Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hi Randy, Brittany, Marissa , Sue, Debbie, Mom, Jackie, Bill & family! I made it to Africa!!

July 31 - Day 2 - Before I get started, I want to mention what an awesome team we  have.  I must mention all their names: Jim, Amiee, Eugene, Matt, Mark, Zara, Hannah, Corinna, Tom, Justin, & Bruce-what a great team! Today we built brick walls, built forms, set the final rebar cages and cleaned up!  I am becoming quite a "skilled masonary"  lol!  The men our so patient in showing me these skills.  Meredith, Shawn, Carla and Jeff have really gone out of their way with delicious meals and their hospitality.  I have to admit, one of the "highlights" of our day, was watching Justin pet the bull!!!  He was very proud, I must add.  The children are all so precious-just wanting to be held, played with and hanging out.
  Message for team 3, we are recommending to bring extra towels and washcloths, shower squeegie's, concrete floats, cement trowels and bathroom hooks. Oh and some krispy M&M's, peanut  M&M's (for Meredith & Carla) and some snacks for your group ( which I can't wait to work with you guys too!) . Forgot to tell you team 3, you do not need mosquito nets. Jim started us out with a devotion, and Matt ended out day with a devotion.  We are all really blessed to being serving in Jesus's name.  Blessings to you all and please keep us all in your prayers.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Hi MOM! We're in Kenya!

Team two began and finished our first day of work with a bang! We were up with the sun, not that the children would stay quiet enough to let us sleep in anyways but we were very anxious to get started. Let me also add that team one set a great precedent for us and there just may be a little competition going on, but I will save that story for someone else.

We were blessed with a beautiful day with no rain in which I was able to learn to lay bricks and mortar. Working side by side with native Kenyans helps to keep your ambitions high. They are passionate, knowledgeable and so patient while teaching us. Jonathan and Alfred treated me as an equal on the work site, never looking down to me as a being a girl attempting to learn masonry. I never thought my greatest lessons learned would on the very first days of my stay.

There is so much more to do and I have NO doubt sooo much more to learn. I cannot wait to continue our journey in Kitale not only physically with our construction but spiritually and mentally as well.  Our team works together with ease, respecting each other as a team and as individuals. The true tests I'm sure are yet to come as this is only day one but I say bring it on! We will embrace each day as we did this one and continue  on our mission rain or shine. But yes, continue on the mission SAFELY mom. As we are all safe, together and HAPPY. That is all that really matters in the end :)


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Coming to an end

Today is Thursday, our second to last day at In Step. We have officially finished the sixth course of rock for the outside walls and started the brick laying for the inside walls. Tomorrow is our last day of work and we will continue to lay bricks.
Our time here at In Step has been an incredible experience. There are few words that I can use to describe just how impeccable this place really is. There are now 114 children being housed in two long dorms and fed three times a day. The workers here that make it all happen are amazing. I don't know how they can manage to pull off all the responsibilities that come with taking care of 114 kids every single day.
These children have given so much to me. Hearing the story of what an innocent young life has gone through while looking at the child brought tears to my eyes. All the stories have been difficult to hear. God has brought them here for better lives and that is exactly what they are given when they come here. To everyone who has made In Step what it is today, you have done amazing work and given so much to so many little hearts. I am truly amazed by what I have seen here. My experience will always stay with me.

Despite the lack of elephants...

Only two days left!! As we are approaching the end of our journey here at the orphanage, it has become bittersweet. We are all tired, worn out and missing home, myself included. However, I am counting down the days I have left with these kids and I don't know how I am going to live without them. At the work site I do not have an official job and consider myself a floated. I give my assistance where it is needed and in between I sneak off and play with the kids. Yesterday I did a type of aerobics that the aunties instructed and then sang and danced and played a Kenyan version of duck duck goose. Today I sat on the log and was flooded with little one playing with my hair and sitting on my laps and telling me stories I don't exactly understand. Two days ago, a newbie arrived, Bravin. He has won my heart. He tries to hide his smile but his two front chicklets stick out between his chubby cheeks when I smile at him. I tickled him so much for the first night and ignored him yelling at me to "stop it" and "go away" in swahili until he peed on me. Oops.

It is now Thursday night. I had to stop blogging yesterday because one of the kitchen girls, Helen, did my hair. After two and a half hours I have a hundred tight braids throughout my entire head. I love it! I had kids on my lap and pulling on my arms while it was getting done. I can't get enough of them and it goes both ways. They love being tickled and laugh and laugh and it keeps a huge smile on all our faces. Now, there is only one day left and I am going to miss them all very much. I'm taking lots of pictures to hang on my walls at school that way I always remember the little ones who have brought so much joy to my life.

Overall, I am very pleased with my Africa experience. I am so thankful God has granted me this opportunity. And although I will not be seeing any elephants (the thing I was most excited for and which attracted me to Africa in the first place) I would not have traded these last two weeks for the world.

Hope all is well at home.

-Kimberly Butler

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moving Stone & Sand

Today was one of those days that felt less productive than it actually was. Yesterday, five stone cutters set to work on the gray and black stone. Today, we started our day moving stone into color and size specific piles. This is one of those tasks that is hard work and helpful in the long run, but doesn't get stone laid immediately. A few of our crew then spent the rest of the day moving sand to make more mortar. Most of us spent our day sorting stone and setting it out to be laid. While this didn't raise the level of our building significantly, it did set us up for an easier day tomorrow.

After lunch, we came out to discover storm clouds gathering. Lightening was striking on all sides and we could hear the rain coming. I think we may have each moved a single rock before Adam announced that the rain would be here in five minutes. He was perfectly accurate! And the rain that came was a serious downpour – it lasted over an hour and a half! This didn't leave us with much more time to work outside before darkness fell. We did our best to be productive in that time, but unfortunately didn't get as much done as we would have liked.

On a more positive note, In Step added another child to their ranks today. We were able to meet this precious little boy after dinner this evening. I am constantly in awe of the love and care that all these children receive here. When I am tired and sore at the end of the day, the kids here remind me how important our work is for everyone here. Whenever we pass by the kids, we hear our names called and see lots of little hands waving to us. I'm not sure I've ever felt more appreciated for working hard – or felt more purpose-filled in doing manual labor.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 2

Well we have started on week two.  The building is progressing.  We have a skilled Kenyan mason working with us now.  He works twice as fast as the rest of us which makes us feel like we are all progressing faster.  It only rained a little on us today.  We also had the opportunity to shop through some wares a local vendor brought to the site.  Kim and I took advantage.  

Child number 113 arrived today.  He is a little boy about 2 years old.  His mother died and he was being neglected the rest of his family.  He was in the hospital for a week before he came here from malnutrition.  This place was built for 30-40 children.  Hence the reason we are here; to increase the capacity.  It is a little overwhelming; the non-stop need and flow of children.  Yesterday we went to two other orphanages.  It was wonderful to see the places that have been built with the aid of people we now know and to know that eventually what we are building really will be utilized.  Its kind of hard to believe when it is only rows of rock and mortar.

We are settling into a routine now.  We hang out in the hospitality room during the evenings and try to attach ourselves to Adam's internet.   I am sorry we will not get to know the next two groups.  Please know our thoughts and prayers will be with you.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sunday a day of rest.....

Ah, a day off from the job site! Everyone (well, most everyone) slept in to catch up on their rest from the week's work. Then at noon we left for one of the most awesome days ever... We loaded into the Land Rover and with Adam at the wheel headed out on our field trip. After about a 45 minute drive we arrived at the Veronica Home. This is the site of the of the Girls School that Adam came to Kenya 14 months ago to build. It was great to see the work that he had done first hand and the children at the home were all excited to see him. Our entire group had a great time playing and interacting with the children. There was soccer, rope jumping, and lots of hugging and snuggling up. After about an hour stay there we loaded back into the Land Rover and it was on to Johabeto.
Arriving there we were greeted by a lot of old friends. Todd, Jena and I were excited to see the buildings we had started finished and being put to use. Martin, Ruth and the Kids were excited to see us and a grand reunion was had by all. After a tour of the Home with a lot of reminiscing we were invited to sit and, with lots of children sitting on our laps and hair being braided by others, they entertained us with a show of song and dance. I fully believe that the highlight of the show was a number they did where they talked Adam into joining them. Each of them, as well as Adam, had a solo part doing a song and dance. Martin then gave a talk to us telling the group about his history with our family and how the home came to be built. We reluctantly took our leave after a wonderful 2 hour stay and headed home to In Step arriving back in time for dinner at 6. Dinner and devotions by Katie are now over and babies are being held, fed, and burped as others are winding down and getting ready for bed and a good nights rest to prepare us for the start of another day and week on the construction site. Please continue to carry us in prayer that we have the strength and will to do the labor we have before us and that, other than a few scratches, sunburn and cement in Kim's eye, that we do it in safety.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Questions and Answers

I guess I have to start by saying that I have no idea what to write. For those of you who know me well, I expect you will be as surprised as I am to read that. - long winded stories are usually my gig. I expected when it would be my turn to post that I would have so much to write – and I'm finding the opposite. I suppose I'll just tell you a little of what we're doing.
As you have probably read from the previous posts, we're working on the dormitory – we started with a cement slab foundation and we are building exterior stone walls one block at a time. We've all had turns laying the bed joints and filling in head joints; learning all about the techniques – making sure there's a stable bond between courses of stone (on top of each other) and how to keep everything plumb and level. We start right after devotions in the morning (scripture reading and discussion) at seven thirty and go to work until lunchtime around twelve-thirty or one o'clock. We take breaks whenever we need to. After an hour lunch – usually prepared by Carla and Jeff (the house parents and center directors) or whatever was prepared by the kitchen staff that the kids also eat – we get back to work and work until six.
During today's work we completed the fourth course of stone (they are seven to eight inches high). My job has been to sort stone and prepare each course for those doing masonry. Each stone is irregular – different lengths, sometimes different shapes, of four different color stones. We try to make it as randomly colored is possible.
Everyone is doing great work. I'm always amazed at how well groups of people can mesh together even though we (most of us) just met. Of course there are always challenges, but everyone has been patient and understanding with each other in times of fatigue from the work and the sun.

The kids here are unbelievable. I've never seen children so joyful, playful, open, and trusting as these. At every opportunity they are waving to us, calling us (by our names, or by the nicknames they have chosen for us, mine being “July”), and piling on top of us with hugs. Obviously I tend to gravitate toward the little ones – the smallest being just four pounds, and three months old.

I could go on and on about all the details of how this place works, but it wouldn't adequately describe what it's like here. I could tell you about how the night sky is so dark, and the stars so bright that it literally looks like it could not be real. I could tell you about the soaking rains that come down after the deep grey and blue clouds swirl around the valley in the afternoons – and how it is as if heaven opened a floodgate above us. I could tell you about the Cherangani mountains in the east – and how their majesty and mystery cast a wonder over the valley below. I could go on about all the hard-working people who are constantly and completely giving of themselves – often thanklessly – to contribute to and be a part of this place. I could go on – I suppose I have – but it wouldn't even scratch the surface.

This place is unbelievable. Not just the location – but the people, the work that is done here, the miracles that grow out of these little children once disregarded. I've never seen a love like this. Sure, I've doubted God and asked Him all sorts of questions. Maybe I came here hoping to find answers to questions I didn't know how to ask. What I'm finding is an answer that outlasts any that I could have expected. What exists here is a group of people following God in such a way, on such a deep level from inside each of them, and among them, that the questions stop being asked.

Before I left the US I found myself hoping that I would be able to be free from all the stress and worry of my life – Ron had said, “Julia, you're going to be taken away from your problems when we are in Africa,” - simply because I would have two weeks or so away from work and the usual happenings of daily life. What I didn't realize was that this would really happen – being taken away from my problems, not just for two weeks. Instead of escaping my problems by way of a physical separation, there is a freedom from them by way of a spiritual separation: I'm realizing that I don't really have any.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Birthday Bash! (and more rain)

Happy 23rd Lindsay Wahl!

Today commenced on schedule. After an inspiring devotion from our man Don, out to the work site we went.

Lindsay got two special gifts for her birthday, a cold and a poopy high five (from a student of the potty training academy)!
...She also got a nice card

There was spaghetti for lunch, which Kim loved. And the team was introduced to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches, thanks to Adam.

We almost finished the third course of stone all the way around the building. If not for yet another strong rainstorm we would have been well into the fourth this afternoon. Perhaps tomorrow will prove a bit more productive. Let us pray for fewer weather interruptions.

This evening, Todd got to take the prized Land Cruiser out for a spin through the rural Kenyan landscape. What a thrilling ride! Bumps and bounces and twists and turns. Fishtailing and four wheel mud flinging. Shifting with the left hand was a more comfortable experience than he expected. Those along for the ride were treated to a concert of the unique calls of tree frogs out in the wilderness before returning to the compound.

After dinner, Andrew lead an incredibly moving devotion and a concluding prayer complete with sound effects.

All is well

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Today was one of those days that just proves the saying: Man plans, God laughs. We thought we would employ our newly found masonry skills to finish the second row of stones and make serious headway on the third row. . . But God laughed.

Here's how today went: We all set to work doing the parts we've become skilled at doing. Andrew and Don are our master mixers, Julia knows how to find the perfect stones to set out in a row. Lisa etches lines in the set stone. Kim etches and sets the first layer of mortar down. Todd, Lindsay, Jena and I set the stone. We were all busy doing our tasks AND the brick was delivered. During our break for lunch, the sand – which was supposed to arrive Monday – was delivered. Things were going swimmingly and we were confident that our goals would be met.

Did I say swimmingly? Ah yes, well see when we went back out after lunch, the clouds were already gathered. We were able to work for a few more hours before the storm truly broke. Forced to flee inside, we gathered in the hospitality room for hot chocolate and tea. Carla brought in Bonnie and Austin and we were able to snuggle and smile with them as Carla told us stories about the children's home and their lives here.

Sometimes the blessings are found in the least expected. So many of the children here are miracles and all are blessed to be under their care. Getting to spend time with them today might not have been in our plans, but it was definitely a fantastic plan.


Day two of building

We woke up this morning sore from the previous day's efforts but ready to start work on the building. To boost our spirits further we had fresh local bananas and passion fruit with our breakfast. After breakfast, I conquered my fear of public speaking by presenting the morning's Devotions and then it was off to work. The only minor setback was getting my fingers super glued together while helping Katie mend her sunglasses. On the plus side, the super glue provided a nice barrier against the mortar and rocks so I had no need for work gloves.

Slowly but steadily, we managed to complete the first layer of the wall by noon. After lunch and lunchtime chores, Kim and Lisa handed out “sweeties”(candy) to the kids. Their shrieks and cries of excitement could be heard from outside the building!

Although we didn't get a rain break today, some of the group took the opportunity to play soccer with the kids while Adam orchestrated the pouring of the last of the concrete for the foundation/floor slab. Despite re-applying adequate amounts of sunblock, nearly all of us were sunburned (of course Ron, who didn't apply any sunblock, only bronzed.) We were blessed with dark clouds and a slight drizzle in the late afternoon as we finished a large portion of the second layer of rock on the wall.

We didn't have enough energy this evening to present our “highs and lows” of the day, but enjoyed a lively dinner conversation with Jeff, Carla, Sean and Meredith followed by Devotions presented by Lisa. A shower and walk outside to see the star was the perfect way to relax before bedtime.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The work has begin!  Hi everyone.  Most of you are not familiar with me, I am Chris(sy) Zimmer's aunt and Don(ald) Zimmer's aunt.  We have all arrived safe and sound.  Don, Lindsey and I arrived first.  The rest of the crew arrived several hours later. The three of us spent a lot of time with the kids before the others arrived.  I was able to see Don in a whole new light.  The children adored him.  He was almost always covered in kids.  I do have pictures.
We have a great work crew.  I feel having a small groups enables us to really get a chance to know each other.  The six women are in one room on three double beds.  There is plenty of space and the beds are very comfortable.  The food has been decent.
There are 112 children here with all kinds of heartbreaking stories.   Most are between the ages of 1-4 which means they are FULL of energy.  As a general rule they are happy, however there is almost always someone crying.  It is hard to comprehend how much work is involved in caring for that many children.  The women here do an amazing job.  They hand wash the laundry then lay it out to dry.  Laundry for over 110 people takes an enormous amount of space.  I have pictures of this as well.  Picture bathing all the children. Also imagine trying to potty train 20 children to go in a latrine.  They do it on newspapers all at once.  I did not take a picture for obvious reasons.  Their foundation is structure.
We started the actual work today.  This included moving a lot of sand to the foundation, laying out rectangular stones of different colors in a random order for the walls. We even have the last layer of stones down and cemented in.  We will all be skilled at masonry when this is all done.
It is interesting to hear how everyone came to be here.  It is also fun for me, being originally from Pittsford, to know where they are talking about when they are describing something.
I think we are all touched in different ways by everything we see here.  Life is so different here.   It is hard to believe that we are from the same time period.
I believe God has us all here for a reason and I am pretty sure we will all be affected dramatically after our stay here.  Please continue to keep us in your prayers.

Yours in mission,