Friday, December 19, 2008

Child Haven...12 kids, never a dull moment!

There's always something exciting going on at Child Haven, whether it's an outing or just around the house!

We ventured out to the Jo'burg Botanical Gardens for Christmas Carols. After a picnic, Mama Amy treated everyone to an ice cream cone, YUM-YUM! And a sweet volunteer got us all Santa hats to add to the festivities.
(p.s. I must remind everyone that it's summer here.)

Christmas carols by candlelight! Everyone had their very own candle...Praise God we only had 1 minor incident with fire!

With 12 kids there's always someone to play with! What's better than playing outside...

They love to do various gymnastic tricks around the yard!

Mpho and Asenda having fun jumping on the trampoline!

Andelie, Nosiphewe, Steph, Chantel, Loraine, Mpho, and Bafana. All just hanging out in the yard...have to take a little break after all the running around.

Last week we had some important guests over for a braii (what South African's call grilling out).

Christy and Mpho relaxing while waiting for the yummy food!

Bafana and Thabiso are great helpers with the braii!

The festivities are over outside, now get excited we're watching High School Musical, again....

Baby Haven

Here's a glimpse of Baby Haven. It's a warm welcoming home with beautifully painted walls for the babies to enjoy!

Samuel is such a sweet happy boy! Samuel was born to a 14 year old girl who was raped by her step-father. We hope she will release him for adoption soon so he can be adopted and go live in a stable happy family. He's almost 7 months old and full of life. He can't sit up by himself quite yet, but we think he may start crawling any day! Currently he just rolls where ever he wants to go.

Sweet Baby Esther
Esther will be 4 months old on Christmas Day! She's our 'Little Princess'. Loves to eat and lots of attention, I mean who doesn't right! Esther was born to a 12 year old mother who had been raped by her 15 year old brother. Since she is a product of insect she has had genetic tests, which show she is a healthy miracle with no genetic deformities. Ester is fully adoptable and just needs a loving family!

Gets the best baby award! He is the happiest and most content baby you will ever meet. Oms, as we often call him, unfortunately is HIV positive, but you would never know. He's so healthy and strong, not typical for a positive baby. So we praise God for his health, and pray for a miracle in this sweet boy's life.

Gabriel is now 18 months old. Gabs came to Baby Haven because he was severely abused by his parents. His parents believed he was possessed and took him to a witch doctor to have the "snakes" removed. There his left eye was removed and he was held over fire. At such a young age he has a glass eye and his legs are covered with terrible burn scars. It is hard to process how much this little boy has suffered. Now he's a happy little boy who always has his thumb in his mouth. It's amazing how much he has improved in the 7 or 8 months he been at Baby Haven.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Still looking for the perfect gift?

Or looking for a tax deduction...

This holiday season consider giving to someone you don't know
LinkThere are 40 beautiful babies at Cradle of Love that need your donation. Check out the various ways you could bless them.

Their are 12 kids at Child Haven and 4 Babies at Baby Haven that have been abandoned by their parents. Help make their season brighter!

Support Luo and the amazing work they are doing with Ithemba by providing funds to continue to give children somewhere safe to be this holiday season.

Consider the 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean drinking water. Charity:Water

We have been so blessed by all of these organizations and believe wholeheartedly in the work that they are doing. Thank you for supporting them as well as us.

Merry Christmas
Christy & Stephanie

Thursday, December 4, 2008


A beautiful tiny country filled with mountains landlocked within South Africa…that’s Lesotho

Heading to Maseru, Lesotho we had no idea what we were getting into. Over the past 5 months we have been working with orphaned/disadvantaged children and babies. Here we worked at St. Angela Cheshire Home for children with disabilities. Most of the children suffered from sever physical disabilities. At first I was worried about what each child could or couldn’t do, but quickly saw they are each extremely self-sufficient. They could get in and out of their wheel chairs, change outfits, bathe, and even wash their own clothes. I was so amazed! It was beautiful to see how much they help each other and laugh and play. It wasn’t long before I didn’t even notice their disabilities, only seeing an amazing young boy or girl.

Here are a couple pictures of the beautiful landscape we viewed while pony trekking (aka horse back riding) in the mountains.

We are now in Johannesburg, South Africa serving at Baby Haven and Child Haven. We have been so blessed to be able to work with amazing organizations, who provide very safe and nice places for us to live.

There are only 4 babies here at Baby Haven, so each of their stories are to come soon!

Thank you all so much for all of your support and prayers, they are felt daily. Without you we would not have this opportunity to serve these beautiful children of God.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Humanity

Jeffrey's bay is this really cute excuse me cool surf town on the southern coast of South Africa. Unfortunately Kelly Slater was not in town so I did not receive any private surfing lessons. I did however get to meet heaps of really great kids who are growing up in a world that I am most unfamiliar with. Growing up in Fairfax County, VA I was exposed and introduced to many different people of many different races and nationalities. I didn't realize how diverse the area was until I moved to the south. While the majority of my friends are white I would say that I pride myself on being inclusive. Jeffrey's bay is known for a lot of things, but being inclusive is not one of them. Upon arriving we quickly learned that that the area was made up of predominantly three groups. The white South Africans, the coloreds, and the blacks. If that sentence disturbs you when you read it then you can began to understand how we all felt upon hearing it for the first time. This is not only the way that they refer to each other, but this is also how they refer to themselves. The organization that we worked with ITHEMBA (means Hope in Cosa, a click language) is in the township where the blacks live. So the majority of the children that attend are black, but there are a few colored children that come. There is a church that meets at Ithemba. Only blacks attend because the coloreds and blacks were literally killing each other in church. You may be wondering how their is so much hostility between them. To be considered colored you are a mixed race, but the majority of them do not see it that way. Technically when SA was being colonized by the Dutch some of those colonizing fell in love/got married/had babies with the black south Africans thus creating mixed babies. But those who are colored today the majority of them married other coloreds not a black or white person. They consider colored a totally separate race. To say that I was frustrated by their racism, exclusivity and inability to look past their skin color would be an understatement.

One day we had the opportunity to walk through the township and see the homes that the children who spend the day learning and playing at Ithemba live. PLEASE check out this link to watch a video of the township.. It's powerful! The poverty is staggering, but just up the road in the affluent mostly white community so is the wealth. Living in Atlanta this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.

I was outraged. Both the colored and the black townships have living conditions that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Few of the houses have running water and until recently only one communal bathroom for the entire township. When we walked through the township passing out sandwiches I was upset that there wasn’t more people from the affluent communities getting involved. Honestly I felt like screaming out why are we the only white people here? I was saddened that the colored community and the black community couldn’t share in whatever resources the other had. I was heartbroken that just blocks away people were eating huge amounts of dinner while the people here, their neighbors, were starving. Why weren’t more people crying out that this isn’t okay? Why weren’t more churches coming along side and working with Deo Doxa(Ithemba is largely supported by Deo Doxa a church outside the township were they are responding to the need and becoming increasingly active in the community) and these people for a better future for them and their children?

The same time I had all these questions I remembered an awesome passage from the book Sex.God by Rob Bell

“The first Christians had a phrase for what happens when people properly protect and acknowledge the image of God in those around them. In the letter to the Ephesians, we read about a group of people who were previously divided because of race, background, wealth, socio-economic status, world view and religion. One group is made up of Jews, the other Greeks, and in this new church, they find themselves united because they’ve all become followers of the resurrected Jesus Christ. All the old categories simply don’t work anymore. This new commonality, this new bond, is simply bigger than all the things that previously kept them apart. The first Christians called this the “new Humanity” In the beginning God created us “in His image” So first, God gave us an image to bear. Then God gave us a gender. Then God gave us something to do, to take care of the world and move it forward, taking part in the ongoing creation of the world. Later people began moving to different places. It takes years and years of human history to get to the place where these people are from here and those people are from there. Different locations, skin colors, languages and cultures come much later in the human story. What we often do is reverse the creative process that God initiated. We start with different cultural backgrounds and skin colors and nationalities and it’s only when we look past these things that we are able to get to what we have in common- that we are fellow image-bearers with the shared task of caring for God’s creation. We get it all backwards. We see all the differences first and only later, maybe, do we begin to see the similarities. The new humanity is about seeing people as God sees them.

Rob goes on to say that there are moments when all the ways that we divide ourselves and rank each other and convince ourselves of how different, better and unalike we are disappear and we are faced with the fact that first and foremost we are humans in this together, and not that much different from each other.

How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the creator. When a human being is mistreated, objectified, or neglected, when they are treated as less then human, these are actions against God. Because how you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the creator. To be a Christian is to work for the new humanity. Jesus commanded his followers to feed and cloth and visits and takes care of those who need it. They are fellow image bearers, they are just like us, and when we love them we are loving God.

A church exists to be a display of the new humanity. A community of people who honor and respect the poor and rich and educated and uneducated and Jews and gentiles and black and white and young and powerful and helpless and fully human created in the image of God.

My prayer is that we work toward the new humanity. My hope for these children is that they will be the generation that breaks the bonds of segregation, the bonds of hate, and the bonds that are keeping them from loving each other as equals. That they would grow up and get their churches involved in the injustice. That people of all colors would worship together in the townships. That their love and respect would be colorblind. Bono once said “Kingdom come when all the colors bleed into one.” I would like to invite heaven to earth, but I know that I myself struggle with prejudices and bigotry. Like I said before I used to pride myself on being inclusive of people from all races & nationalities, but I recently became aware that “if I am profoundly proud of being an open-minded, tolerant, soul you will be extremely indignant towards people you think are bigots and that isn’t any different from being a bigot.” (Tim Keller, The Reason For God) WOW What a neat and difficult lesson to learn. I’m praying that we all learn to live out the new humanity and that if we are members of a church we will encourage every one there to do the same.

"Everybody thinks of changing humanity but nobody thinks of changing himself." - Leo Tolstoy

Obviously I need to go ahead and recommend Sex.God by Rob Bell. I read the whole book in two days. I also want to recommend Same Kind of Different As Me!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

start small

Can we make a difference?

I have been reminded over and over of the story of a boy on the beach who came across hundreds of starfish washed ashore. A man surveyed the beach and saw the boy picking them up one by one throwing them back into the ocean. He asked “Why do you bother, it isn’t going to make a difference?” the boy responded as he threw a starfish back into the water “It makes a difference for this one.”

When I see the poverty, abuse and abundance of HIV here in Africa they all appear to be huge obstacles that are impossible to overcome. But, we can’t just sit around and do nothing…
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve met people who realize that you start by changing the lives of few who intern will make a difference in a few more.

We traveled to Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa with LUO ( to serve at a community center called Ithemba. You must visit the LUO website to see and hear Lindsey’s amazing story of how she heard the Lord telling her to act and she listened by starting an organization to set children free from poverty. LUO’s first partnership is with Ithemba, which is run by an amazing woman named Ria. She started Ithemba 5 years ago to get the children of the township off the streets after school. In the mornings, there are about 30 preschool children who come to play, learn and get some much-needed rest. (I must say until Ithemba I had never seen 30 three year olds lay down and take and nap with out a single fight.) Then in the afternoon there can be anywhere from 30 to 200 children come to hear a bible lesson and learn what their poor public education misses. Ria genuinely treats these children as her own. When there is a child in need she will do what she can to help without making them into a charity case. One morning there was a little girl who fell and hit her head then got sick. We were concerned she may have a concussion, so we phoned Ria. When she arrived she immediately took the little girl and her twin to the doctor. It turned out the little girl was fine, but her twin may have a heart condition. God works in mysterious ways to reveal things to us daily. Ria didn’t have to take either of them to the doctor, but she had the means to take help and she did. She can’t take all 200 children, but she could make a difference in these 2 little girls’ lives by taking them to the doctor. One could look at it as not being fair to all the other children, but is it better to not do anything at all or help the 1 or 2 you are able?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Times they are a changin'

Sorry it's been so long since we've good excuse except we've been on the move.

We are now in Pretoria, South Africa. We arrived in Johannesburg last Thursday, and will be staying with my brother and his wife until next Friday. Pretoria is VERY nice! It's green with beautiful rolling hills AND there are malls here! Nice ones, Chirsty and I have been "those girls" saying look at this, look at that; for example "wow, look they have wheat bread and yummy snacks!" or "the roads are so nice...all are paved and no pot holes!" It's the small pleasures in life, ya know! Sometimes we forget we are still in Africa, but we're enjoying our down time here. Will and Valerie have generously made us feel at home and have been showing us all around town. God has truly blessed us with such a wonderful place to spend a couple weeks.

We leave November 7th for Jeffery's Bay, South Africa where we will be working with street children. In J'bay we'll be working with an Atlanta organization, Luo, We are meeting our friend Jessica, who is on the board, along with others from Atlanta to serve for 2 weeks. From there we will go to Lesotho for a week, where we plan to visit baby homes and orphanages.

We are excited about the rest of this adventure God has in store for us, but it was so hard to leave CoL. I think the last night we put the babies to bed was the most emotional evening so far. They were all so well behaved wanting us to sing and dance to the hokey pokey and read a book and just cuddle. When the nannies announced "kulala time" tears came to my eyes. It felt like yesterday we arrived and now this will be the last time I kiss each one and say "lala salama". So, I think I picked each one up at least twice before leaving. Every other night when I would hear "Pepanie" or "Tepitie" I would just turn, blow a kiss and leave the room, but I couldn't that night. I couldn't resist and went to each one as they called. I picked them up, gave kisses and told them how much I loved them. It's so hard to imagine not seeing them everyday and not being present in their lives. But, I know that God will provide for each of those precious children. He will continue to bring new people into their lives to love and care for them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Adventurous Weekend!

Just before leaving CoL, I took a 22 hour bus ride from Arusha to Kampala, Uganda. I went with 5 friends, Hannah, Zac, Will, Trent and Bridgette, to raft The Nile. Oh, what an experience! I thought I'd share a few pictures from the rafting trip. I must say it was scary, but the pictures make it look a whole lot worse than it actually seemed at the time!

Hold on!

You better believe I was praying the whole way!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


It is with great joy that I share that Bahati, Helena and Clinton may not be positive for HIV. Yes we are on a roller coaster and I just wanted to thank you all for not getting off of it but for riding it with us. Just when we thought that the twist and turns were over we are reminded that we never know what the future holds. Last week we took the babies back to the doctor and a different doctor informed us that we might have been miss informed. He shared that the babies with the exception of Rama may be too young to know for sure that they are positive. He said that their count is rather low and that it is his experience that many babies that test this low at this age test negative in the future. While they may currently have the antibodies it might never develop into HIV. We were all so excited that we didn’t ask many questions not knowing where to start or even what to believe. The babies are too young to know for sure, but he believes that in the next few months they can retest and it is more then possible that they will test negative. Tears welled up in my eyes. Just a few days before I had to hold back tears when I came down in the morning and Bahati was very sick (they treated him for Malaria) I immediately became overwhelmed by the thought that many of his years would be filled with pain and suffering, but now his future seemed open to many possibilities. I  will keep you all updated. Thank you for keeping these sweet babies in your prayers.  

On Sunday Hallie, Heath and I took Neema, Joshua and Yasini to church with us. It was so fun to get to pick out their little outfits and take them to church to see our friends. I don’t think anyone paid attention in church (not because they were bad but because they are so stinkin cute) After church we took them out for pizza. It was a hit! On the way back we took all three of them on the very crowded dahla dahla. Against all odds Yasini fell asleep in my lap. We went over many bumps, passed multiple cars and trucks on the wrong side of the road and too close for anyone’s liking, sat smoshed up more closely then I though humanly possible to the window, and had to listen to the driver blare the horn at every stop, but through out all the noise and chaos not only did Yasini stay fast asleep, but I could hear him snoring. Last Sunday at church the pastor spoke about finding peace. How true peace if found in trusting/believing in Christ. There is this great quote that says peace is not the absence of chaos but being in the mist of it and finding stillness. As I looked down at Yasini I realized that’s how I want to be all the time. I want to despite my surroundings, have total peace and rest in the arms of my heavenly father. Sometimes it’s a bumpy ride, sometimes it goes to fast and other times too slow, sometimes you wish that you could get off but it’s not your stop, and other times when you finally get comfortable its time to get off, but true peace is not found in our surroundings, it is found in Christ. I felt so blessed that Yasini trusted me and I can’t thank God enough for showing me His truths through this beautiful child.
John 16: 33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When it rains it pours, but it doesn’t have to rain to flood…

This week has had several crappy days. Just don’t know another way to put it. I do have to say there has some positive amongst all the negative. If you search hard enough you can find a bright side to anything!

We started off the week with a visit to the HIV clinic. 4 American girls, 1 Tanzanian and 4 beautiful babies all pile into to the SUV for the short ride down the road to the clinic. I’m sorry it just sucks that we even have to take these precious angels to this appointment. But, they were all so good with very few tears shed. Bahati fell asleep in Christy’s arms, Clinton was all smiles with Suma, Rehma was content and laughing in Emma’s lap and sweet Helena rested quietly as I held her. All the babies’ numbers from the viral load test indicated they are all HIV positive, but Rehma’s were the only one high enough to start ARV’s. That is somewhat good news for Bahati, Clinton and Helena except, it meant they must have blood drawn again for the CD4 (I think that’s what it’s called) test. We are praying the results remain consistent. The later they have to begin ARV’s the better. Before coming I’d read all the statistics about AIDS and it prevalence in Africa, but I never imagined having it become so personal. It’s numbing to think about how the sins of the parents of these babies determine their future. It doesn’t seem fair, but I know God has a wonderful plan for the lives of these children of His.
Me and Helana just after she had blood drawn.

Christy with snoozing Bahati!

After several hours, just imagine taking 4 babies at once to a doctors appointment, we arrived back at CoL. Davona was patiently awaiting our arrival to advise that immigration had paid her a visit. That should be enough said, right…it’s NEVER fun to have to deal with immigration. They want to verify we all have the appropriate visa, which basically just means they want us to pay an additional $120. I’m still trying to find the bright side of this…

And, I must say it’s really annoying to have ants EVERYWHERE. I kid you not, I’ve already killed 3 on my computer screen while typing this!

We did have a Birthday party for Hope, Larzaro, Michael and Bryan. Now that was lots of FUN. Each baby had a piece of cake. And, then we just let them have at it! It was so fun to watch them devour their yummy treat. Check Hallie’s blog for those fun details!

Michael, Hope, Lazaro and Bryan all waiting to dig in...well, probably actually wondering what is going on!

Now here go the toddlers diggin' in!

Christy and I also had a wonderful weekend. We spent the night with our friends Hannah and Zac on Friday and then went to Moshi for a Rugby tournament all day Saturday. It was so fun to enjoy the beautiful day watching rugby. We joined our Aussie friends in their cheers. It was similar to an intramural game at home except across the field I’d see Acacia Trees and hear the Kenya’s singing in Swahili. In case anyone cares, Arusha (our team) came in 2nd place; those Kenyans sure did get pumped up at the end!

Me, Hannah, Christy and Bridget watching the rugby tournament.

After a wonderful weekend, Monday was the day to pay immigration a visit. WooWhoo! So, we went into town and it was actually pretty painless. We all have to complete a bunch of paper work and send it in to Dar for approval. Not too painful just a huge inconvenience, which is pretty typical in Africa. You never know what the day will bring.

For example, coming home from town to Davona advising “Brace yourself, your entire apartment in flooded!” Well, that put some pep in our step, for sure! We ran upstairs to find David, the gardener, and Emma, a volunteer from CA, mopping up the mess. I don’t know if we mentioned the fact that sometimes the water just stops running. Well, that happened this morning when Emma was rinsing out some clothes in her shower. So, she turned the knob to what she thought was off. Whoopsies, it was the wrong way! Due to the full stream of water and the stellar African plumbing it didn’t take long to over flow out of the low tub, into the bedrooms, living room and kitchen. Evidently there had been about 2 inches of water in through out the apartment. But, we were all so lucky that nothing was really damaged, just wet. Oh, and the floor got mopped!!!

After spending sometime trying to figure out some logistical matters we all went to bed laughing when the power went out!

Gotta love Africa!

Upcoming plans -
I’m leaving on Wednesday for a trip to Uganda with a few friends to raft the Nile. Chirsty, Heath and Hallie are staying here to hold down the fort.

Oct 17th is our last day at CoL

Oct 23rd Christy and I leave for South Africa, where we will be spending our last few months working with Luo in Jeffery’s Bay and Baby Haven in Johannesburg.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Part III

Baby Clinton having a bottle on a sunny afternoon.
Sweet Bahati just chillin' in his bouncy seat!

The word positive has never before meant anything as negative as this. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Bahati, Clinton, and Helena’s blood tested positive for HIV. I was just holding Bahati this morning and marveling at his beautiful dimples. He is beautiful and rarely in a bad mood. He is playful and easy to love. Positive. I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that outside of a miracle these sweet children’s lives have already been decided for them. I am trying hard not to blame their parents. One can only imagine the possible hardships they had to endure. I am upset that the consequences of their actions are being played out through the loss of their children’s innocence. They are not expected to live to see their teenage years.

Of 30 children born to HIV-positive mothers, approximately 10 will acquire the virus simply by being born. Another four will become infected from breast-feeding.

I have no doubt that they will receive excellent care at COL but what will happen to them when they are too old for it here? What will happen to them when they are three and the drugs that they used to be on are no longer working and they have to increase their cocktail of meds? What will their lives look like when they are forced to grow up in the system. Who will rock them to sleep when their bodies are failing them and they are suffering?

It is estimated that 90% of the world’s HIV-infected children live in Africa, and more than half a million die of AIDS each year.

A few weeks ago that was simply a statistic now I pray that it is not the fate of our precious babies!


Part II

“The subject no longer has to be mentioned by name. Someone is sick. Someone else is feeling better now. A friend has just gone back into the hospital. Another has died. The unspoken name, of course, is AIDS.”

A few weeks ago Nanny Neema told Liza (one of our roommates who has since gone back to the states) that her sister wasn’t feeing well. She was complaining of stomach pain among other ailments. Liza generously took Violet, Neema’s sister, to the Hospital. She was not surprised to discover that Violet had HIV and because of the infection and weak immune system she was also suffering from typhoid & malaria. Liza made the trip to the hospital possible by paying the cost to get to the hospital (a few dollars). In Tanzania the cost of the blood test and most medication is covered. We are told that it is not uncommon for people to not go to the hospital out of fear of what they will discover, but hiding from the truth doesn’t make it any less real. After hearing about Violet we were encouraged by the chance to get to meet her. Neema invited Stephanie, Hallie, Heath and myself over to her house. She asked us to love on her sister, but not to talk about her being HIV positive as they are not telling her family. Violet herself is a mother and a widow. She lost her husband and a baby probably to AIDS, but that was never discussed. We spent a lovely afternoon hanging out with Neema, Violet her brother Matthew, his wife, Their mother and two of Neema’s nieces Liteness and Joyce. They were precious and welcoming. After a while of being together we joined together and prayed for Violet and her health (also not mentioning AIDs by name). They then walked us all down the hill to catch the daladala to go home. As we walked down the hill Violet told Hallie and I that she was HIV positive and that she couldn’t even tell her neighbors for fear of rejection and humiliation. She thanked us for coming over and spending time with her. I lost my footing a few times as we walked down the hill and she clutched my arm closer to hers to steady me. She told us how unwell she felt and how difficult it was to be away from her children so that she could be closer to the hospital a few days a month to receive treatment. And then she said, “but God is good.” Over here in Africa I am constantly reminded of my conditional love for God. If God is my definition of good to me then God is good, but if he causes pain or suffering well then that’s a different story. I am blessed by Violet and her unswerving love of God even in the face of suffering.

HIV/AIDS More than statistics Part 1

In Tanzania alone it is estimated that there is 1,400,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. 110,000 of them are estimated to be children between the ages of 0-14. 1,100,000 have lost one or both parents to the Virus

I never thought that I would be riding in a suv with a tiny baby on my lap going to a clinic to get a blood test to find out if the precious child I am holding is infected with AIDS, but here I am. Hallie, Heath and I accompanied Davona the director of Cradle of Love to the clinic with three beautiful children. When we arrive at the clinic they take the babies to measure and weigh them. They then ask Davona their names and ages. This proves to be more difficult then one would assume as we don’t have their paperwork with us and honestly most of the information we would have had is a guess at best. Names: Bahati, Clinton, Helena Last name: No idea! How about Cradle of Love? Whereabouts of the parents: Mother died (probably from AIDS) father abandoned child and mother after birth or was unable/unwilling to look after the child). This is extremely typical here in Africa. After waiting a little over an hour in the waiting room (an area outside with plastic chairs covered by a tin roof) they call Helena. Bahati & Clinton have already gone and from the sound of it this is not going to be fun.
They undress her as three doctors/nurses hover over her to take her blood. They take off her diaper and inject the needle in her groin. She cries but they make sweet faces at her to try to distract her from the pain. I’ve only known Helena for a few weeks but I am overwhelmed by the realization that the outcome of this blood test could change the projectory of her life forever. There is a sweet missionary named who has been approved by Tanzania and the US to adopt so if Helena’s tests come back negative for the Virus then she will have a baby and sweet Helena a mother. Adopting a baby outside of Tanzania is difficult and is only increased (basically impossible) if the child tests positive for HIV/AIDS. AIDS is still looked down upon here in Africa so the chance of a child being adopted that has Aids by a Tanzanian is highly unlikely. To add insult to injury there are also only a few orphanages that will take children who are HIV positive so even when it comes to institutions their options are limited. Please pray for loving families for these babies regardless of the outcome!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shots and Suckers

A few weeks ago two government nurses came to COL to give all the older babies and toddlers vitamin A, de-worming medicine in chew-able tablets and the MMR vaccine. We were all playing with the kids outside and thought that it would be best if the kids went in one by one to get the shot. We stayed outside until they called the name of the child we were holding. This my friends is not how it is done in Africa. When they called our child's name we went in but realized that all they were giving at the time was vitamin A and the chew-able tablet. All the kids were sitting in the room as the nurses starting going around to each kid to give them the shot. It was awful. The younger kids didn't know why they were crying but began to once they heard the shrills from the one who was receiving the shot. It was a ripple effect. If this wasn't bad enough the big kids came in and as soon as they saw the needles they began to freak out. I insisted that the big kids needed to go first because the anticipation of the shot would be much worse then the shot itself. I prayed this would be true. They kicked and screamed and Stephanie, Health, Hallie and myself fought back the urge to cry with them. Luckily the big kids found out that it really wasn't as bad as it had appeared. When all was said and done Davona gave the big kids suckers and we sat outside while they soaked up the extra love and attention. The shot soon became a distant memory. I think that's how life is sometimes that the anticipation of things is often much worse then whatever challenges we are facing and that at the end there is a sweet reward. Too often we spend our time being fearful of something when the reality of it is not at all what we had anticipated. I have no doubt that the shot was a little scary and painful, but I'm sure that the measles & worms would have been worse and that if allowed to dwell the anticipation would have been the worst part. I am thankful to have grown up in a house were we never spent our time worrying about tomorrow. In Luke 12:25 Jesus says "And which of you by worrying can add an hour to his life?" Thank God that there is much better ways to spend the hour ;)


Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Week Filled with Goodbyes...

Our week started off with a goodbye party for our friend Erin, who had to unexpectedly leave on Tuesday. Erin was one of our first friends at Vineyard Church. She was so warm and welcoming we became fast friends. We shared so many good times and laughs! I can't believe she had to leave so soon! We already miss her so so much!
This is a picture at the going away party all dressed in African garb!!! Erin helped us all get hooked up with custom made clothes and bags!


Early Thursday morning Simon, Cory and Ben all left to go live at a new orphanage, Havillah Village. They have just out grown CoL. Havillah is a group home for children age 3 and up. It is an American run facility with a standard of care equivalent to CoL. At Havillah they will have the opportunity to be with older children and go to school. Ned and Emily, who are currently running the facility, volunteered at CoL in the fall and know the boys very well. I'm so glad the boys have familiar faces to help with the transition. Our prayer has been for the boys to have a smooth transition and feel comfortable in their new home. Davona received a message from Emily on Friday saying there had been a few tears, but over all the boys were doing very good. This is going to be a wonderful move for the boys, but we already miss them so much. Now there is no one saying "Me want to go to Danish" or "Me get nuts" or "Take me Bath". We may have more issues adjusting than the boys...haha. But, the good news is that Havillah is only about 15 minutes away. So, we should be able to visit them!

Staci with Simon, Ben and Cory

This is the house the boys are living in.

Ben is in the middle playing with 2 of the other boys at Havillah, on a visit a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Marveling at God's work...

We were so blessed to be able to spend 6 days in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania! It was so easy to see God in the beauty of the Island. We were able to have wonderful quite times and read while lying in a hammock on the beach. We stayed in Kendwa on the beach for 3 nights and in Stone Town for 2. Even though our lodging was "budget", both were so cute and comfy with AMAZING views! We all absolutely LOVED the Clove Hotel in Stone Town. I have posted a picture below of the view from the terrace where we were served breakfast and relaxed on coaches. It was so peaceful, even though there was a crow that would land on the table and drink the creamer...yucky!

A picture could never capture the true beauty, but here is our best effort!

View from the sail boat on our way back from snorkeling.

A boat anchored in the beautiful Indian Ocean just outside our hotel at the beach.

Heath, Steph and Christy on the spice tour with our bouquets of spices. On the spice tour school boys decorated us with necklaces, bracelets and crowns made of banana leaves. They were making us "Spice Princesses"!

This is the view from the terrace at our hotel in Stone Town.

View of the Indian Ocean through a rock on a beach near Stone Town.

The beautiful sunset we viewed while eating dinner in Stone Town.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

There's not even a storm!!!

So, here in Tanzania and probably most of Africa the power isn't exactly reliable. But, we sometimes get spoiled and it stays on for several days in a row, which had been the case for the story I'm about to share....

Well, we were watching 'The Notebook' on our fancy TV aka Laptop when everything goes black. The good news is that the laptop runs on a battery, right? soon a the power goes I check the battery and it say 14 mins, which we all know really means more like 10 and there's at least 30 minutes left in the movie. And come on it's The Notebook and it was just getting good when Ally was going back to see Noah after 7 years. Sure enough the battery dies, we were so upset! Not only was the movie getting juicy, but our little bit of light was GONE! YIKES!!! After we shot up a few prayers for the power to come back on and received no answer we started thinking of other options. We couldn't get the DVD out of the computer because it was completely dead. BUT, lucky for us, Heath has the same computer so we took the battery out of hers and put it in mine. We were back in action! We get all settled in and get right back into the movie. Our sweet new roomy Clair (cute as a button volunteer from England) has to go potty and is afraid all the candles we had lit may burn the place down, so we pause the movie. Of course, I check the battery and only 12 mins this time. AHHHHHHHH! Ally was just trying to decide whether to stay with Noah or her finance. Once again....intense! No options this time, the power is still out and no more computers. We were at least prepared with our headlamps this time. Now to make the situation even more frustrating THERE WASN'T EVEN A STORM and we looked across the street and they had lights. The power was just out for us! TIA(This is Africa)...After a little whining we just went to bed to dream about Noah! We had to watch the rest of the movie the next day at lunch.

I'll have you know that the power didn't come back until 5 a.m.!!! When every single light in the apartment lit up! Thank goodness Christy got up and turned them all out, saved me from having to get out of my mosquito net, phew!

Ok, so maybe watching a movie in Africa is a much bigger deal than back home! You at least have a little taste of our night life!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Precious Smiles

I have a hard time picking a favorite. It changes every time a pick up a different baby. For the past few days it seems Lil Maria and Rachel have been by my side or on my lap. They are 2 of the sweetest little girls. In this picture Maria is on the left and Rachel on the right. Lil Maria is a mix of sweet and feisty. If you catch her in at the wrong time she may swing her hand and say "NO!" or you if you catch her at the
right time she will ball up her fists, squish up her little face up, and grin with excitement. She then will come give a big kiss, which sounds like "mmmmmmwwhaaaaaaaaaa"! It is the sweetest thing ever! I can't help, but give her a big hug and carry her around. She's a tiny 2 year old weighing no more that 15 pounds, hence the "lil" Maria, so she is easy to pick up and carry. It must be said that she is always wearing red shoes and I just think it matches her personality to a tee!
Now to Rachel....when I first meet Rachel she was very quite and reserved. She was always very serious, never smiling or talking. But, lately she have made been laughing and smiling and playing. Nothing warms my heart more than to hear her raspy little voice say "Pepanie" and look down to see her big beautiful grin. When she is smiley and playful she is very independent and loves for you to watch her run and play. When she slips back into her serious mode, she is sweet and cuddly, but nothing can make her smile. I really don't know much about her past other than her parents are refugees from Burundi and she was found living on the streets with her brother who is only about 7 years old. I can't even fathom what she has had to experience in her short life so far.
Each time I see these 2 little girls playing and laughing or raising their arms for me to hold them my heart warms and I'm quickly reminded of why I'm here. God has sent me to share his love with these precious little people!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Lesson on Love

Last night I had the pleasure of helping the older boys get ready for bed. Ben requested that I "take me a bath" Which I responded with say, "Please give me a bath.” Ben is three and has a beautiful big smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Ben was abandoned in a field. A boy was out collecting grass for his families’ cattle and heard him crying under a thick bush, totally naked. The boy ran for his father, who hacked away at the bush and rescued Ben. He has been at cradle of love ever since. He is one of the three older boys who can speak both English and Swahili. I desire to learn Swahili so that I can be a part of their secret language. I know I've said it before but I love bath "time" and getting to snuggle with them before bed is the best. Ben was in a sweet mood after his bath so he sat on my lap. I whispered in his ear - Christy napenda Beni (Christy loves Beni) Then I said Mungu napenda Beni (God Loves Beni) he turned to me and said say it again so I repeated in his ear Mungu napenda Beni. He then began to what I thought was repeat to me- Mungu napenda Ben but instead he said Mungu napenda Christina. It was awesome. I could hear my heart literally leap inside my chest.

It's official I've fallen in Love with Yasini. I've taken so many photos of him that I feel like the paparazzi. Yasini arrived at Cradle of Love when he was one week old after his mother died of AIDs. He is now a happy and beautiful one and a half year old. He has the biggest lips and loves to give kisses. Last week I went down a little after 9am to help with breakfast and straight away I saw Yasini. He must have noticed me at the exact same time because he was pointing/reaching for me. I came over gave him a big kiss on the cheek and sat next to him and his sweet Nanny Neema (Grace) who was feeding him. When I did she said, "Christy, he loves you very much. I can tell." I told her not as much as I loved him. It made my day. When I look at him even when he doesn't want to listen to me or gets upset when I put him down or take away a toy that he shouldn't have I can still tell that he knows that I love him, that he is Loved. It's comforting knowing that he knows that. I'm sure sometimes he forgets or doesn't understand like when he gets upset when I reprimand him (but biting even if it's a joke is not okay, and I don't care how good the baby's bottle tastes it's not for you) It got me thinking and I bet God feels the same way. I bet he gets so excited when we acknowledge that we know He loves us and us Him even when we don't understand the circumstances of our live or when we feel that He is reprimanding us by not giving us what we want. I hate to see Yasini upset, but I would hate even more for him to grow up not knowing that he is Loved and that the boundaries and rules that are in place are to protect him. I was reading Oswald the other day and he says - faith never knows where it is being lead, but it knows and Loves the one who is leading.

Mungu napenda yeye

~ Christy

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Home Sweet Home...

This is the market we visit daily to get "necessities".

Cradle of Love, our window is on the top left.
Back of CoL. Those lines are usually FULL of diapers and clothes!

Christy's view of Snag through her mosquito net!

Nike, Liza Isle and Maxi at our dinner table.

View of Mount Meru from our bedroom.

View out the other bedroom window of the guard house and gate. Please notice Christy's flare in the window seal!