I will likely have more to say in the coming days after I return home and get past our FAMILY CARE seminar coming up this SAT in Southern VT. For now, I just wanted to share that on my last night here, I had the privilege of visiting Bishop Esau’s rural farm. He and his wife have, I believe, four children of their own and then about 30 orphans. All of these children are at this orphanage due to losing both parents from AIDS.
I don’t want to minimize how difficult and expensive it is for Bishop and his family to care for all these children – trust me, they have countless needs before them! But that said, it is a great setting in the sense that they have a field of vegetables and fruit trees, a gigantic cow that produces 40 liters of milk a day, numerous chickens that provide eggs, etc. It still costs a lot of money but they are geared “toward” self-sufficiency. Despite this, the kids are bunked up 8-10 to a room in very small rooms and their beds are shorter than their bodies from the looks of it.
Momma Bishop (his wife) treated us to tea and homemade “donuts” that were absolutely delicious. We sat around a huge wooden table in their home with all 30 of these children and just spent the evening talking. The children were very curious about what American kids were like and what life was like in America. They asked, “Why do all Americans look alike?” (smile) I explained that this is a human nature thing – they laughed hysterically when I told them Americans think they all look alike too. (smile)
Their innocence and joy betray the reality of what they have been through – which is a testament to the peace of having Christ in one’s heart. One girl was repeatedly “married” by relatives after her parents died of AIDS so that these men could collect the “bride price” (dowry). So this then 11-year old girl had to suffer through repeated rapes as various relatives claimed her to earn their money. She was plucked from this abuse and sits before me with the most peaceful smile you’ve ever seen. She said, “I am happy because I love Jesus. I am saved.” Yes, she is ‘saved’ as in salvation but literally HE saved her from horrific abuse. This now 14-year old girl has every reason to hate and yet she beams with a healing that is undeniable.
One 8-year old boy tells of how he lived with his mother after his father died. Then how he moved in with his grandparents when his mother died. Then how he moved in with his uncle when his grandparents died. And finally how he moved to the orphanage after his uncle died. They all died of AIDS. Beautifully, this boy said, “But now, I am home with my Mommy and Daddy.” (Bishop and his wife) But then, tears spill over as he cries, “I miss my Momma.” I invite him over and just hug him as he cries and cries and cries.
From there, the children told their stories and I asked them about their dreams of the future – do they feel hope or do they feel hopeless. Like all Kenyans I met, they responded, “I am hopeful because Jesus is preparing a place for me.” Yes, I say, but how about in this life – do you feel like you have a dream about what you’d like to do before you get to Heaven. That heaven is so ever-present in their whole perspective on life is striking and I did not want to take away from that ‘focus’ in light of the suffering they’ve been through. But they gladly answer my question:
“I want to be a doctor.”
“I want to be a lawyer.”
“I want to be a teacher.”
“I want to be a driver.”
They all have something different they want to be when they grow up. But this they agree on: every one of them plans to adopt many orphans when they grow up and have their own families. Out of sheer necessity, many pastors and teachers and town leaders and regular families ALL play a role in adopting the AIDS abandoned children of Africa. If you feel called to play a role, contact me.
As I prepare to board my flight to Cairo, I am praying for family and friends currently getting hit by Gustave!
Oh! By the way: Pastor Ezra is already preparing for the second annual LTH conference in 2009 but he plans to expand it for me to minister to the entire student bodies at numerous universities in the area. We’re not certain what shape the next trip will take but his idea is that he wants to extend the LTH message from within churches to Kenya’s public colleges and universities and even high schools.
Through connections, he says that the Christian message (the Gospel, that is) can still be openly shared in public schools. He wants ‘the church’ to share the LTH message in such venues as a way of reaching out beyond the walls of the church (fish on the other side) to ALL students – but particularly the students who are hiding behind a secret struggle of homosexuality in a culture that is revolted by them, summarily condemns them and considers them to be a ‘myth.’
To say that I am surprised by so many opportunities in such a conservative and ‘closeted’ culture is an understatement. Yet I think by now if you have read my updates, then you see along with me that this group of Kenyan pastors are on fire to reach out beyond the walls of their churches to homosexuals and prodigals of all kinds of backgrounds.