Sunday, June 28

Family comes together to help honor Maggie

The race coordinator told my sister if 100 runners signed up for the first year it would be considered a successful race. But, determined to help raise funds for Maggie's School in Kenya my sister Wink McLeod posted Maggie's Run posters all over Greenville. The radio station advertised Maggie's Run with words "in the dessert of Kenya Maggie's memory lives on in the walls of a school built in her memory". With the help of her many friends and family Wink worked to make Maggie's Run for Maggie's kids in Kenya a success. The night before the race our family came to join Wink. My sons Mike and his family, David and Dan (who is like a son to me) came to both run and help. My other sister Katie had helped all along as well as her daughter Kim and her family. All working together to help Wink keep Maggie's memory alive. We stayed up most of the night before the race putting up tents and doing the many other tasks necessary for a race. We were up at 5:30 to leave for the venue before people came to register. By the time the run began 300 runners were ready to run for Maggie's Kids in Kenya! The run was a success. Plans are already underway for the 2nd annual Maggie's Run.
All for Maggie's Kids in the dessert of Kenya,
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Thursday, June 25

Returning from Kenya

As I return today from Kenya I reflect on the many events over the last several weeks. The Partners for Care staff in Kenya continue to have an impact making a difference for many people both Kenyans and Americans. Here are some highlights:
1. Very successful trip by the American Youth team. They wrote when they returned they had left their hearts in Kenya. We will post their video on the PFC facebook.
2. Thanks to the youth team the children at Beat the Drum now have a swingset. And, I can tell you that is not an easy task like it is in America where you just order one from Sears! Sammy PFC staff did a lot of work "running up and down" as they say in Kenya to make that happen.
3. Preparations were made for the July team when my sister will travel with 10 others to see Maggie's School. The missionsary flight to Lodwar is booked, safari confirmed and we have found a dentist for them to work with when they do their medical camp in Mathare. He will also let them use his dentist office so they can clean all the PFC staff's teeth. Also picked up from our wonderful partners at HEART 120 bed nets we are taking to the children at Maggie's School. Njoie has "run up and down" a lot to make all this happen! She is always committed to see everything gets done and it isn't easy!
4. The what if? campaign was asked to be featured in Professional Magazine. We will have the interview when I return next time.
5. The what if? team performed at an event with 5,000 people with 1,000 signing the committment cards to test, to wait until marriage and to be faithful to one partner.
6. The what if? team was also asked to present at the Teacher's Service Commision to a group of people infected and affected by HIV. This group trains teachers on HIV issues and they want to work with the what if? team.
7. Maggie's School was registerted! Thanks to the work of Andrew PFC SW in Lodwar and Pastor Omondi!
8. We met with the deputy Provincial Officer who saw the what it? play at the United Nations. He wants the team to play at major goverment affairs.
9. We had a follow-up luncheon with the Vice President's wife Pauline Kolonzo. Next trip we will outline a partnership agreement with Kolonzo's Foundation.
10. We made some improvements in the PFC house - a bookcase for the wonderful leadership books people have given me to take to the team and a storage shed to hold our new beliver bibles as well as musical equipment, etc.
11. Developed and wrote a proposal for National Aids Control Council for the what if? HIV/AIDS prevention campaign. If funded the what if? team will do a 3-day event in each province in Kenya. Sam worked all night two nights and many hours to prepare the proposal.
12. Developed a plan to work with Kajii who is one of the most well-known gospel singer in Kenya. We will combine our efforts to reach high school students with the message of HIV/AIDs prevention and living for Christ. I met Kajii throught Christian of Milele.
13. Sam prepared a video of the need for the children at the CT rescue center to move. We will post on PFC facebook.
14. Secured more necessary licenses for the cyber and the clinic. Obtained more drugs for the clinic and got all the computers operational in the cyber.
The trip wasn't without struggles. All three leaders Pastor Omondi, Njokie and Sammy got malaria again as did 5 year old Faith (Njokie's daughter). I am getting good at diagnosing malaria. We always confirm with a lab test. And Pastor Omondi also had thyroid. And Charles from CT was sick with malaria. And, we continue to struggle with transportation! The van makes down a lot! And this trip because of so many meetings and presentations it seemed we were travelling all the time in the van. We are really praying for better transportation.
Good news is I did not lose my Blackberry this time so I consider that an accomplishment.
Proud of the PFC team in Kenya and grateful to God for his provisions, Connie
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Tuesday, June 16

Wonderful news

One always hopes that God will quide them in how they can reach out to the world to make a difference. My sister took the tragedy of the lose of her only child Maggie at age 19 and turned her grief into reaching out to help others. And, God has blessed her with ensuring her Maggie's School in the desert of Akatuman will continue for many years. I am very happy to tell you all that after many forms, inspections at the school, transporting documents on the missionary flights from Lodwar etc. Maggie's School Akatuman has been registered as an official school of Kenya! In less than a year of building the school it is fully operational and a registered school. The goverment will send teachers now and we think help with the food. We are still finding out the details of their support. It will remain Maggie's School and continue to be a Christian School. It is a humble school where children still sit on the floor and eat food prepared over an open fire. But, my sister now will be able to use the funds she is raising to improve the school for the children. She visits the school in July with those people who have most supported her on her journey through grief. She has made a difference in the lives of the 207 children at Maggie's School.
Blessed to partner with my sister,
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Wednesday, June 10

2nd Update - American Youth Team

Here is the second update I have sent the parents of the American Youth Team. All of us who are parents would be proud and blessed if our children served as this team has.
Dear Parents of the American Youth Team, It is time for me to tell you more about your kids. Yesterday they did what many people have never done and wil never do. They walked through Mathare slum, through the trash, the human waste, over small bridges, even at times jumping over the little rivers that run through Mathare carrying waste to sit in a small shack with someone infected with AIDS. The shacks are so small with one room, no kitchens or toliets and just a sheet hanging to divide the sleeping area. In these shacks they found mothers and sometimes as many as four children living together. They went in teams of two with Caleb and Rebecca going together with the Partners for Care staff Franko and David. Second team was Christian and Sarah with Partners for Care staff Justus and David. In each home they sat and listened to the stories of the women. Common stories with AIDS - their husbands died from the disease, they got tested and found themselves infected. Poor, alone and sick. These are the people Nick and Charles are called to help. Growing up in Mathare themselves Nick and Charles decided to stay and try to make a difference. Both age 27 are the co-directors of Community Transformers (CT). CT consists of young volunteers who are trying to make a difference in Mathare. Over the three years of CT they have seen over 400 clients - all infected with HIV. They have seen 82 deaths -23 of them children the last one a baby they called Diamond who they had loved and nutured hoping he could fight the mighty enemy called AIDS. I took your children for home visits for two reasons. One, for them to see at the "ground level" the effects of AIDs. Two to encourage those they visited. Nick and Charles have taught us that sometimes their clients feel so low, sometimes they have no food to take their medication and God sends an angel to encourage them. Yesterday God sent your children. The encouragement helps raise their spirits so they hang on for a few more days better equipped to fight the disease. And that is what each one of your children did with no one holding back. They sang Smile Again, they listened to their story of how they got infected, they listened to their struggles and they prayed for them reaching their hands out to hold the hands of someone infected with AIDS. And, they used the money they had worked to earn to bring them much needed food. And, as we stood to leave each one of them hugged the women they were visiting. A real, honest hug. Your children have seen HIV/AIDS in a way most in the world have never seen it. They have spent the night at an orphanage where all the children are infected. They have held a small child who is infected. They have sat at the bedside of someone infected. They have seen the poverty this disease has caused. And, they have joined the Temples of Worship in concerts where the Partners for Care staff ask the question what if? there was no AIDS? And, they heard the Temples of Worship call the youth of this nation and the world to do their part - to test to know their status, to wait until marriage and to be faithful to one partner. They heard the Temples of Worship in their song what if? sing "we can, we should, we must create an HIV free generation".
What your children will do with what God has shown them will only be revealed over time. But I know their efforts have not been in vain. They will remember the people they have met, the children they have held and those they have prayed for. They have come and equipped, enabled, encouraged and empowered those left behind to fight this disease on all levels. Thank you for trusting me with your children. They have served well and faithfully. I was proud and blessed to serve with them.
From Kenya,
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Monday, June 8

Is there hope?

Maybe it is because I spent the day and night at Beat the Drum and once again came face to face with children who were born infected with a virus that was transmitted from infected mothers who probably didn't even know they were themselves infected. Or maybe it was the visit to kijabe Hospital where I saw more people waiting in line to see a doctor or a nurse than I had ever seen (most were there probably because of preventable diseases). Or maybe it was because when we told the nurse at the hospital that the children at Beat the Drum had never been told they were infected she suggested they join one of the many kid's clubs. When we inquired what kid's clubs were she told us they are clubs for kids with AIDS. Or maybe it is because Pastor John who takes care of the children at Beat the Drum told us that the pastors from Mai Maihu avoid him saying he is the pastor who deals with AIDS. And, Njokie told me that Brian (her nephew who lives with us and is infected)) goes to a kids club in the park with hundreds of children who are also infected. Then I went to CT and and held little two year old Elizabeth who is infected. Her little body is so frail. It sometimes seems to me that this fight against HIV/AIDs is hopeless. How many will become infected before it stops? How many will die? How many children will become infected? How many orphans will there be? The latest statistics from UNAIDS are staggering - in 2007 there were 370,000 children born infected, 270,000 children died from AIDS, 11.3 million orphans in Africa because of AIDS. Is there hope? With God all things are possible. The Partners for Care Kenyan staff are trying to do their part. One by one they have felt the burden of this disease. One by one they have developed a passion to fight this disease. Last night they presented the what if? campaign to 6,000 people with 802 signing committment cards to do their part to create an HIV free enviorment - test to know their status, wait until marriage and be faithful to one partner. Will they do those things? We don't know. But, as the Temples of Worship sing when they sing the what if? song "it can be done, it should be done, it must be done".
Praying for hope,
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Sunday, June 7

American youth team serving in Kenya

This trip I have an American youth team with me. They raised all their own money to come including money to put play equipment at Beat the Drum. Tye following is an update I sent their parents. These kids are representing American youth very well.
Dear parents and grandparents of the American youth team, I feel I need to send you an update myself as I can tell from their updates they are not going to be able to tell you the some of the things about themselves. Last night the Partners for Care team held a what if? event in partnership with a large church here in Kenya. All the Partners for Care team wore their what if? shirts and hats and so did the American team. The kids looked great in their shirts and wished they could write on the back of their shirts "we are with the band". The event was in an open area near a market. Many people gathered to hear the what if? message of HIV/AIDS prevention. The band sang as the crowd gathered. The kids were great clapping and dancing! It was funny for the crowd to see the American team. After the band (Temples of Worship) draws the crowd Pastor Omondi speaks about AIDS telling the crowd how following God's plan of waiting and abstinence will stop this disease. He calls them to test to know their status. The kids had agreed to go to the stage and introduce themselves and tell the crowd that no matter a person's color, no matter their country or their tribe HIV/Aids has affected everyone and must be stopped. Christian had agreed to be their spokesperson. He was so confident in his speaking! The kids looked wonderful on the stage in an open market area in Kenya with all Kenyans as their audience! 

The pastor who organized the event introducing the American team

A section of the crowd that was present

The crowd received their messsage well. When it was time for us to give the audience the opportunity to sign committment cards that say "I will do my part to create an HIV free generation - test, wait and be faithful to one partner" the kids went to the crowd asking people to sign the cards. God had placed a burden in Christian's heart for children with AIDs many years ago when he began to support two little girls who are infected with AIDs - Rebecca and Faith who live at Beat the Drum. The other kids also have seen first hand the devastation of this disease as they held the children at Beat the Drum who are all infected with HIV/AIDs. And, at Community Transformers they have met and held two year old little Elizabeth who has Aids and fights everyday to just live as her little body fights a disease that destroys her immune system. She takes a handful of pills everyday just to survive. And, the team has begun to integrate with the Partners for Care team here in the house. Every night at dinner the kids had sat together at the big table where we eat our meals. Last night however they announced they no longer wanted this segregation and arranged everyone "black/white". I noticed some of the Partners for Care team looking sort of amazed at the joy and laughter of the kids and how they seemed so comfortable. We spent the next hour around the table laughing and sharing. We ended in prayer as we prayed for a woman at the what if? event who told one of our team members that she was already infected with HIV/AIDs and that her pastor had thrown her out of the church. She had no shoes and no food. She will return today to the second day of the what if? event. The team is taking shoes and food to her. All of you should feel very proud of your kids. They are mature beyond their age, love the Lord and have the capacity to feel in their hearts compassion for others. I have been blessed to be with them and honored that they have allowed an "old person" in their conversations. They now are asking me more why are things the way they are in this nation of poor people and what can they and others do to help.
Blessed to serve with this American youth team,

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