Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Obvious.

So here I am again. It has been about one week since my last blog and I truly contemplated copying all of that Barenaked Ladies song for a cheesy laugh. But don't worry, I'll spare you.

Well, my hair is a little longer. My unshaven mustache is a little creepier. And when I wake in the mornings, it still feels like I am caught in a dream. I am in Kenya. I am surrounded by children who smile with dirty teeth, mountains and sky that force me to gaze with a dropped jaw, and need. A lot of need.

Honestly, I don't want to write about all the need I am experiencing here but if I didn't, well, I wouldn't be writing honestly. I fought my own will to write about this need. I didn't want to follow up "living joyfully simple" with the "brutal need" in this land. In fact, I have written two other blogs attempting to avoid this subject altogether. But I want to be fully honest with you. I want you to know my thoughts, emotions, and experiences. That is why I started this whole blog. So this entry is going to be brutal and I pray that the brutality of what I am experiencing here comes out on your side with humility and love.

The need is just so obvious and evident here. One of my friends, who has spent more time in Kenya than I, wrote in her blog that if she grew up in Africa she probably wouldn't be able to believe in the Bible. At least in the goodness of the Bible and the hope we have to hold onto. Now living here for a month, that perspective becomes all the more clear. It almost seems like everything is a waste. It almost seems like it is just living to die. Here is an average, dreary day in my current home:

I step out of my bedroom in the morning to children eating porridge and sipping chai, while they swallow their ARV pills. I then get into the van that takes twenty children to school and pass teenage boys already high on glue at 6:30 AM. High on glue because they don't have food and it helps satiate the hunger. And because, honestly, what other escape could they possibly conceive of? I then arrive back to the orphanage to watch Pastor John try to budget the cost of feeding all twenty children, his wife, nephew, and three aunties, and I listen to the strong man sigh. I know why he is sighing. Pastor John has gone three months without pay and his own children are constantly under pressure of being thrown out of school because of unpaid school fees. On top of that his van breaks down at least twice a day and the water hasn't made it through the pipes to the orphanage since April because of the government's reckless tree-planting project destroying more and more of his pipes each day. All the while non-profit, Christian organizations promise help but can't deliver because of heated disagreements and tifs in ownership over "Beat the Drum Corporation". The burden he carries would drop me to my knees and crush my back. It seems hopeless.

As I walk outside the aunties are slaving away carrying 30 liter gas cans of water on their back, while straining their neck with the support rope that distributes part of the weight to their neck and head. This is the water that should not have to be carried. This is also the water that has given two of our children giardia. The drops of sweat bead down their forehead as they pass by the latrine that is slowly becoming a health hazard. The smell from the sewage backing up should already have been cemented over but hasn't do to the low funds. All the while I can walk to town and back and pass a dozen churches that at first glance would be mistaken to be decaying shacks. This is where people who care more for the offering than the salvation they neglect scream at the needy women on Sunday mornings. It sickens my stomach.

I want to vomit.

There are too many questions and too little answers as always.

Joyfully simple seems dead when the children are at school.

It is devotion to hold onto the crumbs of hope.

But it is worth it.

The need is great but the hope is greater. The crumbs of hope that I understand from feasting in the Word allow me to live here in love. It is a gift that I am incredibly thankful for want more of. This kind of love moves you to be one of the few laborers in a huge harvest. This type of love is grounded and rooted and almost seems masochistic. This type of love wants to take on the burdens of the slums, addictions of impoverished teenagers, corruption within the government, waterless orphanages, infected children, etc because it knows that the burden is light. This type of love has a heavy heart. And this type of love has hope.

This love is fully given. It is more than an idealistic non-profit or an attention seeking Angelina Jolie. It doesn't move but gives strength to endure. Endure to move in the so evident brutal need, making hope more obvious than the depravity of this wretched world.

The hope is the truth. The truth is the burden is light with Jesus, and the yoke is easy. He is the source of this love and the gift-giver. This is what he is showing me and teaching me as a spectator, a taster of these burdens. And all I know is I need more of Him.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finally There (or should I say here).

Finally here. The air is still breathable and the people still laugh. Maai Mahiu is a town full of truckers, dirt, mountains, trash, and children. Amazing children. And that is how I want to start my first blog. With children. Children who live in a land far away from you and are joyfully simple.

There are four houses here at Beat the Drum orphanage where I have been living now for four days. Beat the Drum is in the midst of the Great Rift Valley and going purely by scenery, it is paradise. Cattle walk in the fields grazing, people ride bikes on the side of the road dodging tree limbs, and the sun disappears in a orangey haze every night behind a mountain of which I still can't figure out the name. And that is where the door of Nyumba Mbili (House Two) opens. Outlooking the most beautiful sunset that I truly might ever see. But all of this, all these sights, they do not compare to what they hold. They hold twenty children in four houses and these children are slowly changing my life.

In my house there are five children and one auntie, Auntie Lucy. There is Baraka, Emmanuel (who we call Emon), Simon (who is called Karioki), and Eric. Baraka is twelve years-old, in Class 3, and he is the quiet one. I call him Obama from time to time and it makes him smile and laugh. Emon is seven years-old, in his last year of Nursery, and he smiles like a hockey player. He has yet to master the art of blowing bubbles, I believe his technique is the harder I blow the more bubbles I will see...it is pretty ineffective. Then there is Karioki who is six years-old and is also in Nursery. Karioki (pronounced Karaoke like the game) is a name given in Kenya to remember an earlier sibling who has died. He loves to laugh and, unlike Emon, is a pro and bubble blowing. Lastly we have Eric. He is fourteen years-old, in Class 4, and the best way to describe him is just random. Kind of a sad adjective that doesn't do justice but if you met him I bet you would say the same. Auntie Lucy is a servant to the core. I think all the aunties here are, but I get the most time with her. She makes my bed, washes my clothes, heats my bucket bathes, and pretty much everything else. I'm pretty sure I am just another nine year-old in her book. I love it though. And that is kind of what I want to tell you about in this post. It is what God is teaching me through these joyfully simple wtoto. (To clarify before I go on, I make my bed each morning but I still don't meet her standards so she remakes. She is excellent too, the top of the sheets folded back, perfectly perpendicular to the bed, tucked in on every side even with the mosquito net as an obstacle. I'm going to try to get it down pat but I am not sure if I can make it a masterpiece as she does.)

I think if these kids were allowed to skip school they would spend every second of each day holding hands, having tickle wars, and playing with their bucket lids as they try to roll around the orphanage with bent wire. Left... then right... then up... then down...They are simply happy. And I am plain jealous. I watch them laughing and loving the simple and then realize I am cynically thinking they know nothing else. They wouldn't be this happy if they knew what I did. They do not know how impoverished they are. They do not know they have HIV/AIDS. They do not know what its like to live a normal life. A "normal" life. Wow. Who am I to say what a normal life is? How prideful am I?

Are we not suppose to live like this?

Could this be what humility looks like?

The Word saves me. It steals me from paralytic thought.

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

I don't have this verse memorized. I knew Jesus said we were suppose to be like children. But He could not have stolen me from my thoughts with any more specific words. We are suppose to humble ourselves like these children. They pray the same prayer everyday; when they wake up, before they eat breakfast, when they get back from school, before dinner, and then as they go to sleep, so much I almost have it memorized...and it is in Kiswahili. But, oh do they mean it each time! They cry when they are hurt, they eat until they are full, they play until they sweat, and they love. Their hearts are bigger than mine. I am jealous. It is my prayer and it is the prayer I will ask you to pray for me and possibly even yourselves.

"Humble me, Jesus. Humble me to be like one of these kids. They have nothing. They know nothing. They completely lack dignity and they are dirty and sick. Humble me like that."

Gosh if we could be as children again. The world would be enormous but it would be our playground. Jesus would not be a chore. He would be so evident we would make telephones out of string and cans to pray. We would not care about impressing him, at least as we do now, we wouldn't know what dignity was. All we would care about was loving Him and Him loving us and what the next game would be when we played. When we were hurt we would cry. When we were happy we would sing. And when we wanted to dance, well of course, we would dance. When we listened and read Bible stories they would be more real then gravity. This kind of world should be more real than gravity.

So this is this a little excerpt from my life. I am just a dude that loves Jesus, trying to follow Him. I am blessed. I am prideful. I am jealous of these children. They are joyfully simple.