Saturday, October 30, 2010

happy birthday, Crystal!

happy birthday to my amazing wife! it's crazy that it's her birthday, but I'm the one who feels like I'm getting the big gift. (her)

i still feel like today is one of the greatest days in history. Lots of people celebrate lots of important days, but October 30, 1983 was a really really important day in my life.

i wasn't quite 1 year old on that date, so i was probably pretty short... That is the day my wife, the one God knew I was going to marry for thousands of years, was born.

That is the day the most beautiful woman in the world was born. The day the best wife ever was born. I am so blessed.
we are so blessed together.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

my wife has never looked more beautiful


my wife has never looked more beautiful...than when she was serving and loving the poor in Kenya this past month.

i know she wasn't all "fixed up" with makeup or fancy clothes... but to me... seeing her loving orphans... serving the poor... wow.
i don't think she has ever looked more beautiful than that.
i tear up just thinking about it.


just looking at these brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

of course, my wife doesn't need to do anything to look hot. she does that without trying. but this was a whole new level of beautiful
it's hard to explain. it may not make sense to you, & yeah, maybe some would argue that she looks "prettier" when we go uptown on a date... but to me - she has never looked more beautiful.

i fall in love with her more all the time.

Crystal, thanks for taking the risk & going on the adventure together. thanks for being a trooper through all the crazy stuff. and thanks for letting your heart come out making you look more beautiful than i ever imagined.
i am awestruck

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

what i miss (& don't miss)

i miss Kenya.
i miss the people. i miss being there. i miss a lot of things.

& if i'm honest there are a few things i don't miss.

things i don't miss:
tucking in the mosquito net around the bed every single night

that crackhead rooster waking me up EVERY morning between 3 & 4am!

taking a "shower" in a bucket

Trying to convince Kenyans that WWE is not real
& watching really really bad Japanese action dramas... (dubbed with Swahili)

my spine crumbling to pieces from driving on the roads & adding up the chiropractor bill in my head

African time

kids trying to braid my hair

always being called Mzungu

rice & beans :)

always having a camera in my pocket or around my neck

turkeys, geese, cows, and chickens...

doing laundry in a bucket

being constantly covered in dirt

things i miss:
falling asleep to the laughter & playing of happy orphans

monkeys

being in the middle of extreme poverty... and knowing Someone who can/does change the world.

speaking Swahili

the amazing beauty of the country all around

any time of day just chillin anywhere in the house and hearing a group of orphans singing worship songs. sometimes English... sometimes Swahili.

being with my wife 24/7

slowly taking in every moment of every day. for some reason that doesn't feel possible here. (but maybe it is)

watching my wife love on

listening to other people tell me about their dreams.

having time to dream

playing "soccer" every single day

greeting the kids at the children's home 1 by 1 as they walked home from school every day

chapati

about 100 specific individuals

dancing in church

not having a mirror or ever seeing myself

telling the girls floor at the orphanage "goodnight" every night & their response

a kid always holding my hand

carrying Kenyan shillings - so cool & colorful

making orphans smile & laugh


 *there's probably a whole lot more, but this is just off the top of my head.

Monday, October 25, 2010

rice & beans, beans & rice

Dave Ramsey always talks about his "diet plan" when you're "living like no one else" = it's "rice and beans, beans and rice."
it's not literal, the idea is just to eat as CHEAPLY as possible to be smart with your money.

well, Crystal and I followed the Dave Ramsey diet LITERALLY for about 2 weeks in Kenya. while living and working at the orphanage we ate ONLY rice & beans... beans & rice for every meal!

the 1st night the carried a live rooster up to the kitchen, slit it's throat, cooked it and fed it to us. that was pretty good... and also the last meat we would eat.
i was thankful though. rice and beans tasted pretty good. i bet we could save a lot of money eating only rice & beans at home too.

speaking of Dave - the budget is a little meager for October after our time in Kenya. Usually i give Crystal 3-4 envelopes with the cash for the month. This month i left THE envelope on her dresser.
she came up to me later and asked "Is all the cash in that 1 envelope?"
"yes."
"Is that a joke?"

haha, we both just laughed. it's all good. hardly a day goes by when we don't talk out loud about how unbelievably God has blessed us.
so thankful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the fresh prince & clean water

the 1st time i ever saw Will Smith was in 1 of my favorite shows as a kid = "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air"... and that's the only way i knew him for years.
Over the years he has become one of my favorite actors. He's played some amazing roles in some great movies.

now what he's a part of for his birthday is even more important though. check it out:

Will and Jada's Birthday Celebration from charity: water on Vimeo.

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of clean water and how YOU can get involved and make a difference. One of the cool ways to get involved is with Charity Water by donating your birthday... just like Will and Jada.

Who would have ever thought - from "chillin out, maxin, and relaxin all cool and all shootin some bball outside of the school..." to providing clean water for the poor in Africa.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

meet joseph (& see why clean water matters)

this is Joseph. he lives at the orphanage we worked at for a couple weeks. he won over our hearts. (all of the orphans did, but Joseph just had an extra hold on both our hearts.)

it sounds like Joseph's mom was murdered by a witch doctor when he was just a little kid. and then his dad died over 5 years ago too. it's heartbreaking to hear Joseph talk about it.
Thankfully, Joseph and his older sister got to move to Havilla and live at the Children's Home.

Joseph is the life of the party at the orphanage. He is the one always cracking jokes and making people laugh. He writes his own jokes a lot too. He loved to make Crystal and I laugh. here is a short video of one of the jokes he loved. i hope you can understand his accent... i don't even notice it anymore.
video
(sorry the vid was so dark & blurry... i don't know what was up with that one.)

Joseph works really hard in school too. he's got big big dreams. he wants to go to law school one day and eventually become the Attorney General of Kenya so that he can help the people of Kenya. pretty audacious for an orphan. :)

Joseph lives at the children's home where he gets clean water every day and so does his older sister. Joseph's younger brother didn't get to come to the orphanage with them - he has lived with their uncle instead.
His brother is only 11 years old.

was. was only 11 years old.

Joseph's brother died last month. why? because he didn't have clean water. he died of a water related illness.

i fought back the tears as Joseph told me the story and how he got the letter from his uncle just 1 month before. he told me - "Usually I finish 1st or 2nd in my class on all my exams... but that day, the day I got the letter about my brother... I finished 6th on that exam. I just couldn't concentrate."

i can't imagine.
Joseph and his sister, Hannah, got to go to their brother's funeral and grieve while being supported by some of their relatives. and no doubt when they returned to Havilla they were surrounded by love from their 45 other "brothers & sisters". i can't help but think that Joseph's little brother might have been a full of life little jokester as well.
i'm thankful that this never needs to happen to Joseph. At his orphanage he'll always have clean water.

but the problem is that this shouldn't happen to ANYONE.

ever.

period.

and you and me can do something about it. you've got a birthday, right? whenever it is... consider leveraging it for clean water for the poor. just click HERE and join the awesome birthday bash with Charity Water.
And we all celebrate Christmas. click HERE & celebrate a little differently with Advent Conspiracy. and because you leverage Christmas for the poor without clean water you can save lives...

and change the world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

kiu

thirsty.

kiu SANA = so so thirsty. that's what i was the other day walking home with the kids from Havilla. i hadn't had a drink all day.

Many times I have thought to myself regarding the water crisis in Africa – “If you know the water is not clean and drinking it will make you sick… and even kill you – then why drink it?”
Easy for me to say.

Easy to think until you’ve walked in a thirsty man’s shoes.
i walked by a FILTHY river and would gladly have drank from it! KNOWING that it would make me sick. i had to force myself not to stop and drink from it.

today is "Blog Action Day" and the cause is Clean Water. I've written about this so many times before here on renown. HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE and more times than i can list...

The stats make us cringe. kids dying every day because they don't have something as simple as water.

But those are just stats. 
And those stats represent individual stories. Deaths. 

I was affected by one of those stories just last week in Africa. it's a little too fresh to tell right now... maybe tomorrow or some time within the next week.

it's almost time for Advent Conspiracy to crank up again with Living Water International, but here is ANOTHER awesome way you can donate your birthday to save lives through Charity Water... check this out HERE! Will Smith thought it was a good idea... maybe join him in donating your b-day?

OK, so we just got back to America today. lots of processing our trip to Africa going down here on renown very soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

leaving the kids

we love these kids. they're like the greatest in the world.
so, it was hard to leave them. we saw them off to school early one morning (like 6am is when they start walking!) and hugged them & told them "bye" one by one.

it was a great experience to stay with them, play with them, serve them, and love them. we definitely won't ever forget them. and who knows... we may be seeing some sooner than we think?


internet hasn't really been working - that's why i haven't been able to write many updates. hopefully this one will post.
i have a TON to write about when we get back home.

and so we begin like 40 hours of travelling... see you back in the USA.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

soweto (my trip to the slum)

on Sunday Elias and i walked into Soweto. it's really only "1-2 blocks" from the orphanage. it's all relative in Kenya though. you just have to walk around the big pond - which is the sewage/waste hole for the area. it's big.

Soweto is the slum in the area where Havilla (Children's Home) is. if you don't know what a slum in Kenya is you can just google it.
Crystal and i were planning to try to visit Kibera - one of the largest slums in Africa, but all the Kenyans said we would need an armed police escort to visit. There are over 1 million people who live in Kibera which is in Nairobi. 3 million in the whole city of Nairobi and Kibera is just a tiny slum (according to the land space) with a million people crammed into it.

Walking around Soweto for a couple hours was absolutely... wow. i don't even have the words for it. i guess i would call it heartbreaking. very humbling. something in my heart started to cry out - a need to do something. anything.

this place - Soweto - is TINY, but around 10,000 people live there! TONS of kids. mostly orphans. the rest living with only a mother or grandmother.

You could constantly hear all the little children's voices chattering "Mzungu! Mzungu!" as i walked through the streets. 1 by 1 they would run up and grab my hand and say the famous English phrase that they all know "How are you?"

Soweto was a whole town. a whole city right there in this very very small land space. stores, shops, homes... the quality of which most of us wouldn't want to even set foot in.

this place is the epitome of poverty. 

it's like what they put on TV. it's the extreme that comes to your mind when you think of people living in absolute poverty.

the smell was almost unbearable - almost knocked me down every few steps... and TRUST ME, i have gotten used to some very bad smells over the past month. cow manure, bodily odors, etc... are nothing and don't even phase me. but this place was bad.
kids barely had clothes. trash and literal crap was all over the streets, like a foot deep in some places.

only the sewage pool separates this slum from Havilla - the orphanage Crystal and i have been living at. we see Soweto every day - can't be more than a 100 yard walk away.

wow. what a difference a short walk makes because the orphans at Havilla are worlds apart. the 3 story orphanage is no Hilton hotel... or even a crappy college dorm, but compared to the slum where these kids would have ended up... it's an amazing blessing.
most of the kids in Soweto probably don't even get to go to school because there's not a chance anyone can afford the school fees... even for public school. Thanks to the support of some generous sponsors (through Bright Point - something similar to Compassion International) ALL the kids at Havilla have their basic needs taken care of AND they get to go to the BEST school in the area!

the kids who live at Havilla are full of dreams. they eat 3 balanced meals every day and drink clean water. they have a bed to sleep in every night. they work hard farming and work hard on their school work. they hear how much God loves them and that He has great plans for them. i am so thankful that these 47 kids are at Havilla.

i also think it's flipping awesome that Joseph (the Children's Home director) made the trek over to the Soweto slum recently with a camera. he walked through and interviewed A LOT of kids and their families/guardians. he took their pics and posted them to the Havilla Foundation site to try and help these kids get sponsored! so that they can go to school and have a future.

maybe one day the gap between Havilla and Soweto won't be quite so big.
maybe one day only the sewage pond will separate the 2.

that's my hope.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

underdogs

we love to pull for the underdog. that's why we love March Madness... just sitting there hoping some unknown 14 seed will knock off a 3 seed.

orphans are pretty much underdogs. an orphan may be the epitome of an underdog. no one gives them a chance. i mean, how can you have any chance in life when you grow up with out parents? when you grow up in an orphanage and have no money.
orphans will never make anything of their lives.

people who say that are forgetting something very important. rather, SOMEONE very important.

"...His name is the LORD.
A Father to the fatherless..." - Psalm 68:4-5

I got to speak at church this morning to a whole bunch of orphans. this is what i told them. and i also told them that God warned the whole world:
DON'T MESS WITH ORPHANS
because "their Defender is strong; He will take up their case against You." - Proverbs 23:11
i'm pretty sure you would rather face Jack Bauer.
i told them that they are "God's handiwork" = God made them so so special. He is their masterpiece & He created them to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10)

i got a chance to tell them that "God wants to use YOU in big ways for His glory!"
they all said it together with me several times... pointing to themselves:
'GOD WANTS TO USE ME IN BIG WAYS FOR HIS GLORY!"
and anyone else who tells you different is lying. if you think God can't use you for something great... it's a lie.

we've fallen in love with these kids, but God has loved them since before they were born. since before their parents died and they became orphans. 

i told them that Crystal and I believe in them and we always will.
but most importantly, God believes in them. He made them as a masterpiece and He made them to do good works... for His glory.

even though they are "underdogs".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

never even knew their parents

many of these kids Crystal and i have been living with never even knew their parents. they died when they were so young that they can't even remember them.

they are so excited to show us some of the pictures they have. most of them have been in the Daraja Children's Choir in the past so they've been at Big Stuf, Catalyst, etc... & peeps took pics with them and gave them copies. so they have photo albums and are so proud to show them off.

Francis and his little sister Hannah wanted to show us their photo album. it was mainly pics from Big Stuf and choir pics.
but they had one wrinkled up photo stuck in the front of the album.

it was an African lady holding a baby and then a small boy standing beside her (maybe 3-4 years old.)
Francis had stepped away, so i asked Hannah - "who is that?"

"That was my mother... and that's Francis and the baby is me."

i thought i was prepared for that moment - i mean, we're living at an orphanage and all. all of their parents are dead. it still hit me hard though... looking at that picture that they obviously cherish. probably the 1 family photo they have.

then Crystal asked her, "What happened to your mother?"

"I don't know. I can't remember her."

Then i lost it. i couldn't hold back the tears. my heart hurt for this little girl Hannah who is the sweetest kid in the world. my heart hurts for Francis who is 16 just fighting for the chance to be somebody.
even now i can't hold back the tears.

Their mother died when Hannah was 1. so, Francis was like 4 maybe? sitting on the front steps the next day i asked him, "do you know what happened to your mother?"

"I don't know. No one can tell me."

i can't imagine that. i can't imagine not even knowing. 
it makes me so thankful for my parents. it makes me thankful that God blessed me with amazing parents who love me and who i got to see every day growing up.
it makes me thankful for Joseph and Salome who all these kids call "mom" & "dad"! pretty cool. they started this orphanage and took in Hannah and Francis and 40something others... i'm thankful for that. i think every child in the world should have a father and mother. and with all the millions of orphans in the world, if it has to be a "stand in dad" at an orphanage, then so be it.

most of all it made me thankful for the FATHER OF THE FATHERLESS like i wrote about yesterday HERE. (Psalm 68:4-6)
it makes me thankful that "the Defender of orphans is STRONG and will take up their case." (Proverbs 23:10-11)
it makes me so thankful that God watches over & sustains the orphans! (Psalm 146:9)

it makes me happy for them. i don't feel "sorry" for them. my heart is absolutely broken for their pain and the situation of not even having their parents. but not "sorry" for them, because they automatically have the best Father in the world! God is their HELPER (Psalm 10:14) and i praise Him for that.

i look at these beautiful kids so full of life and joy & my eyes fill with tears and my heart fills with love. they laugh, play, sing, have fears and dreams... 

There are millions more just like them.

they just need us to give them a chance. like someone gave these kids a chance...
and gave them a family

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"a Father to the fatherless"

"Sing to God, sing in praise of His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds; rejoice in Him--His name is the LORD.
A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing..." - Psalm 68:4-6


praising God because He is these things...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"We are FAM-I-LY"

"my brothers and my sisters and me..."

you're at least singing along in your head by now. i'm not even sure who sings that song - don't really care - but i've been singing in my head since i arrived here at the Havilla Children's Home.

The 1st night we got here we were meeting all the kids and just hanging out. Many of them have been living here together at this orphanage for 5 years. sleeping in the same room. eating meals together. going to school together. hanging out 24/7.

so on that 1st night i was talking to Francis #1 (there are 3) who is 16 + a few of the other kids who were standing around. i said "so, you guys are like family, huh?"

"no, we ARE family."

Francis wanted to make sure i understood that.

within 24 hours of being here that was obviously clear to us. these kids are family. no question about it. they are brothers and sisters just as if they all had the same father and mother. and there is a lot of love to go around.

one night i was in one of the guys' rooms and talking to them about school the next day. i asked if they all hang out at school each day, stick up for each other, etc... they said "Yeah, they call us the Havilla Brothers."
that brought a smile to my face.

these guys and girls are a true family. kids who many would say are just orphans and don't even have a family... i think they probably understand it better than most of us.

Monday, October 4, 2010

how to accidentally start an orphanage

living here at the Havilla Children's Home has been one of the greatest things ever. these kids are absolutely amazing. they're all so loving, so full of joy, so thankful. i can see God all over their lives.

we're just hanging out with them and loving them all the time. we love them so much.

yesterday we worshipped with them at church and that was awesome. Joseph (the director) wanted me to speak, so that was a lot of fun.

Crystal and i were hanging out with Joseph last week just wanting to hear and learn about how the orphanage started. Joseph told us the story about how a great grandmother or great aunt was passing through with 2 recently orphaned kids (Elias & Kevin) about 5 years ago. Joseph & his wife Salome decided to take them in since the elderly family member couldn't provide for them. then they took in another street kid/orphan soon after. then another.

then word started to spread that orphans were welcome with this family...
Joseph told us:
"This ministry started without my knowledge."

wow. i thought that was SO so cool. looks to me like God started this thing... and that's the best way anything can start.
now there are 47 of the most wonderful kids i have ever met living here at this place they call Havilla.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"they don't know what's inside us"

we've been at the Havilla Children's Home (orphanage) since Wednesday. it has been amazing. (just not much time to write blogs - with 47 orphans all vying for your time!)

i love them all so much already. i know there is an extremely special place in God's heart for orphans. He is their father since they don't have one. He is their defender and protector since they don't have a parent to do that.

This is Elias. he's pretty amazing. he is 17 (the oldest) and he's been here the longest (5 years). he & his little bro (Kevin) were the 1st 2 orphans. he's been through some crazy rough times.
at the orphanage we all get together at night and worship, pray, and someone or even a couple peeps shares stuff from the Bible. Here's part of what Elias said last night. i just had to scribble it down really fast:

"All the people say us orphans are just dirty, poor kids. They say 'those orphans have no hope.' They don't know what's inside us. God is very strong. I didn't die yesterday. I'm still alive today. God is good and has a plan for us. We can see God working every day. We have all the reason in the world to say thanks to God." - Elias

awesome.
he's a big time leader. i can see leadership qualities in him all the time & he's already living the role of a leader where he's at. i really believe God is going to do big things with him.
he wants to be a Doctor. he sits for his exam to go to high school in about 5 weeks.

i believe in him. i believe in all of them. because people DO forget WHO is inside of them. and God IS strong.

thanks, God.

my chains are gone

don't think i need to say much. this is what we see, hear, and experience pretty much 24/7.

video