When I made the 11th-hour decision to dash off to Kenya last month with my dear friends, C.H. & Kathy McClure, along with lovely daughter, Michelle, to assist in opening the Clinic at Ematsayi Mission in Western Kenya, I had planned to spend at least half of my time in Nairobi, visiting with the children and teachers at our school there. I was reminded, however, of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and his famous line, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” I stayed longer in Western than anticipated, helping with the Clinic, and then speaking at the opening session of a seminar for pastors, leaders, overseers, evangelists, women and youth leaders. It was impossible to stay for the entire 3-day conference, as my return ticket demanded otherwise.
I did manage to surprise everyone at the school upon my arrival, hiding outside the pink gate behind a telephone pole in the street, until the McClures had been introduced to the teachers and children, then throwing the door open and hollering, “Surprise!” What joy it was to see everyone.
As you can see from the picture above, C.H. was just as smitten with Rita as I had been last summer. The children were delightful, and in their customary fashion, entertained the ‘Wazungu’ (white people), one class at a time.
Kenyan schools run from January through November, so this new school year had just begun shortly before our arrival. When God laid the children here in the Tassia Slums of Nairobi on my heart a short 16 months ago, there were 38 students, living and attending school in conditions like this:
Within 3 weeks of our initial contact, we had started The Hope Factory, and just 7 weeks later, had moved the school to its present location, along with the Directors and their children, who made the second floor their new home. Only God can accomplish something like that so quickly. Student enrollment immediately jumped to 60!
By the time John and I arrived on July 4, 2012, we learned that enrollment had grown to 82. I almost had a heart attack at the prospect of feeding and educating so many children, but have learned that this is God’s plan, not mine, and He is faithful to provide! I won’t rehash the details of that trip, as they can be read in my first report, “Our First Few Days in Kenya,” and the reports following. Even in this lovely new facility, the overcrowding and challenges of dealing with that many children were daunting. One toilet, one tiny apartment-size stove and refrigerator, tiny classrooms which had been partitioned with plywood, teachers who were doing double-duty — not only teaching, but washing 82 pairs of hands twice a day for meals, escorting 82 little ones to the bathroom (lined with multiple plastic potties), cleaning, and serving meals.
In the month or so before our arrival, we had been forced to make the decision to move the Director’s family to another location several blocks away, allowing the school to expand into the second floor of The Pink House, doubling its size. With the beginning of a new school year, the admission of the incoming Baby Class, and the school now going through the 5th grade, we were expecting (and had agreed upon) a maximum of 100 children. Another surprise awaited us when we learned that there are now 120! It’s a difficult situation when there are so many precious children there in the slums who would never receive an education, who would not even be assured of a daily meal, unless they could attend this school. Other schools have mandatory fees, require uniforms, and do not provide meals. Our administrator was faced with parents showing up, crying, on their knees begging, asking that their children be admitted. People throughout the entire area of the Tassia district of Nairobi have heard about the excellence and love that abides behind the pink gates our school, and want nothing more than for their children to be nurtured and educated by our devoted teachers and staff.
When the Director and his wife set out to find another place to live, they walked for many hours every day, searching for something suitable. They found nothing anywhere close to the school, and they have no form of transportation to travel back and forth. Still, they looked miles and miles away, knowing that they would have to catch a matatu (14-passenger van) or a piki-piki (motorbike) to school every day. Finally, they found a house under construction just a few blocks from the school, but it was quite elaborate and cost much more than any of us wanted to pay, when there are so many needs at the school. This was mid-December, and classes were getting ready to start back up on January 7. Not fully convinced that it was the right house, we felt backed into a corner and reluctantly agreed to rent the house. The owners said that it would be ready for occupancy the next week, so they packed up all their belongings and stayed put over Christmas. The next week came and went; and then the next, and the next. One delay after another; one excuse after another. January 7th rolled around and the students returned to school, with the family still in a holding pattern upstairs.
The new house was two stories, and had a downstairs bedroom and bathroom, perfect for C.H. and Kathy, since it is extremely difficult for him to navigate stairs. Four days before our arrival, the Director asked the landlord to e-mail him a copy of the lease so he could look over it before signing it and moving in the following day. The e-mail never arrived. We still don’t know why the owner was stringing them along. We were able to get the deposit and first month’s rent refunded, and they hit the street again. After a long day of searching, they called an agent for help.
In Nairobi, one must hire an agent and pay him upfront to even see a property. Immediately upon engaging one, they were told of a house that had been vacated the day before and was available, and very near the school. It was almost dark by the time they saw it, and it turned out to be the very same house they had found five years ago when it was brand new. At the time, however, there were no funds available to obtain the house, and they continued to live in their apartment in the Pipeline Slums for several more years. The very next day, they and all their children moved their belongings and settled in, only ONE day before we arrived. Not quite as spacious as their home inside The Pink House, this one (The Black House) has an extra bedroom (DOWNSTAIRS!). Just what the Doctor ordered!!!!
After we had spent a couple of nights in Nairobi recovering from our trip, we set off for Western Kenya. Now that I have had the opportunity to give a report to our generous and loving church family at Cherokee Baptist Church this morning, I am ready to post this report and move on to the story of our time, opening the Clinic in Western Kenya, outside Kakamega. Give me a day or so, and expect to see it right here!
Love and blessings to you all! (Barikiwa sana! – Be blessed so much!)