Why Me?

Yesterday was a total “why me?” day. Over the last few days it has been more and more in our face that we are literally living our dream. It is a crazy thing to realize that you had a desire and that God gave you the go-ahead and created a way to make it happen. It is also a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Several years ago I told Jeff that I wanted to have a group home for children, and today workers are diligently working to roof Mercy Children’s home.

But yesterday; yesterday started out like all of our days do. We got up, got ready and waited some. Most of the time in Kenya you can make plans, but the reality is that they will happen later than you planned. After morning chai we jumped on the boda boda and headed to the school in Sang’alo. Our plan was to bandage up Elijah’s foot and take Chris to the Dr to get a treatment plan started. Chris is a student at the school in Sang’alo and he has some serious health issues going on. We had a precious donor send in $300 specifically for his treatment so we are tackling that and trying to get a long term treatment plan together.

When we arrived at the school the children’s heads were being shaved and treated for ringworm. Ringworm is pretty common here and spreads from child to child quickly. It is mostly found on their heads, the easiest way to get rid of it is to shave the head and apply the ointment all over. So instead of heading straight into Bungoma we stayed in Sang’alo for a couple of hours, gave some hair cuts, loved on some babies, spoke to a grandmother about her beautiful granddaughter coming to stay with us and ate lunch. During lunch Pastor Calistus informed us that Robai had missed a couple of days of school and had passed out. He didn’t want to tell us because he said nothing could be done, because she missed a dose or 2 of her HIV meds so this is normal.

So what’s this “Why me?” about? Well after yesterday I was really doubting myself and honestly, God. While I know He is perfect and makes no mistakes I was feeling like maybe he did in sending me here. Who am I? Why me? In the grand scheme of things I’m nobody. I’m not qualified for this at all. I’m not a Dr., not a social worker, not a specialist of any kind…as a matter of fact I don’t even consider myself book smart at all. But here I am living in Kenya with often a suffocating amount of responsibility. Often a burden so big that I just don’t know how it will happen, but in my heart of hearts I just can’t accept that it can’t happen. I know I serve a great big God and I know that is why I can’t accept that it (help/change) can’t happen. Now let me give you a little snap shot of my day. This won’t be a line by line of all the things that burdened me, but the ones that hurt the most.

1st “why me?” of the day…as hair cuts were being done in Sang’alo there was a little boy who was so dirty they were having a hard time cutting his hair off of his head. He had an open sore on the front of his leg that the Dr said was due to lack of hygiene. It was obvious that this child hadn’t bathed in weeks. This was so sad to me, it actually made me mad a little bit…this poor little boy was filthy yet hadn’t been helped by anyone.

2nd “why me?” …As I sat in a plastic chair in the shade Pastor Calistus sat a Grandmother down right across from me asking if her granddaughter needs to come and live with us. While I couldn’t understand the Swahili they were speaking I knew what was happening. Her eyes (I don’t think I will forget them ever) but she said yes, that her sweet Epikai who is HIV+ needs to come and stay with us. Her situation is so dire that her Grandmother was able to make that decision on the spot.

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Epikai getting a haircut from Nickson

 

3rd “why me?” …being notified that Robai had passed out and apparently that is thought of as normal in her situation. In my heart of hearts I know she needed to be seen by a Dr. I’m also fairly sure she needed at least some IV fluids. Why is her situation such that if she misses a dose or two of meds she passes out? Does she need more meds? Is she on the right meds? She has constantly been on my mind and now more so. I need her home so we can dig deeper and get her healthy.

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Robai is in the red shirt

 

4th “why me?” of this long day…when the Dr. checked Elijah out he said he needed oral and topical antibiotics due to his foot infection and I had those for him, but he also needed to be seen by a dentist for issues with a tooth. Elijah’s Mom is a widow with many children and hasn’t been able to afford his medical needs. So we took him to the dentist while his Mom stayed behind and worked. Elijah had a tooth pulled yesterday without his Momma there. I’m glad that he is on the road to healing, but my heart breaks for his Mom and her situation.

5th “why me?” …Chris; his situation is so bad. There really is no way to sugar coat it, the child is in bad condition. He has sickle cell and that hasn’t been treated properly. Now he needs surgery, but right now he isn’t even stable enough for surgery. His family has known since 2016 that he needs surgery, but they simply don’t have the money. In Kenya the full bill has to be paid before you leave, they will not bill you later.

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Chris needs his spleen removed but isn’t healthy enough yet for the surgery

 

These events left me broken, with tears in my eyes and wondering “why me?”. I’m just a Momma from Texas with big dreams that everyone can be saved and helped. But can they really? My heart says save them all and my head says that’s just not possible.

I guess in the end on the hard days I need to remeber that I was chosen. God knows things about me that I do not. He sees strength that I’m not aware of. He knows that my heart is big enough and that I will obey Him. He did choose me and by doing so He has tremendously blessed me. I’ve never loved life more than I do right now.

Nutrition and HIV

As many of you know we have a sweet young girl named Robai coming to live with us who is HIV positive. Since I know very little about HIV I’ve been doing some research on the topic. My goal for Robai and any other child who stays with us is that they would do more than survive, that they would thrive.

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For our HIV kiddoes we will be tweaking their nutrition some. It is my understanding that all the children here need more fruits and veggies, but especially the ones that are HIV positive. 2 weeks ago when we went and visited Robai and her school in Sang’alo she had several bumps on her arms, neck and face. When we asked if she was sick her pastor told us that the bumps are from the lack of fruits and vegetables in her diet. That will not be happening at Mercy Children’s Home. At this point my nutrition game plan is to always have fruits and vegetables available for her at every meal and at least 2 snacks a day and one of those being an avocado. Once she moves in she will be attending school right across the street at Mercy Foundation Academy so she can walk home for lunch each day. I would love for you to share any links or good ideas that you have concerning healthy foods for compromised immune systems. I’m fully aware that this type of thing takes a team so please send me your ideas! Also I am open to researching just about anything. I’m pretty “crunchy” (naturally minded) so things that might sound weird to others often sound great to me!

I haven’t found any vitamins in Kenya YET, but there has to be some here right? I do have access to coconut oil and know that it is a super healthy oil with good fats in it. I’m hoping to be able to add this to our “HIV diet plan”. It is a little pricy here, but surely it can be found in bulk at a cheaper price. I’m planning to cook with it and see if she will just eat it with a spoon. I’m also thinking of using it as a lotion/moisturizer for the kids. Often times I see petroleum jelly being used for moisturizer here and I’m just not a fan that, but coconut oil will work as a moisturizer and is great for everyone’s skin. If you know of or have any experience with any supplements that would be good for immune compromised kids can you please share those with me? Somehow, someway we need to boost their immune system, even if I have to have something shipped to us.

I’m fully aware that I can’t change everything here, and I don’t want to. But nutrition seems like a fairly easy thing that can make a huge difference in the children’s lives. In Kenya the main foods are rice, flour, corn and beans. If we are able to add in a couple of fruits and a couple of veggies daily I will be happy with that. I know keeping fresh items on hand will be a little more difficult, but it seems like every other day someone is going into town so it shouldn’t be that hard. There is a small market right at the end of our road so maybe I can tell them what I would like and they can start to have that on hand so we can purchase it as needed.

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Please send any and all ideas and links to me! You can comment on the blog, email me at Mrsbys03@gmail.com or find me on FB and message me! Thank you so much for your love and support!!

 

Our Biggest Need

Some have asked what our biggest need is, so I thought I would answer here. The simple answer is…support. Google defines support as to “bear all or part of the weight of; hold up.” We need you to bear part of the weight that is on our shoulders, walk along side us even if 9,000 miles separate us.

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First and foremost we need your support through prayers. We need to know that y’all care enough about our mission to call upon God for us. We need to know you are praying for the work that He has us here doing and that while we are here fighting some spiritual warfare we have people praying us through that. We need to know that y’all are praying for hearts to be prepared and softened. We need to know that y’all are praying for smooth transitions when moving a child from one home to the next. We need to know that prayers are going up for Mercy Children’s  Home that is being built and so close to being completed. This home is a huge task, one that we don’t take lightly and there are SO many details and decisions to be made and considered. This mission will never be accomplished by our own strength, we are depending on God and your prayers.

No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me. – Charles Spurgeon

Another way we need support is to know that we haven’t been forgotten. Being 9,000 miles away and 9 hours ahead of our friends and family can be hard. We miss you everyday, even if we didn’t see you often when we lived in Texas. We are now very aware of just how little (if ever again) we will see y’all. Being 9 hours ahead makes phone calls tricky sometimes, especially if work or school is involed, but we can and will make it work if you would like to talk to us. I can’t explain what a quick Facebook or email message means to us, but it for sure lets us know that you haven’t forgotten us. I’m not talking about a pat on our back, we aren’t here for that, but just something quick letting us know you are thinking about and or praying for us.

Aside from prayer, encouragement is the biggest way you can support us. I know we post a lot about the fun we have and the joy that the children bring, but some days are hard. Some days you just want to see and hug your loved ones. Some days you just really want sweet iced tea, electrical power (full time) and some air-conditioning. Some days are really hard here and you feel like a failure and wonder why God wanted to send you here. Some days you question God…”Are you sure You wanted me to go?” Living so far away from your support system can be extremely hard. So when we make posts asking for extra prayers, talking about missing family or feeling like we aren’t getting enough done we need encouragement. We need scripture “shoved in our face” if you will, as a reminder. Please don’t encourage us to come “home”, we are home because we know that this is where God wants us. However we are human and fall short. Sometimes we just need a “kick in the pants” to get back on track! With Tammara and Ray here now I feel like often we can be that voice of reason for each other, but I try hard to be open and show both sides of this journey, because it isn’t all smiles and joy.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Our family is very grateful for your prayers and support! Thank you for coming along side us and helping us do what God has called us to do. 3 months in Kenya and I truly can’t imagine living anywhere else. The children here really do bring so much joy, but often their situations bring heartache. My prayer is that we can help them all, even if it takes longer than my lifetime.

 

What I Wish Kenyans Knew About Us

Happy 3 months of living in Kenya to us. God is doing great things in our lives here, constantly drawing us closer to Him and teaching us many valuable lessons. We for sure aren’t in America anymore. But Jesus is near to us, probably closer here than when we were there. As we’ve been adjusting and trying to merge with our culture I’ve come across some things that I wish every Kenyan I met knew so I thought I would share those things here.

First and foremost, our purpose here is to serve God through caring for the orphans and widows, supporting local indigenous pastors and anything else He (God) calls us to do. Jeff and I have had a heart for orphans for a long time. I’ve kind of always known I would adopt even before I fully understood what adoption was. Of course once we were able to adopt it really opened our eyes to the huge need out there, therefore deepening our passion for orphans. I have always been drawn to babies and kids so my passion for orphans doesn’t surprise me at all, but I am surprised that God has us here in Kenya living this life and serving Him in this way.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

Swahili isn’t easy for this Momma. I’m trying, I promise. And one day I might actually be able to communicate more than just a basic greeting, but not yet. I wish so badly that I could just freely communicate with you in your language, but Swahili is so hard for me. Please be patient with me, I love living here and want to be considered “one of you” one day. I want to have you over to my home, share chai with you and learn all about you and your life and share my life and my family with you. Relationships are important to me. I don’t just want to be the muzungu that lives in Kaya, I want to be your friend.

In order to move here we sold everything, including our home in America, besides a few personal items and books. Upon selling most of our belongings we donated the majority of our money to AFM to help get the orphanage built. We fully believe that God wants Mercy Children’s Home built so we obeyed Him, sold it all and moved. We don’t have thousands of shillings sitting in the bank. We aren’t rich and we aren’t fancy people, we never have been. To you, I know you see us and assume we have the money to meet your needs, but the truth is we don’t. We are here to help support orphans, widows and pastors. I wish we could pay all of the school fees for your kids, as we know a proper education is important. I wish we could put shoes on every set of feet. Jiggers are bad here and cause a lot of pain and many missed school days. I wish we could make sure not one person goes hungry. Sadly we just can’t meet these needs for everyone. We want to help you and we have helped some of you. We care about each and every one of you. But if we helped with every need we wanted to, then Mercy Children’s Home just wouldn’t be possible. We hate telling you hapana (no), we hate seeing needs that go unmet. Truthfully we hate not being able to fix things and meet needs for everyone here. We must focus first on the main reason we are here, to build and open Mercy Children’s Home. Once we get the children’s home built and operating I’m positive that we will start working on other ways to meet other needs here. One example being that we will be building 8 to 10 (or more) small apartments on the property to house widows in need. Another example is trying to figure out a way to get enough funds for a nearby school to be able to feed the kids lunch, because right now they can’t do that.

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You are NEVER just a photo opportunity. If it ever feels that way I’m sorry. When I first arrived in Kenya I took pictures often, but then I started feeling bad about it. See I never want you to feel like I’m here exploiting you. That’s not my heart, not my heart at all. But I do need to take pictures so I can share them with our support system. I need to share them so I can help bring awareness to the needs that we have here. So that our friends can see the beautiful faces of those who they are praying for. I love you all and truly want what is best for you. My only motive is to bring attention to the needs here so that more and more people can be helped.

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Lastly…eat with us…PLEASE (Godfrey, Pamella, Matrine, Evaline and Nickson, I’m looking at y’all)! I’m sure it is a cultural thing that we are served a meal and then left alone to eat, but we want to eat WITH you. We want to get to know you and for you to know us. We want to learn from you and about you. We aren’t here for just a little while, Kenya is now our home too. We aren’t going back to the United States to live, so please stop treating us as visitors and treat us just like you would anyone else. We aren’t special, not even a little, we are just one family that God chose to send here. When you come to our home for a meal we will all sit down, pray together and then eat. We will sit down and learn about and from each other. I have SO much to learn about Kenya and the way things are done here.

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My Selfish Post

This is a totally selfish post, but I feel like I need to reach out and ask for more specific prayers.

Earlier this week I posted a photo on my Facebook of a very small pencil and yellow crayon in a 4 year old’s hand. This sweet little girl attends Mercy Foundation Academy across the street from Mercy Children’s Home. On that day we were just hanging out in the office at the school and she had come in to see us. She pulled out her book to show us how she could write and color. I saw her writing on the paper, but didn’t see her pencil, upon further investigation I saw just how tiny her pencil was. Then she showed us how she could color…she sat her dot of a crayon on the paper and pushed it back and forth with her finger. In a very unexpected way this hit me hard. Just the day before I had seen pencils for sale for 5 cents, but yet her family couldn’t afford to get her a new one. So I’m in this small room with about 15 other people and I just want to cry for her, for her situation, for her Momma who knows her daughter needs a new pencil, but can’t afford to replace it. I want to cry because honestly before that moment I just assumed all the kids had what they needed for school. I can’t even tell you how many pencils I have had my own kids throw away because they were “too short” and they were much longer than hers.

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A few days after this we met and talked to a group of street boys. During the time we were talking to them I could see the filth on their clothes, the sadness in their eyes, their shoeless feet, the glue that they are constantly inhaling to avoid feeling hunger pains and their extreme need for a loving home. If you haven’t seen my post on Facebook about this you might be thinking these are all older teen boys, but you are wrong, these boys range from 7 to 13…let that sink in for a minute. 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds living on the streets of Bungoma not knowing where their next meal will come from, not having clean clothes, not having shoes to protect their feet from the hot ground and not having a place to shower and wash the dirt off of their young bodies. Again this situation leaves me heartbroken, as a Momma leaving these boys on the street is so incredibly hard. They need a home.

In a previous post we told you about Robai, a young girl who we briefly met at the youth conference in Sang’alo shortly after we moved to Kenya. Something about her just spoke to my Momma heart while we were there. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I had snapped a few pictures of her and returned to look at them frequently. About a month later we learned from Calistus, the pastor at Sang’alo church, that she needed a home. He sent over a picture of her and I immediately said “I know her!”. This week were able to return to Sang’alo, while we were there we visited the school there and were able to meet and talk with Robai and her Grandmother. Both her mother and father have passed away from AIDS, she is HIV positive, she lives with her Grandmother, Victoria, who is widowed and Victoria can’t actually afford to provide proper food for Robai. While we were visiting Robai we noticed that she had some small bumps on her arms and face. When we inquired about theses bumps we were told that because of her condition, when Robai doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables every day she gets these all over her body. That absolutely broke my heart. I can’t imagine being her Grandmother and knowing that Robai NEEDS fruits and veggies, but not being able to provide that for her. As we were talking to Victoria she said “if we can take this girl it would be a big blessing”…my eyes welled up with tears because that is A LOT of love to have to allow her to go and live at the children’s home just so she can have her basic needs met. Robai was able to go and eat lunch with us and we able to buy her a bag of fruits and vegetables to get her through for a few days. Again I had to walk away and leave another child in a bad situation. I am so thankful that she has a house to sleep in and a loving Grandmother to love and care for her, but that just isnt enough for Robai. Sweet Robai needs to be at Mercy Children’s home now, but it isn’t ready for her.

So how is this post selfish? I need prayers that my heart can keep taking hit after hit and still hold up. It is hard knowing that we will have a place to take in kids, but not yet because we still need a good bit of money to finish building Mercy Children’s Home. It is so incredibly hard knowing that small children are sleeping on the streets, small children literally beg for scraps of food and gladly will take your leftovers. It is hard knowing that children in school are writing with pencils so small that you can’t even see it once they wrap their tiny hand around it to write. Please pray that I will be patient. Deep down I know God has this and I know God didn’t bring us to Bungoma to build two-thirds of an orphanage. I know that in time all the kids at Mercy Foundation Academy will have the proper supplies needed and uniforms that aren’t riddled with holes and tears. Please pray for my attitude. I try to be happy and upbeat, but deep down I’m struggling with the home not being done yet. I need this home done so we can start helping these kids instead of just knowing about them. Honestly I could care less about having a home for us, this is about helping kids who need to be in a better situation. What good is it to know about all these needs without action to help fix the needs? Lastly, please pray that I will “be still and know”. I need to be still and know that God has us right here with an unfinished children’s home for a reason.

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.

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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.