Jambo everyone!

Here I am, back in Kenya, enjoying the grind of real life and rainy season, after a wonderful time with my family, at home in Washington!

I’ve been struggling to get caught up on everything left undone while I was gone, and I feel like I’m finally getting there! Okay, I’m never completely caught up, but I’m as close as I ever have been. LOL!

Getting back in the groove was a bit of a struggle this time around. I’m not sure why, but I just couldn’t seem to get my mind back in Kenya! I was jet-lagged and unmotivated. I felt emotional and irritable. Everyday-life stuff that has never really bothered me before (at least not to this extent), was making me crazy! Things like the teenage girls using up all the water in the tank, so I had to wait to wash my hair. Horrible internet connection. Limited choices at the grocery store. Hanging my clothes to dry. Mud. Decisions about travel, based on whether or not it’s a “political demonstration” day. Back to reality!

This is my life! It’s the life I have chosen to live! It’s usually fine… and is back to being fine again… I just had more of an adjustment period than usual and it took a while to get my heart back where it needed to be. I’m ok now! Back at it with a smile on my face!

Our Form One (high school freshmen) kids are starting to settle into boarding school life a bit better now. They are halfway through their second term (out of three) and are finally getting more used to how things are “outside.”

It’s very common, not just with our kids, but for Kenyan kids in general. They’ve never slept away from home. They’ve never had the excitement and disillusionment of having money in their pocket. They’ve never been exposed to different religions and languages. Discipline and respect for authority is expected at a whole new level (think military). It is a huge adjustment and can sometimes make it hard to focus on their studies while they also try to conform to the system.

High school is HARD! There’s so much focus put on grades and self-discipline; the pressure is tremendous! I absolutely hate that our kids have to go through it, but this is what it takes to make it in Kenya! Education is the key to a bright future, and this is what is required! Let me tell you… they grow up fast out there!

Speaking of schools, the construction of In Step Junior Secondary School is complete! Today the seventh graders are cleaning the rooms, desks, chairs, tables, windows, walls, sidewalks, etc., so that they can occupy the building before the end of this week!

We are all very excited for this to happen! As most of you know, the government sprang this mandate on us (along with every other primary school in Kenya), and the scramble to fundraise and build the junior secondary wing was a whirlwind!

Many of the neighboring schools have not been as fortunate as we have! They are still trying to expand their facilities to meet the government’s requirements. In the meantime, they are forced to “borrow” lab and computer facilities from nearby high schools, which is not easy or convenient for anyone involved, and is certainly affecting the students’ progress.

Thanks so much for always coming through when our kids have a need, even when that need was not anticipated!

Our primary school, In Step Academy has become the team to beat in local sports! Whether it be soccer, volleyball, handball, netball (not the same as basketball), etc., our kids are a force to be reckoned with! It occurred to me that this was true of team sports, but not so much individual competitions like running, long jump, etc. I started thinking about why this might be so and came up with the following theory: our kids, living in such a large group, always have the opportunity to practice their sport!

For instance, soccer. At any given time, two full teams can be fielded for practice. (The same goes for volleyball, netball, and handball.) Our kids don’t have to go around the neighborhood trying to put together a weekend game like most kids might. The opportunity to play their sport is just as simple as waiting for a little free time. If you arrived on our campus on a Saturday afternoon, it would not be uncommon to find soccer, volleyball, handball, dance party, and hair salon all going on at once!

In fact, the toughest games we play are against other children’s homes – rather than other schools! For the same reason, I suspect.

With all that said, we are very proud of our ISA athletes! After the initial local competitions, 12 of our kids advanced to the regional level and of those, three went on to compete at the county level! Not bad for a tiny little school in rural Trans Nzoia!

<– Pictured: Miriam looking sharp in her uniform

I want to tell you about a little boy who brightens my day every time I see him! Fidelis came to In Step about two years ago. He was in an absolutely pathetic condition – dirty, skinny, sad, weak, no twinkle in his eyes. He was completely unwanted by both sides of his family, to the point that during negotiations as to his care, both families walked out of the local chief’s office and left him behind. The chief arranged for him to be brought to us.

It was obvious from the start that Fidelis had certain challenges, so we placed him in the care of our Stepping Stones Center, where kids living with disabilities get the extra attention they need.

It didn’t take long for Fidelis to start getting his strength up! Feeding was not a problem and he is such a social guy that he quickly became friends with all of the aunties. We noticed that he had more use of his left side, than his right. In no time at all, he was able to kick a ball (from a seated position), when the ball was rolled directly to him. After some time, he began scooting to the ball to kick it. About a year ago, all of these little milestones brought him to the point of being able to walk (albeit a bit discomforting to watch as it looks like he’s leaning forward and his feet are trying to keep up with his nose).

Nowadays, Fidelis is all over the place! He loves to watch (and chase) the cows, accompany auntie to pick up food from the kitchen (pictured), go for walks around the compound, help push wheelchairs (he thinks he’s helping, anyway), etc. He is a bright spot in my day! Every time I see him going full steam ahead, it just brings me so much joy!

The new boys are also settling in well! Levi has stopped crying for his grandmother, Steve is getting chunky and mobile, and Aiden has found his smile. It’s such a joy to watch the transformation that takes place when a kid suddenly has love, food, and stability in his life!

I would appreciate prayers: Malaria has, over the years, become my life’s nemesis. I have been struck down a couple hundred times and can just go with it, accepting that it’s part of life in Africa. But it has really got me down right now! I feel like it’s always there… lurking… ready to pounce… intent on shutting me down and disrupting the work God has given me to do! When I finally defeat it (through a series of injections), I hold my breath, waiting to see if it’s really gone. I’m not complaining (well, maybe a little bit); I’m just really struggling with this monster that never seems to be too far away to strike!

Besides the 215 kids on campus, I have many reasons to be grateful. One of those reasons is the ongoing construction of a house where Jeff and I plan to live until our days on earth are done! (I know… we plan our steps…) After all these years! What a change it’s going to be! I’ll tell you all about it next month! For now, we’re just over the moon!

Thanks so much for everything you do! God has big plans for these kids! And those plans include you all! I am humbled every time I think about how He has put together an army to fight for our kids! He is using you to break the chains of poverty and give these kids a hope and a future!

God Is Good All The Time (GIGATT),

Mama Carla

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