Our Recent Battle With Jiggers

I know that we post lots of needs, but we are in a very different place now, a place we believe that God has put us in. The needs are GREAT here and often heartbreaking. We post about all the different needs not to overwhelm, but because we know that God calls different people to serve and give in different ways.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.                         1 Corinthians 12:18-20

Several days ago I found out I had a jigger (click here to learn more about jiggers) in my foot. The pain of that was unreal and I’m no whimp to pain (I’ve had two non-medicated births). I woke up in the middle of the night with pain radiating out of the toe that had the nasty little creature living in it. The next morning the pain was worse and my friends decided to take a “look”. I’m assuming that because they live here they knew immediately what was happening with my toe. Before I knew it they had opened up my toe and were squeezing it SO hard. The next day they repeated the same process, both days the pain was terrible. Since then we found that Aspen had one in her finger from digging in the dirt, thankfully is was a female and not painful, but it had laid eggs inside her finger. YUCK! I had another one manage to get in my big toe (caught it early so no pain) and 2 of the pastor’s daughters have had them in their foot. So as you can imagine, now more than ever, I know the importance of all of these kids having shoes and me wearing mine all the time when outside 😉

15910102_10212030428025696_578418186_n
Top: A jigger being removed from my foot! Below: A jigger in Aspen’s finger!

 

What kind of shoes do we need? We need shoes that are in good condition. They don’t have to be new, they don’t have to be a certain style, they don’t have to be a brand name, they don’t have to be a certain size, even adult shoes are great! The older kids here have bigger feet, so adult shoes will be put to good use. We are asking for no flip flops because they just don’t hold up. I can’t tell you how many single flip flops I’ve seen on the side of the road because they have broken and no longer work. Most Goodwill stores have kids shoes for $2.99 a pair no matter the style and usually all the kids shoes are together making it a quick shopping trip. Adult shoes there usually run $7.99 each, but adult sandals are usually  $2 or $3, so affordable for most people.

15857062_10212030431905793_1582394052_o
Examples of some shoes we purchased at Goodwill

 

There are many different ways to meet the shoe needs here.

1. Collect them! Get your people involved and gather many pairs of shoes for these children. Maybe you have a small group at church, coworkers, workout buddies, a homeschool group or neighborhood friends help you collect them.

2. Drop off shoes for these shoeless feet at one of our drop off locations. One is in Rowlett, TX and one is in Fort Worth, TX. We can add more drop-off locations if needed. Email me at mrsbys03@gmail.com or message me on Facebook to arrange drop-off.

3. Donate money and we will purchase them here. We have no problem purchasing shoes here. We can get new and used shoes here for around $3-$6 a pair. About-Face Missions is set up for auto drafts so maybe you want to sign up for $10 a month and provide 24 pairs of shoes over the course of a year. 😉 We are a 501c3 so donations are tax deductible. Click here to go to AFM’s donation page

15781472_10211628059726735_6345961941641758120_n
These are some shoes we recently purchased here in Kenya thanks to some generous donations

 

4. Share this blog and our Facebook posts with your friends and family. God can use anyone to help meet this need.

There are at least 3 trips coming to Bungoma, Kenya in 2017 starting in February. The people coming are willing to bring shoes to these shoeless feet. Also, this will be a never ending need here. Please don’t think that we can collect too many shoes! I hope one day to have an organization like Sole Hope involved in this area, but that isn’t the case right now so we are relying on y’all. Help us spread the word and shoe MANY shoeless feet.

What God Taught Me in 2016

God taught me a lot in 2016. We moved from the city out to the country to live on a farm. The country had been my heart’s desire for years and it finally happened. Living in the country, I felt the most peace I had ever experienced in my life (until I saw a snake). That was my happy place…within the first month there I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. I could only see staying there, after all it was my happy place and I was really in need of the peace that place brought me. Our children truly loved it. They loved the animals, freedom and slower pace it brought to our family.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV

15267959_10211233587225169_4223477561390951440_n

I also did a lot of growing personally during that time. If you don’t know my background, I came from an abusive home. Many times as a child I wasn’t allowed to have my own feelings. I was too often told how to feel, told when to smile, and always told to get over “it”. “It” was usually some form of physical pain accompanied by verbal assault. Not really something you can just get over in a matter of seconds. My whole life, in one way or another, I had been hearing “get over it” without having the proper tools on how to get over it. Something about preparing to live in the country and actually living in the country on a farm was freeing. I feel like God used that time to teach me that I had a voice. He taught me that I had choices and that I could in fact make those choices without worrying about what others would think. In the end what mattered was what God thought. That had never really occurred to me before. Most of my adult life my choices have been thoroughly questioned by others. Maybe well meaning others, but generally I walked away feeling like I was stupid for whatever they were questioning me about. When you are 21 and get married to a man seven years older than you with 3 children then go on to have 6 children and adopt a teenager, you get ALL the questions, judgment and ridicule. So before moving to the farm it never really occurred to me that I only needed to consult my husband and my God. Really it was a weight off my shoulders. I needed not to worry about what others thought about me or the road that God was leading me down.

But the biggest and most important thing God taught me in 2016 was that I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was. I had this certain area in my life that I really struggled with for a while. By “struggled” I mean at one point I flat out refused to even consider doing what the Bible called me to do. Since I’ve gotten older and had a best friend guide me in this area I had grown a ton in the last few years. I bet if you had asked Jeff he would have even said I was doing a good job in this area. If you had asked me if I had that area down I would have said “yes”. But God showed me different and even then I argued with Him. For those of you that know me you know I can be pretty hard-headed, so the fact that I argued is probably no surprise to you. In April of 2016 when Jeff was on his mission trip to Kenya God and I had a little conversation. It went something like this.

Me-I really need to sleep can you please make me sleep?

Him-You need to let go and submit.

Me-…what? I am submissive.

Him-You need to stop holding him (Jeff) back.

Me-…WHAT? He’s in Kenya right now, I’m not holding him back, I just keep him level-headed.

Him-You need to let go and follow him.

Me-But I don’t want to move to Kenya.

Him-You need to stop holding him back and follow him.

I just wanted to sleep! My husband was 9,000 miles away, the dogs were barking, I was hearing noises, it was 4 am and I was starting to worry/freakout/panic. Instead of sleeping I was learning…learning that an area I thought I had “mastered” I was still weak in. Though I had grown leaps and bounds in that area I still needed more growth. So for the next several minutes I cried. I cried because I knew that meant I had to say goodbye to my happy place, friends and family. In that moment I knew we would be moving to Kenya. For me I feel like that is every area of my life…if I think I have it mastered then I’m just missing something. God taught me to always be looking to grow and learn more.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Kids’ Point of View

 

Now that we have actually moved to Kenya, I’m going to tell you what the kids think. It has been a huge change (as we were already expecting it would be) and we are still adjusting to the changes of culture, people, food, and all that sort of stuff. But, we are having a great time here and everyone is really nice. Some of us might say a little too nice, they treat us like royalty and it took a little while for us to get them to let us help with anything.

One of my favorite things here are the boda boda (dirt bike taxis) rides. The first time we rode on one I was pretty nervous. I just remembered all the times I had been told motorcycles were dangerous, even though boda bodas are much safer because they are slower and there isn’t as much traffic except in the city. So I wasn’t very excited. B and I were on the same boda boda, him in the middle between me and the driver. I told him that I was not about to be pressed up against someone I didn’t know. Thankfully that has only happened once. When the boda boda started moving, I was holding onto Brendan so tightly I don’t know how he wasn’t complaining. Then I realized it wasn’t so bad really. The only times I was nervous was when we were over bridges and when we rode through Bungoma, but I was watching the road the whole time to make sure the driver didn’t hit anything! Near the end of the ride, B and I were showing off by sticking our hands out acting like we were airplanes and giving Karson high-fives. Mom said we were being foolish so we had to stop doing that.

15682336_10211906509327806_1175116219_o
Ava-Joy, Reed, and Caitlin on a boda boda

 

Speaking of Mom, her first boda boda ride was not so pleasant. She didn’t want to go on one in the first place. She had Reed and Ava-Joy riding in front of her and they all almost got hit by a herd of cows. It has become a family joke now. Sometimes we are on boda bodas now and we see a cow on the road we yell at Mom saying, “They’re out to get you!”

Karson said his favorite thing about Kenya is probably the animals. So far the only ‘exotic animals’ we have seen are zebras and gazelles. We saw them on our way from Nairobi to Pastor Kennedy’s house. Most of the animals we see here are cows, goats, pigs, and chickens.

The other day, we visited a lady’s house where she was raising rabbits. She had little baby bunnies that we held and fell in love with. When we asked her how much they were, she said 100 to 150 shillings. That is $1.00 to $1.50 each! We are planning on buying 5 or 6 of them. Daddy was teasing Mom, who loves bunnies, that he is going to name them Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert.

15725695_10211906506647739_1777988868_o
Karson holding a baby bunny. This one is “Lunch” 😉

 

Brendan loves to play soccer with the kids. The kids here really get into “football”. B will play with them every single day. He will come in for dinner covered in a layer of dirt from playing. The whole family will play sometimes. It’s really fun watching Karson play goalie. It is pretty funny seeing him out there in his big boots saying, in a Kenyan accent, “No goal. Hapana goal.” (Hapana means ‘no’ in Swahili.)

15682410_10211906552328881_1509300473_o
Brendan gets very excited when his team scores!

 

Ava-Joy’s favorite thing is playing with the girls. Mom and Dad got a hula-hoop from a store here called Nakumatt (which is pretty much a small Walmart) and the kids here love it. Joy will have the girls wait in a line and they will all show off their hula-hooping skills.

Violet loved seeing the baby goats. When we were in Kaya visiting Mercy School the other day, Mom had mentioned seeing baby goats across the street. We decided to go see them. I thought it was funny that the family didn’t mind seeing strangers walking across their yard. The baby goats were very tiny and so cute! We each took turns holding the two babies and kept asking Daddy if he could buy us some. He assured us we can get some after AFM Mercy Children’s Home is built!

15681893_10211906531368357_1595267855_o
Mom and Violet snuggling a baby goat

 

Aspen recently made a new friend named Pastor Godfrey. Ever since we moved here, Pastor Kennedy has tried to get Aspen to like him by greeting her with hugs and “My friend, my friend.”, but she has not been impressed. Then we visited Pastor Godfrey’s house and she immediately liked him. He held her once while speaking in front of his congregation and she will greet him before she greets Daddy. It is pretty cute.

15658908_10211906569409308_2037816882_o
Aspen with her “friend Goffrey”

 

Reed agrees with me that the boda boda rides are really fun. He absolutely loves it! He will be riding between me and Ava-Joy and point out all of the cows saying, “Cow! They say moo.” then he will fall asleep. It is sometimes difficult to keep him from falling off because he keeps leaning to look around.

As I said before, we are still adjusting but it is pretty easy to love living here! I don’t think any of us regret leaving America, even if we miss our friends and family we left behind. From our family to yours, Christmas Njema! (Happy Christmas)

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!

First World Problems

 

Where have we been? Yikes time has gotten away from us. While I would love for this blog post to be all about how the house is sold, passports have been purchased and plane tickets are booked, I can’t. Life has been full of hiccups over the last several weeks. I’ve had a constant reminder of just how “first world” our problems really are and had an even bigger drive to just get to Kenya already. I’ve found over the last several months that knowing the life God has called us to has made lots of struggles we have here just seem silly and less important.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3 

As many of you know we put our house on the market at the end of August. Our house is the only thing that we own that has any real value, so naturally it needs to be the first thing to go. I’m not a real estate guru by any means, but I don’t think that the end of August was the best time to list a house. So here we are with a house listed that we know needs some work (mostly cosmetic), at not an ideal time and we have renters so that makes showings “tricky” at times. We are currently working on closing on our 4th offer. Obviously this hasn’t been a smooth-sailing process, and while we are close to closing, it could also fall through. Over this last month I have processed many different emotions. I’ve gone from nervous to excited to let down to frustrated with moments of positivity. Please pray that the house sells now. In so many ways we are at a stand-still until it has been purchased.

house

Our house in Garland. God willing, it will be sold this week.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phillipians 1:6

While dealing with the ups, downs and frustrations of selling a house, we had vehicle repairs to deal with. Basically, Jeff’s car died. It was a 2000 Camry with over 250k miles, but we were really hoping it would work until January for us. I think we were asking a little much! After fixing it multiple times we decided to call it quits and move on. I think knowing that every dollar that was spent on that car was one less dollar going to Kenya made it an easy decision for us. Now if only the logistics of trying to run a family with one vehicle were that easy. Jeff drives a lot for work so it isn’t an option for me to take him to work and keep the van. 5 days a week the kids and I are without a vehicle during the day. It actually hasn’t been too difficult, but we are for sure planning more and being more intentional about errands and things that happen outside of our house. Good preparation for Kenya!

shopping

Grocery shopping at 9pm on a Tuesday night.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV

I’m a fixer…if there is a problem it comes natural to me to research, get a plan and make things work. So when the house isn’t selling I go into “fix it mode”. I start trying to find ways to make things work out better. When the car breaks down, I literally try, and often do, fix it. I usually hit up Google and youtube looking for parts and videos. Several years ago we had a laundry pile issue, one day laundry looked caught up, the next day it was overflowing. Then on pinterest I found the soulution to taming our laundy pile. Once Jeff built our new sorter and we put the new system in place it worked beautifully. Now 5 years later we still use it and it really makes life easier. For the last month or so I have been in plan and fix it mode and for most things I have a backup plan. 🙂 I have lists upon list and backup plans for my backup plans.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I feel like I constantly struggle with being still and knowing God has this and trying to fix things. While I know the house will sell in God’s time and that the He will provide exactly what we need to move it is also hard. It is hard for Stephanie in the flesh not to question why the struggle. I like to feel like I’m doing my part, like I’m preparing our fields for rain, but it could also look like I’m trying to make things work according to my plan. The truth is this isn’t my plan at all…my plan was to live here on our little farm, enjoy the peace that this move brought me and raise our “babies”. So that busyness that is seen in me and that could look like I’m trying to force things to work in my favor is really me trying to do my part that I feel like God is calling me to do. My heart is to only cover my bases and plan best I can so that I’m not holding up stuff on our end, so I’m not standing in our way!

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house. Proverbs 24:27

Please pray for us! Pray the house will sell, pray that we won’t grow weary of all the details, pray that we will see our “first world” problems as just that and please pray for funding. God is using many people to make this move possible and we are so grateful for those willing to join with us and help us get to His calling for our family. We hope to update everyone on where we are at financially soon!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12