How to Change Their Story

Since we aren’t fully funded for Mercy Children’s Home and we are close to being able to take in orphans, it got me to thinking. I was trying to come up with a way to help others see that a little bit of American money goes farther in Kenya than it does in America. I think when some people hear that we need support to run an orphanage all they see are $ signs. So I did some math and if my calculations are correct Jeff and I have a total of 973 different friends on Facebook. If each person on our Facebook would sign up to donate $10 a month to support the orphans and widows in Kenya that would be $9730 a month! So much could be done in our community among the poorest of the poor with that kind of money! Do you know that $10 a month can and will make a difference? Do you know how many orphans and widows would be helped with that amount of money? Wow!

Jeff and I have this dream that what we are calling a children’s home will actually be much more than that. We hope that this home will house widows. We actually already have plans to build several rooms, apartments if you will, around the outside of the house specifically for widows. We also see this home being a place of teaching and training for pastor’s and church leaders in the area. We are hoping it will become a place for others to come and see the work that God is doing here in Kenya. Come and see these beautiful smiles and take chai with them. Come and see that their lives are being changed with your help. We also plan for it to become a base of operations from which we can go out from to reach many unreached people groups in Africa. 

Another thing we would like to do is start a weekly meeting with the “street boys” that we often see in town. For security reasons this won’t happen at the orphanage, but we would like to start a weekly Bible study with them. At this weekly meeting Jeff, Ray and one of the local pastors would take them food, teach them a little about the Bible and figure out ways to help them get off of the streets. Perhaps many of them can come to live with us. While it won’t take much money to make this happen, it still requires some money and since we aren’t fully funded we can’t commit to this yet.

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Some of the “street boys” who live on the streets of Bungoma.

So you might be thinking $10? What can my $10 a month do? Well let me show you a few different things that your 10 American dollars can provide to orphans and widows in Kenya. $10 will get you any of the following here:

60 giant avocados or 100 smaller ones
7-10 heads of cabbage
3 pairs of shoes
7 lbs of beef from the butcher
5 Watermelons
100 Oranges
7 Pineapples
300 Bananas
200 tomatoes
10kg beans
12kg rice
40kg Ugali
12 liters milk
200 onions
10 loaves of bread
3 jars of peanut butter

My question to you is can you find $10 a month in your budget to change their story? Will you help these children that have lost one or in many cases both parents? Will you help the lady who has 4 or more children and is facing life without her husband and his income because of his death? $10 by American standards isn’t much to most, but it can have a huge impact here.

If you are currently donating monthly (many above $10) or have donated with one time or multiple gifts, thank you! I can’t say that enough. You have no idea what it means to our family to have friends and family partner with us to help with this mission God has given us. You are helping change their story. Robai will no longer have to worry where her next meal will come from. Her grandmother will no longer lose sleep having to worry if Robai will have her school fees paid for.

robai

Did you know that 95% of your donations are going straight to helping orphans and widows? Jeff and I don’t receive a salary from AFM to do this (only money sent for our living expenses) and AFM has an all volunteer staff and board. The 5% that “goes missing” from you donation is to cover book keeping and the fees to send money monthly.

Here is my request, if you can find or create just $10 in your budget go to the link below right now and set up your monthly partnership. Please do it right now while this is fresh on your mind and heart. I know we are all busy people, I forget things all the time. AFM has made the donation/partnership process quick and easy for you. Thank you and God bless you!

Click here to set up your donation

 

Change Robai’s Story

We thank God! Land has been secured and construction has begun on AFM Mercy Children’s Home. After 4 days of construction, the site has been secured with a barbed-wire fence, a storage shed has been constructed for housing building supplies, a kitchen area has been built to cook for the workers, a trench has been dug around the building site for a security wall for the home, and construction of the wall has begun. So much done in just 4 days! Today, 48 men were helping build! A real blessing for so many families represented by those men. Many have nothing right now due to the dry season and so little work available.

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Beginning of day 4 of construction.

 

God willing, we will be able to move into the new home in about 3 weeks! Not everything will be complete by then. However, the living quarters should be far enough along at that point for us to move in. Just in time for the arrival of our dear friends the Moreno’s! They too have sold everything and are partnering with us to build and run the orphanage.

Moving into the orphan home in 3 weeks means we should be ready to start moving orphans into the home in about 5 weeks. That being the case, we have spent much time in prayer asking God for wisdom on how to select which orphans to take in. While the need is very great here and our goal for this year is to be able to care for 80-100 orphans, we feel it is best to start with about 10. We have also met with the pastors of the JFM churches here in Bungoma county. These are the churches that AFM partners with here in Bungoma, Kenya and have been so instrumental in helping us get to this point. These pastors, led by Bishop Kennedy Simiyu, are helping us gather information on orphans in their churches and communities they serve in order to help us prioritize the needs. This part is very tough. It is one thing to know that there are kids in the world who are struggling just to survive. It is another thing to know so many of them personally and know that you can only care for some of them.

One of the children that will be coming to live with us is Robai. She is 8 years-old and is HIV positive. Both of her parents died from AIDS. She is currently living with her grandmother, Victoria, an elderly widow that recently broke her leg and her hand. Both she and Robai currently live in extreme poverty. Robai also has a brother named Boniface who ran away from Victoria’s home. She believes he is living on the streets of Eldoret. We will attempt to locate him soon. These are just some of the stories that we intend to change.

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Robai

 

Steph happened to take this video of Robai at an outdoor preaching and worship event in Sang’alo before we knew she would be coming to live with us. She is dancing in the white, yellow, and brown dress.

We are so very thankful for those God has led to partner with us in prayer and support. God is doing the work, we all simply obey. AFM president David Shelton, the AFM staff, the Moreno’s, Juliana Tovar, JFM Bishop Kennedy, JFM pastors Godfrey, Leonard, Tobias, Calistus, Kennedy, Edwin, Evans, and Nelson, the workers building the orphanage, and so many others who are supporting this mission. We all have our part to play in this. Individually, I don’t think any of us could hope to accomplish much. But together, we can accomplish great things in the Lord!

Currently, we are about $900/month short on our monthly operating budget needs. Please prayerfully consider whether you would like to help us in this mission financially. We are willing to take in as many orphans as God will allow. Perhaps you can help us change their stories. If you have previously pledged to help, but have not yet set up your monthly donation, now is the time. We are 5 weeks away from taking in orphans! Please click here for more info and to donate.

 

 

 

 

Mercy Children’s Home Update

These past few days have been really hard ones as we say our good-byes to loved ones. Please pray for us and all those affected during this trying time. Knowing without a doubt this move and mission is God’s will for us is a comfort to us, but knowing we are leaving behind family and good friends is still very difficult.

Tickets are bought, we leave DFW  11/29! We will be in Bungoma, Kenya, God willing, the afternoon of 12/1. 

The closing on our house we are selling in Garland, TX is set for 11/28, the day before we leave! We are signing over power of attorney to friends just in case the closing gets pushed back again. 

Once in Bungoma, we will be staying with About-Face Missions supported Bishop Kennedy Simiyu in a small village outside the city. Instead of paying for an extended stay at a hotel, we were able to fund the addition of two rooms at his home as well as new toilet and shower facilities. We plan to stay with him and his family for a couple months while we build Mercy Children’s Home. Praise be to God that through sending us to Kenya, He is already blessing others. The additions to the Simiyu home will be a blessing to them long after we move out.

The Simiyu family home. The new rooms addition is on the left.

With the sale of our house and cashing out our retirement account, we are able to pay for our travel, items we need to bring with us (a couple computers, lots of shoes to bless many children, items to keep our kiddos busy on the long flights, etc), the land purchase, and a big start on the construction of the orphanage.

We currently have donors committed to regularly giving about $500 a month towards our estimated budget of $1500 a month to cover the basic needs for our family, small staff, and 50 orphans.

If you would like to support this effort financially, AFM just made it a lot more simple to give online. Simply text “aboutfacemissions” to 77977 and you will receive a text back with a link that takes you to an easy to fill out online giving form for either a 1 time gift or to sign up for recurring donations. For those who prefer to mail a check, make it out to AFM and write “Mercy Children’s Home” on the memo line and mail to 4034 Wiltshire Dr. Garland, TX 75043.

Thank you to all of you that continue to pray for us. I can not tell you how much it means to Steph, myself, our family, and everyone else joining along with us in support of this mission, to have all you good folks praying for us. God bless you!

God Will Do the Work

God will do the work.  He will get glory for Himself.  But He invites us to participate in that.  ~Paul Washer

One of the many things that amazes me on a regular basis about God is that He would choose to use me for anything. That God would use a broken, weak, feeble man such as myself to lead a family is one of the most mind-boggling, incredible, humbling realities that I could ever imagine. That He would send me and my family to another country to care for and disciple the fatherless is a privilege that I could never earn and could never fathom, or even desire apart from Him. In fact, faced with the reality of all my faults, the only reason I can even come up with that God would send us is so that it is crystal clear that only God could do this. So here we are, just a few short weeks away from leaving behind the only lives we have ever known, anxiously entering the great unknown. Soli Deo Gloria!

flight

Our flights are booked! We leave November 29 and will arrive in Nairobi November 30. We then drive to Bungoma on December 1. God has also sent us help on this mission! Juliana Tovar, who we have known for 7+ years, has committed to a year to co-labor with us in this work in Kenya. We first met Juliana (or “Jill”) when she was 11 years-old. She is the daughter of friends of ours that we first got to know in small group at the church we were serving in at the time. Jill has had a passion for missions for several years now and is very excited about this opportunity God has provided her to participate in the building of His Kingdom in this way.

For we who are believers, God invites us all to participate in the building of His Kingdom. Not that He needs our help, but out of His incredible grace He allows us the privilege to be a part. In light of our rebellion against Him, He would be just in crushing us to a thousand pieces! He would be just in casting us into the lake of fire. To be accepted into His Kingdom as a mere servant, in service to the King for an eternity would be far better than we deserve. To be allowed entrance to the Kingdom and then left to fend for ourselves is far better than we deserve. But what He has done for us goes way beyond that. He has adopted us as sons and daughters (Galatians 4:5). The Holy Spirit makes us children of God! (Romans 8:16) What an incredible truth! A truth that we get to ponder and meditate on and explore and experience for eternity!

In a few short weeks, we leave for Kenya, sent by the grace of God as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to the needy and the orphaned and the widowed. I can think of no better way to spend what remaining moments I have in this life. God will do the work. He will get glory for himself. But I am ever so thankful that He is allowing us to be part of that work.

Movin’ On Up!

green-light

Several months ago, when we first got a sense of a “green light” from God on our move to Kenya, we had a February date in mind for our move. Well, as things have progressed, we are bumping up our move date to the first or second week of December. God willing, we will be in Kenya for Christmas!

Please be praying with us for the following:

  • Our house is under contract! Please pray the closing is smooth and on-time.
  • Passports have been applied for! Please pray they arrive on-time.
  • Funding: While our move, land, and construction of the orphanage will be, God willing, covered from our personal assets, we are still in need of commitments totaling about $1,000/month for our orphanage costs.
  • We are having a garage sale November 3-5 to sell off most of our belongings.

Words cannot describe how blessed we feel to have people partnering with us through prayer and financial support. God bless each and every one of you. You mean so very much to us!

God Made Me for Africa

Eric Liddell was made famous to most of us by the movie that tells his story of Olympic gold and his love for God, Chariots of Fire. In the 1924 Olympics, Liddell refused to run in the heats for the 100 meters, the race he was favored to win Gold in, because they were on Sunday. He instead ran the 400 meters, a race he was not favored in and knew he had disadvantages due to his racing form. He ran right into history books winning gold with a personal story that shocked the world. The movie ends with these words placed in text on the screen: “Eric Liddell, missionary, died in occupied China at the end of World War II. All of Scotland mourned.” The End.

Eric

While the movie tells a good story about something Eric Liddell did, the last few words written on the screen at the end of the movie tell the real story of Eric Liddell. Though he was one of the most famous athletes of modern times and the Olympic glory of Scotland. Though he was a Christian who refused to compromise. Though without question, Eric Liddell was made to run. Yet more than anything else, Eric Liddell believed that “God made me for China.”

Here is where I can identify with Eric Liddell. While I’ve never been much of an athlete, I do know what it’s like to feel that God has made me for a nation other than where I am from. For over three years now, I have not been able to shake the feeling that God made me for Africa.

How can I love a continent that I have never lived in? God…that’s how. Many years ago I began to have an unexplainable fondness of Africa. At the time, I had never been there. As a matter of fact, this past April was my first trip. But over the years, God has given me an undeniable love for Africa and the people who live there. In my recent trip to Kenya, I could not shake the feeling that this was to be home. At least as home as any place in this life can be.

The last several weeks, very little has worked out according to our plans. We are selling our house in order to raise most the money needed to purchase the land in Kenya and build Mercy Children’s Home. This is where our family will live and also raise and disciple as many orphans as God will allow. Initially we are planning for room for 80 orphans. However, selling our home is taking much longer than we expected. We have also been experiencing several issues with our 16 year-old car that has 250k miles on it. (I know, imagine that…haha) We just need it for about 4 more months, but these repairs have been getting pretty expensive. We have also been passing around some sort of respiratory illness. It especially has hit Steph and I pretty hard for a couple weeks.

In all this, I realize if we are going to praise God in the good times, we must praise Him in these rough times. We must count it all joy, knowing that God is producing steadfastness in us. (James 1:3) And regardless of whether or not our move to Africa goes according to our plans and whether or not the funds come according to the way we plan, we are moving to Kenya. We have no doubt that this is God’s plan for us. We know there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord (Proverbs 21:30). We trust that God will work out the details according to His plan. We trust that God will provide according to His purposes. We can do nothing else but go, because God made me for Africa.

Special Dinner “Guests”

by Stephanie Bys:

Sunday we had 2 special dinner “guests”, but we were missing Jeff. Cory let me know on Friday that he and Rachel (his beautiful girlfriend) would have time to stop by on Sunday and eat dinner with us on their way back to Tulsa. For those of you who don’t know, Cory is our oldest, he attends Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey and is doing a Chaplin internship in Tulsa, OK this summer. Time with him is precious! When he is in Texas he has eleventy billion other people to see, hug, make smile and bless so we cherish any and all time with him. Cory is one of 16…yes he has 15 siblings total, so saying he is busy is an under statement!

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All day the kids talked about being bummed that Dad was going to miss our dinner. Usually if Cory is here Jeff is here, but he had something scheduled he couldn’t get out of. I also heard how excited they were about Cory and Rachel coming. If you are close to our family you know that our kids adore their oldest brother. They treat him as if he is a rock star, which he totally is to them. When he is coming over, our other kids can be found waiting by a window hoping to be the first one to yell out “CORY IS HERE, CORY IS HERE!!” All day long they checked the time, asked if he was almost here, even sat at the window 45 minutes early. I’m telling you these kids are dedicated! Today while all the chatter and excitement was happening I noticed something…I was hearing Rachel’s name as much as I was hearing Cory’s! “Rachel is coming, I can’t wait to see Rachel, Is Rachel almost here?” We haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time with Rachel, but the time we have had with her has been wonderful! Our girls (me included) especially love her; she’s so much fun, does great hair styles for them and is always up for whichever direction they are dragging her in.

When Cory is coming I always ask what he wants to eat, he so not picky and will eat just about anything you put in front of him, just like his Dad. But I like to make whatever he wants when we have him home. Our time with him and Rachel is so special to us that I want him/them to feel special. I don’t know…I guess that’s just a Mom thing, anyways he requested Mexican food. I was super excited because I love Mexican food so much, but it always seem like a lot of work, read a lot of chopping. I will often skip toppings or skip Mexican food all together. Well not for Sunday night’s dinner! The kids and I decided that we would make tostadas with ALL the toppings. When making our grocery list we decided that we needed homemade salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, cilantro, cheese, jalapeños, sour cream and pico de gallo in addition to our refried beans and ground beef. We actually started chopping on Saturday to be ready for our big meal on Sunday. Five of the kids helped with making/chopping/preparing our  dinner. Dinner turned out great and I think everyone at least had seconds.

Once we were all nice and full from dinner, we had to have sopapilla Cheesecake! This happens to be Jeff’s very favorite dessert and Cory may have been taunting him via text about missing it.

When it was all said and done we had a little over 2 hours with these precious people. Instead of focusing on how brief the minutes were, we chose to celebrate the time we did have. Being just months away from leaving the country has helped us be more intentional with our time.

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