The first time I met Janet* was in the surgery clinic one Tuesday afternoon. She was 30 years old and wore a tattered dress and had holes in her shoes. She came requesting supplies so she could take care of a draining wound on her abdomen. When we asked questions, Janet would mumble an answer, all the while keeping her gaze toward the floor. When we pressed her for more details, she became more vague and withdrawn. It didn’t take us long to realize that this young woman was dealing with an incredible amount of pain or sadness or both. It was if the weight of the entire world was on her stooped shoulders.
With time, over the next couple of clinic visits, her story began to unfold. Several years earlier she had had an abortion and things had gone horribly wrong. First, her uterus was perforated, then a terrible infection spread all through her abdomen. After four operations and months in the hospital, she was left with her intestines draining through an open wound on her abdomen, a huge hospital bill and the devastating news that she was HIV positive. And in the months that followed her discharge, she sank into a hopeless depression with no one to help and no where to turn. She couldn’t come back to the hospital—her bill was too great. She couldn’t buy medicines for her HIV or supplies for her wound, she had no money.
After months of suffering alone, she registered at the hospital under a different number and was able to come back occasionally for supplies to take care of her draining wound. It was then I understood the shame and pain and despair I saw in this young woman’s face that first day in the clinic.
On one visit, one of the physicians I work with—Dr. Odera, began to encourage Janet that if she applied for grants, she might be able to receive money for both her hospital bill and her HIV meds. She applied and was accepted. And when I examined her abdomen and reviewed her x-rays, I thought that if she was willing to undergo another risky operation, there was a chance that we might be able to take care of the draining wound on her abdomen.
A few weeks later we were amazed and encouraged to find Janet on the surgical ward at
Every day when we saw Janet on our rounds, we would let her know that we had done all we could do as physicians to treat her, now we were praying for Jesus to do what we could not do–heal her. Every day we encouraged her that Jesus was her friend, and that He would be her strength and her comfort and because of Him, her future was always full of hope. Her bed was at the very end of the female ward. I would always let her know that–even though she was still in the dark fog of depression, she was the sunshine at the far end of the room.
It didn’t happen overnight, but over the next few weeks as the nurses and doctors and aides continued to embrace her with the love of Jesus, her wounds began to heal, her countenance began to change as hope once again rose up in her heart. And for almost 3 weeks, when I walked into the female ward at the far end of the room I could see the biggest, brightest, most hope-filled smile I think I have ever seen.
Last Monday when I saw Janet on morning rounds she was dressed in a beautiful dress and, as usual she was grinning from ear to ear. When I asked why she was all dressed up, she smiled and told me: “for two reasons”. The first, she said, was because she had been to church the day before–something new for Janet. And the second reason she said was because today was the day she was finally going home.
What made the difference in Janet’s life? What caused this young woman who walked in to the clinic full of despair and shame and hopelessness leave with peace and joy and a smile on her face? It was because of the transforming love of our Savior.
The other day I climbed one of the nearby hills and found a perch overlooking Tenwek Hosptial. And as I looked at the few buildings that make up the hospital, I thought about how incredible it is that God uses a few bricks and some mortar and some pieces of tin and a few of His willing children to bring hope and healing to men and women and children just like Janet. What a privelege it was to play a small part in her care. She truly was sunshine at the end of the room.
* Not her real name
This past week the children and I visited two orphanages. We traveled just outside of Bomet to Umoja Children’s Home where twenty five children live with Joseph Chepkwony and his family. The girls and Jackson played soccer, jumped rope and colored with the younger kids. We taught them the song “Our God is So Big, So Strong and So Mighty” and shared the story of Hannah. We encouraged the kids to be like Hannah and carry their struggles to God- the One who can answer their hearts deepest desires.
I met with Joseph to assess the needs of the orphanage and see how we can help while we are in Kenya. He has had success raising laying hens that not only provide eggs for the orphans at the home but provide a small profit when he sells the excess (he sells to the missionaries at Tenwek so we have been eating Umoja eggs!). Joseph shared with me that he really needs more chickens to make more of a profit for the orphanage. His location is very close to Bomet and he could easily sell more eggs if he had them. I discussed the possibility of us helping him to purchase more chickens and with his present coops he could accommodate quite a few more.
One of the missionaries at Tenwek decided to go in with me and we have given Joseph enough money to purchase 200 more chickens, now he will have over 300 chickens to feed his orphans and make some profit for the home.
On Saturday we traveled for over an hour quite a distance over some very bumpy roads to reach Bosto Children’s Home which sits atop an unbelievable mountainside perch. Below us we could see a thick forest line at the bottom of the mountain which was the edge of the Maun Forest.
I had not originally planned on visiting Bosto but when I heard of the dedication of the pastor and his wife who run the home and the great needs they have I decided I would try and visit them. Within days God provided us with transporation to take us there on a Saturday morning.
Isaac Mutai and his wife, Emme, take care of 40 of the neediest orphans in the area. While they have many needs, Isaac shared how recently the greatest need has just been feeding the children. The land is rocky and sloped and he cannot grow anything on it, so all their food must be bought or donated to them. He does not have a cow for milk and has only 15 chickens which barely provide any eggs for the childrenl. His present coop is small and a falling down. A local man has promised to donate a good milk cow to the orphanage but the fencing is not adequate for livestock.
While the missionary kids and the girls played with children, I sat and spoke with Isaac about how we could help him feed his children. We came up with a simple plan like fencing some of his land so he could keep a milk cow and save the 1600 KSH a month he spends on milk (which doesn’t pay for much milk weekly). Isaac desperately also needs more chickens and new coops. More chickens would provide eggs a couple of times a week for the kids and he can sell the eggs for a profit. The money they save will pay for the feed for the chickens. Isaac provided me with a detailed list of the cost for the fencing and the coops. He expressed how he had been praying and asking the Lord for these specific needs. I knew at that moment why I had travelled to Bosto that day. I left Isaac with the money to construct the fence and new chicken coops, once those projects are done I committed to buy the orphanage 100 chickens.
All the money I took to Bosto and to Umoja Children’s Home was raised by JLIFE at Lakewood Church this spring, I just had the awesome privilege of delivering the money for the projects. I shared with Isaac that morning how the money was from children in America who are young leaders in our church who love Jesus and wanted to help other kids all the way across the world in Africa. We prayed together and thanked God that he had crossed our paths. When he prayed He thanked God for you, JLIFE, and so do I! I will post photos of what God allowed you and me to be a part of at these two orphanages as soon as I can. ~Jennifer
This morning Jackson joined a small group of the younger missionary children who went up to the hospital to entertain the patients and their families. Last week the kids made hand puppets so we carried those with us to help with our singing. The children sang “Jesus Loves Me” and a Swahili song “Mambo Sawa Sawa” and gave the patients stickers and coloring sheets with crayons.
Mambo sawa sawa.
Mambo sawa sawa.
Yesu akiwa enzini.
Mambo sawa sawa.
Which in English translates:
Things are getting better.
Things are getting better.
When the Lord is on the throne,
Things are getting better.
We made rounds outside where the some of the patients and their families congregate and in the Pediatric ward, nursery and eye ward. The elderly Kenyans in the eye ward really enjoyed the songs and puppets. It was a blessing to see their faces light up at the children and some even joined in the singing with us. No matter what brought each patient to the hospital we confidently can encourage them that with Jesus on the throne things are truly already better. ~Jennifer
Hello everyone! Thanks for taking the time to look at our blog; we really like reading your comments! Before I start telling you about what’s going on here in Kenya I want to tell you a little bit about what happened in me before we came.
Most of you know that we were in Kenya last January-February for six weeks. Everything was great and God really used us. But I really felt like God talked to me before we came on this trip. Last time we were here I was excited, but I felt that Africa was far from where I wanted to be. My passion is music and I feel like there is a ‘calling’ on my life in this area. But I found when I was in Africa it was really tough to practice my music. Before we left my schedule was God, family, music. Music was all that I thought about. I was constantly telling my parents about the big dreams I have, what I want to do, college I want to go to, and so on. But what I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t putting things into perspective! I still have a good 5 years before I leave my family and go to college! I began to realize I was totally rushing things.
So back to Africa, last time I was here I was questioning God, why do you have me here? So far away from my dreams?! God you know the desires of my heart, why am I here when I want to be over in America? But then I remembered the scripture that says ask and you shall receive. Well, I will let you know that I took that scripture a little too seriously, I asked God about a million times to make me a better musician, for amazing windows of opportunity to open, and what did I get? Nothing. It wasn’t that God didn’t hear me, I know He did. But He just didn’t reply. Well, sometime last month I heard God speak to me. He said, “Georgia, why are you so focused on yourself? I have planted a dream inside you, just like the dream I planted inside your parents. Your dream still has time to come to pass, but your parents dreams are happening now.” That blew me away. I felt so selfish, that I couldn’t express my feelings to my parents. I then realized that my parents are living their dreams now, my dreams still have their own time!God has a plan for everything, don’t ever forget that! If he wants me to be a great musician, I will be, no doubt. But that’s all I was ever focused on, me. It might be years until God fulfills that promise he put in me. God put a dream inside of my dad at 12, and 30+ years later he’s fulfilling it. And guess what? I get to be a part of his dream. That is the greatest honor ever, to be a part of one of God’s plans—even if it is for someone else. So what I want you to know is don’t give up on a dream God put in you. And be ready to be a part of making someone else’s dreams come true. And make sure you don’t miss out on all of the great things and great people and great opportunities God has placed in your life right now. I’m only 12 years old but I guess I’m learning that you can trust God with your dreams.