Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time to process

Thank you all for looking for my blog posts and sharing this experience with me. I'm sorry that my posts were few but we had extremely limited Internet during our time in Tanzania.

We are making our way back home and we have found a lounge in the Jomo Kenyatta airport with free wi-fi and my only Internet accessory right now is my iTouch. I think the power cord is toast. So I am blogging from my iPod.

Where to begin...

We have had the joy of reaching out to over 1000 children this week. But one was very special. I met my Sara on Friday. Sara is the most beautiful girl. We met and just held each other for a long time. She had dreamt a long te ago that I would come and it was my letter to her that I was coming.

Her good news- She is a Christian! Her whole family is saved. All of her siblings are in school. Sara starts college in the fall for Business Admin. and Tourism. Of all the gifts I gave her, the one that brought her to tears was MY Bible. It was the most important gift.

Her bad news - Two weeks ago she had malarial pneumonia and was in the hospital. Another girl in her same project had the same thing and she died. As I reviewed her records, I read that she has this same illness annually.

Experiencing that child visit day was like experiencing Heaven. For a few moments Believers of different colors and nationalities playing together and there was only joy and peace as we praised God together.

Sara wanted me to stay and never leave. But when I explained what I do for Compassion and the job before me, she hesitantly let me go.

And now I return. I'm more excited and focused on this ministry than ever before. Sponsorship changes and saves lives in EVERY way!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Today was an absolutely God-filled day!

I signed up for the 3 hour bus ride across the bumpiest road you can imagine! We drove to the border of Kenya, to a predominately Massai tribal village/base. It was an incredibly difficult ride out there but so worth the destination!

We were there to put a roof on their school and plant trees. But because Compassion focuses on relationship, relationship, relationship - the work was secondary. I was glad because all I want to do is love on all these kids!

I went off to help plant trees and saw all these boys hanging around and I tried to greet them and get close to them... but it's likely I'm the first white person they've ever been that close to. But, a little candy goes a long way! I showed them the candy and said the Swahili word for candy - it's "Pee-Pee" (yes, we chuckled to!) and they came to me and before I knew it, I had a fan club! I took two of them by the hand and then another person joined our chain and then another... and another! We played for a long time and had so much fun!

I did make another special friend and his name is Dennisee. I think he was three years old. He was so sweet. He let me pick him up and he touched and clapped my hand. He was so precious. Everywhere we went, he was with me. He was my special Rafiki (friend).

Just loving on these children and laughing and playing with them. It's not something they EVER get from their homes because life is so hard. Love. Love. Love. That's what I'm here for.

One interesting observation between today and yesterday was in the obvious health and over all self-confidence between the children that I saw of these two communities. Yesterday I shared about Lucy and she lives in a semi-rural area outside of Arusha. Desperately poor. Today was a Massai village. The children of this Massai Village were obviously healthier. Their teeth were white and not stained brown. Their hair was not matted, or abnormally light brown. The children in Lucy's village had horrible teeth. Their hair was matted and their heads flattened from carrying water.

The difference is in their water. The Massai village partnered with Compassion and put in a water treatment system that serves the whole community. It's the bad water of Lucy's village that severely impacts their health. I will have side-by-side pictures that show the difference water makes in a village.

And tomorrow is the big day! I will meet Sara tomorrow!! I have a few last minute things I must do to be ready. But the excitement amongst my friends here is electrifying!

Till tomorrow... Andrea

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


We were at a project today that was about a 30 minute drive outside of Arusha. Very poor. I noticed this little girl lingering around corners everywhere I went and I drew her over to me. I held her hand and didn't let go for 2 hours. Through a translator I learned that she is not in the Compassion program but her younger brother is. Because of Compassion's desire to rescue as many children from poverty as they possibly can, there is a rule that there can be only one child per family. So, she was feeling painfully left out of our little party.
This sweet child is desperately poor. She was dirty. Her hair is matted and her head flattened from carrying buckets of water on her head daily. Her shoes were broken flip flops. Her only set of clothes is a torn skirt and an old Winnie The Pooh shirt. Her teeth are stained brown from bad water. Her parents are separated and her mother doesn't live at home. She lives and works in Arusha. Lucy lives with her father and he works at the airport but is an alchoholic and the pastor said he has other mental problems.

After learning that she was not part of the program, I told her that today I will love on her and for today I am her "sponsor". I sat down and wrote her a letter immediately and asked the translator to write the translation on the back of it. I wrote -

My Lucy,

You are a beautiful little girl. I will keep your picture forever and I will pray for you. I pray that you grow up into a beautiful woman of God. I love you.

Our attachment drew some attention of the pastor and other project workers.  The pastor shared the concerns he has for this child and through many conversations, they started to discuss making a special acception to bring her into the Compassion program.  This was not my intention at all in how I loved on Lucy today and I assured the program director that I understood that this was not my expectation.  But today, they have decided to investigate the possibility to bring her into the Program.  I leave it up to God.

I did not let go of Lucy all day except to do what I needed to do. She was "My Lucy" all day. I had to go to the meal prepared for us, eat quickly because we were late to leave to come back to our guesthouse and when I came out, she was gone. I asked all the children "My Lucy"?

I turned to walk towards our bus and saw Lucy coming back from her home. I dropped my stuff and held my arms wide and she ran to me. I picked her up and swung her around. Kissed her head, let her go with some candy and she ran off and as I got on the bus, I called out to her and she waved.

The last thing I saw was her smiling face as she ran home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Days of Joy

Yesterday, I flew in Kilimanjaro and found myself within hours, walking the back roads of Arusha, Tanzania and visiting 30 young mothers who were enrolled in the Child Survival Program. We heard amazing stories of how many had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They testified to how he is working in their lives, through the Compassion Child Survival Program.

These women work so hard just to survive. The program gives them tools to establish small entrepreneurships - the woman we visited had her own vegetable stand. They are taught how to keep their babies healthy and stimulated for cognitive development. I’ve spoken these words out of a brochure. But I saw them, I held them and I cried for them. They have such hope and dreams not for themselves but for their children.

I visited a home and listened to a mother share her hopes and dreams for her son, Justin. All of her hope is that he will have an education. Because he is in the CSP program and by God’s grace, he will grow up with an education.

Today we spent visiting a Child Development Center. We heard the testimony of four teenagers who had come to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. These four beautiful young women shared what Jesus had done for them and they shared some of the hardships - the death of both parents, a father living for 10 years with liver cancer and domestic abuse, etc. It was so beautiful to love on them, cry on each other’s shoulders and dry each other’s tears.
We visited a home of a mother who has AIDS. Her daughter’s name is Zahera… but she is changing her name to Doreen (must double check that that is correct). Her family is Muslim but when she accepted Jesus as her Lord, she dropped her Muslim name and chose the name Doreen. Doreen plans to be a doctor, specifically a doctor for children. She is 18 years old and is a Senior in High School. Because of Compassion and the love of Jesus, she has this hope.

Because our group was split into two teams, the other team visited the home of a Muslim family where the Compassion project student had gave her life to Jesus. Because of the hope and the change that the mother saw in her daughter, she also accepted Jesus as the Lord of her life. The family continued to hope and pray that the father would someday also come to Christ. In the middle of these testimonies, the father came home and he too said that he saw the change in his daughter and his wife. He was asked if he would someday like to also come to Christ and he decided at that divine moment, to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The whole group gather around him and prayed over him as he became transformed and he was warmly welcomed into the family of Christ.
The pastor was with them and he testified that at that moment, the ENTIRE neighborhood was listening in on just what was going on in their home and will see this transformation in this home. It will have a ripple effect through the entire community.
I am so thankful to have experienced this day and I look forward to what God has in store for us tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The benefits of flexibility *or* JAMBO! From Kenya

If you've been following my blog or my travels at all, you will know that I'm not supposed to be in Kenya, I'm supposed to be in Tanzania!  Well, through the miracle of International Travel, a lucky few had the opportunity to miss out on the last seat for the flight to Kilimanjaro/Arusha.  Six opted to wait it out in the Jomo Kenyatta airport and wait on a straggling member of our party who has not had an easy time of getting here.  Four of us opted to spend a few hours in the "Nairobi Safari Club" hotel.  And we have one guest with us... a group of Kilimanjaro hickers also lost one of their group to luck and he has been tagging along with us.

Those of us who opted to stay at the hotel now have surprise transit visa's to Kenya forever stamped to their passports.  We four are myself, Michael Stephens, Jessica Schaeffer and Mary Wilson.  I know some of them have families following this blog and will be curious to know what is going on with them.

We climbed into our midnight shuttle and jokingly told the driver to give us the First Class Midnight Tour of Nairobi.  He took us seriously.  I've seen much of downtown Nairobi - Parliament, a "Taco Club" which is what Taco Bell is called here, the University and now the Nairobi Safari Club hotel.  All of it seen in pitch blackness in the middle of the night and I am sure that it is much better in the daylight at the height of downtown traffic.  I expect that as we pull away from the hotel later this morning, we might be able to get some pictures to do justice to our bonus trip to downtown Nairobi.

Other than that, the trip was fantastic.  Not a hitch or a glitch.  Pleasant stop in DC and so glad I had at least met one of our members before, Henry Skinner, and that I had met a few of the folks in DC through FaceBook long before.  London Heathrow certainly competes with the airport in Paris for being spread out and a jungle of pathways.  Being that my grandmother is from England, I regretted that I did not do her homeland justice as my first visit being a pathetic 4 hour layover.

I had not sat next to any in our party for the entire way here but had the opportunity to get to know Mary quite well on our flight from London to Nairobi.  This was the longest leg of our trip - 7 hours and 50 minutes in row 40.  We were blessed with 3 hours of solid sleep immediately and then had a fun time the rest of the way.

This morning, we must be at our shuttle at 5am and get our tickets straightened out at the airport and hopefully be assured of the location of our luggage.  Our straggler will have caught up with us by then and we will be on our way to Tanzania around 9am.  Another major benefit of this experience is that the bulk of our party landed at Kilimanjaro/Arusha in pitch blackness.  We will have the blessing of daylight and will be able to see Kilimanjaro in all its morning glory as we fly over it.  We will barely have enough time to drop our bags before we will be on our way to the Child Survival Program!

What an experience!  Praise God for it all!