Thursday, September 29, 2011

Your generosity has done this . . .

Late last year, through a long variety of circumstances, we came to know of some refugees from a communist country in Africa. This group of men had been arrested during a church service - that was their crime. The next 7 or so years they were imprisoned in different military prisons. At one point they spent several years in shipping containers in the desert of this hot country. They were only let out to relieve themselves twice a day. They were tied up, tortured and beaten. Then the were moved to a solitary confinement prison work camp. They were only let out of their underground cells to do hard labor during harvest time. Remember their crime was attending a worship service.

Finally they were able to orchestrate an escape attempt during their labor time in the fields. They ran through thorns, encountered a leopard, were separated from each other and each met individuals who did what they could to help them escape to a neighboring country. It was there that they were helped by Voice of the Martyrs to come to Kenya. And from there they were brought to Kijabe for care after their years in captivity. Rhett was asked to see them and address their health issues and from there our very special friendship started.

They joined us in our home for a meal. What do you serve people who have been in prison for the last 7 years? I was a little nervous. I bombed on the meal. I went bland on the food thinking anything spicy might be too much for them and it turns out their native food is quite spicy and my potato soup wasn't much of a hit. Cupcakes for dessert? Too sweet. They also ate them with a fork which I thought was cute! Anyway, we sat around our dining room table honored and humbled to have these persecuted Christians in our presence. They were mere weeks from their escape ordeal. They were emaciated and had a look in their eyes like photos I've seen from concentration camp victims. Physically the needed time to heal from their past and emotionally as well.

One feeling I had as we talked with them was that they seemed to have forgotten how to smile. They looked around nervously and seemed awkward when it came to smiling. Then at one point it was time for my kids to go to bed and asked them to go say good night to our guests. Claire walked in and gave a corporate "Good Night" but Ford started around the table with a "Good Night" and a hug and and kiss for each person. It was as if time stood still and my little 3 year old blonde angel gave the first loving touch and affection to these men that they had received in years. And something amazing happened. Smiles and tears. I felt as though God was giving them a little love through Ford right there and telling them it was OK.

We are thankful for our friendship with these special guys. We have continued to keep in touch with them and Rhett has seen them on a couple occasions since our first meeting. All of you who have supported us financially have also been a part of this story. We were able to pay for all of their medical and dental bills as well as their substantial bill for counseling at a center in Nairobi who helps refugees deal with the horrors of their past. We found it an honor to help our brothers in Christ and we wanted to make sure you knew what part you played in helping them too.

That has been one of the most amazing and fulfilling part of being here. We are able to truly see and know the needs first hand and have the privilege of helping and showing compassion to those around us. Thank you for your support that makes this possible. Please continue to pray for our friends. They have a long road to travel. They can never return to their country. They struggle with the thoughts of what might have happened to their families in response to their escape. But they have joy in Christ and have faith that inspires.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet home . . . South Carolina?

This blog announcement is way overdue! Most of you who know us personally know by now that when our 2 year commitment with World Medical Mission ends in October we will be moving here . . .

Greenville, South Carolina! We are so excited about our new town. I hear it is great. I haven't actually been there (except for cheerleading camp at Furman in 12th grade) but everyone says it is a great town! Rhett did actually go and interview and was able to get a glimpse of our new home and his report was great too. When we first started talking about this job opportunity in Greenville we were just looking on the internet for information and photos and one site said "Greenville is known as the Athens, GA for adults". If you know us then you know that had our attention! Rhett has been blessed with an amazing job that has a lot of diversity, a big group of partners (unusual in ID) and the opportunity to teach in the residency and medical school there. We are amazed at this provision for our family.

Now we just have to get there! We are in about 2 1/2 weeks away from our departure from Kenya. It is very emotional and stressful. I thought coming here was difficult but, man, going the other way is tough too. Lots and lots of transition. I hesitate to start packing because, honestly, I don't know when we will unpack again. I'm trying to care for each of my children's hearts in the way that they need it as we guide them through this time of transition. I know everyone always says how resilient kids are and quick to adjust but speaking from a childhood full of major moves all over the place - it is tough. It is sad. Not to mention all of the cultural adjustments they will have to make. So even when my head is swimming I have to stay steady for the little ones who look to us as parents to know if all is right in the world.

One of the difficult parts of leaving Kenya is that everyone wants your stuff. I've heard others who left talk about how stressful this was to deal with but didn't understand until I had people knocking on my door early on Saturday morning asking to reserve Rhett's underwear. People at the hospital have been paging Rhett all week asking about our sale. One person wondered if we were selling "extra laptops" and another wanted our "sound system". What are we Best Buy? We have some old clothes and toys that aren't coming back with us but no "extra" lap tops to sell. Culturally it is important that we have this "sale" for the community so we are putting our junk on our porch and letting them come and get it. (I did learn earlier this summer that you can't give it away for free. Someone tried that and it caused a stampede and people were getting hurt. So I will "sell" our stuff for garage sale prices after letting our workers and close friends take what they want). After that it should be pretty easy to pack our life up into 10 suitcases and get ready for the long trip home. In the next 6 weeks we will travel to London, Athens, Ga; Boston, Colorado Springs, Atlanta, Birmingham and Dalton, GA before finally moving to Greenville.

Whew. Then we will finally be settled. Nope. We don't actually have a place to live so we are being creative (and cheap) and living here for a while . . .

That's my parents' motorhome and it will be our humble abode for a time while we look for a house or another longer term housing arrangement. We just found out about an ID Christmas Party that we need a babysitter to attend. Rhett is begging me to let him drive the motorhome to the party and park it with the kids asleep outside. Needless to say I've made other arrangements! It will honestly be a fun way to start and make the transition from our life in Africa to life in American a little easier - kind of a baby step. And every house I look at will seem HUGE compare to the motorhome!

Anyway, that is an update. I have lots of blog posts hanging around in my mind that I hope to actually post before we leave. I've left a lot of gaps during our time here and I hope to fill some in. Thanks for praying for our family as we say many good-byes and start to feel unsettled.