This is a speech I wrote last year. Enjoy ☺
“This is Africa” is a phrase I learned very quickly as I spent four months living in Kenya. When things were too annoying, frustrating, completely ludicrous, or just plain weird, I would have to laugh it off and remind myself TIA, this is Africa.
I went to Kenya with no idea of what I had gotten myself into. I was beyond scared of the unknown that lie ahead as I stepped off the plane to meet “Trena Ivy” for the first time, if she even existed. God gave me a little comical relief when I realized that Trena and Lisa were the only white faces among the black crowd outside baggage claim. We went back to Trena’s house and ate goopy, half-cooked brownies they had made in the Kenyan oven that apparently didn’t like American products. This is Africa.
I spent my first week with Trena following her around as she prepared to open the baby home. I promise I’m not going to recount to you everyday of the four months, but I want to give you an idea of the never-ending, everyday craziness of His Cherished Ones in Kenya by giving snapshots of my first few days there. Sunday, my very first day, we went to the Ngong Town market after church where our white skin made us the center of attention, which eventually led to many marriage proposals- lucky us. This is Africa. On Monday, we drove over TWO hours through the bush-where we saw my first herd of wild zebra, on roads filled with alternating craters and boulders to the Kajiado Children’s department just to turn in some paperwork. TIA. We went to the future baby house on Tuesday and gave it a good cleaning. Personally, I enjoyed cleaning the windows by simply throwing cupfuls of water at them. This is Africa. We moved Trena into the baby home on Wednesday with the help of three men and a pickup truck. And it wasn’t one of those big F350s, it was more like a 1984 Ranger. We moved the entire house full of furniture and everything else in only two trips. I think you can imagine how ridiculous and unsafe the truck looked- we chose to follow behind them at a distance. It was SO Africa. On Thursday we went to Heshima, the special needs school Trena works with. In order to find potential students, the teachers have to go from house to house knocking on doors asking if they knew of any special needs children as they are kept inside because it is thought of as shameful. Unfortunately, this is Africa. On Friday Trena drove me out to Janice and Phil Wagner’s children’s home called Haven on the Hill where Trena was, at the time, the director. The home is beautiful to both the eye and the soul. I spent six weeks playing with their six awesome boys: Kelvin, Hezekiel, Joshua, Godfrey, Tyson, and James. I taught them English and they in turn taught me Swahili. Yes, I learned Swahili from 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 year olds. TIA? Yep…
While I was living in the village, Trena worked to register Haven of Hope Baby Home with the notoriously corrupt Kenyan Government. See, registration becomes a catch 22 because in order to register, the home has to have 20 children, but you can’t receive kids until you are registered. This is Africa. On August 14th, I came back to the city to help her finally begin the baby home. We went to Nairobi Children’s Home and brought home three beautiful babies, Jeremiah, Julia, and Elizabeth. They each had multiple health issues from living in the government run home for such extended periods of time, but they were alive and finally home.
Over the next two months, I lived and worked with Trena and her staff at Haven of Hope with whom I became good friends. My life was a great adventure every day. Wherever we went, I would take my boy Jeremiah and Trena would take Julia- the funny one. It was so much fun being fake mommies.
In Kenya, there is always something. The car is dead, an unhappy baby, traffic jam, someone needs a ride, rain storm, the store is out of what we need, a flat tire, last-minute emergency task. There is always something. This is Africa. Everyday is non-stop activity. It’s exciting, it’s tiring, it’s Africa.
A few weeks after the first three babies came, Nairobi Children’s Home called and said they had just gotten a newborn baby. We picked up baby Joy when she was three days old, spent two gush-filled nights with her, and then had to give her back because her Mom came for her. Although it was Haven of Hope’s first success story, it was heartbreaking to lose her. We loved her. Luckily for us, fat Kate came only about a week later. She was so well taken care of that we were sure she would soon leave us too. Selfishly, I was happy everyday there wasn’t a call to give her back. Trena was sick the week we got her, so for about the first week I had night duty. And as a 20 year old who loves sleep, it was definitely a bonding experience for Kate and I.
These babies are loved. I can say without hesitation that the three girls who take care of them love them as their own. When Elijah and Hope came, Jully couldn’t stop raving that Kate was no longer their last-born. Because of Hope’s size and fragileness, Lynette immediately made the rule that she was the only one allowed to care for her, as she was the only mother among them. Irene took a special interest in Elizabeth’s physical therapy and made sure it continued at home, determined she will walk one day. Emmanuel and Simon, the Maasai guards, love to just sit and hold the babies. Jeremiah especially likes to be sung to in Maasai. Joshua makes up games to entertain Tracy and brings her with him wherever he is working. He taught Elizabeth to say “uncle” and Jeremiah to crawl properly.
This summer I saw the hand of God at work. Not only in the lives of the children I served, but in the people surrounding me, and in myself. I went to love and was loved greater instead. This is Africa.