Bwana Asifiwe! (Praise the Lord!)
It has been about a week since our last update and our time in Kipkaren, Kenya is drawing to a close. This last week the team has taken advantage of every opportunity presented to them to engage with the culture and pour their hearts out to the people they encountered. As our team has talked in these last few days we are all realizing that we are not just preparing to go home, but also leaving our second home behind. The hospitality and kindness of the community continue to take our breath away. This week was full of laughter, adventure, and pure joy. I (Mariah) have loved watching the team deepen relationships and engage with everyone they meet. We love the people of Kenya.
This week our team has traveled to many of the surrounding communities. We have visited and drank chai with widows, gone on home visits with Living Room, visited a milk distribution plant, and even visited the site in Eldoret, Kenya (about an hour away) where Living Room is building a new hospice. We have all enjoyed getting to see these different and beautiful parts of Kenya. One of the most interesting elements of this trip is that it is doubling as an Economic Empowerment class and this week we launched into learning about what this community is doing to empower their people. We are getting hands on experience and seeing the fruits of many empowerment projects!
The day we met with the Widow’s Collective Group through Empowering Lives International, we were given a special introduction into their lives and how they have managed to build their future after the deaths of their husbands. This was especially impactful to me (Lauren) as I saw women be given the opportunity to have dignity and strength in their everyday lives. Our team split up into two groups and visited several homes of the widows and heard their stories. These women are outstanding human beings who chose to allow God to show them that they are capable of running households and creating a sustainable future for their families. Many of them had formerly brewed alcohol to earn a meager living.
On Friday it was time to say goodbye (for now) to our friends and newfound family at Living Room. In the same way that we were welcomed, we ended our time with a beautiful goodbye ceremony. As we walked onto the back porch we saw the faces of nurses, guests, workers, and friends who we have connected with in these past two weeks. We stood outside and began to sing together in Swahili. When the singing began, all the children ran out and jumped into the arms of our team, which was a true example of the love that will forever be shared between our team and these people. After we sat down, the staff and some guests gave words of encouragement and blessings to our team. As we stood up, one member of the Living Room team walked up to each of our team members. The boys were presented with locally made shirts and bracelets. Each one of the girls received a bracelet, a small handbag, and a traditional katenge (these often are given for special occasions such as weddings and engagements). I (Mariah), could not help but cry as I looked down the line at our team being presented with these beautiful gifts. You could see in our eyes how much of an impact Living Room had made on all of us.
All in all, I (Lauren) have seen the team be given once-in-a-lifetime experiences to interact with empowerment projects that are literally changing the narrative of impoverished communities in Kenya. We had a class session on Economic Empowerment in Kenya where David Tarus and Professor Brian Albright shared their knowledge of the importance of connecting with community leaders to advance empowerment projects.
Today (5/21), we said our final goodbyes and departed for Lake Nakuru to debrief our trip as a team. Here we will get the chance to go on several game drives and see some amazing African animals. Please be praying that we will have the time to process the trip individually and as a team, as well as for safe travels home. I have heard many team members mention their excitement to reunite with their families and how much they have missed you all.
Daniel, Lauren, Jordan, Cam, Max, Justin, Mariah, and Sam