Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things I have seen and loved about Africa

1) You do not pass people on the streets without speaking

2) You greet people with the double cheek kiss

3) You can get a cold coke in a bottle for 35 cents

4) Men hold hands when talking to each other as a sign of friendship

5) You can walk outside and pick nuts, berries, and fruits off of trees and eat them right then and there

6) Mamas carry their babies in kongas on their backs everywhere

7) How simple it is for the poor to find joy in all circumstances

8) The sense of gratitude among the people. Their welcoming spirit..."Karibu, Karibuni!" (Welcome, you are welcome here!) The way our very presence blesses them and how expressive they are with their thankfulness...

9) The eyes of the's like looking into their souls

10) People are not afraid to pray, worship, or talk about their Jesus!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dream Maker

This is Clinton and he has the cutest personality. If you just say his name he starts grinning. He is so laid back and easy. I love him to pieces!!
This is Bahati. I think COL must have the cutest babies in all of Tanzania! He has dimples on both cheeks and they just melt you!

Today Christy, Hallie, and I took three babies to get tested for HIV.  I have been to several clinics in Africa, but for some reason every time I go I am still surprised by the fact that its basically a hole in the wall. We took Clinton, Bahati, and Helena into an office where they recorded their information into the only little computer they had. They then weighed them on a scale that looks like what we weigh our fruit in at Publix and measured their length with like a yard stick. 
We were then told to go to the "waiting room." (waiting room in Africa = plastic chairs under a tent outside.)

We had been sitting for about 45 seconds before some other women also waiting came over and said "give me babies...give me babies!" and literally took Clinton from Christy's lap. Um...ok. It was funny...Then someone came and took Helena from Hallie. They would have probably taken Bahati if he hadn't been asleep in my arms. In Africa, people share food, water, and apparently babies. :) 

We waited for about an hour and then they finally started calling us in. When it was Bahati's turn, I took off his cloth diaper and laid him on a desk...(patient room/office i guess) The clinic was small and was very humble compared to our standards but I have to tell you that those doctors were so sweet to these babies. They are only 6 months old and can't understand anything going on around them, but there were three workers surrounding each one as they proceeded with the needle test just loving on and consoling the babies as they screamed! Afterward the male doctor picked up Bahati and was cuddling him. It was so cute. They may not have all the machines and technology, but the bedside manner was to be remembered. 

We could not put their diapers back on because their little punctures needed to breathe so the whole way home I held Bahati pants-less....made me really nervous. :) But he did great and did not go to the bathroom on me. Good Boy!! 

We will not know the results of their for another few weeks, but please pray with us that all three babies will be negative. We obviously hope they are healthy so they can grow to live long happy lives, but they are also potential adoptees and the process is a lot easier if the children are not HIV positive.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pictures for your enjoyment!

My Baby Neema....She is truly the love of my life. It's really hard to think about coming home without her. 

Agatha...i have no words....ill try to provide a video which will explain more than I ever could...

Here's Neema again...How beautiful is she?

On the playground with 2 of the 3 "big boys."
Simon and Cory. They are my little translators. I'm constantly like "how do you say this in do you say that?!" How nice to be bilingual at three years old! 

"Ni busu" = Kiss me! 

The big kids before bed. I just adore them! 

Nanny time

Lately we have had a lot of day volunteers. It's been nice because most of the babies have been getting more one on one attention. Due to the increase in help, I have been trying to help the nannies do the more mundane tasks that keep the orphanage running, ie dishes, laundry, etc. I have loved getting to spend time with them because number one it helps me with my swahili :) but more importantly it just gives me the opportunity to get to know them and to be a witness to them.

Today Hallie and I went up the street and ate lunch at an African buffet. Its not the best food in the world but its a nice change from the everyday peanut butter and jelly. When I got back for my second shift of work at 3, Neema one of the nannies said she and Juliet had waited to eat lunch with me and pulled me into the kitchen. I was already so incredibly full but I saw three plates sitting there with rice, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers...they were sharing THEIR lunch with me! As stuffed as I was, I could not turn it down. So I prayed that God would make a place in my stomach for more food.

During the meal Neema said something that really struck me. I was asking them what they typically ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...and Neema said she tried to eat a lot of porridge (a thick creamy soup that is really filling- its an African staple because it "sticks to the ribs") because "she was too small." In America, girls worry so much about being skinny, but in Africa they are just trying to eat enough to get by. They don't worry about such frivolous things as weight or how their clothes fit. They just don't have time. They are too busy taking care of others to worry about themselves. They didn't even get lunch until 3pm because they wanted to wait for me!

Once again I am blown away at the servant hearts of these people and they are witnessing to me even if they dont realize it. God is teaching me so much about generosity here. The other day Liza and I, with two other nannies, took a few kids down to the park. On the way back, Liza and I stopped at a little street store and bought the nannies a muffin. The kids all wanted some but we were like "no, these are for your nannies." After we gave them each their muffin, we looked and saw that they were breaking them and sharing them with the children. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I'm not sure I would have done that. But thats just how it is here... "Ours..." I love it. I pray to leave here more like that...

Proverbs 11:24
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Love Overcomes All

Rachel is on the right so happy about her purple balloon!!

There is a baby here named Rachel, who is probably almost 2 years old. She arrived at Cradle of Love about 2 weeks before we got here. Her parents fled Burundi with her and her young brother because of violence and unrest within their community. By the time they got to Tanzania, a woman found the 7 year old boy on the streets taking care of Rachel alone. From talking with the boy, she could only assume the parents were no longer living. She was brought to COL, but the brother was sent somewhere else since he was older. 

When we first met her, she was very reserved and somber. She never smiled. She was very obedient, but there was no life behind her sad eyes. She would let us hold her and hug her, but there was no love being returned. I often wondered what she has already seen and heard in her short little life. 

But I am happy to report that 2 weeks later, she is like a different child! She is starting to talk a little and is actually laughing!! When you call her name, her face lights up with the most beautiful smile. She has begun to start pushing some boundaries, but its a good sign because now she knows that someone cares enough to tell her "no." and to discipline her. It has been amazing to watch love bring this child back to life! 

What a picture of what Jesus' love does for all of us....brings us to life!! What a true honor to be here and to be Jesus to these children. Their kisses, their giggles, even their little rebellious spirits fill me with joy. I sat with Rachel tonight and she was playing with Liza's (another volunteer) watch and when she would push the button that would make it light up, she would shriek and say "Yayyyy!!" This is why I'm here.... 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vinyard Church

We met a cute girl at the coffee shop the other day who recommended that we try a church in town called Vinyard Church. We have been to one church so far here in Arusha that didn't exactly thrill us so we were happy to hear of another option. I thought I knew where it was so we got the taxi driver to drop us off at the center of downtown. When we couldn't find it, I called our friend Hannah (International School Young Life Leader) and asked her and it turns out it was like 3/4 of a mile from where we were. Fortunately it was nice out and we had time so we had a lovely little Sunday stroll. When we got there, I again led us astray as I insisted on following some cute little Africans back into this neighborhood to their church. They had I thought we must be going to the same church. They are everywhere here!! In little homes, in big sanctuaries, fields, wherever...I think my roommates were about to kill me. But I just get curious...we had to back track a little but we finally found it. Oh Heath......

Once there, the experience was amazing. The worship was great..there was a big screen and we sang contemporary worship songs. We then took a break where they served us coffee, hot chocolate, and mondazis. (square baked bread - soooo yummy!) Then we broke into groups with people we did not know and talked about where God has showed up in our lives. People talked about how they were healed by laying of hands, their friends being persecuted because for their faith, etc. It was a rich time.

The pastor and his wife are from the States and they have lived in Africa starting churches like this for many years. Gary had an amazing message. He talked about how Nothing is impossible with God. He then went on to tell a story about a baby in Guatemala who was raised from the dead by a group of missionaries. The God in the Bible is the SAME God that is with us everyday. This story really blessed me as the journey He has me on right now often seems extremely hard and uncertain. But He is good!! And He is with us. If we believe...we can do anything in His name!! What an encouraging message. I felt like the Lord was speaking through Him directly to me. Like he was saying "Heath, trust me and follow me...I am with you wherever you go." Jesus says that if we have faith the size of a MUSTARD SEED we can move a mountain!! I pray for that kind of faith.

After church we went to lunch with the girl from the coffee shop and about 6 of her friends. Most of them work at another orphanage in town and they are from all over...US, Europe, Australia. It was so fun to meet new friends. We got another good meal at another muzungu restaurant. As we were eating we looked up to see some of our Young Life friends walking in with a big YL group from Arizona. So fun to get to see Alexis and Hannah and the other leaders.

Life here is good. God is faithful. Whatever He asks me to do....I am up for the challenge.

Breaking Free

Our German roommate, Nike (Nee-ka) leaves us tomorrow so we decided to take her out on Saturday night for a farewell dinner. Africa after dark is a little sketchy and we are on missionary budgets so going out is a special treat for us. First, it must be said that we have found quite possibly the best taxi driver in all of Arusha. His name is Abeli and he has been on time every single time we have called him. This is unheard of in Africa. Typically Africans have no concept of time or schedules. In addition to his punctuality, he blasts a "7th grade cheerleading try-outs" mix on his cassette tape player. A few of the songs: "Do you believe in life after love", "Where did you go, my lovely?", and "Be my lover" Now imagine all techno versions...its pretty amazing!

I think we chose the most mzungu (white person) restaurant in town - you can get hamburgers, french fries, pizza, and milkshakes! But you know what that is ok considering we have been making our own dinners for the past couple of weeks which usually consist of rice, beans, bread and peanut butter! And im embarrassed to admit that I burnt my rice the other night, so we needed some comfort food. But just as an fyi, burnt rice mixed with ketchep is not that bad...its kinda like well done hash browns at Waffle House. Ok maybe not....TIA!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cradle of Love

Our First Day at Cradle of Love

Hallie, Christy, Stephanie, and I are finally all together and we are loving the baby home. It's pretty safe to say that we are all officially in love with these babies. They are absolutely delicious! There are three "big boys" (three year olds) who rule the place. Simon, Cory, and Ben..they speak english and swahili and I don't even know what to do with just obsessed! :) Yesterday they ran into the play room all three buck naked and they could not have been more tickled with themselves...three little black bottoms running around. We were trying so hard to be serious when we said go put on your pajamas, but it was so funny!
The little babies are really fun too...they are just learning to walk and they are so cute when they take two or three steps than plop down on their behinds. A group of them were pretending to be dogs and they were crawling across the playroom barking...then as they realized they were going to make their great escape down the hallway they turned and looked at us and while waving all said "byeeeeeeeeeee" I wish I had caught it on video.
When we put them to bed, they all stand up in their cribs and wait for us to come hug each of them. (such a stall tactic...but I love it!) I miss them until I get to go see them again in the morning. I praise Him who created these little angels.


Sarah and I sitting high above the clouds. It was so gorgeous!!

My Porter, Noeli, who I must say was the greatest. Not only did he greet me with hugs at the end of everyday and take my pack from me as soon as I arrived at camp; he also wins the Best Dancer award. Hahaha he is awesome! 

Finally the day I had been dreading...haha just kidding. This mountain absolutely rocked my world! God taught me so much about his faithfulness. Through His grace, I reached the top of Africa! It was amazing. We spent 5 days above the clouds and the views were absolutely stunning. But what was even more beautiful was the way we were served by the guides and porters on this hike. Everyone had their own personal porter who carried their duffle bags up the mountain and then there were others who carried food, supplies, tents, BATHROOMS, etc. And every single one of them became my personal hero! Every morning two would come wake us up in our tents and fix us coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. They would bring us warm water to was and then we would be fed delicious meals to prepare us for the day's trek. The guides would heat up water bottles at night for us to put in the bottom of our sleeping bags so we wouldnt be cold. They took care of blisters, encouraged us with hugs when we reached camp, and just loved us so well. I have never been served like this. I can promise we were better taken care of than any 5 star hotel in the western world. It was such an amazing display of Christ's love. These guys loved us like their blood humbled me to tears. One evening on the mountain we got to worship with them...we would sing a song in english with the guitar and then they would sing one in kiswahili. We ended the praise time with "Ill Fly Away" which they know and the most unforgettable dance party high in the sky! It gave me a glimpse of what the Kingdom might look like..people of different color, culture, and tribe all praising King Jesus!!

Legho Village

After time in Arusha, we traveled to Legho, a rural village about an hour outside of Arusha. We spent a few days working on the construction of a the first medical clinic in the whole village. We also got to spend some time in the classrooms of the primary school passing out coloring books and crayons. This was one of my favorite days. The children were so obedient and polite. The African culture has so much respect for thier elders. Whenever we asked them a question, they would say "yes, teacher." or "thank you, teacher" It was so cute! They sang us songs, said their ABCs, and showed us how they could count to ten in English. The school has very little supplies and the principal said that they do not know how to color in the lines. It was amazing to watch them split their crayons in half and share with each other. It amazes me America I feel like the mentality is so often "me!! me!! me!!" where even at such a young age, in Africa it's "we!! we!! we!!"

Sokoni One

We spent a couple of days in Sokoni One (one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tanzania) and I got to see my "favorite" little girl, Esther. She was very sick so I was able to take her by taxi to the clinic where it was determined that she had malaria. :( Her doctor's visit including the cost of her medicine which we picked up at a pharmacy was a total of $8000 shillings (a little less than $8USD) Unfortunately, her family would never have been able to afford this cost. While we waited for her results, I saw several people being turned away as they did not have enough money. It was incredibly sad to see, I wanted to pay for everyone, but that is the American in me just wanting to "fix" the problems of Africa. So instead I just prayed for them. I prayed that God would meet them in their pain and heal them of their illnesses. After all, HE is the great healer. A few days later when I visited Ester again, I could tell she was feeling a lot better! Thank you Jesus!!