Wow! What a year it has been! I hope it has been a good year for all of you… one with many wonderful blessings and memories!
Here at In Step Children’s Home, 2022 was a busy, productive, wonderful year! We have a magnificent team of supporters, including all of you reading this letter, who have made it possible for us to improve day-to-day life at In Step, in so many ways!
The girls are now very comfortable in their new houses, which has also made it possible for the boys to spread out! (The boys’ dorm is definitely in need of upgrading, but at least they now have more space!)
The leaky roof of the Stepping Stones building was rebuilt! Rainwater collection systems, including fourteen 5000-liter water tanks, were installed on various buildings around campus. A high security fencing system, including two new gates and a guard shack, was built around the entire perimeter of the property. And finally, a beautiful, 5-stall carport was built, which will help protect the vehicles from the elements. I am absolutely overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude that all these building projects were able to be accomplished! Each thing that I have mentioned was so needed and has made life around the children’s home that much better!
A really big thing that happened this year was our three-year-old, Joanie, received a cochlear implant! Most of you have followed Joanie’s story and know that in 2021, when Joanie was two years old, we discovered that she was born with profound hearing loss (completely deaf). I can’t even describe the thoughts and emotions that came with that discovery! Our minds were spinning! How did it take us so long to figure this out? What will her life be like as a deaf person growing up in rural Kenya? How can we help her?
Then, like so many times over the years, God provided through you, our supporters! After several pre-surgery trips to Nairobi, Joanie received her cochlear implant in July of this year! Joanie and I, or Joanie and Nurse Abby, continue to travel to Nairobi twice a month, four days each trip, for audiology appointments and speech therapy. There’s still a long road ahead, but Joanie is enjoying every step of the way! She works hard at learning to listen and pick out sounds and words! Her vocabulary (understanding the spoken word) is growing daily, and the audiologist and speech therapist are thrilled with her progress! What a life-changing gift she has been given!
One of my favorite things about 2022 is that visitors started coming back! We had an incredible team from the state of New York visit in January! The group included two dentists who examined all of the kids and did cleanings, fillings, extractions, tooth brushing instruction, etc.
Other team members acted as dental assistants, computer technicians, soccer coaches, science teachers, seminar instructors and much more! The team leaders, better known as “The Dans”, had been here several times before and did a great job from beginning to end! I was even invited to join the team on safari, which was amazing!
Also in January, we were visited by a group of Rotarians from Burlington, Washington, who came to kick off the African Ruggedized Educational System (ARES) project that had recently been granted to In Step Academy! The grant provided for one hundred notebook computers, several ARES servers, a monster copy machine, a smart board, projectors and screens… basically everything needed to fully utilize the system. What a blessing and gift! The students of ISA, including about 60 kids from the surrounding community, are using computers on a daily basis, which is unheard of in these parts!
In October, we were blessed by a group of visitors from South Hills Church in Kennewick, Washington! This team was instrumental in providing the new carport, but even more importantly, they took the time and energy to visit 26 of our high school kids who were away at eleven different boarding schools! That made for some super long days, but oh what a blessing for our high schoolers! In their spare time (LOL), they did lots of fun things with the kids at home and even joined them for their nightly devotions! South Hills Church has been partnering with us for many years and the kids are always so excited when they come!
Tracy and Tamara Tripp arrived toward the end of November and will be here until the end of January. These guys have served faithfully for many years! This is their seventh visit and they always come prepared to work and help wherever they can! They have a special place in their hearts for the Stepping Stones kids (our children living with disabilities) and have been spending several hours per day working with the nonverbal kids, identifying which ones might benefit from a communication system involving pictures and symbols. What laborious work! They trained in this system for many months before coming to give it a try with our kids, and I have hope that it just might help a few of them!
The Tripps were also instrumental in getting wheelchairs replaced for our kids who had grown out of theirs! This blessing also ended up extending to four neighborhood kids who never dreamed that they would someday have a wheelchair! Talk about a life-changing blessing!
This year we rescued seven kids, two of them were only with us for a few months, as we were able to find family to take them in. Three other kids were also reunited with family members during the year, and one was fostered (step one to adoption)!
While we love each and every kid God brings to us, we also believe that in the cases where a loving family member, who is willing and able to care for the child, can be identified, it is ultimately better for the child. As much as we are able to provide (often times better than their biological or adopted family), there is just no replacement for a loving, nuclear family! Whenever that is a possibility, we do what we can to facilitate it!
No end of the year update would be complete without talking about the In Step Christmas Feast! I don’t think there is a kid here who, when asked what their favorite day of the year is, would give any other answer except, “Christmas!”
I don’t know what it is about our kids, but FOOD is their favorite thing! And boy does Christmas deliver in the food department! Because of your donations, we were able to provide an amazing Christmas feast for them. This year we barbequed 70 chickens, prepared more than 400 chapatis (fried bread, similar to a greasy tortilla), made over 100 pounds of fruit salad, 100 pounds of mokimo (mashed potatoes with peas mixed in), beef stew to go on top of the mokimo, grilled sausages, rice pilau, no bake cookies and peanut butter fudge! There were just over 300 people at the party and it was an absolute blast!
After the gigantic meal, the kids presented the Christmas play which they had been practicing for a couple of weeks. The play was followed by lots of music, dancing, more food, more music, more dancing, and finally started winding down around 11:00 PM.
On top of all of that, this year the kids got a bonus Christmas surprise! Some of you gave a little extra so that every child could sport a brand-new Christmas outfit! I’m telling you, they were looking smart (as they say here in Kenya)! Our kids have never had ready-made new clothes, and they were absolutely strutting in style! It did my heart good to see them so confident and feeling good about their appearance! It was the best day ever!
Let me end by saying “thank-you” from the bottom of my heart! Thank you for sticking with us this year! Thank you for giving these kids a chance in life! Thank-you for making sure they have what they need; food, clothing, medicine, shelter, education, love, guidance, and most of all, knowing Jesus! Where would these kids be without you?
I pray God’s blessing on all of you in 2023!