Here I am! I thoroughly apologize for my lack of dedication to the blog. BUT, I’m here now and I wrote my first entry (in Kenya) in the van on our way home from a beautifully emotional day.
When you leave something like what we just saw, there is a strange feeling that fills your body. So much raw and blatant devastation, but so much love and community simultaneously, it is overwhelming. Upon entering the camp of about 5,000 people (871 tents), where do you begin? You go. That’s what you do. You walk and you pray and God reveals exactly what it is you need to see.
That’s precisely what happened. The people living in this camp have been extracted from their “homes” by the government due to reforestation purposes. Thousands and thousands of lives have been moved to tents many miles from any means of nourishment or daily necessities. As we entered the camp, we were taken to their source of “clean” drinking water that is being brought by the government once every two days. They have systematically set up a way to disperse the water to the community with five men in charge of the operation. But other than this source of water, we were ushered in by tons of kids with buckets from a nearby stream (Clean water from that stream is impossible). The other striking thing about this sight, besides the buckets of water they were lugging back to their homes, was NONE of them were at school. It was 2 in the afternoon, but clearly there was nowhere these children could attend. They did not, they do not, have the opportunity to go to school. They do not get the luxury of education. I am constantly reminded that education is one of the most important aspects of the elimination of poverty. If this is true, then clean water, sanitation, and health are the bricks and mortar to build this foundation. There is no brick in this camp, there is no mortar, there is no foundation.
As we made our way up to the “medical clinic” I didn’t see anything near what I expected to see when we got there. I don’t know why I would expect anything different, but what I saw fell miles short. Two tents were set up, one which was used for testing (that has been used once) and one that had basic medications for the major diseases that they were facing. Although they didn’t have anything near what they needed, they were trying, they were working, and they were doing it with the best of their ability.
The amount of welcome and gratitude we received upon our entrance onto the land was overwhelming. Being greeted by that many people at one time can surely send some people over the edge, but I knew it was right where I needed to be. Endless handshakes, reluctant greetings from little ones (who had likely never seen white skin in their life) , snotty embraces, and eyes wide open in awe, what more can one ask for? I talked to a gentleman named Soi who was a respected man in the community. He welcomed me and gave me the rundown of the harsh situations that the camp was facing. Not one single time did this man throw himself an, oh so common pity party, but he just gave me the raw facts. At the end of the conversation he said “please send our love to the United States. We love them, we welcome them.” Following this statement, he said, “we need them.” It wasn’t a cry for attention, it wasn’t a plea for pity, it was a subtle reminder that they are out there and that they are out there and that they do not want to be forgotten. One man said “please do not let the government forget about us.” Being forgotten, in heaping numbers as these people were, cannot be justified, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s real.
Of course, while the “adults” were conversing, I decided to have a little bit of fun with the hundreds of kids that were lurking in the distance. They mustered up enough courage to come get close enough to play some games! I may not speak their language (languages) but I know a smile is universal. These kids are so often faced with atrocious and harsh realities, and today they got to follow the crazy white girl jumping, hissing, and twirling around their homes. They got to laugh, and be kids. Even through their snotty noses, I saw Jesus in each one of them around me. And let me tell you, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
When we got back in the van, Susan told me that she talked to man who told her something that gave me the chills and absolutely shattered my heart. He said “the last group of mazungus (white people) that came to see the camp, refused to touch the kids.” He said that they literally shook the dirt off of themselves in disgust. I instantly understood all of the little faces that approached me with questioning eyes about whether or not they could touch me or shake my hand. They were lucky I didn’t pick em all up and take em home with me. Not touch them? Susan said it perfectly, “I didn’t see dirty children, I saw children with dirt on them.” Yes, I understand how sicknesses get transferred, and how diseases are transmitted, but I also understand that love can mean so much more then that. And I do NOT understand the living environments those people lived in, or the heartache they endure daily, but I do know that there wouldn’t be anything in the world that would keep me from touching those children with the love of God. Before Susan told me about what she had heard, I laid my hands on as many of the kid’s heads as I could and although I didn’t know how to even begin to pray for them, I knew that I needed to. I knew that I wasn’t big enough to fix all of their problems, but I KNOW that my God is.
In His service, Natalie