09 July 2011

Our sons

I've been meaning to write about our oldest sons for quite some time now. It's gone too long not to mention these two amazing young men that God brought into our lives at just the right time.

When I say they're our sons, well they are. We are not old enough to actually be their parents, and legally we are not their parents, but where other people did not follow through in taking responsibility for these two, we have. And where no one showed them love or ever told them they are loved, we have. Not to brag at all, but just putting it simply. They call us mom and dad out of respect but also knowing who cares for them and loves them deeply.

First let me tell you about our oldest. (warning, this will get lengthy!) His name is Caleb Kiprotich. So many of you reading this that have been here know him or have heard much about him. It doesn't take long to feel right at home here in Kenya when you're around Caleb. It also doesn't take long to know that what we do here with our children at Mattaw, will be lasting and effect this nation because of what you see in Caleb.

Caleb was one of the first children I met when moving to Kenyan in 2005. I was at an orphanage in a rural village. It was one of the best and hardest years of my life. Caleb was one of the children that stood out to us instantly. He was honest and funny. He was in the 6thgrade at the time. I remember one of the first conversations we had with him and his friends was about the insane amount of food that all the children could eat at lunch and dinner. (if you've been here, you know what I'm talking about!) They all laughed and cracked jokes about how it's the worms inside of them that eats a lot of it. Ok, here we've got these children that have been through and seen more that you can imagine, are not in great health, have parasites in them and yet are able to crack jokes about it. It's amazing how much hardships children we've met can go through and still find joy. This random and small story was a small insight to the life Caleb and his friends in this orphanage had been through. He was also one of he children to first be open with us about the hardships he faced when younger.

I couldn't remember everything when going to write this post so I asked him yesterday morning if he would share his story and let me write about him on here. Of course he was more than happy to. Basically he is the third born child amongst six siblings. They never really grew up around each other, all of them staying with different relatives and at times their mother. She would be in Caleb's life when he was very young and then disappear for several months or years to either go have more children or to escape the death threats from his drunk father. His dad passed away before he was ten and was never a big part of his life. He was always told that there was something special about him but he never gave thought to it. Turns out he is the smartest in his family. We of course knew right when meeting him that he was very special.

While growing up there was always lack of food. He told of how his grandmother was an alcoholic and brewed alcohol in the village he lived in off and on growing up. The way they make the homemade brew is to squeeze juice from a certain mixture consisting of rotten maize and other things. When there was no food, which was often, his grandmother would give him the remaining dry stuff that was used to make alcohol. He remembers going three days or more without food. At one point he went to live with his uncle and their family. His uncle was a body guard for a politician but later passed away. While living with them he explained that usually when you are orphaned and live with family members they treat you so harshly. He had to be the first to do any chores, watch babies, milk cows, herd goats, cook, clean, wash dishes, you name it. Anytime the mom and dad would fight they would always end up blaming it on Caleb by saying he was a burden. Of course that was not true at all. The cousins would also treat him the same and anything bad that went wrong it was Caleb's fault. I can't even count how many different families Caleb had to live with. Some how through it all, he was able to go to school. When living with one family, the children of the parents would go to an academy while Caleb had to go to the worst school around. The schools in Kenya used to not be free. In 2005 is when Kenya started having free public school for 8th grade and under. So he talked of how sometimes someone in his family would make enough money to send him and his siblings to school and they'd go just enough days for what was made and then have to stop. So sometimes they'd go 3 days a week for a month and then not be able to go for several months. He also recalled how when he went to live with his uncle at 9 years old, it was his first time to wear shoes. He said all his cousins wore them so it would look funny to their neighbors if he didn't wear them too. It was really unreal to hear all has been through and how he is today. Only a miracle of God can bring someone out of that life and make them a strong man of God.

When we left the first orphanage we were in to move to Kitale, we still kept in touch with Caleb and visited the orphanage at times. Caleb got accepted into a good high school from his high score in primary school. To make a long story short, people tried to keep Caleb from being in this high school. People that held bitterness towards him and us. We had threats, he heard lies, but through it all we always trusted in the Lord. We are so thankful for Kevin (katalystministries.org) who has been his sponsor, paid his school fees and also loves him as a son. (Kevin is on our board for Mattaw and is who I was originally under when coming here, I think this is definitely someone I need to talk more about on here, we love Katalyst ministries!)
Anywho, so God got him through high school and he has just graduated this past December. We are so incredibly proud of him for keeping high standards and working hard in school. Everyone takes a national exam to graduate high school. We were not surprised but extremely happy to find out that Caleb made a A- on his exam. This is rare and it guarantees acceptance into any University in Kenya.

Caleb is now on a year off from school before deciding where he will go to University. During this year he is living in our guesthouse and is an intern for Mattaw Children's Village. This summer he has really helped a lot with teams and visitors. If we have a team and an individual visitor has flown in, he has gone to Nairobi to pick them. We always tell people he is the Kenyan wearing the cowboy hat when you come out of the airport. (Bud's dad took him on as a grandson and gave him his cowboy hat when he left because Caleb loves cowboys and had been admiring it the entire time he was here)

Caleb shared a bit of how when another girl and I had gone to the orphanage in Lemoru, it was the first time he had heard someone tell him they loved him and he was shocked by it. Katalyst ministries made shirts for all the children in the orphanage that said on the front "I am loved" and on the back "no matter what". It was then that he began to question how real that was and what that meant. Ok, I'm going to start crying now. He shared of how a few weeks ago he was taking one of our visitors (Adam) back to Nairobi and seeing him off at the airport. While in Nairobi Bud called him out of the blue and said "Caleb, you are my son and I love you, I want you to know how grateful I am for you and that I really do love you." Caleb shared yesterday how that was the first time he knew without a doubt that Bud really meant that. (not that Bud has never not meant it) That he wasn't saying that to get him to do anything or give him anything. He had been hurt over and over again by people his entire life. People walking in and out of his life, many leaving nothing but heartache for him. And now he has come to a place where he can fully trust when someone genuinely says they love him. Now THAT is the love of Jesus at work!

So here's Caleb...

We put him through driving school and is one of the very few people in Kenya that actually has their license at age 18, the legal age to start driving in this country. This in and of itself is another story on how he passed his driving test without having to pay a bribe like most people do. We love Caleb and can't imagine our life here without him! He gives us so much hope on days that seem very hopeless. He thinks we have changed his life but the truth is he has changed us way more.


Anonymous said...

I am now crying! I feel so fortunate that Nathan got to hang out with Caleb. Thank you Kim & Bud for living out loud! Thank you Jesus that you love us no matter what! Cindy Castleberry

Anonymous said...

last night our team from Sale Street shared their stories from being with you in Kenya, stories that had me laughing, crying and praising God. Thank God for you and your ministry. They came home with so much more than they gave.

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