Our last month in Rongo
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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
Updates on Mary’s home
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
She had to be a Margret…
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.
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.
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.
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.
July 17, 2015
What do you do when your blessing walks away?
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. It 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. Our 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! 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.
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.
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.
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.