Wednesday was a long day of driving as we headed “up country,” as they call it here, to a more rural area in Kenya. The drive from Nairobi to the town of Kisii where we would be working the next two days took a little over six hours.
At this point, we have spent a lot of time traveling over the course of this trip.
We arrived early in the evening to Dr. Meshach’s home were we would be staying, thankful the rain was light that day, so as to avoid making the treacherous dirt road up the mountain that much worse.
We were shown in to a home well above the average living conditions of the surrounding community, where we would be well taken care of during our stay.
While waiting for dinner to be prepared we had the opportunity to go and see some of the continued impact previous teams we had made, including the greenhouse HEART has provided the community, where they are currently growing tomatoes!
The women in this community had also struggled with getting water, as they had to draw water from the well by hand. However, with the money left by the team last year they were able to install a hand crank, allowing them to draw water much easier than before.
So, if you supported the team last year, you did this! Thank you!
The next day we started out early to where we would be building the first home, hoping to finish before the daily afternoon rains.
As we continued down this path we could hear singing in the distance, and rounding a corner, glimpsed the women of the Kisii WEEP center, singing and dancing to welcome us.
As we drew nearer, we discovered the smiles splashed across their faces were infectious. Upon reaching this group of amazing women we were pulled into many embraces, as they began leading us through this picturesque landscape.
We arrived to discover the frame for the home was almost complete, and after an introduction and official welcome from the village elder, we met the woman we would be building for.
Edna is a quiet woman, a mother of three.
She is HIV positive.
She discovered this while pregnant with her third child, then to discover her second born was also positive. Her husband, blaming her for the disease, refused to take the treatment drugs, and soon passed away. After this, she and her children were chased away from their home by her late husband’s family.
Years later, with the help of the WEEP program and the village elder, reconciliation is taking place, and this home would be part of it.
As we sit in Edna’s home, hearing her story and meeting her children, we can see the holes in the ceiling that let the daily rain into her home. The cracks and buckling in the walls are clear.
So we build her a new home.
Branches and mud, construction materials unheard of in the USA, come together quickly to form a new source of shelter for this family.
Working alongside these people was incredible. Slinging mud together, through song and dance, the joy and happiness these women had was overflowing. And so much of the community was there, helping.
Men and women, young and old. It was inspiring seeing everyone come out to support one of their own.
How well do we support our own at home? In our debrief that night we talked about how hard it is to find people to help you move, how much more something like this? How would our culture look if we were to help each other like this?
The second day was similar, as we built a home for Rose and her children. Rose’s home had collapsed, so she had to move into her brother’s empty home. Her brother could return any time though, and she and her children would have nowhere to go. So, the WEEP women decided she was the one of them most in need.
It was another fun, dirty day, building mud walls with the community.
The fact that so many people would come out to help is especially amazing considering the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. Many people in these communities will avoid anyone infected with HIV, and yet this community is here, building a home for an HIV positive woman.
As one of the women we talked to that day said to us, that’s a huge part of the reason to go, not just send money. This group of Americans coming halfway across the world to hug these women, to dance with them and work with them, spurs progress in removing the stigma surrounding this disease. Our presence is such a blessing, she said, and you helped get us here. We are representing you in everything we do, so this gratitude being expressed is for you as well. Thank you.
These were an amazing two days, and I was continually awed and blessed by the hospitality and generosity of these amazing Kenyan people. At each home we built, the family prepared a huge meal for us. Part of our ministry to these people was paying for the meal that was served to us and the community (so thank you for funding that!), but even so, the care these women took to make sure we were served and had everything we needed was incredible.
This was abundantly clear when we visited Emily, whose home the team built last year. We intended a brief visit to see how the home had been maintained and to check in with Emily and her family, but that’s not the way things work in Kenya.
Emily and her family had prepared chai (a Kenyan staple) and bread for us.
Emily’s oldest daughter had been unable to start high school that year, as they could not afford the school fees.
This is a family for which every dollar counts, and here they are, spending what little they have to serve us tea and bread.
These people are so generous with what little they have.
We have so much, and are rarely that generous.
These people go so far to be hospitable and make us feel welcome.
How far do we go to make strangers feel welcome in our country? In our churches?
Christ’s generosity went so far as to give up his life for us. If we are to follow him, should not our generosity be as complete?
As part of our time in Kisii, we also had the opportunity to visit a school. This private school is supported by HEART and previous Bayside teams, and is made up of mostly orphans, accounting for 263 of the students.
It was incredible as we arrived, being greeted by cheers and smiles. We had almost not come, but the children had seen us pass by on the way to building a home, and begged to have us come. They were excited to say the least.
We heard from the principal and the head teacher on the progress and goals for the school, as well as expressing their profound thanks for all the Bayside teams have done for them in the past.
Then we were blessed by the children, as the performed for us poetry, song and dance. They even got our team to dance with them!
It was so precious getting to spend time with these children, I could have spent a whole day there. It was especially powerful knowing how many of them are orphans, and that the one small touch, the smile, the handshake, could mean a world of difference in the lives of these children, that someone loves them. I can only hope I reflect a small portion of the love that Jesus has for them.
Our time in Kisii was wonderful, soaking up the beauty of this country and the people who live in it. Thank you for your prayers and support, the gratitude for what you have done through us was overwhelming. Thank you.
Prayer Request: As we finish up our last few days of ministry, we will be spending two days working in Kibera, which is the second largest slum in the world. Please be praying that our hearts will be open to the people we will be working with, and that God will use us in the lives of families we will be visiting with and delivering food to.