01 March 2015

I Can Picture It Like It Was Yesterday

Today was a very full day! We had planned to meet the team for church at 10am, so headed to the kids house first to pick up the three that we were taking along with us!

As Sammy made sure those three were dressed and ready to go, Moses and I danced to the songs playing on the TV. The DVD kept skipping, so it was like our own version of freeze dancing...he would stop and point at the TV every time the music stopped--and then grab my hands and bounce again as soon as it turned back on. Kid's got moves!  

Allan was so excited to wear his new outfit and head to church.

Can you tell from that huge smile?!

A few of the team members had asked about Lillian, since she was at school when they came by to paint, so she was another who came with us today. And Sam is a fan favorite around here--especially of Dr. Rob and his family--so there was no doubt that he'd be the third. (The van is not always this full of boxes--just transporting some things this morning!)

We visited the church that is part of Gilgal Secondary School today: Ephraim Family Church. The praise team was amazing! Such joy and passion--they sang and danced and excited the crowd to do the same!

Dr. Rob got up to introduce the team and, before, told us that he knows a bit about singing and dancing too--he did a fantastic Elvis impression!

Lillian was quiet through most of service, but I did notice that her foot was tapping to the music--I think she really did enjoy herself.

After service, Ben and Christine had a whole lunch prepared for our team: chicken, potatoes, chapati, guacamole--it was delicious! Even enough for seconds! We ate and talked and shared stories about the growth we've seen in the schools, children's center, and churches in the decade that many of us have been friends with them. 

From there, we loaded up in the vans and headed over to Discover to Recover (a centre for children infected with or effected by HIV/AIDS.) I used to visit this home each week, and spend a few hours playing and laughing with the kids. Some of my very favorite photos from my time in Kenya are from this place. Also, my favorite kid in the whole of Kitale (Benja) lives here. Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing them again!

When we pulled in, I began to see all of these big kids come out of the house and in to the yard. I looked around and, for a brief moment, didn't recognize anyone...and got a little timid. I wondered if, after five years of being away, all of the kids I knew and loved had moved away...or maybe they were there, but thought I had abandoned them and wouldn't be as warm or welcoming as I had hoped.

And then I saw Benja. I pointed at him from the window of the van and he smiled his crooked little old man smirk of a smile. And I watched as several other kids pointed at him and laughed--just as they'd always done--knowing that I was about to attack him with hugs and kisses and take more pictures than anyone needs of one child in a single afternoon

I took another scan around the crowd, and the faces changed. They were no longer strangers, but now simply older versions of the small children I knew years ago. I got out of the car and began to walk toward them, with the rest of the team, and a few came walking up with huge grins. And, without skipping a beat, I said, "Hi Churchill! Hi Derrick! Hi Meshack!" Though they were still a bit standoffish, I knew they were just as cautiously excited to see me as I was to see them after all this time.

We brought out bags of lollipops and I began to take pictures...

{Churchill...though with a Kenyan accent it sounds like Chachi, so that's what we've called him for years}

{Benja! Who has lost all of his baby teeth--and has learned so much English--since I saw him last. Thankfully, he still has that same tiny waist and big fat belly that he's had since I met him as a four-year old.}


The group was a little bit nervous to fully engage at first, so it felt kinda like a Jr High dance: team on one side and Centre kids on the other...each just as interested in interacting with the other, but sort of unsure as to how to break the ice.

Becky, from the team, came to the rescue! She brought out bags of fake glasses and noses, balloons, necklaces, bouncy balls, and whistles...and the kids (and adults!) ate them up!

{Get out of here, Benja...so cute!}

{A crowd of Groucho's!}

{Even Stonic agreed to play along!}

{Can't stop embarrassing this kid...I just love his guts!}

{They chased down this rooster for the photo...}

{Stonic blew up balloons, repaired broken glasses, tightened bracelets, translated for the smaller kids, passed out candies, and smiled the whole time--he was a real champ today!}

{Betty stood by my side for most of the afternoon}

At one point, I pulled Derrick and Benja aside and we all hung out near one of the vans. I was asking if they remember all of the fun things we'd done together all those years ago: trips to Sister Freda's, getting milkshakes in town, and swimming at the Kitale Club. Benja shook his head at the first two, but then perked up and got a huge smile on his face as he nodded in fond memory of the days we spent swimming.

The boys were so excited to sit in the van. They climbed in and happily sat in the seats, looking around, for about ten minutes. And then they found a pair of binoculars. Denis, kindly (and very trustingly!) offered to let them take the binoculars out of the van. And just like magic, every kid that had been happily playing with other gifts earlier, ran over to have a turn. One boy said, excitedly, "Wow! Everything that is very far over there looks like it is just right here!" Another asked if these were glasses that could help you see the planets. They were definitely a hit!

{Derrick and Benja}

Teams have been coming to Discover to Recover for years. In that time, many people have returned and continued to build relationships with these children. Today, these two boys listed several friends and asked about their lives. "How is Torie? Bre? Chris? Matt? Dinah?" As I gave updates on each friend, they said, "When can we expect them to return? We will be praying that God will bring them here very soon!"

With the new ball that was gifted by the team, we walked over to the field next door and watched (in a giant clump) as the older boys kicked it around. The younger kids crowded around and asked about the weather in America, played with my hair, mocked my high-pitched Swahili, and posed for a few dozen pictures.

I knew it was nearly time to leave, so I walked back over to the van and found this little joker hanging out on the fence. Honestly, this kid is so sassy and I still totally love him.

As I was leaving, Derrick ran inside and came back with three photos. One of them was a picture of us from 2009. Thinking about it, tonight, I realized that this kid has lived at this centre for most of his life. I've seen the small box that holds all of his belongings and I know that items are easily misplaced or worn in the shuffle of a crowded house...especially through a move. 

And somehow, this picture looks brand new--no wrinkles, folds or tears. What a treasure it must be to him, a boy without parents, one of nearly 30 kids in a house. It's irreplaceable. It's documentation of his childhood, of so many moments of laughter, a reminder that he is, has been, and will be, so loved and valued. 

There is no way that he could know the treasure it would be for me to see that he has kept this photo all of these years...the memories it would bring back--of that day, of that season--and the amount of love and value I would feel from this small boy, holding this picture, six years later.

And he has no idea that I have this exact same picture framed in my home...six years later.

1 comment:

Julie Hibbard said...

Once again I have tears running down my face. What a LOVELY day with your favorite people on earth! I LOVE you and all of them...I am so very happy that it worked for you to be there at this time...