent in the sewing room!  

"Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you cook is eaten so quickly.  When you sew, you have something that will last to show for your efforts! " Elizabeth Trans Johnson 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Shift In My Thinking

As I departed for my trip to Africa, I grabbed a book that had been "resting" on my shelf for quite some time.  It was highly recommended to me by a friend and I had refused to give it back because I was determined to read it!   I am not going to lie, God's timing is always perfect.  The reason this book sat for so long is because I needed to have the right heart and the right perspective to give all that was in this book my full attention and consideration.

Much of what I bring to this post will be direct quotes from the book or the Bible.  All attempts will be made to be exact and any omissions are very much unintentional.   

As I said, this book, A Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns (the current president of World Vision U.S.) has been sitting on my desk shelf for many, many months.  Actually over a year.  While the book was published in 2009-2010 and is not exactly a "new" book, the concepts found within were challenging and appropriate.  Some of what the author outlines could be considered common knowledge for anyone who has spent any time considering the plight of the less privileged or has served in situations in or out of country, where life is considerably different in its pace, culture, priorities and focus.

This book is written from a Christian biblical world view, by a man working as the president of a Christian organization.  Much of what is said can be a bit offensive if you are not currently exposed to the plight of those that the Lord calls us to care for; the downtrodden, widows and orphans.  As a side note, I would like to state that there are many organizations that are non- Christian based, who do amazing things in the states and in other countries that offer considerable help to those who are afflicted.  This book however, has opened my eyes to not only my obligations as a believer, but has me readjusting my thoughts in regards to how I viewed those who are less fortunate than myself.

Each of us could read this book, and come away with different details that would speak to us.  Keep in mind these are my personal musings. I am going to outline the things that spoke to me, in the setting of Africa, free from the distractions of my American life, that may seem to you as known facts, and are not particularly striking to you in this moment, but that in that moment in time, spoke to me more clearly and poignantly than ever before.

"Light dispels darkness, it reverses it.  Likewise truth dispels falsehood and goodness reverses evil" (pg 3)  

If you are in a dark room and click on the light, darkness is expelled by the light.  Truth is also the opposite of lies and doing good is the reverse of doing evil.  When any of these components are applied to situations in our lives, our lives become better.  How challenging would it be to live in a dark world? While many that are visually impaired do, that is the minority of our culture, if we lived in darkness think how different every part of our lives would be?  We could not drive, it would be hard to walk on the street, or shop at the store, we would not be able to navigate long trips with ease,  we would need assistance to make sure our shoes and clothing matched, just to name a few things... but when we have light, natural or artificial, we can navigate, we can see all the things that were "hidden" in the dark.  Likewise, telling the truth is always the best option as it is the opposite of lies and falsehoods.  Lies and falsehoods hurt others, take a toll on our relationships, compromise our work and school situations, and while occasionally the truth does hurt, it is still the truth, which then prompts the hearer to investigate for themselves and perhaps change their opinion or direction.  Doing good, being kind and compassionate overcomes much of the evil in the world. Many that we may know are bombarded by evil things, and I do not wish to make light of their dire situations.  I do not believe that goodness and evil is a one for one ratio, meaning I do one good thing and it offsets one evil thing, but the propensity to seek out the good in others and share goodness should be an intentional response from me in all things, in a world where there is much evil.

"A genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life.  In contemporary terms, those that talk the talk but do not walk the walk will be exposed as false." (pg 59) "I only propose that a genuine concern for the "the least of these" that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of our lives and faith." (pg 60) 

Ouch!  I can say a lot of things but if my actions and words do not match up, then I am a hypocrite.   When my actions and my words match up it has to be in all that I do and say. Not one part or the other.  As I sat in the early morning at Fiwagoh, listening to the calls of a bird that seems to be shouting "HA-HA" at the top of his lungs, I had an "ah ha" moment.  I am blessed beyond measure to have spent years traveling to Jamaica and most recently Peru and now Africa to share the gospel and be the hands and feet of Christ, but what did these trips actually "cost" me? Have I lived a life that has been intentionally and fervently seeking daily to make a difference in the lives of others less fortunate than myself?  The truth is no.  Literally, the opportunities that I have had, have come in through a short and specific season of time.  I signed up for a trip, then launched out to raise support, or picked up extra shifts at work, or gone without some indulgence for a few months so that I can travel to these places to serve.  But what did it cost me? I say I want to serve and share, but I do not make, nor even consider making a  daily plan that cares for anyone other than myself.  If I budgeted $3 a day to sponsor children, or selected a project such as Shoes that Grow, and budgeted $15 dollars a week to purchase a pair of shoes each week for a year, that would be an intentional and purposed plan that would be woven into my daily life.   The question for me is this: will Christ find evidence of my genuine concern for His beloved poor when He looks at the fruit of my life? Taking it a step further, will my children, grandchildren, co-workers and neighbors see the evidence of a life spent intentionally being concerned with the "least of these"?

Who is my neighbor? 

I have had, and currently have, some great neighbors!  What makes a great neighbor? Folks that would drop anything to lend a hand.  Individuals that are intentional about greeting one another and seeking after their well being.  Neighbors turn into acquaintances and sometimes friends, the longer we live in a location and as they and we, work to build relationships with each other!  Webster defines "neighbor" as "someone living beside the person that is speaking".  We all have neighbors, but have we considered that in todays' age our neighbors can and are in far away places?

"The second greatest command is this: Love your neighbor as yourself" Mark 12: 31a  

I am right back to the original question of "who is my neighbor?'  A summary of the eighth chapter of The Hole in our Gospel talks about how, for thousands of years, we could only put this principle into play with those in close proximity to ourselves (like the Webster definition) because we were unaware of those hurting in far away places. Prior to the 1800's, disease, inadequate health care, lack of clean water, crop failures, famines and epidemics devastated all countries.  All countries were on a similar playing field.  Additionally, illiteracy was common world wide.  It was the legacy of colonialism and the Industrial Revolution that ultimately resulted in the advancement of some economies (countries) over others.  While there were those in the early 1900s that served the poor and tackled the issues as they became aware of them, the general population was unable to respond because of their own personal lack of awareness, access and ability.

Radio did not become popular until the 1920's.  Television not until after the 1950's.  When Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, retuned from Korea with 16 millimeter films that documented the suffering of children and the devastation of the war, he brought back the living images of destruction and despair of which the average person had never seen.  He went from church to church with his projector showing the films and securing donations for the fledgling organization, and average people began to become aware of the plight of those less fortunate.  A picture is worth a thousand words! Today is an era that is saturated with internet technology.  We can see the images of joy and tragedy in an instant and can replay it as many times as we like.  Lack of awareness is no longer our problem. We can no longer claim we do not know whom are our distant neighbors.

Each year tens of millions of people now fly internationally vs in 1949 when the recorded number of international flights was only one and a half million.  Access to other countries is no longer a excuse!

The ability to minister to those in far away lands has also skyrocketed through research of cultures,  economics, tool availability and programs.  However, while this should be good news, it is not because we are not doing our part to deliver this information and these services to our far away neighbors.  It is pretty simple.  "If we are aware of the suffering of our distant neighbors - and we are - and we have access either personally or through charitable organizations to provide aid - and we do - and we have the ability to make a difference through programs and technologies that work - which is the case- then we should no more turn our backs on these neighbors than the priest and the Levite should have as they walked by the bleeding man on the way to Samaria." (Luke 10:25-37 the parable of the Good Samaritan pg 104)

The world is unraveling, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer not just in our country but in all the world.  There is a hole in our society. As believers there is a hole in our gospel.  Yet we stand by and watch this take place,  while each of us possess the awareness, the access and the ability to set in motion practical solutions for aid to those less fortunate than ourselves.

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to the them; thats the essence of inhumanity - George Bernard Shaw 

I can not do any better than using the direct words of the author for this next section.  If his words are thoughts that you have already had, then you are ahead of me.  I will tell you I am as guilty of judging and being presumptuous in my thoughts about poverty.  " I do not like the word poverty.  It is one of those loaded words that carries a great deal of baggage and stigma.  It sounds like a disease or a bad character trait that some people have and others don't.  It's also a word that divides the world into two unequal groups, the poor and the rest of us, as though somehow we are different.  Each of us brings different association to the word poverty based on our past understanding and misunderstanding.  In America, which has prided itself as being a "land of opportunity," it is not uncommon for us to make value judgments about those who are poor.  If they are poor in America, we reason it must be because they don't work as hard as the rest of us or have made bad choices.  We may think that the poor are lazy or stupid , even if we would not say it out loud.  When we discuss the poor in Africa or Southeast Asia, we bring other stereotypes into play, perhaps racial or cultural.  We may shake our heads at why this nationality or that race just can't seem to get their act together.  We wonder why their governments are so ineffective, their leaders so incompetent or corrupt and their economic development so weak.  Or we may look at them paternalistically, feeling sorry for them as a parent would a helpless child.  All of the biases are patronizing at best and prejudiced at worst and lessen the human dignity of people created in God's image.  If we are going to see the poor as God sees them, then we first have to repent of our judgmental attitudes and feelings of superiority.  (pg 116-117)

Poverty is fundamentally the result of a lack of options.  It is not that the poor are lazier, less intelligent, or unwilling to make efforts to change their condition.  Rather it is that they are trapped by circumstances beyond their power to change.  Robert Chambers, a British researcher, stated that "People so close to the edge can not afford laziness or stupidity. They have to work and work hard, however they can.  Many of the lazy and stupid poor are dead." I have found that the poorer people are, the harder they work, usually.  In fact their daily labor is more strenuous than most of us could tolerate. It is their circumstances that conspire to prevent their hard work from bearing fruit.  (pg 118) 

These two passages from the book, have me with tears in my eyes.  I have been that person, while I did not necessarily say these things out loud (oh who am I kidding, in frustration I sure have...)  I know that I have thought them on many occasions.  I have judged.  It is not my place! If I re-align my thinking to the fact that ALL people are made in God's image, I have to be broken about my harsh judgmental attitude, and I have to be broken by what breaks the heart of God.

For most of the poor people in our world their hard work does not matter.  They are trapped by social, cultural, political and economic systems that do not reward their diligent efforts.  And because of that they loose hope.  It is not my fault that there are poor people in my neighborhood, my state, my nation, or my country or other countries, but it is my responsibility to do something about it.  Sadly there is no quick way to remove someone from poverty.  There is no magic pill or cure.

Consider that if you are poor and hungry how your ability to function is compromised.  In an attempt to combat malnutrition, ( I do not mean you missed a meal or two) the body slows down all mental and physical processes to conserve energy.  A hungry mind (child or adult) can't focus and there is no strength of labor or play. It causes mental illness and stunts physical growth.  Our world produces enough food to feed all humans, yet sadly it is not equally distributed throughout the world.

Lack of water, disease, inadequate dental and health care.  The list is exhaustive of the things that we assume everyone has access to.  We take all these things and so much more for granted.  It would never occur to us how we would flush our toilets or do laundry or cook if we had to haul the water that we would use for the day to our home.  Even if I had to walk to the closest grocery store to purchase gallons of water, (I am assuming I have the money to do so) I would be walking a mile round trip and could never carry enough gallons of water in one trip for the amount that my family will consume in just one day.  If the average water consumption in the US is 80-100 gallons a day per person, and my average family size is now a family of 5, I would need to return home with 400 - 500 gallons of water.  Then turn around and do that again the next day and the next day... how would I work a job?  When would I find the time to cook and do laundry?  My main concern would be my getting enough water for my family for the day.

All of these challenges have solutions, and if I may be bold enough to say, we all need to consider what we can do to help.  A hand up is a solution.  Teaching and training or involving ourselves in organizations and programs that do just that, provide a way for us to serve our neighbors.  There is no doubt that our country and others around the world have the resources and the skills and influence to be able to help those in need be successful.  Nothing will change overnight, but overnight if more people made commitments to do just one thing and be faithful to that one thing, we can begin to influence the trends.  The church proper can't be held responsible for doing all the work either.  As a member of a local body, or not, it is unfair to think that some one else will do something to help.  The thought that someone else will step up, as it is just "not my thing" is just another excuse.

"Remember it is sin to know what you ought to do and not do it." James 4:17 (NLT )  If the word "sin" is too harsh of a word for you, plug in "transgression", "crime", "offense"... you get the picture.  As a culture we should be deeply burdened for those that we encounter who need a helping hand.  We should be investing in lives intentionally so that we are creating a legacy for our families to continue and uphold even after we are gone.  There are far too many instances in our world today of those that seek to harm and hurt others.  When will enough be enough?

Each of us has the ability to make a change, the question is will we?  If we commit to considering the widows and the orphans and the downtrodden in our neighborhoods or our world, how much must our attitudes and our prejudices need to change so that we can get out of our own way and do good?

There is so much more that this book has opened my eyes to.  Believer or not, we all should desire to show compassion and kindness to other human beings.  Statistically speaking, many in our world today are one devastating life situation away from being poor, homeless, without basic necessities.  We can't plan for devastation.  Cancer, catastrophic accidents, loss of income, death happen each day to unsuspecting individuals.  It is time to take action. It is time to be okay with not being recognized for our efforts. It is time to start making it a priority and a way of life to serve others before we serve ourselves.  In no way does this call us to a life of poverty ourselves. Nor does it say that we can't enjoy the wonderful American life that we lead.  But to have our eyes opened and our hearts willing to step in and become involved even when others do not because it is the right thing to do, will make a difference in someones life! “Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.” ― Tim Fargo

"Last year I met a Korean man who lives and works in New York.  He knew I was the president of World Vision, and he told me how important the work of organizations like ours had been to him when he was a child right after the Korean War.  He and his family, he said, desperate and dislocated by the war, had been helped enormously by shipments of clothing and food, even school supplies that they received by the people of goodwill in America and other countries.  These donors had given their time, treasure and talents to help the people suffering in a foreign nation.  The young Korean boy benefited immeasurably from their kindness; he was able to finish school.  He was so grateful for the generosity that he and his family had experienced.  Today that "boy" is the secretary general of the United Nations (2007-2106) and his name is Ban-Ki-moon.  I wonder if the people that donated their time, treasures and and talent in the 1950s had any idea of the impact they would have?" (pg260)

If you are interested in reading the book from cover to cover, because believe me I did not even touch on but a fraction of the "meat" of this book, here is the link, A Hole in our Gospel.  Be prepared to be challenged.  Be prepared to be called to change your thinking.  Be prepared to make a plan that includes weaving the care of our neighbors near and far, into the fabric of your life.

You can't make this stuff up, and I am grateful for other faithful writers that are able to put words to paper in clear and tangible ways that encourage and push me out of my comfort zone.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The beauty surrounding Fiwagoh

Africa is a country with a rich and beautiful landscape.  From Fiwagoh we were blessed to be within walking distance of just a small portion of that beauty!

When looking off the balcony of the main house at Fiwagoh, we were able to immediately see to our left the Ugali Hills.

Breathtaking and beautiful in the distance.  We stood and took in the view.  This is a very popular hiking spot for tourists and I found out while staying that there are several lodges in very close proximity to the orphanage that cater to hikers.  My research indicates that to get to the top of the Ugali Hill takes about 6-9 hours (roundtrip) depending on your level of fitness. 

However, once we were told the nickname for the hills, we promptly forgot the given name and only referred to it as the Sleeping Warrior.  If you are having difficulty seeing the sleeping warrior, the head is in the center of the photo, (chin jutting to the sky) and the warriors body follows to the left, as he lies on his back sleeping.  

To the right of the property when the haze has lifted, is Lake Elementaita.  The lake is a soda lake, (a salt lake with high contents of sodium) located near the town of Gilgil.  Elementaita is a word derived from the Masaai word for muteita "dust place" which in the seasons of July - October and January and February, the lake is very low and dry. During our visit the lake was very shallow and was bordered by mud flats.  Typically this is a wonderful season to see wildlife in their natural habitat (zebras, warthogs etc) because they have to go further out from the vegetation get to the watering holes. However when you are walking with 275+  of your closest friends and family, I believe that the wildlife runs and hides!!

The entire Fiwagoh family took a Sabbath walk to the lake.  On the short journey, less than three miles round trip, we saw goats and donkeys, a grasshopper and tried to rescue an injured baby bird.

Upon arriving to the lake, the view was spectacular! It was a bright clear day.  

This lake has been known for many years as an attraction for flamingos. Many photos and paintings have been done from this lake location depicting 100's of visiting flamingos. 

Birds of Lake Elmenteita, Kenya

Currently you can find over 400 varieties of birds in this surrounding area.  The story of the decrease in the flamingos visiting this place is somewhat sad. They used to flock to this area when transitioning towards Tanzania.  In 1962 however Tilapia were introduced to this lake, and the flamingo population decreased significantly because the Tilapia brought birds of prey that ate the flamingo eggs and chicks.  Now the flamingos are said to be seeking refuge at Lake Natron in Tanzania.

Lake Elementaita also used to be the home of rhinos.  However because of poaching and because of their increased aggressive behavior, all the rhinos have been removed from Lake Elementaita and relocated to other lakes in the surrounding areas (with less human visitors) or to preserves.

The mud flats were plentiful, but as I said the wild life scarce.  That did not deter my group of young women doing their best to find some "wildlife". 

Salome pulled this small organism from the shallowest of the waters by a mudflat.

This was the only "print" that we saw in the mud, and we confirmed that is was just your standard variety cow from the neighbors farm. 

Some grasses growing that would allow the wildlife a snack and a drink at the same time. 

While we were walking all the children talked about the hot springs.  We were not sure what the hot springs were or where they were located, but the next day were blessed to take 164 of the children (ages 5-13) on a walk that Pastor Benson described as "just a small walk, over the highway 104".  

Eager to not miss any part of the beauty surrounding us, we lined them all up, counted them off and started out on a trip that was a little further than "just over there"... we estimate that the total round trip hike, uphill was about 5.5 miles.  But oh were the views amazing!! 

Upon arrival the squeals of joy that came from the children, made the uphill trek even more exciting because this was clearly a treat for them!  The boys immediately clamored into the trees or to the water, leaving behind their shirts and shoes, while the girls started picking flowers and climbing the rocks!

We traveled a bit further up hill to the start of the hot springs, and this is when the boys all went for a "real"swim.  The girls after waiting patiently for their turn, then took of their shirts and pulled up their skirts for modesty and went for their swim.  I did feel bad for the locals as they shared the swimming hole with 164 super excited kids!!  

Like one would expect, there was some difficulty rounding up the children, having them find their shoes and shirts and get back in line to begin the return trek.  I was struck by the forward thinking that some of them had. Many boys wore two pairs of shorts to the hot springs, so they could swim in one and have a dry pair for the walk back!  One young man even carried that ball the entire time just so he could play with it in the springs. Some brought bottled water.  Others extra shirts.  Again, there was hardly a complaint amongst them.  We witnessed many helping each other out with piggyback rides and holding hands to get back to the main road.  This is a family thrown together by misfortune, but that looks after it's own in all instances!  

While I was unsure for the majority of the walk back to Fiwagoh, if we had the same number returning home as we brought... it seems that everyone was accounted for by the gate keeper upon our return!! 

Another item of interest so close to the orphanage, that we observed on this hike, were large deposits of diatomite.  I do not have any photos of this mineral, however I did a bit of research prior to writing this, and here is what I discovered.  Diatomite is a deposit in the earth made up from skeletons of billion of single cell organisms, algae and phytoplankton.  It is 85% pure silica, the material that is found in quartz sand. They have been mining it in Africa since 1950.  Additionally, the material is uses as a filter aid, and in cleaning agent for stainless steel, and as an insecticide.  It is odorless, white in color, non toxic to humans and soft to the touch.  

The cactus and trees in the area area also amazing and lush.  Right now I am a bit upset with myself for not taking more photos and having more beauty to share with you!  

I can share with you that I had a lot of interaction with one type of tree in particular that was not my friend at all!  The Acacai tree!  The Acacai tree was referred to by the older children and adults as the "African tooth pick tree" because all the branches and the trunk of the tree are covered in sharp prickly thorns about an inch long.  As the tree dies and dries out the thorns are easy to break off. (Similar to de-thorning a rose.) However, even with closed toed shoes, and gloves, those thorns found their way into your feet and hands and arms.  If you were lucky they just brushed by you and scratched you.  For those of us not so lucky, they could come through the soles of your shoes and stick in your feet or any other body part that was exposed.  Speaking from experience, they hurt going in, but hurt more coming out, and left a welt under the skin for about three days.  

It is amazing in reflection, how the world that we live in is so vast and so different from state to state and country to country.  The Lord has provided for such vastness and uniqueness I believe so that we can not only enjoy new and exciting things when we travel or move, but so that we can also view our everyday surroundings with a renewed sense of awe and expectation.  

In Genesis 1 you will find the creation story: 

Day one: Night and Day
Day two: Sky and Sea
Day three: Land and Vegitation
Day four: Stars, Sun and Moon
Day five: Sea Creatures and Birds
Day six: Animals and Man

It is such a simple story, but when you start to look at the vast and unique areas of the world, and put into perspective all the types of birds and sea creatures, the many many land masses and plants it can be a bit overwhelming to consider all this was done in six days.  No wonder the 7th day was a day for rest!  

Rejoicing in the vastness of the world I live in and the beauty that surrounds me!  I am so glad I don't have to make this stuff up, because my imagination is not this grand!  

Saturday, August 18, 2018

These were a few of their favorite things!

I believe each team that travels to Fiwagoh brings "treats" for the children, and our team was no exception! We discussed in advance that we would only bring things that the entire group could utilize, and so we paired down our ideas to sidewalk chalk, bubbles, soccer balls (footballs) story books, inflatable balls and jump ropes.

What I did not expect was the many creative ways that they had already come up with to entertain themselves! I am not saying that they did not love the new soccer balls, bubble machine, or the jump ropes, because they did, and asked for them regularly, but left on their own they had amazing strategies for playing individually and in small groups!

Round lids with sticks that rolled as they ran behind pushing them. Discarded containers that could hold run off wash water that became homemade bubbles, with wands made from a paperclip or other piece of discarded metal. Trucks, cars and heavy work equipment fashioned from metal scraps and the strips of shredded tire that they used to tie them together.  Scraps of fabric from the sewing room.  Hanging and climbing on the bars and railings inside the big delivery truck! Scrap nails or pipe cleaners, yarn and threads from their clothing, were all repurposed and went to some creative new toy!   Clapping games, games of signs... the list really is impressive! Of course I have personal favorites, aside from the boys hand made vehicles, a produce bag and cement bag used for playing dress up!

It was refreshing to see that the things that we consider as trash, were to them avenues for creative play and ingenuity.  A few times the team would even wonder after we finished with something (like a Pringle can) what the kids could or would do with that if they found it in the trash, and should we save them the effort of digging in the trash and just let it sit someplace for someone creative to see and scoop up for play?!

I recognize that in regards to creative and imaginative play the children (of all ages) at Fiwagoh are years ahead of our children here in the states!  In the states as the years progress, it seems our parenting style (for the vast majority) has sadly become one of convenience and cleanliness. We want them to stay clean, if they start complaining they are bored, or we need them to be quiet while we are out, we stick an electronic devise in their small hands.  Before we know it our kids are never out to see the light of day because it interferes with how well they can see the screens of their ipods, ipads and cell phones!

Observing and engaging in this creative play really took me back to my childhood, when playing in the yard was pulling out flowers and mixing them with dirt and water to make stew.  Setting up tree forts with logs and branches from fallen trees.  Using sticks and rocks to create statues and other works of art! I fear that my children did not do enough of that growing up in todays technological era.  Shame on me.  However kudos to Fiwagoh!  *as a personal note : When the Lord blesses me with grandchildren, we will be messy and creative in our play! Enjoying all the sights and sounds around us exploring and making memories!! 

Here are some of the new memories we made with the "toys" we brought from the states!  Bubbles are great, but bubble machines are greater!!! Jumping rope alone is fun, but together with friends is more "funner"  Tossing a ball is exciting, but it is more exciting when the ball is lightweight and catches in the breeze and has you chasing it all over the yard!  Sidewalk chalk can also be used on cement walls, to create beautiful murals!  Soccer is soccer (football) all over the world, and fresh new balls are always something to celebrate!  We taught them to play tic tac toe, and uno!  What a whirlwind of smiles and laughter from both them and our team!

I am not sure what the impact of our play time will be with them long term. In my American mind, I would love to arrogantly think that they will never forget us.  That they will always remember the time we spent with them, but the truth is we may begin to blend in with the other teams that came before us or the ones that will come after.  We have the gift of photographs that help us remember. They only have memories.

For me, it has helped me realize that slowing down has merit.  Taking the time to play a game, or share a conversation, even when I have another plan for that time, is how you build relationships. Observing the children in their daily activities was a great reminder that we all have a creative side.  We are all able to, but have just gotten too busy to just be still and enjoy the world around us.  Africa is amazing and beautiful, but so are the states that we live in.  The only thing that keeps us from enjoying our surroundings and our ability to create is our own selves.  When we are still, that is when the Lord can reveal to us simple truths that will help us lead a more fulfilled life.

So grateful for this time of reflection.  May the insight that I gathered, make a lasting impact on my actions and activities each day going forward.  Help me help others when possible to slow down, take time to evaluate, listen and learn!