Wow! 2012! We are back in the swing of the busyness of the children’s home! It has been a crazy five weeks, but I think we are now in the groove!
As most of you know, we had only been back for 16 hours when our precious baby Cindy Lou passed away. I can’t really remember how much I have previously shared with you about Cindy, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself. Cindy was a sweet baby who had a rough time from day one. She was very small and weak when she was abandoned at birth. She struggled to breathe and to eat, because of a birth defect that affected her trachea. You could hardly hear her tiny little cry, but her smile would brighten the room. Basically, she needed 24/7 attention and care. She slept in my or Meredith’s room and either Meredith, Hoglah (our social worker) or myself took care of her at all times.
Whenever we went to town, we took Cindy with us. Because of this, Cindy Lou became known as the “Missionary Baby”! When we would pull up to a gathering of any kind, all the missionary ladies would race out to meet us, trying to be the first one to lay claim to the right to hold Cindy. (Of course, they also had to compete with little Claire Huffman, age two years, who referred to Cindy as “My Baby”.) Needless to say, Cindy was very loved by many people. I think of her and miss her every day!
The autopsy showed that Cindy Lou died of liver disease. Her liver was enlarged to five times the normal size. In the weeks before her death, she had suffered from malaria and pneumonia and had not responded to treatment, most likely because her liver was shutting down. Ironically, her trachea had completely healed.
Throughout this heartbreaking tragedy, I could still see God’s hand in how it all happened, and I thank Him for his tenderness and compassion toward us! When we arrived here at the home on the evening of December 17th, I was shocked to see how thin and inactive Cindy Lou was. She was not the smiling, bright eyed baby we had left behind five weeks before. Meredith gave me the update about all the doctors’ appointments, testing and medications that Cindy had been through over the past few weeks. (Nobody knew that the liver wasn’t cooperating with the treatment and that’s why she wasn’t getting better.)
The next morning, I woke up at 4:00 AM, which isn’t unusual for me during those first few, jetlag days after traveling. I woke up thinking about Cindy. I wasn’t necessarily worried about her…. I just felt like being with her. I got up and went out to the sitting room to find Auntie Rachel feeding her spinach (the doctor had “prescribed” spinach to be given several times a day because blood work had shown anemia). She was eating well. When she saw me, she pushed the spoon away and started jibber-jabbering and smiling. The aunties were laughing and saying that was the most active she had been in a couple of weeks! They said she was obviously happy that “her mom” was home and now she would be ok. I told Rachel to finish feeding her, then I would come get her.
At 5:00, I went back out and got her. I held her in my arms the whole morning…. like I said before, I just wanted to be with her! We had coffee and visited with the Kisers (who were getting ready to head home later that day) and the Stewarts and Beth Ann. We were just catching up on all that had gone on while we were away. At about 10:00, Meredith and I were standing in the hall talking and I looked down at Cindy Lou, who was still in my arms. She was gone. She had just slipped away. Our sweet, precious Cindy Lou….
I praise God for giving me that last little bit of time with her! We laid her tiny body to rest under the big tree, saying goodbye with songs led by her many brothers and sisters and encouraging words from Pastor Sam and Pastor George. Goodbye, sweet baby….
One week later was Christmas Day! What a happy day it was! What a true celebration of the birth of our Savior! You know, I love going home for Christmas because of the special times with family… but I must admit, I love Christmas in Kenya too! It’s so simple and joyful! We don’t exchange gifts or go crazy with tons of commitments and engagements and parties. We simply celebrate Jesus and thank him for our many blessings!
We started the day with a trip to the dump…. not your normal Christmas morning festivities, I know! There is a family (parents with five kids) who manage the landfill. They are desperately poor! Many of their family’s possessions are things that others have thrown away. (I recognized several items around their place as things that used to be at my place.) Jeff and I, Sean, Meredith and Beth Ann, went with our twelve oldest kids to take Christmas blessings to this family, who has always been so kind and helpful to us when we make our frequent “diaper runs” to the dump. We took blankets, clothes, a cooking pot, a chai flask, toys, beans, rice, sugar, tea leaves, chapati flour, cooking fat, etc. The family was so overwhelmed and thankful! We were so blessed with the opportunity of blessing a family who has absolutely nothing! I think it was good for our kids to participate in giving to others, instead of always being the recipients! The tone for our Christmas Day was set: Appreciation for all that God has blessed us with and thankfulness for the opportunity to share our blessings with others!
After our trip to the dump, we hurried back home to get busy with all the Christmas feast preparation!
Christmas Eve had been spent baking and decorating about 400 sugar cookies! (For those of you who know me well, you won’t be shocked to hear that Meredith headed up this huge task and I was very little help!) Christmas Eve night, the cooks, Grace, Peter, Sharlyne and all the young men who stay here, went to bed early so they could get up at midnight and get started preparing chapati (kind of like a greasy tortilla) for our huge feast! They made about 250 delicious chapatis!
Jeff and Sean BBQ’d about 35 pounds of beef and 15 chickens! We made the biggest fresh fruit salad I’ve ever seen! We also had potatoes and rice…. and of course, Jeff’s famous caramel corn! Everyone ate to their hearts’ content and the whole day we thanked God for our many blessings and asked Him to remember those who were less fortunate. It was an awesome (and delicious) day!
In addition to the wonderful food, the kids also enjoyed some new toys! Some friends from home had sent us back to Kenya with handmade wooden cars (the perfect size for little hands), jump ropes, board games, balls, etc. The toys were the icing on the cake! What a perfect day!
We want to express our appreciation to Newmarket Alliance Church, who gave a generous Christmas offering, making it possible for the kids at In Step Children’s Home to have the merriest Christmas ever!
2011 was a good year! We got some much needed policies and procedures put in place and made quite a few changes in our staff and their duties, etc. It’s not that things were bad before, it’s just that we had grown so fast that the administrative part of the ministry needed to catch up! I feel like we’re on a pretty good roll now….for a while, anyway! LOL!
One major change during 2011 took place in our farm! Early in the year, we were blessed with two greenhouses, complete with a drip irrigation system! This addition, along with a few farming fiascos, led us to the decision of hiring a farm manager. This has turned out to be a very good move! James has done a fabulous job of raising food production, reducing waste (crops ending up being cow food because of neglect) and keeping the farm running smoothly! He has also raised the moral of the farm staff by bringing an excitement and positive attitude to the place! We are now, with the exception of maize, potatoes and onions, producing all our own vegetables! For a place that uses more than 100 pounds of tomatoes per week, that’s saying something!
While this is all well and good….and definitely a major step toward self-sufficiency….we still have a long way to go before the farm is truly self-supporting. The next step is to produce enough excess produce that can be sold to cover the costs of fertilizers, seeds, etc. We are praying that God will provide additional greenhouses, which would make it possible to reach this goal!
Another addition to the farm is two new dairy cows! These cows were a Christmas gift from Newmarket Alliance Church, the Stewarts’ home church, and we are so very grateful! We now have four dairy cows, which should be able to supply our milk needs completely! Before, when we were milking only two cows, we had to purchase additional milk to supplement what our cows were producing. This was costing us about $200 per month! We are hoping to now increase our herd each year, as these four mama cows have babies. (Three of them are pregnant now! We’re hoping they give birth to heifers, not bulls!) Eventually, our milk production should be up to the point that the dairy farm will also be self-supporting!
I have so much to tell you, but this is getting long! I’ll save the updates on the clinic, dorms, school, building teams, our trip home, my new kitchen, etc. for another time. Suffice it to say, there’s a lot going on all the time! But GIGATT! He is meeting our needs in His time! We are learning to trust that, knowing that when it’s time, it will happen! One example of this is reflected in His provision of more missionaries on the ground! Jeff and I had come to the point where we were running ourselves ragged, trying to keep up with all that needed to be done around here! The addition of the Stewarts full time and the Kisers part time, plus the Panzeros coming and going, has really taken the pressure off! Don’t get me wrong…we’re still busy….but it’s a reasonable busy, not a spinning in circles, chasing your tail busy!
We have recently been blessed with another missionary, who has come to serve for six months (possibly longer) as a preschool teacher! She has a challenging class of twenty-two kids who are 4 years old, or almost 4 years old! I have been amazed at her organization and careful planning to provide a balanced learning environment, covering everything from learning letters and numbers and colors to activities which will develop their motor skills to creative problem solving lessons, etc. The kids are responding well and are learning so fast! And they love school! On the few occasions that Beth Ann has had to cancel class for the day, her students cry to the aunties that they want to go to school! LOL!
Beth Ann is also an early riser, so has taken on the 5:30am responsibility of giving out diapers, etc. to the aunties and food supplies to the cooks every morning! This has taken a big load off of Jeff and Sean, who aren’t quite as eager to be up and around that early!
Ok. I gotta stop! Is anyone still with me? This has turned into a very long update….and I still have so much to say….but I won’t! For more regular updates on the day to day stuff, please friend me on Facebook! It’s hard to find the time to sit down and write an update, so when I do finally get it done, it tends to be more logistical in nature….more of the big picture of what is going on in the ministry. My Facebook updates tend to be more about the funny things kids say and do! Another great thing about Facebook is the ability to post pictures and videos! I know some of you (K) are still resistant to the social networking scene, but it truly is an easy way to keep up with what’s going on!
Oh…one more thing….some of you had expressed interest in helping with Lucy’s nursing school fees. It’s time! Please send your checks, designated to “Lucy”, to Rehema Ministries, 1117 3rd, Anacortes, WA 98221 as soon as possible! There were enough of you who wanted to help this amazing young lady, that I think we almost have enough in pledges to get her through her first year (which all has to be paid upfront before she can start school in March). If everyone who pledged to help her, plus a few more, actually follow through, Lucy’s life and that of her family, will be changed forever! Also, please message me when you make a donation so I can track it and know when the money is all there!
Ok…gotta go! We love you all so much and thank you for all you do for our kids!
Carla and Jeff