Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Kamaus

Dear Ones,

The Kamau Family would like to wish you a Merry Christmas from Nairobi,Kenya! 
Please take a moment to watch the Kamau Family 2012 Year in Review video! The Lord has been gracious to us in so many different ways and we wanted to share this joy with you our friends.

In Gratitude, 

The Kamaus

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Who is Sufficient for these things?

…from Kimberly
Now thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place.
For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God, in those who are saved, and in those who perish;
 to the one a stench from death to death; to the other a sweet aroma from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Our field of ministry
I came across these verses in my personal study time and as I was considering what the passage was saying, the words,’ “sweet aroma” and “stench” brought images to my mind.  They were recent memories of walking through Mukuru Kayaba slum with Kamau as we visited the venues where the Hope Bible clubs will be held.  I remember that my mind was alert as I beheld the scene around me.  The slum was teeming with people engaged in all types of activity from keeping their kiosks, chatting with friends and cooking, to children obliviously playing in filth.
It had rained recently so the ground was slushy with mud and puddles; I found myself stepping carefully in order to avoid slipping and falling in the muck.  I was especially alert for suspicious looking plastic bags that might contain human waste.
 ( Kamau seemed to take perverse pleasure in warning me about them with a smile on his face.) Accidentally stepping on one of those would have spelled disaster for my state of mental well-being at that moment! 
The smells of rotting vegetables, cooked food, refuse, urine and others that could not be identified intermingled together and was made even more pungent because of the dampness.  It was a stench.

Children by open sewers in Mukuru Kayaba

 I was actually about to congratulate myself for keeping visible signs of revulsion at bay until someone carrying a bag of wet charcoal bumped into me and soiled my shirt. Oh great!  I struggled inwardly with feelings of fussiness and began to try and brush off the sooty mess.  Annoyance was beginning to stir as I wondered how I was going to be able to remove the stain. 
Kamau smiled at me in sympathy and I began to berate myself for behaving in this way.

How can such  hardness of heart set in that will not be touched by a baby like this?
“What is your problem Kimberly?!”  This is your mission field and where you will be serving the Lord.  You are being squeamish and cranky about a shirt when all around you people are suffering in squalor.  Seriously?!  You know Jesus would not be acting this way.  Why can’t you be more like Him?  

Look at your husband.  He used to live here for years and had to deal with the ugliness of the slum day in and day out and God gave him the grace to bear it without complaining. 
Girl, you need to go to the Lord right now and ask him to change your fussy, wicked heart so that it can be more Christ-like!!!!

I tried to argue with the voice in my head by saying to myself that after all; the Lord gave the children of Israel explicit instructions on how to dispose of their waste by burying it.  He said that it was because He walked among the camp and that it should be holy.  He did not want to see an unclean thing among them which would cause Him to turn away.  I felt that the Lord probably understands how I am feeling!
So these are the thoughts that I recalled to my mind as I reflected on the passage in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

The words gave instruction and comfort to my conflicted heart about the hope that is available for me to be changed.  I can know that in spite of my squeamishness… God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and reveals through us the sweet aroma of his knowledge in every place will bring this about in our ministry to the children of Mukuru Kayaba slum.  For those who are being saved, those whose hearts are being prepared by the Lord even now, the sweet fragrance of Christ will be evident.  It will be living and fresh among the stench of doom and misery.  How grateful I am that it is all God who is sufficient and His work in the lives of the children in the slum will not be hindered by the fussiness of His child.

We have exciting news to share!  Hope Clubs will be starting next week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  We will have clubs twice a day to begin with.  One location is close to the place where Kamau lived with his family, the other is a little further away but still within Mukuru Kayaba. 
We will be team teaching with Kimberly teaching the Bible lessons while Kamau translates into Swahili.  We have been busy planning activities for the club and learning Swahili songs to teach the children.

Prayer Requests
These items for teaching clubs are first donations that Hope Anew has received
**As you have read earlier, there is an apparent need for our hearts to be expanded with the compassion and tenderness of Christ.  Pray that we would see those in the slum the way Jesus does…as sheep without a shepherd in need of a Savior.

**We are concerned that we could be overwhelmed with children.  Pray that should many children come, God will cause there to be order and not chaos.  Pray that the teaching of His Word will not be hindered in any way.

**We need wisdom as we interact with the children, especially if it is a large group.

**Ask God to help us to make the club fun for the children.

**As children come to the Lord, pray that it will be lasting fruit for the Kingdom of God.

**Pray for protection and safety.

**Pray that the Lord will send godly volunteers that want to serve Him by joining us in reaching out to children.

** We want to be able to provide mandaazi (fried doughnuts) and bananas to the children.  Pray for God’s provision of this need and also for the funds to rent the places that we are using for the clubs.

May the Grace & Peace of God rest on you,

The Kamaus

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Bizarre Odyssey to Zambia

As many of you know, I had to make one more return trip to Zambia to retrieve personal belongs which we had left behind because we had no where to put them when we first arrived in Kenya. After securing housing, I prepared myself psychologically for the journey.  I have found it is necessary to do this when taking this train because although the trip from Tanzania to Zambia is supposed to take about two and a half days, there really is no telling when you’ll arrive. I had once endured a 22 hour delay due to a train derailment further ahead on the route.

Loading the train in Zambia
After a 15 hour bus ride from Nairobi to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, I was welcomed aboard the train the next day by one of the staff, a young likeable fellow, who I later learned his name was Charles. A few hours into the trip, I was shocked to learn that he had passed out in the restaurant car; we made an unscheduled stop in a small station where a vehicle was hired to take him to a local clinic.  He was later brought back in the train with an IV hooked up on his arm.  
We proceeded with the trip with the intention of stopping in a major town where a better equipped hospital could be found, but he never made it to the hospital.  He passed away in the train.  
When we did finally stop at the town, it was to leave his body at the morgue as we continued with our trip.    A sad and disconcerting mood descended on the passengers at such a swift finality to life. 
I have used this train about ten times now, so I was very familiar with the routine and most of the major stops.  I knew for example, that when the train arrives at the Tanzania/Zambia border, the immigration officials of both countries board the train to check passports and stamp exit if leaving Tanzania while their Zambian counterparts stamp enter to allow you in their country.  The immigration officials normally pass through once to announce their presence and then return to inspect the passports and stamp them. 

On this occasion, the Tanzanians did their one pass routine; I had the door to my compartment open and was sitting on my bunk ready for the actual passport inspection/stamp.

The next thing I know, the Zambian immigration came in, they proceeded to inspect my passport but I told them that I was waiting for the Tanzanian officials.  They informed me that the Tanzanians had disembarked from the train and that they were so sorry but that they could not give me a Zambian entry stamp without an exit stamp from Tanzania!

Ready to depart fot Dar es Salaam!
I was told I had to get out of the train and go to the Tanzanian side of the border to get an exit stamp otherwise, if I proceeded with my trip, I would find myself in Zambia illegally and would have major problems on my return trip. As I was trying to figure out what my options were, suddenly, the train started to move!  I knew this was an express train, so it’s not like I could just get off at the next stop and walk back!
 I quickly grabbed my bag pack and slugged it on my back and then I reached for another shopping bag and headed for the exit. 
  It was pitch black outside as only Africa can be and it was hard to see anything.  I knew if I stopped to think about what I was about to do I wouldn’t do it.  I did not do the one… twothree… whatever. 
Come to think of it, I don’t even think I prayed.  I just let go!  

Happy to be alive and on my way home!
There is a way to jump off a moving vehicle and I was pretty adept at it in my younger days, when I would slide off public buses on my way to school in my zeal to avoid paying bus fare. My friends and I would then use the fare for the movies on Fridays!  Anyway, something went wrong this time; when I jumped, the weight of the bag pack, pulled me backwards and it didn’t help that there were stones scattered along the rail line which I stumbled on.  I fell backwards and banged my head on a stone.  I must have momentarily suffered a concussion.  I knew the train was rushing past me but I could not see nor hear it. Something was telling me, “Kamau,…. crawl… away… from…. the train, crawl…away from the train,” but my body was responding ever so…slowly and then I wasn’t even sure if I was crawling away in the right direction!

The truck finally arrived in Dar es Salaam
When I fully regained my senses, I felt this dull ache on the back on my head and as I sat up I felt something warm and sticky on my face and I knew I was bleeding. I did not know how bad the head injury was, as I made my way to a little building where I could see some light; it turned out to be a railway staff quarters. 
I explained to the man I found there what had happened and asked for water to clean myself up.  I also asked if he knew of a guest house where I could spend the night. After getting directions, I started to make my way to the guest house; it was probably about ten o'clock at night when I arrived there.

I am glad I had cleaned myself and covered my head wound otherwise I might scared my host and may have been turned away.  The next morning, I considered going to see a doctor and was informed that there was a private clinic nearby. Upon further reflection, I decided against it since I know that in Africa, especially in the area where I was, most so called “private clinics” are run by not doctors but people with basic medical skills and I wasn’t in a mood to have someone experiment on me.
Unloading the truck in Nairobi
I crossed the no man’s land into Tanzania and went to the immigration where they quickly stamped my exit stamp after which I then crossed over to the Zambian side for the entry stamp.  From there I boarded a bus and proceeded with the last of the journey to the Village of Hope for our belongings. The return trip to Kenya had its own adventures which my wife kept you up to date!   I want to thank you all for praying for me, it very likely saved my life!  I am so glad to be home with my family all in one piece! Literally!    

So what’s the moral of this story…..

Don’t be dumb by jumping off moving trains!
Home Sweet Home!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Reflections... First Month in Kenya Part Two

…from Kimberly

One evening, shortly after moving into our new home, I was cooking dinner when my cell phone rang…

Me:  “Hello”
Kamau:  “Honey, I see a baboon outside on one of the rooftops!”
Me: “No way, really?!”
Kamau“Yeah, come see”
So I called the children and we gathered outside of our house hoping to see this most unusual sight in urban Nairobi.  We looked and looked but he had gone.
Kamau:  “I saw him climbing around and I was afraid he was going to fall.”
Me:  “I wonder how he got there.”
Kamau:  “I don’t know, maybe someone is keeping him as a pet or he escaped from the game park.  Anyway, do you see? This is how rooftops become damaged here in Nairobi!”
Me:  “Yes, I would think so.

Hmm……. there really is so much to see and hear in this vibrant city where your senses come alive with excitement.  It is teeming with people from many tribes and nationalities; people from different parts of East Africa; Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania as well as places in Asia and the Middle East. There are many languages being spoken even as one is in crowd of people, which in Nairobi, is anywhere you go.  It feels very exotic to me and I feel grateful to have the opportunity to live in the country of my husband’s birth and to serve the Lord here.

After living in a rural area in Zambia for 5-1/2 years and in a suburban area in the US before that, living in a major urban population center is somewhat of an adjustment to say the least.  I enjoy being in close proximity to stores and to be able to visit a local kiosk selling a variety fresh tropical fruits and vegetables at anytime. The industry and ingenuity of the Kenyan people is admirable to witness.  There are many little businesses operating from the side of the road, anything from simply roasting maize on a homemade grill, to all types of furniture displaying excellent craftsmanship.

What has been most challenging for me so far is the public bus transport, called matatus.  As an American, I don’t know where we got the idea of having “personal space,” but it sure becomes a troublesome way of thinking when you are riding in a matatu.  My mind loudly screams in protest that my personal space is being violated beyond all that is bearable when half of a total stranger’s body is hanging over my face or a limb of some sort is overlapping onto my own.  I try not to even think about the speed at which the mataus are going, the fact that we are driving on the sidewalk at times and the oncoming vehicle that we just narrowly missed.

Crossing the road has once again become a challenge, even at 47 years of age.  The last time I felt this way was in elementary school I am sure, but now I am feeling the apprehension that a small child would feel walking along a busy highway and trying to cross it.  My husband has to hold my hand firmly and tell us when it is safe to cross because the traffic is so heavy and pedestrians are not given the right of way.

Oh well, the positive side to these challenges are that opportunities to pray without ceasing are increasing!

...from Malaika

Hi! I'm here in Kenya and things are going okay here, I guess.
We don't have a car right now so we have to catch matatu's (buses) and sometimes they can be crazy. They go pretty fast too. But those things don't really bother me that much. Probably cause' I myself am a little crazy and wild.                     
We have to walk a lot also, which is NOT fun when you're hot and tired and if you don't like walking really far distances. Fortunately, we haven't had to walk really far distances, at least Kimani and I haven't. I don't know about my parents.
There are times I do like going out for walks (not really far ones though), just going out of the house once in awhile.   I like going to the movie theater and stuff.

When I'm on buses or walking, sometimes I smell the smoke from the cars and trucks and buses, and they do not smell nice. Sometimes it makes my stomach hurt and it's not nice having a stomachache out in public where you can't lay down.

I like living in the city. Walking around places, catching matatus, stuff like that. But when my parents start teaching me how to catch a matatu by myself, its probably going to be creepy because I dont really want to end up in another part of Nairobi.    
But I do like the scenery in some places and going out for a little bit, and my cousins are here so we get to see them once in a while.

Well I guess I will see you later.

Prayer Closet
**A huge answer to prayer is that Kamau arrived home safely from Zambia after going there to retrieve the rest of our belongings.

**As we turn our attention to our new ministry in Kenya, pray that God will lead us to the location for the childrens center within the slum.  As soon as we find a place and get it ready, we can begin having Bible clubs.

**We also in need of wisdom as we approach leaders with the community in which we will be serving.  Pray that God will lead us to like-minded Christians and people within the community that could aid us in reaching out to the children and parents within the slum
** Join us in praying for peace between Christians and Muslims.  There are terrorist elements that would like to stir up animosity which can lead to violent reprisal acts.

Grace & Peace,

The Kamaus

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reflections...First Month in Kenya Part One

...from Kamau

It has been wonderful to return again to my country of birth after 18 years! I left as a single young man with a head full of hair and now I return with a bald head, but with a wonderful family the Lord has blessed me with!

There are a lot of changes, some good, others downright sad.  Things I never thought possible are and have happened in my country.
Imagine showing up on a Sunday morning for church and as every head is bowed in prayer. Suddenly, all of hell breaks loose, literally!  There is a big explosion and pandemonium and absolute terror and confusion ensues!  After a momentarily lull, it is found that one worshiper has died and several others seriously injured.  It is later established that a grenade had been tossed at the altar as people were observing a moment of prayer.  
(To read article
This happened in April this year in Nairobi and later, in July, a similar incident occurred on a Sunday when terrorists killed security personnel who were guarding two churches and proceeded to open fire inside the congregation which left 14 people dead. This happened in a town along the Kenyan/Somali border.   
(To read article )

Here in Nairobi, it has become normal for worshipers be screened as they enter churches on Sundays.  Indeed, these days when you attend church, you literally have to be ready to meet with the Lord. In major shopping centers, it has become mandatory to screen all shoppers at the entrances.

It is heart breaking to witness this, but it is the reality of the times we live in, a stark reminder that we truly are living in a broken world.   There was a time Kenya was known as an oasis of peace in a turbulent region, unfortunately, it now seems that those days are no more.  After the grim situations I am witnessing in my country, I would urge you not to take for granted the peace and tranquility you may now enjoy in your country, it is amazing how quickly things can unravel and chaos and anarchy becomes the norm. Please, pray for my country and others which are facing dire challenges and especially, for Christians in those lands, who oftentimes, the only reason they are being targeted is because they identify with Christ. Pray for your country as well, that the Lord may be gracious and stay the hand of evil.   May the Prince of Peace reign, may His people be drawn to Him.

It has not all being gloom and woe.  I have been very encouraged to find the health of my uncle’s wife greatly improved.   When I last saw her in March, she was struggling with T.B. and I was honestly concerned that she would not make it by the time I returned. I visited recently and found that she has completed the prescribed medication and she is on the mend.
Also as a family, we have just completed our first month since our arrival from Zambia.  We have had to start from scratch, a mattress here, a bed there etc!  We’ve been joking that we are like a newly married couple again, except now we have teens in tow!    Just recently, Kimberly was able to begin the routine of homeschooling again.   God is indeed gracious and things are coming together by and by.

…from Kimani

Kimani celebrating his 14th birthday in Nairobi
Okay, I'll admit I was pretty shocked when my sister and I received the news that we were moving to Kenya. We had lived in Zambia for five and half years and now we were moving?
 But I gradually got over the shock and became excited. What would it be like living in Nairobi? What kind of things would we do? When the big day came, we said our goodbyes, loaded our stuff into the car, and headed to the train station. We arrived in Tanzania two and half days later. We stayed there for a night and woke up early to take the bus to Kenya. It was a good trip, considering the fact that we were in there for like, fourteen hours, but we arrived safely  and our friends picked us up. So far things have been well. We found a house (praise God!!!) and have settled in nicely. 

Here are some things I like about Kenya:
  • We live in the city, so we don't have to drive one hour to get groceries.
  • We don't live that far away from our friends.
  • It is a little quieter than I expected (where we are at least).

Here are a few things that I find difficult about Kenya:
  •  Matatus are buses that are like taxis. I don't like them at all. They have blaring music coming through the speakers. The bus drivers and the conductors have kind of a tight schedule, so you need to move fast or they'll get mad at you. The good thing is they've opened up a route that drops us off not far from our home.
  •  The movies here come out like, a MONTH after they do in America.
  •  I love going up country and seeing the Great Rift Valley and all. It's beautiful up there. Here's the problem; they don't put guard rails along the road and since I'm afraid of heights, it really freaks me out and I start getting paranoid.

But I really like it here. Please come visit us soon!

God blessJ

Prayer Requests

U  As this letter is being written, Kamau is currently on a train to Zambia.  If all goes well he should arrive on the 16th or 17th of this month.  He is going there to retrieve the belongings that we were not able to bring with us when we left in July.  Please pray for his safety and success in clearing the borders with our goods.

U  Pray for Kimberly and the children during the next two weeks as they wait for Kamaus return.

U  Pray that the registration for Hope Anew Ministries will be processed soon without the continued delay that we have been experiencing.

U Pray that God will lead us to the location within the slum where the childrens center will be operating. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saying Goodbye

The children at the Village of Hope singing songs for us at our going away party.

Saying Goodbye

As we watched the children at the Villages of Hope emerge from the different houses laughing and chattering to make their way to the Schwartz’s house, I could not help but reflect that six years ago it was a very different scene and it was very quiet.  There were only two houses built and only one of them contained occupants—Kamau, Kimberly, Kimani and Malaika.
So many wonderful things have taken place since then through the work of God and His people and we are grateful to have been a part of the lives of the children who have come to live there and those who care for them.  Now we were all gathering for a going away party that was held for our family. That day and the next were bittersweet for us as we said our goodbyes to everyone.


Karen Weber with her beautiful servant's heart helping out with serving


Yummmm...... boys enjoying chicken raised at the Villages of Hope

 So many prayers, ours and yours have been answered as our journey to Nairobi began.
Here are some of them:

R  Packing up a household is never easy especially when moving to another country. It is a good thing that we began in January!  Right up until the day we were leaving there were last minute things to do.  We had the assistance of Karen Weber who was invaluable to us in so many ways.  Certainly this was an answer to our prayers.
R  In May, loving homes were found for our two cats. This was a big concern for Kimani and Malaika.  We hear that they are living the good life!
R The day before we left, our car was sold to another ministry that cares for orphans.  Whoo…hooo!  Yay God!

The big day arrived!  Waiting to board the train to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Reading, sleeping, playing games, and more sleeping during the two day trip on the train

One of the stops along the way... these villagers are hoping to sell foodstuffs to passengers

R Our trip was uneventful and went very smoothly.  There were no train delays and even though we had a lot of luggage, somehow we managed.
R When we came to the Kenyan border, we wondered if we would have to pay $200 in visas fees or would we be permitted to come in to the country under the new dual citizenship law. To our delight, we entered the country legally without visas.  We were so excited and happy!

R  Within one week of arriving in Nairobi, we found a place to live that would meet our needs for our family and hospitality and within walking distance to the slum where we will be working. 

After seeing so many of our prayers answered, we are very encouraged by the Lord’s faithfulness and we hope you are too.

What’s next?
  U  Kamau will be traveling back to Zambia within the next week and a half to arrange for the rest of our belongings to be transported to Kenya.  Please pray for safe travel to and from and success in getting the items through the borders.
  U We were delayed in moving into our residence due to water and plumbing issues.  Pray that they will be resolved within the next few days.  Also, please pray that we can get ourselves into a regular routine with family life and homeschooling very soon.  This will enable us to turn our focus to beginning the ministry to the children in the slum.
  U  Pray that we will find a church home with solid Biblical teaching and a strong youth program for Kimani & Malaika.

 Grace  & Peace

Who would think we would find a herd of cows in a major metropolitan city
like Nairobi!  They were on the road right outside our residence.

Tropical, green Nairobi

The Kamaus