My favorite day of the week in Kenya was always Sunday. I loved watching the kids dress up in their Sunday best - adorable dresses with an assortment of other mismatched things such as tights, shoes, and sweaters. I loved watching them all worship in church - they sang so freely, so joyfully. They would give testimonies and pray and have huge smiles on their faces. They had so much emotion... they danced, jumped around, skipped. It was inspiring. And I loved the culture differences. My favorite was seeing a toddler carrying a baby to church. One village boy had his baby sister with him all day! Keep in mind, the parents weren't there.

But most of all, I fell in love with the village kids. I still remember the first Sunday after church. The village kids were scared of me at first and ignored all of my questions. But, by the end of the day, thanks to my persistence, we were all great friends :) We played a soccer game and many other random games. Even though there was a language barrier, we somehow managed. The games consisted of dancing, running, tagging, laughing, cheering, shouting, falling down, etc. They loved to hold my hand and be in pictures. They were especially fond of my hair and played with it for hours - they were fascinated by my earrings and arm hair too. I noticed their ragged, dirty clothes and their shoes that were often the wrong size and on the wrong foot. Often, their shoes are too big so that they can grow into them - this makes it so the family doesn't have to buy more than one pair. I loved spending time with them... I can't even describe the joy I felt. They were so energetic and ALIVE. I could have played with them forever. One of the most precious moments was when we all held hands in a circle and ran around singing a song about Jesus. 

The second week at church I was so happy when Margaret, one girl I was especially attached to, remembered me. Her and her friends came and sat by me during the service while Sharon sat on my lap. Afterwards, I played with all of them for the afternoon and it was SO much fun! I loved hearing about their dreams - one girl wanted to be a DJ, another a singer, and others wanted to be teachers, doctors, etc. It broke my heart that I couldn't help them achieve their goals. I came to the realization that the kids at IAA are actually better off than the village kids in many ways. I thought to myself... who helps the village kids? Most of them go to school, but not all. When they're not at school or church, they're always working for their family on the farm since most families live off of about $1.00 a day. I can't even fathom my life being like that - having no free time. I'm SO grateful that IAA opens their gates to the village kids on Sundays.... it gives them a chance to just be kids for once and have FUN! I was so thankful I was able to give them attention and love them and be their friend. Margaret is in the second grade and I'm praying for her future. I noticed the sweater she was wearing that week had a huge hole in it and it was all unraveling. The village families don't buy new clothes. Despite any hardships they face... they are SO joyful. They loved seeing videos of themselves - they would sing and dance and kept asking for me to sing a song for them. They loved asking about my life and family. One kid asked if I knew Obama which made me laugh. I wish I could have spent more time with them than just Sunday afternoons. I experienced an indescribable joy when I was with them. I loved being able to include all of the kids - the shy ones joined in on our games by the end of the day. I let all of them try to use my camera which they loved! And that made for some interesting pictures.. ha. They were SO sweet and would bring my jacket to me if I left it somewhere. 

It broke my heart though when I felt that these kids and families need help too - but they get ignored. The orphanages help the orphans... but who helps the village kids? I feel like they go unnoticed and are forgotten. It is not even about the material things. Yes, the orphanage provides water for them and opens up their gates when medical teams come. Yes, they let the village kids come to the nursery school. But... these children need to be LOVED. They need attention. And, I wished I could help them with their school work - the kids at IAA are blessed to be around volunteers and staff who speak or understand English. The exams to get into high school are all in English so in order to pass, they need to understand it very well. The kids at IAA grow up with English around them... but the village kids don't have this same advantage. I wanted to help them with their schoolwork... education is almost all they have. It determines their future in so many ways.

The last Sunday was so difficult for me. The only way I was able to get through it and be in peace was knowing that God has a perfect plan for each of the village kids. I miss their energy, smiles, laughs, and being able to hold their hands and run around with them. Every Sunday at home now, I think back to the memories with these kids. During worship, I can't help but miss the joyful songs and praises of those in Kenya.

I remember Margaret held my hand during the entire church service that last Sunday. And I thought back to the first Sunday when she wouldn't even acknowledge my presence.... and I realized how far we had come. I recognized the walls and barriers that love had broken down. She was able to trust me as a friend and even show it through holding my hand, following me all day, and hugging me. Saying bye was terrible - I cried so hard. I wrote her a note and had one of the older girls translate it for her.... I'm not sure how much she was able to do. The note talked about how much I loved her and how much God loved her. It said how I'm going to miss her so much and will be praying for her and her future. It said how I hope she continues to work hard in school and that God has an amazing future planned for her. It said how I couldn't wait for the day I would get to come back and play games with her again. I also gave her one of my red headbands that she loved to play with and lots of jolly ranchers to eat. They kept asking when I was coming back and it was so hard not knowing the answer to that. I could tell Margaret was so upset... she looked like she was going to cry when I said bye and she was so quiet. I kept hugging her - I know she treasured the note and she wore the headband home. 

I still think about the village kids all the time. I miss the joy in my heart I felt when I was with them. I miss playing hide and seek with them - they would ALL follow me wherever I hid. I miss running around with them until I felt like I was going to pass out from tiredness. I miss the way they held my hand - I could literally FEEL the love. I want to be able to find joy in everything like they do. I want to be able to live simply. I want to be able to praise God NO MATTER WHAT - and mean it. Not praise Him because I'm supposed to... but because I literally take joy in Him and don't let my circumstances define me. HE defines me.

I want to know who helps the village kids. I know God does. But who else?

Some Starfield lyrics to think about:

"Let me not be blind with privilege
Give me eyes to see the pain
Let the blessing You've poured out on me
Not be spent on me in vain
Let this life be used for change"

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