I've been putting this off. How do you tell a story to people about a place where you left part of your heart? A place where, if God provided a way for Brenna and I to go tomorrow, I would go back in a heartbeat. A place where the people reading this have not been. (though there have been a few hits here from Kampala and Nairobi! Hello!) I don't know how.
I have come to realize that, in telling these stories, I cannot do the experience justice. I feel like I am minimizing something so HUGE. Making it into something smaller than it is somehow. I'm writing here about what I experienced. What I saw, I try to tell you what I felt.
I sit down to write, and I can't see the screen through the tears. Every time. My heart is broken.
When we first got to Kampala in Uganda, a few of us went with one of our leaders to a bank to exchange our group's money. We went in to town. I've never seen so many people (and I do live in a big city in Texas.) The traffic was horrendous. Seriously, this is one of the things I cannot explain to you. I'm quite sure there are no traffic laws. Ok, maybe there are laws. They are not followed.
Because of the traffic, we didn't get back to where we were staying until hours after we had planned. We never planned to be in the city after dark. It's not safe. Dangerous.
Maybe one day I will tell you more about what we saw on that drive. Scary and oh so sad.
We had only been in Africa just hours. I didn't love it yet. The town was dirty. The people were dirty. The smells hit you like a ton of bricks. Horrible smells. People that are so different from me; I can't begin to tell you.
I don't know how long it took me to fall in love. I didn't write/journal one single word while we were there. I was overwhelmed the entire time. I experienced it. I LOVED. I processed nothing. I was just there.
Those horrible awful smells and those people so different from myself, I fell in love with them. There are things I brought back filthy that I cannot bring myself to wash. A jacket, a bag; they are going to smell like Africa for awhile longer. If I'm being honest, I smell them every now and then. ;-)
My tennis shoes are dirty. Very dirty. They need to be washed, but I can't do it. It's FIWAGOH (Nakuru, Kenya) dirt. I think I really only wore my tennis shoes one day. It was on our walk to the lake with 180 orphans from FIWAGOH. I mentioned it and showed you some pictures in this post.
We walked for hours. Seriously. The kids were so excited to show us everything we saw. The flamingos were beautiful. The monkeys were cute (and too fast to get pictures of that day.) We saw more cow poop than I ever care to see again. Have I told you how many cows I saw on my trip? TONS.
Lots of us fell in love with the kids on that walk. The Fiwagoh Mission Orphanage is an amazing place. Oh those children love Jesus. They worship God like nothing I have ever witnessed. I have never heard a 13-yr-old boy preach like I did in this place. They know that God is the one that provides their two meals a day. They know the faithfulness of our Father. I want to need Jesus like these little ones do. I want to know that He is the one providing for my every need. I can do nothing without Him.
Pastor Benson, his precious wife, Florence, and the staff at Fiwagoh are doing an awesome work for our Lord in that place. Pastor Benson was a young child living on the streets himself when a Christian man took him in to live with his family. He always knew that he wanted to give love and hope to an (one) orphan when he grew up. Now he loves 180 orphans like his very own. He loves them so much.
The kids got out of going to school the day we spent there with them. We played and we played and we played somemore. We did balloon relays. We played football (soccer), kickball and 'What Time Is It Mr. Fox." We sang and told bible stories and did crafts. And got sunburned. I. Fried. Did you know that Kenya in ON the equator? Yeah, apparently that means that even when it's not as hot as it is in Houston you're pretty close to the sun. So even with lots of sunscreen this white girl will fry.
The next morning we had to say goodbye. It tore. us. up. to leave. Even our bus driver, Daniel, was crying. Bless his heart. He was an amazing bus driver that took excellent care of us in Kenya.
Of course all of the children want to know when you will come back. We were the only group that has visited this new facility of theirs, and they've been in it for a little over a year and a half. They just don't get visitors. They loved letting us love them. I told them to start praying about it, and I would start praying about it, and we would see what happens.
They must have prayed HARD that day.
We left. We travelled to Elldoret HOURS away. We ran into some pretty scary and dangerous situations there. We had no choice but to leave that town, but where could we go? Diana got on the phone with Pastor Benson and asked if we could come back. He said they'd love to have us. We were so excited. There wasn't a dry eye in the bus. Even Daniel's. We were going back to see our kids. We sang the whole way there.
*A little side note - On our way back to Fiwagoh, we got pulled over by the police (which happened to this bus with 22 white women VERY often.) The officer exchanged words with Daniel, but of course we had no idea what they were saying. After they let us go on, Daniel told us what the police officer had said to him. He said he wanted money, but Daniel told him all of our stuff was on top of the bus and we didn't have any money. The officer then wanted to get on the bus with us. He said he would ride with us to our destination. Daniel knew what he wanted and told the guy that we were all lesbians and didn't like men. That's why there we no men with us. He believed him and let us go on our way. Yeah. A trip.
We didn't get to Fiwagoh until late, so the little ones were already in bed. I bet they weren't sleeping, because Pastor Benson had told them we were on our way. He said that when he got off the phone and told them we were coming back, they started screaming and crying. They kinda liked us. ;-)
When we drove through the gate, the big kids jumped on the bus and fell into our laps. None of us could believe we were really there.
We had literally been travelling all day. It's not an easy travel in Kenya either. Think of the worst road you've ever driven on in the US. Then somehow make it worse in your mind. Yeah, that for miles and miles. We were beyond exhausted.
The next day I was sick. I was the first one to fall. Our team started dropping like flies in the days after (and on our way home.) This 'Africa cold' is TOUGH. I'm still battling it.
I stayed in bed for the morning while members of our team worked their hineys off helping the women clean at the compound. Some of our team spent the morning at a market buying food for the orphanage. Food is their biggest struggle. Since we had saved some money by coming back to Fiwagoh instead of staying in the other two hotels we were scheduled to stay in, we spent that on the kids. It was the first time in THREE years that they had had pineapple. :-( I wish they could have fruit more often. It's so healthy.
I think the second time we left these precious ones was harder than the first. We had them line up between us and the bus. Then we hugged 180 beautiful, sweet, Jesus loving, precious brown children. Each of them got at least 22 hugs. I say at least, because I saw many that figured out that if they went to the end of the line after they got their hugs, they would get more. Sweet, sweet babies.
We left them about 7:30 AM and headed to Nairobi to shop at the market (a HORRID experience) and to a ceramic jewelry factory that was REALLY neat. I will tell you about it another time.
I thought I would save this post, add some pictures to it tomorrow (I'm at work without my pictures), and then publish it. But... I think I will publish it now and post some pictures tomorrow in a separate post. This one has gotten mighty long.
I have work to do, so I don't have time to go back and proof-read this. I hope it makes sense without too many spelling/grammer errors. ;-)