A Review: eat, pray, love

by Elizabeth Gilbert
reading guide

a summary
After a divorce and rebound love, Liz took a year off of life to journey across Italy, India, and Indonesia as she struggled to write this book and bring peace and balance to her life. Without much planning, Liz spent almost four months in each country making friends, finding herself, her purpose and a peaceful coexistence with life. She shared her studies in the Hindu faith as well as other spiritual insights as she travels. While in Italy, a new friend shared his view of each person, each city having a word. He shared

Triquetras

A few years ago I was struggling immensely with my faith, as one is wont to do occasionally. On an upward swing, I found a ring in one of the bookstores I was known to frequent. It was a complete impulse purchase, but I had hoped to turn it into a daily reminder of my allegiance, less tacky and noticeable than a WWJD or similar. It wasn’t that I didn’t want others to know or understand, it was to be something to remind me of my commitment and focus on a daily basis. Sometimes I look at my hand and remember, other times I look at my hand and the thought doesn’t even enter my brain. It was lost of a few months, then it returned to me.

The symbol on my ring is a triquetras, which is “Latin for three-cornered.” ringWhile it has been used my many groups of people over time, one of the accepted meanings is the Trinity of Father, Spirit and Son. I had seen the symbol elsewhere before purchasing the ring and did some research as to the meaning. Upon discovering this, the shape increased its appeal and upon seeing it as a ring, well, I’ve told that story.

Why am I telling you all of this? I was searching for some information on WordCamp in Dallas, a coolie conference on WordPress and much more. I knew one of the speakers was Lorelle and after finding what I was looking for I browsed the rest of the page. I found a recent blog challenge to find a symbol, write a blog post about it and include its history. I knew its name before this challenge, which made finding it in the encyclopedia easier, so the challenge offered an interesting topic to share. I present my answer here.

To Africa and back . . . (part the eighth)


Friday, June 22


Friday we boarded the bus and van, loaded the luggage on to the top of the bus and van, then departed. I was struck by the sights as we traveled back to Nairobi, more so than the trip to Mully Children’s Family. It hit me hard when I saw old women alone, tending a flock of goats, men sitting by the side of the road at the intersections talking the day away. Parents, grandparents, not caring for their family.On our trip, we were given approximately a day of free time in Nairobi. We were informed before we left the mallapproximate costs of various activities in the city. Between the souvenirs and activities, I brought home the equivalent of $2USD.On Friday, we went to a mall in Nairobi with an open market on the top floor. There was a great amount of civil unrest in the city, so we were taken to an area with armed guards and fencing. There were little shops: shoes, clothes, toys, eateries, and an internet cafe. I sent out a few emails, to let people know that our flights home had changed and we were all doing well. I found my way to the market and began dealing for trinkets to bring home. At that point, I wished I had made different purchases at Esther’s store. Many of the animals, chess boards, and shawls were available at different prices. I would have purchased more handmade items from her and haggled for the rest at the market. I purchased 5 wooden mallanimals for the price of one. I thought I was only missing one chess piece from a set I bought at Mully Children’s Family, but it turns out I was missing two. I purchased one replacement piece at the market, many animals, and a wooden flute that I gifted to my grandfather. The sellers are quick and crafty, they will offer a trade for a pen, pencil, hat or other item to get a potential customer to stop. They will ask what you like and then ask for the trade plus some money. I learned to look before arriving at a shop or stop and say I wasn’t sure what I was looking to buy. If I saw something I liked, I was always willing to leave it, which usually resulted in a lower price. My last, best trade was for a small beaded necklace. The man drew me in with the “trade” line and asked to trade for my bandanna, a white one with colorful lady bugs. I purchased a few bandannas to keep my hair back in Africa, so I was willing to part with it, I paid $0.88 for it at home. He directed me to some trinkets, necklaces, many that were too large for my small frame. He inspected my offering again and asked for money, saying certainly I could afford it. I let him know I was only interested in the trade, so if he would kindly return my lady bug bandanna. He held it as if to play keep away, but I gave him a look that said return it. He burst into laughter and said I was a hard woman and to keep my necklace and he would keep my bandanna. I went to stand with the team leader because I spent my allowance and saw the gentleman I trade with wearing my rainbow lady bug bandanna.We returned to the hotel for an evening meal. We had a dining room to ourselves with a wonderful buffet.


Saturday, June 23


We awoke Saturday to a quick breakfast then out to a safari van. We had chartered several vans to visit the animal preserve and elephant orphanage. The people in our van had a wonderful time: laughing, giggling, and acting silly.We returned to the hotel, had lunch and packed our bags. We departed for the airport to arrive at 6P.M. I gave Jason a call to let him know that flights had changed and to stay tuned. It was nothing short of a miracle that I pulled his phone number out of my head. While we addressed wedding invitations in May, he and I worked together so that I knew his street address and home phone number, soon to be mine. Our return flights were canceled shortly after we arrived in Kenya and it was only discovered Thursday. Our big team leader worked very hard to get us all back into GR before 6:00P.M. on Sunday, the original landing time. The whole team flew out of Kenya together and when reached the Netherlands we split into two groups. From there we all went to Detroit, just at different times. The groups split again in Detroit, but the whole team went through there by 1 or 2. The first few groups to arrive boarded flights to GR, while the rest of the groups boarded a bus to GR. Many of the other flights to GR would not arrive until late Sunday evening or Monday morning. This plan allowed everyone to arrive a bit before originally scheduled.

 

The End

To Africa and back . . . (part the seventh)


Thursday, June 21


Early Thursday morning, about half of our group climbed one of the mountains. I had been looking forward to that trip all week, but when Thursday arrived I was too ill. Those that went brought back many pictures to show those of us who stayed behind. Upon their return, we gathered with the Mulli family in Charles’ office. The family shared their heart with us, their vision for the future as best they could and asked us to share the passion when we returned to our homes. I hope that I have done that through all of these entries about Mully Children’s Family.After lunch, we were able to do some farm work-we debra planting
planted two rows of trees in farm row f. I can’t explain where that is, but you can see all our hard work. There are many pictures showing the various stages of planting in the photo gallery. For the most part the guys carried the water to the holes and the girls planted. Our holes were already dug, which was very gracious on their part. The ground is hard packed clay. We put water in the holes, dig a little with our hands, then plant the tree and put enough clay around it to keep it upright. The holes stay deep around the trees so that when water is poured in the hole, it seeps slowly into the roots instead of dissipating and being wasted. Each of the older children at MCF have a tree that they water as part of their routine. Each tree receives 3 buckets of water a month until it is three years old. After three years, it will seek water on its own from the ground.We were given time to wash up, then we were able to play games with the children.gamesA few of the girls and all the boys when to play football (soccer to us). The guys played guys and girls played girls. The majority of the girls played volleyball when we discovered that was an option. When they play to practice, they will put the girls in the positions they are best in and rotate around them and they can double hit. It took a while to get used to, but we had fun.I had several conversations with kids sitting and watching gamesthe volleyball games when I wasn’t playing. The stories are heart breakers. One boy I walked with wanted to be a musician and an electrical engineer. I asked how he would do both, he responded that he would sing while working. Another young man I spoke with hadn’t been there very long. His mother died several years ago, his father was not a kind man. He had six sisters and three brothers. His goal is to be farmer and unite his siblings. Friday morning we left Mully Children’s Family around 11A.M., if I remember correctly. We had a two hour trip back into Nairobi. I was struck by the sights I saw, more so on the way back to the city than the way to MCF. Old men sitting by the side of the road at the intersections of roads, old women watching animals by the sides of roads alone, and young children at school in uniform out for exercise.

To Africa and back . . . (part the sixth)


Wednesday, June 20

Scheduled for today was tour of Yatta, which meant a very long day. We were on the road by 8 in the morning and in bed by 11 in the eveninbunksg, with much of the time spent walking. Yatta is the campus for girls rescued from working the streets. Many of the girls have children and are given a living space so they are able to continue to care for their children. These living spaces are shared amongst several girls with children, the number varying. Education is provided for all the girls as well as child care for the young ones. Approximately 5% of the population of the Yatta Campus is older boys. This affords the girls the opportunity to have positive interactions with brothers and other males who work with them in the education environment. The boys also provide security from various possible intrusions. Yatta is spread across 200 acres located about 2 hours away by car on underdeveloped roads. The first 100 acres purchased were in the previous owner’s opinion, unworkable & “unfarmable”. When he saw that the land he deemed useless was able to produce, he sold the other, better 100 acres to MCF as well.Our tour began when we debarked from the bus and were greeted by many of the girls. As I watched the girls, I couldn’t help but wonder if many of them would have rather been anywhere else instead of greeting a bunch of strangers. My understanding later in the day was that some of our group had visited the day before, so not all were complete strangers. We watched village men and beneficiaries working on fish ponds. Currently, there are five with more to come. The ponds are stocked with small fish, then harvested to be sold outside of MCF and some for consumption at MCF. Ultimately, when the farm is in full swing, fish will be raised from eggs. Apparently, chicken poo provides nitrogen rich yummies for fish. (Just one more reason I don’t eat fish, but would have then had it ended up on the menu. I was ever so grateful it didn’t.) The foundation of the chicken house was underway during our visit. Chickens can free range in the day, but at night there are wild dogs among other thing, that find chicken yummy.class01We interrupted several classes and watched the girls sew, learn about hairdressing, chemistry, and literature. We interacted with many of the students, asking questions, answering questions, browsing classwork and listening to the teachers.As a seamstress, the girls learn first to sew by hand on the packaging from concrete. The material is like a plastic coated paper. They are graded so strictly, that I was sure I would not do well. As I inspected their classwork, I could find many of the flaws in the poorly graded projects. The ones that received higher bumueni_clothest not perfect marks, I was able to discern few errors. My guess was that it involved imprecise measurements. and pattern construction. The girls are taught to design and make their own pattern based on what the client desires. Once their hand sewing is up to par, they are able to move on to concrete bags with a treadle, as one cannot depend on reliable electricity if any at all. Once proficiency is demonstrated on the concrete bags, real fabric is used. The completed projects are kept by the girls as examples of their work for potential clients.The hairdressing classes involve detailed note-taking with practice on people later. Each girl in this program keeps an immaculate notebook of pictures and instructions for each procedure-from putting rollers in the hair, to braiding, cutting and dying.Yatta also has a computer lab, I believe there were 12-16 computers. The posters on the walls indicated that the students learn about the intricate workings on the processor, peripheral devices, and many things about which I wouldn’t have the first idea, even though I may be able to manage a large area network.We visited a chemistry class where we chatted with students. We spoke of trivial things and if conversation waned, I asked about future goals. One young man I spoke with wanted to use music to tell others about Jesus while his desk-mate desired to be a mechanical engineer. He wanted to build boats, cars, ships. They both in turn asked me about our elections and how it all worked. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for me to explain it all.As we toured, we saw many projects in various stages of completion. MCF builds when money is donated and only for what it is designated for, so if funding is not complete, the building is not completed. I cried out to God asking that he work in hearts so people understand how MCF works and to stop designating. I am not finding fault with the process, it’s what many churches do here, but it is extremely in efficient. I trust those in authority to know how best to use the money and to show at the end of the fiscal year how it was spent. It was heartbreaking to see so many partially completed projects both at N’Dalani and Yatta. yattaWe had a very late lunch, around 2 in the afternoon, then hiked off to see more the livestock and proposed farm. Charles indicated where future greenhouses would be built. If you look off in the distance, nearly the horizon, you will see a white dot. It’s a truck on the road passing by MCF Yatta. Out near that truck is the location for future greenhouses. I would hope that as I type preparations are underway for the newest donated greenhouse. After our lengthy tour, the children were released from class so we were able to interact with them. The guys in our group went to the soccer field with the boys, while the ladies in our group worked on crafts with the girls in the meeting hall. A standing joke among us ladies for the rest of the week involved us parroting to each other, “15 beads, we have to share, it’s not fair to the girl at the end of the line if we run out.” While we laughed, it was quite sad while it was happening. Many of the girls pocketed extra beads, put them in their mouth, and even into their infant’s mouth. We had no idea that beads were going to be a hot commodity. To do over again, I think the beads and the handkerchief/bandanna should have been sorted in a bag together. Then if a girl had a bandanna, we would know she received beads. Many of the ladies from our team were able to hold the young ones while the mothers/girls worked. As we waited for dinner, I was able to journal much of the above information, so it was extremely fresh. I enjoyed listening to the insects serenading each other and us. While I was unable to identify the birds, their songs were quite lovely. After dinner, we joined the children for evening devotions. I am not sure what that word means to them, I do know that to me it is more of a cross between a talent show with music, skits with morals to the story and a short thought about God. Please don’t get me wrong-I enjoyed it. I wish I had remembered to bring my second memory card to Yatta. Part of the way in to the presentations, my 2.0GB card was filled. I took many photos and some movies. The still photos are all available if you follow the link to photos. To view the movies, you will need to come visit or ask me to bring them. They are rather large with poor video quality, but the audio is awesome. Back on topic-devotions. When we joined, several different choirs sang for us. We heard a monologue from two girls in which one talked about the inequity of refusing to help street children yet complaing that street children exist and are a nuisance. The other talked about the struggle to live on the street, obtain an education, work for money to use on food, clothing, school fees, and how to find a future. I got the distinct feeling that these skits and dramatizations were very therapeutic for them. I don’t know that their society has therapists, counselors, etc., but I do know that expressing frustrations is a good way to work out what to do and how to handle overwhelming situations. Before arriving at MCF, their basic needs-food, water, clothing, shelter, education were all held ransom. Some by circumstances, some by relatives, some by strangers. They had no future, no safety, no nurturing, no God. MCF has given them a future, an outlet, and education, love, God. One of the dramas I was not able to film had a song with some of the following lyrics-

“We need love, not abusing” “We need love and understanding”

children

To Africa and back . . . (part the fifth)


Tuesday, June 19

We were up by 6:30, to breakfast at 7 and work at 8. Each group, after breakfast, gathered around the previously assigned MCF staff member and set off to work on the assigned tasks: projects, teaching, or interacting with the children. My team, Mike and I, was joined by Isaac, one of Charles and Esther’s biological sons. The computer team headed to work!A bit of history of Africa and the internet, then our task: major cities often have a reliable power grid, traditional phones, and most other conveniences we would consider modern, picture Tokyo or NYC, with more trees. Outlying regions rely on generators for power, cellular phones for communication, and satellite for consistent, quality internet. The brighter side of this is much of Africa will bypass slow speeds may of us have endured using arcane cables laid before I was born and dial-up modems that some of us still use. It will most likely go straight to fiber or something faster if it exists when cables are finally laid. Due to several constraints, including time, skill levels, and budgets we felt that satellite was not practical. The more research I did, the more I realized that it would be tens of thousands of dollars to just install it. Then there would be monthly access fees and maintenance of equipment and training in satellite technology, none of which our team brought, had or could teach. We, however, didn’t come empty handed. Dial-up modems were out of the questions as there are no phone lines. Cellular network access card would not necessarily accomplish everything with the fastest speeds, but it would be easy to obtain technical support, replacement equipment should something fail and it was slightly portable. It could be shared between the campuses.
After installing whatever internet service we found while in the States, my team was to help MCF with any computer requests/needs.In addition to “bringing internet access,” we also collected and brought as many things off their wishlist as possible. Each time a team goes to MCF, supplies are brought with the team. Most of the supplies teams bring are too expensive to buy in Kenya or not available. Our team brought several hard drives, cd-rom/dvd drives, blank media, memory, old laptops with minor flakey problems (on-board wireless or wried nic not working, motherboard not charging the battery, things that make it hard to use as a laptop, but wonderful to use at MCF) motherboards, software, toolkits and other parts we hoped could be put to good use. Before we could hand off our goodies, MCF requires that all gifts be documented so that there is no question as to where supplies came from and how supplies are dispersed. After completing an inventory and signing off on it, we headed to work. We walked up to the greenhouse to install the internet and upgrade some hardware in one of the computers already there. This would be my first trip of the day to the greenhouse, but by no means the last.We settled on a USB cellular network card for internet access, so that it could be utilized by both desktops and latptops as long as it could find a signal. We installed it on the laptop we brought for the greenhouse. The idea behind that was a new computer, never used would probably function to optimal specifications and allow them to take it to any campus and not worry about installing the network card on other machines. We tried to set it up on another computer as well, but for some reason that one was not behaving well. I was confident that Isaac could install it later after troubleshooting the errors, so we decided to move on to upgrade the machines in the greenhouse area. We needed some parts left at the room, so I volunteered to retrieve them while the guys worked on the computers. After I returned, took some pictures and realized they were happily working along, I headed back to the printers to document some things for Isaac. We worked with Isaac until lunch, then he had some other tasks to finish. We tried to schedule some time to take a complete inventory of computers-location, purpose, specs, software, needed upgrades. Unfortunately, we were not able to settle on a time because of other activities planned for our large team on subsequent. We had hoped to spend time at Yatta helping with the computer program there. They teach the girls how to use computers, how they work, etc. Ndalani will be starting that as soon as the library is ready, I believe.After lunch, Mike and I joined the arts and games team for an afternoon of absolute fun with a smidge of confusion. We set up stations inside for arts and crafts, while games were played outside. We split the groups as best we could and set about to have fun. The activities varied with the age group but generally consisted of decorating a t-shirt with markers or tie-dye, drawing or coloring pictures, getting a picture taken, making an animal out of pony beads or blowing bubbles. Most importantly of all was to spend time with the kids, hear their story, listen to their hearts. By the time Mike and I joined the fun, roles were assigned and filled, so we floated as needed. Mike went to the games area; it needed a guy’s touch. I was a floater-see what needs to be done and made myself available to each of the activity leaders.My first assigned task was with the little ones, and was it ever difficult! I had to blow bubbles with them. We set up inside, even though I asked if we could go outside. The cement floor soon became extremely slippery. The bubbles were supposed to keep the children occupied when they finished getting their picture taken, but it didn’t work well. We had difficulties keeping children at the correct station and helping the children with free time understand that it wasn’t their turn yet. After a good amount of confusion, I decided to take the bubbles outside, we found a way to manage the little ones inside. The huge benefit to me staying outside was that it kept the other children from trying to sneak into the arts and crafts area until it was their turn. I had so many little ones all around trying to catch and pop the bubbles. We shared the wands and made glorious messes giggled and enjoyed. I even convinced a team member passing by that he needed to blow bubbles. He looked at me as if I had suggested he jump of an extremely tall building or play in the middle of a busy highway. He returned much later and thanked me for inviting him to blow bubbles. One of the little ones managed to avoid the picture process; I had taken a liking to her and her to me. She was very unsure of having her picture taken; she had to sit by herself on a large bench. I sat with her first, then next to her, just out of the picture. I was supposed to get a copy of that picture, but I don’t think I did.beadsWhen we worked with the older children, I assisted with the pony beads. We had diagrams for them to use, but the threading is difficult to get the hang of, luckily, I like to bead. We had fun and learned a lot about managing a lot of children in a small space with a small amount of time. I won’t write in specifics, I will just say that children are children, no matter where they are and there are always opportunities for growth and learning for all involved.As activities wound down and we transitioned back to our dining area, we talked with many of the MCF workers. My heart broke to hear some of the stories of other groups. No specifics were ever given, nor names, just generalities. Some groups come with an agenda they push on MCF, some are upset when plans change and they are unable to complete tasks, some are unwilling to pitch in and help. I was so grateful that those descriptions did not apply to us. Each of our teams understood when some projects were put on hold, others canceled. We rolled with the flow and asked what we could do, how we could help. We asked many specifics on day-to-day operations, needs, and goals; and MCF graciously answered.One of the girls on our team was sick, probably a cold of some sort. It began to go around the room, I went to bed not feeling very well-runny nose, scratchy throat, and extremely tired, but I knew that I had done 100% of my day with God. On my own, I would not have made it through that day.

To Africa and back . . . (part the fourth)


Monday, June 18

As the leader of the computer team, I was passionate about the tasks set before me (us) to accomplish once we arrived at MCF. All of the teams spent time preparing tasks, activities, materials and people to best accomplish what we would be sent to do. My (our) main task was to “bring the internet” to MCF, the task was not as easy as it sounds when one realizes that there is no infrastructure outside of large cities. With the understanding that our computer tasks may not take up an entire week, my team partnered with the arts and games team. Our plan was to help the arts and games team any time our services weren’t needed for computer tasks.Our two teams began meeting once a month beginning in February which afforded us the opportunity to build relationships between the teams and an understanding of the arts & crafts to make and games teach/play. We had a tentative schedule before we left for MCF, with a general idea of how much each team would be able to dedicate to the given tasks. Well, life is what happens when you plan. While planning for MCF and gathering materials, I had weekly meetings with our big team leader. He was my supervisor at work as well as the big team leader, though in the beginning, he was unsure if he would go with us. In God’s wisdom, he knew I would need to hear the following on a nearly weekly basis, “Be flexible, we are going there to serve.” After a month or two of hearing it, I would let him know that I was trying to take his advice to heart and say it to him before he said it to me.Because of the advice to be flexible, it made my experience at MCF more profitable than it would have been had I decided that things needed to follow the outlined paper schedule. Each night after dinner, one of the MCF representatives would outline a proposed schedule for the following day. I decided to listen at night to the proposed schedule, prepare what I needed and wake up as if no plans had been laid, it was easier for me to remain flexible by not attaching myself to a set schedule. While God and I worked on keeping a smile on my face, I was flexible, if bit confused. My understanding was that I had tasks to accomplish and relationships to build, but so far neither of those appeared on the schedule. It was a lot of sitting and listening, touring the campus, hearing stories of how things work or came to be as they are. All the while, I wanted to go work immediately. After all, I am a task-based person who happens to enjoy talking to others while “tasking”. With these things in mind we began Monday, as a combined team for devotions in Charles’ “office”. He has an area near the river where he works, outside, which we saw on Sunday. There are several chairs and sometimes a bench where he works, did I mention it was outside without a roof or walls? He and Esther meet with each child, usually in a small group of three or so children. They talk about how things are going, they talk with God, and plan for the future. Charles also works alone in his office, he writes, talks with God, meets with others and I suppose what ever else needs to be done he does there. On Monday, we, the combined team, didn’t have much time for devotions, I internally questioned the value of it if we weren’t going to have much time. According to the paper schedule, we were to have devotions each day, each team member to contribute thoughts for one assigned day. Monday was the first day we had any time in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the value of talking about God, just the effort to find a quiet place, walk there, leave enough time to return to the large group etc. It turns out I’m rather inflexible, but I’m teachable. Our prayer time was incredible. I can’t tell you what we prayed, I don’t remember. I just know that I (we) talked with God, soaking in his incredible creation in a place where he works so powerfully. Even today, four months later, it still moves me. I felt like I was in God’s presence, which is what I am supposed to feel every time I talk with God, which according to Paul, the author of 1 Thessalonians, is a continuous experience.At the appointed time, we joined the other teams for the continuation of the campus tour. Believe it or not, we were unable to see the campus in a day.caravahs No, it’s not that large, we could have walked it in an hour or two. But spreading it out over several days allowed us time to learn and process the story, it allowed us to relate each new place to the ones we already knew, it allowed us to hear Charles and Esther’s heart. We walked through fields, they showed us caravahs, the root of a plant. When the tree grows to 2-3 meters, the root is harvested. Esther pulled an almost mature root and pealed back the rough exterior to show us the meat. We saw mango trees not quite ripe. Charles gave us several minutes to just walk through the field, looking at the plants, touching, smelling, understanding.
On our way to from the dispensary, we observed some of the teachers sitting under the trees outside of the school building preparing themselves for the upcoming lessons. Charles took us to watch and talk with several of the male beneficiaries1 completing the finish work on the dispensary. One was finishing the stone work on the outside and another was doing on carpentry work on an inside room. It will house a place for dentists, doctors, nurses and other health care providers to help the children and surrounding community members.We entered the greenhouse with Charles and two of the male workers. They explained the entire operation from start to end. At their current level of operation, MCF would be able to fund itself financially 99-100% with ten greenhouses. I giggled to myself because at this point I began to understand Charles and his heart. With ten greenhouses, he will have greenhouseresources to rescue more children, then he will need more greenhouses and I love it, I hope for it, I pray for it. There are too many children who need God’s love and he’s one who understands what that looks like for these children. He teaches them how to live-they have learned life is difficult, he does not dissuade that belief. Charles teaches reality, he teaches the children that they have a future, they can learn, excel, and live. MCF workers (never children) can harvest five crops a year at one hectare of growable space. They plant in rotation, so the workers don’t have the feast or famine plight. Each worker is paid out of the profits from the sale of the crop of beans to the European Union. There are strict guidelines: no children, workers must be healthy, everything documented (names, fields, crop yield vs. loss, fertilizer type, who worked which area, etc). The operation is impressive. After we toured the greenhouse, the sorting room, the refrigeration building, but not the refrigerator (we could have contaminated the area), the offices, and the computer controls for the greenhouses. Did I say the setup was impressive? It was. All of this, the greenhouse, the controls, was a donation from a company in Australia. I hesitate to tell the entire story, it is not mine to tell, it will have to suffice for me to say that I believe God provided the greenhouse because Charles and his family demonstrate God’s love in action, not just words without follow-through.

Charles gathered us under a tree, as anyone native to Kenya would do. The sun, even in the cold season, is wtree talkarm and only foreigners stand in the sun. We managed to gather 42 of us under the tree to listen to Charles tell us the story of how the greenhouse came to be. He took a phone call at some point, then explained that he had just sent out another grant request for two more greenhouses to go in to Yatta. He explained that the soil at Ndalani is fertile and it would not make sense to cover soil that can already grow food with a greenhouse to grow food. At some point in this, a team member was brave enough to suggest what many of us were already doing; he suggested we stop talking with each other immediately and begin talking with God about the new greenhouses. When we finished, we asked Charles when he would hear back about the grant. He was hopeful that we would know before we left MCF. I believe he received the grant for at least one new greenhouse, but I am unsure about the second.

We spent time each month during team meeting preparing to share our stories. I worried about how to tell my story to children, many things in my life are difficult to explain to children. It turned out to be a needless worry. The children would have understood, but I only shared my story with a team mate. I don’t mean to downplay the significance of that. It was good to share, to put words to things. It was great to hear a story. Maybe mine was not unique enough for the children to need to hear it. I did ask many children about their stories, again, I am not sure about the appropriateness of sharing a story that isn’t mine. I will just say that many shared their heart. Some had been at MCF for a long time, some only a few months. Some were on the verge of graduating, some just arrived and had many years in front of them. Some understand they now have a future, some are just learning.

Esther opened up her gift shop to us. Some of the things are handmade there, some are purchased at other markets. I wish I had understood what would have been available elsewhere. I would have purchased things differently, but either way, I was able to bring home trinkets for friends and family. When I see them with it, I remember my time at MCF.


footnotes:
1. A beneficiary is an adult who as a child was at MCF for a period of time.

The Sock Saga Continues

Sunday, we had family Thanksgiving with Jason’s family, it was wonderful. Granny hosted Thanksgiving again, Mom made smashed potatoes, and my contribution was to eat too much. Since I’m on a deadline, I worked on the sock in spare moments when my help was not needed and I surmised that it wouldn’t be too rude. I was able to add a few rows, these socks will have quite a story. I added a few more rows on the way home and decided against my better judgment to leave a partial row on the needles. I attempted to tuck it carefully in my bag so I would not lose any precious stitches. Somewhere between the car and Daisy, though not her fault at all, my sock began to fall out of the bag. Luckily, the tension on the yarn caused it to dangle in mid-air rather than drag on the ground. Unluckily, the tension on the yarn caused 10 or so stitches to fall off the needles as it dangled. Fortunately, I had just finished reading a charming book with a rhyming title written by Debbie Stoller. I borrowed the book, entitled Stitch ‘N BWitch1, from the library. While the title suggests that the book may be a little over the top and I won’t be purchasing it for my grandmother, it is an extremely informative book. I knew the theory of picking up dropped stitches, but usually I avoid it by frogging2 enough rows to eliminate the problem, sometimes to the point of casting on again. However, after reading this book, I felt confident enough to attempt to fix 10 or so stitches, five of which only lost the row I had knit in the car. Two or three stitches slipped two rows and four or five stitches slipped several rows, including some purled stitches and one decrease. I have to say that I almost let one of the stitches unravel several rows to fix a previous mistake, but my brain was unable to process the command and shut down instead, so I proceeded to fix only the dropped stitches. After fixing it, I tried to knit two more rows, however, I didn’t look at the pattern. I had done enough rows that I felt I knew what to do. It turns out I did it correctly, but thought I had done it correctly, so made a few rows that are well, unique. I don’t think too many people will examine his socks closely. I am fixing part of the error on the current row and will learn from the mistakes made. Number one, finish a row and push the stitches back or cap the tips. Number two, keep better track of where the decrease belongs, even if you just dropped 10 or 12 stitches and had to perform minor surgery.

Julie suggested a fantastic title for the sock series, she is rather creative when it comes to writing. I, however, have since forgotten what it was and so will continue with my only slightly creative titles that pale in comparison.

Before beginning this sock, I would have said I was a descent knitter, with my knitting ability located somewhere between advanced beginner and intermediate level knitting. However, since tackling the task of sock making, I would reclassify myself currently as intermediate, but a beginner-beginner before the sock. Yes, yes, the scarves are pretty, but they are the same stitch over and over and over and over with really fancy looking yarns that cover a multitude of errors. My goal is to finish Jason’s socks as quickly as I can. I allowed the dropped stitches to scare me, well, scare is not correct, discourage is probably better. I was tired after picking up the stitches, so I put it up for the evening and didn’t touch it at all Monday until late in the evening. This is unfortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that I STILL owe someone a present from last year’s family Christmas, I will soon owe this year’s person a gift and need to finish Jason’s socks first so that I can make some socks for me, but after I finish some Christmas gifts. If the pair for me goes well, I may want to try knitting socks for others, but it’s a safe bet I won’t cross-stitch for too many others, at least not projects that take over a year to complete. Oh, and there is the shawl for the wedding, but that was not my fault, the yarn didn’t come in until three weeks after the wedding. Maybe I will try to have that done by our first anniversary.

Footnotes:
1. In an effort not to offend anyone and bypass any content filters in place, the name had been changed, but I know you are all smart enough to either a) figure it out based on the given clues or b) use amazon.com to find a book by that author.

2. Knitters will ocassional rip out stitches to correct a mistake. Say “rip it” to yourself several times quickly.

To Africa and back . . . (part the third)


Again, posted with apologies as this post should have been up sometime in July or August, Sept may have been accepted, possibly understood. October would have made this post long over due, now I am turning in the post to receive credit and remove the “I” for incomplete from my record. I can’t help but wonder if I have been avoiding the post to avoid thinking about how I had every intention of not forgetting the life changing experiences God prepared for me in Kenya once I returned stateside. Due to the length, I tend to chronicle a day per post, so after this post there should be 4 or 5 more posts unless I stop rambling.


Sunday, June 17


Church at MCF, worshiping1 with the family, 43 of us from western Michigan, Esther and Charles, some of their biological children and a whole bunch of adopted children, as well as helpertheir friends and community members. Everyone who can make it is invited to attend, lunch is provided for those who travel as is lodging if travel home is not feasible. There is something incredibly moving when you hear hundreds of voices lifted in praise with a strong accent but a loving heart. There were many different children’s choirs, I think they were divided by age. We sang a song for them as well. We listened to the sermon in Swahili and English, scripture was read in both as well. I took some movie footage of some of the preaching as well as many of the children’s choirs. If you needed a Bible, one was provided 🙂

church

Following church, we were instructed to form a line outside and all of the children greeted us. Most of the children said, “hello, what is your name” to all of us. Many stopped for longer conversations. I spoke with a few girls in twos for several minutes and held out hope that I would see them later in the week, Lucy and Victoria, Stella and Priscilla. I don’t remember being instructed last night, but I can only assume that somewhere in the explanation of how things work we were told to ask for both names, that is how you find a specific child again, the children don’t readily share their given Swahili name and not all take an English one at baptism. If you had a picture, you may find the same child twice. Both names are their English name and their Swahili name, some of the older children would share both names without being asked.

I wish I remembered whether the tour was before or after lunch, but alas, that tidbit escapes me. If I had to guess, I would say they fed us before we went for a very long walk. At first, the campus/compound seemed daunting and confusing. After a day or two of roaming alone and remembering the stops in order, I eventually understood it was a gigantic circle and there were shortcuts around every bend.

We toured the farm, which included a tree nursery, French bean2 fields, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and the outside of the greenhouse. The inside tour would come later. The French bean field is near the river and consequently, has a problem with the occasional hippo wandering through to graze. We did not see it, but it left tracks through in the field both with footprints and damaged crops. They hang sheets of metal in the trees so that when a hippo brushes the trees or the wind hits them, the loud clatter sends it back to the river. If they see the hippo, MCF can call the authorities, who will come and kill it, leaving the meat for MCF.

Many of the villagers that work at the MCF farm are widows. Our thought-true religion is this that you care for the widows and orphans, James 1.27. The children do not work on the farm, besides the laws that prevent it, Charles and Esther want them to learn as much as they can while they can. If the students take agriculture classes, they are assigned a plot of land to practice with white beans and other things. They learn to let plants to go seed, to harvest and replant.

bridge From the fields, we stood on the bridge overlooking the river, then went under to beat the heat while Charles explained that the dirt river we were looking at is the sole water supply for most of the villages. His heart for the people has moved him to begin a water filteration system so that he can filter and store water to share with the village people. This bridge will connect two parts of MCF so that it can be traversed more quickly.

At the taking of this picture, he was waiting for the river to go down so the last supports could be placed and the bridge finished. If you look closely, you can see the bridge exists on the other bank already. One woman in our group asked Charles how he knew how to build the bridge, I’m sure we were all curious. He replied that he had tried several different ways to build the bridge, they didn’t stay standing, so he talked to God about the need for a bridge.

As soon as Charles said it, it clicked, I didn’t need any further explanation, but she was not getting it. She asked more pointedly, how did you know how to build a bridge, did you take classes, did you hire someone, did an engineer help with this? He told her he couldn’t answer and “no comment” to her persistent questions. He knew she wasn’t going to believe him. I feel a bit crazy sitting in my warm living room on a cold November night saying that it made sense then and it makes sense now and it will make sense for the rest of my life. When we trust God, he shapes our hearts to be more like his.

When our hearts are more like his we naturally begin to ask for things that he provides because they are in his plan. I have tears in my eyes as I type this because I refuse to trust God, we refuse to trust God. I had hoped to retain the awestruck feeling of that moment of crystal clear understanding that I had vastly underestimated the commitment I made when I accepted God’s gift. It didn’t stick the first time, but now that I have it in my mind again, maybe it will stay, maybe I will allow it to stay. I do not believe that most of us are hostile in our disobedience, I think we are ignorant. We disobey when we don’t trust God to provide for our needs. He provides miraculously and we explain every possible God-thing away with science or we find a product or a person with more knowledge to provide the necessary skills or device or worse, we decide he’s not listening to us because he refused to provide and we had to solve it on our own. We don’t ask him about his desire for our lives as often as we should. I don’t mean this to sound like the typical, “I’ve been to a poverty stricken country and we are spoiled” speech, it is bigger than that. It’s trusting God purposefully each moment of each minute of each hour of each day of each week each month of each year of my entire life. It’s complete dependence on him for life, breath, guidance in each decision. His gift to me, to us was so great how can we do anything but thank him by asking how to live for him.

We looked at the water filtration system that was already started. They had progressed to the point of having dug the hold and poured cement walls into forms to make walls. Part of group was part of the construction team, whose goal was to implement a new filtration system. I will admit, it confused me to see a hole in the ground for something I thought our team was building, but this wasn’t the time. The filtration and reservoir were close to the river, which meant that while Charles explained the system, I had a wonderful view of the mountains. Mountains in Africa, at least the part of Kenya where we were, are not like here. They seem to appear out of no where and are huge solitary masses with gigantic boulders dotting the surface.

From the water system, we toured the dorm rooms and library. The funds for the library were donated by the children and parents from the church that sent us on the trip. The library was nearly complete, all the funds were there, with enough left over to provide for books to stock the shelves. Computers were sitting in a dry place awaiting the necessary timing and labor to finish the building. Each building is made by MCF workers, usually graduate students from the building trade program. They chisel and shape the stone from a slab. They forge the metal grates to go over the windows, paint the walls, roof the building, and install the windows. All of the buildings at MCF are built as if they are going up in Nairobi, which is not the safest place to be, hence the bars, stone walls, etc. This gives the workers a lot of practice.

We saw Jacob’s Well, the fresh water well that Charles asked God to provide. Several children were sick when they first began using N’dalani for children. Charles was burdened by the fact that there was no fresh water, he went to bed one night and talked with God about it. In the middle of the night, Charles was awakened and he walked a little ways from where he had been sleeping. He had the children help him dig and they named the fresh water well “Jacob’s Well.” Before we left for this trip, we were required to read Charles’ biography, Father to the Fatherless. It was awesome to see in person the well that God had provided after reading the story half a world away.

We were able to meet with the children again in front of their living and eating area. We didn’t share meals with the children. I’m not sure if it’s the menu or the health issues. The children invited us into their rooms and showed us all of their wonderful possessions that fit into one footlocker that would easily fit inside one of the two that I took to college with me. Each footlocker is decorated and personalized. Each child has a bed of his or her own, responsible for keeping it neat and made. The funniest thing I saw was the piles of shoes in the rooms, we asked if they were community shoes or did each know which were theirs. They are not community shoes, some piles were neater than others, some children kept their shoes at their beds on a shelf. The younger children slept 24 to a room, 12 bunkbeds with a dorm mom/dad, the older children looked after the younger ones. The older ones have the same size building, but the rooms are subdivided so that there are 8 or 4 per room. Not all of the children had a footlocker, some of the younger ones seemed to have designated space on an unused bed to store their clothes. I assumed that was so they were able to reach their things. Each child has their own clothes, shoes, personal hygiene products, eating plates and drinking cups.


Footnotes:
1. Did you know that it is acceptable to spell it as worshipping or worshiping?
2. French bean is a variety of green bean.Photos from Sunday, June 17