Stories from Kenya: Five Months On

Five months ago, I was three days away from travelling to Kenya with Compassion to see the work they are doing in this beautiful country, and to meet my sponsored child.

Five months later, and I still don’t really have any words to describe my trip.

It’s not that I can’t remember anything. I think I have the opposite problem – I can’t not remember. There are so many things I want to say and so many stories that I need to share but once I start talking (or writing) about it, I don’t think I’ll be able to stop. Part of me wants to board a plane tomorrow and go back. Part of me thinks if I never go back, it’ll be too soon. When I think about my time in Kenya, all I want to do is smile. And then all I want to do is cry.

Poverty is such a paradox. These people have so little in terms of material possessions, but they have so much joy. And it’s so contagious. I don’t have to flick through my photo album for too long before my eyes land upon photo after photo of smiling faces. I can still hear the belly laughs of the children in one of the projects when we gave them balloons, or the joyful singing as the children in another project sang and danced for us.

P1020047I so desperately want to have the words, but I just don’t think I would give these stories the justice they so deserve. And the more time that passes, the more I worry I’m beginning to forget everything I experienced in Kenya. But the truth is this – God won’t allow me to forget. When I came back from India last March, I was so worried about signing up to travel to Kenya because I didn’t want poverty to become normal. I didn’t want to go and not be moved by what I saw because of the ‘been there, done that’ mentality. But every day, especially over the last couple of weeks, God has been breaking my heart, again and again.

It breaks my heart that we live in a world where poverty is normal, even made glamorous at times. I don’t want to turn away when I hear these stories and see the way these people live. Seeing and hearing is only ever helpful if it brings action, and I worry that because I haven’t told these stories, that I’m too late. But even though Kenya was nearly a whole half a year ago, it’s never too late to tell these stories, because I can’t believe that it’s too late for these children.

I’m so thankful that I serve a God who commands that we “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14). For that very reason, I know I’m never going to be too late. The words might not be eloquent and the stories might not be from Hollywood, but they still need to be told. So that’s what I will do.

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2015 and adverts of hope

This is probably one of my most favourite things on the internet right now. If you haven’t already seen this already, watch it. Actually, even if you have seen it…watch it again.

I’ve seen this advert played on tv a hundred times in the last couple of weeks, and every time it makes me cry.

Last November, I graduated from Bible College and I got my degree. I guess like a lot of people my age, I thought a lot of my (employment) problems would go away once I finally had that piece of paper.

Turns out that degrees aren’t a one way ticket into your dream job.

I’ve been praying so much about the direction that God wants to take my life in now that I’ve finished my degree, and I feel desperate to move away and start my own life somewhere that’s not here, but it’s looking like this isn’t going to be possible for a very very very long time.

I’m not really into the whole new years resolution hype or anything like that, because I always forget about them, and then I spend the rest of the year feeling pretty rubbish and wishing my time away until the next January 1st so I can start (and fail) all over again. But at the beginning of this year, I really felt like God wanted me to be more hopeful. I want to be one of these people who isn’t afraid to get my hopes up over new opportunities or new adventures, and not feel completely broken when they don’t always work out.

The reason this advert speaks to me so much is because I’m reminded that sometimes all we really need is for someone to take a chance on us, and to see something in us that tells them that we’re worth investing in.Applying for jobs and pushing doors and trying to better yourself so someone will see that something in you is so hard, and it can be so easy to lose hope when you hear no after no after no. It’s easy to become cynical and afraid to take these new opportunities out of fear of rejection. But I also feel so frustrated and stuck and it can be hard feeling like being you isn’t really enough sometimes. It certainly doesn’t make me want to embrace the new year with hope.

Right now, I don’t have a group of lovely pink haired ladies waiting in the wings to encourage me or help me go on a new adventure, but that’s not to say that I don’t have a reason to have hope. I’m learning (and it’s a pretty painful lesson to learn!) that life is full of no’s, but they’re not always personal. I can often take these things a little too personally at times, which usually leads to more beating myself up and wondering why I’m not good enough, particularly when I’m spending most of my time applying for jobs (most of which I feel ridiculously underqualified for).

I’ve been reading the book of Joshua over the last couple of days, and I love that, regardless of our circumstances or feelings we are commanded to be strong and very courageous. Right now, I don’t want to feel this way (isn’t self-pity so much easier?!), but going back to God’s word over and over and over again, I’m reminded that God doesn’t become someone different because of how we feel. He doesn’t stop being good because I don’t feel like He is being good. He doesn’t stop being faithful or sovereign or any of these things because I can’t see the good He is doing in my life.

A friend once told me that on His weakest, most vulnerable day, God is still bigger than me on my strongest, most successful day. I can’t remember why she told me this, but it’s resonated so strongly with me over the last few weeks because I’ve needed to know, above all else, that God isn’t wasting my life right now. In this season of uncertainty and waiting and heartbreak and hopelessness, God isn’t wasting anything I do.

I’m learning if that’s the only reason I have to keep doing what I’m doing, then that’s a pretty good reason to keep going.

Stories from Kenya: Some Photos

I’ve been home from Kenya for a whole eleven days. In some ways, it feels like I only arrived home yesterday, and in other ways, it feels like I haven’t even gone yet. There’s still so much to process and think about, but I finally set aside some time today to go through the photographs that I took. There may not be many words here, but I’ll let these speak for themselves. For now, at least.

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Compassion Joys: November

Things have been a little quiet around here. I spent pretty much all of November finishing off preparations for my trip to Kenya, and then the rest of November actually going! So there are literally hundreds of blessings surrounding this precious month, and here are a few of them! As always, I’m linking up with Jill to count my blessings.

Joy Dare buttonLet’s Talk Letters!

I received fourteen letters in November! I heard from Betelihem, Blessing, Glen, Jose, Jose Luis, Krisna, Nova, Rendi, Riya and then two each from Cristin and Dorcus! Krisna’s letter also had a bonus gift photo!

Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

Three very special girls celebrate birthdays in November!

First, my sweet Nova in Indonesia turned 11 on November 12th

Nova aged 9Then Cindy from Indonesia turned seventeen on November 15th!

Age 15And lastly, my sweet girl Evis from Colombia celebrared her sixth birthday on November 20th!

Evis aged 5Let’s Celebrate – Anniversaries!

On the 24th of November, we got to celebrate a great sponsorship milestone: it was three years ago that my family and I began sponsoring sweet Elizabeth from the Dominican Republic! What a wonderful journey it’s been, and it’s been incredible to see my parents partner with a charity that I am so passionate about. I am so grateful that they made the decision to sponsor Elizabeth, and we are all having a great time getting to know her.

Elizabeth aged 7I also had another sponsorship milestone to celebrate. On the 29th of November, I got to celebrate two whole years corresponding with my precious girl Janki from India!

Janki aged 9And one more thing…

In November, I got to spend a whole week in Kenya with some wonderful people from Compassion! We spent time with three different projects and worshipped at a church that partners with Compassion. On the very last day of the trip, I got to spend time with y precious sponsored child, eighteen year old Dorcus from Kenya. I’ve got so many things to share from this trip and I still have no words, but I’m so thankful that one of the guys from the trip managed to capture this precious photo, which says so much more than I can right now.

10410123_10152378615701557_2779935348224855222_nUntil next month!

Compassion Joys: October

Well October seems to have disappeared, and we’re now in cold, wet November. All the more reason to spread some joy will Compassion Family!

Joy Dare buttonLet’s Talk Letters!

I received ten letters this month! I heard from Adner, Blessing, Chelsea, Evis, Irabizi, Nova, Rahul and Soniya. I also received first letters from Cindy and Pim!

Photo Updates!

I was so overwhelmed with the number of photo updates I was blessed with this month – three beautiful new photos!

The first update I received was of one of my handsome Colombian boys – seven year old Jose! Here he is aged five, and now at aged 7! I love his smile!

pizap.com14150405991111The next photo update I received was of my beautiful sister in Kenya – eighteen year old Dorcus. This was so special because I’ll be meeting her in around three weeks’ time! Here she is aged 14, 16 and 18!

pizap.com14150406977382The third photo update I received this month was from Bolivia – fourteen year old Alicia! Here she is aged 11, 12 and 14!

pizap.com14150409109403Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

Two of my children celebrate birthdays in October. The first is the sweet girl that is sponsored by my whole family. Our precious Elizabeth in the Dominican Republic turned nine years old on October 21st!

Elizabeth aged 7The second birthday was my handsome little boy in Bangladesh – Joyonto turned seven on October 30th!

Joyonto aged 6Let’s Celebrate – Anniversaries!

This month was a wonderful cause for celebration. On October 19th, I got to celebrate my sponsorship with Krisna – I’ve been sponsoring him for three whole years! And what a wonderful three years it has been! I feel so blessed to be getting to know this sweet, gentle boy, and I’m so excited to be watching him grow.

Krisna aged 10New Additions!

I’ve been completely blown away this year by how God has been growing my Compassion family. What started off as one little girl in Indonesia over three and a half years ago has multiplied beyond my wildest dreams! This month, I had the beautiful opportunity to welcome two more precious little ones into my family.

The first is a beautiful new correspondent child from Thailand. Her name is Jantana and she is twelve years old.

Jantana aged 11The second new addition to my Compassion family is actually a new sponsored child..! I’ve had the blessing of being able to get to know Amanda over the last couple of years, and her heart for Honduras has always stirred something in me to partner with God in all that He is doing in this country. Amanda began trying to find sponsors for some children from a Compassion centre in Honduras that was especially close to her heart, and one of the girls’ stories just broke my heart. After a lot of prayer, I decided to sponsor beautiful eleven year old Yolanda.

10714773_784303348325_393956179_nOn another note…

There is just a couple more weeks until I travel to Kenya to meet my beautiful sponsored child, eighteen year old Dorcus! Please be praying that all final preparations go well (particularly that my passport and visa arrive back quickly!) and that every aspect of the trip is all that God wants it to be.

Kenya: 22 days!

I’ve failed a little bit at talking about Kenya over the last few months {unless you’ve been stood in front of me for more than about 6.4 seconds…I can’t seem to hold a conversation right now without mentioning this trip!}. So many of you have told me how you have been praying for me over the last few months, and I wanted to take some time to tell you that I am so indescribably grateful for all of your prayers and kind words and support.

So much has happened since the Summer, so I’m going to do my best to do a quick whistle-stop tour!

After my eating challenge, I had the chance to do a cake sale at church. Some wonderful people donated some beautiful cakes towards my sale. My church are some of the most supportive people I know, and I managed to raise over £110 towards my trip!

UntitledHalfway through September, I made my final payment towards my trip! This completely blew me away because two weeks before the payment deadline, I left my job. I ended up taking on another two jobs, but paydays didn’t line up with payment deadline day, but God is so much bigger than payday {which I am SO grateful for!}. The way God has been providing for this trip is just completely mind-blowing and it has been such an amazing faith journey.

At the beginning of October, I received my flight and hotel details, along with this beautiful tour guide and journal! It’s so exciting to be able to read about all that we will be doing in Kenya, and it’s definitely making this trip seem a lot more real!

This weekend just gone, I finally got round to applying for my visa {because I am Queen of The Last Minute}. According to the Kenya High Commission, the process should only take about three days {but I am also Queen of the Stressing Out} so I’m praying so hard that my visa and passport show up in plenty of time!

As Kenya is just 22 days away, there are some things I would love you to pray for.

  • Please pray that my visa and passport come back in plenty of time and that the whole process goes through without any hiccups. It would be so frustrating to get so close to the trip, and not have my visa or passport!
  • Please also pray that my health would stay as good as it has been. Please also pray that I won’t have any reactions to the malaria tablets that I’ll be taking (or reactions to anything else for that matter!). Please pray for general health and safety stuff too (I’d rather not come home with a broken bone this time…).
  • Please pray for Dorcus, my sponsored child. I’m so excited about meeting her, but I’m also beyond nervous. Please pray that the time we spend together would be all that God wants it to be, and that I’d be able to engage with her and offer her the encouragement she needs.

I’m secretly hoping that the next 22 days will go quickly, but then I remember just how much I have to do between now and then, so I change my mind pretty quickly. Please pray that I would find as much joy in the preparation as I do in the trip itself.

Compassion Joy Dare: September

Ummm can someone pretty please tell me how we’re in October already..? But the end of another month means another opportunity to count some joys with Compassion Family!

Joy Dare buttonLet’s Talk Letters!

I received eight letters this month! I heard from Evis in Colombia, Irabizi in Rwanda, Janki in East India, Suresh Babu in India, two letters from Jose Luis in Mexico and I received my first letter from Jose in Colombia and Nika from Indonesia!

Photo Updates!

I received a wonderful photo update this month, from sweet Joyonto in Bangladesh! Here he is aged 5, and again at aged six and a half!

Joyonto

Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

My sweet girl, Nika from Indonesia, turned fourteen on September 12th! I’ve been told that my first letter from her in on the way, so I’m anxiously watching the postman right now! Happy Birthday, Nika!

Nika aged 13New Additions!

There were two new additions to my Compassion family this month!

Subhadra is fourteen years old and lives in East India!

Subhadra aged 14Subhadra lives with her parents. She enjoys group games, cycling, hide and seek, running, reading, art/drawing, listening to music, jump rope and storytelling! She helps around the house by running errands, cleaning, looking after animals and gathering firewood. She will turn fifteen this December and is currently studying in grade 10.

The next new addition is beautiful nine year old Pim from Thailand!

Pim aged 8Pim celebrates her birthday in January and lives with her parents. For fun, she enjoys cycling, reading and drawing and she helps at home by washing clothes, running errands and cleaning. She is currently studying in grade 3.

Mail Call Monday!

Well, it’s safe to say it’s been a while! But that’s not because I haven’t received any letters. Life gets busy sometimes! I graduated from college back in June and am now working two jobs, as well as volunteering at church and planning a trip to Kenya! I’m starting to feel a little more settled now, so I thought I’d give blogging another go :)

In August, I received an incredible fourteen letters, so I expected September to be a lot quieter, but I still received four great letters!

The first letter I received was from sweet five year old Evis from Colombia!

Evis aged 5In this letter, Evis introduces her family to me! I love these letters because they really help me feel connected to my child. I learned that Evis is an only child, but her mum is currently pregnant with twins! I’m sure Evis is going to make a wonderful big sister! She tells me that she loves spending time with her family because they have lots of fun together. She thanks me for the letters I send to her, and she tells me that she is praying for me and my family. She then tells me that she thanks God for my life! She sends me 1 Corinthians 2:9 and ends her letter with lots of blessing. She drew me a beautiful picture of some houses, a tree and some dogs.

I also received another letter from Colombia – this time a first letter from seven year old Jose!

Jose aged 5Jose completed the same template that Evis did, so I received some wonderful information about his family in his first letter to me! I learned that he loves with both of his parents and that he has an older sister who is 10 years old, and an older brother who is 9 years old. He also tells me that he is close to his family. He tells me that he enjoyed his vacation and he spent some time with his cousins. He says goodbye “with a big hug” and sends me Isaiah 58:11. He also drew me a house, and Jose’s drawing included two children playing football.

I also received a letter from my littlest Compassion child – three year old Irabizi from Rwanda!

Irabizi aged 2This letter was quite exciting, because it was Irabizi’s first form letter that wasn’t from the Child Survival Program – my baby’s growing up! He sent me the “my hobbies and pets” template. He tells me that his hobbies include drawing, playing football and riding a bike with his classmates. He has a pet pig and he likes taking photos with his pig. This letter included my first ever drawing from Irabizi! He drew me a house (although in some ways it looks like a pair of trousers!). The letter was written by Irabizi’s father, and he thanks me for my support and asks how I am doing. I am told in this letter that Irabizi’s home has been damaged, and I am waiting to hear more about this from Compassion, but in the meantime, I would ask you to join me in praying for this sweet family.

The final letter I received this week came from Mexico – from fifteen year old Jose Luis!

Jose Luis aged 14This is the second letter I’ve received from Jose Luis since I became his correspondent sponsor back in March! He says he hopes that God is blessing me with life and health. He tells me that he thinks prayer is something wonderful because we can talk to God about the things that worry us. He goes on to say that he used to talk back to his parents but then he heard a teaching in church about respect and now he is trying hard not to talk back to his parents! He also tells me that he is preparing to graduate from middle school! He sends me Song of Solomon 2:1 and draws me a cartoon flower.

I’m hoping that the next couple of months will bring in a few of the first letters I am waiting for (which is currently eight!). I’m anxious to get to know some of the new faces that I have been blessed with!

Compassion Joy Dare: August

I’m linking up with Jill over at Compassion Family to count my August blessings!

Joy Dare button

Let’s Talk Letters!

This month, I received fourteen letters! I heard from Adner and Evis in Colombia, Chelsea in Ghana, Dorcus in Kenya, Krisna (two letters!), Rendi and Nova in Indonesia, two from Elizabeth in the Dominican Republic, Joyonto in Bangladesh and Janki and Rahul in India. I also received my first letter from Soniya in India!

Photo Updates!

This month, my precious Joyonto from Bangladesh had a photo update! He’s definitely grown in height, and I hope that’s why he looks thinner in his new photograph – growth spurts have a lot to answer for! He is five years old in the photo on the left and six and a half in the photo on the right.

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Let’s Celebrate – Birthdays!

My Compassion family has three birthdays in August! The first is my precious boy in Indonesia, Krisna! On August 19th, Krisna turned eleven years old! He was just eight when I sponsored him, and it’s been a joy to watch him grow!

Krisna aged 10

The second birthday I got to celebrate was Chelsea in Ghana! Chelsea turned sixteen on August 25th!

Chelsea aged 15

The final birthday I got to celebrate this month was handsome Adner in Colombia, who turned seventeen on August 28th!

Adner aged 16

New Additions!

I got to welcome a beautiful new young lady to my Compassion family this month – beautiful fourteen year old Alicia from Bolivia!

Alicia aged 12

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the teens in Bolivia, so I’m very excited to get to know this beautiful girl! Alicia lives with her parents and she celebrates her birthday on April 8th (which happens to be the day my parents celebrate their wedding anniversary!). She’s currently studying in grade 8 and her hobbies include group games, hide and seek, singing and playing ball games.

August, you’ve been wonderful. September, bring it on!

Eating for Kenya #7

I made it to the last day of my challenge to live on £1 for a week!

And let me tell you. It’s been a very long week.

Yesterday was the final day of my challenge, and it was definitely the hardest of them all. For the first time in my life, I was so hungry yesterday afternoon that all I could do was cry. I couldn’t have a conversation without bursting into tears, I couldn’t concentrate, I had no energy and all I wanted to do was sit and sleep. I think it also became more difficult because I knew how close to the end I was, but when you’re that hungry, 12 hours still seems a lifetime away.

Thankfully, I was able to keep busy yesterday because we moved Vicky back to university, so we were busy with helping her get settled in her new house, and then Mum and I were making cakes for the Church cake sale, so the day passed pretty quickly with only a few snappy moments of frustration and a few (okay…more than a few) tears.

But it’s now Sunday morning, and the challenge is over. My wonderful dad made me a bacon bagel and a mug of tea for breakfast, and even simple things like tea have never tasted so beautiful.

It’s one thing to think of poverty and hunger as a far off, “other-country” sort of thing, but this journey has also made me realise that there are people in our own communities, on our own streets, even sitting in our own churches, that have to go through this every day for real. My journey had a known start and end point, and I always had a way out, but for so many people here in our town, this is their real life, and that’s a lot harder to deal with than having to pretend to live off of £1 for a week.

I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s supported me over this last week – for sponsoring me, encouraging me and praying for me. But I want to put Kenya aside for a moment and again plead with you to put something extra in your shopping basket this week (and maybe next week, and maybe even the week after) and donate to your local foodbank to help support those people who are closest to us who have to do this day after day, week after week.

Thank you so much for following along with my little journey. It’s been challenging, but I’ve also been so blessed through it too.