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Entries from April 2014

Social Media Fatigue

I, Johnny, am an introvert. I know, no big revelation there. I need down time, alone time to recuperate mentally and spiritually. I have no idea how all that works, but I do know that if I am around people all the time I get tired, grumpy, and my mind has trouble focusing. 

Unfortunately my alone time is now often taken up with social media. You know Facebook, chatting, blogging, and other on-line connections. Since in the literal sense I am often times alone doing those things I failed to understand that virtual connections can become just as real as real life connections. Socializing on-line is almost the same as doing it face to face, for me.

So I am taking a week off. You will not see me on Facebook (well live anyway my page will still be there,) blogs, or any other social media. I will still be accessible via email or in person. My hope is this will be like a vacation and I will come away feeling refreshed and whole again. Afterwards I'm thinking I need to have at least a day or two a week off-line.

Kate will most likely still be around, extroverts don't seem to need as much alone time. 


Where the money will go: Campaign update

Ladies and gentlemen, just to give you an update on how successful our campaign was, we almost doubled our goal! This has been the most successful campaign we have ever had. Thank you for allowing me to invade your news feeds for 3 weeks. It was intense. We are grateful, and will be keeping everyone updated on our progress!!

  • Today, we bought a truck load of sand, and a small amount of cement to water proof the washroom. We are hiring a guy to do the cement work for us today.
  • We have about 11 workers we are paying each day to smooth and plaster the walls as well as clean all the mud off of the shutters. They should be finishing up that work today.
  • Several guys are leveling the yard and digging a big hole for the water tanks to be underground.
  • We are packing and need to buy boxes so we can move on Monday!
  • Also, need to hire a big 21 ft truck to move everything!
  • We are getting wire to be strung for electricity, and we are having our new generator repaired. It broke during a test run at a friend's house. With that said, we are going to immediately look in to solar!
  • We are also getting posts and chainlink to do a 122'X91' fence around the house area since it will contain the dogs at night and keep us a bit safer as well.
  • We will buy some pipes for drainage, and wood to make counters and shelves, and even some water tanks and a water pump.
  • I would like to get a pressure cooker so we can cook our beans and lintels faster to save energy, and we also need a gas cylinder for cooking on our gas stove.
  • We are looking into getting a kuni burner system for heating water!
  • Then if we still have funds to do so, we will buy stones for our floor!
  • In the mean time, we will try to plant crops and hire some folks to help us till the land. We have some other items we need
  • toilet buckets, compost buckets, etc..
  • gas cooker
  • gas fridge or small office fridge or freezer. We haven't decided which will work best. Our current freezer will most like help our boys' home and school. In the mean time, we could put some stuff in it there.
  • Gates for both fences
  • drainage trench dug and filled with stones if we notice the need to do so
  • Makena will buy her donkey, so it needs a stall and fence, and eventually a cart so it can help us carry stuff around the Shire.
  • We will start our livestock with chickens, so we need a large coup and about 50 hens to provide enough eggs for our family.
  • We will plant at LEAST 200 trees.
  • Oh, and the 5 younger kids will start at a new school! So we have to get their uniforms and have them all sorted out there!

Once things get 'normal' and settled, and we begin to grow food and have cattle, we will learn, the children will learn, and we will eventually replicate this system for more house parents with more children on a different farm!

 

 


GOOD Friday indeed!

I woke up feeling grieved on Friday. I felt like I was mourning the death, murder, crucifixion of Jesus instead of celebrating its end result. I was shadowed and feeling pain in my soul. I thought how can this be a GOOD Friday?

I talked to the children about my feelings around the breakfast table, and they nodded and agreed...

Then as the day progressed, I felt like the ultimate sacrifice is to give of one's self like Jesus on this particular day.... I personally decided to sacrifice of myself and spent the whole day with five of my youngest children at a horse show, when I could have gone alone and enjoyed 'grownup time'... I felt so happy to have had them with me at the end of it all... Sacrifice has its rewards.

Then in the evening, I was looking at our campaign thinking of all the sacrifices people have made to get us this far...

... Then, several friends of mine exemplified what I was feeling about sacrifice on Good Friday and donated to our campaign now we have 88% of our goal! It is an overwhelming feeling to be loved enough and believed in by people for them to do that. In fact, I felt consumed by God's love through these acts of kindness demonstrated towards what we do in Kenya and for these children.

I have a feeling we may even surpass our goal this time.

It was a GREAT Good Friday, indeed!



 


Good Friday

Thinking about Jesus this Easter holiday. Which does make sense, seeing as to how it is about Him and all. Easter is my favorite holiday. It is the only holiday I celebrate that remains strictly about Jesus, and for us it lasts three days starting with Good Friday.

When I think about the cross one passage from the Bible usually comes to mind:

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9

That is how I think about the cross, it's daily impact on my life. 

image from upload.wikimedia.org
I was converted to Christianity at a young age, but it was not until about 12 or so years ago that I thought about what it really means to follow Jesus. I quickly realized that taking up my cross would lead me to uncomfortable, even painful places. When you are in a Good Friday, it is anything but good feeling. 

Taking up my cross has meant different things to me at different times in my life. Sometimes the meaning can change day by day. Currently this season of my life finds my cross as primarily defined as noise from children, and fund raising.

Noise wears me down, bit by bit by bit. I become grumpy and snap quickly at the children. In fact `Eowyn was just in here trying to turn on some of Kate's showtunes at maximum volume. I snapped at her. Thankfully she gave up and left. In fact it has been days, weeks, years since I last had a moment of silence during the day. I know, doesn't sound like a heavy cross, but for me it is one of the hardest to bear. 

The other one is fund raising. We need financial help to do our work. In fact the more work we do the less money we have available. Funny. Asking for help is not easy, but it is necessary. In fact I believe that needing help is spiritual. It is a way that God can teach me to rely on others and not go it alone. The other side is just as spiritual as well, giving. We have given our lives to save these children, and we are the ones who have been blessed the most.

Good Friday. 


Play Outside

I really believe in spending time outdoors. In fact, I think it is the best way to learn. Several of our children went with us to have some constructive playtime* in their new house which they named The Prancing Pony.

*which means they ran around in circles to tamp the clay floor down.

With that said, we have managed to build the structure of a 2000 sq ft house for just $6,500 USD! Now that is not bad! (FYI, this doesn't include our fence which cost $2,500 and our water tanks which cost $1,000 for those wondering where the money went!)

Our house is not complete yet, and we are doing a fundraiser so we can do these things listed here:

1. Currently our floor is just loose soil, so they need to be tamped and have flat stones on them so we don't get muddy feet.

2. Also, our walls are bumpy mud, so we are paying guys to dig clay, make the mud, smooth it on the walls, and they are leveling the yard at the same time.

3. We have no counters nor shelves nor rods to hang clothes, etc.. so we need some cabinets and shelves

4. We need to water proof our bathroom, so we need tiles and cement.

5. We need water tanks to store more water, and a pump to pump it uphill so it can get pressure to come into the house

6. A tank stand is needed to put the water tank on at the top side, and holes need to be dug in the ground on the lower side to put the storage tanks that collect rain water in from the gutters.

7. Pipes for the water system are needed.

8. Storage racks and shelves for the kitchen and sink are needed.

9. We would like to fence in an area around the house so that visitors don't just pop in and the dogs stay near the house instead of roaming around 11 acres.

10. Some windows have no shudders and need screens

11. We need a hot water system put in

12. A small fridge will be bought for when the generator is on

13. Solar panels, inverters, etc... need to be bought and put in

14. We need a portable gas cylinder for our gas stove top

15. We need a gate in the fence at the back

16. A drainage trench needs to be dug around the barn and filled with stones

17. We want to build a donkey stall and paddock fenced so we can use her to help haul things up the hill

18. Moving expenses for a big truck so we can shift to our new home.

If you would like to help us finish our home, you can donate or share our link with friends and family... Easter is a time of new beginnings, and we have a big new beginning just ahead!

 

 


I couldn't do this with out Johnny

There are some people who are quiet, deep souls who do not need recognition nor praise for what they do...

Johnny is one of those people. In fact, he prefers to go unnoticed through out life... Which is why some people ask me, 'What does Johnny do?'

The reality of it is, Johnny is the back bone, the wisdom, the balance to EVERYTHING. He is stable and non-emotional. He is a giver. Even more than me... I tend to be a talker, loud, and full of dreamy ideas, and 'up in the clouds' as my parents would say... but Johnny is the one who holds my string, and keeps me from floating off into space. He keeps me grounded. Albeit, I balance him, and keep him moving forward, too!

I get a lot of attention because I talk a lot and have passion about my ideas, but Johnny is quietly behind the scenes being the wind beneath my wings. He is consistent and solid... He keeps me focused on my goals when I get distracted, and he helps me attain them supporting me and believing in the ideas as well.

Johnny lives in the moment, in the now. He is consistent and likes routine. Every evening, he locks up the gate, the house, and makes sure everything is as it should be for the end of the day... then, after a short sleep, he wakes at 3:30 am and takes the dog out, he goes back to sleep, wakes at 6am and drives the girls to school. He runs errands for our home and spends countless hours waiting in long lines at the bank and other offices. He works on the Shire and picks the girls up from school. He diligently records all of the money stuff and keeps all of the records straight. He makes sure that the children are happy by giving them cash to spend and credit for their phones. He is the YES man. If the kids want something, they go to 'Daddy.' Now if they need comfort, first aid, or intimate questions answered, they come to me.

One thing you may not know about Johnny is that he loves mowing the grass. Yup. He can spend hours mowing the lawn. On The Shire, he can dig clay and haul wheelbarrows of sand up the hill. Something I do not have the strength to do! He actually has more stamina than I do. I always am surprised by this, but after 19 years, you think I would get used to it!

Johnny always makes sure our bills are paid on time and that those people we help are helped when needed. He handles most of the driving since it is crazy here in Kenya, and he makes sure that all of us are safe. (Something I never really think about!)

It takes BOTH of us to do what we do. Johnny and I are a team. When I am so exhausted and I can't think, Johnny will handle cooking and cleaning. He loves hanging clothes on the line, and he doesn't mind doing the things I really detest doing... like peeling potatoes!

He may be quiet. but he is consistent strength to me and a wonderful dad to the children. He is my soul mate, and the one who keeps me going.

 

 


The answer to human trafficking?

As we were making videos for our current campaign, we discovered a way to prevent human traffricking. While talking about our own orphan-no-more daughters, we realized that by taking them in we have protected them from a life of being trafficked... (Ok, we knew it all along, but the words just came out as we were recording our video, and sparked this article.) We are preventing what COULD have been...

I mean, a teenage orphan girl has no chance in today's world on her own, on the streets, or even left in the village with a grandma where men take what they want with force, or the granny is too impoverished to care for her deceased child's children so she sells her 'burden of a granddaughter' to someone who will pay to take her off her hands where she will end up being a ...... (fill in the blank with your own ideas. Let me help you: house help, modern day slave, prostitute, maid...)

We have 9 beautiful teenage girls who are growing up SAFE as part of our family. If they feel threatened by anyone, whether it is a teacher, student, outsider or friend, we are there for them to protect them, stand up for them, and guide them to a safe place.

Brooks Family

What is the answer to preventing human trafficking? For us, it is fostering the vulnerable ones. Taking them in and giving them a family.

 


Coffee with Kate?

This is not my best photo, but I have to admit, I am snug in my sweater and have 'morning face'. Zoom in, you can see it for yourself. Yeah, this is the REAL me. Just chilled by the morning air ready for a warm cup of coffee. I was thinking perhpas you would like to join me. We are encouraging folks to visit us this year. Come on! You can do it. Let's have some coffee together. Or tea, or water... or whatever.

 


More Blessed to Give

There is a passage in the Bible that says this; "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Familar phrase from the book of Acts, but one that I abused myself with time and time again in my past. 

Back when I still followed a religion instead of Jesus I used this passage to remind myself that I had to give. My interpretation was that if it was a blessing to give than certainly the reverse was true as well. If I failed to give God would curse me, or at least remove his protection from my life. I still did not understand that He loved me and would never reject me. Especially not for financial reasons. 

Once I was free of the obligation to give I actually read the rest of the context. The writer talks of not coveting or lusting after silver and gold, and working with his hands to feed himself. He also admonished the reader to labor and support the weak. 

This is what we are trying to do. Day in and day out we labor amongst the children. Working towards giving them hopeful futures. I am guilty of wanting a few new shiny tools. Like a newer car, computer, phone, etc. Yet we have managed to change our lifestyles sufficently enough to live without all the latest greatest and fashionable trends, and still be happy.

Beyond that I have learned the truth of "It is more blessed to give than to receive." My life has been transformed, no saved, because we have rescued these children. Without them I am not sure I could have continued on. I have been blessed. 

Blessed with love.

Blessed with relationships.

Blessed with fullfillment.

Blessed with hope.

Giving is no longer an obligation for me, but instead has become a way of life. As I continue to follow and attempt to emulate Jesus, I find that giving of myself is more and more the spiritual path. These children do not live with us because we feel that we owe God. They are with us because we love and want to love more.