With God All Things Are Possible

We woke with the sun this morning and drove to Elizabeth’s house. She has been with us since January of 2012.

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This is the first time she’s stepped back into her home in over a year. Her mother has traveled to Mercy House for family visitation days, but this was Elizabeth’s first visit home.

As our girls move along in our program, we access their situation, locate a family member who will help support them in the future and help the family start a small business.

She was nervous as baby Rehema slept in her arms on the bumpy, hot ride.

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It was my first visit in one of our girl’s homes. I was anxious, too.

We drove out of the city and stopped on a dirt road, next to a slaughterhouse, past a dump like the one Elizabeth’s mother walks for two hours to collect rotten food to sell for dog and pig food. Her family welcomed us into their home, four brick walls without a roof, no more than a chair and a mattress, no running water, or bathrooms, rats and stray cats as company.

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I don’t have words to describe the condition of this home. It’s by far the worst I’ve seen and it was even harder because it wasn’t random poverty in a poor country. It was the home of one of our beautiful girls, where eight of her family members sleep in a 10×12 room without electricity and most days, food.

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Her mother thanked us and told us what Mercy House meant to her. She shared her business idea and we dreamed with her.

Then shy Elizabeth stood and said, “I don’t have words, but I thank God for your big heart and for helping me. I want to thank you for saving my life and giving me hope.” I couldn’t help but remember the bitter, angry girl I left in Kenya nine months ago. She struggled adjusting more than any of our girls after the trauma of her abuse and unexpected pregnancy. Maureen and I literally begged her not to leave.

Tears coursed down my face and in that exact moment, as I sat in unimaginable poverty, nearly gagging from the raw sewage nearby, every single hardship and challenge over the past three years was worth it–

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Elizabeth has been transformed by the power of Jesus.

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We said goodbye and I was overwhelmed with just how big the need is and what we still need to accomplish. The task ahead of us feels so big. I feel so small.

But as we drove away, I saw this message:

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And I started recounting miracles. I added Elizabeth’s words to the list.

He loves these precious people so much more than I do. He has a plan and specializes in the impossible.

Tonight I’m holding this promise close to my heart.

Expecting Grace

When God said “Will you help girls in Kenya?” I didn’t know what to do or what to expect.

I took one step and then another with Maureen.

I’ve learned so much on this journey. And I’m learning that I have much more to learn.

Mostly that even when I don’t know what I’m doing, He does. He doesn’t need me to figure this life out, He just wants me to be willing.

Between feeding babies and learning new skills, we had some guests at Mercy House today and as I showed them around and shared the story of all God has done, I got emotional. But I can’t take credit for the transformation in our girls or the beautiful work being done in our home. I blame God for every good thing. This is His house.

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When the hard comes, so does the grace. It comes when it’s least expect it, but when you need it the most.

Grace comes in a wonderful doctor who has delivered all eight of our babies and makes house calls in preparation to deliver three more.

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It comes in the quiet wonder of new residents who didn’t know how to turn on lights or a shower two weeks ago.

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It comes in a young girl who came to us burned and broken and now is full of healing and love for her baby.

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Grace is a God Who Stoops Low–

He knelt to form Adam–

He squatted to write in the sand–

He hunched to heal a leper–

He bent low enough for a manger–

He leans down for the last of these–
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We are expecting Him.

WFMW: Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

While I’m in Kenya this week, I left my hubby to work and get the kids to school, with the help of my nearby sister. It takes a village. If I’m being honest, I’d tell you my husband is a better cook than I am. But I know the last thing he has time for is meal planning, working, homework, etc, while I’m gone.

I left with a few meals in the freezer, but since my kids are big breakfast people, I knew they would enjoy a breakfast casserole a couple of mornings. We had something very similar over Easter at my in-law’s farm, so I knew they’d love it.

Ingredients:

1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
1 package (32 oz.) of frozen hash brown potatoes.
1 lb of cooked bacon or crumbled sausage
3/4 pound cheddar cheese – shredded
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Layer potatoes, meat, and cheese in the crockpot in two or three layers.

2. Beat the eggs, milk and mustard, salt & pepper together.

3. Pour over the whole mixture.

4. Cook with slow cooker on low for eight to ten  or until eggs are set and thoroughly cooked.

I hope it worked for them!


The Family Way

So, this happened today –3 hours in standstill traffic:

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[Zebra rain boots are what all the girls are wearing these days.]

Mainly because of this:

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The deluge of rain has been coming for a month and it’s saturated the earth and is paralyzing the city. I am staying with Maureen in her apartment, so travel is slow everyday. (Keep praying for us!)

When I brought my family back to Kenya in 2011, just months after opening the doors to Mercy House, we came loaded down with 1000 pounds of donations of baby and maternity clothes (from many of you), curriculum, books, skills to teach and so much more.

But the greatest gift we ended up giving them was what I least expected: a glimpse at what a family looks like. I later learned that while they appreciated the gifts and tools, it was seeing a husband tenderly love his wife and father his children. It was watching me correct my kids and reach out and grab my husband’s hand. It was seeing a family unit love and live in real life.

This is my first trip to Mercy House without my family and their absence is tangible. I miss them more than sweet tea and have a physical ache. We are all family. This organization doesn’t feel like an institution, it is a home.

Sisters helping each other learn to read:

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Daughters taking turns making dinner:

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Sons learning:

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And a lot of love:

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Our family is expanding. We depend 100% on donations. We have room for you. Would you consider being a part of our family?

Special Announcement:

I’m so pleased and excited to announce that our Executive Director and my beloved Maureen is engaged to a wonderful man. She and Oliver were in Compassion’s Leadership Development Program and have known each other for years. We are proud to add this son to our family! And I love that I got to be here to witness her BIG surprise.

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He proposed in front of the Mercy House family and when he was done, I looked at our beautiful girls and challenged them to wait for the special man God is preparing for each of them. He has a good plan and I encouraged them to pray and believe. With eyes shining, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

*photos by my friend, Suzanne Box

A Portrait of a Miracle

How do you define a miracle?

It comes in multiplying food and raising the dead.

And I’ve seen both.

I tremble at what God has done.

I’ve looked into a girls eyes so void of life, it sucked the life right out of me. I returned to this country to find so much joy in the same girl it’s put breath right back in me.

I see miracle in the roundness of a girl’s stomach, a girl under 16 who’s tried to kill her baby twice and yet her unborn child lives and God says “Child, I Have a Plan For You and Your Baby.”

And knowing I’m here again, desperate and exhausted and seeing The Plan for me intersect with them and you is beyond humbling.

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I see the Divine in eight screaming, beautiful babies who are learning Bible songs and about a Father in Heaven when they have none on earth.

I’m not sure why God gives me a glimpse of Heaven and holiness, but I know He wants me to show you, too.

We started the day out before the sun, traveled hours on flooded, muddy roads to the home we hope to purchase. We dreamed and measured and thanked God for taking us one step closer to a future home for Mercy House.

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It’s another miracle and the list is getting so long. But we just keep counting His gifts and adding more pages.

While the new home will be smaller, it’s cozy and inviting and settled in the lush green of the countryside and big enough for our 11 girls and 11 (soon-to-be) babies and maybe one more…. And mostly, it will be ours without the risk of rising rent and in a less expensive area. You can check out our updated Wish List to see what we will be needing.

We returned to Mercy House just as the girls were finishing morning classes today while eight babies napped. If you don’t believe in miracles…

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And guess what happens when Grandma Welch comes to town?

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Matching outfits, of course.

Getting eight babies to sit still, just another miracle.

We had a wonderful lunch together, introduced a few new necklace and sewing ideas (YOU WILL LOVE) and Maureen led orientation for our new girls. Whew!

We also survived another morning without power and no water, but enjoyed a cool breeze, natural sunlight and bottled water. My photographer friend, Suzanne did portraits of each girl and her baby. It was so much fun for the girls!

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There are miracles even in these moments. Sometimes you just have to dig through the mud to find them.

And other times they simply surround you at every turn and when you stop to count them, life takes your breath away.

On Exhaustion, Desperation and Finding God

I’m functioning on less sleep in Kenya than I thought humanly possible. I’m emotional and weary and still scared.

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But I feel God’s presence so strongly with me. Maybe because I feel so inadequate and desperate for Him at the same time? Funny how that works.

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I spent the day trying to stay awake during the 2.5 hour church service, getting reacquainted with the girls, warming up to our three new ones and trying to convince the babies I wasn’t a scary white woman.

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The girls told me I’d really gotten fat since last seeing them (8 months ago). That’s a big compliment here (it means you’re healthy and have enough to eat), but never something a 40 year old woman longs to hear. So, I ate two plates of Kenyan food. Ha!

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Every time I cross the ocean, it’s a different experience. But every time, I end up needing more of God. And finding Him. I’m pretty sure He’s never moved…

It was a good first day/night/whatever-time-it-is start this week. I’m cramming about two weeks work into the next five days, keeping praying, okay?

I’m Still Not Brave

I have lists for my lists, a stocked pantry, a few meals in the freezer and a detailed schedule to help my hubby juggle the kids, home and school in-between working, while I’m in Kenya working at Mercy House.

I’ve had a lump in my throat for days.

This morning before I head to the airport, I’m hiding love notes for my family.

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We just added 3 new pregnant girls in the house, so that makes 11 girls, 8 babies and 3 on the way (one of the girls is 38 weeks pregnant!) It’s rainy season and traffic is at an all-time high and there hasn’t been power at the maternity home in 3 days. I have a layover in Turkey (the country) and will be missing 2 nights of sleep.

This is the 4th time I’ve traveled across the ocean to Africa and I still don’t feel brave.

[I’m about to get vulnerable. I hope that’s okay.]

As I went over a list with my husband yesterday morning, I stopped and I gave a voice to the struggle, “Will this ever get easier? In 5 years, will it still be this hard to go there, to stay here and do this work? Will my heart always be half-as-willing to follow God?”

Because y’all. I’m still just that little mom who said yes to a big dream.

Then he said something I didn’t expect, “Last night, I felt the same way.” He’s in the middle of gathering tax info for our accountant, being stretched paper thin, frustrated with computer issues, overwhelmed. “I want to help rescue girls, I want babies to be born, I want that good part, but the rest…”

His words, although raw, were comforting, because I want that part, too. But we both know as we’ve counted the cost these past 3 years, the good part doesn’t happen without the hard.

I carry anxiety pills in my pocket for traveling and I feel unqualified and overwhelmed at the task. I miss my family with every breath and sometimes I’m so scared I can’t stop shaking inside.

I’m good at organizing my family, carline pickup, making dinner (well, sort of). I’m good at mothering and helping moms, but running Mercy House continually stretches me further than I’ve ever been. As my husband held me, I whispered, “I just wish I was more brave.”

He said, “Maybe that’s why God called you, us. Because we’re not. But he is everything we’re not and everything we need.”

If I have learned anything in this journey, it’s this: the good  makes the hard worth it.

Meet our three newest girls at Mercy House:

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I’m thankful I’m not alone. Neither are you.

“What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Gen. 28:15

I’m taking you with me. I pray you’re brave enough to go.

Moms Loving Moms {Limited Edition Giveaway}

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Congrats to random winner, Tracy.
I became a mother thirteen years ago. I spent five years before that longing to be one. Little did I know eighteen-something years ago, I would get to connect moms here with moms in Kenya through my mom blog. It’s one of my greatest honors.

So, motherhood is sort of my thing.

We now have 11 moms, 8 babies and 3 on the way in Kenya and hundreds and hundreds of moms in the USA and Canada and other countries who make their residence at Mercy House possible. It’s mind-boggling, really. And it’s just proof of a great big God.

For a very limited time, you can bless your mom or a m0m in your life, by purchasing one of our unique mother/daughter necklace sets, designed specifically to benefit Mercy House Kenya this Mother’s Day.

Set includes both necklaces for $44  Buy Here.

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All the proceeds will go to help us help more moms around the globe.

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Mother’s Day is fast-approaching and I can’t think of a better gift to give to a special lady in your life that will also bless a mom and child across the ocean.

Perfect for adult daughters to give or receive…

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or little girls to wear….

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We also have gorgeous matching bracelets:

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Every necklace/bracelet order between now and May 1, 2013, will receive a FREE gorgeous photo Mother’s Day card from Mercy House to give along with a necklace/bracelet.

We only have 50 sets of our Mother/Daughter Pottery Bird/Nest Necklace Sets and 75 matching bracelets. And we cannot guarantee more by Mother’s Day, so order soon. 

The set of necklaces is $44 each (2 necklaces).

Mother Nest Necklace is $30 (by itself)

Daughter Bird Necklace is $20 (by itself)

Matching Bracelet is $25

Today, I’m giving away a Mother/Daughter Set and a matching bracelet to one lucky reader. Tomorrow, I’m heading to Kenya to be with our moms and babies. Leave a comment about your mom or daughter as your entry.

[We have listed half of what we have. If we sell out quickly, we will restock. Please note: Jewelry will be shipped week of April 22, 2013]