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With Love FOR Kenya!

As we make our way back across the sea to where our story began, our hearts are filled with sweet memories of the warm welcome we felt from those who have always known Kenya as home.  We are thankful for the way you loved us Kenya… for the tender and compassionate way you welcomed us in as your neighbor, as your friend, as your colleague and then for the way you welcomed us in like family.  Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the opportunity you gave to our family to learn from you such rich lessons in HOPE, contentment, sharing, patience, extravagant generosity and how to love deeply from the heart.  It was our JOY, but one we realize you willingly entrusted to us, to walk with you hand-in-hand, to pray with you, to hear and share your burdens and to be invited to carry them with you, and for this entering in we are most thankful.  Kenya, and by that we mean the beautiful people who make it so, we are touched by your love, transformed by your endless kindnesses to each of us and forever changed because of how you welcomed us in as family. The leaving hurts, and it should, for it is an indicator of the heart and how much LOVE it has held and continues to hold. You have changed us.  You have spurred us on and for that our Kenyan family, we will simply never be the same.  It has been said, Home is where your heart is, and for now our heart remains divided on both sides of the sea.  Thank you for teaching us how to love better. Thank you for loving us so deeply.

 

“Without goodbyes, memories (some of the sweetest) would not exist.”

~African Proverb

Some sweet memories from our final days…

A 4:30am arousal from a bus load full of JOY FILLED hearts departing for their first Mara safari, who took the time to make one last stop by to give us their final warm farewell.  To all on that bus, you will never know what that time with you meant to us that last Tenwek morning.  Our hearts were refueled with JOY to behold the JOY on each of your faces.  So thankful to the dear ones who made this trip of a lifetime for each of them possible and for the one who babysat for my sweet mama friend so that she could go too.  I’m just glad we didn’t wake the neighborhood with all of our squeals of excitement! (Sorry no pics of this, just sweet memories for the heart to hold).

Those who protect and serve best, breaking bread and enjoying some rest.

Break bread with many of Africa’s finest surgeons to be, who taught our hearts so much!

Thanksgiving hugs for one whom we are eternally thankful for … for one who helped to bring about opportunities for love to be poured out. On mission TOGETHER we were!

Surrounded by lovely neighbors who filled us with more than just food!

Sweet Marietta neighbors that bring a touch of home to our hearts.

The gift of a smile that finally comes to a little boys face.

Gonna miss Sunday afternoons breaking bread with this family after worship!

One of our favorite couches to enjoy Sabbath rest on.

Our future dairy farmer.

Checking out the completion of our friend’s new biofuel project that will provide them with much needed power.

Cuteness spotted down under.

Going down to see how it all works.

Thanksgiving with those we are so very thankful for!

Precious treasures who fill this heart with greater JOY!

Time to serve those who take care of us best! For many, it was their first taste of pizza!

Neighbors who make all this loving possible. Loved loving and doing life with them.

REST for those who taught us how to love best!

A last supper with our mission community.

Sharing and learning from each other.

A FIRST birthday celebration for our 19 year old son!

The tradition is to get a mud bath from your guests … perhaps this is why he has put his celebration off for so long.

Not sure though. Looks like he’s enjoying every minute of it.

And now for the clean bath!

Love the JOY on that sweet boy’s face.

Fun! Fun! Fun!

Time for a little birthday B-ball!

These friends will stay behind and play.

Capture the flag … nope capture the bunny. Thank you Many and Mitchell families for sending us off with such a warm goodbye. We are thankful for what your love did for each of our hearts …especially our children’s. Thank you for all who brought pizza and food to fill our bellies with good things. It was a night we won’t soon forget!

Got em’

Friday night fun!

One more thing brought to completion … a graduation from computer school for this very smart girl.

More sweet friends and goodbye hugs.

My lovely friend.

Hugs that hurt and yet feel so good.

Graduation fun.

Packing JOY. To her mama Nancy, she might or might not have gotten packed in our carry ons:)). Gonna miss this lovely face coming to give me hugs. She was just a baby who was a bit fearful of my bright white skin when we came, but fast friends we became.

Minnie fun of a Minnie Beauty!

The hardworking, always delightful crew that helps to keep this hillside beautified. Tractor John will never know how his friendly wave while driving his tractor brought sweet memories of my brother to this heart. Thankful for them.

Sweet last suppers with dear friends.

Family friends.

Sweetness found waiting to greet us with goodbye hugs from dear friends and one of Africa’s finest carpenters.

What REST looks like!

Sweet friends sent to encourage and love on us during our REST.

There are few arms that will bring out the comfort found in two fingers int he mouth. Love this big brother of ours.

Sweet new friends who encouraged whom we will see again soon, serving the people of Kenya!

Our sweet friend Maggie sends us off with love and gifts!

Some how we missed our chance to get a picture with the sweet Kenyan family that we got Murphy from who invited us to one last meal with them before we left. Can you believe we both have daughter born in Virginia! What are the chances? I guess I was so busy enjoying the sweetness of fellowship with them that I didn’t notice the last feast being had on my legs … I walked away with 72 mosquito bites (44 on just one leg). Sorry for the green legs… no blood to supply them left I guess. Too much JOY to really care. Please pray nothing but itch comes my way!

And this precious friend who brought warm Southern and Kenyan hospitality to our last day on that rural hillside by helping move us out and by bringing cups of warm chai, digestive cookies (yummy cookies that go with chai ~ you must try to appreciate, as the name is not very fitting:), bananas and white bread with Blue Band. She knew EXACTLY what these hearts would need for strength to push through. Love her and hers so very much!

And what would I have done without this beautiful friend as my neighbor and partner in lavishing LOVE? She was there to help in every endeavor, to listen to hearts …to check on them and to love them deeply. She welcomed in ours as her own and loved them as such too. Grateful does not begin to cover the feeling of thankfulness in our hearts for what she enabled us to do and accomplish in our last few weeks on that hill. She loved us well, loved us deeply and served (still serves) with all of heart heart. So thankful for her and hers and for the blessed opportunity to know them as friend, neighbor and family!

And this sweet girl who stayed not 3 months, but extended her stay to remain with us for 5 before we ever even knew what was before us … HE did and HE provided! She was instrumental in praying and seeing us through each and every day. She encouraged our hearts and would jump in and help in whatever way she was needed. She was a blessing to more that she will ever know on that hillside and we are so thankful for the many lives she touched with her quiet, gentle, so willing to serve spirit living within her. You are such a treasure to our family and we are thankful for the extra time and love you gave us. There is an African proverb that says … No matter how small and crowded the house, there is always room for the people you love. Thank you for not only being willing, but wanting to share and live in such tight spaces with us for so many months. We love you Alex!

The Arms of a Baba (Daddy)

We don’t deserve these arms of LOVE.

 

Two days ago we celebrated the man we all love and know as husband, baba (daddy), son, brother, colleague, teacher, disciple maker, neighbor, friend and daktari.  In many ways it was a birthday like no other, and yet a day much like all the rest.  We spent much of the morning packing and sorting, with our dear friends lending their always helping hands.  Then, my dear sweet friend, the widowed mama to 5 precious little souls, got the call no mama wants to ever get.  Her 2nd eldest called and could only utter the words … Mama, what do we do? Cherono (the name of her youngest babe)!! Mama, what do we do? Then the phone connection failed.  She frantically tried to call again. No answer.  Then, she got through on another phone and the daughter just screamed Run mama, Run! Cherono Burn! And so that’s exactly what this precious, completely devoted, mama friend of mine did.  She RAN and because our baba happened to be home, he was able to run behind her, carrying all of the supplies he thought he might need to tend to her wounded body.

Our other precious Ivey (Cherono). Pray for her perfect healing!

 

The rugged and well worn steps that lead to the wounded one.

 

The rough path that leads to the hospital.

 

Thankfully, this sweet friend’s house is just across the river from ours, though not an easy climb.  As they rounded the corner on our side of the river and started to make their way down to the bridge, Paul could hear the screams from her tiny soul filling the air from across the river.  His heart was broken, for he knew what pain they would find.  As they entered the house, they found this precious little friend of ours, burned down the left side of her body.  She, like most children, was enjoying wearing her sister’s bigger shoes, but lost her balance and fell into the kettle of boiling water.  The boiling water coated the left side of her clothing, causing the burn to be worse to her tender, delicate skin.  They did the only thing they could do, gave her some pain meds and headed to the hospital … by foot.  Now one might think, no big deal, but trying to cradle a hurting, crying child, meanwhile trying to keep a blanket over her wounds, without touching her wounds, to protect her from the elements, and trying to keep going while every concerned neighbor inquires and shares their Pole Sana (So Sorry), going up and down rugged terrain is not a task for the weary.  While this mama friend of mine might be the strongest lady I know, I’m not sure she could have done such a task on her own as she fought back the tears of worry, frustration and concern for her little Ivey.

The hill I saw him climb as Baba to this dear one.

 

As they rounded the corner, I was waiting on them, fighting hard to hold back my tears.  At the bottom of this rough and rugged hill was our BABA, being the baba to this dear soul.  He was tired.  His heart was broken. I could see tears in his soul, but STRENGTH was his.  But beyond all those things, he was committed.  He was committed to being the “husband” to this precious sister of ours in her time of need.  And when he heard those tiny lips cry out to him, Baba, when he entered her humble dwelling, he was committed to being just that … her Baba.  He cradled her and held her tight like his very own.  In that moment, watching them trudge up the hill, I was reminded of the rich legacy of LOVE that this man of mine has come from.  I was reminded of his earthly father and the way he, so many times, has carried me in my harder days just like his own.  In his most tender arms. Then, I was reminded of the FATHER ABOVE that taught him how to do that.  Taught them both how to carry the fatherless as though they were their very own. The very ONE who gave them arms filled with HIS strength to carry and hold the broken with the LOVE of a FATHER filling every fiber in them.  The very ONE who first loved and has taught us everything we know about love.

The rough climb continues to the hospital gates.

 

I continued to hold back tears of frustration, brokenness, injustice and worry for my friend.  Even in situations like these, Kenyans are not supposed to cry.  I don’t really understand it, but perhaps it has something to do with the pain that they endure day after day, and I suppose if one started to break, perhaps the strength of all would release a consuming floodgate of tears upon this land.  He bottles them all, this I know.

HIS radiance gives LIGHT to our hopelessness.

As we sat in casualty (ER) surrounded, by new families who have come to love on this precious sister of mine, my heart felt encouraged.  Encouraged by the awareness of others HE has brought to love and care for her in our leaving.  As I made my way back down to our house to grab some food for them, I lost it.  I’m not good at holding back tears.  I was overwhelmed with JOY for the sister-in-law who came to her side, but I was broken that there wasn’t a father there to hold his daughter… to console his wife. Sure, there was mine, but the reality that we will soon be gone hit me like a ton of bricks.  I was blessed at the reminder of sweet friends who have given to help build this mama a house that will have a kitchen up off the floor where this wouldn’t happen, yet so upset that she wasn’t residing in that house just yet.  I was thankful for the hospital that could care for her in her time of need, but frustrated by the cost that could have prevented her from getting the care that she needed.  3,000ksh, about $36, but a little less than 1/2 of what this mama earns in a month for her family of 6!  I was thankful for the opportunity to be here for my precious friend in her time of need, but my heart wept when thinking of leaving her.  My heart was distraught over the injustice of it all for this dear sister, but then comforted by the knowledge of the ONE who brings HIS JUSTICE to the poor… to the widow.  The ONE who is the father to the fatherless and HUSBAND to the widow. 

 

and Prince of Peace!

 

Friends, we have a blessing of HOPE we want to finish here.  This dear sister has farming potential and HE laid upon our hearts a few months back the HOPE of securing for her and her children a home to call their own with some land where she could farm and do her work from home so that she could be there to watch over her babes.  With land at a premium around here,  The Lord had provided 1 point that she could buy, but she would still need to build, which would take months and there wouldn’t be much room for farming.  In the last few days, the Lord provided something even better to give our hearts closure and PEACE as we go.  The lady selling the land, has offered to sell her house too, which has a separate, larger kitchen, and 3 points of land, which already includes a plowed shamba (garden).  What will it take to complete this deal? About $5,000 USD.  The Lord has graciously provided almost half of this need, before we even asked, through two precious families who have fallen in love with this dear sister who Rises and Shines from her hillside dwelling.  This is a personal need, so what is given can not receive a tax deduction.  However, we trust that what we bind here on earth, shall be bound for us in Heaven.  

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
~ Matthew 7:12 ~

We are thankful for what you have entrusted to us in this work for which we were called.  Your extravagant sharing with us has blessed the lives of many.  Would you consider helping us purchase this daughter of the KING of KINGS a home for her and hers to rest securely in this Christmas? If you would like to give you can do so, by sending your gift, made out to us (Paul Espy) to the address below.  If more funds are received than are needed, they will be used to help a precious orphan we have come to love Arise and Shine and WALK! 

Dear Friends we PRAISE HIM for YOU and your LOVE this Christmas season.  What gifts HE has lavished on us in the gift of calling you friends! Your love has carried us into the homes of many and allowed our hands to lavish love on so many more and we thank you.  We thank you for your thoughts of us this time of year and your inquiries about where to send your Christmas greetings.  We will be home for Christmas, so you can save your world stamp this year, and send them to the Stateside address below.  As you may note, it is a PO Box, meaning we haven’t yet secured a home to call our own yet either, so you can continue those prayers of provision for our family.  We trust He who called us, because He has remained so very FAITHFUL to give us everything we need in HIS most perfect and timely way.  May your Advent season spill forth BLESSINGS and JOYS of an untold number. Sending love from our hearts in Africa to each of your hearts today …always!

So thankful for all the love you sent from miles and miles away to our hearts! There were others that came after we took this pic, and for those we are so thankful too!

Paul Espy, PO Box 4908, Marietta, GA 30061.

If you are sending a gift to help this precious sister, please kindly let us know via a message here or via FB so we can be on the lookout for it.

 

Christmas Mayhem Produces Christmas Blessings

“The Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes!”

~Psalm 118:23

 

Right now our world has been turned upside down.  Just mere days ago, we were planning as though we would be packing down to return to this hillside in rural Kenya after our 18 months in the States, but instead we find ourselves packing up.  There are no Christmas trees up, no Advent stockings hung and really no place to do it since our den looks like a tornado hit it with all of our piles (thankfully, we have no real tornados here in Africa). Instead of sitting on our couch by the fire as a family reading our Advent devotions (we can hardly find our couch), we are spending most of our nights taking apart lego sets, sorting through clothes and making decisions about whom to share all these blessings with.  Things that we thought we would leave out to return to are now going into piles again labeled give or take.  It is hard my friends and this is where we see your prayers working best … being answered so perfectly for each of us!  There are so many tearful goodbyes and “last suppers” to be had with those our hearts have always loved, but now have names etched in our hearts!  Those meals my friends have filled our hearts with strength and JOY for the last leg of this journey … so much JOY! Profound JOY, interspersed with profound sadness, covered in extravagant measures of LOVE, grace and blessings too many to number.

Sweet reminders of our first Kenyan Christmas!

The warm morning sun bringing warmth and the nearness of our Savior to our 1st Christmas without family around to celebrate.

Wherever our feet may roam, HIS JOY before us remains!

 

Some of you might remember the chaos we experienced a week before we were to depart for Kenya when our living arrangements were suddenly changed.  Instead of going into the homes of longterm missionaries that would be furnished with all the basics … bedding, curtains, dishes, pots, pans, cups, glasses, bowls, etc, we were now headed down the hill to a home that was empty and further into the community.  It stretched us to TRUST HIM in this and even though the living plans changed again for us as we stepped off the plane, I’m glad the Lord had given us the PEACE to make the move down the hill, for it became a step of FAITH that would later provide too many blessings to count.  So began the process of weeding through our stuff once again, though this time our mental energies were exhausted.  We began throwing in all the things we thought we would have left behind or had brought over later with other visitors if needed, meanwhile trying to figure out what was most needed, not having any idea where I was going.  God kept us so busy in those last days, bestowing endless blessings of unexpected provision from HIS hand in those final days to spur us on … to keep our heads lifted up towards HIS radiant face, which HE continues to do even today.  We had hoped to fill those final days with many sweet meals with family and friends saying our goodbyes.  But, in HIS most tender way, I think HE realized our hearts might break after having all of those sweet times with those we love so much.  So we packed and re-packed with the help of many of you and asked you to cover the 37 (!) boxes that we ended up with.  Strategy in packing had been traded for efficiency, as our capacity to sort and organize was depleted.  As we unloaded our bags at the curb, we were met by an African American lady who was most curious as to why we had so many bags, where we were going and what is was we were going to be doing.  She helped us off load and then disappeared behind the counter … we still hadn’t even tipped her for all her help.   We stood there surrounded by family and dear friends who had helped us transport the crates and then our pastor and his wife surprised us with their presence ~ still blesses our hearts today! As we stood there waiting to have every bag checked and weighed and the final total given, we prayed. Prayed hard for favor.  As my husband finished up at the counter, he turned around with the look of AWE and WONDER upon his face.  Every. Single. Bag. Had. Been. Covered. Every One! And that precious lady who met us at the curb, she wouldn’t take our tip, she just hugged us and wished us many blessings in the journey. Oh how her prayers were heard!

The counter of blessing. The precious help of so many.

Celebratory hugs!

So blessed by the goodbye hugs and prayers of these!

 

While He had filled those boxes with things that would making living a bit more comfortable and add a touch of the familiar to our home here … blessings just for us were not HIS only purpose.   He filled them with plates and cups and silverware that allowed us to welcome residents into our home to study the Word, but will now allow other precious souls to use them to continue to welcome the poor into their homes to share a meal …perhaps even many more.  There were baking pans, oven mitts, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons that were used to share sweets with our friends and fill their bellies with good things, but were intended all along to help a skilled baker realize her dreams.

There are clothes that were well worn and loved, and others that were not, that will restore dignity to worn out garments and weary souls.  There are flannel sheets and blankets that added their own touch of home and warmth to our lives that will wrap those near and dear to our hearts in warmth and comfort on cold, chilly, wet Kenyan nights.  There will be pillows, a rarity in these parts, for them to rest their weary heads.  There have been the yummiest of treats that you sent that have been shared at special meals with those that have become our neighbors and our friends.

There are children’s books that will be devoured and enjoyed by children who have no books of their own or libraries to go to.   Ripsticks and Nerf guns that have enjoyed endless hours of play and still have so much life and JOY giving potential in them that will continue to add a touch of fun to an often difficult and demanding childhood for so many.   There are balls and jump ropes, crafts and bubbles that you sent our way that will continue to bring laughter and JOY to the hearts of littles on this hill.

Then, there are the plastic crates in which all this stuff was sent over.  The ones with messages of love scribbled on the inside … still encouraging me today as we ready our hearts again for transition, which were also scribbled with intentions from ABOVE to encourage many others.  These crates are the very ones you prayed for and provided for us to move our things.  Since most of our friends in these hills have to store their belongings in cardboard boxes, which you can only imagine how impractical this is for those who live in damp mud dwellings or homes that fill with water when the rains come down, the provision of plastic boxes (that cost upwards of $100 if you can find them here) to keep the rodents and elements out will be a huge blessing for many.  Your prayers my friend, even the ones whispered long ago as we were preparing to come, were answered and are continuing to be answered for so many on this hill and we THANK YOU!

 

And why do I share this with you today … because it is the evidence of your prayers continuing to be answered.  These things, down to the provision of the boxes, are gifts to us from your hands. We are so THANKFUL for your RICH GENEROSITY that shared with us in our time of need, that is continuing to help others in their time of need.  This is HIS LOVE in action through your hands.  This is how the early church grew:

… “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”  

These blessings of yours were not just for us, but for many who have held out in HOPE.  Not one of these precious souls has asked for anything of ours as we go.  Not one. They live so contently. Lives filled with such profound PEACE, just waiting patiently upon the LORD to meet their every need. Your prayers to get our things here, things that HE used for a time to give a sense of comfort to our lives, will continue to be blessings for many.  We can trust HIM in this step of faith to provide once again, all we need.  Not because we know HE always has, but by the beautiful example in these lives that surround us who hold out in faith their needs each and every day to the ONE who FAITHFULLY PROVIDES all we will ever need.  It is good to know friends, when plans unfold that may not align with HIS for our lives, that HIS plans always prevail and that HIS always have our good in mind …

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart,

     but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  

Praise HIM from whom ALL blessings flow!

Seek FIRST HIS KINGDOM and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS my friends!

Someone has GA on their mind … they just forgot all the Christmas lights that will be awaiting them as we make our way home in a few short days:)!

Black Friday ~ Kenyan Style

How LOVELY is YOUR dwelling place oh LORD, God ALMIGHTY!

We had a different kind of Black Friday this year.  What a day of REJOICING it was as we labored with our Kenyan brothers and sisters, covered in mud and wet from the heavy rains, with the hopes of completing a house for a young boy who has been coming to our door to sell his carrots and gifting us with more pumpkins than I can count since the day we arrived.  We actually thought we were going to build his mama a house for her and her 3 younger children, but thankfully that one had already been done.  Just when we thought we would have to leave here with this sweet boy’s house undone, the Lord in HIS most tender way has brought closure and PEACE to our hearts once again.  We can leave knowing this young man now has a place to call his very own, with land to farm, a safe dwelling for the rest of his family and a sweet ride for his younger brother who can now RISE and SHINE!  This young man is TOP in his class and some how finds time to study in between school 6 days a week and working to provide food for his family’s table.  If you’d like to help us in providing a bed for him to rest his head (he gave his to his mama:), a place to put his clothes and perhaps even a desk and solar light where he can continue his studying, please contact us.

 We THANK you LORD for the matchless way YOUR GLORY RISES and SHINES upon these!  May YOU get all the credit for what YOUR RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND alone has done in providing for these.  Thank you Lord for allowing us this blessed opportunity to serve with these beautiful people.  It truly is more blessed to GIVE than to receive!

Warning … we’re about to have some dirty littles up in here!

Watch out below!

Love learning from these mamas who have taught me so much about living with pure JOY!

A welcome break from the norm.

A village coming together! There are about 30 more inside the house working!  What a beautiful sight to behold.

It is true … even children can build houses!

Neighborly fun!

Seeing how it’s done!

Best mud buds!

Love this girl!

We’re about to get this young man to smile!  Oh the JOY this day has brought!

Love this hat … reminds me of so many Virginians who LOVE others so DEEPLY all over the world!

Bringing LOVE into this house one mud ball at a time.

I want to reference prostate exams here, but I’ll refrain.  LOVE this man of GOD so very much!

Beautiful leader … inside and out, who gave up her Friday afternoon to be here getting her hands dirty for the sake of another.  She rocks and we love her!

Yeah boy, we’re having some Southern fun in these hills!

Two of my favorite African treasures!  So thankful for the journey that allowed me to know them more.

Boys wanna have fun too!

This is how it’s done.  AMAZING, so simple leaving many so very grateful!

Consider yourselves warned.  If you come to visit us, we’re gonna put you to work.  It might even be pretty dirty, but oh the JOY you’ll experience!

So thankful for the heavy down pours that made long trips to the stream so very few for these friends that came to help lavish LOVE.  HIS MERCIES are endless and so TENDERLY THOUGHTFUL!

There’s something else that will get more wide-eyed stares than a car full of wazungu (white people), a car with wheels on top!

This precious one is now up off the ground and out of his house in the bright, warm sunshine.  PRAISE HIM from whom ALL BLESSINGS flow! Our hearts have more PEACE!

We’ve learned a thing or two about bending from the waist African style.

Precious sister in Christ and so thankful they drove our way to spend sometime with us before we leave.  Friends, if you want to support a beautiful young couple with a heart after His for the Maasai, contact us and we’ll let you know how.

Many hands make the load light.

Couldn’t think of any finer couple I would want to build a house with.  Neighbors that love DEEPLY at all times they have been.  So THANKFUL for them!

Blessed encouragement HE brought our way at just the perfect moment!

Out of the overflow of the heart … oh the JOY these precious people have brought to our hearts.  I’m not sure a lifetime spent loving and serving them would be time enough.

These strong women make the job of tiling the soil seem so effortless … don’t let them fool you ~ it ain’t!

Nothing quite as therapeutic as being knee deep in African mud with the sounds of beautiful African singing and  laughter surrounding you.

I think our boy might have found his nitch!

Neighbor twins … in heart and in looks!

Emotions well spent on patching the remaining holes.

There is some beautiful truth to It takes a village.

And in less than 3 hours, a home is built!

Amos’ baby sister … Blessed!  What a blessing her quiet spirit has been to us.  Gonna miss her visit this Christmas, but thankful for the home she has to call her own this year.

Tender arms that hold so well and bring comfort.

What a JOY it has been to LOVE this young man.  Thank you God for bringing him to our table so many times.

Time for mama and her 3 babes to get out of her smokey kitchen hut and dwell in a home of safety.

A little African mud makes our differences seem a little less.

A village comes together to lend a hand and celebrate! Wish you could hear the sounds!

Gifts that will bring warmth and the reminder of LOVE and provision from ABOVE!

Don’t let the flash fool you, it’s dark and damp in here.

Daughter’s of the KING finding rest and JOY in humble dwellings.

This will bring warmth to our wet bodies.

A trip to the village isn’t complete without getting stuck in the mud. Thankfully, a MIGHTY HAND kept this car full of littles and bigs from tipping and we made it out just before nightfall!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever!”

Our neighbor boys took the prize to the bank … again!  We think it had something to do with the shorts! Jackets came out on top in Africa and in America!  Up with the WHITE and GOLD!

The beauty in having Kenyan neighbors … hearing the sweet call of this one reminding me of the very PERFECT sacrifice that makes all this LOVE possible!

Surprised by JOY, Consumed with Thankfulness!

~Thanks~

A good feeling you have towards someone who has helped you, given something to you, etc

~Joy~

A feeling of great happiness.

~Gratitude~

The quality of being thankful.

Today, we stand in AWE, hearts overflowing with GRATITUDE for all the surprises of JOY the Lord has given our hearts in this place. Here are just a few among the very long list of reasons why our hearts sing His endless praises.

Opportunity

Words are inadequate to express our gratitude to WGM for moving as the Spirit led and opening a door for us to come to serve here at Tenwek on Valentine’s Day 2012.  I think it more than mere coincidence that it was the day of LOVE that the door for us to make our first journey to Africa opened wide before us.  His Banner of LOVE has covered every tender step in this journey.  It is HIS sweet whisper each and every morning of LOVE NEVER FAILS that fills our hearts with confidence that those things done from a pure heart with HIS GLORY being the soul purpose for everything we say and do, will truly never, ever fail, yet will produce more LOVE and GLORY for HIS name among the nations.  We are blessed by the LOVE we have received here on this hill, for its value in our lives has outweighed all of the treasuries on the earth. We are grateful for the endless opportunities to watch LOVE HOPE, LOVE BELIEVE and the Author of LOVE PROVIDE.  LOVE has changed us, challenged us, taught us unthinkable things and has sharpened us for the rest of the journey ahead, and for that we are abundantly thankful.

Precious Brothers and Sisters

We PRAISE HIM for the beautiful people, HIS very sweet and fragrant aroma, that HE has filled our home with.  They might have started as co-laborers, but they have become family too.  I’ve never really loved the term missionary.  I prefer the term my Savior used … disciple maker.  It says so much more, His instructions on it are abundantly clear and it is not limited to the thought of one needing to go, but rather challenges us to be wherever He calls us to be.  Three of these disciple makers of HIS entered our home each week, bearing HIS radiance upon their face, HIS LOVE prompting every thoughtful and sacrificial thing done, and HIS blessed assurance of peace in every word they spoke.  They were as iron to us, sharpening us with their powerful prayers and words of encouragement.  They made serving here with all of our hearts possible for our family, because we did it as ONE body, unified in purpose, with many gifts, spurring each other on to more love and good deeds.  They were co-laborers in these fields, enlightening me with cultural wisdom and understanding, interceding for our good on the hardest of days, providing nourishment for our weary bodies, making time for us to instruct our children day after day, allowing us rest on the weekends to get recharged for the work held in the week to come and challenging me to go deeper with my Savior.  Their partnership in this work allowed us to lavish love beyond our home and be instruments that bring healing to many.  They were a very significant part of that.  They taught me to trust Him for more, to wait on Him more, to fall face down before Him more and to REJOICE in Him more.  Their hands and feet are indeed beautiful upon these hills and it has been our JOY to learn to walk, to live and to share in the JOY of bringing Good News to their neighbors here.  God’s strength is always sufficient, but we are abundantly thankful for these vessels of LOVE that He uniquely crossed our paths with and used to fill each and every day with HIS STRENGTH and HIS JOY!  We are thankful for their faithfulness and the way they prayed for us through the watches of night … letting us know through precious texts.  Oh if I could just express the thankfulness in our hearts for the way HE has allowed us to come along side of them … to labor with them in His fields …to behold HIS righteousness shining in hearts and being displayed upon the most beautiful faces.  We pray HIS blessings and provisions in their lives will be abundantly more than ALL they could ever hope for!  We are most thankful for these friends who have become family and so much more.

Precious sisters.

Our always resourceful Geofry.

 And here’s a few more adventure photos, thanks to a generous donor who just gave us gift to have some fun! We certainly had some fun!

And those feet that are so beautiful on these hills.

 

We pampered those hands that love and give so much.

 

And relieved the tensions in those well worn mussels.

 

First time ever to enjoy soaking in a warm bath. I had to lock them in there for 30 minuets cause they tried to come out after 4.:)

 

 

 

You

This is just a few of the many who made our coming possible. We thank you all!

Your LOVE has given us great JOY and encouragement! It has celebrated our JOYS and carried us through our hardest days.  It has SURPRISED us with JOY more times than we can count in thoughtful notes, your remembrances at Christmas, gifts thoughtfully packaged and sent from afar for us and for others on this hill in need, you have spent precious time packing trunks filled with instruments that bring healing and sweet treats that bring our hearts great delight and for that we give THANKS to our Father!  You will never know what your LOVE has done to and for our hearts.  Your prayers for us have provided power, strength and that blessed peace that surpasses all understanding an untold number of times.  And for those of you who made your commitment long ago to give so that we could serve here on this hill, your faithfulness and commitment have mirrored that of our Heavenly Father, who never once let one fall away.  In fact, He surprised us many more times with new provision and new JOYS through the rich generosity of our friends and family with open hands unto their KING and the work He called us to, leaving us abundantly and perfectly supplied for every good work.  Your faithfulness reminded us time and time again of our Lord’s steadfast FAITHFULNESS and HIS promise to see us through each and every step, that HIS unfailing plans may prevail in the light of HIS glory and grace.  Your love, prayers and steadfast commitment He has used to spur us on and to turn our eyes to our sweet Jesus.  It has and continues to be our prayer that HE would multiply that which you have so faithfully given to HIM, that you would lack for nothing and that your cup of blessings, joy, love and provision would be perfectly all you ever need.  We PRAISE HIM for YOU!

The Gift of Language & Understanding Culture

It was a long summer, but oh the rich things we learned and the gifts God gave through them.  What a confirmation and a JOY it was when I understood the word Yangu,when it fell from tiny lips and a precious hand was laid upon my chest.   Yangu means MINE, and that’s when the best and hardest fight of our lives truly began.  You can keep praying for it! We learned that Kenyans don’t appreciate flowers when you visit their homes.  They’d much prefer practical gifts such as sugar, tea or maze.  Makes perfect sense.  However, I love having fresh flowers in the house and a few of those near and dear to this heart took notice and welcomed us home after our long summer away with a house full of flowers that bring this heart JOY.  Their thoughtfulness never, ever ceases to amaze and bless me.

Our Heritage

We praise HIM for those who first taught us of HIS wonderful LOVE.  Those that have graciously, though a rich and unshakable faith, have loosened their grip around each of our necks and allowed us to step into HIS plan with their blessings.  We are undeserving of this LOVE He has allowed us to experience this side of eternity.  It hasn’t always been perfect, because as broken people, we are not perfect, but it has been perfectly all we ever needed to see us through the challenges and hardships of life.   They have been as much a part of this calling as we have been and we are thankful for how our Father has used their love to send us out.  They have persevered through the missed phone calls and facetime appointments, leaving them in silence to rely only on the ONE that promised to never leave us on our own … the very same ONE who is, who remains continually FAITHFUL!  How do we begin to express our gratitude for the love of our family? We offer our lives in thanksgiving to the very ONE who gave each of them to us. It’s all we have left to offer.

A Son and A Big Brother

The Lord has added to our number here on this hill.  He has given our son the big brother he’s always wanted and in HIS own unique way, given us another son to love as our own.  A little over 5 years ago, we were preparing for our 4th child to enter the world.  Our son’s hope was that it would be another boy to balance our family, but to his dismay that sweet one turned out to be a girl … the perfect addition to our family, adding her own sweet touch of spunk, fun and JOY to our lives.  However, when we were trying to decide on a name for her, the Lord brought four to mind.  I scribbled down these four names and tucked them into my journal where we would debate them for nights on end. I left that paper at home with all her baby stuff, but the names were as follows : Cecilia, Ivey (this one won for it’s meaning ~ eternal, as HIS promises always are), Naomi and Adison.  Strangely, the name Ivey is fairly common in these parts though pronounced Ivan, and as it turns out my sweet friend and mama to five who lost her husband while pregnant with her 5th child, named her 5th child, a little girl, Ivan.  She and our Ivey are the sweetest of friends.  The Lord though wasn’t done with this list He has made.  The other 3 names above are not very common here.  The last one often leaves Kenyans a bit confused with it’s pronunciation.   However, the Lord had a precious way of directing the steps of this sweet, Godly young man down to our home and making him a part of our family.  He’s given us another son, a brother and the Adison He had written upon our hearts almost 6 years ago.  We magnify HIM for HIS indescribable gifts and HIS surprises of JOY discovered in every step of faith.

When we met him in January, he had no family to call his own, now he has 3! A chord of 3 strands is not quickly broken! Oh the plans HE has for this young man.  The precious girl to the right is our neighbor, JOY!  She is a continual reminder of what our eyes should be fixed on … the JOY set before us! Love her and her family!

Ivey and Ivey!

 

Our Long Awaited Hope

We PRAISE our FATHER for providing Skymiles that we never had to use in the event of an emergency, but instead provided a beautiful opportunity to use them to offer HOPE to a precious little one of HIS.  In complete FAITH we have put our HOPE and TRUST in the ONE who is FOREVER FAITHFUL, and used them to purchase an extra ticket for our plane ride home.  Pray GOD’s very, very BEST for this child of HIS who needs some long term medical care.  He is moving in ways that only our God can, the very ONE that beckons the question to our often doubting hearts … Is there anything too difficult for me?? Pray that HE moves this dear one into arms that will love, hold and support him forever, fueled by nothing else but the Father’s love for this little. Pray that God saves and gives the victory to this glorious and wonderful creation of HIS.  Pray for our hearts as we take this new step in our journey of faith.

And for Neighbors

Tis so sweet to love your neighbor!  We’ve had precious neighbors of old who faithfully sent us to these hills where we entered into community with precious new friends.  Tonight we broke bread together after having multiple ovens going all day (Thanksgiving can be a bit challenging with super small ovens with just one rack ~ it does take a village my friends to pull Thanksgiving off in these parts).  There really are no words to express the exorbitant wells of gratitude we have for each of these lives.  They have become like family to us and they have taught us so many rich lessons about sharing and sacrificing.  They were easy to love.  It was our JOY to make our home beside theirs.  Please remember to pray for each of our hearts as we prepare to say our goodbyes for now.

These sweet young neighbors wanted to learn how to bake so we baked up several dozen cookies yesterday to share at our Thanksgiving dinner (they were a hit) and to send to those serving in South Sudan.

 

Pure JOY in my kitchen!

A home brimming over with blessings and JOY!

Two of my favorite beauties, because they smile just like their mama!

Only in Kenya do our sweet potatoes come topped with pink marshmallows. You do what you have to do folks.

So VERY thankful for these helpful hands that have loved our family well. We have loved wrapping up our time with you … couldn’t have done it without you sweet girl!

 

 

The making of another fishes and loves story … extra guests finding JOY around a table shared.

If we run out of turkey, our bunny hunters have found us an alternative. Thankfully the turkey storehouse was abundantly full!

Sweet neighbors who remind me to practice PATIENCE!

And these precious love birds and Marietta friends brought their own taste of home to our Kenyan celebration. Oh how we loved having you here.

 

Sweet neighbor who makes me laugh! Would you just look at my hand washing laundry guns:).

The cloth says Asante Mungu, which means Thank You God, and thank you God for sending these new friends to dine at our table. Pray for this sweet couple as they embark on their faith journey here in Kenya.

Oh the laughter that filled this place!

Another sweet Kenyan neighbor brought me flowers. They are always watching… always thinking of how to bless another.

And HE took one “Matilda” in the States and traded it with the real deal on this hill. Oh sweet Aunt Matilda how we missed you this year around our table. We praised HIM for blessing our lives with you as our neighbor! When He asks you to let go friends, TRUST HIM to give you abundantly more blessings that matter most!

Praying yours was abundantly blessed. Thank you to all of those who made this night of inviting in and lavishing love and good things to each of these possible tonight. May your table be abundantly full of HIS goodness and love! Good night from Africa!

 

 

Oh sweet and blessed Jesus, where can I go from Your love?

Why would I want to be anywhere else?

Thank you for where you have allowed our feet to roam.