Friday, September 4, 2015

Kenya - Post 4: Alisha's point of view

Waiting to depart in the airport...
I've been wanting to go on a project trip with Brad since we joined EMI in 2007. So when the talk of a trip to Kenya surfaced around the office, I was really excited but didn't know how it could possibly work for our family. My excitement grew when both sets of grandparents gladly agreed to have the boys visit for a week each during the trip. Watching the boys board their plane in Denver was a little unnerving, but knowing they were headed to the West Coast for some family fun brought peace.

We owe a huge thank you to our parents who turned this trip into a great memory for Brodie, Jonah and Graysen.  The boys were so excited for their first plane trek by themselves and getting to see grandparents thwarted any complaints of Mom and Dad traveling back to Africa without them. ;) As we boarded each of our three flights I was definitely aware of the distance growing between us and the boys - I think I had forgotten how long it takes to get to Africa! It made me feel for Brad who makes these treks 2-3 times a year. 
...watching the boys' plane pull back from the gate, lump
firmly in throat.
A week and a half in, the boys were absolutely beside
themselves missing us, as seen in this picture. Err...
Seeing what it takes to lead one of these projects taught me (as a teacher) what a 12-day class field trip might look like. Yikes! There are so many details to manage -  the logistics of flight arrivals for each of the team members, money for drivers, general team facilitating, oodles of meetings, schedules, a final presentation, and the overall well-being of each team member. I enjoyed observing Brad carry out his role as a leader with humility, using his British sense of humor and easy-going approach to work to help the team feel comfortable and not pressured in their own roles.  To see him in a position that God has so clearly equipped him for was great confirmation that we are where God has us for this time.

It's hard to sum up our time at Into Abba's Arms orphanage (IAA), but I'll give it a brief try. The orphanage sits amidst acres of beautiful rural farmland, 1 1/2 hours northwest of Nairobi. It's a beautiful piece of property, much quieter than our home in Uganda. Throughout our time there, I enjoyed getting to know Jane Gravis a bit, a very kind Texan who started the ministry about 15 years ago. Jane is a woman of faith who contemplates each step with careful consideration for God's leading - such a sweet lady who clearly loves her 42 kids.

On this trip, I learned that I love surveying! (On my right is
Heather, who interned with us in Uganda the very first
semester after we moved there in 2008!)
Some of the initial Master Planning work
Our team's workroom - from morning to night it was a
cauldron of activity.
During the week I enjoyed getting to teach at the onsite preschool a couple of the mornings, play with the children in the afternoons, and help with the meals and dishes, tea times, and morning devotions.  Though I had no engineering or architectural skills to offer, the team was kind to let me help with the surveying a bit as well.  It was also a treat to be able to observe the inner workings of a project trip from start to finish (something I've always wanted to do).  The EMI team was incredible - engineers and architects who brought open minds and much talent, laboring from morning till night as they designed a master plan for expanding the IAA site. I was especially impressed by the team's willingness to listen to and learn from Jane so they could carefully follow the vision.  The expansion will provide homes for the growing number of children in need while continuing to support those in the local community through schooling, lodging, medical help and agriculture. 

Me with some of the kids I taught in the pre-school
The stories of how each of these children came to the orphanage were amazing.  I'll share just one of many before I close.... 

Six years ago, a teenager living in the slums of Nairobi gave birth to her baby and was forced by her family to abandon him in an empty shack.  Since the baby's umbilical cord was left longer than normal, his little body survived for two days without being fed.  The nutrition left in the umbilical cord saved his life until the police found him crying on the dirt ground and transferred him to a rescue center in Nairobi. After being evaluated he was left laying on a metal table under a thin blanket. 
That same day, one of the administrators and a house mom from IAA traveled to the rescue center to take home seven children. When they saw the infant laying on the table they asked the worker what would happen to him. The worker replied, "Don't worry about that one, he is going to die." Desperate to help, they called Auntie Donna, an American lady with a servant's heart who lives at IAA and overseas the orphanage. Auntie Donna had recently made an emergency visit to the States to help her daughter with their pre-mature newborn (who weighed just two-pounds at birth) and was due to return to Kenya. As a result of her time helping her daughter, Auntie Donna arrived back at the orphanage equipped to care for the newborn, whom they named Jacob.  Jacob is now six years old, healthy, energetic, and thriving at IAA.  He has a family, faith in God, a warm bed, plenty of food, a school, and 40 friends to grow up with. 

Jacob!
When I read bedtime stories to the children each evening at IAA, Jacob always sat right in the front, joining in the parts of stories he knew and praying for the rest of the children before they headed off to bed.  When the second half of the bible story of Daniel was missing from one of the books, Jacob told the rest of the story in detail.  Later in the week, when I taught in the preschool, Jacob became my aide, helping me learn all the names of the children and volunteering for any task.  He is such a sweet, bright boy - so outgoing and full of spunk. It's amazing to think of all the things God worked out for little Jacob. 


Before this blog gets any longer, I want to thank you for giving to our work with EMI through your prayers and financial support.  Because of what God has done through all of you, we are privileged to all be working in this ministry together.