Saturday, November 5, 2016

Feet on the ground

I have been waiting for mental clarity to write but I better not wait any longer! It's hard to believe that 7 weeks have passed since we moved to Kenya!

Packed and ready to move - 2 parents, 5 kids and our life inside 24 pieces of luggage
These are words that I wrote shortly after we arrived at Tenwek Hospital:

Our feet are on the ground in Kenya! We left Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, September 13th.  After 24 hours of travel, a 2 day stay in Nairobi and a 4 hour drive, we walked into our new home at Tenwek.

The journey went... ummmm.... smoothly?  God graciously delivered us from one point to the next.  However, I think of Jim Gaffigan's line when people ask him what it's like to have 4+ kids. "Imagine you're drowning... and someone hands you a baby."  This is also descriptive of traveling internationally with five kids.  Constant survival mode - Is everyone accounted for? Is a carseat optional for this toddler?  Are we supposed to be awake or asleep now? Can 7 people survive on five granola bars and a bag of jolly ranchers before the next stop?

I am so thankful for each person that prayed for us through our travel days and the challenging days of preparation before.  Many texts, calls and emails of love and prayer were sent our way from friends in the US and new friends in Kenya.  And at just the right times when I thought I couldn't do it!

I do not have enough words of gratitude for our families.  They were troopers and rallied together to get us off the ground in Little Rock.  Here are some traveling photos.
Pops helping us pack the trailor on the morning of our flight
Nora keeping an eye on the luggage
At the Little Rock Airport and so happy to be done with the packing part!
Checking it all in at the airport
Hard good-byes to grandparents
Will's mom and Harper Claire
Liam, Uncle Ellis and Hayden
Happy to be on the plane
Getting into the entertainment bags packed by family and friends

Thank you to the Cruce family for these airplane toys!
Landed in Nairobi
I have a cousin, Sarah Nicholson, that lives in Malindi, Kenya.  I have not communicated well with her since she moved to Kenya 5 years ago, and I did not communicate well with her as we prepared to move ourselves to the same country!  But when we walked out of the airport in Nairobi, her husband Chris was standing there waiting for us!! We couldn't believe it!!  To step off of a plane at night in a new country with 24 pieces of luggage after 24 hours of travel, and to see a familiar face - it was like seeing an angel sent from God.  This sounds dramatic, but it's true!  We hadn't even told Chris or Sarah our travel details, but he had found out for himself and hopped on a flight from Malindi to Nairobi to meet us.  He helped us get our luggage out of the airport and to the Samaritan's Purse vehicle that was waiting for us.  And then while our family drove with our SP driver to the guesthouse where we were staying for the night, Chris hopped a taxi, picked up pizza from Domino's and met us back at the guesthouse.  THEN he said, if your kids have trouble sleeping tonight, just come get me and I'll help you out so you can get some sleep.  This guy!!  This kind of unexpected help and kindness when we were worn out and vulnerable was an amazing gift.  And Sarah flew in the next day to spend some time with us in Nairobi before we drove on to Tenwek on Friday.  We are so so grateful for their support and encouragement.
Chris and Will outside of the Nairobi airport
Eating a nice lunch in Nairobi hosted by Samaritan's Purse staff.  A Brazilian steak house!
Liam watching a pig being butchered outside of the restaurant
Doing a big grocery run at the Nakumat (sort of like Wal-Mart but not) in Nairobi with Hayden and Beth White
One of the long-term missionaries from Tenwek, Beth White, met us in Nairobi to help orient us.  She ran around with us to tour the Samaritan's Purse headquarters, arrange for new cell phone service, and do a giant grocery run to stock up on basics before leaving the city.  She and her family have lived in Kenya for 19 years and she is a wealth of wisdom.  She and her husband Russ have been assigned to us as mentors and we are so glad to have their support and guidance.  Beth has a quiet confidence and steady trust in God.  I have found her to be a good listener and trustworthy.  She has already become a friend!
Sarah helping with the big grocery run
Jet lag
Saying goodbye to Chris and Sarah and looking forward to more time together
View of the Rift Valley as we drove from Nairobi to Tenwek
Will and the kids with Tony, our driver from Samaritan's Purse.  Tony drove us carefully through the chaotic traffic and bumpy, pitted roads and delivered us safely to Tenwek.
Our new home
We were greeted at our new home by Dan and Heather Galat.  This is the house Dan and Heather lived in and grew their family in for 7 years.  This summer they unexpectedly needed to move to Kijabe, Kenya for the foreseeable future and so we will be living in their home in their absence.  They lived many memories here and put lots of love and work into this home.  It really is a beautiful house.  They were there to pass it on from their family to ours.  It was an emotional hand-off and we are so grateful for the time they spent orienting us to the house and the start of life in Kenya.

Nora walking with Sheila, our new house helper
Now our feet are on the ground at Tenwek Hospital!  As I stumble through these first days and weeks, I am a mixed bag of emotions...

So grateful to finally be here but missing the family we left behind.

So excited to be in our new home right next to the hospital but not feeling at home yet in these new walls.

Struck by the beauty of the country around me but feeling awkward in my own skin as I walk from one place to another.

Surrounded by a kind and welcoming team of missionaries but feeling largely unknown.

The kids have all had highs and lows but are overall positive and happy to be here.  They are making fast friends with the other missionary kids and easing their way into the world of homeschooling - that's another post for another day.
Harper and Charley playing with flower pods in the yard
A little homeschooling action
I find myself grasping for familiarity...

smelling all of my clothes and towels that still smell like detergent from home

taking an extra minute to hold and snuggle Nora before bed

looking at my mother's handwriting from a note in the front of my journal

Today after a meal of rice, beans and chapati (a Kenyan flat bread), Charley said, "Mom, can you make macaroni and popcorn and pizza?" I think she is looking for familiarity too.

This is ringing in my ears now... a song I used to sing as a kid.  I haven't sung this song in so many years and now it is always in my mind and a song I've begun singing at bedtime to the kids.  It's from a chapter in the book of Lamentations.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new every morning
Great is your faithfulness
The Lord is my portion says my soul
Therefore I will hope in Him

God, may I be grounded in you as the smell of my detergent from home fades.


  1. So wonderful to hear about your journey and blessings throughout! We're headed to Zimbabwe in 3 days! We will be just hours from you at the Nairobi airport!! Thinking and praying for you and your family...

  2. What a beautiful story of a beautiful family! Thank you for taking the time to share. All of you are in our prayers!

  3. So good to catch up with your adventures of following God's leading. Trying to remember your children as babies - they are growing up! Glad to hear that you are part of Calvary's missionary family.

  4. Alisa it's so great to hear about your journey, see your beautiful new home and all your beautiful smiles! Miss you guys and miss seeing you around at Washington. Thinking of you all and sending big hugs!
    - Tina

  5. Wow what a beautiful story you shared!! It is so amazing that you, Will, and your babies are doing God's will. Your family will do great things in Kenya. We will keep you guys on our prayer list. I'm excited to see and hear more about your adventures in Kenya. You guys story gives me that nudge to get back into mission work. I know God lead me to this post for a reason. Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Oh, it is so wonderful to hear from you!!! What adventures! I've been not so patiently waiting to hear all about everything. I am so glad your cousin was there to welcome you. I love Liam with the pig, seeing your beautiful home, and the pictures allowing us a little glimpse into your life. Charley and Harper look right at home with the flower pods and you look like a natural, amazing, homeschooling teacher. Missing you and sending you a ton of Minnesota love.