Ballpoint Pens, Tourism School, and More...

This is Kara. I'm in Brussels processing the last week that Kayla and I had the honor to experience. We only slept about 4 hours a night, missed a lot of meals and were in a constant state of motion because of the countless lists to complete and problems to solve. That being said, the transformations in the children are beyond describable. If I begin writing, I won't stop. Here is the summary:

Top 10 Moments for Imana Kids (1/2014)

1. Light, as in the kids' eyes

For real, they look more alive than we have ever seen them. All the kids living at their new schools are positively glowing. Their affect is no longer flat and all of them are eager to share everything they are doing, seeing and feeling.

2. The Nannies

We have hired three women to care for the preschool aged children daily. Kayla worked with them to develop a routine, to use general preschool educational materials and to begin to provide more structure and discipline. The most beautiful piece of their story is that each of them was formerly a prostitute. They have all joined James' church, were baptized and now trying desperately to find alternative incomes from their previous lifestyle. The empowerment that having this job with the little ones is giving them is so hopeful. Kayla and I were able to visit with them, to write down their stories and to pray for them. They expressed that seeing these little orphans has touched their hearts and that this is more than an job for them. We are hoping that in the near future, we could get sponsors for each woman. Additionally, Rosette, one of the three, will be starting an intensive English language program next week in the evenings. Good, good stuff.

3. Greens and bananas

The good news is that they aren't as expensive as we had previously anticipated. Rosette, as of Tuesday, January 21, be buying fresh fruit along with sweet potatoes and greens, on her way to the orphanage. Until this week, the kids were eating maize for lunch and rice and beans for dinner. That was literally it. Now our menu is porridge with milk (and a SPRINKLE of sugar, this was a battle between James and me) and fruit for breakfast, sweet potatoes, greens or peanut butter and bread for lunch and beans/rice and vegetables for dinner. The eggs are coming...this isn't fabulous, but as James told me many times this week "Building a foundation in a building is very difficult. But when it is strong, you can keep building up."

4. Letters

The kids worked really hard on writing or drawing (or both) to their sponsors. Some of them are making remarkable progress, asking "How is life in Nebraska?" or "Please kiss your baby from me" while others are copying the exact letter that their sponsor wrote to them because they don't yet know English but they desire to communicate with their sponsor family. ***Side note: the teachers will be working with the kids on letter writing. Please disregard any comments regarding "needing a phone" or bike or whatever. Orphans are especially vulnerable and a product of their environment. We apologize and we ask for grace...

5. Saturday mornings

Our primary age kids are at Good Harvest while the secondary students live at High Hill Academy. They are only a few blocks from each other and the headmasters of each school have given James permission to accompany the older kids to visit the primary students each Saturday. They get to all walk together to see each other. Watching their little reunion will be burned on my memory for a long time.

6. Character

Both of the headmasters at primary and secondary expressed to me on more than one occasion that they are really enjoying our kids. The describe Imana Kids as being well behaved and "loving." Kayla, the teacher, is quick to point out that all kids behave this way at the beginning of the school year! However, we are excited and proud that so far, so good. Also, we are thrilled that one of our teenage boys, who has had almost no education in his life, has chosen to be in P2 (~1st grade) despite being 14. He is also making eye contact now and smiling. The kids are all encouraging him and his teachers express his leadership qualities.

7. Faith building

Some of you may have previously seen the baptism pictures. James baptized 26 kids/young adults on their own request. Now they have taken the initiative to hold prayer meetings together at their schools. This is their salvation. This matters more than math or English or national exam scores.

8. Bic Pens

James and I bought $256 (American, not francs) worth of notebooks. We had forgotten to get two kids their pens earlier, so we added 4 ball point pens. The merchant gave us two free out of four free. *insert sarcasm here* I share this to give perspective on the situation, the needs and the vast ocean of contrast in our cultures.

9. Gratitude

Every single Imana Kid is thrilled with their 2 pens, their 24 notebooks, their periodic table, the three pair of socks and 3 pair underwear. Take the excitement of our American back to school shopping and multiply it by, like, 1 million.

10. James

God has gifted James to lead and love these children. He is patient, he is fatherly and when he speaks, he is full of wisdom and love. Orphans haven't had consistency in their lives; they don't have an example of a father's love; gaining these kids' trust is beyond remarkable. On a personal note, James and I each wrote the same bible verse for the new year without knowledge of the other doing so:

Isaiah 43:19 :"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

Thank you for all of your prayers, we have felt them and we have needed them. Their are still many, many mountains to climb. But we can look down from our perch and see all the ways that God is springing up new life in a wasteland.

Please continue to pray that we each have wisdom and discernment regarding the children still not sponsored, the costs that arise and the spiritual battles that wage on. The board will mail out letters this weekend!