So much for once a week until the story was told. The wedding crept in and stole time from this. As I reviewed the first post, I realized I should back up a few hours and talk (type) about the bus ride.Think back to elementary school, if you rode the school bus, where was the coveted seat? Why was it designated as that? MCF sent three vechiles, a produce truck for our luggage, a van holding about nine people and a bus holding about thirty-three. The larger family spent most journeys in the van, while the majority of us were on the bus. I was often able to have a window seat during our journeys. Before leaving Nairobi, we stopped at a mall-like supermarket. There were many places to buy food, trinkets, clothes, and exchange money. It was supposed to be a better deal than the airport, I think we all would have done better to use American banks. They gave us 64.50KES per USD as long as it was a large, crisp bill. Large is 50 or 100. They won’t take ripped money. My guess is that the money never makes it back to the US. They seem to have an underground that buys it all up, as long as it looks pretty. We all bought some snacks from the supermarket and water for drinking. We were told not to take pictures without permission, a few tried and security asked them to remove the pictures and stood over their shoulders until they were deleted. You recognize the security guards by the machine guns hanging off their shoulders.The scenery from Nairobi to N’Dalani was wonderfully unique. Even in the city there is a lot of green, but it’s a different green, beautiful, but different. The people driving cars are absolutely unpredictable. We would often end up in a similar roundabout with the traffic lights the same and turning left, but do completely different things each time. I understand that the biggest vechiles often take right-of-way, that may be a reason for confusion. We took a lot of pictures as we traveled to MCF, cautiously though. We didn’t take pictures as we drove around government installations, they were posted with signs warning that photography was not allowed.Even though we were unable to enter the slums, we drove near them on the way out of the city and were able to see incredible levels of poverty. We saw many simple shacks that we wouldn’t use as a tool shed here. The entire trip to MCF seemed to be lined with people scenery. We encountered many police roadblocks. My only guess as to why we weren’t searched was the MCF logo on the side of the vechiles. That may also be why we traveled during the day to MCF, few police barricades. Back to the scenery, men would gather at the town centers, which often times were no more than the crossroads of the two closest “main” roads. Women do farm work, children go to school if the parents or caregivers can afford to send them, otherwise they tend to the critters or hang out by the side of the road. We saw critters in the randomest places-walking along the side of the road, frolicking in the field, or being led by a rope. Critters are tied to trees by the side of the road to graze, goats, cows, and sheep. There is usually someone nearby to watch over them. Every fertile piece of soil is utilized, with corn growing sometimes less than 10 feet from the road. There doesn’t seem to be a formal taxi system, people with vans (most likely approved by the government somehow) seem to drive to a random destination, pick up people and take them where they need to go and find more people at the destination to take to a new place. People needing rides congregate in areas waiting. Usually there are men or women selling their wares at these places, sometimes in a booth, but often they just walk up to cars, buses, vans and call what they have with a price. You hand out the money, they hand in the merchandise, most of it appeared to be food-bananas, sugar cane stalks, mangos, and varied other fruits. We wanted to take pictures, but were unsure who or how to ask, so we took as many discrete pictures as we could.
Thousands of half formed thoughts are running through my head as I relive the bus ride. Before meeting the children, my heart was already broken. To see ground that refuses to grow edible food in sufficient quantities, to look into the eyes of people and see an incredible sadness, emptiness, to remember my own hurts and sorrows that are always with me-to arrive at MCF with a heart broken into many pieces.
On a completely funny note, any time we approached MCF by bus, the radio would suddenly change from horrid, modern music in English with awful lyrics, but clearly not American to something Christian. It took us a while to see the pattern and work up the courage to ask the driver to leave it on something Christian.
By the time I/we arrived at MCF, I needed a nap. It was late afternoon as we disembarked to a crowd of thirty or so children. We were inundated with, “Hello, what’s you name?” I think I managed to muster a hello, how are you, what is your name? I wish they had taught us to ask what are your names instead. I would have learned enough names to write letters back. Had this been mid-morning the next day, I would have been all over it, had more intelligent questions and responses ready to keep conversations going. The little ones are learning English, so they have limited conversation. Instead of my usual perky self, I quietly prayed for a small, silent place to be alone for a only little while. God certainly granted me a supernatural measure of patience and stamina at that moment, and really, the entire trek. There is something incredibly powerful about how God worked(s) when I fully submit, on bruised, scraped knees-crying for his mercy and grace.
After being welcomed and greeted by the children, we unloaded our luggage, received our room assignments and set about repacking our bags. Many of us had packed personal things into our checked luggage and needed to retrieve it. We also needed to resort the goodies that were in checked luggage to be sure that each team had the materials needed for the week, as well as the donations for MCF. God had his hand on all of it, all the bags we packed arrived. Some were misplaced until later in the week, but all arrived. It was slightly refreshing to be put to a task so my brain could go on autopilot for a while. Once sorting was finished, each team split the bags, with much of the computer equipment coming with me to wait until “work day.” We were given a little bit of free time to get settled in our dorm rooms. Each room was different, some of the couples had rooms to themselves, families had rooms as well. Some of the couples and families decided to separate by gender and join us. We had 13 or 14 in our girls/women in our set of rooms, 10 in the larger room, 4 in the smaller room, one bathroom/shower. The whole bathroom would get wet during a shower, I was so grateful for the extra large zippered plastic bags. Can you say waterproof? Our big team leader showed a few of us how to hang our mosquito nets, which provided reassurance even though the bugs seemed to leave us alone for the most part. When we left the room and the area, we locked the door with the one key and gave it to the ladies in the kitchen.
Our first meal at MCF consisted of yummy, home-grown everything. Flat bread, potatoes, cabbage, and lentil mush. (I don’t know what else to call it, it was good, it looked like mushed lentils.) I wished I had taken pen and paper to them for each meal so I could call the dishes by their correct names.
After dinner, we all gathered to learn about how MCF operates, what we were allowed to do, not do, where to go and not go. It all made complete sense, but I had to shake my head-so many rules. Rules mean children have been hurt by people from other churches, mission trips, etc. It all made me want to cry, MCF is a safe place for these children, people don’t always get that. I longed for an MCF here-a place to take care of the children no one will protect, no one will love, no one will teach. Every child needs the opportunity to rise above and shine. Why is one of the most wealthy nations so concerned with more wealth, more status? I never advocate interfering with politics of another nation, but humanitarian aid seems to be welcomed and we still hold back, desiring to get ahead in some invisible struggle for an unattainable goal.
After our first evening meeting, some of us gathered for cards, some went to bed, some went for walks, some had laser light shows with flashlights in their room. One group played up and down the river I think-I watched for a little while. This was the only night I played cards-I elected to accept an invitation to euchre. Sleep was elusive the first night, I was sure I would sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, but it was not to be. My heart and head were flooded with emotions I had hoped not to have in Africa-fear, desperation, anger, loneliness, and feelings I can’t being to verbalize. But even when I am weak, even when I stop trusting for just a minute God is faithful, he doesn’t walk away. When I am fortunate, he stands very still, very quiet and talks to my heart in a voice that my heart longs to hear. He invites me to stop flailing and listen to his voice. He reminds me to wait on him, to trust that he has my best in his heart/his plan, he loves me as a treasured daughter and that is worth crossing three continents, crossing the Atlantic and letting go of all of it-to learn that, to be willing to learn that, to trust him with my complete being if only for a moment, to shout God, you are faithful because you say you are and I believe it, to claim his promises as mine and know they are, to see him quench all doubt and fear . . . to be imperfect by myself, made perfect in Christ, and strive to please my heavenly father-there is no greater joy.