Sue, Toby & Richard update 19th November
Our final few days in Magina have certainly had their highs and lows. One high was the party that the Care Centre people organised for us on Thursday evening; the lowest point was the discovery of an infestation of bedbugs on Monday!
On Sunday we were at Millicent and Eric’s Church again with the now familiar mix of rapid incomprehensible Luo, hymn numbers being announced (in Luo) but no hymn book, other singing starting apparently at random, and another auction. We also had the opportunity to get the children singing again, and to give a few words of encouragement to the people: to keep following Jesus. We were grateful of a day of rest, or at least a day without building work going on! Later in the afternoon we once again went to the Care Centre (which is a short distance across a field from Millicent and Eric’s home) to play games with the children and sing again. The two favourite songs that we have taught them on this trip have been ‘Jesus never, never, never turned anyone away’ (they love the part where they sing ‘never, never, never’ etc. getting louder all the time!), and ‘Stand up and fix your eyes on Jesus’, a song written by the worship leader at our daughter Jenny’s Church in Birmingham.
The beginning of the working week saw all the jobs continuing: toilets, decorating dorms, painting the climbing frame and swing – and the solar power installers also arrived, to more or less complete the transformation of the Care Centre into a building site. Even when we have not entertained the children with songs and games they have had plenty to see, and many have got involved with painting, for better or worse! “Robinson, why have you got blue streaks on your face?” “Desma, your hands have turned white!”
We were making good progress, with everything more or less on schedule. Then Sue spotted Victor, one of the lovely boys, with a little bottle of something, squirting it into the cracks in the wooden bedframes. “What are you doing, Victor?” “Killing bedbugs! Look!” And as he squirted, out came a little black creature. “Are there many?” “Oh yes!” And Berina, the lovely housemother added “They bite me at night! I can’t sleep!” Before you get the impression that the Care Centre has been neglected and no one cares it’s important to point out that bedbugs are a huge problem in this area of Kenya. Nonetheless, it was something that needed to be dealt with, so off we went to buy all the chemicals and we made a plan for bedbug war the next day! We also realised that the little horrors were probably lurking in the mattresses, so we visited the huge mattress factory 20 minutes away. So there we were, sitting in Mr Patel, the managing director’s office in our scruffiest, dirtiest clothes, negotiating a deal on 32 mattresses! He gave us a good discount, we made a quick call to Tim (Pamoja Trustee) in UK to see if anything could be done, and he in turn contacted a friend in his Church who had recently asked if there were any specific needs so we were able to buy them. Delivery was arranged for the next day: sometimes things in Kenya can move quickly! Once the new mattresses arrived, we thought the old ones should be destroyed, but Millicent said that people in the community would be delighted to have them, bedbugs and all, because they have nothing. This was confirmed when the toilet builder asked for two for his children. Such is the poverty of this area.
On Wednesday afternoon we had arranged for the children to go swimming. Amazingly, there is a good pool about 30 minutes’ drive away from the Care Centre: it is apparently a by-product of a Kenya Power hydroelectric scheme. A local bus was hired, and the children piled in. We were delayed when we got to the pool because there is strict security. All of us had to stand at the entrance while a security guard read through a list of rules. ‘Rule number eight: you must not drink alcoholic beverages while at the pool’. ‘Rule number nine: you must not smoke while on site’ – the seven-year olds looked somewhat bemused! Sometimes common sense goes out of the window! It is both confusing and frustrating that some rules and regulations seem so rigid and others, such as driving on the correct side of the road, don’t apply at all! However, once we got in, the pool was lovely and the children, many of whom had never seen anything like it, were thrilled to bits and had a great time! We were able to pay for this trip with the remainder of ‘Eddie’s money’ (see previous posts): after buying the play equipment, there was exactly the right amount left!
Afterwards, the children went home on the bus: they set off down the road with the bus rejoicing in their singing ‘Jesus never, never, never…’ at the tops of their voices! We made a diversion a short distance along a dirt track and field to visit Eunice, a widow with no income and seven children, for whom Pamoja built a house last year. The two youngest children both have massive problems; Michael (aged about 6) is disabled and Dennis (aged about 3) has scarring and foot injuries caused by a fire in the old house that started under suspicious circumstances. Because of her status as a widow, and because of her having a disabled child, Eunice is regarded as an outcast by many relatives and others in the local people. But Eunice knows that Jesus will never turn her away: she trusts him, and is grateful for help she has received from Pamoja: this has included a special wheelchair for Michael. A kind local education officer has arranged for Michael to go to a special school, where he is doing well. We asked about operations that would both children: the first obstacle is that the hospital charges 3500/- (somewhere about £30) for each child just for a first consultation. Eunice has no chance of ever finding this money, but we were able to offer it, thanks to kind gifts from our friends in the UK. Millicent will now see that this visit happens, and we will know what the cost of the operations would be. Why do we grumble about the NHS?
Thursday was another busy day, finishing the painting, seeing the toilets finally complete and ready to use (one of the less exciting but most necessary jobs of the trip!) Solar power had already proved its worth the previous evening when there was a local power cut and the Centre was the only place in the area with lights! The swing and climbing frame received their final coats and Sue set about decorating the frame. We did short video interviews with several of the children which we are hoping to send to sponsors. Meanwhile, electricians had installed lights to the toilets very efficiently and at reasonable cost, and we were putting together the remaining paperwork – children’s letters to sponsors, annual reports, financial documents…. We thought we were then going back to our tin hut home to pack up ready for the trip back to Nairobi, but then discovered that a party in our honour had been planned for the evening. We sat outside by candlelight, the rain threatening but holding off, and were richly entertained with singing, dancing and drama: these children who could so easily have been written off by society have so much talent and potential, and their company is a joy. I promise you that if you have ever given anything to Pamoja, it is not wasted: an evening like this shows that children who once had no hope are now happy and secure. They have been given a foundation of faith through the love they are shown in the name of the Lord Jesus. No wonder they sing ‘Jesus never, never, never turned anyone away’ with such enthusiasm: they have experienced it for themselves.
So packing up was postponed until Friday morning, which meant a late start from Magina. We left the Centre with many happy memories and glad that we have been able to help to organise some necessary work and some fun things (as we left children were swinging and climbing happily!) – but also sad to leave these wonderful people, both children and adults, behind. Despite the heat, dirt, dust and frustrations Mier Pamoja Care Centre at Magina has become very close to our hearts.
The late start, along with heavy traffic, meant that we arrived in Nairobi after dark, and once more got lost on our way into the city, at one point finding ourselves heading back along a horribly chaotic road in the direction from whence we had come! Nonetheless, we finally arrived back at Alan and Ruth’s house to a warm welcome, a cup of tea and a good meal, and were once more grateful for a safe journey. Today has been spent at the Kware Care Centre, where the children were celebrating with an end of term party. Things ran a bit later than we had expected (surprise, surprise!) and events were further disrupted by a phone call from Alan to ask us to rescue him and a friend from the side of the road where his friend’s car had broken down! Another Kenyan day where things don’t go quite the way they thought you would.
Tomorrow we plan to go to a little Church with Alan where a group of refugees from South Sudan meet. Their home area is disrupted by war: the Christians here in Nairobi are showing them God’s love by helping to feed them and by teaching them from the Bible.
This time next week our schedule says that we will be at the airport, waiting to board our flight home. Our plans for the next few days include seeing another house built for two of the Pamoja sponsored boys, catching up on all the paperwork from Magina and, hopefully, a bit of rest!
I promise to organise some pictures on the blog soon!
Thank you once again for your interest, your prayers and your support.
God bless you all!