My mother has been bothering me for years to write a blog. Every year I have the same answer… “What would I have to say that people would want to read?” I tell her when I have an answer for that question, I will write a blog. I seriously don’t know how people have time to write them. I don’t even have time to take a shower. Literally. It’s a problem. I don’t know how all these women out there write blogs. Not only are they writing blogs, they are writing blogs about all the crafts and food they make. How are they finding time for that? And most of them have more than one child. I only have one, and I need a shower, badly.
Now, I have something to write about. It’s been a long time coming and I stay up at nights thinking about it. I have been waiting for the perfect time, and I realized, there is no perfect time. I have to stop wasting time and do it …now. Four years ago, I went to Africa. Four years ago I made promises to people there that I would not forget them, that I would tell their stories. Four years ago. What have I done in four years?
My mom thought of the title “Before and Africa” and I actually love it. There are a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but usually when she has an idea “for” me, I politely turn her down. But this title struck a chord in me. I thought about all the blogs out there about style and fashion and craftiness and I thought about how my blog would probably be the antithesis of that. Maybe I do always buy the same long sleeved shirts at the GAP every three years when the old ones get holes in them. Maybe I do still have the same tennis shoes I bought for 30 bucks 6 years ago. Maybe I do only get my hair cut once a year. Maybe I am in desperate need of a style makeover, but I think this blog is more of a before and after of my soul. My soul before and now my soul (after) Africa…
So thanks mom, for the title and for recognizing there has been a change in me and that even though I have a hard time finding the words, it’s time to start trying.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Let's build a school!

So Pastor Amos regularly writes me asking for our help.  In four years we have been able to do some small things to help.  We’ve tried our hand at raising funds and it gets more and more daunting to think of new ways to raise money for the people of the slums.  We have sold t-shirts, I held an art show and sold some of my photos and paintings of Africa, we’ve sent letters, we’ve asked friends and family, my house church in Michigan was able to raise enough money to finish building Pastor Amos’ church, we’ve even sent much of our own money.  With all these efforts, we’ve raised probably around six thousand dollars when all is said and done….maybe a little more, maybe a little less.  I was starting to feel alone in this venture.  At the beginning, there are always supporters, but they tend to drop off as time goes by, and I can't blame is busy.  So I guess my job now is to try even harder.  

 At times I feel helpless, at times I feel hopeful.  I want to be a part of building this church, but sometimes the amount of money seems astronomical to me.  I wouldn’t even know how to begin to raise funds like that.  

Today I feel hopeful.  I received an e-mail from a retired teacher from the UK named Dave.  He students visited Amos' church/school not that long ago and he was starting to get some funds together to build them a new building. He said I am the fourth person to respond to his efforts to make this happen.  He thinks together, with all of our fundraising efforts, the five of us can do it.  

Not alone anymore.

So now, my part.   

I was trying to think of a new fun way to raise some money to get this project to happen.  I am planning on doing a triathlon in August and I thought, what if I could raise $100 dollars for every mile I go.  I am going 13.3 miles.  $1300 dollars will certainly seal the deal for this project.  We can build a school together in Africa.  Let's do it.  I will swim, bike and run 13.3 miles.  So I am doing the hard work, all you have to do is pitch in whatever you can.  Just go to my donate button on the side bar and let's build a school! Thank you for your prayers and donations in advance...I will definitely need the prayers because I have never done anything like this in my life.  I hate exercising.  Loathe would probably be a more appropriate word.  But I am willing to try.  

For some inspiration here are photos of the students at the school!

All in a day's work

As I was adding some journal entries to this blog, I discovered something I had never noticed before.  I haven’t really read my journals from Kenya since I returned home four years ago.  While writing the entries down, I have been ripped open again emotionally.  I had forgotten many of the events.  Easter Sunday 2008 was the day I met the people of the slums.  Pastor Amos took us to his home, his church.  This was the day in my life that I received my first calling from God.  The date was March 23rd.  Three years later, on the exact same date, I received my second calling from God.  That was the day Max was born.

One day.

Is it possible for your life to change forever in 12 hours?
It is.  I am living proof of that.
This may not mean much to you …that these events happened on the same exact day, but to me, it means God has literally mapped out a plan for me and He is reaffirming it all the time.   

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Changing my clothes

Today I was thinking to myself...I have nothing to wear.  I need a change of clothes.

While in Kenya, I met a Pastor of a tiny church in the slums.  Kibera slum is one of the largest slum areas in the entire world.  His name is Amos.  He worked at the orphanage my sister and I volunteered at in Nairobi.  He took us to his church on Easter Sunday, and I will never forget that day.  I can still close my eyes and hear the praises of the people under the tin roof.  It was pouring rain as the mud began to seep under our feet.  I can still smell the sweet scent of the rain mixed with sewage as it flowed past the church.  After the service we helped Amos bring out bags of old toys and clothes from the orphanage.  Before we left the States, we had received hundreds of items from our generous community for the babies at Hope House Orphanage.  We asked for support for our trip and also donations for the babies and what we received, was beyond what we had dreamed or expected.  In the weeks before the trip I would receive packages in the mail and on our doorstep daily.  I would open them to find tiny onsies, cloth diapers, bibs, blankets and so much more.  This was three years before I had my son,  but I felt like I was having a baby shower, and to be honest it was more special to me than my actual baby shower three years later.  It’s not that I didn’t love and gush over every gift that was given to us as we were about to become parents, it was just that I knew these babies and the mothers that abandoned them, or passed away, never had a baby shower.  My living room was soon over taken with piles upon piles of baby clothes.  Someone brought me all these matching blankets and hats knit by little old ladies that just knit them for babies that may need them.  I didn’t even know these women!

Needless to say I was inspired.  I had never raised funds or support for anything and I was blown away by the response. 

        Back to Easter 2008.  Because we were able to bring so many new things to the orphanage, Pastor Amos was able to take the used toys and clothes from the orphanage and bring it to the slums on Easter.  And he asked us to be a part of it.   When we opened the bags, it was a free for all and people were grabbing things faster than I could hand them out.  It was cuh-razy.  There was a small baby crying on the floor, practically getting trampled….I picked her up and watched as her mother dug through the pile, trying to find something that would fit her baby.  They looked like scavengers and I wished I could’ve just given them everything in my closet at home.  I thought of all the clothes that hung there at this moment that I never wore.  After her mother found some clothes she looked up and realized her baby was no longer there and I could see the panic in her eyes.  I quickly gave her a wave to let her know her baby was safe and she smiled at me.  It was a smile filled with gratefulness and it is permanently burned into my brain.  Another image I will never forget is of a little girl in the corner clutching a ratty old stuffed monkey.  She was not going to let that go.  It was the one thing she had escaped the madness with, and she wasn’t going to give it up.  I watched her pet her new stuffed friend and it took everything inside me not to burst into uncontrollable sobs.

The sermon we heard that day was on giving.  I watched as people gave what little they had and I thought about all the excess we have and how we hold on so tightly to what we “earn”.   That day I made a commitment to bring these stories home and share them with everyone I knew. 
When I returned to the States, I never was able to verbalize what I saw and how I felt.   I didn’t know what to say when people asked “how was Africa?” That was like trying to ask someone after they woke up from a near death experience “How was heaven?”  The reason we don’t know what heaven is like, is because we have never been there.  I couldn’t explain Africa to someone who had not been there.  Not everyone can go to Africa though, and not everyone is called to go there, so after years of trying to figure out what to do to help my friends there,  I am finally in a place where I hope I can give you a taste of what it was like.  Now I have something to say.  

Today I put on the same t-shirt and jeans I wear most days and I thought, I have so much so wear.