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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.
Easter is my (Johnny) favorite holiday. Searching back through my memories it seems that I have always loved this holiday. Certainly as a child it was more about candy, getting dressed up for church and egg hunts than any faith related event. There is just something about searching around the back yard for brightly dyed eggs and those oh so precious plastic ones full of jelly beans.
When I decided as a teenager to get serious about figuring this God thing out, which I still have not, the holiday became more about the resurrection of Jesus. Remembering the crucifixion and all the events leading up to it took precedence over the candy and eggs. I even adopted a few years back the practice of meditating on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Morning on the fact that the original followers of Jesus did not expect his resurrection. They would have been devastated at his murder by the state and trying to figure out whether or not it was worth following his teachings even though he had been so easily captured and executed. I like to think, or hope, I would have still followed his teachings and example, even without the hope of the resurrection. Guess I will never know, since I learned the end of the story first.
I know there is a lot of theological debate about the resurrection and the events leading up to it. There must be thousands of atonement theories out there. Many people, there are even some days I must admit I am one, cannot even accept the resurrection. It is just too big a magical leap for a good number of us educated folks. There are times when I get bogged down with the details and theology. I have to be honest and say that I do not mind getting lost in the story and trying to figure it out. I love that kind of stuff. However, that is all it is when you deconstruct it, stuff.
What really matters is what does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you? How it works is just fun talk and speculation. Not a single person reading this was there in Jerusalem a couple of thousand years ago. No one wrote down details about the event; first century Palestinians did not write play by play accounts of events. If we are being honest, or at least honest enough, we have no way to know definitively what happened on that day.
I can already hear/read the response, "I know what happened on that day. It's in the Bible. If it's in the Bible it must be factual." Today we are celebrating Easter 2017. That is the year 2017. This year. We know stuff. We know stuff about stuff. Our stuff knows more stuff about stuff than the smartest person knew in the first century. There is no scientific evidence that the resurrection took place. None. Zip. Nada. Yet I still believe in the resurrection. Why? I choose to have faith.
Faith is not scientific. Faith is not black and white. Faith is not measurable with a scale or a ruler. Faith is believing in something unbelievable. Living for something bigger than understanding. Faith transcends science. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is not something provable, which is why it is called faith.
I believe in the resurrection because it gives me hope. I have hope in Jesus. In him. Not the religion that Paul and others founded in his name, but in the man Jesus who was from Nazareth. Jesus came and preached a radical anti-empire anti-religion and pro-people message. He did this knowing that the Empire regularly crucified people for doing that very thing. He continually admonished his followers and listeners to love their enemies knowing that these very people where longing to overthrow their oppressors and mete out justice on them. He willing went to the cross in faith that his message would be preserved and passed down the ages.
This brings me hope. The God I grew up with would never have endorsed the Sermon on the Mount. No sir. That god wanted to squash me for looking at girls. That all powerful god needed my money, or rather as I was taught in church he wanted his money back. The god I grew up with hated people so much that he created a place of everlasting torment just so he could watch them suffer. That god scared me; in fact that was the point. Hope dawned as I read the Gospels for myself. I was stunned. After that I read the entire protestant Bible front to back several times in a row. Then I parked myself in the sermon on the mount. This Jesus was a man that I did not have to fear. He did not want to stab out my eye, or deposit me in hell to be tortured day after day for all of eternity just because I forgot to dot an i or cross a t. He was lovable and full of love.
The resurrection is God's stamp of approval on Jesus. It is God's way of saying this guy is worth paying attention to and following. Easter brings hope. I have hope that if we can live the message of Jesus, our lives, the whole world, will become paradise.
“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien,
“I will take the Ring,” he said, “though I do not know the way.”
Frodo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Council of Elrond
Emma celebrated her tenth birthday! According to Emma she is now officially a preteen.
Her birthday was celebrated with cake, games, and friends.
We had a fire today.
Not to worry the only thing lost was a compost bin. Unfortunately not everyone thinks about how dry things are before throwing coals onto a compost pile. We managed to contain the fire before it spread too much. The biggest loss, all the precious water we had to use to contain that fire.
I am covered in dust from head to toe. My skin itches from handling bales of hay, and I feel really dirty because we have to ration water during this dry season.
As many of you are aware, we are starting up a Horse Therapy program, and you might be asking yourself, "WHY?"
There are moments in my day when I am sweating outside running around a round pen training the new ponies that were given to us, that I ask myself that same question.
"What was I thinking?" crosses my mind as I shovel poop out of a stall. But then, I bury my face in a freshly combed horse mane (the cleaner she gets, inevitably, the dirtier I am), and I remember. That smell takes me to a place back when I was 14... I could bury my face in a horse's mane and not have a care in the world. He trusted me, and I him. He listened, not only to my stories, but to my cues when I asked him to carry me on his back. He was my friend. I used to read the bible looking for every horse scripture I could find. (There are many, by the way). I wanted to continue spending time with these beautiful creatures, but my, at the time newly divorced, parents sold my horse when I went off to Bible college.
Move forward to a few years ago, I didn't know anything about equine assisted therapy. Donors helped us buy our farm, and I knew immediately, I wanted a horse. I wanted my kids to learn to muck out stalls, clean tack, brush fuzzy horses, and learn how to ride, all the while having an amazing experience bonding with a creature whose history is marked with changing the world through their loyalty and sacrifice.
In my search for an affordable horse, I came upon a lady named Sue Anderson who was running a Riding for Disabled program in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. She had a horse she needed to place in a home immediately due to bad behaviour. We offered to take him on. When we went to her home, we helped with the therapy program as 'sidewalkers'. It was a thrilling experience seeing the children's faces light up, watching them do the exercises and seeing how it affected their core strength. Up until that point, I had NO idea that horses could actually help disabled children physically. (Keep in mind, I have lived outside of the Western world for 12 years). Seeing 'Horse Therapy' sparked a curiosity in me to find out more.
Meanwhile, we had a new horse to care for who was naughty and traumatised, BUT he was ours (along with a bunch of tack Sue didn't need, too). Now, our daughter Edith had a difficult time adopting me. She is my daughter, but our start was a bit rough. She hardly spoke a word to me in seven years. I will skip the details now, but in short, when I put Edith on a horse, suddenly, she became more open with me. Maybe she felt accepted? Or maybe she realised that she was 'one of us?' Whatever the reason, she and I have finally connected. Having that naughty horse was one of the best things we could have done. My daughter Edith is finally a Brooks to her core.
So over the next few years from 2014-2016, I found myself doing more research on horse therapy. I took Makena, Butterfly, Haley, who is my friend who works with disabled kids in Nakuru, and Starlette back to Sue's in Nairobi to learn how to do horse therapy. All the while, I was being told by someone that posting photos of our horse would cause us to lose donations because they have a stigma of being costly. I felt guilty for owning him. I am the kind of person who loves self-denial. I won't buy things for myself. I feel guilty if I eat anything extremely delicious or sugary. I wear ONLY second hand clothes and shoes, etc... It is just how I am... So I started calculating costs to justify having a horse, and it turned out he cost less to keep than one of our dogs.
Then it happened. I was standing in my bedroom with its cow dung covered, mud-cracked walls thinking, praying, meditating about how our Kenyan daughters are growing up and in a few years, they will be finding their own path... Having given our entire lives to these girls, this is a big transition...What are we going to do? The scarier question yet, what do I WANT to do? (Self denial type people like me have a difficult time enjoying things without LOADS of guilt). So I treaded lightly as I delved into the possibilities of what would bring me joy and help the human race, as well... This was a terribly scary question that I was afraid to ask... Then, the answer floated up out of my soul and consumed me in a way that made me feel excited, happy. overjoyed and terrified all at the same time! Horse therapy is what I WANT to do!
"But it is impossible." responded my husband when I shared my heart with him. (As was his response to me telling him we should move to Africa, or take in orphan teens, or buy land...) "No one will support it." And so the push and shove began, just like it has happened every time in the past when I suggested we move our little ship a different direction...
That was last year around August...
There are many ways to connect with Kate and I.
This blog is one way, though admittedly we fail to keep it as updated as we should. Kate is a prolific Facebooker and therefore following her there is the best way to stay up on what is happening. I am there as well, plus A Future and a Hope has a page. Both Kate and I are on Twitter, though admittedly neither of us caught the tweet bug. We use Instagram, Goodreads, and I even joined this new thing called Mewe. My all time favorite is email.
Goodreads - Johnny Brooks
MeWe - I am not sure how to get an address but you can search for Johnny Brooks.
We exist off the generosity of others. It is not always easy to accept that we must fund raise in order to survive and do what we are doing. Yet it has become easier over the years to come to appreciate the help and see how it is a way for others to be involved in what we do. Kate and I have made a commitment to each other that our interactions with people, i.e. potential donors, is not about raising money but is about relationship first. The fund raising comes second, third, if at all.
All our income comes from donations. We are not able to work for profit in Kenya, and actually work full time on the project so there is little time to do business. When you send a donation through PayPal or the mail it is deposited in the bank in California and sent to us here in Kenya. Bob, who helps with the banking, does not take a cut. The banks do of course, but we get the bulk of it. (Kate works at negotiating exchange rates and is super friendly with the bank people on this side. Which means we tend to get good rates.)
We use that money to help create hopeful futures for children here in Kenya. Kate and I do not take a salary, though our basic needs are met through the project. Works great for everything except retirement planning.
We cannot promise eternal or earthly rewards for the gifts you give. (Though I have seen the law of sowing and reaping over and over in my life.) We will not send you a gift for giving, at least not all the time. We will pray for you and think of you often, and we will appreciate what you give. To the best of our abilities we use the money to sustain our lives and bring hope to children here in Kenya.
Here is how you can give:
Make check out to A Future and a Hope and mail to:
A Future and a Hope
c/o Bob Humphrey
7909 Walerga Rd STE 112-141
c/o Bob Humphrey
7909 Walerga Rd STE 112-141
Antelope, CA 95843
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.