Why Feeling Beautiful Matters

Our girls come to Mercy House broken and abused; it’s hard to describe the hopeless conditions of slum-life, where daily survival is the only option. The oppression of poverty is strong and difficult to escape. This is one of the main reasons we focus on the complete holistic healing of each girl, we seek total transformation through Christ, quality rather than quantity.

Offering unconditional (sometimes tough) love, support and encouragement are crucial for each girl’s shattered self esteem. Besides the powerful force of poverty, there’s also the potential abuse for girls who come of age.

“For many girls in developing countries, adolescence is characterized by high risk for early and unwanted sexual activity, forced marriage, and early pregnancy-related events. Many young girls view their bodies as working “capital”, particularly those with little education and few economic advantages. . . Creating opportunities for girls to develop self-esteem, master new skills, and formulate a sense of bodily integrity may be critical to improving girls’ health and self-image.” –Research source

It’s been typical for girls new to our program to care very little for their appearance, hygiene and overall body image.

But as inner transformation begins to take place, we are seeing this paradigm shift.

As a young woman and new mother, there’s just not much that compares with feeling pretty. We budget a few dollars each month for our girls to have their hair braided. It’s culturally important and we want to honor tradition, as well as help our girls feel like the outside matches the inside that’s being renewed.

We are also happy to offer an extra job to a skilled local mother. Today she attached new donated hair weaves and our girls are thrilled with their new look!

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I’m surrounded by beauty.


P.S. A certain someone watched with wide-eyed wonder and got her own mini Kenyan makeover ….



A Life Transformed

Last summer when we came to Mercy House (*Rehema in Swahili) we had 3 girls. One was so shocked from trauma, she barely spoke. Another was the most detached orphan I had ever seen and then there was Cindy.

She was bitter and disillusioned.

Hardened by extreme poverty and her situation, a scared little girl who was carrying a child she didn’t know if she wanted.

Last night she led the group devotion and every day she leads songs during morning devotion.

She loves her son deeply and is a good mother.

Well, I’ll let her tell you in her own words:

(Grab a tissue)


How to Make Dreams Come True

If you asked me a few years ago, what I dreamed of doing with my life, it wouldn’t have been any of this. I’m so glad that sometimes God gives us what we don’t know we want.

I never dreamed I’d be going to Kenya regularly with my family, holding babies that weren’t supposed to be born, advocating for pregnant girls, negotiating malaria medicine, dodging chameleons, taking showers so cold my teeth ache….and yet here I am.

When I said yes, I discovered the God-sized dream for my life and it’s changed who I am and altered my family’s future.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Eph 3:20)

I didn’t know about precious girls like Sarah, with a grin so big it fills the room and you can’t help but smile back. Her story is so horrible it takes your breath away and when she came to us she had nothing, including the will to live.

But God.

The transformation in her is undeniable. Incredible. Her healing, while still in process, is so clear, there is no denying the difference, the light in her eyes.

Only God.

Sarah has a dream. She wants to open her own salon, styling hair and fixing nails. “I want to make women feel beautiful,” she says as she lifts her eyebrows and nods her head, to see if I understand.

I do. I have the same dream.

It’s not the size of the dream or desire that makes the difference–it’s the size of the One made it, who made you, who takes treasures from His heart and places them in yours. -Circle Maker

I have no doubt her dream will come true. It’s a big dream for a 15 year old mother of 4 month old Myles, who shares his mother’s contagious smile.

“If you’ve never had a God-sized dream that scared you half to death, then you haven’t really come to life. If you’ve never been overwhelmed by the impossibility of your plans, then your God is too small.” -Circle Maker

God-sized dreams are always bigger than we are, that’s why we need God.

He delights in making them come true. That is who He is.

WFMW: Delicious Hummus

My hubby can work magic with The Garbanzo Bean. His knack for turning chick peas into hummus is profound.

We use it as a spread on bread, we dip pretzels, carrots, crackers, celery, our fingers in it.

Plus, it’s healthy! But don’t tell my kids.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2 cans drained chickpeas

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 heaping tablespoons sesame tahini

4-6 cloves of minced garlic

11/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1/4 or more of cayenne pepper

2 roasted red peppers from a can

Approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil

Blend in food processor or blender

What works for you?

repost from archives

Mercy House by the Numbers

Being in Kenya is surreal.

Holding babies and loving on girls we’ve prayed for daily feels so right. It’s like home away from home.

More than anything, I want you to experience this place, I want to walk you into this home and point out the baby toys you’ve bought and the blankets you’ve knitted and the goodness that has come from what you have done. I want you to see that every dollar you’ve given has gone to make the lives of those in extreme poverty and devastating trauma much better.

So, here’s Mercy House by the numbers:

How many cloth diapers does our home use in a day? 40+

280+ week (every baby has 18)

How many chickens do we have? 6

How many eggs do they lay a day? 3

How many roosters crow at 4:30 AM every morning? 2

How many mean chickens have we eaten so far? 1

How many lentils (known as green grahams) are consumed in a month? 1 million

How many pounds of meat (beef, chicken, liver, and fish) are consumed each month? 88 pounds

How big is one portion size for a healthy, breastfeeding mother? More than you can eat!

How many  breastfeeding mothers do we have? 8

How many products can a girl make in a day during the afternoon skills hours? 5 each

How loud are 8 babies crying at the same time? Very

How many bananas do our trees produce on the property? We have more bananas than you can imagine (and plentiful guavas and all our green vegetables come from the garden).

How many liters of milk do we haul from the local farmer around the corner each afternoon, boil it that evening to kill any bacteria, refrigerate it and then serve it for breakfast? 4 liters

How awesome is the weather in June in Kenya? It’s a high of 60, low of 50

How many dirty diapers have my kids changed? more than I have!

What is the average age of the girls in our home? 16 years

What are the ambitions of our girls? Two doctors, a newscaster, a tailor, a hairdresser, two teachers and a gospel singer

How much does it cost to run the maternity home every month? $6500 averages $406 per family (baby and mom) (25% of this amount is rent)

What percentage of our budget is being met by monthly commitments? 90%

How much of our support comes from individual online support? 95%

How many monthly sponsors do we have? Approximately 300 with the average being less than $20 a month

How many people does this amount support? Besides our 16 girls and babies, this amount supports 5 full time staff and 2 part time (who each support several family members)

How much did the clothes dryer we bought today cost? 487,000 shillings (Our girls and staff hand wash all the clothes, bedding, diapers, etc. We found that in the “cold” rainy months, it often takes cloth diapers several days to dry and the dampness causes horrible diaper rash. Today, we bought a dryer for the diapers. If you’d like to contribute towards this purchase or help buy a second dryer, we’d love to have your help!)

How many paid staff are in the US? 0

How much money do we need to raise for Violet’s necessary skin graph and repair surgeries so she can walk on her feet and not damage her toes any further? $7500 US dollars (surgery will be end of 2012)

How long is the lease in our current location? 5 years (we have just begun year 2)

How much it would cost to purchase the land and home we currently lease? $300-400,000 US (the cost of living in Kenya is extremely high)

How valuable is one life? priceless

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

Today she asked the hardest questions.

The kind that don’t have answers.

We spent the morning teaching the girls and staff of Mercy House about leadership, positive attitude  in difficult circumstances and the love of God. It was rich. The girls took notes and sat in rapt attention.

As we wrapped up the two-hour session, we opened it up for questions. We are still in that silent-awkward phase, where we are getting reacquainted. There are eight little reasons that make the transition easy (who were being cared for in the baby room by Maureen and my kiddos during our session):

And then she raised her hand, quietly, but the urgency of her question, hung in the air.

“You speak of God and how much he loves us.  I would like to know why he allowed me to suffer so much? He is powerful, yes? Why doesn’t he stop the bad things?”

The question was heavy, it came from a place of pain I can’t imagine: this girl who had been gang raped by evil men, the memory and trauma very fresh.

A 17 year old mother, her baby conceived in a wicked world, grasping for something to hold onto, but I’ve watched her for two days now tenderly care for her baby. It’s a beautiful heartbreak, this world we live in.

My heart broke for her trying so hard to understand the why’s of suffering. Suddenly, our tidy message from the western world seemed empty.

I looked at her with tears thick, and I said, “God stepped into your pain and brought you here. We have suffering in our world because of sin, but you aren’t alone. Jesus is here and somehow even when he doesn’t make sense, he is still God and he loves you.”

My husband offered her tender promises from the Bible and we acknowledged her very real struggle to understand. But in the end we can only lean into God’s Sovereignty even when we have more questions than answers.

An hour later, we huddled in a room (21 of us!) and we sang of his great faithfulness.

Because even when we can’t explain the why’s, we trust anyway.

Pictures of the Day: Kenya 2012

After a very smooth (but extremely long 24 hours), we arrived in Kenya to a beautiful reunion between Maureen and our family. We hit the ground running and started early today at church watching ALL eight of our beautiful girls get baptized in water! Stunning.

I wouldn’t have missed this for all the jet lag in the world.

And then we did a ton of this:

with eight of these:

We shared delicious meals together and the girls opened up their gifts for themselves and their babies from you!

It was pretty much a perfect first day on the other side of the globe.


Kenya, Here We Come

16 miracles waiting for us….

In the words of my five year old, our fearless leader:

{We covet your prayers for our family as we get on an airplane tomorrow and travel for around 24 hours. Please pray our time at Mercy House is productive and for safety. I will kiss babies for you!}

I will be updating as Internet allows.

Thank you, Vintage Pearl for my Texas necklace, I added it to my Africa one. Together.