Jambo everybody!

I hope you are all doing well and staying healthy, wherever you are in the world! Around the In Step campus, we are mostly healthy! We don’t hear much about COVID these days, but all precautions (handwashing stations everywhere, temperatures taken at every entrance, etc.) are still in place and the government is still releasing statistics, although, it’s hard to know the accuracy of the numbers.
 
I think we are finally experiencing a dry season, after a year of rain! The grass is turning brown and there’s red dust everywhere! That’s the thing about our place - there are very few days in the year that you’re not dealing with either mud or dust! One nice thing about the face mask requirement these days... the mask filters out most of the dust as you drive down the road! LOL!
In Step Academy has been blessed with new textbooks! Rotary District 9212 and Oxford publishers teamed up to donate books to a number of schools and we were chosen as a recipient! The books are for lower grades (pre-school, kindergarten, first grade) and are part of the newly required Kenyan curriculum! We have actually been short on textbooks for these lower grades because we have had such a great response from the community in registering their kids in our school! We weren’t prepared for so many younger kids, but I guess God knew that! 24 of our 57 community kids are in these grades! (The books were delivered after the younger kids had gone home, so the picture is of older kids holding the books.)
As I mentioned last month, construction of the first of three girls’ houses is underway! Volunteers Terry and Sandy Kiser are here to help with that project, which is a huge relief to Jeff. (Ok, so Terry is helping with the project while Sandy is holding babies, reading to kids and taking care of Terry!) We have already hit a few bumps in the road, so to speak, the main one being a difference in the way America builds and the way Kenya builds. The Kenyan authorities will only approve plans where the bathrooms are positioned along an outside wall, so we are having to make some adjustments to get our plans approved. In the meantime, the foundation is being laid, electrician and plumber consulted, etc. We are very happy to have the Kisers here!
The Tripps will be here for a few more weeks! Every year when they come, they really spruce the place up with fresh coats of paint, patching holes in cement walls, weeding, mowing, etc. They are willing to do anything that’s needed, which is a total blessing! Tamara even ended up being a gateman for a day, when our regular guy contracted brucellosis and had to call in sick at the last minute!
A few of the main projects they are working on this year, besides general maintenance, are: painting a mural map of Africa on the outside of the preschool building and constructing a nice little porch outside the baby house. (The baby house is a small open-air structure where the babies spend time every morning). On top of all of that, Tracy has also been tutoring the eighth graders in preparation for their exams next month!
This week we rescued a pair of siblings, Amon (whom we call Kigan because that’s what his mom calls him) and Vivian. Kigan is two and a half years old, while his sister is five. Their story, and that of their mother, is extremely heartbreaking! It involves tribal clashes which caused Mom, with her five children in tow, to literally run for their lives!
 
After fleeing the violence, Mom had to try to keep herself and her children alive. She had no food, nowhere to go and she didn’t know anybody outside of the village she had just escaped from! She hadn’t seen her family for several years, losing touch with them when she got married and moved to her husband’s farm. But somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought she remembered the name of the village where her sister lived at one time. She, along with her children, made their way many miles, on foot, to the village, in hopes of being reunited with long lost family.
When they finally arrived at the village, Mom started asking around. She went from person to person in the market until she found someone who recognized the name of her sister and was able to direct her to her sister’s house!
 
When the six weary travelers arrived at the tiny home, a very emotional reunion took place! Not only was the sister there but so was her mother! She could not believe her good fortune!
Over the next weeks and months, reality set in. Mom went into a deep depression, due to the trauma of running for her life and the stress of trying to feed her children, find a place to sleep as they travelled, etc. Her sister had taken them in, but with six children of her own, plus her elderly mother care for, she simply wasn’t able. She was the only one working, making about $2 per day, which just could not cater for three adults and eleven kids. She reached out to Children’s Services for guidance. That’s when we were called to pick up the two kids and take them home to In Step.
One of our social workers, missionary Beth Ann and I, drove to the Children’s Office and picked up the officer who was handling the case. We then drove to the little place where the family was living. When we arrived, Mom immediately brought out a basin of water and began giving Kigan, who was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a hoody, a bath. He cried because the water was cold (and maybe because he had never seen white people), but she just solemnly continued with her task of preparing her child to leave with strangers.
I watched her and wondered what was going through her mind. She showed no emotion. Was that because, in her depression, all emotion was void? Was it because she had set her mind to do what was necessary to save her severely malnourished children? Or was she simply staying strong, so as not to upset them?
 
Two older siblings, Grandma and Mom’s sister, stood off to the side as the preparations were being made. I talked with the siblings, who I would guess to be about ten and twelve years, telling them all about the place we were taking their younger brother and sister. I promised that their siblings would have plenty of food, their own beds, lots of kids to play with and that Vivian would go to school. I invited them to come visit any time they could, along with Mom, baby brother and Grandma. They seemed settled on what was happening and relieved that their brother and sister were going to be ok. I gave them both a packet of biscuits (cookies) and they ran behind the house and devoured them in seconds. If I hadn’t been assured that another ministry was stepping in to help these two kids, I may have been tempted to load them into the truck and take them too!
This was not the first time we have rescued starving kids, so I was well prepared! I had biscuits and bananas in my purse. That, along with a promise that where we were going had all the food they could possibly want, was all it took to persuade them to get in the truck. Beth Ann sat with Vivian, our social worker held Kigan, and I drove us home. When we arrived, Kigan and Vivian were immediately given mashed potatoes, bread and milk. They both slept soundly that night and have settled in well, neither one asking about Mom, but instead trusting their survival instincts, knowing that staying where there is food and a warm bed is what they must do.
I have been in contact with the organization who is helping the older kids and we are planning on working together however we can, to get this family on their feet and back together. They have already raised the money for school fees, beds, blankets, food, etc. to tide over the family while they get Mom counselling and (hopefully) training in a skill so that she can provide for her family. We will stay in touch, helping in this process in whatever way we can, and hopefully one day, not too far away, they can all be back together again.
Kigan is extremely weak! He can’t even think about keeping up with the other toddlers, so for now, he is mostly hanging out with the babies. He’s not yet smiling, but he’s eating well and accepting love and care from the aunties. I know he’ll be ok in time!
 
Vivian absolutely loves going to school! She is weak, but is quickly making friends and fitting in well! Her smile is starting to quietly appear and I’m sure she will be a little firecracker in no time!
I have tried a hundred times this week to put myself in Mom’s shoes. I just can’t! I can’t imagine running from my home with five terrified kids, desperately trying to stay alive! I cannot fathom what it must be like to have no home, nowhere to go, no food for my kids... nothing! Or the feeling of being a burden to my sister, but having no other options. Worst yet, giving up my kids, even bathing and dressing them in preparation for them to leave, because I know that’s what is best for them. Please pray for Mom!
 
I have more stories to tell, but they can wait until next month.
 
As always, our deepest appreciation to all of you for being on our team! Without you guys, who knows where these 200+ kids would be! We are eternally grateful!


GIGATT (God is Good All the Time)!
Mama Carla
P.S. Please pray for Jeff as he has recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He is responding well to the medication and we are learning how to navigate this new lifestyle, especially where diet is concerned! Thanks for your prayers!