You mean, they ALL have HIV?
Today was Outreach Day at RVA. Carson was not able to go because he made the JV volleyball team, and they had their first match today. By the way, they won!
Amy, Mason, and I boarded a bus with about ten RVA students and another teacher to head down into the valley to visit an orphanage. We drove out of Kijabe and soon turned onto a dirt road. Calling it a dirt road is pretty kind. It is a dirt road with rocks sticking out of it of various sizes and has big holes in sections. This was a bouncy half hour made really interesting when halfway down, we came across two young men herding about six cows and fifteen goats on the road. The bus tried to make it through the chaos slowly, but we had to stop until the farmers used their long stick to coax their animals around and past the bus. I was able to snap a picture just as the last of them cleared out.
We made our way down the winding road, turned right onto a "highway" and after a quarter mile, we had arrived at Beat the Drum orphanage.
Twenty-seven children live at this orphanage. RVA visited three orphanages this day in this area. You see, Mahi Maihu is a town in the valley below Kijabe. It is a major truck stop on a through road of Kenya. Truckers would spend the night there. Through prostitution and promiscuity, the HIV/AIDS epidemic broke out in devastating proportions. I understand there is some evidence that much of the African AIDS epidemic can be traced to Mahi Maihu. There are hundreds of orphans here.
We arrived and began playing in the field with the children. You had to watch where you stepped. I stepped over some tin cans, wire, other junk, and goat "pellets" everywhere on the way to the field. We noticed all of the children were wearing 2-sizes too big Crocs or flip flops - some were broken. They were still pretty good playing soccer in them! One young man wanted to show me how he could juggle the soccer ball on one foot just as long as he wanted.
We were able to love on the kids some. We brought a big parachute and played with that. Being from Indiana, I was excited to see we brought two basketballs along. There was no hoop, but we an do other things with a basketball. I picked up a ball, spun it on my finger tip and looped it around from one arm to another and jaws their dropped. The young boys had never seen something like that before! In their eyes, I was a Harlem Globetrotter! Then, in perhaps the most surreal moment of my life, we went to the porch, and I showed them some other dribbling tricks. They had a blast. I couldn't believe I was teaching Kenyan kids how to play basketball. My dad would have been so proud. There is even video proof.
Then, I showed the kids one of my many talents by wiggling my ears and my hair. Then, I stuck out my belly and told them I was about to have a baby. They laughed and laughed! If God can use me, I'm telling you, He can use you! God even used my inability to whistle to bring Himself glory. I showed the kids I couldn't whistle, then they all proceeded to shame my by whistling better (sucking in AND blowing out) than anybody I've ever heard. They were so proud of themselves.
I can see it now.
God: I want to bring glory to myself in Beat the Drum orphanage in Kenya. I'm going to send somebody in. Let's bring some joy to a few boys in the orphanage.
Angel: We'll begin the search to find somebody with the right talents to pull this off.
God: No thanks. I want somebody with NO talent. I want all of the glory.
Angel: No talents? Nothing?
God: Well, it's OK if they can do a few things. Let's just make sure these talents are of no use in Kenya. I'll send somebody in who can dribble a basketball, can wiggle his ears, has a big belly, and cannot whistle."
Angel: Those are not much to work with, but there is this guy in Anderson, Indiana. . .
God: Send him in.
To God be the glory!
While the orphans were playing with our students, Amy and I had a chance to talk with Josephine and her husband, Pastor Peter, who have been here taking care of the orphans the past ten years. I asked Josephine if most of these children were here because their parents had died of AIDS. She confirmed what I had heard. Then, I asked if some of the kids were HIV positive. She said, not some of them, ALL OF THEM, are HIV positive. I said, "They all have HIV?" She simply nodded her head. Yes, they all have it. Bang the Drum is one of eight orphanages. It is the one where all of the HIV positive children are brought. As we talked, I was glad I had sunglasses on. A few tears came. It must have been the dust. Amy tells me she had the same problem today.
So, not only are these kids born into incredible poverty, their parents die, and they were shunned and abandoned. They find themselves unadoptable. Some were found left alone as infants. The young girl Amy is holding was simply abandoned and homeless when she came to this orphanage at two months old.
Pastor Peter told me the name "Bang the Drum" comes from a movie that was made in South Africa to try to educate about the AIDS epidemic. Africans would spread news by "banging a drum". The proceeds from that movie helped fund this orphanage.
Each of these kids gets HIV medicine from the Kijabe missionary hospital. This helps hold the disease in check. They do lose a child every once in a while. Josephine told me about a fifteen year old they lost last year because he came to them with the disease too late. The disease had simply progressed too much.
The children do get to go to a local private school where they can get some individualized attention. If they progress, they have the opportunity to go to college or get a job when they turn 18. That's when they have to leave the orphanage to open up spots for others. They have some success stories.
Then, Pastor Peter shows me their cow. He said she's about to drop a calf but is having trouble doing that. You see, the drought has been bad in Kenya. They have planted a big garden, but it cannot grow. The hay they buy the cows have no nutritional value. One of their two cows, the pregnant one, hasn't gotten off the ground in quite some time. She simply lays there. They think she is having trouble giving birth because she is too malnourished. Peter said many have lost cows in the area. The cows are all dried up. They are buying the milk for the children for now.
While I was talking with Peter, Amy was talking with three young late elementary school girls. Amy asked what their favorite subject was in school. Science, math, and drawing they said. Amy asked if she had any drawings she could show her. Sure! So, they took Amy into their room to show her. There were two rooms in the "house". Each had three beds. There was also one bathroom. The smell of urine was overwhelming yet the rooms were very clean. Each girl has her own bed, a backpack hanging, and the drawings and colored pages on the walls. Amy said, "So you are all like sisters?" Yep. They had each other. They were happy.
I should pause and say that Amy is much better at this than I am. I have definitely married up. I have to say she was so impressive how she immediately connected with the children. The kids loved her, and Amy loved them - well.
We then gathered all of the children on a little hill in the field and had Pastor Peter translate into Swahili while one of the RVA students told the story of Jonah while the rest of us acted it out. You can see one of my students as Jonah with Amy and Mason and another teacher, Mark Daubenmeier, as Ninevites. They were scary! The children dormitories are in the background.
Let me tell you how impressed I was with the RVA students. Some were speaking Swahili to the children. Thankfully, the children did speak some English so I could talk with them. The young lady who told the Jonah story just jumped right in and did a wonderful job telling the story and explaining the theological implications of it to the children. I'm glad to be teaching these kids. They are surely going to impact the world for Christ.
Then, it was time for us to go. We had to get back to RVA by noon to get our RVA kids lunch. We hugged as many of the orphans as we could. Kissed them on their heads. Told them that we loved them and God loved them. It just didn't seem like enough.
So, it was a wonderful, awful day. Today, I felt joy - yet I was emotionally devastated. Friends, this is Kenya. On the way out, we paused, gathered around, and I prayed for our brother in Christ, Pastor Peter and his ministry. Then, we boarded the bus and headed back.
If you'd like to learn more about Beat the Drum or to donate to support them, you can visit their website.
Finally, go out on love on somebody today, won't you? Go. It is so worth it. I promise.