01 July 2011

I've Got The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy

I'm not sure any of us knew what to expect as we piled in to the bus this morning. To be fair, I'm not sure any explanation of what was to come would have prepared us for what we experienced.

One of our team members from Mavuno, Brian, had visited Joy Valley Children's Home last year when he took some mattresses, donated by his mother, who had heard about it through her co-worker. Brian's heart was broken (in a second, you'll see why), and he has returned several times since. Today, we were able to join him.

Tyler's face shows how we felt
when we were given a tour of the place
When we arrived, we were welcomed by Pastor Jarrod, the founder and caretaker of the centre. He shared his story with us: a story of hitting rock bottom (he shared that he had been declared dead and came back to life while in a mortuary), finding Jesus and now one of bringing love, healing and restoration to local "orphans" (who have no parental care) and "total orphans" (whose parents have passed away).

Brian with Pastor Jarrod
Pastor Jarrod shared a brief history of the centre as he gave us a tour. Most of our group missed large portions of the story because we were so caught up in the previous chunks.

Walking out to this view, where, we were told, the over 100 orphans that sleep in the centre use the shower and toilet, was too much to take in, nod and carry on.
Church each Sunday
The final piece of the tour (and the most shaking for many of the students) were the dormitories. Over 50 children (ages 3-18) sleep in each of the two dorms. The 50+ boys share around 10 bunks--three to a bed (six to a bunk). The girls have a similar situation, leaving around 14 to sleep on the floor. Our team, of course, had a difficult time accepting these numbers.

We took a collective deep breath and went to work.

Chopping firewood for the kitchen

Hand-washing clothes

"Teaching" the classes

And, of course, playing with the children

Ryanne, Nikki and Rachael (from last year's team) painted hundreds of fingernails.
Can you see them hiding in that crowd?

Several team members were handed shovels and asked to clean up the riverbed.

In effort to keep our team focused on the tasks and not distracted by playing photographer, I wandered around taking pictures of everyone. In the back of my brain, I knew this was my way to avoid fully engaging with where we were and what we were seeing. I have seen situations similar to this on previous trips, but this was the first time I could visibly see the discomfort, confusion and brokenness on the faces of our team.

Participating in that experience and helping to guide students through are two completely different things...and God knew I was going to need a push when it came to participating at this centre. It came in the form of two twelve-year old girls who invited me to play a game, take a picture and stand next to them as we watched the others run around. They had no idea that they were bringing me back to reality, making an "easy-out" impossible. In hindsight, I probably should have said thank you a second time.

Syprose and Halima
The students from Joy Valley had prepared a special show for us, so we closed our time on the make-shift soccer field.
Dancing Americans while we waited to begin the performance
The girls from Joy Valley Centre danced for us
Then invited us to dance with them
Pastor Frank
Pastor Daniel
The crowd that grew and grew as the show went on:
neighborhood children and mothers came out to join in on the fun

After the dancing, they did a skit
Then Connor thanked them for allowing us to come visit and prayed for the Centre, staff and children. I was so proud of him: he was composed and articulate, his prayer so deep and thoughtful.
We walked quietly back to the van, hungry, sunburned and unsure of how to express everything we were feeling...at least, for the time being.

A lunch stop at a local food court became a photo opportunity.

We spent the afternoon souvenir shopping at Bawa La Tumaini (a Frontline ministry through Mavuno Church), which was a perfect contrast to the heavy morning we'd had. You can read about Bawa here or visit the website.

I'm fairly certain that everyone in the group purchased gifts for every member of their family...and some even bought gifts for every friend they'd ever had.

After a little time to relax and a big dinner, it was time to debrief the day.

The emotional honesty was beautiful. To hear the students attempt to articulate frustration or confusion, encouragement and faith, was a great launch in to a discussion on poverty and our human lack of shalom (complete peace).

We finished the meeting with two stories...but based on the yelling and laughing I've heard in the last hour or so, I'm guessing the evening didn't end there.


Julie Hibbard said...

Amazing Amazing Amazing
You are such an eloquent writer and so perfectly describe what most people can't even possibly comprehend.
So glad you are there. Thanks for sharing your journey!
Praying for all of you...

Anonymous said...

Thank You Allison!
Your blog is fantastic and very cool to see the students in action.
My heart swelled with sadness over the conditions these orphans live in yet at the same time an ocerwhelming sense of gratitude that my son, thanks to the leaders and his supporters, has this opportunity experience life through different lenses!
Bless You,

PETE Di LALLO said...

Your blog brought tears to my eyes seeing the conditions children live in, and I am constantly overwhelmed by your writing and photography...
I thought I knew you until I read this post; I see you as an angel along with your cohorts doing the work of God...now I know why you want to live in Kenya, or at least spend a much longer time there...when it's time to come home it must be impossibly difficult for you and the others to leave...
I will continue praying for you and the entire team...