February 2010

Tonight on my late night run to Nakumatt at Westgate Shopping Center, I came across something slightly…err… very disturbing.

So much so that I had to take a picture of my purchase.

Right in the middle of the dairy section.

November 7th, 2010.

That, apparently, is when this little carton of milk will expire.  I would like to just take a moment to point out that today is February 20.  That’s almost 9 months of shelf life, kids.

Something to do with “ultra-high temperature processing” kills everything in the milk that would cause it to expire within the same period of time it takes for a child to develop.

But I’m skeptical.  Especially since the instructions also point out that refrigeration is only necessary after the carton has been opened.

Can anyone relieve my fears?

Long life?  No kidding.

On the upside, I bought 5 mangoes for a dollar today.  Oh, the joys of Kenya!


Please remember our IJM colleagues in another part of the world who are set to undergo a critical and very sensitive operation to rescue women and girls who are living in the midst of great oppression and violence.  Check out the IJM Institute blog for more information and if you have a moment, please leave them a note of encouragement.  We are all in this work together.

Let me tell you, in a country were customer service is but an afterthought, if a thought at all, and the internet I PAY for frequently decides not to work… this is, like, one of the most exciting things that has happened in my three weeks here.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

FULL bars!  Free!

I think it’s safe to say that Java House is now my home away from home (away from home).


I met a girl last week who was defiled by a relative over a long period of time and as a result of her abuse, she is about to be a mother. It is impossible for me to imagine the pain and evil she knows firsthand.  I simply cannot comprehend that kind of abuse or the betrayal she understands in her heart.  But underneath her pain, I also have been able to see the pure silliness of a child.  I see the brightness of her smile, the joy in her laugh and an intelligence that defies her circumstances.

Her strength is amazing, but sadly, her story is not at all uncommon.

Kenya has a shockingly high number of child sexual abuse cases.  Even after the Sexual Offenses Act was passed in 2007, Nairobi Women’s Hospital still reports that 15 rape victims come to seek treatment every day – and half of them are under the age of 16.[1] Rape in Kenya is classified into three areas: rape, sexual abuse of a woman over the age of 14; defilement, sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 14; and incest, describing the victim’s relationship to the perpetrator.  Incestuous defilement has been reported to account for 75 percent of defilement in urban areas, with girls aged 1 to 10 years old being the most vulnerable.[2]

Shouldn’t this make us angry?  Last week, I was walking through the market near our office to buy my new friend a skirt.  With every step my mind wandered back and forth between this girls life and the girls I know at home who are just her age.  They laugh at silly YouTube videos and are just beginning to think about boys.  Now my Kenyan friend is going to have one of her own.  How do we let this happen to our children? And why, as a country, is the response all too often merely sympathy without justice?

Already I have listened to social workers, pastors, and other community leaders and officials tell me how they feel powerless to help and so rather than seeking justice for the abused, they counsel the young girls and send them home.  On pastor even said, “We are beginning to care about justice too late.  Until now we were telling the abused that God works all things for good.  We were just concerned about salvation. Then we realized people were living on earth a long time before getting to heaven.”

The problem is not going to solve itself.  Just yesterday, The Standard reported that 600 teachers have been accused of defiling their students over a span of five years, with 122 cases in 2009 alone.[3] Very slowly, leaders, NGOs, churches, and politicians are beginning to speak out on this massive crime against children, but we are playing a catch up game.

Last week the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, called on MPs to review the Sexual Offenses Act to make it a greater deterrent for sex offenders.[4] In my very very humble opinion, it is equally as important to call the system to enforce the good existing law, but… semantics.  I digress.  It is a positive step that leaders are taking in calling attention to this issue.

But it’s also easy to feel like it’s never enough.

Back to the story of my new friend:

Just a few days after I nearly exploded in anger in the middle of the market over this little girl’s abuse, I was visiting her in the hospital and pointed to the book of Psalms sitting next to her bed.  I asked her if she knew what it was; she said yes.  Taking the book from my hands she turned to Psalm 39 and said, “Verse 14… verse 14.”

Apparently, Psalm 39:14 doesn’t actually exist.

I thought she was just making up a numbers but on a whim asked her if she meant Psalm 139.  “Yes?” So I flipped and flipped through the pages, still skeptical that she had any idea what she was talking about.

Oh, how I was wrong.

A wiser theologian may know where this is going, but I can say with all honesty – I could not remember in that moment what Psalm 139:14 said.  And I am glad, because in a split second, the words coming off the page sent shivers up my spine.  I was hit with such a wave of intense clarity about God’s sovereign presence in her life and the life of her unborn child, striking down all of my doubts about their future when she began to read words I have heard hundreds of times before…

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book, before they came to be.

Psalm 139: 14

Moments like this are great comfort.  It is easy to become hopeless when we hear stories of rape, abuse and violence and natural to feel angry, but God is not deaf and he is not absent, despite how we feel about any given situation.

And some days when it’s especially hard, He is gracious enough to remind us of Himself through the voice of a child.  Just as David proclaimed in Psalm 33:5, “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.”



[3] http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.php?id=2000003074&catid=4&a=1

[4] http://www.statehousekenya.go.ke/

When my roommate brought raw sugar cane back from her trip up country last week, I was a little confused about what to do with it.  Is it a weapon?  Is it decoration?  Oh, you eat it?  OK – how?  Naturally, I googled.

Google “how to eat raw sugar care” and you will get dozens of hits.  Step-by-step directions.  Photo how-tos.  Even instructional videos.

eHow. com gave me this  little routine to follow:

1. Select a freshly-cut stalk of raw sugar cane and cut pieces to seven or eight inches for easy handling.

2. Wash sugar cane with warm water, freeing all debris from the cane.

3. Start chewing the sugar cane, being careful not to swallow the stalk, while extracting all of its sweet juices.

4. Discard chewed sugar cane stalk into trash.

5. Enjoy the raw cane’s sweet juices by adding a little lemon juice and some ice for a refreshing cool summer drink. Increase the lemon juice for larger amounts of sugar cane juices.

So sow tough can it be, right?

TOUGH!  (Pun intended.)  Somehow… shockingly… my attempt was just a little less civilized that ehow.com recommended.

But not quite as hard core as this guy:

From http://www.ijm.org/articles/caseworkbulletin

New Year Begins in Freedom for Illegally Detained Man

NAIROBI, KENYA – Released on New Year’s Eve after 16 months of incarceration in Nairobi’s Industrial Remand Prison, 42-year-old Peter began 2010 a free man. Arrested in 2008 on false charges of robbery with violence, Peter had faced the death sentence if found guilty – all for picking up a discarded coat he found on the side of the road.

Even after being incarcerated for over a year, Peter, who is mentally handicapped, did not fully comprehend the severity of the situation. When asked by an IJM attorney why he was in prison, Peter replied, “Because I saw a coat along the pathway, picked it up and wore it.”

The coat Peter had found on the pathway more than a year prior had been stolen by six armed robbers from a 76-year-old man. The robbers raided the man’s home at midnight, taking several items, including the coat – but at some point, the thieves apparently discarded the jacket on the roadside. When Peter, who often looks for discarded items along the roads of his neighborhood, found it, he picked it up and started wearing it – excited by the find.

When the original owner of the coat saw Peter wearing it, he reported it to the police as evidence – making it clear that Peter was not among the thieves who had stolen the coat from him.

Nonetheless, the police quickly arrested and charged Peter with the crime of robbery with violence, a non-bailable offense for which he would receive the death penalty if found guilty. He was brought to remand prison, where he was forced to wait all day, every day, for news on the charges he still did not fully comprehend.

Peter’s court case began, but his family could not afford a lawyer. The police lost the jacket so they repeatedly encouraged the prosecutor to request that the trial be delayed to a later date. Peter’s case dragged on for several months – and he remained in prison, confused, alone and innocent. His family was desperate for his release.

Peter had been held in jail for a year by the time the case was brought to the attention of the IJM Kenya legal team. After IJM Kenya took the case, the jacket’s owner approached IJM and insisted that he did not want to pursue the case, as he knew that Peter was not among the robbers who had stolen it from him. IJM Kenya Field Office Director Joseph Kibugu quickly brought this information to the attention of the Magistrate and other officials with the authority to facilitate prompt release – but it was insisted that the charges stand, and that Peter continue to wait in jail for his trial.

So IJM persevered in fighting for Peter – for three months, Joseph Kibugu pursued the case, trying every possible avenue to secure the freedom of this wrongly imprisoned man.

Justice came on December 31, 2009: Through Joseph’s courtroom advocacy and the clear statements of the complainant in open court, Peter was acquitted of all charges. He was released from the jail where he had waited for 16 months. His overjoyed siblings were thrilled to be able to bring Peter to see his elderly mother – who had not been able to afford the bus ticket to see Peter while he was in prison.

IJM Kenya’s aftercare staff will work with Peter’s family to ensure that Peter receives the attention he needs from a government mental health facility, and will also help Peter secure a stable source of income. For IJM’s Director of Operations in Africa, Philip Langford, it’s a victory with deep significance: “I am so proud that our team demonstrated to all those watching – the magistrate, the courtroom spectators and the officials who abused their power – that Peter’s life is precious and absolutely worth the fight.”

Just outside of Nairobi, this small town is – literally – a breath of fresh air!  Nairobi air leaves a few things to be desired, but the scenery in Kenya is really this vivid and bright!  I am lucky that my work often takes me out and around town to meet new friends and partners for justice.

Working with the community relations team often involves speaking to local groups of leaders and pastors about justice issues and encouraging them to refer cases of illegal detention and sexual violence against children.  Still working on unamericanizing my accent so that people can understand me, which usually involves speaking very veryyyy slowly and raising your voice at the end of each word. It sounds ridiculous.

Sam, a new friend’s baby, is just over two months old.  I am in love!

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