January 18, 2013 – Journal Entries from Deney Perkins
Finally in Nairobi!! That was a very long uncomfortable flight. But we made it safe and sound. We rode to the house with John, a tall smiley Kenyan. They drive on the opposite side of the car and road. It is nerve racking. Such beautiful sights. It was amazing to see the poor area of town literally leading into the rich area of town. There was a whole compound type village huts then right next to the end of this village compound started million dollar homes. It was amazing. Goats just roam the streets. There were sooo many people walking. We were in the middle of what looked like nothing, and there would be hundreds of people walking. John told us they were walking to work – most of them. The road leaving the airport was very rough…so I thought.
Only, I had no idea how smooth they were in comparison to the roads we traveled this afternoon! We went to The Nest, Children’s Orphanage/School. Moses, the director, was amazing and Mama Tanzie was a true blessing for these children. These young kids are in their orphanage because the moms either have drug/alcohol problems, physically or emotionally abuse their children or bring men into their lives/homes that physically, sexually, or emotionally abuse the kids; or the moms simply abandon the children in the street. He gave us a tour of the orphanage and a tour of the school. We got to have a miniature party with the kids. They were so much fun!! They greeted us with a couple songs. You can tell they love to sing. They currently have 68 children. The Nest is not only an orphanage to the kids, but they have a two pronged approach…they take care of the children and support them while the moms are in jail, but they also support the moms and kids when the mom returns to society. They have a small home that the mom and children live in for three weeks to get reacquainted, and then they give them the support they need to return to society with their children and be successful. During the three weeks they stay there, they are taught, or retrained, in trades they can use to make a living and support their family.
The school for the kids is very nice but they only have two small classroom – and they only go through “8th class” (primary school), when the reach secondary school levels, the children must walk to a public school some ways away from the home. The orphanage pays the necessary fees for secondary school for its children. Their theory is that if the child reaches an age where they can take care of themselves but the mother is still incarcerated, the child will be able to make a living because they have an education – which, unlike the United States, is not required…it is really more of a gift.
By having a small school, all primary school aged kids that live with them get an education through at least 8th grade. Because they have so many young children right now, they have added a kindergarten class. The kindergartners take up one room, the rest of the students have to go to school in shifts.
When we arrived today, it was nap time. In the baby room there was a GIANT crib with two babies, and 8 little crib bunk beds with babies. The girls’ dorm had 32 girls in one long bunk bed. They were all snuggled together and it was very sweet. Mama Tanzi has a bed at the end of the bunk beds. She lives with the girls, and loves them as though she really was their mama. They are blessed to have her. The boys’ dorm had 20 bunk beds, but they currently have 26 boys so they have to share beds. None of them seem to mind at all. They are like one giant family. Mama Jan is their cook. She feeds all 68 kids all day. She was sorting beans when we got there already planning for dinner.
We played games and the children and the ladies that take care of the orphanage really seemed to enjoy it. The kids started opening up during craft time we made lots of friends. Most of the children spoke Swahili so communication was sort of limited. However, they got their point across with “Look Look” and simply shoving my arm toward my camera and saying “me again”. I was taking pictures of the kids with the butterflies they made and they loved seeing themselves after I took pictures. They tried to photo bomb every picture after that. They were very curious.
January 19, 2013
Today brought us to Mission of Hope. It is school for primary age children, kindergarten through 6th grade. The older kids go to school from 6:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. The younger kids start at 7:30. They are fed breakfast and lunch there and for most of the kids at this school, those are the only meal they will have all day. There are currently 1,100 children and we met only the fifth and six graders (approximately 150 students). They were eager to teach us songs, and learn new songs. The kids go to school Monday through Saturday. Sunday is reserved for church. They have a tent church connected to the school which seats over 1,000 people. The third Saturday of every month (the day we happened to be there) is reserved for worship and praise. The entire community is welcome. They go from 8:00 to 12:30, and the music could be heard for a long ways. Little children danced in the street outside the church and schools. People sat along the road listening to the music. We enjoyed the music as well. Because it was the third Saturday, none of the children were supposed to be at school but William (the head teacher/director) asked the fifth and sixth graders to be there “to receive us.”
William welcomed us with tea and _ (a cross between sopapillas and donuts). We visited with him for some time before going and meeting the children. He said the kids ask “where are our guests.” They didn’t care that they would be in school all day when they should have had the day off; they wanted to visit their guests. I wondered how many of our students would voluntarily go to school for an extra day just to meet some guests. School is a very big deal for these children. It is where they spend most of their time.
William has been there five years. When he first started teaching there, he had a young man that would add when he should be multiplying, divide when he should be subtracting, etc. William went to the back of the room where the boy sat to see if his handwriting on the chalk board was confusing. When he realized the young boy had a learning disability, he decided to make that his specialty. He has trained himself to be a special ed teacher…which is not heard of in most of Kenya. He teaches the blind, the deaf and the children with severe learning disabilities. He is a very humble man of God and a true gift to these children. He played Jesus in our dramatization of the scripture of Jesus calming the sea during a storm. He loves to get the message of Christ out to the children anyway he can and was exited to learn a new skit to carry on to the other children.
At Mission of Hope, the teachers get there before the students (remember, the students start getting there at 6:30) so they have time for a devotion. When the children get there, they start with devotion as well. They sing praise and worship songs, and pray. Then they start the academics.
We made butterflies with them. We passed out crayons and pipe cleaners. The children had no clue what the pipe cleaners were, but they kept stuffing them in their pockets or desks and putting their hands out for more. I imagine this is a way of life for most of them, take everything while there is stuff to take because you don’t know when there might be more.
I stayed in one of the class rooms during the lunch time to talk to kids. The have lunch break from 12:30 to 2:00 because they are responsible for serving lunch to each other, and cleaning up after. They have to sweep, do dishes, etc. They get it done very quickly; they are incredibly efficient in their chores. I was amazed at how much the kids could eat. They had rice, beans, and cabbage, and their plates were piled, I mean, really piled. Most of them eat with their hands, and it was sort of an eye opener for me. I so often say “I’m starving” or “I’m so hungry” but these kids know the true meaning of “starving” and “hunger”. I watched one little boy in particular, he ate his meal with his hands, and then literally licked his plate clean and looked around the room to see if someone had left any on their plates. I noticed there are not left overs, the children serve each other until all the food is gone. This little boy ended up with a friend’s plate when the friend could eat no more. Many of the children did the same thing. I also noticed there were no drinks for any of them. I don’t remember seeing a water fountain, but the school was huge so it’s possible the drink supply was stored somewhere else. It was not served with their meal. The conditions of the school were nothing what you would see in the United States. No electricity, many rooms had no windows (just bars over open holes in the concrete walls. Four to five children squished into a desk. Yet, they were so happy. There is so much happiness in Nairobi. It’s like nothing I have experienced before.
I got to talk with the students in one of the classes today. I asked what their favorite part of the day was and they all had different responses. The songs, the craft the bible lesson (we did a skit and they just loved it!) I asked why they liked school so much and one little girl told me “because I want my dreams to come true.” I asked her what her dreams were and she said she wanted to be a doctor. Another little girl said she wanted to be a “flying doctor” I asked if that meant she wanted to grow wings and fly or just be a doctor on an airplane. She said she wants to fly to other parts of the world to be a doctor. She also wanted to be a dancer, a dentist, a lawyer, and a teacher. One of the things that were impossible to miss was the sense these children had that they could be anything they wanted to be. There is a long waiting list to get into this school. The children coming in have to wait for the 6th graders to move out. Their system is not like ours though; it could easily take 8 to ten years to complete kindergarten through sixth grade. The school has a sponsorship program (much like Compassion International). If the sponsorship for a child continues long enough, that child may be selected to go on to secondary school (7th through 12th grade). Some places secondary school is 9thto 12th grade and primary school goes through 8th grade. Mission of Hope just added sixth grade to their school very recently. The secondary school associated with Mission of Hope is a boarding school outside of Nairobi – which means the children have to leave their families to attend school. Their families are too poor to go visit them so this is a huge commitment from the children.
January 20, 2013
Today we traveled to Meru. Our driver’s name is James. We had quite the experience getting to our hosts’ house. The directions were not very clear (turn right at the junction, then when you pass a speed bump about 10kilometers down the road, turn right on the rocky road). There were speed bumps everywhere, every turn off was a rocky road so we went too far. James pulled over so Amy could call, and instantly, Kenyans started to surround our van. One kept saying “I take you there” and kept trying to get in. We asked James to drive down the road a little, and he drove about 100 feet and stopped. The Kenyans simply followed the van and immediately began circling us again. We were happy to get in touch with Purity and leave the area completely.
When we arrived at the house, the girls, and several neighborhood children, greeted us with warm smiles, and several hugs. The girls were so excited about Amy’s hair, they compared their skin to hers, and poked at her freckles. Amy and I got out our cameras and the girls went crazy. “Photo me!!” As soon as you point it at one girl, ten more run over to get in the photo. The girls were wonderful, such a great delight.
They prepared songs, dances, and plays for us. They acted out the story of Adam and Eve. They really put a lot of thought into their performances. It was such a wonderful treat. I shot videos of some of the songs. I wish I could have recorded all of them. They were so powerful. I took lots of pictures too. Miriam (one of the girls) asked if she could learn to take pictures. I handed her the camera and she was off. She took over 100 pictures. She had a great time.
Eventually the girls decided that my hair was as exciting as Amy’s and loved playing with my hair. They asked Cathy about her braces, and loved looking at pictures of our families, postcards from Albuquerque, etc.
We taught them new songs, and they loved them. There were little boys in the cornfield next store that kept creeping closer and closer, until eventually, we invited them to join us. Purity, being the wonderful lady she is, announced “if I have not already fed you, follow me and I will get you food.” She turned children away earlier because she was worried there would not be enough food, but she was excited to be able to give them left overs, and they were more than excited to receive them.
The boys that joined us did not speak English at all (other than Thanks and oh ok). Most of the girls spoke only a little English, but they wanted to so badly to communicate so they kept trying. Purity and Lawrence encourage their English speaking. They opened a second hostel two weeks.
We did the story of the sower – Lawrence was the sower, and each person had a party, I was a thorn…and I literally scared the girls away, they ran screaming and it was hilarious. They will never forget the story.
We made butterflies with them and Ann had them decorate cards and write notes. The notes were so wonderful. Most of them wrote notes to Purity and Lawrence telling them what great parents they are. They are so blessed to have purity and Lawrence. These girls come from very horrible backgrounds and having a loving mother and father is probably something they never imagined they would have.
January 21, 2013
Today was a very busy day. We started off the day at a women’s prison in Meru. In Kenya, the women keep their children in prison with them until the child turns 5, and then the child goes home to other family, or become homeless. It was very difficult to see these little kids in prison with their mothers. The women were all very kind, and the guards really respected them. The women all helped each other with their children, and helped encourage each other. There are 142 women in the prison right now. As we arrived, five ladies were going home and we got to wish them well. The women really seemed to enjoy that we were there. Initially the warden told us we could stay for 45 minutes, but as we got going, she extended the time. We ended up being there much longer. It was a good place to get my feet wet in prison ministry. I enjoyed watching the interaction between the women, and how eager they were. There was one lady in prison who was the mother to two other young ladies also in prison for various crimes. Ann talked about the statistics of American children following in their parents footsteps and I could think of was this lady and her daughters, all three in prison for various crimes.
We left the women’s prison and went to have lunch at one of the hostels. It is the first hostel so the older girls live there. The home was modest, but wonderfully put together for the girls. They have a “modern” Kenyan toilet – which means there is a toilet lining in the hole in the ground. There is not an actual toilet above ground that was a challenge for me. The girls were at school so we did not get to see them again.
After lunch, we went to the Meru Men’s Prison. There are currently 1,200 inmates. The facility was much more intimidating and much stinkier than the women’s prison. However, it was wonderful to see the “industry” area when you first enter the prison. The men are being taught several different skills. Metal work, bead work, tailoring, construction, etc. You walk through this section first, and then continue through another gate. Everything is outside. The cell doors face the long out door hallway we walked through and they had bars, no windows. We were brought into what appeared to be the center of the prison, where we were greeted by almost all of the 1,200 inmates. It was incredibly intimidating. The toilet system for the men’s facility appeared to be a giant trench through the “yard” or field where we met. When we arrived in that area, the guards had set chairs up for us where the trench was directly in front of where we were sitting. We had to be careful where we walked. The prisoners do not have much, and clearly do not shower or wash their clothing very often. The stench of the trench and the body odor, in the sweltering heat, were a little too much for me. There were some inmates that had just finished laundry, and they throw the laundry on the roofs of the buildings to dry.
Driving in Kenya
There are so many differences between America and Kenya. The driving is the most notable difference. They drive from the right side of the car on the left side of the road. Most roads do not have lines marked on them and the drivers dart back and forth on the road to avoid pot holes, or go around other vehicles. In America we make sure the oncoming traffic is clear before going around slower drivers. In Kenya, they don’t care. They pull into oncoming traffic, honk to tell the other car to pull off the road to let them by. I noticed today when we approached a very busy intersection there were no lights, no stop signs, etc. It is just a matter of whoever drives faster gets through. There are speed bumps EVERYWHERE, including the highway. There are so many people walking that I am pretty sure that’s why there are so many speed bumps. On the highway there are speed bumps and crosswalks. It is amazing. Even in places where you think there is absolutely nothing, there are still people walking. Thousands and thousands of people walking every day. They do not have speed limits for the roads, but individual cars have speed limits. The van we are in is rated for 80 Kilometer per hour. Smaller cars can go 100 KPH.
January 22, 2013
Today we travelled from Meru to Kitale. We finally saw Zebras!! It was an 11 hour drive, and part of that trip was on some of the roughest roads I have ever been on. It was crazy how much we bounced around. We saw some of the most beautiful scenery though. The scenery changed constantly. It went from desert to forest to green to farms etc. We crossed the equator 4 times today! That was pretty cool. We stopped at one of the equator crossing to watch a water demonstration. There is a sign directly on the equator. On the south side of the equator, the tooth picks in the bowl rotated one way and on the north side, they rotated the other direction. When he put the bowl directly on the equator, they would not move at all…even when he tried to force them one way or the other.
When we arrived we were greeted by several local pastors and others that will go through the training to begin a Wings Ministry in Kenya. They came from Nairobi, Bungoma, Kisii, and many other cities. Some travelled many hours to get here. It was slightly overwhelming because we were so tired and there were so many of them. Most of the team went to meet with over 90 people who have travelled to Kitale for the training.
January 23, 2013
Today we went to the Kitale Main Prison. You enter one main gate, but both the men’s prison and women’s prison are in the same compound – just like Meru. This facility appeared to be more modern than Meru. They had loud music playing and they had an area that provided a large amount of shade. The Meru prison offered no shade unless you sat against the building at the right time of day. It amazes me how open the prisons are. In America we confine the returning citizens in buildings and it is a privilege to go outside for “yard time.” In Kenya I’m guessing these men and women would really enjoy the comfort of air conditioning, clean running water, toilets that are more than a hole in the floor or a trench that runs the length of the yard where they “relax” or meet.
We had a young man named Peter as our interpreter today. He told us his story when we were traveling to the prison. He is an amazing young man. At a very young age, Peter’s grandfather decided to have his son (Peter’s father) arrested. The grandfather than began trying to seduce Peter’s mother. She refused and said her husband would be home again someday. The grandfather than made a pact with another inmate to have Peter’s father killed. Peter said that before the man could go through with the plan, he was transferred to another prison. Peter said that while his dad was in prison, they had visitors that would come to their home and pray with them. When his dad returned home, Peter told his dad he wanted to be a pastor. Now, he is a young pastor with such gifts. He is incredible. I do not do justice to the story that he shared with us. He spent the entire day today translating for us everywhere we went. He is excited about prison ministry because of his past and how his family was helped during the time his father was incarcerated. We have heard so many stories about how people end up in prisons in Kenya because someone in power wants something they have or wants them out of the picture for some reason. It is heartbreaking. I am not sure how their judicial system works, but they are clearly not afforded a trial by their peers before being sentenced. It appears that whatever they are accused of, they are convicted of and sentenced. I could be wrong, but that’s the impression I am getting over and over.
The women in the Kitale prison today were so very welcoming. We were told there are 400 women in that prison but only about 50 showed up for the program today. There were a few kids. Two of the women shared their testimony with us today. It was incredibly powerful to hear how they have changed their lives since being in prison. One lady said that she and her husband got in a fight on New Year’s and she managed to get a knife and stab him to death. She said that when she first got to prison and heard a pastor talk about forgiveness she could not imagine how God could forgive her since her sins were so red. She quoted from Isaiah . She said when she heard that scripture she knew that she could be forgiven and that gave her pleasure.
Another lady gave her testimony. Her husband is a bishop, but began drinking. He started drinking all the time and one night when he came home, he tried to kill her. He took her and her children and her mother to a river where someone else came to try to help. She screamed and the husband and helper took them all to another location. She cut her story short, but talked about the grace she has been given since entering prison. Later, we were informed that the husband killed the mother, but they were both arrested and put in prison (next door to each other). It is my understanding she was arrested for helping or something.
The stories of how these women ended up in prison were not important. What was important was the fact that since they have been in prison, they have found Jesus. When we arrived, the women sang songs about Jesus as their Savior. There were about 10 of them in what looked like choir robes. They could easily have been a church choir. They have the most amazing voices.
The warden of the men’s prison is also a pastor. In Kenya, you see signs all over the place about Jesus loving you and being your savior. There are signs giving you God’s blessings, and praying for safe journeys. Jesus is very welcome in Kenya.
In addition to the prisons, we went with Bishop George and Rev. Michael to Dove Ministry. Bishop George founded the ministry/church for people in Mois Bridge. It is a tiny facility in the middle of a very run down area. We pulled up and you could hear worship immediately. Several children greeted us outside and wanted to shake our hands. A very little girl held on to my hand and just stared at me. About 30 minutes later, during the service, she ran from her mom, and I thought she was running to the front to get to her dad, but she ran straight to me and put her arms out for me to pick her up. She sat in my lap just staring at me and touching my hand. I am guessing I am the first “mzungu” she has seen.
After the service, I went outside and the little girl’s mother ran up to me and gave me a giant hug. She said “come, come.” She was so excited I had to follow. We walked a few steps (with Peter following so he could translate) and she introduced me to her mother. Her mother hugged me so tight I thought my head would pop off. She dragged me around talking to everyone. Then she said “photo me.” So I started taking pictures. All the women wanted pictures so they could see themselves in the camera. That was a lot of fun.