Posts filed under africa

will you be their one?

It took me twenty-seven years to redefine the term orphan In one fell swoop, a sweet and feisty teenage girl maneuvered her way into my heart and hunkered down in all the uncomfortable places until I had no where else to look but up. She's been there ever since - a constant reminder of the internal shift that happened to me when she first grabbed my hand on that makeshift path to her school.

And here's my confession: I don't like to think about it. Right now, I'm sitting under no less than five blankets in a comfortable apartment. I just ate my fill of rice and chicken and although the neighbors can get kinda loud, I have no worries of men taking me when then sun falls beneath the horizon and I'm still fetching water.

So here I sit, the night before a day set aside to raise awareness for human trafficking, and I'm forced to reckon with the reality of girls (and boys) across the world deal with on a daily basis. Even more - these are children who have names. Faces. Voices. I see their smiles and I hear their laughter. I know them.

And more than anything in the world I want to protect them.


I'm over at Help End Local Poverty today in honor of National Human Trafficking Day. Come join the conversation?

Posted on January 11, 2012 and filed under africa.

i remember

i tried writing her a letter yesterday. my words came out thick - a year's worth of prayers and thoughts jumbled into a page.

the truth? i have no idea if she will ever remember me. that doesn't even matter to me. what matters is that i remember her - her timid smile, the way she'd cover her mouth and turn her head when she laughed, how she'd find me every day in the mass of people inside the school gates.

i remember when her and her best friend rose sent me a voice message via russ the one day i stayed home from kibera. i missed some of their most playful moments that day - grabbing glasses for other children and donning them on their face giggling and playing serious: let's go to class, rose said in her thick swahili laced accent. as if the glasses just made them smarter.

i remember the way my heart twisted in on itself when i found their voice message a few months later - comfortable in my air conditioning and with a coffee in hand. it's been months since i've seen her, but i can still hear her counting in swahili - her steady hands writing down the words in my journal for me to learn. i still see her smile of approval as i repeat the words - thick in my own English and stumbling over syllables foreign to my tongue.

on sunday, a group of my closest friends return to kibera. i'd be lying if i said i wasn't jealous. they'll cross a real bridge - steel - instead of gingerly stepping across pieces of scrap metal. i'm not even sure they'll see adah. i'm not even sure if her and rose continue to be joined at the hip. she may have long lost my colorful buff i gave her the last day we were there. rose may have lost those glasses the same evening she put them on with academic intention. as connected as our world is, i'm not connected to this part of the world that captured my heart so completely and sometimes it drives me mad.

but i wrote her a letter - just in case. i wrote her a letter because before i left last year, she looked at me with her wide eyes and right after i snapped her picture, she whispered "will you forget me?"

and i want her to know that's not possible.


Posted on June 9, 2011 and filed under africa.

back to kibera.

why would you spend thousands of dollars and travel halfway across the world to help people you don't even know? don't you think it'd be better to just send them the money and spend your time doing something else? - these were the questions posed to my friend lee last year before we left for kibera. it's also what he focused on in an e-mail to friends and family yesterday when he wrote about the trip coming this summer. you see, some of my closest friends are going back to kibera to focus on the stories of those we met last year. i asked lee if i could let you guys read his words and maybe - find some help.  




Since my trip to Kibera (the slum in Nairobi) last summer, there have certainly been many ups and downs. I shot a lot of footage (and began editing), met some amazing people and saw some incredible things happen in the lives of those involved in the trip. The Reagan High kids have gone in many directions since last summer, but one thing is for sure - Kenya has left its mark on us forever.

Here I am, one year later, headed back to Kibera. But this time with a different group. A different perspective but the same focus.

This year's team is smaller - made up of only six people. Me, Chris Reichman (the amazing photographer who also went on last year's trip), both our wives Virginia and Erin, Thea - a returning Reagan High student and Erin's sister Hailey.

Our team's mission and focus this year will be the same: build into the lives and the kids and community at the New Hope School and feeding center (operated by Manna Worldwide) and share those stories with the world.

In addition, I plan to interview Kenyans and develop more of the African side of the documentary. I'm excited to see all of the changes made in the last twelve months. They've bought more land, put up a new school building, new kids have come and more wonderful stories are occurring every day.

One incredible story that came from our trip last year was the relationship between the teen counterparts, Nijalon (American student) and Daniel (Kenyan student). They both love to sing and write rap songs. The moment we got off the bus they had an immediate connection. What happened next, you could hardly believe...they wrote a song together, recorded it in a "studio" near the slum and had it mastered by a Kenyan producer. And if that's not enough, on the last day we were there, we shot a music video! Crazy.

I cut the music video together and submitted it to a film festival in Austin. To my great astonishment, it was selected and even won an award. Not for the music video itself, but for Nijalon and Daniel. Their song received the "Rising Star" award for artistic talent under the age of 18. They were each awarded a 1000 dollar scholarship. This will completely pay for Daniel's entire high school. Simply amazing.

Let's revisit my opening question: Why go? Spend the money? The time?

The answer: because of people. Relationships. Daniel. Nijalon. Festus. Rose. Thea. The names and faces keep flooding my mind. Kenyans, Americans, friends, family...all part of this trip. All part of this journey. If all we did was raise money, what impact would that have had on our lives? Good, no doubt, but would it have been the same? What about the American teens from Reagan? The Kenyan students? Would they have been as affected? Absolutely not. If you think they would have, just ask Nijalon and Daniel.

We're going back and we need your help. We've been hard at work raising money for this trip. In fact, we spent a month collecting items from friends, family and neighbors to sell at a giant, weekend-long garage sale. We had tremendous success with this sale and raised over 3100 dollars! Who knew?! God works through garage sales. We were amazed at how much money this sale earned.

While this was an incredible starting point, we still need to raise additional support. Each member of the team needs 3100 dollars for airfare, lodging and meals.

And we need the money faster than we thought - by May 10.

If you're interested in helping us get there, our contact information is on our website Love to Kibera. You can also contact Elora and she can get you the info needed or make a donation on Manna Worldwide's secure site.  Make sure to mention our trip number in the comments section - 06-1133.

Even if you can't support this financially right now, we still need your prayer.  This will be a long journey.  Thank you so very much for your consideration!

Sincerely, Lee (for the entire Love to Kibera 2011 team)


Posted on April 26, 2011 and filed under africa, reagan2kibera.

a letter from us.

There have been a handful of moments in our marriage where we knew, without a shadow of a doubt, God was behind the events unfolding around us. One was our trip to Kenya this past summer. While there, we fell in love with the people of Kibera - a slum that makes up a little over a square mile. In this tiny area of Nairobi, 1.5 million people call home. Leaving those who showed us true joy was heartbreaking -  before the plane even landed in Houston, we knew the land of Africa grew deep in our bones - we’d be going back. Skip forward a few months, and you’ll see Russ and me in Starbucks, heads bent low and talking feverishly. It’s November 5, 2010. We’ve just decided to start the adoption process. “I don’t care where we adopt from  - as long as we’re doing it,” Russ says. And for some reason, my hearts leans towards Ethiopia. We jump head first and immediately begin to see God provide - and the enemy come against us. Within weeks of our decision, we meet some friends at a restaurant. Before we even order our meal, our friend looks at us and asks, “would you guys be interested in taking a trip to the Horn of Africa in March?”

I felt the tears form as I looked at Russ. For those of you who don’t know, the Horn of Africa makes up the countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya and Djibuti - for the second time within a year, we were going back to Africa - and to the very area of our future child. Dumbfounded, we let our friends know about our decision to adopt and their own eyes filled with tears. It wasn’t until recently our friend told us he didn’t even know to ask until he pulled in the parking lot with his wife. Once again, God revealed to us His goodness. The moment we felt surrounded and overwhelmed with obstacles concerning adoption, He came in and reminded us of His purpose.

While in the Horn, we’ll be assisting a partner of the Austin Stone who currently serves through medical assistance, fitness, and women’s development. We will also be visiting an orphanage that recently opened. Although we may not know specifics, we’re anxious to see what God has and the connections we will build with the people. Our desire is to build relationships that will provide a firm foundation for future trips through Austin Stone and return home with a better idea of how we can fit the Horn of Africa into the current mission of ministering to unreached people groups.

There are a few ways you can join us on this trip. First and foremost, we request prayer. We will be gone a week: March 11-20. We need prayers for health, safety, wisdom, and provision and for the Lord to use us. We are building a team of at least 20 people to pray for our team every day we are there. If you would like to join our prayer team, we'd be incredibly grateful.

Also, this trip will cost approximately 5000 dollars. We need this money by March 1. We believe, from personal experience, God will provide. We never anticipated returning to Africa so quickly, but we feel led and can’t wait to see what God has for us while there. If you want to join with us by supporting us financially, please contact me and I'll send you donation cards via e-mail.

In Ephesians, it says “God can do anything, you know - far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Sprit deeply and gently within us.” [3:20]. There have been countless moments within the past few months where Russ and I distinctly feel His Spirit gently and deeply within us - moving us to a place far beyond anything we ever anticipated. Please continue to pray for our hearts, that we’d be pliable and open to His leading. More than anything, this is what we aim for - and we can’t wait to see Him bend our hearts closer to Him through this trip.


Russ & Elora

Posted on January 23, 2011 and filed under adoption, africa.

we're going back.

when we first stepped off the plane in africa, something inside my heart awakened - almost as if it recognized home. i saw things in kibera that broke me in ways i never anticipated. and yet, this breaking became a beautiful reminder of what God is capable of doing - of what His heart beats for and what He will fight for - even if no one else will. six months outside of this trip, my heart still aches for that unmistakable pull of breaking and healing. there are nights where the ache is almost palpable - where i can almost reach out and grab it. i wasn't expecting this.

a couple months ago, God began to move in me in ways i couldn't ignore. this wasn't easy to face. our sin is never as glamorous when we're looking at it from His perspective, and i was facing for the first time my selfishness and demands for comfort. i realized those tears i spilt on behalf of the poor and powerless meant nothing if i wasn't willing to sacrifice. my faith still shook with the legs of an infant if i was unwilling to take a step into the impossible.

so i talked with russ, and we prayed, and we straightened our shoulders for the leap. within a few short weeks of us taking the collective breath and jumping into the unknown, a dear friend approached us with a possibility nothing short of God-ordained. in fact, once he asked us to consider, i slapped russ in the arm because there was nothing else i could do to contain my emotion.

it was as if God, in His beautiful and breathtaking extravagance, was giving us just a glimpse of what He will do when we agree to join Him in ending what breaks His heart.

in march, we are going back to africa.

although we aren't going back to kibera where our hearts were first torn, this trip holds no less significance. in fact, you could even say the importance of us going on this trip surpasses that of when we boarded the plane in june. because, in all honesty, there is absolutely no reason why we should be walking on african soil again if only because of His grace and mercy.

in november, i mentioned how God revealed to me that 2011 would be the year of jubilee for russ & me.

this trip is only the beginning.

Posted on December 31, 2010 and filed under africa.