- Youtube went live
- Hurricane Katrina struck
- George W. Bush started his second term
- Pope John Paul II died
- The movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out
- Star Wars III The Revenge of the Sith
- The Brooks moved to Nakuru, Kenya
Many things happened in 2005, which was when we moved to Kenya thirteen years ago.
It was one of those years that thirteen years later seems to have been o.k., but during that year it was pretty rough. Actually, it was mostly hard work and upheaval for us. We decided to move because we felt that was what God wanted for our lives, and we also felt that we should abandon traditional fundraising methods. This proved easier said than done. We sent out a letter and that was about it. The response was great but slow.
We were still deciding where we fit in the Christian religion, and well, folks tend to give to missionaries who believe like them and follow all their religious rules. We came from a charismatic background, and our church was relatively conservative in it's theology. Personally, I (Johnny) was more theologically liberal back then and did not feel that my voice was appreciated. I also felt it necessary to challenge and raise difficult questions, often. Not the best case scenario for fundraising.
Despite this, and sometimes because of this, we did attract a few donors. The church we helped to plant came on board along with several members and family members. We had no money for a car, no money for traveling, no money for furniture. Yet we knew we should make the sacrifice.
We learned how the poor in Kenya survive. You grow your own vegetables and harvest wild weeds for food. (Once when digging around the garden in 2005, we came across a number of small potatoes. That night we partied with fried potatoes.) No air conditioning meant much lower electricity bill. No car meant no money needed for maintenance, insurance, and petrol. No electronics stores meant no new computers, phones, DVD players, nor really any entertainment at all. We learned to live on much less and to work around or with lack.
We learned to relate. We learned what it means to rely on someone else to get to the hospital with a sick child, who was not breathing due to a feveral seizure. (Our landlord lived next door and felt that she needed to stay home that morning. She found out why when Kate ran over to see if she was home and if she would drive us to the hospital. Butterfly was the child and had malaria and pneumonia.) We learned to rely on our community to help feed our children and theirs. (I went around preaching in that first year that we should take care of each other. That the first church had no needs not because of miracles but because they took care of each other. A few congregations took me seriously and helped us out from time to time.)
Thirteen years later we still have to work hard to raise money and have to budget very carefully most months. Yet the donors have grown in number, and we have learned new means of raising money. I think my biggest lesson has been to just trust. If myself or Kate feels that we should do something, then I have learned to trust that the budget will be met. Often times in creative ways, but the money will come to accomplish the project. We have learned that it is o.k. to ask for help, because people really want to help. You guys are great.
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.
Education. Something I took for granted as a child. I started kindergarten and went all the way through high school without any danger of not finishing. It never even occurred to me that there were children not going to school or being sent home because they could not pay. I had not even heard of homeschooling back then. Unfortunately not being able to go to school is a way too common occurrence here in Kenya. Too many children are aware of the fact that they can be sent home at any moment, and often for the most trivial of circumstances.
Imagine if you will that you are headed back to school. You are starting class eight this January, a crucial year as at the end of it there is a test that will determine what high school you can go to. It is your chance to get into a good school that could even help you qualify for university or look good on your resume as you apply for that all important first job. It is a big year. The end of primary school and you can begin to see the shape of things to come in your future.
Now imagine if you will that your mom gets sick. She is out of work say for two weeks and has to spend money she cannot afford on medication. Consequently, she is unable to afford to pay your school lunch fee, which is not that much, but when you make two hundred or so Kenyan shillings a day (about two U.S. dollars) that lunch fee can seem insurmountable. Or maybe you rip your school uniform and are sent home to replace it. (Currently, we need to buy a second uniform for B.T. which altogether will be 6,900 Kenyan shillings.) Perhaps this is multiplied over two or three siblings. Tough.
We want to be there for these children. We believe in education as a way to escape the slum, poverty, and a host of other social ills affecting Kenya. The system in Kenya is not perfect, in fact, it is far from it. Yet it is the system one has to navigate, and the more children we keep on that journey through school the more bright futures we create. These futures are not just for the kids, but for us as well. These are the future scientist, politicians, mechanics, astronauts, and so on. They are necessary for our future.
I took school for granted and luckily ended up with a decent education. I do not want to take these children's educations for granted. I will fight for them to stay in school.
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
Here in Kasambara Kenya, we have two basic types of weather; it is either raining or not raining. Fortunately, we do not have much extreme weather, just raining or not raining. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, depends on rain for water. We do not have access to any piped water nor do we have a well. We capture all the rain that falls on our roofs during the rainy season and store it in large tanks. We then pump the water from those storage tanks to a tank up the hill from the house and that tank feeds the house via gravity. Currently, we have a little over 100,000 liters of water storage (not full as our rainy season has just started.)
Water management is one of the top priorities here on the farm. We can not afford to waste any water. There are no flush toilets. You would be surprised at how much water toilets use. Instead, we use a composting toilet system. All the water from the sinks and shower (gray water) goes into a banana circle. Showers are limited and not every day. With careful oversight, our water lasted throughout the previous dry season. We never ran completely out. Nice.
Now the clouds have come and it is raining again. Tanks are filling, the grass has gone green again, and the temperature has cooled off a few degrees. The rainy season is our favorite.
Elementary and high school are something that I took for granted as an American. I started school in kindergarten and finished twelfth grade without ever once worrying about being able to attend school. Certainly there are some Americans that do have that struggle, perhaps they have to leave high school to help support the family. However I imagine that the majority of my peers had little fear of not attending school. I was never sent home because my parents failed to pay school fees.
Unfortunately that is not the case here in Kenya. Many children miss out on part of their education or all of it due to the inability to pay the school fee, buy a uniform, pay the lunch fee, or whatever new fees the head teachers dream up for that term. When a child has not paid the fee they are still expected to turn up to class in the morning. Then they are called out and sent home to collect the money from their parents. Who of course do not have it, which is why they have not paid the fee in the first place. This repeats the next day or perhaps the day after. The result is much absenteeism, creating holes in the learning process.
In a couple of weeks it will be time for us to pay school fees for the children we care for plus a few others in the wider community. Kate and I believe that education is a vital part of creating hopeful futures for orphaned or abandoned children here in Kenya. A child who has completed high school has more of an opportunity for higher education, vocational schools, and jobs. It is important, vital, that we keep as many children in school as possible.
“True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.”
Unfortunately it only drizzled. It has sprinkled a few times in the past week, but we are still waiting those "tank filling" heavy rains.
Just in case you are not connected with Kate on Facebook here are a few highlights:
I have never tried linking to a Facebook video, let's see what happens:
This is what we were doing last year at this time (carrying water), but thanks to our campaign last year, we still have a little bit of water left in our new water tanks.
And how about one more video link?: