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Africa Day 1: Tiny Homes

12 Feb


A little girl at Lynsi Love Orphanage, with her new stuffed animal and a candy cane

Two feet of snow didn’t stop Becky and myself from making it to Africa, but it did slow us down quite a bit, adding an extra seventeen hours to our time in transit. We arrived in Nairobi on Thursday morning and hit the ground running. After talking our way through customs to avoid paying customs on the water filters we’d brought, we spent the rest of the day visiting current and future beneficiaries of the compassion of Heaven’s Family partners.

Our first stop was the home and bakery of widow Florence Rono and her three children. They, like millions of other Kenyans, live in a one-room corrugated tin shack that they rent for about $25 per month. All of their neighbors also live in tin shacks, each about eight feet square, sharing common walls. So they are actually corrugated tin apartments. Each has one small window that looks out into the three-foot-wide alley that separates the rows of apartments. They reminded me of rows of storage units in the U.S., only not nearly as nice. Ten units share one common toilet. The word “slum” doesn’t describe it.

Flo’s single room also serves as her bakery. With a grant from our Widow’s Fund, she purchased a propane gas oven, some kitchen utensils and baking ingredients. With her profits from her bakery products (which she sells wholesale), she is able to survive and send her three children to school. She was so thankful for our help. We spoke with her about a micro-loan for expanding her business, and she told us that she would send us a proposal. Other widows whom we met with today were also interested in expanding their Heaven’s Family-funded businesses through micro-loans.


Florence (at back right) with her three children, Daisy, and twins Bruce and Wallace, in their tin apartment, standing beside the stove by which Flo earns her income

Our next stop was Lynsi Love Center, which is an orphanage, a Christian school, and a small soap-making factory that employs fifteen widows and older orphans—just for their benefit. Lynsi Love Center has been significantly helped by several grants from Heaven’s Family as well as child sponsorships from our Orphan’s Tear division. Again, there are no words to describe their rented facility. It consists of about six small concrete-wall rooms, most of which serve multiple purposes that change throughout the day to serve various ministry needs.

The high school kids, of which there were about nine, put on a short play for us in their classroom. They had written it themselves. It was about a man and wife who faced a decision about a teen-age orphan girl whom they had adopted and who had done better on her school exams than their own teenage daughter. Their income was limited, and so they decided to arrange a marriage for their adopted orphan, and use the bride-price to help with their own daughter’s education. Near the end of the play, the pastor arrived and told the parents that they were not doing the right thing. An argument ensued, and everyone walked out. That was the end of the play. I told the students how much I enjoyed their production, but also told them that the plot seemed unresolved. They told me they purposely wrote it that way, to provoke thought.


Aspiring actors: The high school students at Lynsi Love Center. All nine students share these two desks. We will help them acquire a few more.

Becky and I visited another Christian school later in the afternoon, and I was again impressed by the students and teachers who served them. The simple buildings that served as a church and school had previously sat in the midst of a shantytown, but the shack-homes had been razed by the decision of the government. The church and school were left untouched only because both have such an excellent reputation, and parents in surrounding poor neighborhoods still send their children each day—by the hundreds. They know that education is the key for their kids to rise above the grinding poverty they face every day. So they make whatever sacrifices they can to pay the small tuition that funds the one-dollar-per-day teachers’ salaries.

After visiting two struggling but effective indigenous Christian schools today, I resolved to do something to assist them, and I think we are going to expand what we currently call the Older Orphan’s Education Fund to become the Christian Education Fund. With that we can assist both worthy Christian Schools and older orphans with educational needs.


Pastor Ayub Shimaka with his church in the background, standing among the cement slabs of the former shantytown that was razed


Pastor Shimaka with his church in the distant background, with a view of about 1/3rd of the cement slabs of the former shantytown that surrounded his church

There is much more to tell, but it would take a small book to tell it all. Below are a few other photos from the day. — David


Another happy kid at Lynsi Love Center—with his new stuffed dog. Every child received a stuffed animal that had been given to Becky by an American friend for such a purpose


Orphan Jeff Wayoni at Lynsi Love Center, who has been receiving treatment for his infected eyes because of gifts to Heaven’s Family’s Critical Medical Needs Fund. Jeff’s eyes are doing much better since when I first met him last August, and he is doing better in school as well.


Pastor Peter Kingoro, founder of Lynsi Love Center, gives a pep talk to some of the older orphans who work as salespeople for “Classic” brand soaps, which they also manufacture. It is available in four varieties. Becky and I purchased 120 bars that we’ll bring home with us to sell in order to raise funds to help further capitalize Classic Brand Soap. It exists to employ older orphans and widows.


Widow Wanjira Chales, a future beneficiary of the Widow’s Fund. She moved out of her larger home into this dirt-floor shack so that her former home could be used as a church and living quarters for some fellow Christians who were displaced after Kenya’s post-election strife.


A close up of widow Wanjira Chales


Widow Christine Muindi, with her niece, whom she adopted after her sister died. Christine received a grant from our Widows Fund and opened a store that sells, among other items, varieties of beans and rice.

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