23 October 2008

Our story

Our background. This will be long. If you're not into details, maybe just click off this page. But this is our story....

I grew up in a very average family. My dad worked very hard to put food on the table and keep us all happy and healthy. My parents are very godly people whom I admire. We were always in church every Sunday morning and often Wednesday night. We always found a baptist church to become members of, every place we moved, all 15 times though my childhood. My dad was a high school football coach which meant we moved every 1-2 years. I've lived ALL over Texas and once in Louisiana, once in New Mexico. I went to four high schools and ended up graduating from Keller High School in Keller, TX (Ft. Worth area). I I have a brother who is 7 years older than me. (He and his wife have FIVE boys! We love them very much and hate being so far.)

While growing up in church, my view of missions was so... well, foreign. We learned about people that were far away living in remote areas and teaching about Jesus. I always remember giving towards Lottie Moon. We decorated cans in GA's to collect money. It was never a thought in my mind that it was something I could be called to do. I never felt I would be someone "good" enough for God to use. Then I got involved in my youth group in high school and started seeing missions in a different light. (i'm going to leave out all the rough and tough stuff I got into in high school and skip to the good stuff for time's sake, this is to say that regardless of all the crud I got into and did, it's not about what you've done but who you are now in Christ and that you say "yes!") The summer of 11th grade, I went on my first mission trip to Mexico with my youth group. We worked in an orphanage everyday for a week. I fell in love with this little boy, Mikie that was 2. I couldn't imagine any child growing up without a mother and from that week on I knew my life would in some way be involved with mothering the orphaned in the world. Not long after I saw one of those infomercials on the starving in Africa. My heart broke. Then I saw a special on CNN about women and children in Congo. It was horrifying. My sheltered life that was in a box was completely shattered. I stayed up till 11pm in my room watching this and crying. I remember praying to God that maybe, just maybe, He would use me, little me, to go and love on these women and children. My heart was forever turned towards the orphaned, broken and abandoned. I wanted nothing more in life than to rescue children and simply be their momma. Then I went back to everyday life in high school and blended into the crowd, with a tucked away dream of one day going to Africa. I told people in my youth group.  I became very involved with my youth group and ended up giving up track and basketball my senior year so I could spend more time at church and doing ministry.  We went to Student Life camps and events throughout the year where I grew and found Jesus not just in a story but face to face.  This was another place I'd hear about missions but had the "i'm not good enough" mentality.  

Africa became a fad. My dreams seemed to blend into that fad, but I knew in my heart it wasn't. So I kept it tucked away. I graduated high school. Had no idea what I was doing with my life. The only thing I knew to do was go to college and get a degree in early childhood. My mom was a kindergarten teacher growing up and I loved children. My goal in life was narrow not because being a kindergarten teacher is an insignificant calling, because it's not AT ALL, but because I just followed in suit with what the world told me to do. I rode the fence and had my foot in the world. In church one week, in a bar or club the next. But the times I was "on fire for God", I was a radical. We'd go to feed homeless in downtown Ft. Worth, backyard bible clubs for children, volunteering at every opportunity in church, I was always beating down the doors to serve Jesus. But the times I had my foot in the world, well I was pretty radical there too in a not so great way.

I then moved to San Angelo and was surrounded by godly friends. Then I got involved with the Baptist Student ministry at Angelo State University. I also got involved with Katalyst Ministries. Through these two organizations, Jesus became my life again, not just a part of it. I saw Him as He is even more and was in love. I then knew all I wanted in life was still to go to Africa and now to share the love Jesus had shown me. The summer after starting school at Angelo State University, I went to a missions conference through the BSM called "go now missions". We spent the weekend hearing all about missionaries and there were many missionaries there from all over the world. At the end of the weekend you choose your top three places you feel led to go. I chose a place in AFRICA, another place in AFRICA, and then had no more options and so I put Corpus Christi, TEXAS. And where do they send me? TEXAS! Missions in Texas?! But it was there that I learned missions isn't about where you are but how you live and love those around you. If you aren't called across the world, you are called across the street! (as Heidi Baker would say) You can read more about this HERE.

At the end of my 10 week mission trip to Corpus, I finished the summer with the opportunity to go to South Africa with Katalyst ministries. The year before this is when I heard about it. Kevin Kirkland was speaking at the Lighthouse. At the end of it he mentioned the trip and I about freaked. YES! My dad used to tell me in high school that if I wanted to do missions that I'd have to do a lot of schooling. Since I grew up baptist, all we knew was that missionaries go to language school, missionary school, seminary, have a degree in this and that and so on. But I didn't give up, I knew there had to be a door one day that would open. Because that much schooling to go be a mama to orphans made no sense to me at the time (I understand now how it's good for some... just not for everyone).

And so my journey began when I got the opportunity to go with Katalyst ministries to South Africa in August 2004. I probably was non responsive when people would talk to me when we got to South Africa. It was what they call the "honeymoon" phase of missions for me. I was just soaking it all in and loving on every child I could. It was rediculous. I didn't want to get on the bus in the evenings after we'd do night crusades to go back to where we were staying. I wanted to stay with the people. I didn't want to go to high school assemblies, I wanted to stay with the little children and love on them and let them teach me. But I loved the times we'd go walk around the poor villages and love on the children and share about Jesus. During this trip we connected with an organization that was starting an orphanage in Kenya. Another girl and I were all about it. I went back and lived in Corpus for a year working in a church there. This other girl, Julie, and I knew God was calling us together for a period of time in Africa. We had narrowed our choices to three places in Africa. Kenya was always my first choice because it was an orphanage we'd go to but really I could of cared less where we were going. Then sure enough the connection to Kenya worked out.

We had one contact person who was a Kenyan man. One of the leaders in the village and orphanage where we were going. The man whom we'd be living with and his family. So I sold everything I owned. I knew deep in my heart that this was it. Once I went, I wasn't coming back. My parents helped me have a garage sale and they sold some of their things as well to help support my trip. They also sold my car and used that money for my plane ticket. I sent out support letters and had a few respond as well. My parents are SUCH a key part to my entire journey leading to Africa. Their love and support has gone a looooong way. It wasn't that hard to sell it all because I knew where I was going and God was about to fulfill a dream of mine WAY sooner than I thought. Before going, we really felt like God was leading us to have someone "send" us out.  We approached Kevin (head of Katalyst ministries).  He was a bit caught off guard but knew it was a step of faith and something God was calling him to be part of too.  So, off Julie and I went to Africa, she was 21 and I was 19 years old. All we owned in a suitcase and we were ready to be love to the unloved. We show up to a little airport in the midst of maize fields outside a town called Eldoret. The husband of the family we would stay with at first forgot which day we were coming in. Thankfully Julie had been to this remote village about 5 months before so we got a taxi and ventured to find this place. It was over an hour away and by the grace of God we found it. Driving up to the orphanage, my eyes swelled with tears and for the first time in my life, I cried tears of pure JOY. I knew when we arrived that I was EXACTLY where I was supposed to be doing what I was CREATED FOR. And that moment defined to me what it feels like when you are doing what you were "created for". We showed up expecting to just love on the orphaned and be moms. Then the local Kenyan board ended up handing it over for us to manage. We had NO idea what we were getting into. It was overwhelming but also an adventure and we, out of ignorance, said sure! We went through many hard trials in a short time. A month after getting there, one of the precious girls we fell in love with, died from aids. It was one of the hardest things in life I've ever experienced. She was 12 years old and loved the Lord. You can read about her story by clicking HERE. She changed many. Including me. We then exposed a bunch of corruption, money misused and so on. It was a mess. The village came together to kick off board members and we were in the middle of it. But I just wanted to be a mom to orphans! And that I continued to do too. We fought for those children. There were 50. Almost all of them had brothers and sisters left behind in the bad circumstances that they were saved from. So during the time I was there I worked to reunite family and bring some siblings into the orphanage. It was a big institution with 25 boys in one room and 25 girls in another. There were two house matrons that stayed there 24/7. Two cooks, two guards, two gardeners, and two cleaners. We were in charge of them all as well. Six months later of Julie and I living there and our term was up. I knew mine wasn't though and I fought it. I went home for a short break. And the ONLY reason I went to visit America was because I knew I already had a ticket back. So I returned back to Kenya in January 2006 and continued to live in the orphanage. These children became my own. I managed the place for 4 or 5 months on my own. I really don't remember the time frame. Time was of no matter when I lived there. Then a woman from San Antonio showed up to help, Shannon. She was a HUGE help and became a dear friend. A month or so later, then comes Bud into my life.

Let me back up a bit. When I had gone home for a short visit over Christmas time, I met Bud. I met him at a Katalyst event and the first time talking went something like this: Me: Hi I'm Kimberly Bud: Hi I'm Bud, I'm coming to Africa, you're the girl that is already over there that Kev told me about? Me: yeah, I manage the place and we need to talk to confirm if you'd be a good fit. Like you need a job description, not just aimlessly come over. Bud: excuse me? I'm already coming. i dont need to get that approved by you, the "manager". I laughed and he walked away. But then we hung out a few times and ended up starting to be friends. So I go back to Kenya and he has my email address. The next six months Bud and I would talk on yahoo instant messenger once a week. When I lived in Lemoru I had no power, running water, or internet. Sometimes I would have cell phone network, if I was lucky. So once a week I would go catch a matatu (local transport) at 7am and go to Eldoret town to do internet and eat meat. And Bud would wake up in the middle of the night to chat with me. He ended up failing a class and likes to think it was because of me!

A bit about Bud.  He grew up in a little podunk town in Texas.  His parents working in the school district.  His dad was a coach as well.  Bud grew up in church but never thought he would be a part of doing any type of ministry.  He went to church Sundays and Wednesdays but never thought past that.  In college he moved to San Angelo and started going to Katalyst events.  It was during these events that God was calling him to minister to youth in high school.  He began traveling with Katalyst to small towns around San Angelo to do youth events.  He fell more in love with Jesus but still had his own hopes and dreams.  He then heard about a trip to South Africa that Katalyst was taking and thought it'd be a fun adventurous trip to do with his friend. (the same trip I went on but a year after I had gone)  It was during this trip that he realized if he gave his hopes and dreams to God, that God would in return give him even better ones.  I was already living in Kenya during this time and many people on the trip with Bud joked with him that he would also go to Kenya and marry me.  He had never met me though and thought that was crazy.  After being completely broken for the people he ministered to in South Africa, he knew there was more he was to do.  God began stirring in him a calling to full time missions.  Bud really wrestled with God over this.  God did not relent.  Bud finally surrendered and hasn't looked back since.  It was one of the best decisions he ever made in his life. When Bud showed up to Kenya, he had plans of staying for 6 months and then that being it.  He had shown up to play with kids and love them as Jesus had shown him love.  But he fell in love with the children at the orphanage in a deeper way than he thought he would.  And after three months of facing various trials in the orphanage, we also fell in love.

Back to the part where Bud showed up in Kenya. I took Shannon and our friend Todd to pick him up in Nairobi. I was so nervous and my neck got all blotchy. I was so excited to see him and still remember he had a black baseball cap on with a green shirt.  But then he came to Lemoru and got settled. To put it bluntly, I was annoyed. It was an interesting time of transitioning. He just came to love on kids and play with them. He was SO great at playing with children. But the children were in school all day during the week. And there's NOTHING to do in the bush besides admin work, helping around the orphanage, looking for ways to improve the orphanage, or go visit people in the village. After a few months, we began to go through more difficulties with the Kenyan board and dealing with corruption. Bud and I then began to grow closer. Shannon and I would spend many nights up late talking to the board and trying to convince them to let us do things. Things like improve the kids diet rather than plant more flowers to make the place look better for when Americans visit. It was ridiculous. We cried a lot. We'd come back to our huts and cry to Bud. He was a good friend to us. And then that's when it happened. We saw each other the way God had created us to be. We were both doing what God had created us to do. Love sparked. I was burnt out though and HAD to leave to be refreshed. Sometimes you have to go to your roots to regain who you are. The night before I was to fly out, Bud shared how much he cared for me. We knew we were to be together but how the heck to you "date" on the mission field??? So I went home and we prayed. We were so in love and didn't want to be apart. Shannon flew out as well and was done with the time she had committed to. A week after leaving and we get an email from the main organization that started this orphanage. Basically they were kicking us out. We had tried many times to enlighten them to the many problems there were with the Kenyan board and they got tired of hearing about it. So rather than deal with it, they get rid of us. It was SO hard to hear this. But before I had left Lemoru I recall praying in my grass hut (which, by the way, was painted pink on the inside). I was on my knees about the direction to go and it was so clear that God was telling me in my heart that I was going to move from that place. And I didn't like to hear that at first. These children and staff had become my family. Most of the people in the village were like family. They would protect us no matter what. I loved it there. It had become home. But I knew, it was only a season. And if God says go, I'm gonna get goin!

 So while home we began to pray and doors opened up for us to move to Kitale for the time being. We had met a guy named Daniel previously. He was at another orphanage on the other side of Eldoret and went through similar trials. He had moved to Kitale and was starting a new ministry. He had moved into a three bedroom house with Todd and had one room open. Perfect! So Bud moved in with them and Daniel found me a place. I stayed in a little one room guesthouse behind a swiss missionary couple. We lived in Kitale and just spent time getting to know the town and jumping in to help any ministry that came up. We also spent a lot of time waiting on the Lord for direction. We knew God was leading us to start a new children's home but where was the question. At first we wanted to go up north to Turkana. We had this great idea that we'd go to where no one was, get money and build a ton of cheap structures and house all the orphans we could. Well, God refined that idea. We then saw that even though there were orphanages around Kitale, the need was vast. And a lot of the orphanages around here were not legit. So we were to come in and establish a new model. Once we really began to think and pray on it, we knew that the model at the orphanage we had just lived in was not the best for the entire well being of a child. It was an institution and children get lost in there. So in the midst of planning and dreaming, we were still in love and discovered how we couldn't live without each other.

On November 15th, Bud took me for a hike up Mt. Elgon. Back then I was out of shape and 25 pounds heavier. So it was quite a trek! We made it up to a point though where he had layed out a picnic for me and asked that I'd be his wife. And I said yes! Wedding plans were in the mix. We set the date for January 13th. 8 weeks to plan a wedding?! Eeek! And I was in Kenya still. So I communicated with my mom and Blenda. (Hollie Aycock's mom, who has become like another mom to us!) I had NO idea what I wanted because that hadn't been on my mind for so long. I gave up everything to come to Kenya, including the idea of marriage. I had no idea if I'd meet "the one" here or not. It all happened so fast and is now a blur. I look back at pictures and think "WHY did I pick those colors? those flowers? those table covers? that food???" and then I settle with the thought that I really could care less. I married the man I love and meant for and just glad it all happened so that we could get back to Kenya and start our life as one.

We came back to Kenya with another family, the Caldwells. At the time they had two children who were ages 4 and 5. They had raised the money to buy land for Mattaw. We thought we'd start construction with them since the husband is so good at that but we ended up spending the entire 10 weeks looking for land and they ended up having a lot of other ministry opportunities. We also met with house parents for the time they were here. The wife helped with doing some training with them. Once a week we had meetings with this group of people interested in being house parents. We'd fellowship together, eat, dig into the word and pray together. Bud and I went on our honey moon in Malindi. We came back to live in the guesthouse behind the swiss. It was a shoebox but we were in love. A few months later our house now opened up. The same time when we found land for Mattaw. Back to while I was in the states the year before, when God had impressed on my heart that we would move from Lemoru to Kitale. I was at a conference and praying about it and God showed me where we would move. I couldn't see much but I remember holding a child and looking up and seeing a mountain. Well, when we found our land, we were out there one day and I look up and there's Mt. Elgon! It was confirmation for me personally that we were on the right land. The Caldwell's then left. Bud started his journey of doing construction in Africa. It's one loooong road! Ha. But by the September 2008, we welcomed our first group of children home. You can read about that HERE. To read a lot more on our move from Lemoru to Kitale and how my pregnancy with Elisha went right along with the birth of Mattaw, read HERE. <-- this post explains a lot.

And that's how it all came together! If I can get Bud to sit long enough to write his experience and more of his background then I'll put that here too.

Really, my story and where I came from is all to say that God can use the most ordinary people who have been in some pretty big messes in their life. I'm imperfect but now Jesus lives in me that is perfect. He is our joy, our life, our all. And without the Lord, we wouldn't be where we are today, doing EXACTLY what we were created for.



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