Saturday, January 11, 2014

I am not a writer or a musician...

I keep finding myself in the position or moment when God is saying...write.  I am not a writer, but I've been learning that God doesn't like to listen to what I am is evident by new role as a worship team leader.  I am NOT a musician, but God doesn't care. 

He started to place this fire and love of worship through music in my heart about 3 years ago.  God's word, God's love and the Holy Spirit started to become real through lyrics...

Sure, I'll start taking the guitar more serious, start spending time with musicians and asking for help, maybe take some lessons, start playing at home and in maybe in our small groups and in 15-20 years I'll have the chance to lead others in worship...What an awesome day that will be! 

Future Blog Note:  Why do the things I often want to come quickly don't and things I plan on taking a while come NOW....

Back on Track:  
At this point, I lead an awesome team of musicians at Restore Church who are more skilled and experienced that me.  I don't know how it happened, I don't know I got here...

We serve at 3-4 services on a weekend.  It's been about 5 months now and  I tell Natalie that somehow we've been doing this with smoke and mirrors, but that's not really true.  God isn't mysterious, He is just not what we expect Him to be.  He is not what the world is.

I was listening to a David Crowder song call Holy, After All and the chorus just booms out, "you are..Holy."  Which means that He is set apart, that He is different, that He is not like this world and the way we act.  I was singing along and just choked up sitting here trying to sing those words.

The world responds to the best, to the elite, so those who are out front, pushing and in charge.  To those it says are better, are we should strive to be.  God uses and bless the peace makers, the kind of heart, the loving, the servants.

The world loves you and chooses you on what you do to impress them...God chooses you because He made you, He loves you and that is it.

Be Diligent..yes
Work Hard...YES!

but start sewing this seed into your heart, start saying it out loud for your ears to were chosen as precious before you ever did ANY of those things.

It's a good day to be a child of God...and regardless of who you are, what you've done, or whether you believe it or are more.

and all God's people said...Amen

Saturday, March 17, 2012

and so I pray...

Ready to go on "Safari."  After 5 days of visiting centers, children and seeing life, we had the opportunity to see life almost as purely as God created it.  Untouched, God crafted and eye opening!

bring me joy, bring me peace
bring the chance to be free
bring me anything that brings you glory

and I know there will be days
when this life brings me pain
but if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain
-Mercy Me "Bring the Rain"

I was warned that when I returned from Africa I might be "in a funk."  It might not be obvious, right away and it won't be short.  When you see amazing things, painful and beautiful, you are not sure how to process them. 


Tuesday...beautiful.  If you could only see the sky and the mountains as you heard them sing. 
Only God!

 Friday...beautiful like I can't describe.  I have 300 pictures of sky and mountains.  Every time I turned around I kept saying, "are you seeing this."  Loved these 2 zebras just hanging out, looked like they were waiting for me to take their picture.

 Saturday...painful.  One of the amazing things about the Compassion centers is that on Saturday their meals are open to the community children.  So mixed in with all of these beautiful God filled children are lost little girls like her.

Oddly enough, a part of my funk has been anger.  Angry at the way we treat each other.  Angry at how important small things are.  Angry at my failures.  Angry that I can't hear God like I did.  Angry about what some people go through.  Angry about our lost world.  Angry about my anger. 

Anger has always been an issue for pulls me away from everything beautiful.  Then I read about Jesus, furiously whipping animals out of the temple and tossing over tables.  Why?  because a place that was set apart for God's glory was being used to separate the poor from Him.  Instead of loving and being a welcoming place, the Temple became corrupt and an example of everything that keeps us from God.

Awesome, Jesus is anger, cool...that must mean my anger is ok, justified.  After all, my anger has stemmed from much of the same things.  This world was created to praise God, it is his temple.
I started looking more into why Jesus was angry because God does not just expect us to role over and be complete punching bags for the world...but justified anger is so weak body can't handle or balance that anger and that love like Jesus. 

On a day to day basis how do you deal with the beauty and the pain?  Do they lead you to anger?  Trust in Jesus, I know...but my heart hurts so much sometimes.  I am trying to get this trust thing down but am never sure how to completely live in it.  I find myself unwilling to be patient with slow change or change that is not what I expect it to be.  I have huge expectations for my kids at school and I am unwilling to relax when even one needs so much.  The, "you can't help everyone" or "some kids you just can't reach" arguments just don't make sense to me.  Why has God put me there then?

As for the anger...they see enough of that where they come from and while I am EXTREMELY firm it is my main goal to lead and teach with love.  I don't want anger.  I don't want hurt.  I don't want pain.  Sometimes God needs pain, however, and then I think of my brother-in-law Shawn.

Shawn leaves for Texas Sunday for 6 weeks of training and then off to his 3rd tour at war.  I was in  Tanzania for 8 days, surrounded by Christians feeding each other God's word and God's love and I have no idea how to handle everything I saw.  How does he handle what he sees?  How does he handle war?  How does he handle hate, anger, loneliness?

I will be praying so much for you my brother.  So much...
Jennifer, Shawn, Johnny and Lily Branson

Praying for soldiers has almost becoming a "given" or a cliche.  But this is Jenn's husband, Johnny's Daddy, Lilly's Dada, Sammy's Uncdle Shawn, my brother...God's child.

I don't know what you'll see, what you'll have to do or what your day to day will be like but I do know that an amazing God goes before you, a forgiving God loves and a powerful God protects you and your family.

His will is often not ours and that is scary.

I love you dearly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not Africa...something bigger?

I know this is suppose to be about my visit to Africa, but it turns out it is more about God.  Why did I go to Africa?  God sent me.  He sent me to see Him, hear Him and be awakened by His joy.  This blog is about God and so was today...

How often are you amazed? 
Amazed by beauty, amazed by pain, amazed at what God is doing or how He is doing it?
Amazed at how hard something is, how easy it is, how far you have come?
Amazed at how happy you are or how lost your heart is?

Does a day, a job, a sin, your pain seem too big; too immense that you can't see it working out?  Are you amazed at the impossible?

I am been praying for a bunch of things lately, sometimes I even become overwhelmed with the amount of things I am or should be praying for.  The one thing I pray the most for, however, is Ella. 

What kind of Dad am I to her?  What school should she go to?  Should I home school her?  I pray that her struggles now make her stronger later.  I pray for her relationship with God and for the woman that she'll grow up to be.  I pray that when I hold her hand I don't see her weaknesses, only the beautiful things God has made in her...this one I am somewhat ashamed of because she is so precious!

This is one of the nightly exercise we do with Ella to strengthen her hands.  She loves it!
Last Thursday she came home with some work and assessments from school that were all ROUGH!  71%, 67% and so on...Natalie and I took it pretty hard.  It started to feel like school would always be a fight, that things would never get better, that this was too big, there are too many issues...what do we do?! 

Today Ella and I spent a lot of time together; exercise and yoga in the morning, reading, Legos and then to the library.  We talked about jellyfish and how amazing it is that they don't have brains, how did God do that?  We talked about the carwash and how the brushes looked like scary spiders attacking the truck.  We talked about the Chipmonks, her favorite Dr. Seuss book and why the library doesn't have Between the Lions for 21 day checkout...3 days, come on!  You'll know I'll be late with that action!!!

While we were there the hunt was on for Dr. Seuss books, Elephant and Piggie and a movie for her sleepover.  We were focused, we were ready, we were a team on a mission.  After finding our movies we rushed over to the juvenile section to find some Dr. Seuss, no dice...but as we went aisle to aisle my mind was focused on one thing...books.  Her mind and her eyes do what they do, go everywhere all at once...she saw the girl with a huge pile of books spilled on the floor trying to pick them up. I saw her too, but not really. 

It was then that I was amazed; amazed at the way God reassures us of our prayers, amazed at the way he pushes us to keep going and amazed at the heart and beauty of a little girl.  Ella says to me, "Daddy, can I go help that girl with her books!"  I said, "of course..." and as soon as those words were out of my mouth she literally dropped her Cinderella doll and ran to the other aisle where she was and just started talking to her and asking if she needed help.  The girl told Ella she was fine, but that's not the point...she dropped everything, literally, to help where she saw a need. 

Did she worry about how the girl would respond?
Did she worry about her own needs?
Did she worry about her doll or the books we were looking for?
She asked her Daddy and went to work.

Work like it depends on you and pray like it depends on God...
this little girl is something special; I have no doubt God is using her even now to change hearts, open eyes and bring praise to His Kingdom.

You are something special kiddo,
Today I was amazed...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tattoo and Tenderness

Titles sound better will alliteration, right?  The /t/ just ties it together and makes you ready to read, right?  I have been praying and worrying, don't know which one I have done more of, to understand what God wants out of my trip.  While I don't believe there will ever be a "correct" answer or a time when it will stop affecting the way I live my life, I have come to some pretty clear realizations.
On our second day we had the honor of visiting this Massi hut, which was not big enough for us and the translators and the family so we rotated in.  I was the last one in and when it was my turn the father returned home, far left.  I had no idea what to say or what to I asked how I could pray and I found comfort with strangers who don't speak my language through God.

Praise the Lord!  Bwana Asifiwe!  God has been pressing me to read the book of Daniel, like I mentioned earlier.  I was so struck with the countless times that Daniel refused to "defile" himself for other people, that God was His priority.  In times of impossible situations Daniel leaned on God and prayed first, instead of the "start panic" or freak out I often do.  I think I talked through this in my last post, but I just want to set up the tattoo.

Our last stop before heading out was to this center where we were treated to these beautiful girls singing not to us, but to God...I had the privilege of closing our day out in prayer on this day, something you can't describe.  This was my response.
I really cherished the opportunity to pray for our day and with everyone.  It was awesome!  I would say a line and then Jonah would translate it into Swahili.  I started with "Dear Awesome Heavenly Father" to honor my man Dave, who always starts his prayers that way.  One of my favorite things to do is hear someone pray, you really get to see how they relate to God.  I always learn so much.

Most of my tattoos are covered.  I have Psalm 16:11 with a cross and music note on my right calf, I have a beaten and worn wooden cross on the top of my arm with Matthew 27:46, I have an uppercase and lowercase kindergarten Dd on the back of my left arm and I have a large water piece with a mermaid and four turtles that starts on my left arm and moves over my shoulder:  all covered.  Last year as Ella started kindergarten I started to notice how she was growing up and starting praying on my responsibility and privilege as her father.  I decided it was time to move to a visible area, my forearm.  I had her write her name and had it tattoo on me in pink, the exact way that she wrote it.  I also had Ephesians 6:4 placed underneath....fathers do not exasperate your children, instead train them up in the ways and the learning of the Lord.

Anyways, with every Compassion staff member, child and member of my group I felt more and more convicted to Praise the Lord, no matter what and no matter where I was.  Thus the lion...symbol to remind me of Daniel, Tanzania and that it would not be easy.  Vicious in every way like life so often seems.  Muscular and strong, able to strike fear into hearts and assure me that there is no way I could do this on my own.  Add the words "Praise the Lord" in Swahili, an awesome tattoo artist and a tradition Japanese look to match my water piece and you've got God's message to me where I will never forget it...on my right forearm.  From wrist to past my elbow, it is awesome!
This is my roommate from the trip, John.  He was an amazing man and the perfect roommate.  I am sure he will have his own blog entry from me soon, but his joy and his smile, his resolve for God was amazing!  Natalie said in a pray one morning, "Lord, let us smile for no reason" and it made me think of him.  Love you man!

A birthday gift from my wife and a reminder from God I couldn't have been more excited.  It took 3.5 hours and was REALLY painful in the crease of my elbow but as I lay on the couch at home that night I felt so ready for what God hand planned and that I "had it figured out."

I should have see the thing about me is...
I am flawed, I make mistakes and I DON'T like it!  I want to impress, want to please and want to be the best.  But God doesn't say, come to me when you are perfect and ready, he says to come as your broken self...otherwise what is the point of Christ dying for my sins if I think I can be perfect and be sin free without Him.  My need to try and be perfect has kept me from God through many days of my life and on this day...I spelled Bwana Asifiwe wrong...

On my tattoo I had him write "Bawana" because that is the way I was prouncing it.  Peter tried to get me to say it correctly, but my mouth just wouldn't do it...anyway, my tattoo is spelled wrong.  I laid on the couch holding my Tanzania guide looking at those words and wanting to throw up.  I found myself curled into a ball and feeling beat...the enemy pounced on me like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and devoured me.  Everything I learned and did on that trip and since then was a joke, it was a typo...just like always I was a joke...I shook and shut down.  What now?  I emailed my tattoo guy in a panic hoping there was some way to fix it before telling anyone...then my tenderness set in; my wife and precious council from God.

We laid there in bed and she spoke God's words to me, she spoke His comfort, His wisdom and His love.  She told me that God doesn't want me perfect, hiding my flaws, typos and mistakes.  That if I am going to Praise the Lord that I do it when things are perfect and in the darkest times, when I am full of mistakes He still wants me calling to Him and trying to live His word.  If I make mistakes in the process it doesn't mean I run from Him.  She asked me to keep it...that it meant more with the mistake because it represents so much more of me, with that mistake in it...big and bold, right in front of everyone. 

When I woke the next morning I prayed and I know my wife prayed for me because I felt a comfort and a love again for the gift God had given me in Tanzania, on my arm and in my house.  I made the decision to love it even more because it is even more of what God wants me to be, and even more of a reminder of my need for Him.  Oddly enough, when I showed it to everyone at church the two people who read Swahili didn't notice (or didn't say anything).  Isn't that how it always is with our sins and our mistakes, we think that because of them we should stay away and hide but in reality people will love and embrace us anyway, sometimes not even noticing the flaw that you could barely stand about yourself.

After church I got an e-mail back from my tattoo guy that said I could come back to the shop and he would hit it with peroxide and then as it healed I would be able to pick it out...then we could redo the banner and the words correctly.  It had to be done that day before the ink set in, but I decided to keep it.

That day at church Natalie sang Bones, a song that she sings lead on and a song that we all love.  It brings me to tears to hear her voice sing, "Oh, Jesus, Oh Jesus, alive in me..." Everyone adores the song, when she sings it but she...hates it.  The song is really low and a struggle for her, she thinks it sounds awful and she always tries to get out of it.  Not a chance!

She is my tender gift from God, my council, my support, my anchor to bring me closer and closer to Him.  As I grow closer to the Lord I grow closer to her, I long to touch her, hold her, hear her sing, listen to her pray and just be in her prescense.  God is Good!

This is the picture she sent me from the van right before I got on the plane.  I can see her trying so hard to smile, but there being just that bit of worry in her face.  One of my favorite things that we do is send each other pictures of ourselves, love the iphone...I am not too fond of taking pictures of myself but I love getting one from her...I have them all saved in a folder.

Bawana Asifiwe!  or is it Bwana Asifiwe!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Starting to Come Together

Sitting, patiently, in the Masi hut.  Not sure of what I am seeing, why I am there but starting to feel how powerful God's joy is...Psalm 16:11

Saturday will mark 2 weeks since I left Tanzania, or at least start the traveling process; seems like long enough to head out and get a tattoo.  I will be getting a lion on my right forearm with the phrase "Bwana Asefewi" which means, "Praise the Lord."  I have always been a worrier, even to the point of panic attacks and Lexipro over the past year.  My last panic attacks came the week before I left, while trying to sleep.  At this point I know to just try and breath through them, but the first one I ever had sent me running in my boxers across the street to my parents thinking I was having a heart attack.  Of course my wife, daughters and parents were all in PA visiting Grandma Joyce.  I ended up in the hospital and on a walking heart monitor for 2 weeks...turns out, nothing wrong with the heart....just my head.  Anyway, it has always bothered me that I have not been able to completely let go of my worry and trust in God.  It makes me feel like I am holding something back, even when I am not sure what that could be.  I can say the right things and logically know that the God that designed the caterpillar with over 100 muscles in its head is looking after me, but somehow...ugh!

I have been feeling the prompting to read the book of Daniel for a while now, a man who totally trusted in the the impossible things that God could and can do.  The book I have been reading The Circle Maker has pushed me to stop asking weak, lame prayers.  Stop giving God an out if a prayer "isn't anserwed."  Start expecting God to do the impossible, start praying as if He is God.  I have since starting praying for my daugher, my Dad's pain and a few other personal things.  While answers do not come at my pace or in my way of solving them, that is the point of God answering prayers and not me.  About 2 months ago, by brother stopped by; completely shaken.  He told me that he had been let go at work.  This is a job he moved his family out here for, that he was diligently trying to learn and in Maryland you are allowed to fire someone within 90 days without cause our documentation...he was fired on day 89.  Everything about it screamed unfair and awful.

I had just finished reading about a prayer walk that Mark Batterson, pastor at NCC in DC, did through DC 15 years ago when the church was strugglin.  It is his book, The Circle Maker, that has really pushed my thinking.  One of the scriptures he circles and puts great emphasis on is the falling of the walls of Jericho.  In the story Joshua is told my God to circle the walls of Jericho once a day for six days and on the seventh day circle it seven times; for a total of 13 times.  His army is to remain quiet until the seventh day and then they are to let out crys and cheers worthy of God...that is the battle plan.  Circle in silence, trust God and of course pray. The result is the walls crumbling on the last circle and the city falling, an "Only God" victory.

That night, after my brother left, I was prompted to leave the house and pray.  I circled our street 13 times, praying and talking to God.  At times I was angry, built up and yelling at Satan, at other times I was calm, silent and looking up.  The last 2 laps Natalie called me and I talked to her about praying and struggling, I realized what a gift she was that night.  That God has put whatever steps in my life in motion with her, what we do for God we do by building each other up in His word. 

I don't know the results of that prayer, but I countine to pray.  My brother's wife now has a job, he is changing careers and going to school to be a mechanic.  It will be a tough year and a half.  My Dad hurts more right now than he has in a while, but God answers prayers and failure only means that I have given up...that I have not.

I say all of this to point to my first day in Tanzania, at the compassion office.  We joined the local staff in devotionals and music (ever hear 30 Americans and 30 Tanzanians sing Shout to the Lord, awesome!)  During that time they share a few mini-messages, of course guess what the focus was...praying to God like He is GOD and the scripture...walls of Jericho!  This caused me to finally start reading the book of Daniel and trying to truly trust God.
Steph, Catherine and Eve...btw, women had to wear a skirt every time we went to a center.  Don't know if it bothered them, but I was dressed in dirty cargo pants everyday.

Everyone knows, from Sunday school I assume, about Daniel and the lions.  That he refused to stop praying to God, despite the law.  I was also struck by the first story in Daniel 1.  In it he joins the kings staff and is ordered to eat and drink the meat and wine from the king, which had been used in ceremonies to other Gods.  Daniel asked the guard to bring him only fruits, vegetables and water for a week and see if he were as strong and healthy as the others taking the kings offerings.  In Daniel 1:8 it says that he refused to "defile" himself.  Of course he was stronger at the end, staying true to God, despite the pressures of the world around him.  I was also really struck by the his response to an impossimble situation.  When the the king demands that his dream not just be interpreted, but they must tell him what the dream was all of the other magicians and what not started to panic and eventually said, "no one can do this, only God and he does not dwell among us."  Daniel did NOT freak out, he went to his boys and said that they all need to pray and beg to God.  In an impossible situation he immediatly turned to prayer and turned to God...because HE IS GOD.

We prayed over the water in the reserve and filter at the center that finally brought clean water to the area.  Before this water they shared the damed area you see below with animals, nature and who knows what else.  Most women who asked us for prayer asked for health for their children, that they be spared of disease.

 Yeah, it was that dirty,that unsafe.  A few of the guys spend a little time with the 6 and 7 year old boys hearding their father's cows.

 I can't shake the image of the little guy, second from the left.  He was eating a piece of corn that was just covered in flies.  There were flies all over his face and hands and he never moved to brush them off.  Gave them candy, told them that God loved them and prayed with their mother.  At times you feel so small and are not even sure what you are seeing or why.

Do not defile myself under the pressures of the world.  Each compassion staff member and worker at the center and transolator that I met started and ended each talk, conversations and quick note with "Bwana Asifewi" - Praise the Lord.  Every time!  Sometimes they would say it 3 or 4 times, no shame, no hiding.  In a country that is 60% Muslim, when the singing and call to prayer wakes you at 5:45 in the morning (actually only woke me twice because I was so tired) they refused to defile themselves, they refused to not Praise the Lord.

That is who I want to be in Christ, someone who does not hide.  The lion has become a symbol of that for me, representing not just Daniel's courage but the country and the courage of those staff members trying to raise children out of poverty that you can't imagine.

By the way, Natalie and I set our alarms and pray for Ella everyday at 8:30 when her school starts.  We pray that God make her strong, that he show us her beauty and that each thing she has to fight to learn and know brings her closer to Him.  We pray for the teachers, her friends and for us as parents.  8:30...fell free to join in, she is so worth the prayer and God is so capable of doing something with her we could never imagine.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What to Blog...

I had thought that after a week I would take each day of my trip and blog about it specifically one day at a time.  Now that the time is here I am still unsure of what to focus on as I try to describe the adventure God sent me on.  As I sit down each night I think I'll just see what happens and where God leads me.  Gradually friends from my group are uploading more and more pictures to our Shutterfly site, which has already got me talking and thinking different things.

My thoughts today, however, dwell on those friends and what an amazing gift they were and will be in my life.  On the plane ride out there I had the clear thought, as I was reading The Circle Maker, that God needed to break me of my routine.  That He needed to pull and "all stop" on my day to day.  It is a little funny to think that He had to send me to East Africa so that He could open me up again, but that seems like what he did.  Time, days, schedules, routines, comfort zone...all gone.  What is left is a very raw and ready mind.  It made each person I met a pastor in my eyes, a gift, and deliverer of His word.
Normal breakfast, with a juice called "cocktail"  Sooooo tasty!

Today I am been thinking about Bobby, our co-leader.  While I only had 2 real conversations with him, they are both powerful, unique and worth the price of admission.  Breakfast, was simple each morning.  A buffet, instant coffee, meat and potatoes, cereal and fruit...then there were the fancy loaves of bread in the shape of animals....don't know what they were about, if they were fresh each morning or if anyone ate them.  One of the cool things about breakfast was that you ended up sitting with someone different each morning, depending upon when you staggered down.  John and I were up by 5:45-6ish and down to breakfast around 6:30-7ish.  That gave us plenty of time to read, pray, listen to the Muslim singing (actually at 5:40, but it makes the story sound better this way) and enjoy a relaxing breakfast.

After a day or two of the fruit and puff cereal I was feeling nauseous on the bus so I figured my stomach had no idea what time it was and wanted hearty food...thus I tried the beef and potatoes at 7am...nope, still unhappy belly and head

Anyway, one morning I sat with Bobby, Jeff and John and we got to talk about God's calling and our own pride.  Bobby said something that will stick with me for a long time time.  God wants to break us down and put us in situations that we feel we cannot handle because it leaves us only one alternative - turning to Him.  The moment we look at a situation or job that God has given us and say, "I got this, no problem" we are in trouble because we think we don't need Him.  We think we are strong enough on our own.  Philippians 4:13, one of my favorite verses and favorite the NKJ it says, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  Amazing Matthew West song called Strong Enough that gives me chills...the whole album, in fact, is true stories of tough situations people go through only to find the power and strengthen in Christ - bought it for my Mom I loved it so much.
Bobby on the left and Yvonne on right.  Neither one of them stopped smiling, ever and are amazing representatives for Christ, America and Compassion.

So with all of the struggle we each feel right now and all of the "where are you God?" Brandon said in group on Wednesday, "I looks like we are where God wants us to be." 

The only thing my iPhone was good for was watching Star Wars in the airport and taking small video clips.  My hand written journal wasn't going so well so I started just taking 10-30 second clips of myself and how I felt after an event.  Some are powerful and choke me up now and some are like this...not so deep.

 Also started to look at the people in my life here and what amazing creations God has made in them.  In Africa, each new person I was asking "OK God, so what are you showing me here."  Why do I have to go to Africa to see the beauty in the creations he places around me everyday?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thomas meets our sponsored child, Waryoba!

On Wednesday Thomas sent me the below email. We was finally able to meet Waryoba--the child we have been sponsoring and praying for the past 3 years--God is Good!

From Thomas:
Met our guy today, Waryoba.  He lives up near Lake Victoria, the furthest center away from here.  It was a 2 day trip, that included a looooong bus ride and staying in a hotel...2 things he has never done before, so today was pretty overwhelming for him.  He came with the director of his center, Justine...who was amazing!  I had a translator too, his name was Armon, which means peace...exactly what I prayed for that morning.  I was so comfortable with him, he was amazing as well.

Of course I will tell you every detail when I see you, but here are the cliff notes:

the center there has been open since 2009, I am the first sponsor to visit a child from that center!  He presented me with a necklace made by Waryoba and one made by the staff...the first one given to someone who has acomplished great things, the second to some of great honor and respect.  He then gave me a card that Waryoba wrote and had every kid in the center sign it...then he gave me a card made by the staff thanking me and praying for me.  He talked for 5 minutes solid about how much they love me and how much they appreciate me...way too overwhelming for words!

He was a quiet dude.  He is the size of a kindergartener but he will be 10 years old in June.  The swim trunks I got him didn't even come close and I gave my pair to the director and they were like clown pants on him...we found them both shorts though and were good to go.  We played all day!  Wore me out!  There was a huge playground and we did it all.  Then we played soccer forever, several times!  We drew, he labeled my animal cards in KiSwahilli, looked at pictures...he loved them! and knew the names of the girls and you.  We played Uno and another card game I took...Justine and My Peace loved both card games and were a little competitive!  So much fun.  The gifts were perfect, even the little cars which he rolled all over the place.

Also found out some new information on him.  The director brought his medical and writing log.  I found out he has a brother who is 7 and a sister who is 4.  His mother is also 8 months pregnant.  The father left them after getting the mother pregnant.  He is not Masi (which is a tribe that picks a different wife to be with each night) he just "abandoned" the family.  He has picked a new wife and is living with her.  So Waryoba no longer has a father...he left without a care for them.

On a funny note, the second picture we recieved from him wasn't him.
I showed them and asked who the woman was and it turns out it is a different Waryoba in the center.  That would explain why he looks different and has never mentioned the baby the woman is holding.
Oops!  I was worried that I wouldn't be able to recognize him, but when I saw his face I knew right away.  He didn't seem to know how to hug, but I hugged him anyway and told him it was what I did when my heart was happy.

The director is an amazing man.  He played with us all day like a kid and laughed the whole time, the joy of christ in a grown man...I loved him!  I will be writing him seperatly just to encourage him.  He also took a video with the camera they have of the center.  He walked through the whole thing and had kids there to say "Hello Mr Thomas, God Bless You"  so cool.  He also had video of Waryoba's house and mother.  he use to live in a mud one when the father was around, but the village has moved them in with another family since he left them.

He is in a concrete room now, but has nothing on the floor, 1 window that is just and open hole and 1 door that is just an open hole...he kept telling me how unsafe it was and that "it is bad"  bugs, animals, and thieves can come in at anytime.  The videos were so thoughtful and so amazing.  He is going to try to put them on a cd and send them to me, along with an English to kiswahilli book to teach me.  I told him the next time I came back I wanted to speak to him one-on-one.  the director also invited me right up the center next time to see everything for myself.  So...we're coming back.

They really seemed to know Ella.  They knew her pictures and her name.
The director told me how to say her name in Kiswahilli and I asked him to say it on video.  So when I put the camera on him he went into a 2 minute talk saying hello to you and Samantha and Ella and saying how much they love you and pray for you..then told Ella how to say zebra and her name.  My favorite picture or video so far!  He also said that he sees in the pictures I send of her and the way I talk about her that I treat her with great respect.  He saw in the picture of the first day of school where I got down next to her that I got down to her level and didn't stand next to her putting the the adult above and making her look up to speak with me.  He has started doing this now...When he speaks to a child he gets on their level, he thanked me for teaching him through the pictures...I didn't know what to say.

My interaction was not the same as everyone's.  Some had crying goodbyes and constant hugs and others just sat together.  I have been praying to take joy in the way God has made me and the way that I relate to people.

Tomorrow we go to another center to see a group of kids (candy and sticker give away time) and do some service work.  I am hoping to plant another tree.  Love that I planted a tree that will be growing in Africa!  After that I drive to a new hotel to get ready for Safari on Friday, then friday night we drive back to this hotel.  Should be exahausting.  This means, however, that I most likel will not get to write again...I will be traveling.  I will try Friday night after we get back to this hotel, but I have no idea what time that will be.
Safari is 3 hours away. 

On Saturday we go to the local center to see what the weekly learning and activites are and then we drive right to the airport.

Loving You Stronger Each Day,