Final Post from Kisumu

Jambo!

Today was our last full day in Kisumu.  Tomorrow we will leave for the airport at about 3:30 in the afternoon.  I am thankful to have the morning yet to spend more time with the children at school.

Today was church at the Point of Grace chapel this morning.  Pastor Stecker and Pastor Chase led the service.  The school choir sang a few songs for us, and we also sang some great Reformation hymns.  As we left church after the service, the kids all sang as we were walking out.  Once again, I was overcome with emotions: a mixture of the kids’ voices praising their Lord and the realization that today was the last full day we had to spend here before heading back home.

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After church, some of the ladies in the area brought in items they had made.  Lorna and others here have been working with them, and the ladies meet to make items to sell.  They will have a sewing lab set up soon for these ladies to use as well.  The items were really neat, and it was great to be able to support wonderful people working to make a better life for themselves and their families.

This afternoon we went into town to spend some time at the Masai Market.  We had a great time haggling for the best prices, and finding lots of treasures and gifts to bring home.  We also stopped at the Nakumatt for some last minute shopping as well.  I know most of us are at the end of our Kenya shillings, so it’s probably a good thing we’re leaving tomorrow!

When we got back to Point of Grace, Tim, Bryan, and I went up to the dorms to play with the kids until dinner.  We sang songs, played hide-and-go seek, danced, and all around had a great time.  I also found the girl that I have decided to sponsor in addition to my sweet little girl.  Interestingly enough, they are both named Marianne!  (I haven’t yet found out if the spelling is the same or not, but easy for me to remember, right?)  I got to tell her that I was going to be her sponsor, and I put together a few things I had picked up on our few trips into town.  She was so excited, and then told me, “I think I am going to cry.  You have to leave tomorrow!”  You and me both, sister.

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After dinner, Tim and I went back up to the dorms, and Dorcas (one of the teachers) gave us a tour of all the dorms.  The youngest children are mixed together, boys and girls, from ages 3-grade 3.  That young dorm was definitely the noisiest.  Then the boys from grades 4-6 are together, girls 3-5, girls 6-7, and then boys 7.  The older boys were a party waiting to happen, that is for sure.  We had a few laughs with them before returning to the Meeker’s for the night.  I am excited to see these kids one more time tomorrow before leaving.

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This will probably be my last blog post until we are back in the states.  Thank you for all of your prayers, comments, and support over the past two weeks.  This trip couldn’t happen without your support.

It has truly been an adventure of a lifetime.  I cannot begin to express to you all how much of a life-changing experience this has been for all of us.  When your loved ones come home, they will not be able to answer the “How was your trip?” question…unless you’ve got a month to sit and listen to stories, experiences, and picture commentary.  God is truly doing great things here in Kenya.  And as Pastor Stecker put it this morning in his sermon, while we traveled thousands of miles to be missionaries in Africa, the real missionaries are the people here who have taught us so many amazing lessons over the past two weeks.  We just got to be a part of it.  To God be the glory!

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“Safari” Means “Journey”…So Fitting!

Jambo!

Back from a break from blogging.  We arrived back in Kisumu today after a two-day safari adventure in the Masai Mara Game Preserve.  We arrived there on Thursday afternoon, and were able to enjoy a short sunset safari that evening.  We then spent the entire day Friday on an all-day safari throughout the park.  We saw MANY different animals, and lots of baby animals this time, which was really neat.  I took well over 200 pictures over these two days, so know that the choice was difficult when deciding what to include on the blog today.

On Thursday afternoon, we began our journey around four o’clock in the afternoon.  A great viewing time, as the temperatures are cooler and the animals are more active.

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We saw plenty of zebra and giraffes, along with water buffalo, elephants, and various types of birds, impala, and antelope.  We also saw many warthogs, with babies, which were one of my favorites to watch.  They run with their tails up in the air, and it is just so cute!

The amount of elephants we saw was incredible.  They were for the most part very close to the road as well, which made viewing easy and fun.

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The highlight of our sunset safari time was coming across a group of lions who had just finished eating a zebra.  There were female lions and cubs at this site.  They were all very lazy, as they had just eaten.  Fat and happy!  The cubs were pretty playful, but the mothers just wanted to sleep.

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We started out Friday morning bright and early by getting up to watch the sunrise over the Mara.  While the opening song from The Lion King did not actually play while the sun was coming up, it was still a gorgeous site to see.  I especially liked the way the light bounced off of rocks and trees nearby, giving everything and orange glow.  What a great start to our day!

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We had a great start to our day!  We saw many of the same animals as Thursday, with some new ones thrown into the mix.  There was a rhino spotting, but when we got over there, it had gone into the bushes to hide.  So close!  It is always amazing to stop and realize that this place is not a zoo, and these are wild animals.  They are unpredictable, and you may not get to see everything you want to.  You may also get to see more than you could ever imagine!

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The highlight of our Friday safari was watching zebras and wildebeest migrate across the river.  We were a few weeks too late to see the Great Migration, so most of the wildebeest had already migrated.  We were fortunate to see some of the remaining ones on our trip.

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Well, along with zebras in the river, there were also some eager crocodiles waiting…watching…for the perfect chance to strike.  We think they pick out the weakest or oldest zebras to pass by before trying to attack.  We weren’t there more than five minutes before a crocodile went after a young zebra.  This little guy was not lucky enough to make it to the other side.  It took just seconds, and the zebra was underwater, being dragged down by the crocs.  Then a feeding frenzy took place as at least 20 crocodiles showed up for lunch.  As sad as we were for the zebra, it was incredible to watch the whole scene play out.  It truly is never dull on safari!

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By 4pm on Friday we had to be out of the park, as our pass was only good for 24 hours.  Once we left, we stopped at a Masai Village on the way back to camp.  While there, our guide took us around and described what life is like for the Masai tribe.  They showed us how they start fires, and how they share the flames to cook.  We also got to see the inside of one of the homes.  Then a group of women from the village came out to sing a welcome song and dance for us (Shirley joined in!).  Before leaving, we had the chance to visit an area where the women had out jewelry and other crafts they had made and were selling.  Of course we had to show our support and buy a few trinkets to take home.

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The past few days were definitely completely different from everything we’ve been doing so far this trip.  It is incredible to get out into God’s untouched creation and see things that others only dream of seeing.  We also discussed that seeing things like a crocodile eating a zebra is a real picture of how sin works in the world.  God has a lesson for us in every aspect of His creation.  To Him be the glory!!

Mud Hutting is So Fun!

Jambo!

Today was another long work day.  The morning was spent with some of us finishing up painting in the classrooms at the school, while others went on a home visit to see Karen and Gordon, whom we brought food to on our trip two years ago.  I spend the morning taking pictures of all of the students at the school who need sponsoring, and also getting updated pictures of those who are already sponsored.  Then a teacher at the school helped me match up names with faces in all the pictures.

After lunch, we loaded the vans to drive out to the site of a new mud home that we were going to help build.  When we arrived, they had each of us grab two long branches to carry up with us.  This proved to be more challenging than it looked.  When we reached the site, we found that the frame was still being built.  We went to the current home of the family who would be receiving this new home.  The family is a young widow with four children, and also a boy whose mother and father both died, whom she takes care of as well.  Their current home is tiny, so the new home will be a huge improvement.

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We tried to help with the building of the frame, but there weren’t enough hammers to go around, so many of us had to wait until the frame was far enough along to add the stones and mud.  We were able to get two and a half walls completed before we had to quit for the day.  The roof was almost all on as we were leaving, too.  For having a much shorter time to work on the home than we thought, we got a lot accomplished today!

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Tonight we are busy packing bags for our safari trip the next three days.  We will leave early tomorrow morning and arrive there for a late lunch.  We will stay over, have an all-day safari on Friday, and then return to Kisumu on Saturday, probably by mid-afternoon.  I hope to get a blog update written on Saturday night about our safari experience.  There was not internet there last time, so I am leaving the computer behind for the next few days.  You will hear from us again on Saturday, if all goes well!!

Prayers for safe travel to and from the safari are appreciated.  Please also keep in your prayers the family receiving the new mud home, as well as the progress on the remainder of the construction of it.

Three Days Worth of God’s Many Blessings

Jambo!

This blog post will be a long one.  We’ve been without Internet since Sunday night, so this post will cover Sunday-Tuesday’s activities.  Hang in there; the stories will all be worth it.

Sunday

Sunday was a wonderful day here in Kisumu.  We started out our day with church at the chapel at the school.  The service followed a divine service setting that we are familiar with back in the US, but what really stood out to me during the service were two very special things.  There were 18 baptisms during the service.  18!!  16 of them were school children, and 2 were babies.  Pastor Chase got to perform all of the baptisms.  What an incredible blessing to be able to witness all of these newly baptized Christians being received into our church family.

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The other part of the church service that stands out in my mind is when we were singing the hymn “How Great Thou Art.”  I love that hymn, have sung it many times before, and was very excited to sing it again during the service.  However, I only made it about 2 phrases into the first stanza before I had to stop singing because of the tears flowing down my face.  The whole congregation was belting this hymn out as loud as they could, and the voices of the children in the back were soaring above the rest.  As I sat and listened to the rest of the hymn, I couldn’t help but think that someday, this is what heaven is going to sound like.  Absolutely incredible.

After lunch we went back up to the dorm area at the school to distribute gifts.  We started with the bags holding quilts, then gave out the sponsor gifts, and finally gave out the rest of the bags that we had packed the night before.  It was truly like Christmas for these kids, and it was incredible to watch them look through their bags and discover each new thing.  There were many smiles today, and also some very happy tears (let’s be honest, some were mine, haha).

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I also got to spend some time with my sponsor child, Marianne, today, which was really exciting.  Oh, she is a cutie!  She lives in town, so she is not attending Point of Grace yet, but her family will be moving out here in the next few months.

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When we had finished with the gifts, we went into Kisumu to buy some supplies and to have dinner at a restaurant.  Our dinner was at a restaurant that overlooked Lake Victoria.  We just missed the sunset, but it was still a gorgeous view, and excellent tilapia, freshly caught.

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When we left the restaurant to drive home, we didn’t get too far before we encountered an unexpected adventure.  The car Pastor Meeker was driving (we were in two vehicles to hold us all) had a flat tire.  And when I say flat, I mean FLAT.  That thing was pretty much destroyed.  (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned the roads much, but they are not well maintained at all here.  I think flat tires are probably a way of life, but we still weren’t expecting it.)  When the other driver got the spare put on, we found that the spare was also flat.  So, the other van took the spare to a filling station in town to have it pumped up, then brought it back.  Which left our car waiting on the side of the road.  In the dark.  It was definitely an adventure.  It probably took about 30 minutes or so for the other group to come back with the tire.  We got it put on and were on our way.  At least we can cross something off our bucket list now: change a tire in Kenya.  Haha…what a day.

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Monday

Today was a full workday.  We split up into various groups to work on different projects.  Shirley went along with Lorna to do some visits with some families in the area. Ruth, Cindy, Tim, Pastor Stecker, Bryan, Don, Tom D., and Tom B. were all in the upstairs classrooms of the school, working on painting the walls that we had primed the other day.

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I was working down in the “baby classrooms” (which here is the name for preschool).  I had offered a few months ago to paint a mural on a classroom wall.  When I got here, Pastor Meeker asked if I was going to paint, so we worked on getting some colored paints, and today was the day to start!   By lunchtime I had finished one wall with a Noah’s Ark scene, complete with African animals.  After lunch I started another, since there were paints left over.  The one done after lunch was a sunset silhouette picture.  This time I had a helper.  The kids had a holiday today, so there was no school.  One of the older boys, Tesva, asked if he could help me with my art.  He used to do paintings on the street and sell them.  I was happy to have a helper for the afternoon.  And he was a very good artist!

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Before dinner I helped Lorna take pictures of the boarding students who do not have sponsors yet.  There are SO MANY awesome kids waiting for sponsors, so if you’re at all considering sponsoring a child at Point of Grace, keep all these stories we’re sharing in mind as you pray about the possibility.  God is doing great things here through the support of sponsoring churches and people like you!

After dinner and devotions tonight, there wasn’t any work to take care of for tomorrow, so Tim, Bryan, and I went back up to the dorms to hang out with the kids.  Our first stop was one of the girls’ dorms, and they were very excited to see us up there visiting.  I had packed five different colored nail polish bottles, and Tim’s wife had crocheted some cute flower headbands, so we pretty much made there night.  After handing out headbands, we settled in for a nail painting party.  The boys were very good sports for this activity, and Bryan discovered a hidden talent!  After painting probably hundreds of nails, we were kicked out so the girls could go to bed.  It was a lot of fun hanging out with the girls, having them tell stories, and teaching us new words in Swahili.

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Tuesday

Today was very much like yesterday.  We worked on painting at the school some more, before running out of paint for the classrooms.  Shirley and Cindy went to town with Lorna for supplies and to check things out at the airport to make sure we’re all set for when we leave on Monday.

I was back in the baby rooms, painting the other two sections of the wall.  I still had a lot of paint left from yesterday’s murals, so they asked if I would do the other walls as well.  On the first wall, I did a mural of an empty tomb and the words “Alleluia!  He is risen!”  After tea break, I did the other wall, which had a tree, a few animals, and the words “The Lord God made them all!”  Painting the murals was lots of fun, which made it not seem like work at all.  And the kids were very excited about how bright their classrooms look!

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Once Shirley, Cindy, and Lorna returned from town, they returned with 40 mattresses, 40 blankets, 120 spoons, and 80 small plastic chairs for the preschool rooms.  They also spent most of the Koins for Kenya money on new plates and cups for the kids to use for lunch.  200 plates and 60 cups!  These will help out so much at lunchtime, as many of the plates we were serving on this trip are cracked on the bottom and leak.

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It was a busy couple of days, but we definitely got a lot of work done AND got to spend some quality time with these great kids.  God is so good!!

Last Day of VBS…Fun with the Kids…Gift Packing

Jambo!

Today was a busy but FUN day!

Today was our final day of VBS.  Our story for the day was The Prodigal Son.  Our skit actors were Shirley, Tom B., Bryan, and Tim.  This was our longest skit, and the group did a great job!

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Games today were led by Bryan, Tim, and Tom D.  They played tag.  The kids who were “it” wore funny animal hats and masks on their heads.  The kids LOVED it!  They also did some jump roping again, since it was such a big hit yesterday.

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Crafts were led by Cindy, Ruth, and Don.  The kids made “Forgiveness Books” out of cardstock and ribbon.  They used these books to write about a time they forgave someone.  It went really well with the story for today.

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I was part of the Project group today with Shirley and Tom B.  Our project was to make felt banners to decorate the classrooms at the school.  The kids cut small felt pieces in many different shapes, and then we glued them onto banner backgrounds that we had made ahead of time.  They turned out really neat, and I think they will be a fun way to bring some color and fun into the classrooms.

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Today our lunchtime was a little different than normal.  Instead of serving the kids lunch, all of the boarding school students from Point of Grace came up to the Meeker’s house for lunch.  115 students, all eating lunch in the backyard…and you could barely tell they were there!  I was impressed with their behavior while in line waiting for food and while eating their meals.

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After we all finished lunch, we got to hang out with the kids all afternoon.  We ended up not having time left for construction, but it was time that was definitely well spent.  We told stories, took goofy pictures, and spent some time bonding with the kids that we are working to sponsor.  There are some wonderful children here, and they are absolutely the reason we do what we do with this mission.  Many of them were asking about their sponsors, so know that your support is very much appreciated!

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Tonight after dinner we gathered together all of the gifts from sponsors, donations, and leftover VBS supplies.  We put things out on table tops in an assembly line format, and then worked to fill bags of stuff for the kids at the school.  There were 29 sponsor gifts sent along with the team in our suitcases.  Then we packed 128 bags in all: 30 of them had quilts; of the remaining 98, all of them had Cool Whip lid frisbees, and almost every one had a pair of flip flops.  Each boarding child at the school will receive one of these bags tomorrow when we meet with them tomorrow.  Lorna told us that it will be like Christmas at their house.  God truly is so good!

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Continued prayers are appreciated!  God has surely heard them all to this point.  Specific requests include the many children who are being baptized tomorrow.  Pray that their faith is strengthened as they grow to learn more about Jesus.

Day 2 of VBS and Construction…Lake Victoria

Jambo!

Today was day two of VBS and construction work.  VBS started at 9:00 with a flag raising ceremony and the singing of the Kenya national anthem in Swahili.  It was very neat to hear, and man, did those kids belt it out!

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Today’s story was The Good Samaritan.  Our skit performers were Tom D., Cindy, Ruth, Don, and Tim.  Tom definitely stole the show with his portrayal of the man who was beaten.  Pastor then did an opening about this story.

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I was part of games today with Tom B. and Cindy.  We had planned at least four different activities, but in the end, all we did was jump rope.  The kids LOVED it!  And because of all the donated jump ropes and the jump ropes that were purchased with Koins for Kenya money (thank you to last year’s 2nd grade, this year’s 3rd grade class at CLS!!) there was plenty of jump rope fun to go around.

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Today’s craft was led by Shirley, Tom, and Tim.  The kids made prayer pockets, which were sewn ahead of time by many wonderful friends from church.  They were little cloth pouches, and inside was a prayer that everyone got, and then they were given another sheet of paper to write and decorate their own prayer.  At the end, the kids got to keep their crayons as well.  I saw many children reading and looking at their prayer pocket throughout the rest of the day.

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Today’s project was making a large cross banner to be hung in the chapel at the school.  The groups also helped put together bags of items that will be delivered to needy families in the area.  What a neat way to give back to your school and community!  Ruth, Bryan, and Don were in charge of this station.

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We served lunch again today, and then it was time for medical clinic and construction.  Shirley, Cindy, and Tom B. worked at the medical clinic today.  Shirley learned to take blood pressure, Cindy checked patients in, and Tom became a pharmacist for the day, counting pills out for the patients.

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Construction today was interesting.  Our job was to paint the classroom walls with primer so we can paint them tomorrow.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, first we had only hand brushes.  Also, the primer was super thin, and needed to be touched up quite a bit.  But the biggest challenge, and most inventive solution, was not being able to reach the ceiling well, and having only a few ladders.  Well, when in Africa, make do with what you can find, right?  I give you “African long-handled paintbrushes.”  Made from a hand brush tied to a stick found outside.  Well done guys, very creative.

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After construction we went back to the Meeker’s house to clean up.  Then a group of us went down the hill to the shores of Lake Victoria.  It is one of the largest lakes in the world, and also one of the most polluted.  However, some very delicious tilapia come from it, so I’m not complaining.  We checked out the view of the lake, some nearby fishing boats, and the fish cleaning station.  It was a nice relaxing end to our day.

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One last thing to leave you with tonight…this was the best part of my day:

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God is so good!!  🙂

Continued prayers of thanks for God’s blessings here in Kenya.  Please keep the children we saw at the medical clinic today in your prayers, that they receive the help they need.

Day 1 of VBS and Construction

(Side note before getting started on today’s post…I am sitting in a hut-shaped gazebo area in the Meeker’s backyard, swatting mosquitos, enjoying the cool night air, and watching a bat fly around near my head.  This was for you, Mom.  Hehe…)

Jambo!!

Today was our first day of VBS.  We started at 8am with an opening chapel with the whole school.  (Point of Grace Academy is the school the Meekers are in charge of along with Compassionate Care Ministry.  We did VBS with all of the students there, over 300 students.)  VBS started at 9:00am with music led by Ruth and myself.  Ruth, Cindy, Shirley, and I performed the story of The Unmerciful Servant, which was our parable for the day.  Pastor Stecker did an opening based on the skit, and then the kids were divided up and we were off to our stations.

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Bryan, Tom B., and I had crafts today.  Since part of our craft was in one of the missing suitcases, we made almost the entire craft.  It was bead necklaces.  They were supposed to have a large cardboard heart to string on and decorate as well, but the hearts were on their way here from Amsterdam.  The kids loved making the necklaces, and we quickly learned that there was no way we could have packed enough beads to satisfy their artistic desires.  It was difficult to say no when they asked for more beads, more beads…but we had to, as we had three groups to work with today!  🙂

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Games were led by Shirley, Don, and Ruth.  They did relay races where the kids had to dress up in funny hats, clothes, leis, etc and run back and forth.  They also did a game with Cool Whip lid frisbees that many of you sent in decorated for us.  (Thank you for your donations!!  The kids loved them!!)

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Each day we are doing a project as one of our stations that will stay at the school or go to a family in need.  We wanted to get across the idea that it is just as fun to give as it is to receive.  The whole idea of helping others outside of yourself.  Today’s project was led by Cindy, Tom D., and Pastor Chase.  They had the students work together to decorate three different crosses, which will hopefully be hung somewhere in the school or chapel.  One had the name of each child written on it, one was decorated with different colored ribbons, and one was covered in greenery and flowers.  Each unique and wonderful.

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When VBS was over, we got to help serve the kids lunch.  Every bowl was scraped clean, and there was very little leftover from the giant kettle we started with.  Today’s lunch menu was different kinds of beans with a little meat, held together with some kind of sauce.  A few of us tasted it when we were done serving, and it had a great flavor!

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After lunch, a few team members went to work with a medical team that is also in town working with the Meekers this week.  They helped check patients in, learned how to take blood pressure, counted pills, and got a good feel for how a medical clinic is usually run here.  They didn’t need many helpers since they had gotten through so many patients while we were teaching VBS this morning, so most of us went up to the school to start working on our construction projects.

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Construction today was getting one of the new classrooms prepped to paint tomorrow.  First step was to sand any rough edges in the cement walls with pieces of sand paper.  Next all of the cracks were filled with “filler” as they called it.  Then, after the filling was dry, you had to sand the rough spots off of that as well.  By the end of the afternoon, we had one room all sanded and filled, ready for the primer coat tomorrow afternoon.

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Tomorrow is day 2 of VBS and more construction!

Thank you for your continued prayers while we are away.  Prayers of thanksgiving can be prayed tonight: thanks that our remaining suitcases made it here safe and sound, thanks that after a good night’s sleep and a shower we were all set and ready to go today for our day today, and thanks for the opportunity to be around God’s people here in Kenya.

(Another side note before I end…a gecko friend crawled into our gazebo while I was typing, and our bat friend is hanging out (literally) over by the door to the house.  I hope he eats every mosquito he sees.  Ha.)