When we arrived in Nairobi in 2005 with our three children in tow we were full of adventurous spirit and had high hopes of getting a lot of work done from the get go. Before leaving Texas we, of course, had set in place a plan. We knew where we were living and also where we would base the work out of. Since we had been to Kenya before, in 1996 and 1997, we knew people and had arranged everything with them.
Stepping off the plane I (Johnny) felt like I was home. This was the place that I wanted to be, that I felt God wanted me to be, and I was looking forward to the reception. That reception turned out to be less than anticipated. Weeks before the big move we made arrangements to be picked up at the airport by our hosts, the folks we had stayed with back in 1996 and 1997. A bishop and one of his pastors were to pick us up and drive us to his place in Molo, a few hours from Nairobi. He did meet us at the airport, but without a vehicle nor plans to hire one. In fact, he was a couple of hours late, leaving us with all our luggage and three young children sitting on the curb outside the airport.
We hired a vehicle using half of the cash we had on hand and set off for Molo. Only on the way the bishop tells us he is embroiled in a dispute over land ownership with his former denomination. In fact, pastors were fighting each other on the property with knives. Sigh. So we were going to his house in Nakuru instead. Nakuru an entirely different place than we had planned for with all new circumstances.
He then tried to rent us half of his house for several times the normal market rate of the area. A house he was sharing with his mistress, possibly more than one. We decided to find our own place.
We did find a nice place to rent. We stayed there for slightly more than a year. Here is a video of a young Makena giving a house tour.
In a few days we will have lived in Kenya for thirteen years. We landed in Nairobi as a family on January 17, 2005, and have been living out our adventure ever since. We have undergone quite a few changes and grown tremendously since that day. I suppose the biggest change has been the additions. When we deplaned we touched Kenyan soil with three little Americans. There are now three more biological children (who are both American and Kenyan) and nine Kenyan girls that have been added to our "little" family. Three plus three and nine more equals, a whole bunch.
Kate and I have grown as individuals and as a couple. In fact, I believe that that personal growth makes the marriage possible. Stagnation in one or both parties cannot be a good thing. We will celebrate our twenty-third wedding anniversary next month, and speaking for myself I look forward to many more to come.
Over the next few days I will take us back to see where we have come from then look at where we are and finish with where we are going. In the meantime let us look at a few photos and a video or two of the first month in Kenya:
I did not find many pictures of Kate and myself but did find this cute one of Kate on the phone in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport
She was negotiating luggage prices with our travel agent and British Air. Thankfully she managed to get them to honor their original agreement and saved us several hundreds of dollars.
Here is Makena and Butterfly playing in the airport:
Butterfly was eighteen months old but pretty big. She filled out the baby cot in the airplane pretty well.
Andrew enjoyed trying out all the amenities on offer and always knew the location and condition of the toilet.
Upon arrival immediately the children found all the animals so amazing and wonderful.
Love Andrew's boots in the above picture.
There were many struggles that the children either did not know about or just were not as concerned about as much as mom and dad were. Thankfully we made it through them and these children have grown up into beautiful young people.
It has been a long time since we had an article about care packages, and it has been ages since we received one! Granted, they do charge us at the post office a percentage of the amount written on the customs form, but some things we just cannot find in Kenya, and we would love to have them. Here is our wish list! For my friends with horse connections, finding some items are quite difficult. We are extremely happy with used items as long as they are in good condition. I will post the horse items here first because they are difficult to find in Kenya, but if that is not an area of interest for you, please keep scrolling. We really miss certain things like ranch seasoning packets!
Horse stuff: (I am posting links to products so you can see what we are needing, but if you have used items in good condition, we are happy to use those!)
- lead ropes (seriously, we have broken most of ours!)
- 4 hackamores (bitless attachment so our horses can be ridden without bits) see this link or this link
- 1/4" or 6mm thick parachord 100 ft long for making our own halters preferably turquoise or black, but not really picky!
- 20 pieces if possible 1" Stainless Steel O rings to make our own bridles
- 3 crops
- 3 or so (because they break over time, but one will do!) lunge whips
- bean bags (very important for our therapy sessions!)
- plush dice
- game idea books for horsey games (just search for some on Amazon) We aren't picky, and I don't have any!
- breast plates (3 ponies, one horse)
- Stirrup leathers
- Rope halters
- saddles obviously not easy to mail so designated funds to buy them here- $400 or so? I found one I really like!
- extra money for hay (it is tripled in price at the moment, so we need about $400 for 100 bales)
- hay nets
- speakers and ipod for music for therapy. Our speakers are not loud enough.
- Children's meds ages 1 year and up
- vitamin C chewables
- sore throat meds
- allergy meds
- bug bite meds
- antibacterial cream
- Mr. Clean erasers
- hand towels
- wash cloths
- silicone Popsicle molds
- LED solar twinkle lights (all sorts, these are fun!)
- hair bows for baby Starlette
- hair brushes (remember, we live in a country where we are the minority so finding good hair brushes is difficult)
- butt rub
- seasoned sunflower seeds
- marshmallows (both large and small)
- chocolate chips
- peanut butter chips
- Reese's cups
- coloring books
- paint brushes
- watercolor paper
- Dog sweaters for up on this cold mountain Size Great Dane
- Dog leashes
- Chew toys
- Flea control
- Dog bed
Emma celebrated her tenth birthday! According to Emma she is now officially a preteen.
Her birthday was celebrated with cake, games, and friends.
School is back in full force.
Weekend is just over the horizon. I wonder if I can manage to pull off doing nothing this weekend? My guess is that with fifteen children, farm animals, and trees to water the answer will be a resounding no. Sigh. Someday a weekend will come that will bring the blessed nothingness.
Last night during dinner preparations our gas cylinder needed replacing. (No piped cooking gas in the house we use cylinders. You know like the ones you take camping, only these are bigger.) Fortunately we have two. Unfortunately the replacement has a problem with the nozzle or whatever you call that thing. So dinner was cooked over coals. Not as convenient, but more African. In fact we had a Kenyan dish. I suppose it was appropriate we cooked it on a jiko over charcoal.
Busy day today. I, Johnny, will be Kate's driver as she places orders for lumber to build three more animal stalls and collects various bits and pieces for that project in Nakuru. There is still an ongoing fund raiser to help with these costs. The stalls will house animals related to the horse therapy and another cow. (At least the cow is planned right now. We might change our minds and do goats.) Thankfully Kate generally rewards my driving her around with nice food, perhaps Chinese today?
What are your weekend plans? Chinese on the menu?
Today we celebrate Edith's birthday. She was the first Kenyan girl to move in with us back in 2007. She was a spunky little four year old at the time who adjusted to being with us quickly. Now at fourteen she can be quiet as a mouse or loud as a lion. She is allergic to work, but quick to help out with Starlette (our one year old.) Lasagna is her favorite food, and she likes playing games on the IPad.
Edith starts her class eight this week in primary school. The final year. It is a big year for Kenyan school children. The test at the end determines where you can go to secondary school. We are sure she will do fine and hopefully can even enjoy this final year of primary school.
Since it is January, our hot time of the year, we are going to go swimming in town at a place called Kivu. When we get back there will be a giant chocolate chip cookie made and some kind of beef stir fry thing for dinner.
Happy birthday Edith.
I do not do resolutions, but I do take a moment each January 1st to reflect back. This morning I take a look back at the past year and try to evaluate not if I was a success or a failure at my endeavors, but rather was I human or not. Did I do the things that make Johnny a better man or did I just coast through life? Am I a positive or negative impact on life?
My forty-third birthday was in November. There is no doubt about it, I am a grown up. Full size. I no longer need to be told what to do and when to do it. (Though I am still learning how to do many things, but then again so should everyone.) Mommy does not need to hold my hand as I cross the road. I know what it is I am to be doing with my life, and in 2017 just like 2016, I will continue to do what it is I am meant to be doing.
Which is what?
I, along with my wife Kate, work here in Kenya to bring as much hope for a future, to as many children without hope, as possible. Each and everyday in 2017 will be spent working towards that goal of hopeful futures. You see we learned a secret about nine years ago; it is not hard to love a child. Love is easy. We learned to unlearn all the platitudes, cultural hype, and marketing that taught us that love is hard. It is not. Loving a child who has lost her parents is one of the easiest things in the world. Try it, you will find it to be simple. (Liking a difficult child, that on the other hand is not easy. Loving and liking are two different things. It is nice when they work together, but when they do not one can still love a child or adult whom one does not like.)
The hard part is caring for that child day in and day out for as long as it takes. When we took in the nine orphaned/abandoned girls that became part of our lives we found loving them came easy. In fact from the first moment we laid eyes on them we were able to express love towards them. Inviting these young ladies to live with us as family was one of the easiest invitations we have ever given. Feeding them, now that has proven to be more difficult. Clothing fifteen children (9 plus our 6 biological) makes you appreciate nudist philosophy. Working out disciplinary issues is not as simple as hugging and saying "I love you."
We are still loving and caring for these children in 2017. Not everything looks the same as it did in previous years, but the love has not waned. In fact it has increased. Combining love and care is the way to start restoring hope.
I hope your New Years celebrations are fun, we will be celebrating Starlette's first birthday today. I look forward to continuing to journey with you and working together as we strive to bring hope to the hopeless in 2017.
Each Christmas I write a post about how much I dislike Christmas. (Last year's is here.) Which I really do, dislike Christmas that is. It is a terrible holiday. I much prefer Easter. All of which has been said before. So what do I feel this year? Particularly on Christmas Eve as I type this?
This year I am feeling melancholy. Don't misunderstand there are great things going on right now. I'm with Kate, which is spectacular. The kids of course are fantastic, and I do love them loving the holiday. Plus a baby is coming any day now. Not bad for the season.
Yet the melancholy persists, which is unusual state of emotions for me. After pondering it a while I realize that I miss home. I mean my cultural home, Texas. I miss my Mom, sisters, brothers, and the myriad other family members. I miss all the decorations about town, the parties, the general good cheer that happens this week. I miss the Christmas specials on t.v. I miss Christmas.
Cannot believe that I actually miss Christmas, but well maybe I am getting soft(er) each year that passes, or perhaps I am just feeling homesick.
I am missing the good old United States of America this Christmas.
At least there will be eggnog and mulled wine tonight.
Yesterday was my forty second birthday. I spent the day hanging out with the kids and climbing up the hillside. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.
The life we are currently living is not the life I imagined for myself as a young man gazing into the future. Not at all. About the only part I got right was Kate.
I had not imagined having children. There are now fourteen, and one on the way, in my life.
I had not imagined living in Kenya. It has now been almost eleven years here.
I had not imagined a life without religion. I am so glad that Jesus led me to a religionless life. What freedom!
I had not imagined building a farm. There are now pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, chickens, and rabbits outside my door.
This moment, right now, it is not perfect. There are things, resources, people, and skills missing from my life. No, perfection is not a part of my life. Yet happiness is. I am happy. Happy with how things worked out. I tried out some of my imaginings on the way to forty two, none of them brought me happiness nor contentment.
Living out my faith, my ideas, my commitments to family; these are the things that have made me happy to see birthday number forty two.
What will the future hold? Hard to say. I can imagine a future with:
More children rescued and given a hopeful future.
Our children living their lives faithful to their beliefs and convictions.
A farm producing enough food for us and the hungry in this world.
I can imagine a better future, and hopefully just like that younger man gazing forward in time, this slightly older one will find that his future dreaming fell far short of what actually has come to be.