My favorite word in Swahili is Tumaini. It means hope. All I had to do, then, was find the word for factory – Kiwanda. So, there you have it:  Kiwanda cha Tumaini, the Swahili equivalent of The Hope Factory. The sound is so beautiful, a fitting name for the orphanage we plan to open when we return to Kenya in August.

Kiwanda cha Tumaini. I just can’t quit saying it!

There are so many babies and young children in Kenya who have lost both parents to HIV/Aids, or whose parents are so destitute that they cannot care for their children. In the slum area of Nairobi, this is particularly true. In order to serve those precious little ones, to assure that they have a chance in life, we will just jump in with both feet and see what we can do.

We took our first baby step yesterday when we picked up a ton of infant girl clothing from our sweet friend, Neely Rogers Michaelis. Just touching these clothes served as tangible evidence to me that we’re really going to do this!

Baby Clothes

Neely and Andy have two precious little girls, Lila and Cora. So, to all four of them, we say a heartfelt thank-you. I can’t wait to see these cute little frocks on our little Kenyan babies!

Neely & Andy, Lila & Cora

John and I leave for Kenya on August 1. Going with us will be Michelle McClelland and Brooke Woosley. I’ll tell you more about Brooke a little later.

Michelle went with us in January when we reopened the clinic in Western Kenya. It was clearly evident that God had placed a burden on her heart, a deep desire to adopt or care for orphaned children. At 19, she is bravely surrendering her life to follow God’s will. She has the advantage of having already fallen in love with Kenya and the Kenyan people, so any hesitancy that she had prior to January has evaporated.

Michelle - CroppedThe thing that blows my hair back is the way I have seen God moving at warp speed since we jumped on board with His plans. This isn’t us. These are not our plans. This is God moving. As we have made ourselves available to Him, He has blazed a trail before us. The past 19 months (I’m not kidding you, it’s only been 19 months since we founded The Hope Factory!) have taken us to places we never imagined, doing things we could never have dreamed up on our own.

God is good!  All the time!  That is His nature!

Mungu akubariki sana!  (God bless you BIG!)

Mary Catherine

One Hundred Days . . . and Counting!

From the moment we first set foot on Kenyan soil last summer, the land and its residents captured a part of our hearts, and when we left there, part of us remained, planted forever in that captivating country.  Now, all we can say is, “Come on, August 1st!”  We will be returning to Kenya, and today marks the 100-day countdown!

This time, we’re longing to see people we love.  Last time, we were walking into an unknown. This time, we know what to expect. We know about the terrible traffic jams in Nairobi; we know about the fragrant fumes from open sewage in the slums; we know about the Texas-sized potholes in the dirt streets, and the Maasai, herding their cattle home in 5:00 o’clock traffic.  We also know that almost every meal will consist of rice and beans, of chapati, ugali, and sukuma wiki.

But we also know the beautiful children, and their sweet, endearing hugs.

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M.C. & Shallat

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We know the loving, caring teachers and staff at our school.

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Farewell - Teachers

We know and cherish a handful of precious pastors from across Kenya.


M.C. & Absalom

Farewell Michael

Stanley Shitandi

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And the wonderful medical personnel at the Clinic at Ematsayi in Western Kenya.


C.H., Jane, Phanice & Husband

There are so many others whose faces we long to see.


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Tabitha, M.C., Jane & Kathy



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I started this post with the intention of telling all about the plans we have for our upcoming trip.  (Did I mention that it’s only ONE HUNDRED DAYS ’til we leave?)  Instead, I have spent the entire day, overwhelmed with emotion, looking back through pictures of these amazing people we love so dearly.  Perhaps tomorrow I will tell you of our exciting plans!

Mungu akubariki!  (God bless you!)

Mary Catherine

Clinically Speaking

I am an incurable optimist.  Usually.  However, in this situation, I saw no way that we could fit six adults, all of our luggage, and the mountains of medical equipment and supplies that had been showered on us at the last minute before leaving Texas, into this smaller-than-average MINI-van.  I had already checked the roof, looking for a way to anchor some of the luggage on top.  Nothing.  So I climbed in the back and started on what was to be the best packing job of my life!  It all fit!  There wasn’t much room left for the humans, and eleven hours of traveling like this, packed in like sardines, was tough, but we finally made it from Nairobi to Western Kenya sometime after dark.


Unloading didn’t take nearly as long, as there were so many helping hands.  Our arrival had been anticipated for hours.  C.H. and Kathy took up residence inside the Clinic building, and Michelle and I headed up the hill in the dark to the Missionary House.  We were thankful for journey mercies, and ready to kick back and unwind a bit.  The closest thing I could find to a glass was a plastic measuring cup.  Hey!  I wasn’t complaining!

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We arrived on a Thursday night, and the Clinic was scheduled to open on Monday.  As a reminder, this is the Clinic that John and I discovered, sitting empty, last summer when we visited Western Kenya.  When I walked in that first day, I immediately sat down and e-mailed our dear college friend, C.H. McClure, a retired and disabled family physician and said, “C.H.!!  This place has your name written all over it!”  He agreed that if we could find the staff, he would come and do the training.  Five months later, here we are, ready to get started!


We hadn’t even finished unpacking the medicine Friday morning when sick people started showing up.  At first, we didn’t even know who was helping us unpack.  This is Aggrey, the nurse, and Matthew, the pastor.

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The nearest medical facility is many kilometers away, and forget calling for an ambulance.  This is what we found when we drove there.

Nearest Medical Facility

It took several trips to the pharmacy in Kakamega throughout the week as we began to assess the needs in the Clinic.

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By Monday morning, having already treated twenty or so patients over the weekend, we were set.  People started showing up at daylight and the line soon stretched out the building.  All day, there were people sitting or lying on the ground outside, some under the shade of a tree, some just stretched out in the sun.

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We quickly fell into a routine as we attended to the needs of each patient, some with everyday aches and pains, some desperately ill.  On that first day, we saw over 100 patients, three of whom would probably not have lived another 48 hours had they not been treated.  One such case was this precious 2-month-old baby girl, so severely dehydrated that her eyes were sunken in and glazed over.

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There was no moisture whatsoever in her mouth.  Her color, her unresponsiveness, and her erratic breathing all indicated that she was near the end of her life.  Her veins had collapsed, and it was difficult to even find one to insert an IV, but after administering fluids and antibiotics to settle her GI tract, her mother took her home for the night.  The next day, she looked like a different child, sleeping peacefully in her mother’s arms!  God is good!

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Another young woman named Abigail came in, already going into shock from a pelvic abscess resulting from a miscarriage the month before.  Her blood pressure was 90/53 and falling.  A round of IV antibiotics and fluids stabilized her, but it became evident by the next morning, doubled over in pain, that she would require surgery.  The only way her family had to transport her to the hospital in Kakamega (an hour away) was on the back of a hired piki-piki (motorbike), down bumpy, dusty roads.  Thankfully, Nixon was on his way to the Clinic in the mini-van.  When he arrived, I took the blanket off of C.H. & Kathy’s bed and folded it several times, trying to make a soft mattress for her, placing it on the back seat.  Her family members rode along, as Nixon played ambulance driver.  After being admitted, it was found that she needed 3 units of blood before she could safely undergo surgery.  The local blood bank only had one unit of B-positive blood, and she had to wait several days before it was available.  Eventually, she did receive the surgery she needed and was released several weeks later from the hospital.

At the end of Day One, when we collapsed at the dinner table, we soon realized that the day wasn’t quite over.  Another patient had shown up.  C.H. started to get up and make his way back into the exam room, but I suggested that he just stay put, and I would bring the patient to him.

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In addition to the patients we saw here, there were several “field trips” to Mobile (or Branch) Clinics, hours away from our home base at Ematsayi.  People in these districts had been alerted ahead of time that there would be a doctor to see them, and they lined up by the dozens!  C.H. and the gifted nurse from Ematsayi, Aggrey Ingutia, administered loving and skillful treatment, working together as if they had done so forever.

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Even in the midst of so much sickness and suffering, we were all filled with indescribable joy.  The hectic and demanding nature of our schedule did not prevent moments of absolute hilarity.  Other than the supplies from Christian Alliance for Humanitarian Aid, showered on us at the last minute before leaving Texas, and the medicine we purchased with money from Cherokee Baptist Church in our little hometown, we had to make do.  Sometimes we worked in the dark . . .

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. . . and sometimes we were cracking jokes like, “You might be a Redneck Doctor if you use the bottom half of a plastic Diet Coke bottle as a urine specimen container!”

Redneck Practice

Now that the Clinic at Ematsayi is open and operational, it continues to be staffed, not only by Aggrey, but also by Jane Otieno Mutuli, the new Clinical Officer.  She and her sweet daughter, Phanice, arrived by piki-piki on the first Monday morning we were officially open, and her husband arrived a couple of weeks later.  They now live on the grounds of the Mission.

C.H., Jane, Phanice & Husband

One of the sweetest ‘coincidences’ during our time at Ematsayi was the arrival of this anointed and gifted Child of God, John Okwadho.  He quickly dubbed himself my newly born Kenyan son.Kenya 504

John’s actual purpose in being there during our visit was to fill in for Pastor Matthew Wabuko at the church at Ematsayi that first Sunday, while we trekked off to a church several hours away at Navakholo.  After catching just a few minutes of John’s singing and leading the worship at Ematsayi, it was difficult to leave, but we were greeted with a beautiful sight upon arrival at Navakholo.  Children.  Beautiful children!  I think that’s one of the things I love most about Kenya.  There are beautiful, loving, delightful children everywhere you look!

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The worship was wonderful!  In the midst of abject poverty, these people are rich beyond our wildest imagination.

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Back at Ematsayi, I quickly called upon John to help with interpretation with our patients.  His English is impeccable, and he was a valuable addition to the staff.  He showed up bright and early, spit-polished, in his very best clothes.  Leaving his flip-flops behind, he donned dress shoes.  Unfortunately, his size 10 foot was crammed into a size 9 shoe, and I noticed him that evening rubbing his aching feet, yet never complaining!

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John is 24 years old, one of five siblings whose father died some years ago.  Although he is the thirdborn, he is the firstborn son, and it has fallen upon him to support not only his mother and younger siblings, but also his wife and 9-month-old baby.  None of his brothers and sisters (nor he) was able to go beyond the 8th grade because of the death of their father.  I learned that it is John’s fervent desire to complete his education.  He has tried to return to school twice.  The most recent attempt was in an orphanage that closed down because of corruption before he completed the first term of the 9th grade.

After learning of his plight, and realizing what a gifted young man he is — so full of the Spirit of God, so full of determination and a positive outlook — we worked to obtain a spot for him at a school in Nairobi.  He will enter on Monday, March 11, in the first term of the 10th grade, and will finish high school in 2015.  This is a young man with dreams and a vision.  It was God who arranged for his path to cross ours; it is God who has plans to prosper John, and not to harm him; plans to give him hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11)  He is stepping out in faith, leaving his family in Western Kenya, to pursue the dream that God has placed in his heart.  I know that God will use John in a mighty way!  My life has been blessed by crossing his path, and by being used of God to provide for His precious child.  He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider.  He is already pouring out blessings to provide for this precious child of His, and to see that his family doesn’t go hungry in the process.

Last summer, one of the precious pastors we met and have continued to be in touch with is Absalom Tadayo.  Absalom has a church in Bungoma, quite a distance from Ematsayi.  I had hoped to see him on this trip, but it was impossible to find the time to even send him a text message.  Finally, right before it was time for me to go, I contacted him.  He jumped on a matatu and then a piki-piki, traveling for 3 hours just to come say hello, then turn around after 45 minutes and head back home.  An unseasonable rainstorm changed all that!  When I say rainstorm, I’m talking horizontal rain storm!!

We got caught on the gazebo outside the clinic, and looked like a bunch of drowned rats by the time we could run inside.  Someone had to take a big red tarp out and hold it over C.H.’s head so he could make his way inside on his walker.

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The rain didn’t let up, and it soon became apparent that Absalom was stuck.  Whoopee!  What a blessing!  It gave us time for a wonderful visit and a time of prayer with Stanley Shitandi, a pastor and Bible professor who lives near the Mission.

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Absalom stayed with the other pastors that night in a building not too far from the Missionary House where Michelle and I were staying.  I know we kept them awake into the wee hours with our laughter and Michelle’s screams.  (That was when she jumped onto a chair in the living room because she had opened the door to the kitchen in time to see a rat run up the wall.)

I haven’t said much about Michelle, the 19-year-old daughter of C.H.’s wife, Kathy.  That’s because her story will take another entire post!  In fact, I believe that you will be hearing a lot about Michelle in all my future posts.  What an incredible heart for children and orphans God has given her!

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I believe that an orphanage is in the future for The Hope Factory.  And land on which to grow food for the children.  And I believe that Michelle, and Absalom, and Harun, are all being woven into the beautiful tapestry that God is creating as He directs our thoughts and our steps, one day at a time.

Much love to all of you!

Mary Catherine

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men


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.

Surprise Appearance

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.

Entertainment 1

Entertainment 2

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:

Old Neighborhood

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.

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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!)

Mary Catherine

Expanding Our Territory



I mentioned in my last post that I was looking forward to 2013 with wide-eyed excitement, wondering what the New Year would hold for us.  I had no idea when I wrote those words (one month ago), that I would be returning to Kenya so soon!  I had felt a heavy burden on my heart for weeks to go, knowing that I could be instrumental in setting up the Clinic in Western Kenya and planning for its future.  There was so much I wanted to discuss with Bishop Javan Ommani, but I needed to know that it wasn’t merely my wish, my desire to return.  I wanted to know for certain that it was God’s will.  Everyone around me seemed to know it, but it wasn’t until John laid his hand on my shoulder and gave me his blessing, that I knew I had to go.

John is sitting this one out.  Last summer, he lost 20 pounds while we were there (12 of them in ONE DAY), and hasn’t managed to put much of it back on.  He can’t really afford another 20, so he’ll continue to beef back up while we look forward to our next trip together.  The older we get, the more precious our time is together, so the excitement of my going is tempered by knowing how desperately I will miss The Love of My Life!

February 2012 - Cruise

I have been reminded this week of the Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10 – “Now Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.’  And God granted his request.”

God has blessed us indeed, and it seems He has expanded our territory.  When we first felt called to Kenya, it appeared that the focus was 100% on the school in the Tassia Slums of Nairobi.  Oh, how we were blessed by serving, and continuing to serve, the dear children there.  Out of nowhere, however, came an invitation to Western Kenya, near the border of Uganda, to speak at a Women’s Conference at Ematsayi.  Upon our arrival, we were housed in a totally empty Clinic/Hospital that had been out of use for some time, with no personnel nor funds to staff and supply it.  This is the nicest, most modern building in the entire area, and to see it sitting there, unused, was a tragedy.


My first thought was of our dear college friend, C.H. McClure, a retired physician living in Galveston.  I e-mailed him and said the place had “C.H.” written all over it.  That was in late August.  C.H. leaves with his family on Saturday to train a nurse and a clinic officer, and do whatever is necessary to get medical help to the people who live in the Bush Country around Kakamega.  In his owns words, he’s “ready to draw his sword and do battle with the dragon,” very excited and grateful for the opportunity to serve his fellowman again.

Here are just a few of the children who live in this rural bush country of Kenya.

Ematsayi Children

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What a joy it will be for me to assist in this effort, to sit down and brainstorm with the Good Doctor and Bishop Ommani, to find ways to bring help to these dear children and their families.  Last week, the night before I made my decision to go, one of the local families had brought their 8-year-old son to the Clinic, seeking help.  There was no one to help him, and he died.  He was buried the next day.  I can’t bear to think of this loss, not when there is so much we can do, so many people who would be willing to go and serve if they just knew!

Of course, I couldn’t return to Kenya without spending at least half of my time with my beloved little ones at our school in Nairobi, so that’s just what I’m going to do!  Since I just bought my ticket a couple of days ago, I have managed to keep my arrival a secret from the teachers.  I’m like a little kid, bubbling over with excitement, ready to jump out from behind the corner of the building and yell, “SURPRISE!!!”

Can’t wait to send reports!

Love to all,

Mary Catherine

Missing Rita!

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I find myself missing Rita, and praying that we’ll be able to return to Kenya this summer to serve the precious children at our school in the slums of Nairobi.  They are all precious, but just like children everywhere, some of them have a way of wrapping themselves around your heart in a special way.  Rita is one of those!

When school resumes in January, Rita will have ‘graduated’ from Baby Class to Nursery Class, with 21 three-, four-, and five-year-olds.  All total, we will have 100 students from Baby Class to 5th Grade.  Pastor Nixon and his wife, Modester, are busy right now, moving out of the second floor of the building where the school has been housed for the past year, in order to make room for the school.  What a blessing The Pink House has been!

As we look forward to our next trip, we are thrilled that a dear college friend of ours, C.H. McClure, and his wife, Kathy, and her daughter, Michelle, will be heading to Western Kenya where John and I ministered last August.  C.H., a retired family practice physician from Lufkin, now living in Galveston, will be reopening the clinic at Ematsayi Mission, training clinic personnel to assess patient conditions.  He takes with him a lifetime of medical knowledge and experience, and a wife and step-daughter whose hearts are tender and ready to serve the Lord wherever He leads them.

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At eighteen, Michelle’s life is getting ready to be transformed in a way she can’t even imagine!

Michelle - Cropped

In this rural area of Kenya near the Ugandan border, the closest doctor is probably 45 minutes away (by vehicle), and there is only one vehicle in the area.  It belongs to Bishop Javan Ommani and, as you can imagine, he has people knocking on his door at all hours of the day and night, seeking help in finding medical attention.  We are hopeful that once the clinic is back up and operational, we will be able to assist in supplying all of its needs – doctors, medical equipment, and medications.

What an incredible year this has been for us!  We look forward to 2013 with wide-eyed excitement, wondering what’s next!


Mary Catherine

Kindergarten Graduation 2012

Hezron Andala

What an exciting day it is when kindergarten students ‘graduate’ to the First Grade! Graduation Day at our school in the Tassia Slums is no exception. This event marked the end of the Kenyan school year which will resume in January 2013.

Since the students will be out of school through Christmas, we combined the celebration of the preschool graduation with a celebration of Jesus’ birth! Because of the cost  involved in purchasing individual gifts for 82 children, we opted for several high-quality gifts for the school instead – things like leather soccer balls, jump ropes, dolls, and remote control cars. These are things that these children never have had access to, so it will be a blessing for them to have some playground equipment and some real toys to play with at school!


We didn’t want to send them home empty-handed however, so we gave each of them a lollipop, and a small supply of food for each family (flour, rice, and sugar) to help tide them over during the weeks that school will be out.  We also set up a special fund to assist the neediest of the families, trying to make certain that no one goes hungry over the holidays, just because school is out.

Food Collage

The highlight of the combined festivities was a BOUNCING CASTLE , a PUPPET SHOW, and FACE PAINTING.

Game Day 2

These children have never experienced anything like this!

We are faced with many challenges as we look forward to the 2013 school year.  The over-crowding this year has been one of the greatest of these challenges – 82 students and 12 staff members, crammed into one floor of The Pink House. When school resumes, our 4th graders will move up to the newly added 5th grade class, and there will be a new Baby Class coming in.  Enrollment is being capped at 100 for the next couple of years as we try to deal with the growth, and the decision has been made for the Director’s family to move out of the upstairs, allowing the school to expand into that space.  We are trusting God for the additional monthly income to pay for new housing for his family.  God has been faithful in providing for their needs and pouring His blessings out on this family, and we are certain that He will continue to do so.

Thank you to the dedicated teachers and staff for a wonderful school year!  May you come back refreshed and rested as we look forward to 2013!

Love you all!

Mary Catherine

Farewell, Kenya – Hello, Texas!


The heart-wrenching experience of leaving our precious friends and loved ones in Kenya was eased at the sight of the greatest blessing in our lives – our children and grandchildren.  From the airport, we made a bee-line to Rudy’s Barbeque, which let us know without a doubt that we were back home in Texas!

Two months flew by, and there is no way to describe the heart connections we made while we were there.  Words fail us.  It’s a supernatural thing – that oneness of Spirit that only God can produce between people from different continents, different social and economic backgrounds, different cultures.

It’s a Kenyan thing to call one’s elders ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa.’  That took some getting used to, but I can honestly say that the people we met have become like children and grandchildren to us.  Saying ‘goodbye’ was like leaving a family member behind.

Goodbye to Michael Maura, the most precious, Spirit-filled pastor who ministers to the children and teachers at our school.  His faithful devotion, leading Friday afternoon Bible studies, ladies’ fellowships, and the church that many of these people attend (Bethesda Baptist), inspires and encourages me.  His kind, gentle manner and his brotherly friendship with our Director have endeared him to us.

Goodbye to Erick and John, and to all the other teachers and staff.  We love you all, and pray that we will see you again soon.  Thank you for your hard work and selfless devotion.  You are truly world changers!

Farewell, Javan!  What an unexpected blessing you brought into our lives by inviting us to Ematsayi Mission in Western Kenya!  Your infectious smile has indelibly imprinted itself upon our memories.  How we pray for the opportunity to return and minister to all the wonderful people we met out there.  Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for all that you do for everyone who comes into your life.

Farewell, Absalom, Alfred and Stanley, and all the other precious pastors we met at Ematsayi. May God continue to bless you and use you for His glory!

We continue to pray for the Lord’s leading as we decide when we will return to Kenya.  This time last year, we had no idea we would be going.  In fact, we hadn’t even made contact with anyone in Kenya at that point.  It’s exciting we see what God has in store for us as we follow His lead in our lives!

Blessings to you all!

Mary Catherine

Week 8 – Kenya

Wednesday, August 22nd
Well, we are in the midst of a hair-raising experience!  We left the Mission at 9:20 this morning; it is now 7:35 p.m.  While we were out there we had many problems with one of the rear tires.  Not surprising, because of the incredibly awful condition of the Kenyan roads.  We were never able to get the slow leak fixed, so Nixon just left the spare tire on the car for the trip back.  One additional complication is that the jack broke this morning in his last attempt at changing tires, so we were going to have to replace the jack for the car owner when we got back to Nairobi.
Well, after driving for 10 hours, with Nairobi almost in our sights, pitch dark outside with trucks and matatus (vans over-filled with passengers driven by crazy drivers) whizzing past us, and with headlights that aren’t really pointed in the right directions, we have had a flat on the spare tire.  Thank goodness John was driving and realized what had happened.  We were blessed to have a small place to pull over right after it happened, so he did.  Our host, however, was saying, “Don’t stop here!  This isn’t a safe area.”  John said we really didn’t have a choice unless he wanted us to break completely down in the middle of the speeding traffic.
There were several guys just standing where we pulled over.  After much discussion, our host walked off down the highway with them to find a jack, and John and the other two women in the car unloaded the back of this station wagon type vehicle to get to the other tire, hoping it has enough air left in it to get us to a place where we can air it up and limp into Nairobi.
So, here I sit in the car, which is now jacked up (just since I started writing), and everyone else is standing out beside the busy highway, looking on while the super nice guys who “just happened” to be standing here are changing the tire for us.  The jack that our host was able to borrow is too tall for the little donut spare tire, so all the guys ‘lifted’ the car onto the jack.  (Did I mention that I’m sitting in the car?)
There is no way I can adequately describe this scene.  It has not occurred to me to be scared, although I did immediately pray for angels to surround us.  Maybe they were already here waiting for us.  (When God sends angels, He sends those mighty in strength!)  Who knows. Whatever the case, please pray for us as we attempt to make the last 20 miles or so of this trip.
What a blessing it is to have a modem on this laptop!  The first thing John unloaded from the back was the computer bag, so I decided to take advantage of a better internet connection than we have had in Western Kenya.
This past week has been a turning point in our lives and a blessing I could never describe.  I find this ending to be quite humorous.  The trip has been long, and harrowing at moments, but filled with fun.  The wazungu (white people) are in the front seat and the Kenyans in the back.  I told them about the founding of America, the quest for religious freedom, the writing of the Constitution, based on Christian principles, but where the separation of church and state has led us.
Then I asked John to tell them about Texas’ history.  Wow!  What an amazing story, even for me!!!  It was awe-inspiring.  No wonder Texans brag so much.  We are awesome!!!!!
I think I can feel the car being lowered off the jack, so pray that we have enough air to make it a ways down the road.
Love you all!  Can’t wait to fill you in on what’s been happening here.  We have a former member of the Parliament here in Kenya working on obtaining work permits and Kenyan ID’s for us so we don’t have to go through the hassle in the future of obtaining visas.  (Can you tell we’re planning to come back???)
Blessings!  We’re off!
Sunday, August 26th
This is Hassan, another precious new friend we have made since we arrived in this awesome country.  He is the young Muslim man who lives on the third floor of The Pink House.  We didn’t even know there was a third floor until we arrived.  It was built as a caretaker’s apartment, and Hassan was already living there in December when our school’s Director found The Pink House, under construction but almost complete.
Hassan is getting married on September 29th.  How I wish we were going to be here to celebrate with his friends and family!
I so wish that I had captured a picture of his smile.  I told him he had a ‘Hollywood Smile.’  Having a dentist as a daughter-in-law, especially one who specializes in Hollywood Smiles, I am keenly aware of perfect teeth.  This guy has the most beautiful smile in the world.  What a joy to have met him!
This is Jacob, an endearing young Christian man.  He is a tailor.  On this day, he brought fabric samples and sketches so that we could select something suitable in the way of African shirts for Matt, Carl, and Robert.  This is what our host wanted to send home with us, as gifts for his ‘brothers.’
It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time Jacob arrived, having walked from a great distance.  He returned the next day by 7:00 p.m. with the completed order.  He was leaving town for a Crusade in Western Kenya.  Some day, I hope to have Jacob make uniforms for the children at our school!

Week 7 – Western Kenya

August 21, 2012 – Our Last Day at Etmasayi Mission – Not Too Far From Kakamega, Kenya

Wow!  What a week this has been – a totally unexpected turn of events in this Kenyan Adventure.

When we first planned to come to Kenya, both sets of our hosts parents had invited us to visit their homes in Western Kenya.  They live in the same region – near Kakamega – but in different villages.  They did not know one another growing up.  We had no idea what to expect.  Thatched roof huts?  Cow dung flooring?

We had planned to go immediately after the school closed for break on August 17th.  All of the schools in Kenya are on the same calendar, with three breaks each year, lasting for two to three weeks.  We had no idea exactly where we would be sleeping or how long we would be staying, but we were up for the adventure.

God had another very special plan in mind.  The Bishop of the church where the school Director’s wife’s parents serve had heard of our work with the children here in Nairobi.  He asked if I could come and speak at the Annual Women’s Conference which was beginning on August 15th.   That meant that we had to leave Nairobi on Monday the 13th, missing the entire last week of school with the children; however, they all live nearby so I knew I would see them again.  It also meant that our hosts would leave their own children behind.  Actually, they would have done that anyway, because there was not enough room for all of them in the car we have leased from a neighbor.  They rarely travel with the kids because it is too expensive and cumbersome for all of them to haul their luggage on foot to the nearest junction where they can catch a Matatu (a 14-passenger van crammed with at least 20 people) for the ride through the crazy Nairobi traffic, to catch the huge “Country Bus” for the eight-hour bus ride to Kakamega.  From there, they catch a couple of Piki-Piki’s (motorbikes), several riders per bike, and make their way home.  For the wife’s home, vehicles can only make it so far, then the rest of the way is a very long walk across a footbridge at the river and up a mountain, but what a sight!!!

The higher we went, the more spectacular the scenery.  This is the “bush country” of Africa, previously overgrown with vegetation.  Now it has been cleared and cultivated.  The climate is absolutely perfect, in my book.  I am in a constant state of energy and excitement in the cool clean air.

As you can see, there are no roads to the individual plots of land, just foot paths.

As we approached her childhood home, we found an inviting little compound of buildings made of mud and sticks with an outer coating of concrete.  The floors, too, were concrete and just like every other home we’ve been in over here, the inside was neat and tidy, clean as a whistle.  As you can see, the roof is tin.

The building you see here is where they eat and where the parents sleep.  This is the mom, welcoming us to their home.

The building on the right as we approached houses the kitchen and a spare room for relatives to sleep in.  There are three ‘stoves’ along the wall on the ground, and they are quite efficient in cooking and keeping the food warm.  We have been astounded that no one vents their wood or charcoal fires to the outside.  As you can imagine, this room was quite warm.

there are two sisters named Grace.  (Go figure.)  One was named after the grandmother, and the other was named after an aunt.  One is a teacher at our school and the other works for a company with a contract at the United Nations, preparing and serving food.  I finally had to resort to referring to them as Teacher Grace and Chef Grace.  The whole family has now adopted that habit.  The balls of dough on the right were the work of Chef Grace, preparing Chapati for our meal.  Very similar to our flour tortillas, I have grown to really love them!

The firewood for the ‘stoves’ is stored overhead in the timber rafters.  She had given up on her hair this particular day and had donned a knit cap.  African women spend very little time on their hair, but there is a salon on every corner.  Most of them weave their hair and it is quite attractive.  As Teacher Grace says, “Weave it and leave it!”

I have considered having my hair woven and adorning it just a bit with beads.  What do you guys think?  A little out of character, perhaps?

Almost every meal, in every home, on every day, consists of sukumu wiki (very similar to turnip greens), beans, rice, and chapati or ugali (prounounced ‘oo-gah-lee’), made by stirring wheat flour into boiling water.  The result is a ‘loaf’ of stiff dough with which they scoop up their food.

Outside the back door of the main house was a pile of ‘maize’ drying in the sun.  After it is dry, they remove the kernels by hand and take it to a ‘posha mill’ to have it ground into fine corn flour (not really like our corn meal); or they cook the whole kernels with beans to make succotash.

Trust me!  You don’t want to boil this corn and eat it.  It tastes nothing like our young, tender corn.  It’s more like hominy, if you can imagine eating hard hominy off a cob.  Let me just say, I’m speaking from experience.   🙂

There were precious children everywhere – all cousins – and this is just a few of them.  Most of them did not come for this particular occasion, again because of the cost and difficulty of transporting an entire family.

There is another house in this immediate compound, on the left as you approach the main house.  It is occupied by the lastborn brother, John Barrett.  There is only one younger sibling, Teacher Grace, born a year after J.B.

Everyone here refers to ‘firstborn’ and ‘lastborn.’  Anytime we show them a picture of our family, the first question they ask is, “Which one is the firstborn?”  Just as in the Bible, there are many advantages to being the firstborn son.  Things are only now beginning to change so that women can inherit anything.  In fact, there is a bill before the Parliament right now to effect this change.

Because it was a little warm inside the house when we arrived, John and I migrated outdoors to enjoy the cool air and the children seated on a little foam mattress.  Guests are so highly prized that, immediately, people began to move furniture outside for us to be seated comfortably.  I was perfectly happy just sitting on the ground with the kids, but accepted their gracious offer and sat on the couch instead.  This was one of those “no electricity days” back at the Mission, hence the funky hairdo.  Another good argument for “Weave It and Leave It!”

Before leaving Western Kenya, we said goodbye to many new and wonderful friends – friends we hope to see again next summer, if God wills.  Bishop Javan Ommani, pictured below, was our gracious host at Ematsayi Mission.  His mother, who was 57 when he was born (That’s not a typo!), made him promise before she died that he would donate part of his inherited land to build a mission.  Javan had walked 35 miles to Bible School for two years after he finished Form 4 (senior year of high school).  He would leave home on Sunday after preaching, arriving 13 hours later.  Then, on Saturday morning, he would make the return trek home.  This mission he has built now includes a permanent church, a missionary house, a medical clinic and dispensary, a polytechnic school, a Bible college, dormitories, a little store, etc.  Unfortunately, many of these buildings are not being used at present because of lack of funds.  I see many, many wonderful opportunities opening up through this divinely appointed meeting!!!!

I spent the week, speaking to men and women from many areas, and John wound up the conference with the most powerful sermon I’ve ever heard!  God has really given him a voice over here in Africa.  Wow!  What an unexpected turn of events.

Javan was a member of Parliament and served as Asst. Minister of Information & Broadcasting under President Daniel Arap Moi, from 1992 – 1997.  Moi was the president of Kenya for 24 years.  Javan’s home is just behind the Mission compound.  It’s no wonder that President Moi was so fond of him; he is absolutely delightful.  Because of his connections, he will be working to obtain Kenyan ID’s and work permits for us, which will eliminate the need for us to get visas each time we come to Kenya!  I plan to carry that ID proudly, right next to my Texas Concealed Handgun License.

The picture on the left is the outside of the permanent church building where we have been ministering.  Before it was built a few years ago, they had a temporary structure similar in construction to the houses where Modester grew up.

On the right is the building that houses the administrative offices and Bible College classrooms for B.A.L.L. (Bible and Literacy League of Kenya).  It was in here that I was privileged and humbled to teach the pastors who arrived for this 3-week session of the college.

We had a constant stream of visitors during the ten days we were at Ematsayi.  Most of them were of the two-legged variety, but we had other visitors, as well.  Some of them we were glad to see; others we could have done without.   Four legs – fine!  A hundred legs – not so fine!  And then there was the bat.  That’s right, a bat.  Found him (or her) on the floor near our bedroom, very sick, but not dead.  A sick bat says one thing to me – rabies.  We managed to dispose of it after a swift kick.  I was glad after that to be sleeping under a mosquito net!

Here is the instant hot water shower head that shocked the stew out of me the first night.  Before you step into the bathroom, you must flip a switch to turn the electricity on to this contraption.  No problem.  Step in, stark naked, turn on the shower, get scalded, then reach to turn the water off.  Big mistake!  Standing in water, then touching a metal faucet when there are exposed wires overhead that have gotten wet, makes for a HUGE jolt!  The next day, we found some adhesive tape in the clinic dispensary to try and resolve the problem.  I can’t resist including a picture of the toilet seat.  The ‘tabs’ underneath had broken through the plastic, so if you made the mistake of actually sitting down on it, it pinched the daylights out of the back of your legs.  Just a couple of the minor challenges we encountered.   🙂

We are now back in Nairobi, savoring every moment with the family.  Tonight, John and I prepared spaghetti and meat sauce for the entire family.  Usually, the children eat in the kitchen at a little plastic table, but tonight I moved it into the dining room so we would all be together.  I asked if they had any candles.  There were two; one was about four inches and the other was just a piece of a candle, about an inch and a half high.  I put the little one in the middle of the children’s table and the bigger one on ours.  We turned out the lights while we prayed and then turned on some dim lights so we could see what we were eating.  I taught them how to turn their forks against a spoon to wrap the spaghetti.  I talked about the city we were visiting – Venice, Italy – and how we had all arrived at the restaurant through the canals, by boat.  I told them about Paul’s missionary journeys and how he eventually wound up in Italy, in prison.

I commented that the rest of the people in this Italian restaurant were speaking Italian and I couldn’t really understand them.  Later on, I told them that I had heard the young man at the next table proposing to his girlfriend.

Then John sent the kids to the kitchen and closed the door while he hid a Kenyan coin somewhere in the living room.  They all came out, searching frantically, trying to be the winner.  When the coin was found, there was screaming and laughter.  We repeated this process over and over, until everyone was exhausted from laughing.  What a joy to share in the life of this precious family.

We’ll be home soon, but will leave part of our hearts in Kenya.

Love you all!

Mary Catherine

Week 4 – Kenya

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I promised to tell you an amazing story of how the focus of our trip changed in a single day, and here it is!

Having already visited the homes of many of the children at the school, and seeing the squalid conditions in which they live and breathe, we decided, after we had been here for a couple of weeks, to visit the homes of the teachers.  We were expecting much better conditions, since the teachers are blessed with permanent employment.  You would think so, right?  Oh, how we were mistaken!

These precious, committed, and loving individuals work from daylight until dark, returning to ‘homes’ in the same neighborhoods where the students live.  Some have no beds, only a foam mattress on the floor.  One room, with the sleeping area divided from the remaining space with some type of fabric strung across on a wire or a rope.  In spite of this, they are neat and tidy.

This is Dorcas, the school matron, on the left and Dennis, one of her youngest, on the right.  Dorcas and her husband, Erick, have a single bed; their five children sleep on concrete sacks on the floor.  And yet, the joy and thankfulness evident on all their faces is mind boggling.

When we visited their little home, John and I were treated to the two chairs; everyone else sat on the edge of the single bed.

Next, we visited Teacher Esther’s house.  She lives with two older sisters, Nancy and Carolyne, who are 31 and 24.  A couple of years ago, they were promised employment for an up-front commission of 15,000 schillings, a huge amount.  Not surprisingly, after they raised it, the man absconded with their money and they were left with nothing.  Since then, they have tried to find daily work doing laundry, etc., but have relied almost entirely on Esther’s income of 4,000 schillings, approximately $48.00/month.

This next picture is Teacher Grace, the Director’s wife in the middle, and Teacher Esther.  Aren’t they absolutely beautiful!!  God has gifted each of them in such unique and special ways!

After visiting the homes of all six teachers plus the matron, we came back to The Pink House, heavy-hearted and stunned.  Even our Director, who works with these teachers every day, was shocked to see the conditions in which some of them live, and the plight of their existence.  We began to brainstorm about how we could improve their living conditions, wishing we could find another house like The Pink House, putting several families on each floor.  It would be communal living, but what they’re in is communal, just without a real bathroom or a kitchen.

Monday, July 23, 2012

On Monday we hit the street, looking for something nearby.  We found an “apartment complex” just a couple of blocks from the school.  The bottom two floors were already complete and occupied, with business establishments on the street side, and apartments in the back.  The third floor was still under construction, just a week or so away from completion.  The owner happened to be there and we were able to share with him what we had in mind.  He suggested that, if we rented half of the third floor, he could put in metal gates to control access to their area.  He said that he would put locks on one toilet and one shower, so that only the teachers and their families would have the use of it.  He said that as soon as he is able to bring in a permanent water line, he would add an instant hot water shower head on their shower.  This is so much better than where the teachers are living, but my heart sank a little, wanting so much more for them.

These are no more than approximately 9’ x 12’ concrete rooms – one electrical outlet, one light bulb.  No ventilation, no kitchen, nothing.  Just one room.  But the fact that there is electricity, there is water, and there is a working toilet is a VAST improvement.  (By the way, this won’t be a flushing toilet as you and I know it, but a porcelain opening in the floor with a 50 gallon container of water outside the door with a pitcher so you can flush-it-yourself.)  And it’s only TWO BLOCKS FROM THE SCHOOL!!!  And there’s a spare apartment that we can develop into a community kitchen and fellowship hall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

While John and I were considering this huge leap of faith (since we didn’t have the money nor the monthly commitments to cover this additional cost), we asked Esther if she thought her sisters, Nancy and Carolyne, could come to the school the next day.  They were there, bright and early, and we offered them jobs at the school.  There is more than enough work to spread around, and the teachers and staff have been so grossly overworked, it’s pitiful.  Both of these lovely young women are educated and bright, with not a lazy bone in their bodies.  We decided to start them out at 4,000 schillings ($48/month), raise Dorcas’ salary to that amount, and raise the teachers to 5,000 and 6,000 schillings ($60 – $72/month).  Nancy and Carolyne were thrilled, to say the least, and showed up for work the next morning at the crack of dawn.

That brings us to Thursday.  I’m telling you this, because this week moved at warp speed!  Nancy and Carolyne worked Thursday and Friday, and were so happy to be part of the fellowship Friday afternoon during the weekly Bible study and closing ceremony for the week.

Friday, July 27, 2012

After spending hours and hours driving downtown in the insane Nairobi traffic to get an international drivers license (only to discover that we didn’t need one after all), we barely made it back in time for this precious Friday afternoon time with the kids and teachers.

John and I hadn’t even finished discussing and deciding on the teacher housing issue, but glanced at each other, whispered a few words, and felt moved to go ahead with it, sharing the news with them after the children went home.

We sat them down under the pretense of getting a group picture, then announced what we felt like God was moving us to do, knowing that it was a step of faith and only God could provide what we needed.  Wow!  Pandemonium broke loose!!!

And then we all walked down the street and around the corner to THE ORANGE HOUSE!!

It was in God’s perfect timing that all of this came down while Pastor Michael was present.  Many of these teachers are members of his congregation, and he had been praying for months, unbeknownst to us, that Dorcas and her family would have a new place to live.  He read some Scripture, sent up prayers of thanksgiving and anointing on this new home, and blessed us all!

Then we took the first group picture of everyone, including Pastor Michael, at The Orange House!

One week later . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Early Saturday morning, we took off with the kids to check on the move-in progress.  On Friday, we had met with the leasing agent and signed the contract on the nine units, getting back to school just in time to let the teachers know that everything had been settled.  Some were so excited that they hired a cart that very night and moved all their possessions in around midnight.  By the time we arrived, several were already settled in.

Teacher Carren did not arrive until late Saturday evening, as she had been at the funeral home all day, making arrangements for the burial of her 20-year-old sister-in-law who had died of asthma earlier in the week.  By the time she got to The Orange House, we had been there and gone, leaving her a great surprise – a bed for her and her two little girls, Faith and Joy.  These ladies helped me put it together.  What fun we had!!!

God is good.  All the time!  Before we even left Kenya, we had received commitments to cover the monthly cost of the new housing for the teachers!


Praise God!

Week 3 – Kenya

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our first outing to the countryside surrounding Nairobi was a delightful break from the sights and sounds and smells of the slums.  Ever since the movie ‘Out of Africa’ came out in the early ‘80’s, we have dreamed of Karen Blixen’s beloved Ngong Hills of Africa, never imagining that we would actually see them one day.  However, as we drove past herds of camels and even a dead hyena in the middle of the road, we spotted the hills in the distance.

Drought, famine, and hunger have driven people by the millions into Nairobi in search of a better life.  Unfortunately, corruption in the government has prevented the development of an adequate infrastructure to support this migration.  The miles and miles of slum neighborhoods in the city bear testament to this sad fact.

The small villages dotting the countryside are poverty stricken, but the air is cleaner and the congestion not nearly as bad.  This is the little town of Kiserian, not far from where our new friend, Natalie, lives and works, right at the foot of the Ngong Hills.


Re-entering Nairobi through the affluent section known as Karen, we were thankful to spot Nairobi’s answer to Starbucks, the Nairobi Java House.  Oh, how we enjoyed our first glass of iced tea since leaving Texas!  It wasn’t sweet tea, but was served with a little pitcher of simple syrup, so we were able to make it as sweet as we wanted.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This was our second Sunday to worship with the students at the school for deaf and hearing children.  Last week, there were 102 students; this week, there are 119.  The new arrivals came from Western Kenya.  Some of them are 17 years old, in the 7th grade.  Because of the struggles of life, they have not been able to attend school on a regular basis.  What courage, when offered the opportunity, to return to school with the determination to catch up.  These children are so grateful for the chance they have been given to get an education and improve their lives.

We were moved to tears as they introduced themselves.  “My name is Elizabeth.  I am born again, and I praise God for giving me this chance to go to school.”  “My name is Stephen.  I am a Christian.  I love the Lord, and I am happy to be here.”

What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to tell them how they have blessed our lives, and how God sent us half way around the world to bless them, to share His love, and to bring an awareness of their situation to our friends and loved ones at home.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This is Patricia (Patty), one of the family’s younger sisters.  She came from a small rural village near Kakamega in Western Kenya to help in the house while John and I are here.  She left three small children at home (ages 4, 3, and 18 months), and has suffered a great deal of homesickness.  John and I wanted to put her on a bus and send her home to her family, assuring everyone that we could take care of ourselves and were more than willing to cook, clean, and do our own laundry.  That was not acceptable.  Nixon felt that she would learn a great deal through her exposure to us, but this broke my heart, as a mother.

We suggested that Patty be given a break during our stay, that we would pay for her bus ticket home and back to Nairobi after she had the chance to spend some time with her husband and children.  Once she wrapped her mind around that, she was fine.  In fact, she is constantly telling us that she wants to go home to Texas with us!  Even though she is 30 years old, there is a child-like quality about her that is so endearing.  When you hug her, she ducks her head and tucks it under your chin like a little child.  So precious!  She reminds me of Dobie in the Harry Potter movies.

We hadn’t been here too long when Patty disappeared for the afternoon.  We were informed that she was in bed with a toothache.  That night, she couldn’t even eat.  John gave her some super-powerful ibuprofen that he had brought along and it helped, but the following days convinced me that she was in desperate need of a dentist.  At first, she was resistant to the idea, as she is terrified of injections.  I convinced her that her tooth would not get well on its own and that an infection like that could kill her.  Finally, she agreed to go, and we took off in search of a dental office.  Ha!  We drove from one ‘hospital’ to the next.  (There is no such thing as yellow pages here, nor is there help to be found through Google.)  We finally found a ‘medical facility’ with a dentist.  He took one look in her mouth and said that the only thing that could be done was to pull the tooth.  Seeing that she was scared, he simply wrote her several prescriptions, which we filled on site, and we left.  John didn’t blame her one bit!  He said he wouldn’t have wanted to have a tooth pulled there either.

I told her this was probably the best course of action, to take the antibiotics that he had prescribed in order to calm the infection down, then to go to the dentist back home and have it pulled.  It was then that I learned this tooth had been bothering her for about 3 or 4 years.  She had needed to have 5 teeth pulled, but after 3, she never went back.  She assured me she would have it taken care of while she was home.

While we were out, John stopped to go in the bank, so Patty and I took the opportunity to walk around the nearby shops.  There is a very small supermarket there (they pronounce it spa-market).  Her eyes were the size of half dollars, as this was the first time in her entire life she had been in a grocery store.  At home, her mom goes to the market and just brings Patty what she needs.

That did it!  When John came back to the car, I told everyone to head to Tusky’s.  She was in hog heaven – wandered around, just staring.  It was the cutest thing ever.  We were just there for a few minutes, but I promised I would bring her back.  Oh, how she loved having her picture taken there!

Amazingly, Patty’s homesickness evaporated at this point.  She had planned to go home the next day, but decided to stay until we could get back to Tusky’s with her.  It didn’t happen the next day, as we had a meeting planned with Natalie, so she stayed two more days.  When we finally returned to shop, we loaded her up with all sorts of goodies to take home with her.  (John has met his match in the ‘Cookie Monster’ department.  She would come and sit down wherever we were and say, “Papa John!  Biscuit!”  Then she would just duck her head and giggle out loud.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Today was my first opportunity to begin meeting with each of the classes, sharing the animal picture book I made for them before we came.  I’ve made a couple of these for our grandchildren, but in this one, I added African animals and their Swahili names in addition to the English names.  Until now, except for a poster with just a few animals pictured on it, the children have only seen what the teachers are able to draw on the blackboard. The children were amazed at what they saw.  I taught them how to say the names in English, and they taught me how to say them in Swahili.

Later, I just spent some time one-on-one with the kiddos.  They are so sweet and loving; they swarm around John to the point he can hardly keep his balance, and they all want a hug or a high-five.

This is Diana.  Isn’t she absolutely beautiful!!!  She is almost four years old, and is as sweet as her face.

Her mom is a teacher at another school quite some distance away, so she drops Diana at our school very early, sometimes by 5:45 a.m., and returns for her between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. The Director’s wife is up every morning by 4:45 to be ready for the early arrivals.  The other teachers are here by 6:45 and often stay well past 6:00.  Additionally, they come in on Saturday to help the children who are slow learners.  All of this for $48 – $60 per month!

We are committed to raising the funds to increase the salaries of these talented and loving teachers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This morning was a special treat!  Paul and Ali took a break from their over-seeing of the construction next door and came in for coffee and toast.  They are very close to winding up their work and we will be sad not to see them every day.  Paul is a civil engineer, working for a company here in Nairobi.  Ali will go to northern Kenya to visit his family and perhaps look for a job in Somalia.

Friday, July 20, 2012

We made a divine connection with Natalie Finstad in the months before we came to Kenya.  She has lived here for a couple of years and she had been home to visit in the States in the weeks before our trip.  We emailed several times and then “just happened” to be on the same flight from London to Nairobi, taking the opportunity to get acquainted face-to-face and share our stories and our visions.

Today, we were privileged to visit one of the training sessions that her organization, Be the Change Kenya, puts on for local community members involved in helping under-privileged and orphaned children.  It was a great session, teaching the basics of strategic planning.  I was thrilled for our school’s directors to make this connection with Natalie and her awesome staff.

Right now, they are headquartered just outside of Nairobi, in Rongai.  However, their plan is to expand into Nairobi proper within the next couple of years.  Perhaps, one day, our little school can benefit from the excellent programs that Natalie, Ken Chomba, and the rest of their staff have put together.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today was the day that changed the direction of our entire trip.  We came to Kenya with certain preconceived notions about what we wanted to accomplish, and I know that the Director and his wife had their own list of ideas.  God, however, seems to have something else in mind, something far greater than any of us had imagined.  It all started with a walk to visit each of the teachers in their homes.  You’ll have to wait until the next installment to hear the details, although I know that most of you have read at least a little about it on Facebook.

Time seems to be slipping away, and every minute is packed with activity, to the point that I rarely have time to sit down and write.  However, this story is one that must be written.  We’ve now been here for four and a half weeks and, as you can see, I’m just getting the narrative of Week 3 out.  I’ll try to catch up in the next day or so and fill you in on the amazing events that have taken place since July 21.  Until then, Kwaheri!  (That’s Swahili for ‘Bye for now.’)

Love y’all!  (That’s Texan for ‘I love you all to pieces!)

Mary Catherine

Week 2 – Kenya

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This is the second day in a row that John has been down in the courtyard, calling cadence with the children.  “Hooaah! Airborne! All the way! One mile! No good! Two mile! No good! Three mile! No good! Four mile! No good! Five mile! Airborne!”  I’m sure the neighbors wonder what kind of school we’re running here.  I wish I could capture all of this on video, but you’d just have to be here to really see how precious the interactions are with the kids.  They all line up behind him and march, squealing with delight.  “Left, left, left, right, left.”

He also found two pieces of wood in a stack made by the carpenter who is building chairs for the classrooms.  He told the kids it was a crocodile, slapping them together like the jaws of that fearsome creature, slowly creeping toward them.  How joyful they were as they screamed and ran from him!

This is also the second day in a row that there has been a birthday celebration. Yesterday, in the baby class, Barack turned three and there was a tiny little birthday cake for her which the teacher cut into little bite-size pieces and fed to each child.  The teachers have told the parents that if they are able to provide a small cake, the school will provide the juice and have a little party.  The children are joyful, as they have never had parties like this before.  Barack is in the upper left-hand picture below. No one was reaching or grabbing, just waiting their turn.  I didn’t see a single drop of juice spilled among the 24 children in this 2-3 year old class.

You may be thinking that it’s really cold here based on the way the children are dressed, but, to me, it’s a perfect 70 degrees, perhaps just a couple of degrees cooler in the morning, but perfect.  They consider this chilly and admonish the children every day to be sure and wear their jackets to stay warm.  I also think that 80 degrees feels scorching hot to everyone here.  Amazing how accustomed we are in Texas to radical changes in temperature, and think nothing of it.

This morning we joined the weekly outing to the market to purchase vegetables.  Typically, it’s just the school administrator who goes.  She walks quite a distance then catches a taxi to a market, far from here.  (This is not a huge thing to her, having grown up in the “rural” and having walked 14 miles each direction to work each day after she finished college.)  Buying food for 82 children is quite a chore, and by the time she’s finished, she has to rent a pull cart to pull all of her purchases back to the closest taxi.  (That’s her in the red and white striped sweater.)

This was our first stop, for cabbage.  As we approached, the lady on the left greeted me, saying, “Hello, Mary!”  I was wracking my brain, trying to place her.  Then John arrived.  “Hello, John!”  Then I was sure we must have seen her before.  Our host was stunned, asking her husband, had he called her to tell her about us.  He didn’t have a clue how she knew our names. Our host surmised that she must have just called us by the most common American names she knew.  I’m not sure, I just know that it was mind-blowing!

This woman was a woman after John’s own  heart, sitting there, shelling peas!!!

We are absolutely the only white faces around, and people look at us with a great deal of curiosity, but when we smile and speak to them, their faces burst into glorious smiles.  Some will pass by us and simply say, “Praise God!”  Others issue greetings of “Jambo” (Hello), or “Karibu” (Welcome), or “God Bless You!”

For the most part, they are very shy.  Whenever I take their pictures, I then approach them, showing them the image on the screen of my camera.  They are so very happy!!!!  Most duck their heads and grin, almost embarrassed but obviously pleased.

This is what our administrator must walk through, pulling her cart of purchases, to make it back and find a taxi.  There are closer markets, but the prices are a bit higher.  Her cart is like the one on the below; this man is hauling water to sell to people who have no running water.

By the way, it hasn’t been raining here.  This is a result of broken sewage lines.  When the rainy season comes, I can’t even imagine what this would be like, but the children have to walk through much worse than this to get to school.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Today we went on a “walkabout,” in the words of Crocodile Dundee.  First we met with several children in the office at school and took their pictures in sibling groups.  Then we went out into the neighborhood with several staff members to where the children live.  We visited with the parents, all members of the newly formed PTA, and had the opportunity to tell them how God had somehow placed their children on our hearts, halfway around the world, in the middle of Texas.  We offered them hope, assuring them that we would return home with a renewed determination to be the conduit through which God can pour His blessings out on them.  It is so clear that we are not the ones effecting the change in these children’s lives.  It is God!  His blessings have been heaped up and are spilling over through the help of precious friends and family, and our generous church members.  It is only after being here, on the ground, that we really grasp how desperate their lives are and what an incredible change has already taken place since we were able to move them to The Pink House.  The sights were disturbing and heart-warming at the same time.

In the middle of the last picture, you can see the building where the school was housed until December, when we were able to move them to The Pink House.

Once we were inside some of the tiny cubicles carved out inside these buildings, we found warm and inviting homes, immaculately clean and tidy.  The couples we met were full of joy, thanking God for their daily blessings, and wanting the best for their children.  They are thrilled to be able to send them to our little school.

The picture above is of Grace and the first couple we visited.  Their names are Pauline and Walter.  They have one nine-year old daughter named Laura.  Walter’s greatest concern was the lack of books.  The children are anxious to bring books home with them to study, but there simply aren’t any that the school can afford to let out.

After our visit, Walter walked with us through the neighborhood for a while, asking us about our ranching operation in Texas, very interested in the way we raise deer and cattle.  He has taken courses in animal husbandry, but finding work in Nairobi in his field of interest is impossible.  Most of these people are “casual workers,” what we would call day laborers.  They are not lazy!  They go out every day looking for work, but jobs are scarce because so many people have moved into Nairobi from the rural area as a result of drought and famine.  They come here, looking for work, hoping to improve their lives, only to find squalid living conditions and little hope.  Walter finds work occasionally as a rock mason, making a hundred shillings a day, the equivalent of approximately $1.20.  To put this in perspective, a loaf of bread costs about 40 shillings, a cup of milk costs 30 shillings, or a dozen eggs, 140 shillings.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that if he is lucky enough to find work three or four days a week, putting any food on the table is a challenge.  To have their daughter fed at school is a blessing from heaven!

To my knowledge, this is the only school in the slums offering an affordable education, including meals, to these needy children.  The Kenyan government provides “free” primary education, but the closest government school is over five miles from here.  In addition, the public schools are not without costs.  Unless the family can pay for uniforms, lunches, and supplementary textbooks, the children are not allowed to attend.  That leaves these poor children without hope for a future.  Even the other private neighborhood schools close to their homes charge fees, require uniforms, and do not provide meals.

Word has spread about the quality of education here.  Just since we went out and visited these homes, there have been parents who have shown up at the front gate, begging to have their children admitted.  This little house is bursting at the seams with the children who are already here, and we have had to impress upon the Director that if he continues to admit more students, the conditions will become worse and worse, and the quality of education will go down, at least while we are in this limited space.

When we found this house in December, it was just days away from completion – divine timing.  As I have said, we moved he and his family into the upstairs flat and the school into the downstairs.  They have considered trying to find another place to live so they can expand the school into the second floor.  We have suggested that rather than disrupting their lives again, since it is so beneficial for them to be right here on site, that we approach the landlord about the smaller unit on the third floor.  It was built as a space for a caretaker to live in, but by the time they found this house, a Muslim man had already rented it.  The Director has already spoken with the owner and we are supposed to meet with him soon.  Perhaps the owner and the upstairs tenant can be convinced to vacate the space when the term of the lease is up.  That way, we can move the 3rd and 4th grade classes into the upper rooms, along with the school office.  It would be quieter up there, away from the hubbub and excitement that accompany the younger children.  If we can hold the enrollment at its present level, and spread the students out into the rooms we would vacate downstairs, the situation will be greatly improved.  I don’t know yet how much more in rent and utilities will be required if we can obtain this additional space, I only know that everything we have been able to do so far is from God, and He is able to provide, if this is His will.

Right now, there is construction going on next door on a five story apartment building – two flats on each floor.  This picture shows the scaffolds that have been put in place, encroaching on the staircase of The Pink House.  Perhaps you can see the pink door at the very top.  That’s the third floor apartment I’m talking about.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Today we are home-bound, as the car we were able to rent in advance is out of commission.  We had been having problems with the battery, and yesterday the alternator finally went around the bend – right in the middle of a busy road.  And I’m talking BUSY!  We were able to push it over to the side and people came running to help.  In Kenya, the poverty is so great that no little deed goes unpaid.  By the time we got home, we had spent 750 shillings on jump starts and assistance.

The rental of this car was negotiated for us by an amazing young man named Kenneth Chomba.  He is 20 years old, already through college with a degree in finance, but has a heart for helping the less fortunate.  He works with an organization called Be the Change Kenya, training young adults in these impoverished areas to help with a generation of orphans.  I had been put in touch with the director, Natalie Finstad, months ago through a series of contacts.  She is originally from Houston, and came home to the U.S. several weeks ago to speak to various groups and individuals, both in Texas and in Boston.  A divine appointment put us on the same flight from London to Nairobi, and we had a chance to visit at length before our arrival.

By way of explanation, one does not simply call up Hertz or Budget Rent-a-Car around here.  It is necessary to find an individual who owns a car and is willing to rent it out for a period of time.  The Director had met with Ken on our behalf before we came and had drawn up a rental agreement.  Ken came today with a mechanic, checked the car out, jumped the battery, and drove away in it to have the alternator replaced.  This turn of events gave us a chance to hang around the house, get some things done here, teach a Bible study during the Friday afternoon closing ceremony outside in the courtyard, and just enjoy hearing the children.  (Believe me, with 82 of them, you hear them all day.)  You may have seen this picture on Facebook, but hearing Papa John tell his animated version of David and Goliath was a treat, even for me.

The Pink House is located not far from the previous location, in what was once Masai Estate.  We see them coming and going when we are out and about – quite a sight.  Bear in mind, these pictures were taken just a block or two from the school.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

These next pictures are of the two young men working on the apartment building next door to the school.  It is owned and being built by a Muslim family, and they have hired Ali Abdow, on the left, to watch over Paul Otieno, on the right.  Paul is the building superintendent, a lovely young Christian man, so full of joy.  Ali, also, is a delightful young man, a Muslim born in northern Kenya.  His dad was born in Somalia.  He and John have had wonderful, lengthy discussions about politics, radical Islamists (those who cover their entire faces with a veil vs. those who leave their faces revealed), and about the fact that there are loving people all over the world.

On this particular morning, we were waiting on the return of our car and had lots of time to visit with Paul and Ali.  I made them honorary Texans, pinning one of the red, white, and blue Texas-shaped lapel pins on their shirts.  I had my Bible with me, as we were going to be gone all day and I thought I might have the chance to read for a while.  They noticed it, and Ali said, “Ah, that is your Bible?”  I said yes, and told them that it was 34 years old (much older than either of them).  They were amazed.  Ali said, “I like this Bible.  I love the Old Testament.  It is very much like our Koran.”  He went on to say that killing is prohibited in the Koran, and that all of these extreme Islamists are operating in direct opposition to its teachings.  I hope to have the opportunity, after more chances to visit with him, to tell him why I love the NEW Testament so much.

I have so much more to write about – camel sightings, roadkill hyenas, the Ngong Hills of Africa – but that must wait for another day.

We are so happy to hear about all the rain that Central Texas has received this past week.  We haven’t had any rain here, but then the temperature never varies from around 70 degrees.  (Read it and weep!)

Love you guys!

Mary Catherine

Our First Few Days in Kenya


Today was a day of firsts.  It was our first morning to wake up in Africa, having arrived last night at 9:00 p.m. after 26 hours of travel.  As we hurried off the airplane, anxious to meet our Kenyan loved ones after such a prolonged and expectant wait, we were greeted with a long (and very slow) line waiting to either obtain visas (which we already had), or be processed through the immigration desk.  After another hour and a half, we made it to the baggage claim area, only to discover that none of our bags had made the trip with us.  While John was processing the paperwork and receiving instructions on when to return to the airport to check on the bags, I went on out to the area where I found a sea of beautiful black faces, waiting for friends or relatives.  In an instant, I recognized our hosts holding up a sign that read, “John & Mary Catherine.”  What a joyful moment to embrace these two precious people!

After an alarming ride through Kenyan traffic and Texas-sized potholes, we made it to The Pink House, and upstairs to their home.  There, she began to prepare a meal of ugali, boiled beef, and something I can’t pronounce that tastes exactly like turnips.  Ugali is prepared by boiling water and then stirring in some type of flour until it makes a stiff dough.  That’s about it – no seasoning, nothing.  You just cut a piece off and dip it in the other food in your bowl.  The children (8, 7, and 5) were still up waiting for us.  We all ate at midnight.


Before we sat down to eat, we had a tour of their house which they have transformed into a warm and inviting home.  There were pictures of us hanging everywhere, including our wedding picture.  Our host is quite proficient on the computer, and found these tucked away on my Facebook page.  When we walked into the bedroom they had prepared for us, we were shocked to find 8×10’s of us hanging on the wall.  The funny thing was, however, that neither picture was actually of us, only who they THOUGHT was us.  In John’s place was a picture of my dad; they thought it was John as a young man.  In my place was a picture of Kate Jackson, which was left among my Facebook pictures from the Doppleganger phase when everyone was posting pictures of the celebrities people thought they most resembled.  It was hilarious, and we told them that John’s picture was actually my dad, but we didn’t have the heart to tell them that the other picture was Kate Jackson.  When I wrote several friends and family about it that night, Sam Center wrote back and remarked how interesting it was to have Kate and Gene side by side, wondering how he would have felt about that.  Ha!

For months, I have assured John that The Pink House would be perfect for us to stay in, even though I thought we would be staying downstairs in one of the classrooms.  I had seen pictures of the bathroom, complete with a bathtub and shower – lucky for me, as I thought I couldn’t exist without a hot bath at night.  Big surprise to find out that the tub is only piped for cold water.  There is a switch outside the bathroom that you must remember to turn on, because it supplies electricity to the hot water for the shower.  The shower head itself is not enclosed in a separate cubicle.  The water simply falls onto the bathroom floor which has a curb at the door.  That might work except for the fact that the floor is not sloped to the drain.  After your very quick shower, there is a mop in a bucket to help push the water toward the drain.

Thank goodness we had put a few wash cloths in our carry-on baggage.  They were used for cushioning binoculars and our camera during the trip, but served as bath towels until the luggage arrives.

I sent money ahead of time and our host was gracious enough to buy bedding for us.  I know how very proud they must be to have bought us a set of sheets.  I won’t even try to describe the material they’re made of.  Very interesting texture.

Crawling into bed was a challenge.  This was certainly the first time for me trying to sleep underneath a mosquito net.  It must be tucked in all around.  Guess I never considered the effort and coordination it would take to tuck one in after you’re already in the bed.  The net is suspended from the ceiling and provides a very tight fit, so unless you were sleeping by yourself smack-dab in the middle of the mattress, you would find yourself with a mosquito net stretched across your face all night.  Of course, no luggage means no handy little noise maker/air filter.  It’s amazing how spoiled we become, relying on the sound of a ceiling fan or an air filter to sleep.

When morning came, there was a great deal of excitement.  The students were arriving downstairs and I could peek through the curtains and see all the commotion that was going on.  All the chairs were being moved into the courtyard for a welcoming ceremony for us.  I couldn’t resist peeking through the curtains, which brought squeals of delight from the children.  John and I were escorted downstairs at exactly 8:00 o’clock, and were treated to the sweetest reception of our lives.  The program began with a ribbon cutting ceremony in which I was privileged to cut the ribbon, officially opening The Pink House as the Valley of Truth Learning Centre. Then the fun began – children singing praise songs and reciting poetry, three-year-olds quoting Scripture, the whole group singing songs that included our names, teachers singing beloved hymns that I couldn’t resist singing along with.  I have so many precious pictures and videos to share, but here is the sight that greeted us.  As you can see, the numbers have grown.  We were shocked after the school moved to its new location to learn that we had jumped from 38 to 60 children.  There are now 82, and the challenges of that number are beyond explanation.

A tour of the school followed the ceremony and we saw for the first time how much more we need to accomplish.  The children are packed into their tiny classrooms; potty breaks are scheduled by classes, with 82 children using one bathroom; a matron is cooking for all these children plus six teachers on a tiny four-burner, apartment-sized stove; the classrooms have been created by building plywood partitions and some of the rooms didn’t even have a light bulb.  In a couple of the approximately 10×10 rooms, there were 24 children.  And yet, in the midst of these challenges, I have never witnessed such excellent education and spiritual training.

Next on our schedule was a trip to purchase some things we saw as necessary.  Another first:  Never before have I been wanded before entering a grocery store!  As we pulled into the parking lot of Tusky’s (sort of equivalent to a Super Walmart), we were stopped by security guards who searched the trunk of the car for weapons.  Then, as we walked into the “mall” which contained the grocery store, we were stopped again and wanded.  This heightened security is a result of the Somalian retaliation because of the Kenyan military offensive against Al Shabaab.  Amazingly, we felt totally safe inside.

There we found almost every product we could imagine, though the brands were unrecognizable for the most part.  One exception was the candy aisle.  We saw Snickers, M&M’s, and Mentos, in addition to many new goodies.  The big shock came on the rice aisle.  I have never seen as much rice in my life.  We walked down a row at least 50 feet long and 6 feet high – all rice!  On the other side of the aisle was every variety of dry beans imaginable.

Our loving and supportive church family in Cherokee blessed us with a generous gift before we left, to be used at our discretion.  (This was in addition to their monthly support of the school.)  We purchased a huge, heavy aluminum pot and lid for cooking at the school, and two nice heavy stainless pots with glass lids for our host.  What she was using to cook with amounts to aluminum bowls with a round, flat aluminum piece as a cover – no handles.  We also picked up a nice colander for her and light bulbs, both for the house and the school.  There was an immediate need for a First Aid Kit.  John had brought a Case knife as a gift for the husband.  It was his first, and he ran his thumb down the blade before John could warn him, and he sustained a very deep cut which bled profusely.  We all decided it was a blood covenant of friendship.

Meals are scarce and sparse, but the children never complain.  The family has been blessed beyond measure by the goodness and generosity of everyone who has helped us.  Even so, their diet is limited and it seems to me that their children are not getting enough to eat.  As far as the students go, there is just not enough money to adequately feed all of them.  They are served porridge at 10:00 in the morning and a lunch of beans and corn around 12:30.  Most days, the children do not receive anything to eat at home in the evening, so it’s a long stretch between meals.  John suggested to the wife that they might try to feed breakfast earlier, when the children first arrive, and she saw the wisdom in that, and immediately made a change in the daily schedule. We are committed to raising enough money to add a small snack to be served immediately before they leave at 4:00 to help tide them over ‘til morning.  We have also had a conversation with them about making every calorie count, not feeding them anything with empty calories, but concentrating on nutrition.  They seemed surprised to learn that a donut has zero nutritional value.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Today was the most amazing day of our lives, to date, except for those most blessed of days when we received our own three children into this world.  We traveled some distance to another school where our Director’s sister works.  Their mother had the vision to start this school.  It began some years ago in the parent’s back yard where they built little tin buildings to house deaf children who were not receiving any sort of education.

In the African culture, deafness is an embarrassment, and parents hide their children at home rather than send them to school.  The mom went out into the neighborhood to find these children and offer to teach them.  They started with three and it soon grew to nine.  Once the children began to learn sign language and the parents saw the vast improvement, the children (and the parents) wanted them to live at the school.  That was the humble beginning of their school, serving not only deaf children, but the hearing as well.  There are 102 students living there and they are indescribably delightful.


The children conducted the service and when they were asked them who wanted to preach, six of them raised their hands.  They decided by lot, before we came, who would preach and who would conduct the service.  The young man who preached is named John.  Even before he took the pulpit, before we knew that he would be preaching, he was among the “Praise Team” who led the entire group in the most beautiful spirited singing I have ever heard.  He’s on the far end.  It was if a light was shining on him the entire time, he was so anointed.

I learned later that he is 20 years old.  He came to the school 3 years ago, not able to read a sentence.  He now reads very well, and speaks English so proficiently that I thought he had been brought up knowing the language.  He is an orphan, and has been on the fringes of society, on the verge of trouble, bounced around between living with an aunt and living with friends.  I knew none of this when he came up to preach, and I have rarely, in the United States, seen or heard a preacher with such a powerful message and delivery.  I found him afterwards while we were touring the facility, put my arms around him, and whispered to him what my observations had been, and that I believed that God had set him apart for great things.

Driving through the city, both on the way to the school and afterwards on the way to the mother’s house, the streets were packed with throngs of worshipers, out in their Sunday best, walking to church, catching buses to get there, then on to fellowship with their own loved ones.  It was a sight to behold.

We spent the afternoon at her house, the house where all of the siblings were raised.  The food was delicious and the hospitality was intoxicating. We were moved to hear the story of the mother’s vision for the school. All the siblings showed up to welcome us, except the one brother who has passed on.  Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches.  That is exactly the picture of how their vision grew; it took root and then the vision for our little school branched out from there.  This family is impacting lives for God’s kingdom.

When we stood to go, they joined in prayers of thanksgiving for us, for our children and grandchildren, for divine protection, giving God all the glory.  The Spirit was so strong in that place, it was as if we were physically being lifted into the presence of God!

Monday, July 09, 2012

We have been without water now since Saturday night, but that seems of no consequence.  Nothing seems to dampen the spirits of these dear people.  Your first thought may be about how we bathe or cook; think of the more pressing issue:  how to deal with potty breaks for 82 children and 12 adults.  The teachers handle it with dignity and grace.

We had the opportunity this morning to meet with all the teachers collectively, to tell them how God had impressed them on our hearts, and how totally blown away we are with what they are doing.  These dear people have absolutely nothing.  We have been able since April to provide them with a meager salary, but will go home with a renewed determination and a better understanding of what we’re working for.  We made them all honorary Texans, and pinned a red, white and blue Texas-shaped lapel pin on each one.  They were so appreciative and so happy.

In our first couple of days here, we went not only to Tusky’s, but also to Nakumatt, another chain of superstores, and have purchased all manner of needed food and household items.  However, we are looking forward with great anticipation to visiting the local market to purchase the fresh vegetables for the school.  Modester buys fresh vegetables once a week, and must travel on foot, and then by taxi, in order to transport that quantity of food back to the house.  I know that they are thankful for the brief time that we’re here to have the luxury of a car.

I cooked a big pot of spaghetti and meat sauce one evening, but it didn’t taste anything at all like what I make back home.  I couldn’t find tomato sauce in a can, but finally located it in something the shape of a ketchup bottle.  I wondered about it, but the bottles of regular old Heinz Ketchup were on the shelf as well, so I assumed that their tomato sauce was just packaged differently, especially since the ingredient label sounded like plain old tomato sauce.  The end result was good, but it didn’t taste like spaghetti; it tasted like Sloppy Joes – very, very sweet.  One amazing thing happened as I was working in the kitchen, preparing to add a can of mushrooms to the mix.  I asked the wife where the can opener was and she looked at me blankly.  When I explained what I needed, she nodded in recognition and got out a butcher knife.  With that, she proceeded to open the can.  I was saddened, because one of the things I intended to bring her was a really good can opener.  Next trip to Tusky’s, we’ll be looking for one!

The only spice she had in her cupboard was salt.  The first thing John bought was a container of black pepper.  She looked at it when we got home and asked what it was used for.  Next trip to the grocery store, when I purchased all the ingredients for the spaghetti, I found what I needed – oregano, thyme, basil, etc. – and they provided a new taste sensation for our gracious hosts.  The children, I believe, especially enjoyed the sweetness of the spaghetti sauce.

Speaking of the children, they are absolutely precious.  One evening, as we were all sitting in the living room, I had my laptop in my lap, writing this report.  The kids were almost on top of me and the 5-year-old started reading out loud what I was writing – every single word!!  I couldn’t believe it.  I had to help him a bit when he would come to a word like “unrecognizable” or “hilarious,” but he read everything else without a single error.  “Doppleganger” gave him a bit of difficulty, as well, but who wouldn’t stumble on that one?!!

After these past few days, I have perfected the art of bathing, using a small plastic bucket of water.  It’s not so much the small quantity as it is the ice cold nature of it.  Ha!

There is so much to report, but no one will ever read it all unless I can find some way to filter and condense.  I want so to write, for my own sake, so that I won’t forget a single experience, a single impression.  However, I cannot seem to find adequate time to do so.

Love you all so much!!!

Mary Catherine