Dwelling on Africa: Day Four

Day 4: Woke up in the middle of the night last night and had trouble falling back asleep. Eventually I did, but while I was lying awake I witnessed Kitale’s power cut as all outside lights went completely black. The power went out not because of a storm but because of rolling blackouts that occur every so often as a way to conserve energy. By morning time the power was back on and we all had breakfast prior to heading out.

Instead of going to the school first thing in the morning, we headed to the orphanage. There were no kids there because they were all in school, but there were several workers present working on building the orphanage foundation. Approx 20-25 men and women in all, working in 6 different groups on a specific specialty. Each person within the group was an expert at their skill and each person was the epitome of what manual labor is all about. Every task performed to build the foundation would have been done with machinery and equipment in most place of the world. But here everything is done by hand.

One crew of women was shoveling sand into a homemade sifter made of a wooden frame and chicken wire. The sand was hand sifted to remove larger stones and rocks so that the sifted sand could be later mixed with water and used as an ingredient in the cement mix. Another group of women had a job of walking approx a half mile, one way, to fill up a bucket of water, carry it on their heads another half mile back and dump it into larger barrels.

Another group, this time consisting of all men, had the job of mixing the water with rocks that would be used to pour into the foundation. They would load up 5 wheel barrows and carry the mixture to the worksite and dump it down onto the foundation where another crew awaited and began to spread it.

A fifth group worked on taking large, jagged stones…. Probably 50 pounds each….loading them into wheelbarrows and carrying them over to the foundation site. These immense jagged boulders were then chiseled down, by hand, into rectangular cement-block looking bricks that were being hand cemented to form the foundation walls. In America, we would’ve simply bought rectangular blocks and had them delivered. Here, they are all hand cut.

A sixth group worked on taking apart the giant kilns where the 50,000+ hand made bricks that were being formed during the first MJC trip had been fired and cured. These bricks will soon become the walls of the orphanage. It was an unbelievable site to witness and to participate in.

What an incredible team of hardworking, never complaining Kenyan workers. The men and women really got a kick out of us helping (or trying to help). And it definitely made me realize how none of us on this trip have any idea what the words “physical labor” really mean. These Kenyan workers do this all day long in the hot sun for 8-10 hours, 6 days a week. And us, after our 1.5 hour shift was done couldn’t have lasted another 30 minutes. Even though there was a significant language barrier between us, it was fun communicating with them.

One conversation we were able to work through involved them asking me what I did for a living. They assumed I was in construction and that was why I was here to help…but I told them I was in business and spent most of my day in front of a computer or in meetings. They laughed and kept saying that I “buy and sell goods and services.” They thought that was so funny and after a while I started laughing too.

After our construction time was over, we headed back to the lodge, ate a quick lunch, and drove to the school to see all of wonderful kids we met the day before.

A lot of the vehicles in Kenya are safari type vehicles with a top that can be flipped open and passengers can sit on the roof while the driver drives. So several of us have been doing that the past couple of days and did it on the way to the school today too. As we approached the school, we were just high enough that we could see over the security gate in the driveway and the kids, who were out in the playground (if you even want to call it that…it’s just a big patch of dirt) could see us too just as we started to pull up. You would not believe the screams and yells of excitement as they all came running across the playground and pouring out of classrooms to greet us. Talk about an amazing feeling to be on the receiving end of that.

As the drivers pulled in he could barely get through the mob of children who were all chanting the name of their favorite new friend from America…Scott, Caleb, Doug, David,…. Each kid has their favorite.

We eventually get pulled all the way in and make it out of the vehicles and of course my two little shadows David and Rebecca each grab one of my hands. They are both just so cute and sweet and innocent. Rebecca says absolutely nothing…but just hangs on to my hand and arm and walks with me. David is a little more talkative, and says multiple times during the day as he pats my hand “David, my friend. David, my friend”. They are both just so precious and happy and it pains me to think that each day after school they walk back to the slums (which we learned today consists of 3000 families (not just 3000 people, but entire families) living in a 5 acre area) will probably not have dinner, and will play and sleep in the dirt and mud and garbage….an area that is absolutely unimaginable for us. How they can be so happy and so loving and so filled with joy when living the way that they have to live is completely beyond me.

After the excitement settled down, we all got ready to run our stations at the school. Today Nate, Caleb and I were in charge of the outdoor activities. So we taught the kids how to play ‘duck duck goose’, we did relay races, we played red light/green light, we tossed footballs around and kicked soccer balls around, but by far the most fun was the huge parachute. I remember doing this in elementary school and how fun it was back then. Well, it was just as fun today, if not more so. Even though the parachute had a large rip near the middle, we were still able to get it to work just fine.

The first group of kids to come to our station (they rotated among five stations during the day) were some of the littles ones. Probably 6 years old or so. But they are fairly good at following directions (you’ll see why I didn’t say “very good” at following directions soon). They have this little two-way chant that the teachers taught them. Teacher : “one two”
Students: “make a circle”
Teacher: “three four”
Students: “a big circle”
After a few times repeating that chant, the kids are all perfectly formed into a big circle and holding onto the parachute. We all bend down and squatting and get two hands on the parachute. Then it’s supposed to be “1, 2, 3” and we all stand up and start moving the parachute up and down. Well, that’s not what the little kids do. As soon as we all got in that circle and grabbed on to the parachute and said “1, 2, 3” we all stand up and lift the parachute up and the kids instantly let go of the chute and run into the middle underneath it and start jumping up and down trying to touch the parachute up above them and yelling and screaming and laughing! It was hilarious and Nate and Caleb and I could not stop laughing. Nate has some great video of it as he’s hanging on with one hand onto the parachute and trying to take a video with the other.

We made it through the day at the school and it was a complete blast. I got to talk to many of the teachers. They are all so nice and so beautiful and are just wonderful, caring teachers for these kids. And the kids….well you cannot walk around the school with at least 2 or 3 kids fighting to hold your hand. And the minute you crouch down to talk to one of them or take their picture you are bombarded with 20 others who just want to touch you and hug you and look at you and rub your hair.

After our exhausting but completely enjoyable day at the school we went back to the orphanage for a brief time. What I will remember most is Pastor Richard gathering Brian, Clinton, and Nancy and pulling them aside and letting me give the backpacks stuffed with gifts and clothes that I brought over for them. And I told them, and Pastor Richard translated for me, that I was so happy to meet them and so happy to see them and that Denise misses them terribly and that they are loved by us and that they are thought of often. And then I sat down next to Nancy and I showed her the cute little animal backpack I brought over and all of the goodies inside and she just smiled and said thank you and then smiled some more and said thank you and she was just so sweet and I don’t think she had ever received a gift before in her life! Then I sat down next to Brian and gave him his hot wheel backpack filled with clothes and books and toys. And he just smiled and smiled and wouldn’t stop. And then I gave Clinton his backpack and showed him the Legos I brought over and explained that Legos are a building toy …. kinda like a puzzle. And I showed him his new clothes (perhaps the only new clothes he has ever been given) and his books for reading, and the photo album of all three of them and also of pictures of their family in Indiana with pictures of us and Gabe and Joe and Franklin ….I think they were confused as to why we would have a picture of our dog :). And I told them….trembling as i type this….that we will always be thinking of them and praying for them that they are safe and healthy and happy and that we cannot wait to come back and see them again….

Michelle huesgen - February 23, 2013 - 9:08 am

David, I am so proud of you and Denise and all of MJC. It is such a treasure know you all and call you friends. The good you are putting into this world is so powerful and inspiring!

Ida - February 21, 2013 - 5:02 pm

These blogs are so touching. They bring a reality to whats going on in other parts of the world. Its funny to hear a mans perspective too. Their not as emotional as women, they just tell you how it is! Anyway, you all are God’s hands extended to these precious ones. What a calling, what a priviledge. I’m glad you choose to be those hands, all of you at MJ. Thank You for caring so much and helping us care too!

Julie - February 21, 2013 - 9:33 am

I am so very proud to represent this amazing company. Thank you for all you do! xoxo ~Julie D

Mary Krebs - February 21, 2013 - 8:57 am

Wow, this is incredible! I have no words. How awesome are you guys… 🙂

Suni - February 20, 2013 - 5:47 pm

David, I don’t read all the comments so if you’ve already heard this-sorry for being repetitive. I just wanted to say I LOVE all the detail you are putting into your blog post-it makes a huge difference to the reader because it is so easy to picture and feel what you are seeing and feeling. Also, this will be so awesome for you when you get back and even ten years from now when you are reflecting on your experience in Africa to relive the experience. SO- even though I understand you must be exhausted after each day, you are doing a great thing-keep it up!

Julie C - February 20, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Wow, I’ve been following your blogs all week and every time I got dry eyed.

I love what you, Denise and the MJ family are doing for these kids. Please let us know how we can help!

Shanna S. - February 20, 2013 - 1:10 pm

I have tears in my eyes! I love reading these stories and cannot wait to hear more about this at the luncheon in June. I would love to be able to help in some way, I don’t know how but just have the urge in my heart to help these sweet souls. Thank you for all you are doing and for sharing this amazing experiences with us!

Jennifrancisco - February 20, 2013 - 12:51 pm

You are so blessed to be a part of something so much bigger than you! I hope I have opportunities to “be the change” soon too. So happy for you- and a teensy bit jealous ! 😉

C. Hamilton - February 20, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Love reading your updates…such an amazing journey. The smiles on the faces of those children is so heart warming. And the part with wrote about sharing the gifts with Brian, Clinton and Nancy left a big ol’ lump in my throat. Thanks so much for sharing.

Caitlin Gossen - February 20, 2013 - 12:06 pm

So thankful to be a part of this company. I want to help as much as possible to give these kids what they need. THANKFUL!

Sandi - February 20, 2013 - 11:18 am

I truly love reading your adventures and love the pictures too! Love what you are doing. Such an inspiration!

Pamela M. - February 20, 2013 - 10:20 am

Dear David and Friends – I have been following your blog all week, waiting everyday with anticipation to see what your journey has lead you to next. It is amazing what you are doing and keep making a change one day at a time! You guys are their heroes…keep making them smile, because you are bringing smiles to many people at home. Be safe in your journey! You must blog on the website more often….

Amber vaughn - February 20, 2013 - 9:52 am

Oh how this touches my heart…..i have no words..just..gratitude. Thank you

Erica Jane - February 20, 2013 - 2:56 am

Well, tears are streaming down my face as I type this. First, it’s so ironic. I’m volunteering to do my son’s school yearbook (or I volunteered last year, got appointed this year. lol) and the idea came to me today to run up to the school and take a picture of the kids with a parachute for the physical education page. Our experiences were quite similar in that regard…and they are definitely precious running under that parachute. So funny that we did the same thing half-way across the world. Second, I’ve been sitting here all night worrying about how we’re going to make it to the next paycheck. My daughter has had some major illnesses and these past few months have been so tough. You might wonder why in the world I am looking at Matilda Jane, but you are ALL so uplifting and inspiring that it is my one stress relief for the day and although our budget doesn’t allow for new MJ in the immediate future, our 2 year old wears what she does have constantly (and insists I take her to the Cancer Survivor Park on a daily basis to feed the geese in her “duck dresses” which I gladly do) and it lights up her face and my heart every time. Anyway, I’ve not been able to concentrate on studying tonight because of all of my fears and worries, so i logged on to your blog and this is what I find and my tears just cannot stop because it makes me realize how truly blessed I am. I tend to forget about the little things (which are really huge) at times and dwell on the struggles in life. Thank you for giving me this new perspective. Your journal is also a wonderful reminder that helping others is always the best way to lift your spirits. Thank you for everything you are doing in Africa and for everything your words are doing here at home. I would give anything to have the experiences you are having right now and hope to go one day myself.

Vanessa Bullock - February 20, 2013 - 1:41 am

Almost speechless. Take advantage of your ability to be there. To bless others, and to bring it home and infect others with the desire to do the same. Makes me wanna jump on a plane….

Ericka Ruckh - February 20, 2013 - 1:09 am

Thank you for posting. Amazing to read. Hold onto every moment there. It flies by so quickly. I still have flashbacks from my mission trip to Haiti. The most amazing thing is to see children happy and smiling in such a state of distress. Memories that will last a lifetime for sure!!

Deidre - February 19, 2013 - 11:51 pm

Thank you so much for letting us share the journey with you. Your words and photos are beyond moving. I can’t wait to hear more.

Kylie Lee - February 19, 2013 - 11:15 pm

amazing story david! Very inspirational, and the letter in the last picture absolute perfection, I loved it.

Heather D. - February 19, 2013 - 10:59 pm

These updates are incredible and heartwarming. The determination and love going into this project is amazing! It’s been humbling to read and puts great perspective on my own life. Thank you for sharing with us!

Sandy Thieme - February 19, 2013 - 10:17 pm

We have always looked up to and respected Matilda Jane. We have grown to love you, your hearts and caring and giving. You make us want to do even more too! We believe we must become the change we want to see. You so live it and are an inspiring example! Thank you for just being yourselves. Thank you for sharing and opening many hearts wider. Take care.

Brittany - February 19, 2013 - 9:56 pm

“…..visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27b Seeing this makes me smile and cry at the same time. These children’s innocence and sheer joy just because you are all there making a difference in their lives is a great reminder of why we give back…..we are blessed so that we can bless others! God love you all and the time you sacrifice to be with them and give back.

Nicole - February 19, 2013 - 9:55 pm

So glad that Denise got you to go otherwise we would be missing all of this!! It warms my heart to think of all those precious kids who have so much love in their hearts even though they have so little. Thank you David for sharing your adventures and these pictures of such beautiful children, can’t wait to read more!

Hope Boyce - February 19, 2013 - 9:53 pm

David & Denise- David may have followed Denise’s heart this first time, but the next time … It will be to follow his heart! It takes a village … Thanks for sharing!

Jamie Hicks - February 19, 2013 - 9:38 pm

David- I was just telling Denise tonight what an amazing picture you paint with these blogs, thank you 🙂

Holly V - February 19, 2013 - 9:28 pm

I am loving these posts…I love hearing all the personal daily experiences with these amazing people…I can’t even imagine the intense emotions you must be feeling over and over every day…It would be so hard to leave them 🙁

Gretchen Carrel - February 19, 2013 - 9:23 pm

Wow!! What beautifully written words David! It’s like I can picture everything in my mind. I feel so selfish, and guilty for all the simple pleasures of life! The Lord God Almighty is using you all in an awesome way! Thanks for putting perspective all of your experiences. Blessings on the rest of your trip.

Kari - February 19, 2013 - 9:07 pm

David you are great at allowing us to be on this journey with you through your words. I love that the parachute I brought is still being used. I hope one of the seamstresses can sew it. I am impressed that your field day sounds so organized. There are a lot of kids! Praying for their safety in the weeks ahead.

Traci - February 19, 2013 - 9:07 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! The joy in their faces is priceless…just amazing!

Holly Ruppert Lafferty - February 19, 2013 - 9:07 pm

pass the kleenix.

this is just beautiful.

Maria Bellot - February 19, 2013 - 9:06 pm

Wow, this is so amazing to read about, hope one day I will be able to go also!

Gran - February 19, 2013 - 9:05 pm

David, I must tell you that after reading your post my eyes are filled with tears. Your description of giving the backpacks to Brian, Clinton and Nancy both warms my heart and makes my heart ache for these children who have never had things we take for granted, even the basics of food and shelter. I am so excited about the new building. Thank you, David for sharing from your heart.

E. Darling - February 19, 2013 - 8:58 pm

I was reading your post as I was rocking my daughter to sleep. Children are such a blessing and I am so happy that you are there to show them love. “Red or yellow, black or white, they are precious in his sight…” So simple! They are precious! Perfect and wonderful! I love their smiling faces!

Thank you for all you are doing!!

CamilleBernice - February 19, 2013 - 8:52 pm

I am loving your posts David! I am sobbing, but, everyone knows I’m a crier.

Marcy Schneider Hoffman - February 19, 2013 - 8:52 pm

Such a touching post, David. I just love hearing anything to do with Matilda Jane’s work in Africa. I enjoyed your other posts as well. Keep up the wonderful work and am so glad you made that leap out of your comfort zone and went on this trip, and I am sure you are too. It is all so humbling. Every time I read one of the girls posts about Africa, it just brings it home to me and it makes me that much more grateful and thankful for the life I have.

Katie Ogden - February 19, 2013 - 8:50 pm

Wow, I just had to gain control of myself since my little girls are near me. What a powerful experience, good for all of you. Honestly, my husband & I were bickering today about money. I feel foolish now that I read this. How blessed we are yet how blessed those beautiful people of Africa are in an even better way. Thank you for sharing, truly inspiring.

Rajitha Solecki - February 19, 2013 - 8:47 pm

Wow,gave me chills reading this.. Especially the ending, so sweet 🙂 what a great work y’all are doing!!

Heather - February 19, 2013 - 8:44 pm

I am loving these stories! What a beautiful thing it is that you are doing. I can’t help but think you are changing the world.

Jill L. - February 19, 2013 - 8:41 pm

Tears pouring out of my eyes reading this. Thank you, David, for sharing. So humbling and thought-provoking.

Melissa Pomeranz - February 19, 2013 - 8:39 pm

And the parachute game is hilarious. Languages and countries aside, little kids can always be guaranteed to run UNDER the parachute! 🙂

Melissa Pomeranz - February 19, 2013 - 8:37 pm

What an amazing experience, and I’m so very impressed with this incredible hard labor by hand! Loving the detailed updates, keep sharing! And enjoy this time, it’ll go by so fast. <3