Perhaps it is the heat, or maybe the emotion that comes with writing about the incredible place and people that make up Tumaini, but it has taken me quite a few attempts to write this blog. I have given up trying to tell you everything that we have done, who we have met, and how they have blessed us. As there are 8 of us, it would take up rather a lot of space in the blogosphere. It has been clear, from the moment we landed in Nairobi, whose work we are doing here, as we sat on a bus and ’10,000 Reasons’ was blasting out of the radio. God has been blessing us in so many ways and we have been able, with our variety of skills and personalities, to bless and be blessed by those around us.
Dr Alison (as she is now affectionately known) has been busy visiting, diagnosing and treating people of all ages, as well as talking about sexual health with the young people in the secondary school and the ladies at Mama Sema. God has been using Alison in the continuing developments of the cervical screening project. She has met with doctors at the local hospital here, to discuss the progress. Alison has been blessing the young people of the school, by answering all of their questions about STIs and getting rid of the many misconceptions held by people out here.
Ehud has been blessing the Mamas and the disabled children abundantly in his work out here. He was renamed Elwood on the first morning, by Mama Julie, and it has now stuck. If you visit Tumaini, you will know that the heart of the place is in the kitchen with Mama Julie, and this is where change of hearts and attitudes has to come from, if it is to be really embedded in life here. And so, Elwood told the ladies (who were too afraid to hold one of the little girls with Cerebral Palsy) that if God made us all in His image, then that includes those with disability. He has shown these ladies how to hold Victoria and others with CP, and already we are hearing tales of them welcoming her and her mother into their group after church on Sunday.
Others have joined the Mamas in the kitchen, including Meriel. I was told, when visiting the kitchen on Monday, that they would miss Meriel because she was a blessing to them. Meriel is, as I type, sat on the apartment balcony with Evelyn making the re-usable sanitary pads for the young ladies and women who are unable to afford disposable pads. As Jane told us earlier in the week, some of the girls’ attendance drops when their periods start, due to being unable to afford pads. It is an art, the creation of these pads, and truly a blessing from God to the local women here.
Both Caroline and Sally have been working in the nursery, in different classes. Their support for the teachers has been welcomed, and the children have enjoyed having a bit of extra help. Caroline has been providing songs and games galore for the children at break time, and has many new friends (although they’re almost 20 years younger). Sally has taught the children, and teachers, new songs and led us all at the Sunday School during our first weekend. There were so many children, with such a variety of ages, I still don’t know how she managed to differentiate so many high quality activities at the same time for the children. The children learned about the creation story, and a new song which has become one of the favourites, regardless of age. The essence of this song is God loves you and I love you, and that’s just the way it should be.
Dave has been getting physical, with the manual labour needs out here. When we return to Lancaster, I know who I can ask to do some painting! Working with Njagi, Dave has repainted the gates of Tumaini – something which I definitely couldn’t have done. He has worked incredibly hard, painting all day long in the baking heat out here. It is another reminder that God’s blessings come in so many different ways, and that it isn’t necessarily the most immediately obvious jobs that bless the people around you. I know those in the kitchen have been grateful for his helpful nature, as he turns up to relieve his wife and gets stuck in with the washing up. This is no mean feat, as they feed at least 600 each lunch time.
Often joining Dave in the washing up is Mick, who has been following the secondary school classes here. After spending a bit of time reading through the KCSE (Kenyan Certificate of Secondary Education) exam papers, Mick was able to talk to a group of the students about exam technique, as they prepare for their exams in the next few weeks. Whilst our school year is just beginning, theirs is coming to an end, and with that comes all the exams. With Mick’s presence in the classroom, it has become clear that the school could really do with some new blackboards. Hopefully, we can help them sort that out. We were also blessed with a clear and short message during the service, delivered by Mick. God has a calling for each of us, and He will bless us with the gifts required for that calling. Once again, a reminder from God: ‘there are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.’ (1 Corinthians 12: 5-6)
I think the best way to sum up how I feel God has moved through me, is using a line from the song mentioned previously: “for all your goodness I will keep on singing 10,000 reasons for my heart to find.” Speaking to one of the teachers about their attitude and outlook, she told me that they had no reason to be sad or angry with God, for He provides for them and is good to them. This attitude is reflected in many of the children’s joy at the simplest things. It has truly been a humbling experience to teach the primary children here. Yesterday morning, I found myself in school at 7am (at the request of the oldest primary class) so that I could continue reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to them. Although there are, as there are in schools everywhere, the odd cheeky children, the children here are of a different design to many I have taught in England. They are eager to learn and see education as an opportunity to better themselves, and God has richly blessed me by allowing me to work with them. I know, for myself, that I must endeavour to see my life with the outlook of these children once I return to the UK.
Written by Olivia, St. Thomas Church, Lancaster