(We’re having problems uploading photos to the blog at the moment. Sorry about that! This post will be text only for now, and we hope to add photos later. You can also watch Fox River Missions on Facebook for lots of photos!)
What a busy and fun couple of days!
Yesterday and today were all about introductions and building relationships. We had two similar days back to back, so this post will cover both days.
On Monday, we arrived at Crossroads Academy in Vipingo around 9am and were greeted by the whole school singing “Karibu Kenya” which means “Welcome to Kenya”.
Whenever we first come to one of our schools, we are treated to performances by the students and today was no exception. The school choir, which is preparing to compete in a national choir competition next month, presented some songs, and another group of kids presented a short drama. We were then introduced and welcomed by the Crossroads staff. Each of the staff personally presented us with a welcome gift of traditional Kenyan clothing items. Their generosity and hospitality is incredible.
After the presentations, Jenna Nyanje, our school administrator, and Pastor Jim Horne, our missionary partner, gave us a tour of the school grounds which included the church and feeeding center, the classrooms, staff administration area, Bible college, and Life Spring Rescue Center.
Our next stop was a tour inside Life Spring Rescue Center. Beginning four years ago, Life Spring takes in kids who have been abandoned or harmed and fosters them for a period of time, with the ultimate goal of reuniting with their families when that is possible and in the best interests of the child. When it opened, it was home for three kids. Today, we care for 17 kids, age five and younger. It’s truly amazing to see God at work in the lives of these most vulnerable kids.
The team then helped serve lunch to the primary school kids, and ate lunch with the teachers after the kids were finished. Rice and beans never tasted so good! We also had a little time to just connect and play with the school kids before and after lunch. Our team members jumped right in and played with those kiddos!
After lunch, we packed gift bags for the kids and presented them on behalf of the sponsors to each class. The gift bags included a bottle of cooking oil, bag of flour, package of salt, package of soap, box of cookies (or as they say “biscuits” because British English), a water bottle, a note pad and a multi-color pen (those clicker things that were big in the 90s - still popular here). The kids were thrilled - especially about the pen and cookies. These gifts were purchased using money given by sponsors specifically for special gifts, so ASANTE SANA (thank you very much).
After distributing the gift bags, we had time for team building with the school staff: teachers, maintenance staff, kitchen staff, and anyone else who works to help educate our kids. We played some Minute to Win It games, got to know our Kenyan partners, and generally had a lot of fun.
After the games, we got into groups - one American team member with 2-3 school staff - to get to know one another better. We walked through the school grounds, hearing about the staff members’ work, seeing their classrooms, hearing about their challenges, and exchanging prayer needs. It was a very effective way to build relationship in the short time we had remaining.
Today, we followed the same basic structure as we did at Crossroads Academy in Vipingo, but this time at New Life Academy in Bomani, and with a few twists.
Instead of beginning the day at our school, we first stopped at Kireme Primary School, the local public school in Bomani. This school is where our kids would be, were it not for the sacrificial giving that makes New Life Academy possible. Kireme does a great job with what they have, but what they have is a lot of kids. 1800 kids, to put it in the ballpark, from Pre-primary 1 (think pre-K) to 8th grade. Every year we offer the public school a gift to help them out, and most years it has been desks, since otherwise kids sit on a dirt floor. This year was no exception, and they were very grateful to receive the desks.
After leaving Kireme public school, we headed to New Life Academy in Bomani and received an excited and warm (if not rainy) welcome as we did on Monday. Each class presented a song, drama, or memory verse and welcomed us to the school. A group of students also demonstrated traditional Kenyan dance. It was so impressive!
As with Crossroads (Vipingo), at New Life (Bomani), we helped serve the kids lunch. The staff prepared an incredible buffet for us: rice, chapati (delicious flat bread), chicken, stewed beef, beans, cooked cabbage, mahamri (triangle donut), bananas, watermelon, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. It was absolutely delicious. Again, they don’t have to do this. They do this because they are generous, hospitable people who love and appreciate us.
After lunch, we again played games and formed groups to get to know the staff at this school, as we did yesterday at the other school. Getting to know the staff and pray with them is such an essential part of the work we do here; it cannot be overstated how crucial and impactful this is.
We ended the day with some time to play with the kids. Some of us got to visit old friends from previous trips. Some of us made new friends. All of us traveled back to the hotel smiling and blessed.
That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and please keep praying for us and for the people we serve here!