Wednesday, December 23

"I don't know why all my family is dying from Aids"

As people are fighting over rumors, hurt feelings, gosspip and things that focus only on themselves I am once again reminded of the real enemy and of the real warriors. I just spoke with Nick. How can a young man carry such heavey burdens?

Nick is at the mortorary. A familiar place for him. His 18 year old niece died from Aids. Last week Nick buried another uncle. He said to me "it is my fault I should have got them tested earlier'. He also wondered aloud why all his family is dying from Aids and why he is the one to bury them all.

Tonight he will travel up-country (he has no car so I assume that is on a matatu) to attend the burial of this young woman. Then return to Nairobi on Christmas Eve Day to the 34 children he cares for. I didn't ask but Christmas in the Rescue Center will not be like Christmas morning in most of our homes in America. I doubt there there are gifts for the children. Hopefully, there will be food. A donor gave me money for the children for food and it has been wired - I pray it arrives in time to buy food for Christmas.

Nick with Elizabeth

Besides burying two family members the week before Christmas Nick and Charles and other CT volunteers were attacked by about 20 men trying to steal from them last week while doing an event to raise funds for the burial of Nick's uncle. They were cut with knives and Charles' two teeth were knocked out. I called Charles and his mouth is wired and he can only take liquids. I worry that he doesn't have money for a proper liquid diet.

I was calling to tell Nick of the good news that we have a donor for the children's new school uniforms. He is extremely grateful.

And, he told me baby Diamond's mother (baby Diamond died last Spring of Aids) is in the hospital sick from the same disease that took her baby's life.

Nick said he is grateful to God because he has the strength to help his family. It was alreay hard to get in the holiday spirit of shopping, eating and giving gifts to people that already have more than most people will have in a lifetime. This seems to make it a little harder.

Talking with Nick and Charles reminded me why I go to kenya. I pray God shows me how to help and not harm. I pray that He reminds me whatever people say about me I am called to help these two men who carry such a burden of disease, death, hunger and even despair. I felt humbled when Charles at the end of our conversation said "pray for me, mum". Right now I didn't feel like a very good mum to him.

Oh, when I asked Nick why he hadn't called me to tell me all these things he said "I have been confused with all that has happened". I am confused, too, why all of the suffering? But, I am not confused that I am called to help. And, I am grateful for those donors who partner with us to help.

Praying for these young men in Kenya,

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Friday, December 18

Ryan's last update

Below is Ryan's last update from Kenya. Ryan describes so much of how I experience the work in Kenya - 10,000 miles from home. I want to take this opportunity to thank Ryan and his family. I must admit I am not looking forward to my next trip without Ryan there! We worked so well together - we couldn't be more different him young and me well you know old, we are different politically, etc. But, where it counted we are very much the same. We share a love for God, for serving and a believe that maybe just maybe we can make a difference. I would rise at 5:00 am with Ryan getting up right behind me. After sharing our morning coffee we began the work of the day. We shared our frustrations mostly laughing our way through them. And, Ryan loved Marsabit just like me! Imagine the most remote, difficult place to get to in Kenya and that was a place he loved and wants to return. When I was discouraged he would encourage me, when I felt we couldn't do what we wanted to do he told me we could, when I doubted if I could even do this work he told me I could. I thank God that He in His wisdom knew it was time to have the help, strength and wisdom of a young man named Ryan. For that I am grateful. Connie

How It Works

John 12:25-28:"The man who loves his live will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. Right now I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? 'Father, get me out of this'? No, this is why I came in the first place. I'll say, 'Father put your glory on display.'" (Message Bible) The last few grains of sand have settled at the bottom of my African hourglass. I look back on my trip and can see that each grain has come and gone with its own lesson and its own life. It has been these experiences that have brought meaning to a meaningless land, and life to a place where life is so dear. A grain for the red earth I have walked everyday, and a grain for the people I have met along the way. Grains for the injustices I have witnessed, but grains also for the Hope that remains. Three months ago I started this trip because, as my first letter explained, "I wanted to take a step of faith." I wanted to see where my life would go if I walked up to my edge and then took another step. God would have to bless that courageous step of mine, right? I was hoping that, by stepping off my ledge, God would whisk me away toward untold grandeur and beauties. I have since realized this is not exactly how it works. "How it works," has been a constant topic of conversation for me in Africa. How does it work that the eggs in the house are not refrigerated-along with the milk, jam, butter, and...yes, the mayonnaise? Every morning, there is part of me that expects to hear the chirps of freshly hatched chicks in our kitchen cabinet. For some unknown reason of logic, I still eat the scrambled eggs and drink the milk (I will die before I try the mayonnaise). Back to faith, if stepping in faith does not get you instant grandeur and beauties, then how exactly does it work? Much of my time in Kenya has been miserable in its passing. Strangely and assuredly, Africa has had the ability to make me feel utterly alone and but one in billions all at once. The days' frustrations have made even the most mundane of tasks complicated. Most noble efforts have been made in vain. Even as I type this update, children starve, disease spreads, and evil works exponentially. Comfort is something always dreamed, but never obtained. Alone, frustrated, weak, and uncomfortable is what Africa has gifted me. These are the sands of my journey. Stepping out of your boat can be miserable. It can make you feel alone. The wind and waves leave you frustrated and weak. And there is no comfort to be found on the high seas. Faith brings fear, and fear is never fun. This is what we can expect by walking in faith. But there is some unknown reason of logic that catches our attention and pulls at us to leave our boat. The disciples thought it was a ghost-fear telling them to stay, God was saying "come." Wind, waves, uncertainty, and fear are the environment in which God walks; do we want to come with? You might have been very surprised to hear that misery has been a constant grain for me over the past three months. It has attached itself to most days. But curiously, as I look at the collection of sand at the bottom of my hourglass, misery cannot be found. I look back on my ride and remember not the miseries. Grains of loneliness and insignificance have been replaced by the love of a God wholly distracted by me and by the wisdom of a God that authors the master plan. Grains of frustrations have been replaced by the perseverance flowered by faith in the God of renewing strength. And sands of helplessness and pain have changed into houses of shelter and rest. THAT is how it works. I read a quote the other day and it said, "You can expect two things when you follow God: You will be absurdly happy and in constant trouble." Grains will fall that make you doubt and sink. Some grains will be full of fear or misery, but at the very moment you think too much, an arm catches you and says, "faint heart, why so little faith?" Your feet might be wet, but you've just walked on water. Surely a strange, but exhilarating process happens when you walk with God-the waves fade away, the wind loses its power, and you are left face-to-face with Jesus. I stand at the end of my trip and peer into the mound of sand at the end of my hourglass and see not the wind and the waves, but the arm that reached out. The arm of the One who commands the storm, and it obeys. *Because this is my last update from Africa, I do want to take the time to thank all of you for the encouragement and love you have given me. It was during some of my darkest hours that I would check my email to find uplifting messages from family and friends. Many times it would be these very emails that enabled me to spur on and continue the race. It has been a blessing to know that those who love me have made prayers for my well-being halfway around the world. Thank you. I cannot wait to return home and be re-united with everyone. I am longing to spend Christmas with my family, and have dessert with a nice glass of refrigerated skim milk that comes from a plastic jug... and not from a pan underneath the sink.

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Friday, December 4

Anyone can get discouraged

They say the higher the victory the trickier the devel. Or something like that. It has been almost two years since I came to Kenya. Confinced I could make a difference in the lives of those infected with Aids. It has been a fruitful trip - taking Rebecca to see her father was wonderful, seeing the what if? presented at World's Aids Day, completing a buisness plan for the cyber/music center we are opening in the slum near our house, making plans for the Obama celebration next month and many other good things have happened. But, things haven't been easy this trip and I have began to doubt myself. Am I strong enough? Can I do this when people let you down? Working in a developing nation isn't easy. It isn't the physical struggles so much - the long rides on a crowded matatu, the lack of water, the power outages, etc. I am used to those things. It seems like so many people here have deep hurts and disappointments from a lifetime of poverty. So much sickness and death. The lack of food and water causes so many problems. People here are used to hearing of people dying. This week military helicoptors were dispatched to the Turkana area to bury the 29 bodies found including a woman still holding her baby in her arms. They all died from a water borne illness - from drinking bad water. But, God is good and He can and does encourage us if we allow it. I am grateful for all of you who read these updates, who send back encouraging messages and who even pray for me. I am not too proud to say it isn't easy and I need all those prayers.
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Thursday, December 3

People long to make a difference

Those who love the Lord and want to follow the teachings of Jesus long to make a difference in the world. We were reminded of this again yesterday. Also singing at the World's Aids Day was the gospel group known as the best in Kenya. They are very popular singing all over the world. They have all the equipment they want and as Sammy pointed out they have a 2000 keyboard. The keyboard Sammy desires someday. They sang 6 songs while we sang two. I went to their lead vocalist and spoke with. We agreed to meet for tea to talk. Franko and I met him last night. He told us that yes they are now very successful, making money, singing at events all the time but when he saw the guys singing what if? he said he wanted to go sing with them. He told Franko how blessed he was to be using his talents to make a difference in the world. He is a Christian and he offered to help us. He wanted to join with the guys to sing to make a difference in the world. We were all reminded about what is important - not fame, not wealth, not even a 2000 keyboard. What is important is to make a difference. To someday to be able to stand before Him and hear Him say, "Well done, my faithful servant". I know someday He will say that to the team here on the ground singing to make a difference.
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Tuesday, December 1

Partners for Care presents at World's Aids Day

Yesterday on World's Aids Day 2009 Partners for Care delivered the message what if? there was no HIV/Aids in Kenya, in Africa and in the world? They delivered the message to dignitaries, to all agencies govermental and non-govermental who work to prevent the spread of Aids and to thousands of people through their song what if? and through telling of their work. They also told the crowd through song if there was no Aids in the world we could Smile Again. They were live on TV and as we travelled about the rest of the day in our what if? shirts people were telling us they saw them on TV. But, even with all of the military bands, parades, balloons and speeches about progress made in fighting this disease Ryan and I could not forget what we see - the devasation caused by Aids. Even with progress we still see so many orphans and children infected. I quess it could be worse if progress hadn't been made. But, to that Mom dying from Aids or that baby born infected it is hard to say "we have made progress". In speeches they said over 300,000 people in Kenya are now on ARVs (the drugs people with Aids take to live). That included 3,000 children. Children born infected. They are the most infected and affected by Aids. Today we begin the meetings with people we met yesterday to see where we can partner together to enhance the fight against Aids. Maybe next year World's Aids Day 2010 they can announce no baby was born infected in Kenya.
Proud of the what if? team,
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