a few months’ update
I should apologize. It has been a long time–a lot has happened, and there is still a lot that I haven’t quite found words for. But here I will try.
First, the good news. Today, as I was leaving Ndugu Mdogo rescue center, one of those same boys (Niko) stopped me at the gate, and with a charming smile, asked me if he could “please” wipe off my shoes “You know they are very dusty.” And at lunch, as we all sat around the table, eating ugali and sukuma with our hands, the room loud with laughing, and the constant background noise of African Christian rap music videos. In the morning, the boys sit at the same table, helping each other write the alphabet, learn English or practice times tables. And they no longer sleep in the streets, but in their home. And it’s a true home—a safe place, full of peace and love and joy.
So that is a miracle.
In less exciting new, a lot has happened since April. In the beginning of May, I went horse-riding for a day with a couple friends. Somehow, I ended up on the ground, my face covered in blood. But like us Americans say, “when you fall off the horse…”
So, I got back on. Only to realize a few minutes later that half of my lip was dangling, not quite attatched to my face and maybe a trip to the hospital was in order. I ended up at Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi, where Emily and Eunice made me laugh, and realize strongly consider a lip ring (there was already a hole). I was put under general anesthesia and got a good twenty stitches in my face (my lip and chin). I spent the next couple weeks in bed, looking like a zombie and feeling the loneliness of being mostly alone and afraid in a country far from those who know me well enough to know I was hurting.
But God is faithful, and life goes on.
Soon after, I returned to visiting the boys on the streets (I told them the stitches were from a knife fight.) Early one morning, Eunice and I arrived at their base to find a group of strange men at the “door” to the tin shack they are currently staying in. We walked past, hoping the boys were already out, perhaps waiting for us at the small hotel where we usually take chai. But when we returned a few minutes later, we found a paddywagon outside, and all of the boys being pushed inside, along with our friend Fred. We watched in shock for a few minutes, before realizing they were taking all of the boys to a nearby police station. Then we ran, trailing the police vehicle, all the way to the station. When we arrived, they had already transferred the boys to a cell. We asked an officer what crimes the boys were being charged with, and he asked us if we knew them. When we said “yes,” we were also led into the cell.
We were taken to the commander in charge, where we were told that we were aiding and abetting criminal activity (it is in fact a crime to be homeless in Nairobi), and we were asked to present our government papers. Of course, we were actually only drinking chai with the boys, which shouldn’t require government papers, but the officer wouldn’t hear any of that.
We called Jack, and he came quickly to our rescue (along with an officer he knew), speaking for us and eventually getting us out of jail. If fact, they even let all of the boys go. But we were given strict instructions not to visit them again until we had paperwork.
So for several weeks, we jumped through all the legal hoops, trying to get permission to drink chai with some boys. And for those weeks, we were unable to see the boys. They called, told us not to come back. Told us we didn’t really care about them, we had abandoned them. Eunice and I made the mistake of walking by there one day, only to be surrounded by our boys, clinging to us and asking us why we didn’t care about them anymore. I’m left with a picture in my head: Massai and Jimmy staying across a busy road, screaming at us, begging us to come back. It was heartbreaking.
After some weeks we (sort of) found the permission we needed, and returned to the streets. Our first day back, we had breakfast with the boys, and then began the long walk to city park to play football. We reached the forest early in the morning—Eunice and me and about fifteen boys. As we were walking, we crossed a bridge and found a dead body blocking the footpath. A few yards away, in the trees was another man. Both looked as though they had been brutally murdered. We tried to hurry the boys, holding their hands and pulling them with us.
As we hurried by, terrified, we met with some police. The police called the boys over, and told them they needed to carry the bodies to the police truck. As I hid behind some trees with the youngest boys, Eunice (very bravely) protested. (It’s not uncommon to be arrested for no reason here, and you are left with your word, against the word of the police.) They told her that she was interfering with “community policing,” and that the boys needed to carry the bodies. They argued for several minutes until I came out, not knowing if my presence would make the situation better or worse. When they realized she was not alone, they called her over and warned her “not to say anything about the incident,” then let us all go. The whole thing was surreal and horrific.
Around the same time, the leader of Koinonia was arrested charged with some very serious crimes. They all turned out to be false allegations, rooted in greed, but it was a big tragedy for the community. I hurt for all the people of Koinonia, especially Father Kizito, who has invested his life trying to give some hope and chance at life with these children. Unfortunately, Ridgeways came to the decision that we could no longer work directly with Koinonia, and so a lot of the plans we had made for a rescue at Riverside had to be abandoned.
Then, by the grace of God, I was on a plane and off to the States. God knew I would need a break, and some distance from everything happening. I returned to Memphis to attend the wedding of some very dear friends. The wedding was beautiful and it was a blessing to see friends and family and children that I’ve missed so much.
And since then I’ve returned. And a lot has happened since I’ve returned. But I’m well aware this is already far too long for a blog.