Our Time in Kenya…in reverse

Our last few weeks in Kenya we felt so blessed to be able to stay at an orphanage with 150 kids in it.  There was always someone to talk to, play with, and always a teen who wants to help you with dishes, laundry, cleaning, or fetching buckets of water.  We felt so spoiled to get to stay with this giant family.  It has been great to watch the older kids take care of the littles, to watch how they milk their cows, use the cow poo for compost, grow some of their own food, help the cook prepare meals, and even help Mama Sylvia in her own home.   When you look around the orphanage you see needs and want to help and I would imagine that it can actually be a bottomless pit.   But when you really think about how blessed these kids are compared to the kids we saw in the interior areas of Western Kenya you just want to give the kids a hug and tell them how fortunate they are.  Some have experienced extremely horrible situations in their own families but they are given a chance now to be educated, fed, and to develop their talents.   Our neighbor kids in Rongo were sleeping on thin papyrus mats but the kids in Children’s Garden at least get to share a twin size mattress with another kid and sleep in a warm and secure building. Even though we fell in love with the people in Rongo we found ourselves having a tough time saying goodbye to these kids at the orphanage and we can’t wait to see them again.
Today we arrived in Paris with a 7-hour layover so the culture shock is slowly creeping in as you overhear conversations about petty things and walk past Gucci, Prada, and the cutest macaroon shops.  We still can’t believe what we have just experienced, even looking through photos it seems surreal.  We just know that we are so blessed and we just praise the Lord that He has brought us on this crazy adventure and that He has been faithful in taking care of us.Photo on 3-11-16 at 10.58 AMPhoto on 3-11-16 at 10.59 AM

Our last month in Rongo

Sorry for the delay in this update but we wanted to accomplish as much as possible before leaving the Rongo area.  We are now staying at an orphanage in Nairobi and are having a great time getting to know these kids and watching how they all take care of each other here.
  After the bridge project was finished in Nyaburu we focused on getting support around Mary and having a written plan for her.  Once she was in the house, I’d love to report that her life was dramatically changed but that is simply NOT the case.  Just because she was given a new home and land does not mean that the old habits would disappear.  We can just hope and pray that she will take this new home and land to create an opportunity for a better life for her boys.
We have an occupational therapist going to their home for one hour every week to work with Navydillan and to assist Mary when the baby is sick.  Mary will still have to take Navy to therapy at the hospital once a week too. We have a counselor who is a new friend to Mary so that she has someone to talk to about life and this friend will also be there to protect this family when others try to “move in” on them.  Mary will receive food support for 6 months or until she has her first harvest for income.  It was good that we left a little early from Rongo so that she has to start working hard and can’t just call us when problems arise.  It was hardest to say goodbye to little googly eyed Navydillan because we know that his little life is in the palm of the Lord’s hand and it’s only by the grace of God that Navy has lived this long.
Since we want to focus on education and getting a library started in Rongo we did as much as possible to get that started without actually getting a building.  We met a lovely lady who knows how to do the whole Dewey decimal system to organize the books.  We scoped out buildings and checked on rent.  We have a Post Office box and now will have to research how to not pay customs fees on donated books and we left it at that for now.
We visited several high school students at their schools to say goodbye and to take their picture in their uniform.  These were students that could not have afforded school but YOU paid for them to go.  These 10 students are beyond grateful and for a tribe that doesn’t show much emotion it was amazing to witness boys getting choked up and the guardians of orphans in tears because this year they get to send them to school.  If you donated to this cause we pray that you fully understand what a blessing you are to these kids and that you have expanded their opportunity of getting out of poverty.DSC_0201
We also went out to that village to say goodbye to friends and to toss some lollipops on our way.  It was too hard for us to return there in December and January because of the loss of 2-year-old Brighton but we were happy that we got to say goodbye to his mama Judy and then we said goodbye to Margret.
Our last night in Rongo we invited our closest friends for a dinner and it was delicious and so fun.  John fried 7  oh so good chickens, Dennis and Lavinda covered sodas, delicious fried potatoes, and Wiki handled the ugali for 30 people. We ate like kings then danced like Kenyans before sleeping like babies.

Some of our favorite peeps in our home for our last night in Rongo

  We will miss cramming in 4-7 extra boys in a car with us, we will miss the dust in the air on a busy street, the bright colored buildings, the piki piki rides that make you pray until your feet are on the ground again, the walks where everyone who sees you yells “mzungu, how are you?”, the feeling of being surrounded by a language that you have to strain to understand, the way you stop and walk across a busy street just to greet an acquaintance, we will miss the raw feeling that this is real life,  and we are missing the Bethel boyz who were at our house every day.

Nyaburu Bridge

As I worked on Mary’s property for 2 months we would walk across the river to get materials and such to the job.  I started to notice how many people cross, old ladies, young children, and mothers with babies on their backs. When the river floods, which is often here, no one can cross which makes the journey to school almost 4 times  as long.  Rivers are used as a trash can in the rural areas so you can imagine what is floating around in them. I even got a nice infection on my foot from how dirty the water is.  So I talked with the chief to see if it’s possible to build a small bridge.  He loved the idea so we came up with a plan that the community would provide all the rock, sand and labor for free if I would provide the cement and lumber.  It was an amazing experience to see this community come together and build this bridge.


Pouring the columns and footing


Pulling the pole across the river


A young man’s passage

Testing the bridge

Testing the bridge

Really testing the bridge

Really testing the bridge

January 22, 2016

“Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord, O my soul.  I will praise the Lord all my life;  I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalms 146:1+2

  Sorry for the delay in updates but I was away with the h.o.w? ministry to Nairobi, Naivasha, and Kingangop for 12 days.  I had a wonderful time getting refocused, restored, and refreshed to finish strong in Kenya.
  Living as a foreigner can be very exciting and it can be very exhausting at the same time.  We continue to look at the good in this community and try not to get caught up in everything that is going wrong.  The more needs we found here the more stretched we got and that is why we chose to focus on one family where the cycle of poverty and illness can still be broken.  By putting the majority of our energy into Mary Atieno’s family we have witnessed other Kenyans who joined us in pouring love, time, and education onto this family.  Grace has been a huge help on getting the boys into a great school which required obtaining birth certificates for each of them first.  Lavinda and Dennis are friends of ours that have counseled the family and have put hours into building a chicken coop and prepping the soil for a garden with Mary’s hubby, Robert.  It has been great to watch Robert work in his compound and to watch Mary and her boys cleaning their new home.

Thanks to all our friends who have provided back in June and to those who gave on-going support we have been able to witness the Lord working in Kenya.  We are so grateful for the amount that came in for Mary’s family and the Lord truly blessed her with an amazing piece of land, home and school fees for all her boys.  On January 18th we were able to dedicate the home and have a small feast with neighbors, our friends Kristen Kimball and Sheldon Ringor, and some of the men that worked on the home.  The family was glowing with pride that night.  The sunset was gorgeous.  The fireflies were a dream.  We are all blessed to take it all in.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

Wazungu Parade

Wazungu Parade

Moving day crew w/ Kristen and Sheadon

Moving day crew w/ Kristen and Sheadon

Tear down of the old home to repurpose it into a chicken coop

Tear down of the old home to repurpose it into a chicken coop

All their belongings in one truck

All their belongings in one truck

Kitchen prep area and outdoor kitchen

Kitchen prep area and outdoor kitchen

Sitting room

Sitting room

Navydillan's new bed for naps and therapy

Navydillan’s new bed for naps and therapy

ET... I mean Navy and Tay

ET… I mean Navy and Tay

Lavinda and Dennis

Lavinda and Dennis

Celebrating with fried chicken

Celebrating with fried chicken

Mary glowing

Mary glowing

Beautiful sunset as the men grabbed their supper

Beautiful sunset as the men grabbed their supper

December 30, 2015

Mary’s  H o m e

This house is huge!  When we first saw the cement floor with thought the home looked small.  Then when the walls went up it seemed big… and now that there is a roof on it, it looks like a gorgeous home.  We took our neighbor who is a good friend to see it for the first time plus another friend who is an occupational therapist so that he could make suggestions on how to make the home more usable for Navydillan.  Both men were blown away by the home and said this is a home that they would dream to have someday.  Here’s a look at the progress:DSC_0811



Oh this family is so blessed!  Thank you Lord for what you have put together for them.

December 26, 2015


Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  We had an interesting day.  The presents this year were very unusual but we were all thrilled with what we got and for the experience of seeing how other cultures celebrate Christmas.  First of all, in Kenya you don’t know that Christmas is approaching until the day before.  John and I left the kids at home with Eva and we picked up two friends to take them shopping with us at a store kind of like a walmart… it’s the only place that makes us feel a little American.  The traffic was horrible and the lines inside were crazy long but not bad compared to shopping in the states.  The two friends we had with us happened to be occupational therapists (one Kenyan and one is a Canadian intern) so they helped us choose a beneficial gift for Navydillan. I wouldn’t have thought of this but there was a pillow they suggested and some rattles for him to reach for while laying on his belly on the pillow.  We grabbed some toys for Navydillan’s older brother and bought some food to make a corn chowder for our Christmas dinner.  We looked briefly for gifts for our kids but there wasn’t anything that would be worth it in long the run so we decided to buy them some soapstone carvings, a Masai blanket for Tay, and then told the kids we would let them choose a pair of shoes or a new shirt at the market in town on Christmas day.



Wyclef (Wiki)


Joy and her lil sis in their Christmas best


Pamanice on the Left and Paul on the right taking soda w/ us

If you’ve made it this far then enjoy this funny lil video that we put together:

December 23, 2015

Final day of the football tournament


Top Scorer-Received a ball and $5


Championship game





The winning team-Received a trophy (full of lollipops), 2 soccer balls from Charity Ball, and $100

Updates on Mary’s home


John with Wiki, Pamanice, and Bernard (Bennett)


How did life get so busy… especially in Africa?  It’s getting difficult to accomplish just one task each day. Mary’s property is coming along just as planned.  Her compound is fenced in, the home’s foundation has been poured, the cement floors just got poured, and the bricks will start forming the walls tomorrow.  We are so ready to give this family a new start and to give them the tools plus the knowledge to take care of each other.


The foundation ready to be poured with cement then plastered


The dig-out for the foundation


A brick carrier who loves to pose when the camera is out

 Navydillan’s health is a roller coaster.  It’s been so good to see his improvements each week with his strength and with gaining weight.  He has started rolling off the bed for the first time at 18 months old, his sight has improved, plus he can really move his legs now.  Just when you get used to seeing a happy healthy Navydillan…. he shows up at the  therapy appointment really sick.  The hospital does lab work and even if you don’t have malaria they will put you on malaria meds plus amoxicillin.  It’s very frustrating to watch.  I spent four hours helping Mary with Navydillan at the hospital last week.  The pediatrician speaks Kiswahili and English but Mary speaks mostly Dhluo so without John or me in the room Mary cannot understand what the Dr is asking her and doesn’t understand the instructions on how to care for him.  Then when you go to the pharmacy at the hospital they just write over labels of old bottles and don’t really explain what the medicine is and doesn’t have any measuring cups to give.  Not to mention that the hospital is constantly running out of amoxicillin and malaria meds.  It’s a horrible system.  I found myself in tears this last time at the hospital because Navy was so sick and I was so frustrated on how these mamas and their babies are being treated.  Fast forward three days and when we saw Navy again he was so happy and reaching out for toys… this kid just baffles me.  Thank you for praying for this sweet boy.  It is so evident that your prayers have helped and have made him stronger.
John has been busy running out to Mary’s new property daily to check the progress, pay workers, and bring more supplies.  As if that wasn’t enough he has been coaching a soccer team of U15 boys in our neighborhood and has put together a huge tournament for these boys.  It’s been a long process of getting cleats and uniforms for his team but the boys are so grateful for them.  Today was day one of the tournament.  John found some great officials, 5 policemen, a sound system, tent, a trophy, a sponsor for waters, has new soccer balls for standout players (thanks to Charity Ball),  plus most importantly he bought 1,700 lollipops to hand out.  Woohoo!  Today is also Trent’s 11th birthday and it is not a typical birthday for him.  Most kids in Kenya don’t even know when their birthday is or how old they even are so if Trent gets to choose a sugary cereal, play with his friends, gets to eat a hamburger and have some dry cake then hey he is spoiled.DSC_0555

Bethel Boyz


Da Crowd

Life is busy busy and we are loving it! We took Mary and her boys to see their new property.  As we made our way to  their land the rain stopped and two gorgeous Grey Crowned Cranes were there as a sign of a blessing.  This land has a big creek, has fertile soil, nice neighbors, the value will increase rapidly since it is closer to town, and we were able to buy the 4 big eucalyptus trees plus 50 small ones that were already planted so this family has a future income.

Here is Vincent sitting back and taking it all in. The next pic is of the Cranes flying away as the crowd approached them. Below is a picture of John telling Mary how much of this land is hers and our friend Walter is translating for her. Then Mary just glowing.DSC_0414DSC_0405DSC_0416DSC_0397

Our plans are to start building a fence around her compound, plant a bunch of grevillea and eucalyptus trees near the fence, build a latrine, add pipes in the ditches so water will still drain thru the compound, and then build a bridge over the creek so the boys can walk to school plus the community will be thrilled to use it.  We also bought an avocado, mango, soursop, orange tree, plus a couple varieties of passion vine to plant in the compound. Here is a look at the floor plan we had Walter draw up:


The porch area will be Mary’s kitchen to encourage airflow of the smoke since she will cook over fire and her kitchen will look down towards the whole property. Here is a stove we are going to have built:Laxmi


We have enjoyed having our friend Nate stay with us and he has been a big help the last month and a half.  His mama is joining us in a few days to stay a couple weeks too.  John and Nate have been working out and they needed to switch up the routine a bit so here is what they came up.  Feel free to try this at home…

This lady is getting a house!


Thank you to everyone for your prayers and donations for this beautiful family.  We are so stoked to let you know that we not only reached our goal but exceeded it.  All glory to God for this!  Any extra funds that come in will be used to truly bless this family not just for today but also for their future.  Funds that are left over from the land and building project will be used for school fees, medical fees and transportation to and from medical appointments.  We want to be very transparent with everyone, so from time to time please check out the blog and see where the funds are being used.  Again thank you all for your support, you are such a blessing to us!

We’ve been in Kenya for about four months, and we have seen so many needs. We realize it is impossible to try to tackle them all, but walking away from some of these people after seeing them in such dire situations has been one of the toughest things to do since living here. Leaving these villages, not really able to help is not only tough but has made me so thankful how the Lord has blessed my family and I all these years.

In the midst of all the struggle and suffering we have witnessed, there have been a few people we’ve been visiting regularly for the last 3 1/2 months, and it has been such a blessing on my family and I just to see how these families still have such strong faith in the craziest situations.


There is one particular family that stands out to us—the Mary Atieno family, whom we met the second week we were here. Meeting them and seeing their living conditions has been one of the hardest and saddest things I have ever witnessed: Seven people living in a tin box about as big as a walk-in closet; holes in the flat roof which my head hits every time I’m inside; and dirt floors and enough moving space for about two people. When you are inside, it’s actually hard to believe seven people live there, and one being a special-needs baby. This baby has cerebral palsy, is malnourished, can’t keep his head up from lack of muscle, has a lazy eye, and grinds his teeth—but this baby is so beautiful. With so many difficulties he has, it’s hard to think how long he will live, but I would adopt him in an instant if I could.

In addition to all these conditions this family endures, they are all banged up. We just found out that the oldest has had an infection on his knee for three years. The father is 65 and has five boys; the oldest is 14 and the youngest 14 months. He tries to work, but it seems that his old tired body overrides his will to work.

Then there is Mary Atieno, who runs the house and pretty much does everything. Every day she cooks on an open fire, washes laundry by hand (go kiss your washer and dryer, trust me), gets the kids to school, and then works in the garden for a few hours before it’s time to prepare the kids’ lunch. She might be one of the strongest yet weakest ladies I’ve ever met. When we see her each week, she is smiling and happy but every once in a while, the weight of the world catches up to her and she has trouble hiding that something is bothering her.  Sometimes it’s because she doesn’t have money to repair the boys’ school uniforms, buy pencils, pay school fees, or because she is frustrated that her husband has no work.

It is hard for me to really understand this family: they have nothing, yet somehow they keep pushing forward together. So after 3 1/2 months of visiting with them and really getting to know and trusting this family, I know the Lord wants me to do something for them. Originally, we wanted to help them extend their home or help them make a stick and mud home, but they don’t own the land they are currently squatting on so any improvements aren’t exactly welcomed by the lady who has let them live there.

I’ve been looking at different properties for them to move to—something big enough to include a garden and maybe have some chickens or goats. Plus we are pricing out what it will cost for me to build them a house. After adding up all the costs, which include: purchasing a piece of land for them, building a house, which would have a cook stove and chimney pipe, purchasing some needed new beds and other needed furniture, it is going to cost around $6,500 US dollars to do it all. We have been in prayer on how to do this for them, and we felt we should tell our friends back home what we want to do. We want to build a permanent home for this family that can be passed down to Mary’s boys. We’ve looked at four different properties and narrowed it down to one that I put an offer on this week.  The deed of the land will be put in her name so no one could ever take it or sell it from underneath her.

Please consider joining us in helping this family. If I could do this on my own I would, nothing is harder for me than asking for help.  Every place I go wether a city or small village the need is great, but I have not seen more greater need than this family.   It is our hope we will be able to do something very special for this beautiful Kenyan family.  We are working quickly on this so I can be here to help build and oversee the project.

Thank you for reading this and thanks for all your support and prayers.   We have seen how God has been so faithful, protecting us and watching over us in the midst of a country of such hardship and beauty.  Here is a video of Mary’s family at their home that John and our friend Nate filmed in one day from 6am to 7pm.

If you feel led to donate to this home then you can do so here.

Kenyans are very resourceful.  Kenyan children are even more resourceful.  When children don’t have toys, books, or sports equipment they make their own.  We have seen some of the coolest “cars” made from wire, old tires, pieces of slippers, and plastic containers.  Old bike tires are rolled while a child runs next to it, sometimes with a stick, sometimes with a stick attached by string to the tire.  Kids make sling shots from old tires and bows with twig arrows.  No matter how remote the village you are in you will find soccer balls made of plastic bags and string woven around.  These plastic bag balls are fine for juggling but have an extremely different bounce and speed than a regular ball.  All these things led to John searching for a company that had affordable soccer balls or for an organization that would donate them.
  He came across Charity Ball that was started by a 10 yr old boy who traveled with his dad to Mozambique in 2009 and discovered how many children are playing soccer with these same plastic bag and string balls.  After John emailed and spoke with the founder’s father : )  they decided to send 25 beautiful Adidas soccer balls to our friend in the US who was coming to visit us.  It was like Christmas morning when our friend (Bubba) Nathan arrived safely with the soccer balls in tow.  We are taking photos of each child or school that receives a ball and Nathan captured one of the best moments on his camera yesterday.  John has noticed this group of boys in rural Kenya that are playing soccer with a plastic bag ball and bare feet every time he passes by so he was stoked to give one to them.  After he handed it to the boy in red shorts the other boys were jumping and dancing with the biggest grins you have ever seen.  Pure joy.  Check out charityball.org to learn more about all the great things they are doing.
IMG_8227 IMG_8233 IMG_8238 IMG_8245

I started writing this on Sept 20th and for some reason got busy living life instead of blogging about it : )

If you’ve been following our story the last 3 months then you know that we have a little village on our hearts and we’ve been trying to find a nurse/dr to go and check out these widows and children that we love.  Well, our neighbor put us in touch with a friend of his that is a nurse and she is a gift from above.  Not only is she a nurse but she is also in charge of finding sick and poor people in our area and she links them to clinics or hospitals where they can receive care for next to nothing.  We lined up our favorite driver Kennedy, had our new favorite nurse Belinda, a box of medicine and test kits and we headed to the village not knowing what would become of this day.

We avoided going to this village for about 2 weeks because we knew that there was a funeral of 2 brothers (young men) about to take place and there can sometimes be revenge or backlash that takes place.  Even though we know that the villagers know we are not involved with any of that it is best not to put ourselves or our driver in that situation.
So the day after the funeral we headed there feeling completely covered by the Lord and were excited to finally get some help to these people.  Belinda did HIV testing on 1 person and we were thankful to witness it was negative.  When we found Brighton, an extremely malnourished 2 yr boy, with his mama this time he was much sicker than before.  A malaria test confirmed why he has diarrhea and a high fever so she started him on malaria meds, tylenol, and she corrected the supplemental (USAID)food packets to his correct age and weight.  Remember those commercials showing the scrawniest child you have ever seen with flies on his face… well minus the flies this is Brighton.  He is extremely malnourished.  When you show up to visit these families you almost expect to find them a little better so it really sucks when you see a child so sick he can’t keep his eyes open.  His mama had been very ill too but not from malaria.  Three days in the hospital got Brighton and his mama healthier but there is still so much this mama needs.  Specifically, hope.  She has land, has a small house but doesn’t seem to have the energy to pull her self together and do something for her family.  Her hopelessness is so different from other widows I’ve seen that I am going to assume that she doesn’t know what it is like to be loved by a heavenly father and doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus.

As Belinda was inside testing Brighton and his mom, Kennedy was talking with one of the grandmas who is raising 3 grandkids and she mentioned to him that her house had been burnt down.  This is a grandma that we had taken pictures of in front of her house just a month earlier. DSC_0393

Grandma's house now

Grandma’s house now

In disbelief we walked over to her house and saw the devastation.  Everything she owned in that leaky thatched roof house was now gone.  Walls stand today but it can’t be built upon because it is starting to crack. I put my hand on your shoulder and said sorry in Luo and then we moved on to the next home.

The mother who had what looked like a flesh-eating virus on her back had actually already made it to the hospital and got the correct meds for this type of herpes and it had healed up. This was great to see this young mama run over to us to show us how great she had recovered.  The old grandma who also had the herpes on her face had ointment on it and said she was feeling a little better too. The nurse handed out de-worming meds to mothers who had big bellied children and gave them the instructions on how to use them.
When we go to these villages and try to report back to you what we experience a lot of it sounds like Kenya is not taking care of it’s own people and it seems very depressing.  However, there are people who help, there are good doctors, there are nurses and physical therapists that really do care.  The more time  you spend at a doctors office the more you will see how little it costs for treatment and you will see that the doctors really want to help those who are trying to help themselves or their children.  The trouble is that these families can’t afford to get to the hospitals and the drs don’t know that these sick people exist until they arrive at the hospital nearly dead.

We are so thankful for Belinda who is in contact with us each week about Mary Atieno & Navydillan and she always asks us how Judy & Brighton are doing.  Mary Atieno has been bringing Navy to physical therapy two times every week plus she takes him to the dr once a month to check on his nutrition.  He is looking thicker, feels so much heavier, his hair is growing well (Im trying to talk his mama into giving him a mohawk… to be continued) his legs aren’t as scrawny, and he is getting stronger.  Navy now has a chair that he can sit in while his mama is cooking and doing laundry.  This is huge.  Because he can’t sit up on his own everyone holds him like a baby or lets him sleep all day which never builds muscle.  We are so thankful that we get to watch Navy get stronger and we are so thankful that we got to know this family.

Politely Rude

In our time thus far in Kenya I have weighed out a few strengths and weaknesses of the cultural differences between Kenyans and Americans.  First of all, the Luo tribe that we are surrounded with is a GIVING TRIBE.  They love white people for some crazy reason and they love to have you sit in their home (so they can say they had a mzungu in their home) and will try to stuff you full of chicken, ugali, and chapati. Anytime someone stops by your house you are supposed to offer them tea or juice and then some biscuits (bland cookies thanks to the Brits).  Any time you see someone around town that you have met once before or someone you know well … you cross the street (keep in mind that cars and moto bikes do not stop or slow down for you) simply to shake their hand and greet them even if you are in a hurry. If a Kenyan has money in their pocket and someone needs to borrow it they will loan it out EVEN IF THEY NEED TO USE IT THE NEXT DAY.  No worries!  Kenyans are very polite in this way.
On the other hand “rude” is not in their vocabulary.  Our Kenyan friends have pointed out pimples on our faces, called me fat when the car scrapes over speed humps, spit out food that I have prepared for dinner, they answer phone calls at all times of the day (at the dinner table, in the hospital, in the middle of a conversation) but never during church.  Luo has no word that translates into “please” but instead they just say “meya pi” which is “ give me water.”
Last Sunday at church we went thru 1 corinthians 13:4 about love.  It was a entertaining service because as the pastor walked to the stage he said to John “You can teach with me today.”  John stayed in his seat but the pastor kept calling on us during the service. When we got to the word “rude” no one could describe what it meant.  5 acts of rudeness flashed through my mind but I knew they wouldn’t get it so then I spoke up and said “It would be rude if I answered my phone while you were preaching right now.” and still they didn’t get it.  So then John said “the opposite of rude is respect” and still they didn’t get it. Rude does not exist in Luo Land.

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After 2 months in we got to be tourists today.  We went to Ruma Park and saw some beautiful creatures and managed to get some of them on the camera.

A lil update on Mary’s baby… the baby most likely does not have HIV and does not have spina bifida.  This little boy is 14 months old and weighs 12lbs but should weigh 24lbs. He has Cerebral Palsy.  The baby has malaria and after 5 days of meds he is feeling better and smiling again! The hospital cost her 10 cents to go to the appointment and all physically therapy/appointments are free until he is 5 years old. Mary got scoldings (by the nurse who knows her case well) for not bringing her baby in for physical therapy.  It costs Mary 50 cents to get to the hospital in a matatu and 50 cents back. If you have no income whatsoever how could you get to those free appointments? It’s impossible.  That is why she has never brought him in for treatment.

Mary was given $2 and was told to get her baby to his appointment the next day at 8 am.  Since they don’t have a phone or a clock and don’t know how to tell time we had to have a neighbor girl wake Mary up at 7:30am to get the baby and herself ready. Amazingly enough, John found her at the hospital at 8am.  After the baby’s check-up he then went through physical therapy for about an hour.  The next steps to helping this baby is to get a chair built for him so that he can be propped up instead of held by mom or flopped over by a brother holding him. Mary will have to continue to bring him in for appointments even 3 times a week but we are all hopeful that  this baby named Navidylan will get stronger.

August 27

God’s Grace

Meet Grace.  She is one of those Graces that actually lives up to her name and her middle name should be Patience.  She is a mother of 4 and is basically the only provider for her children plus she took in her sister as well.  Grace is well-educated and has a heart for the poor, the sick, and the mentally handicap.  She is the first person who had us over to dinner and the woman can cook some great chicken, potatoes, and Kenyan spaghetti even in a daily power outage.  We have met with her several times and every discussion we have with her we feel fortunate to have talked with her.  She knows that all visions/ goals in life are from the Lord so she prays, “Lord give me a vision, inspire me, direct me.” Grace has written a proposal trying to obtain enough aloe vera for people suffering thru HIV/AIDS so that they could drink aloe daily and even though it wouldn’t heal the disease it would help with many ailments.  I don’t know the research behind it but was impressed that she had thought this thru instead of just relying on folktales.  I don’t think she ever got the grant for this so it didn’t go any further.

Her sister that lives with her needed to find work so Grace prayed for a vision and the Lord gave it to her.  Grace decided to have a kiosk built near her work where her sister could make photocopies, sell cell phone minutes, and sell cold sodas.  She bought her chairs and umbrellas so that customers could rest in the shade and sip sodas.  Grace shared that she has plans to expand the business for her sister by adding a juice making stand and wants to sell chapati and tea so that workers in that complex can just buy their lunch from her.
These are the people that make changes in a developing world.  You have to respect someone who is in a tough situation but still strives to make it better for other people.
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We asked Grace if there were any families that she knew of that might need some help.  She knew of a family of 7 that lives in a small corrugated metal home and she told us 3 family members most likely have HIV and the “baby was born without a spine”.  As Grace took us to this home we prepared the kids that this might be difficult to see how this family lives. It always takes time for you to really wrap your head around how the MAJORITY OF THE WORLD is living everyday.
Mary's home

Mary’s home



Mary Atieno is a beautiful and joyful mother and you almost forget her living conditions and daily troubles when you look at her smile but then looking at the baby she is holding your heart breaks.  I don’t know for sure that the baby was born with spina bifida because it seems that most the spine is there and his spine is completely covered with skin. He lacks strength in the neck, has trouble swallowing liquid porridge, has a big core but the scrawniest legs I’ve ever seen. When you get up close to him his eyes go from all over the place and then try to focus on you and then he almost seems to smile.  I call him a baby but for all I know he might be a toddler.
This family is made up of a mother, an old father, and 5 boys.  Their house is just one room that contains one bed with a pile of clothes on it, stacks of buckets and cups, and a small table that holds their tiny lantern.  The house is very dark inside and very hot since it is made of metal.  They grow some vegetables outside their home and are basically squatters that have permission to stay there on Grace’s parents’ land.  Ironically, this metal shack is located 50 meters from a church.






On our third trip there we found the baby was in pain and was struggling for breath.  Mary said he is sick in his lungs.  It’s hard to see a disabled baby but even harder to see a sick disabled boy in pain.  As we speak the mama and baby are at the hospital waiting to be seen by a doctor so I will post later on what we find out about this little boy’s condition. Please join us in prayer for this family.

August 11
Second Week Same Village

We did our shopping in the outdoor market yesterday so that today we would be prepared to deliver food after our kids finished school work. The nice part about not being in an organization is that we get to go to these villages as we choose and do these hand outs as we see fit. We always pray that the Lord would let us be a light reflecting His love to others and that He would guide us on who and how to help before we arrive so “our plans” are always changing as we go. Last week our plan was to go to a completely different village this week but for some reason I couldn’t shake that gut feeling that there were sooo many others in that past village that still needed something to eat other than maize and millet or peanuts. You might be thinking oh that’s not bad at least they can grow something and eat it but really what is happening is the kids get scurvy, worms, and their bodies most likely do not absorb nutrients. So that is why I felt called back to the same place.

Our plan was to check-in on Margret to see how much of the rice, beans etc that she had used in one week and if she still had food then we would move on from there. So we asked the same taxi driver to take us there first. We greeted her quickly before a swarm of children, mothers, and a few men surrounded us. She was found working in front of her house drying peanuts on the ground and said she was feeling a little sickly but good otherwise. Eva and I looked in her kitchen/bedroom (with a phone light because it is so dark in there) to see what food she had left to eat then just grabbed some lard from the car to add it to her supply. Trent was handing out lollipops to the kids then it was time to head out and visit new homes but just as I walked out I saw the skinniest child I have ever seen and I couldn’t hold back my tears as I walked through the crowd back to the car. My heart broke for what I could not cure.

We were taken to 4 other homes where we saw perhaps a flesh-eating virus on a mother, a grandma who was not eating anymore because she was sick, a young widow who had no food, and then once again we saw the mother who was holding that very skinny child. She was standing outside of our car when we were packing up to go to another house. I saw the baby and didn’t know what to ask her but I tried to get Eva to ask her how is her child and what is he eating. The mom let us know that her baby was born sick and she has these nutrient packets for the baby to eat. Immediately we knew we should give the mama food but it was way to much for her to carry with this baby as well, so we followed her to her home to deliver food. We would have never found her house if she hadn’t led us to it but we are so thankful that she was waiting for us by the car. Her name is Judy and she is raising 4 kids alone. Her youngest is named Brighton and he is 2 years old. When she sat him on the ground he cried. He is the sickest and scrawniest child I have ever seen. My heart aches again for how I do not know how to help. We left them with food but I know that will not be enough for him. Most likely this is a HIV child.

Even though we had a rough day at the village we felt encouraged by a couple groups who were meeting under a tree. One group was several disabled (or a family member is disabled) people who meet every week to help each other with their needs. This week they took up a collection for a mother of a deaf child and gave her 1,000 shillings which is $10 USD which either goes towards their food or towards the testing and schooling that her child needs. They told us that they were able to help Margret get a wheelchair and I can’t help but think it was in fact the only Margret we knew in this village. The other group meeting was a group of 12 who were accountable to a savings group. We were so stoked to see this in action. Basically they all bring in $10/ week and one person at a time takes home $120 so that they can buy more for their business. We look forward to dropping in again with them and encouraging them in the great skills they are learning. They were a great ending to our heavy time in the village.

Since John hasn’t been feeling well after a week we decided to visit a doctor to figure out what was going on and to get a feeling of what kind of clinic we will be able to take our family to when the kids get sick. We were thrilled to find a clinic 45 min away that was created by a white dr that has an eye clinic, surgery rooms, and a pharmacy. Still not sure what John is going thru exactly but after his appointment he asked if it would be possible to get a dr to come visit this tiny village that has so many needs and the dr said he will try to think about someone who can come help.

Please join us in prayer of how to help these families and pray for healing with the sickness we have seen this last week. Please pray for healing in John as well. Just as he starts feeling better he gets knocked down again.

Check out a video of our first month in Kenya

August 4th

She had to be a Margret…

Our first few weeks here we saw some needs like kids needing shoes and we helped a little with that but honestly we felt pretty lost at why the Lord brought us here.  There is so much “down-time” here that we started homeschooling the kids the second week we were here because they were getting bored around the house.  This is the first time in our almost 14 years of marriage that John hasn’t worked so that has been an adjustment for all of us but has been great in that he helps a lot with the school work now… even more than me.  We kind of got a bit of a routine down where we will walk to town if we don’t leave the house for the day.  Sometimes it’s a walk to get avocados from a lady on the side of the road and other days it’s to buy more lollipops to toss to kids. Anyway, we didn’t come all this way just to raise our family but we wanted perspective for us all and if the Lord wants us to start a project then He will guide.  We began brainstorming on how to find families who are really in need and often times when Americans are brought into Kenyans home the Kenyans have time to straighten up their front room and present themselves as they see fit.  I was a little curious if maybe some families hide what they have so that we would want to give more.  So the Lord guided us to a village thats a 45 minutes drive away from our house.  The longer you walk thru fields the more poverty and really rough living situations you will see.  It was not a hard decision to make on who to help. When children gather in a small home with you…you will smell and see the difference.
 The first lady we met had been in a motor bike accident years ago and the wound on her eye and cheek hadn’t been cleaned out properly (or maybe there was a chemical in there) so she has a huge abcess that still weeps.  She is a sweet widow with 3 children living in a one bedroom home where she cooks in her bedroom. I wish had the knowledge of how to help her wound heal so if there is still any eye in there that it could be used.  Antibiotics only cost $1 but I don’t know if that’s what she needs. Any nurses or doctors out there that want to visit Kenya?
Johnny and Margret

Johnny and Margret


We then met my best friend (so she said, and I agree) Margret.  I adore Margrets for some reason.  She is a crippled widow who lives alone.  She harvests peanuts somehow.  When she walks her body is bent in half and her face is a foot from the ground.  When she smiles, she glows. She melts your heart. We gave her some rice, beans, tea, salt, soap and lotion and she insisted we take some peanuts. So another lady came over and started filling a bag with peanuts for us and I said that was plenty and thanked her but no Margret said “more!”  I did all I could to not cry.  John too. But he will blame it on the dusty road.

Then there was a grandma raising 3 children with distended bellies in a leaky thatch roofed hut.  There clothes were so torn that skin shone through their shirts and shorts. They had no shoes. They had no change of clothes. They had maize and millet. Nothing else.  We were able to leave food and their first pair of shoes (ever) with them but I cannot forget how much more they need.  They have rain coming in their home every night when it rains. They have 1 blanket on 1 bed in that 1 bed room house where the grandma cooks.  There is your perspective.

A widowed grandmother raising 3 kids in this thatch-roof hut

A widowed grandmother raising 3 kids in this thatch-roof hut

Sevs getting in on the action and matching shoes to kids feet

Sevs getting in on the action and matching shoes to kids feet

Next we walked a long long way with a mob of kids following us.  We finally reached a small hut where a widow who lost her fingers and toes to leprosy is raising her 5 kids.  She was a small but strong and spunky lady who was thrilled to have mzungus walk to her home.  John asked a man in the village when the last mzungu had been there and we it turns out 36 years ago some white men went through there to take some pictures.  We were in the bush.

DSC_0423 We were blessed to meet those strong women but so bummed that there were so many more families out there that we couldn’t help.  So many children being raised by grandmas (even a newborn), so much lack of food, so much lack of blankets and clothes, so many children with distended bellies that I wish I knew if it was worms or just malnutrition.

Two grandmas raising their grandkids... the one on left has a newborn

Two grandmas raising their grandkids… the one on left has a newborn

I have seen the difference that one organization can have on a village.  The widows who receive food from the Bryce Homes are healthy and dignified. The widows who live in Kingangop and get paid for the goods they create for h.o.w? (helping orphans + widows)  are empowered and happy women.  This is the next village that needs support, education, food and just 1 doctor to volunteer their time  to say what each child needs and what medicine could ease the illness of a mother.

July 24th, 2015

After getting settled in our home and starting a bit of a routine in this crazy place we began wondering “what are we actually going to DO here?”  So we prayed “Lord, use us today for your will.  Show us who and how we can help.”  Immediately we saw needs not just wants.  We know that the money we have to bless people with is not ours since it has been given to us from friends and family who support us on this journey. So any gift we hand out is a gift from all of you who have contributed but ultimately each receiver knows it is from the Lord and they know they have not been forgotten.  We started this adventure knowing that #1 we shouldn’t do for others what they can do for themselves #2 Don’t be anyones ATM #3 Sometimes giving can do more harm than good.  So with these thoughts in the back of our head we had to start somewhere.  We started by buying bags of candy for the widows’ families and if there was an extra bag by the end of the night then John would have a blast tossing tam tams (candy) off the back of the motorbike to kids and one of his favorite times was tossing a lollipop in front of a group of women and watched them dive to get it.  Today when he tossed candy out of the car to a group of three kids one of the girls spotted a bunch of white people in our car and one sprinted in the opposite direction with a look as if she had seen the devil. As we drove away laughing the pastor let us know that we were probably the first white people she has ever seen.

There are so many children and teens without shoes here and I cannot even imagine how much trash, manure and thorns they are walking through on a daily basis.  Sometimes you don’t see the need until someone asks you for the shoes on your feet then you imagine yourself going the rest of the day with out shoes and come to the conclusion there is no way I can walk those paths of rocks and thorns and animal poo.  That’s when you start to take note of how many kids have no shoes.  At church we read 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” But then I read on to verse 17+18… “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”  This was a great reminder of what we are called to do as Christians so the next day we went to the market to choose 50 slippers for kids in the area.  The first home we went to we had a difficult time matching up girl slippers to the right age girl and didn’t have a size big enough for the oldest boy so we said we would be back with more for him.  So when John was headed out the door to a Bryce home we did a quick prayer saying “Lord, please guide us on which shoes to bring to these kids tonight.”  John grabbed a dozen pairs and left.  He came home that night with a big grin and said it was amazing how the shoe hand out unfolded.  The Bryce home had 5 kids and he had all the right sizes for boys and girls… walked outside and 3 more kids from the neighborhood appeared so he hooked them up and just as he stood up there were 4 more kids without shoes so he reached in his backpack and matched up the sizes to the boys and girls.  Praise Jesus!
After church one day John was asking the pastor of the church we’ve been attending what some of the needs in the church are and he had only 2-3 things that the church really needed, but he had full faith that God would provide.  The big one was to purchase land that they’ve been leasing, something we’ve been praying about but he had another one that kinda blew Johns mind, it was chairs.  They’ve been renting chairs since the start of the church.  John asked how much to rent the chairs each week, pastor said $5 dollars a Sunday, Johns first thought was that’s it?  Then John asked about how much a weekly tithe is and pastor said $15-20… and sometimes less. The next day John was walking in town and noticed this big stack of chairs for sale.  So he came home and told me and we prayed about purchasing them.  That next morning it felt like God said go get them, so John went down and bought every chair the store had which happened to be the exact number the church needed.   We were also able to bless a pastor who only makes $20/ month with some baby items since his wife is about to give birth to their 3rd child.  He is a very genuine man of God and has been a blessing to our family.
 Over all these tangible gifts the one thing that seems to be the biggest blessing is simply we are here, we’ve been told many times “You being here tells me God has not forgotten us.”  So thank you for your help in getting us here, John and I have told everyone here that only the help of friends and family and most of all Gods plan that this trip was possible.
Mama Jen is pastor Achilla’s wife who is an amazing tailor.  This is a photo taken of John and I in our Kenyan clothes… the kids just received theirs and we will post shortly.
Mama Jen's shopWe are so Kenyan
Bring a ball and a few mazungus= one hundred instant friends.

Bring a ball and a few mazungus= one hundred instant friends.

There is a school two houses away from our house so we have fun sneaking over to the soccer field after school is out to play with all the kids and they love to ask us questions about our lives in the US.  The soccer games are always chaos. It starts off with all the little tikes playing and then as the older kids finish up classes the game gets more skilled.  Her is a pic of John thinking he can just kindly hand out 1 lollipop to the mass of children.
Candy Mob

Candy Mob

July 17, 2015
What do you do when your blessing walks away?

Yesterday we left the house at 7 am and saw children walking to school or getting rides on pikipikis (motorbike taxis), men already working, women opening up their shops or bringing their goods to the market to sell.  All dressed as if they were on their way to a board meeting.  We left as the sun began showing its face thru the banana leaves and left a golden glare on the maize and drove to a super remote village that can be reached after driving an hour on paved roads then another 2 hours on the roughest of rough dirt roads.
DSC_0054 Along the way you hear men and children yell “mazungu!” which means white person or white at heart and children wave and smile.  At last we reached the first Bryce Home to deliver food with the pastors to all the widows in their program.  DSC_1473DSC_1523It was great to see what they have been given like a home with cement floors, an indoor kitchen, and a separate latrine (with a sitting toilet, not a squatty potty) with a shower room. When you read shower room please don’t picture an american shower room.  It is simply just a room where you would bring a bucket of water and soap to wash yourself then get dressed in. These ladies are so thankful for what the have been given and were excited to invite us in to have a seat.  DSC_1501DSC_1503DSC_1507Our kids had fun holding goats and chickens and meeting new faces but then were super stoked when a family presented a chicken to Trent.  It seems like boys are revered here more than girls and Trent is loving it.  As the day went on we went on dirt roads for hours and we met 9 families altogether and were blown away when each member of our family was given a chicken and all we brought was mazungus and candy. That’s right we were given a blessing and chickens!DSC_1525DSC_1529DSC_0009DSC_0010DSC_0011DSC_0013DSC_0015DSC_0017DSC_0019 So we had 5 chickens with their legs tied together on the floor of the matatu as we bounced our way home on every back road known to mankind.  What stood out to us was the generosity of these families, the fact that these pastors do this 11 hour journey monthly, and then I realized that it is almost impossible to be self-suficient in such a rural area.  Some needs I saw were the lack of shoes for some of the kids since a teenager asked me for mine and I noticed some toddlers with distended bellies. I think some of those little ones were actually the neighbors kids who came to see the mazungus but it was pretty eye-opening.  We left the house that morning just a family of five wanting to see how the rest of the world lives and returned home as blessed chicken farmers.  The kids want to keep them all as pets or layers but Everline (our 21 year old Kenyan daughter) wants them all for dinner.  Sevan’s lil chicken either got taken by a dog or it pecked its string off it’s leg and walked away.  We chose the latter conclusion to tell Sevan the next morning.
My haole mazungu kids walking and talking to their chickens.

My haole mazungu kids walking and talking to their chickens.

July 12, 2015

Amosi!- I greet you!

We are getting settled in our new home and learning slowly slowly how to live in a third world country.  God is good and is so gracious to us.  We are blessed to have the pastor’s daughter stay with us until she has to go back to her university.  She is like an older sister to Taylor and has built a friendship quickly with her and has taught us how to cooking, cleaning, showering, and laundry as the Kenyans do it.

We had our first church service today and we thought we were going to the teaching service not the preaching service. If that was teaching then I will bring earplugs to a preaching service! The pastor gave a great message about how God humbles us through difficult circumstances  in order that we might be more obedient to him. I didn’t shout out any amens this time but definitely did some head nods in agreement as I have seen this played out in my life.

My daughters!

My daughters!

Many huts on the way to our town but not many in our town.

Many huts on the way to our town but not many in our town.

Wheat and acacia trees in the Great Rift Valley

Wheat and acacia trees in the Great Rift Valley

Gazelles we saw on our way thru masai land in the Great Rift Valley

Gazelles we saw on our way thru masai land in the Great Rift Valley


Friends and Family,

Hello our loved ones! This August would have marked the 6th year that we have been on Kauai, and yes time has flown by. We have fallen in love with this little island that sits in the middle of nowhere because of the friendships we have made, because of the time we have spent together as a family on the beach or in the garden, because of the breath-taking scenery, and simply because this is where God brought us for a time of healing. Being on this diverse island has put a desire in us to travel and explore the world, but we have only taken baby steps thus far. In 2011, John traveled to Haiti and fell in love with the people and embraced the craziness that he saw. It was beyond what he could have imagined for people needing help, and he will have lasting images of the stories that were shared with him as well as the little babies he held that were born with HIV.  For four years now, John has had Haiti on his heart and was forever changed by his trip.

Shannan had been very content living on Kauai and hadn’t put too much thought into traveling until 2014 when her friend Kristen Kimball started to tell her that she was going on a trip to Kenya to put on a retreat for 30 widows with howministry.org.  Shannan knew she was being called to go too.  After two weeks in Kenya, she fell in love with the controlled chaos, the fearless people, the joyful people who had no possessions, and the kindness to strangers. Kenya was a very real experience, definitely not based on emotion or fear but a desperate need for God to provide water, safety, and peace like we don’t experience in the USA.  Shannan loved Kenya but realized by the 10th day the only thing missing from this strange land was the rest of her family.

After much prayer and discussion after Shannan’s trip, the Lord keeps whispering to us “go and make disciples of all nations…” and then kindly yells it, “Just Go!” So this is where we are at, taking a leap of faith again, but mostly, trying to be obedient to God. We know we are not called to live the safe and comfortable life. We don’t know what God has in plan for us but we are very excited on going to Kenya as a family!

About four years ago, John’s mom (and the readers in her publishing ministry) partnered with another Christian ministry to begin giving food and building homes for widows and children in western Kenya, and they are now implementing a Small Business Program so that these families can be more self-sufficient. We get to join with the work that has already begun to help those widows to create products, grow food, etc to be more self-sufficient but mostly to show them the love of God and to build friendships. So that’s where we are starting out. We plan on going there and helping in any way we can. We have a list of things that we would love to accomplish if the Lord directs. Cindy Metzger told Shannan “write your plans in pencil and give God the eraser” based on Proverbs 16:9. So that is what we are doing. We don’t know how long the Lord wants us there, but we believe He wants us to leave in early June.  Our plans are to be in the mainland for a month to see both sides of our families, then off to Kenya for about nine months, and then return to Kauai.  Thanks for joining with us in prayer on this journey and since we don’t have any ministries funding us, if you feel led to donate you can do so here.

With Love,

John, Shannan, Taylor, Trent, + Sevan Morgan

The name of the organization we get to work with is Understand the Times, International (UTT). You can learn more about the Kenya Bryce Homes project here: http://www.understandthetimes.org/missionkenya.shtml.  This video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id8juHK7KSM, describes the Small Business Opportunity program that UTT began in 2014.

Books to read if you want to have your world rocked: Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Radical and Follow Me by David Platt, When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert, Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, Father to the Fatherless the Charles Mulli Story, The Poor Will Be Glad by Peter Greer, Unstoppable by Christine Caine, and Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis.