The Journey Home

Final thoughts from JoAnn:

How is it that our time in Kenya is already over? I anticipated this trip for months and couldn't begin to imagine all it might hold. My time in Kenya, with people that I'd never met, exceeded every expectation I might have held. From the moment I stepped foot in the place I had only dreamed of visiting someday, I felt welcomed and at home. I was warmly greeted by the adults and clamored all over by children whose gigantic smiles and big brown eyes were dwarfed by their gigantic hearts and appreciation for their opportunity to have a school to attend. 

Meeting Pahe for the first time.

Meeting Pahe for the first time.

Oh how I loved spending time with Pahe and Fredrick as well as the throngs of other children! What a joy it was to expand the graduates' world by our time at the mall and see the wonder in their eyes as they rode elevators and escalators for the first time, walked through a toy store discussing how it would take several months of their family income to purchase various things that we find so commonplace and opening up a world of possibilities for jobs they could hold in the future. My appreciation for the multitude of blessings in my own life grew exponentially. 

Prior to leaving for my trip, I quelled any anxiousness by reminding myself that God would see and care for me just as well in Kenya as He does in Waukesha. I saw Him at work in more ways than I can count over the past 11 days. He was present in private conversations and prayer, in our travels on crowded Kenyan roads, in time spent sorting through beans with other moms who are trying to care for their children as well as any other mamma and in laughter and fun with the children. As I pondered all I had seen and experienced, looking out of the window on the return flight, the world somehow felt bigger and yet smaller at the same time. 

We really are all the same - no matter what end of the globe we call home. I would challenge all of us to take the little slice of life we are given and to make the most of the opportunity to make this world a better place, whatever that may look like for you. I already miss the faces of all those I met as well as the rest of our team. Though I left a chunk of my heart in Kenya, it was also filled to bursting in ways I never dreamed of. I pray that God will continue His amazing work at the schools your generosity supports and, God willing, I will return one day. 

Sorting beans and learning Swahili with the kitchen staff.

Sorting beans and learning Swahili with the kitchen staff.

Mamas and babies in the rescue center.

Mamas and babies in the rescue center.

Kids in the community at Bomani

Kids in the community at Bomani

Praying with a sweet high school girl.

Praying with a sweet high school girl.

The flight home

The flight home

Final Good Byes

Our little team of 6 said our goodbyes today. It was a busy week of work and celebrations.

  • Two graduations

  • Pizza parties for grads

  • Great food as we served and ate with our kids and partners

  • 900 kids to love

  • Sponsors meeting their kids & families

  • Laughter & tears

  • Rescue center babies

  • Working in the kitchen

  • Finger nail painting, teaching games, hugs and walking hand in hand

  • A team member’s birthday

  • And so many more memories!

Our work here is done. At 2:00 am Kenya time Tuesday (5:00 pm CST) we will depart for the airport to begin our journey home. Thank you for walking with us and for praying for us as we travel home. Stay tuned to Facebook for travel updates.

I will share with you my favorite picture of the week.

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These are the newest students at Crossroads Academy in Vipingo. It’s nap time after lunch and they are sound asleep! Seeing them feeling so safe that they can fall asleep is the picture of the safe haven our schools are for these kids.

Because you give, lives are changed, souls are at rest. Thank you!

Love at First Sight - Ashlyn's Story

As our trip comes to end, there will be many sad tears as we have to leave, but the joy that is planted is far greater. I cannot describe to you the over flowing joy and love that comes with being on these trips, especially when it comes to being with the kids at the schools.

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In 2015, I came on my first trip to Kenya. I was helping Jenna as an intern at Crossroads Academy in Vipingo. The first day I went to the school she walked me around to all the different classrooms and introduced me to the teachers and students. As she took me into the classroom with the youngest preschoolers, I looked around at the kids, smiling at them when I meet the eyes of a precious little 4 year old named Esther. Instantly I said in my heart, "Oh, I love her." From that day forward she has been my sweet little friend. After coming home that year I decided to sponsor her. The following year I went back and got to build on this friendship that is so precious to me.

It's been 2 and half years since I've seen her last and this week I got to meet her mom. What a blessing and true honor that was! As Esther took me to her home, along with two teachers from the school, I got to see her village and walk the path she walks every day to and from school. When we got there, I couldn't believe this was happening; I was meeting her mom, sitting in their home and spending time with them. We sat and talked awhile, but the one thing that stuck out to me was the love and appreciation this single mother raising 3 kids on her own with a limited income has for what I'm doing for her daughter.

She thanked me for taking the burden of having to care for her daughter as a single mother off her shoulders. It makes her more of a successful mother for me to sponsor her daughter. She knows her daughter is taken care of and doesn't have to worry about her. She knows how much I love her daughter and wants the best for her. She knows she is also loved because of what I do for her daughter. She told me she was sorry there was nothing she could do for me. I told her the greatest thing she could do is what she did do by allowing me to come into her home to meet her and share her time with me.

This is why sponsorship is so important. It's way more that $25 a month. It's a child life; it's a heavy burden lifted from a struggling family; it's a relationship; it's an unforgettable and explainable love; it's about more than yourself. Through this little girl and the love that God has given me for her, He continually shows me the most satisfying joy and love that I've never felt anywhere else or because of anything else. It's a wonderful thing experiencing Gods love for all people and His faithfulness.

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Rosie Shares Her Highlights

Life Spring children celebrate a birthday.

Life Spring children celebrate a birthday.

This week I was glad to be back in Kenya after almost 2 years. It was such a gift to see the Bomani and Vipingo graduates be recognized and celebrated for their hard work and dedication. I think back to when they were just starting school and I can't believe they are now going to begin their high school education. We were all happy to be able to share in their special day.

Spending time at Life Spring Children’s Centre in Vipingo was a highlight for me because the children have grown so much and there are many new additions to our sweet home whom I had yet to meet. I worked with Nurse Elizabeth and the Life Spring social worker, Paul, to improve health issues, plan treatments needed and provide health education to the caring staff at the center. The babies are in good hands and it was so sweet to see.

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Today we spent some time in Old Town and Fort Jesus area. It was a nice day of touring, finding out some history of the area and meeting new people with very nice shops. We enjoyed finding special gifts to bring back to loved ones and maybe a few for ourselves as well. It was a nice break and also good time to talk about our week.

Tusks in downtown Mombasa

Tusks in downtown Mombasa

Fort Jesus

Fort Jesus

Streets of old town Mombasa

Streets of old town Mombasa

Our favorite fresh made potato chips

Our favorite fresh made potato chips

Pizza and Graduation

Introducing Bomani!!! To think we get to do this twice?  

During the second half of the week we were able to celebrate the wonderful job done of our Bomani graduates with both a pizza outing and graduation ceremony!   

Check out these moments:

Preparing the dough with a smile

Preparing the dough with a smile

It’s ready  

It’s ready  

Oil it right and box it

Oil it right and box it

Let’s eat and be merry  

Let’s eat and be merry  

I scream you scream we all scream ice cream. 

I scream you scream we all scream ice cream. 

Ready for graduation  

Ready for graduation  

Scouts honor upon flag raising and national anthem. 

Scouts honor upon flag raising and national anthem. 

Preschool graduates 

Preschool graduates 

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Class of 2018

Class of 2018

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Fox River gift is a book bag and a Bible  

Fox River gift is a book bag and a Bible  

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Traditional Dance to add more color to a colorful day. 

Traditional Dance to add more color to a colorful day. 

Traditional cake cutting ceremony  

Traditional cake cutting ceremony  

Grandma Enjoying the fruits of success  

Grandma Enjoying the fruits of success  

Word of counsel from Denise

Word of counsel from Denise

The Team  

The Team  

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Hurray!!! And now onto the next level of learning and fun.

The True Rock Stars

A word from Barb:

We’ve been here 4 days already (having arrived on 1/6). It seems like we’ve been here forever yet I’m already dreading having to go home.

The best part of this trip is being with the children. They are so welcoming and loving as they run up to us as though we were rock stars. But, you know what, the true rock stars are the teachers and workers who teach, care for, and feed these precious angels.

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Yesterday we visited a place that is very special to Glenn and me — Sahajanand. Over 800 special needs children and adults live in this facility that was started and is supported by Mombasa Cement Company. Three years ago we met Jimmy at Sahajanand. He is severely challenged, and reminded us very much of our daughter Andrea. In 2015, Andi had just passed away, and when we first saw Jimmy, our hearts melted. His sparkling smile gives us such joy, there’s nothing like it. These children crave love, and having the opportunity of loving on them for even a few minutes is better than Dove chocolate.

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We also had the opportunity to meet with one of our sponsored children. He’s just graduated from Crossroads Academy and is preparing to attend Valerye McMillan High School. We went to a shopping mall on Tuesday, where I convinced him to experience a virtual reality roller coaster. When we got out of our chairs, he was holding his chest and said he had almost panicked. I asked if he’d do it again, and he said “no”. At least he was willing to try.

Words cannot express the gratitude that the team feels for having experienced the love, hospitality, and gratitude these students, their teachers and their parents show us when we’re here. No one can describe the extent of what we provide to these children with our sponsorship’s. Given what we see of the conditions in many areas in Kenya, our small sacrifices of sponsorship’s are worth millions.

Visiting sponsored child’s home.

Visiting sponsored child’s home.

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Pizza Anyone?

We have a graduation tradition that we always look forward to as a team each year which the graduates do enjoy as well. 

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One of our final activities with our graduates from our two elementary schools in an outing. We all get to go to a pizza place and make our own pizzas. The exciting thing about this activity is, our Fox River teams take groups of about 4-5 students plus some teachers, into the kitchen at Dominoes Pizza and we each get to make our own pizza. 

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Can you imagine how cool and exciting this is for our kids?  This activity gives our staff team an opportunity to create fun memories with the students before they go into their next adventures in High School.

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I got a chance to ask one of the girls to show me her pizza for her box was closed so I wanted to see if she had finished it already. To my surprise, she had eaten only two pieces and saved the rest to take home. I asked her why and she said, “I am taking this home to my mother because she has never had pizza in her life.” Lets hope it got home to her mom. 

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Our students have grown and it is clear that they are ready both emotionally and academically for an amazing new season of education. Most of the education programs are set up in boarding institutions so you can imagine this is a huge change for them.

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Now we get to do this again on Thursday with the graduating class from New Life Academy. Stay tuned for the fun moments of the pizza making adventures.

Day 2 - A Word from JoAnn

How is it possible that I have only been in Kenya less than 48 hours?? Today we headed out in the morning for graduation in Vipingo - what a wonderful celebration of the 8th graders!! My heart burst with motherly pride for this milestone in the kids’ lives and I was filled with great excitement of at the thought of all the potential sitting in that room. They were challenged to consider what role they may play in the future of their community, Kenya as a whole or even the world using the gifts and talents they’ve been given from God. Would you join us in praying for them as they start high school and face a multitude of new challenges?

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Though I shared in a blog post about a month ago how I felt about getting the opportunity to meet the two students whom I have sponsored for the past four years, I was vastly ill prepared for the flood of emotions I felt when I made eye contact with Fredrick for the first time as we walked into the church where the graduation was being held. After lunch, I had the joy of walking with him to his home where I was able to meet and spend some time talking to his father. He gushed with appreciation for his son’s education and what the sponsorship means to them. Fredrick gave me a tour of the school buildings, pointing out various things he has learned. He found my attempts at speaking Swahili for naming the major organs of the body quite amusing!! We then sat beneath the shade of an enormous tree, sharing tidbits about life in America, what it’s like to fly in a plane and I tried my best to explain snow to someone who’s not seen ice. In a nutshell, it was a time of being able to love on in person a boy whom I’ve prayed for and cared about for years from the other side of the world.

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Besides meeting Fredrick, (I get to meet Pahe tomorrow!!) I spent chunks of time being swarmed by beautiful smiling faces, wishing I were an octopus as two hands were not nearly enough to accommodate the swarm of hands vying for a turn to be held. Oh the ability to put a tangible touch of love on some of the children that Fox River is supporting! We have heard about My Gift for Jesus quite a bit lately. I can promise you that the administration, the teachers, students and parents, appreciate and are so aware of the life change your generosity is having. The mother of one of the graduates spoke at the ceremony and she thanked Fox River for giving the students, “not something that would be used up, but that would last for a lifetime.” That is what your partnership with Fox River any My Gift for Jesus does. There is nothing more hope-filled than that!!

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On the ground

The team made it and settled this morning at 4am!

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Pastor Gideon

Pastor Gideon

They rested for a couple hours then off to Crossroads Fellowship for services!  It was a blessing to hear Pastor Gideon preach a great message this morning! 

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We had lunch together as a team and did some shopping & prep for the first graduation! 

Now it’s time to get some rest!

Tomorrow is Graduation day at Vipingo!  Pray with us as we celebrate the growth and accomplishments of these students!