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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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

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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

 

Our Large Family Bible Study

 

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Our parents want us kids to grow up understanding and wanting to learn more about the Bible. I find this to be a very important part of our everyday lives. I feel it is important because it makes us grow closer together as a family and closer to God.

What does Bible study with so many people at so many different ages look like? I will share a little bit of our controlled chaos with you. We generally do our study in the living room, but we’ve also done them outside by the fire and even in the park after playing some basketball.

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Family Bible Study outside by the fire

We start Bible study by doing a couple of worship songs chosen by us kids. Daddy hooks up his tablet to the T.V. and finds the songs with lyrics on YouTube. We then watch the video and sing along, sometimes the little girls will dance while singing. Worship is my favorite part and I usually have a few suggestions picked for when Dad asks us for ideas.

After worship, we take turns reading from the Bible. We all know that reading happens right after worship so there are always a few kids ready with their hands in the air hoping Daddy will notice them and call on them first. Sometimes Daddy has to gently remind them that he knows they want to read and they will get the chance to. Most of the time we read Proverbs “Proverbs of the day”, as we call it. This is when we read the chapter number that corresponds to that day. If we read a chapter a day, we are reading through the book of Proverbs every month.

Everyone gets to read, even Aspen (3 years old). Us older kids usually pair up with the ones who can’t read yet. The reader will whisper a few words at a time to the little one and then the little one will repeat it out loud so everyone else can hear. It is important to include everyone so that they will get excited about learning and won’t see Bible study as boring and unenjoyable.

The hardest part of Bible study is paying attention. Let’s say Daddy called on Karson to read the next ten verses. You know you are going next so you try really hard to keep up. Then Reed comes over and sits on your ankles and sticks one hand in the air saying “yah! yah!” pretending you are a horse. Then Aspen sits next to you with a pen trying to doodle on your Bible. While you try and pry the pen from her, Violet comes over and asks you to open her Bible to the correct spot because her Bible closed, again. By the time you focus on reading again, you have forgotten who was reading and then you notice everyone is looking at you expectantly.

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Reed playing horsey “Yah! Yah!”

We don’t always do Proverbs of the day though. Daddy sometimes has a sermon that he wants us to watch. The last sermon we watched was about modern Christian families. Voddie Baucham was talking about his views on marriage, discipline, and education. He said something that really stuck out to me. He said that only one kid out of ten stays a Christian after their freshman year of college. Only one out of ten! That is why studying the Bible every day is so important, not just on Sunday and Wednesday.

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Watching a sermon. Probably Matt Chandler, or Voddie Baucham, or Paul Washer, or…

After our Proverbs or sermon, we spend time going over what we learned and asking questions. It is very important that we understand what we learned so that we don’t have a confused and twisted interpretation of the Bible. Daddy is very good at answering any questions we have. Sometimes Bible study ends up being pretty long because Daddy loves to explain things…sometimes he gets very into it and gets pretty detailed by answering questions we hadn’t even thought to ask.

Nearly every  Bible study ends up in a discussion of the Gospel. We often discuss how great it will be spending eternity enjoying God and exploring the depths of the Gospel with Him and His Saints. Daddy also tries to help us understand that as children growing up in a family that spends alot of time in God’s Word and proclaiming the Gospel, we have a great responsibility to repent and believe the Gospel. We also are taught that repenting and believing are not one-time events, but rather continue in the life of the Christian. We are taught to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

When we are done reading and we have all of our questions answered, we close in prayer and then sing Doxology. Every time without fail, Lala (Violet) volunteers to lead us. We memorized this song as a family a couple of years ago so we just sing it a capella, no need for YouTube.

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Pastor John Tino from Massailand, Kenya stayed a couple days with us and was gracious enough to join us for Family Bible Study.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18-19