"In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand. There can come no second causes, all must come from His dear hand. All is well! for it's my Father who my life has planned." ~ From Streams in the Desert
"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” - Colossians 1:17-18
First and foremost, to answer this title question which I have been receiving; yes, I am back! I landed back in the states the beginning of September. Surprise and thanks be to God for safe travels and renewed health! No more malaria or bugs makes for a praiseworthy return. It appears that many thought I wasn't coming back, which was news to me, however when you leave with an open ended return, I suppose that leaves room for that possibility. Anyhow, it has now been about 1 month since arriving from Tanzania and saying my goodbyes (which were not by any means easy.) For y’all who are just tuning in to the blogs, Karibu (welcome!) The posts have been rather delayed with a great deal of happenings to tend to while in country as well as priorities to tend when arriving back, but here it goes! This post will include a brief recap and glimpse of what a majority of the time overseas consisted of.
It has been a short bit over 4 months since I set off to head over to meet up with a life long calling and leading to Africa. I didn’t have all the answers and certainly still don’t, but I knew enough; it was time to go and I didn’t want to pass up this invitation any longer. I left my full time and well loved job, connected with various ministries and organizations that I was interested in for some time and through prayer and many steps of faith, I was sent off with the support of ministries like Luvway, church Two42 and many of you reading this. Doors opened to start the time in Africa partnering with a team from a local college for two weeks where we traveled from village to village in the Mt. Kenya region holding Bible schools and crusades for children, adults, conferences for pastors, as well as hosting medical clinics, church dedications and more. It was a fully loaded and packed two weeks coming face to face with one of the most beautiful places on Earth. All the while heart to heart with much sorrow, pain and loss and exposing ourselves to a new culture and way of life. We praise God for the joy, happiness, growth, advancement and lives that were surrendered and those who received Christ in their lives durning our stay, as well as the experiences unmentioned which will not be forgotten. These times have changed and touched us in profound ways, and for many of us, for life. It is true to some degree that not a whole lot can happen in two weeks, let alone two-three days, which was the time we often had in one area and village; but with a sovereign God who knows what He desires, a lot can happen and durning our short but sweet time, it certainly did.
"We are only stuck to the extent of our willingness to spread our wings, step out and take a risk and chance on God. To dare to believe and see heaven beyond and behind the visible. "
Psalm 33:4 "For the word of Jehovah is right, all of his work is done in faithfulness."
After the two weeks came to a close, my team of 17 headed back to the US as I traveled on to a village called Kipkaren in Eldoret, Kenya where I spent nearly 3 weeks partnering with The Living Room International’s Kimbilio Hospice. This is a beautiful palliative care hospice that focuses on caring for peoples of all ages who are being rehabilitated back to health and life or who are receiving care, spiritual guidance, while shown the utmost dignity and worth of existance on their way out of this physical world. Currently hospice #2 is in the build! I was honored to step into these lives and stories, partner with this ministry and their team to be available in any way I could serve alongside them in the time given. While with their staff and team getting to know the guests by the day, one of my most impactful partnerships there was having the opportunity to asset in Physical Therapy outreaches with their lovely and fun PT team who also were my teachers in 'Eating Sugar Cane 101.' I failed a that one but fully enjoyed this sugar energizer treat as well as the good laughs we all were able to take away. With a great interest and rather loaded testimony around holistic care and caring about the importance of PT in ones life and overall rehabilitation, the time spent with the team was such a joy. I learned a great deal from them as we shared stories, ideas, interests and praise reports of the guests at the hospice. Such was a woman who was able to begin walking again prior to my leave who we worked with nearly everyday. Through many days of prayer, persistence, and perseverance, this woman of hope and great belief returned home to her family to continue PT to rebuild her strength and future. Last known she come to the PT outreach clinic weekly for work and check ins. Moments and stories like those do something intrinsic and lasting and to watch and experience these miracles and moments are valuable. Most importantly, through the praise and pain, we shared and enjoyed the common love for God, His people and the divine design for healing, health, and hope, knowing that our healer was Jesus and that directed us to just that, hope now and for whats ahead. During this time it was confirmed more and more through these days, that this was with out a doubt an area I desired to continue to pursue and invest in. Not to mention that Kimbilio was also something of a diamond in the rough, a rare place of quality care, love, faith and hope. A place I too would return to as God willed.
While in Chebaiywa, I was also able to partner with ELI (Empowering Lives International) a few days a week at their children’s home, where I was invited to do devotions and share in the evening story time on a few occasions. In short, ELI is a ministry I have taken great interest in and had great respect for the past 6 years since hearing about their mission, vision and implementation of investing in ongoing and systemic growth and empowerment of lives of both children and adults in Africa caring for not just the physical needs of people but too their emotional, spiritual and future growth and sustainable health. ELI was just a stones throw from there I was staying and is nestled down by breath taking Kipkaren river which flows through this village and was a site to enjoy and take in walking by each day. How I cherish those times of thought, worship and prayer as well as the many greetings from locals passing by or children going to or from school always wanting to chat, see if I had anymore stickers that day or often simply find one following closely down the bends of the road. Looking back, those walks in the sun or rain, were truly precious and such a good reminder of how much happens and can happen if were open, “ along the way.” Its the journey and the roads do really tell many stories of their own.
After 2 weeks in Kipkaren and the village of Chebaiywa, I was blessed and thrilled to hear that my stay there would be extended. This was gracious and divine, because truth was, I was not near ready to leave or stop enjoying the delicious food and chai, especially my ‘intentionally and kindly prepared’ chai to accommodate my milk allergy, or the peppermint tea in the evenings graciously prepared with me in mind. And those pots of kale, or other tasty fresh greens perfectly prepared and fully enjoyed... I wasn’t ready! For those of you who know about my allergies and medical sensitivities and have asked how I managed; the Father always takes care of his children and indeed always provided. I am reminded of the words derived from the promises of God by Graham Cooke, "We must see God as our provider, or we will always be anxious about our needs being met. Every time we are in need, we are not intimidated; instead we should be fascinated about what God might do. If only we would believe He is our provider and become intrigued by how He might meet our needs." He is alive, available, with us and is working in ceaseless care on our behalf. This was my experience, while there to serve and care for others with a mind off of food and its arrival, I still found even down to my food and what I was able to eat, God was provider.
Most importantly, I was not in a hurry to leave the children who I had been bonding and helping in caring for, the growth, healing, and glimmers of hope found in many guests had my heart now interwoven and the stories of loss, those interceding and praying for miracles on behalf of; I wasn’t quite finished or ready to let go of. I was also just beginning to grow into my new name which was given the week I arrived, ‘Michelle Chebet Chebaiywa.’ I find it a mouth full compared to Lacey, but I eventually caught on to recognizing it and grew to like it. Besides, if others were able to remember it and pronounce it, all was well!
Over these, at this point 5 weeks in Africa, I really had never seen so much pain, death and suffering in one place and in such a short period of time. The tears and aches of pain left a frequent opportunity for the teacher humility to be found and often left me feeling unworthy of entering in to such fragile and sacred areas of ones life and all woven into places and depths of such beauty, dignity, joy, hope and compassionate care. The love of Christ. I am not able to put into words what was seen but alongside the suffering and loss, there was much life, restoration and stories of hope amongst us, all to be found and lifted high. This place was a treasure and a true shadow of Earth as it is in Heaven amongst brokenness and found in this broken world we are all a part of. A beautiful, gracious 'Space Between' the now and the not yet. The today and the Kingdom that is to come. I was and I am honored to have stepped into these lives and stories, partner with this incredible team at Kimbilio Hospice and many others along the path. I really took heart to and found great honor in all I was able to take part in, and valued the days assisting in the kitchen learning to make Chapati or doing dishes, assisting with feedings, servings guests, onto praying and playing with the children. The first week I had arrived, a few APU students came to film and document the story of LRI and the heart behind it all. APU, being close to home in the US, made it neat to have them around and a pleasure to gather with them in their mission, seeing the outworking of their gifting’s in action. Such a neat group of guys, it was fun overlapping trips. Their their goofy joy and passion was contagiously relatable and their love for capturing stores and color was also life-giving. Through and through, it was all was an experience. I especially treasure and often think on the days of simply sitting in the shady grass in the garden of the hospice in the cool mornings or the heat of the day with the guests where we would spend hours talking about life, listening, praying or singing praise. A melody of hope does a good deal and goes a long way. "Praise changes things." - Psalm 92:1
Prior to ending my time in Kipkaren town at Kimbilio, I was joyed to be welcomed to make a stop to a friends ministry from CA, called HOPE Matters which was just down the road. While here, I was able to learn more about Michelle and William’s vision and see it in action for a few days. God is doing stunning things with their ministry and I am not only thankful to see the lives they are touching but to anticipate what the future expansion will bring to many others and new villages they are growing into. Prayer is appreciated and welcomed for their next steps, God’s will and His providing hand in the now and then.
Although the time in-between this stay in Kenya to sharing this post has been extended, the time spent in Kenya and primary Kipkaren which wasn’t shared about, was overall a privilege. Each and every one of those met, relationships made from guests to staff, to volunteers, to other missionaries along the road I was able to do life with and live amongst; each moment was of great worth, value and evidence of God’s goodness, abundant and needed grace and too immensely shown was Jesus and His tender compassionate heart for the worn, dying, sick, hopeless and humble. For us ALL here in this fractured yet mending world. He sees.
I did leave Kenya with a part of me remaining, invested and with a continued sense that I was not completely ready to move onward. Not to mention, now with dozens of others praying for my return, it was not easy. Although I did know it was really time to move forward, surrender the connections while too keeping close to heart and too praying, knowing in God’s time I would return. Until then, I was off to Mwanza, Tanzania with a few exciting, special and memorable stops along the way. A new road and country, a new ministry and chapter was awaiting, one that became a voyage of many kinds; one of battle, sickness, pain, divine power and overcoming supernatural love. The next blog to shortly follow will give a recap of this time at the children’s home in this town that became home for nearly 3 months that now holds a lofty and special spot in my heart. A town much of my heart still remains in. This was the most challenging yet blessed time and experience, resulting in greatly impacting various aspects of my walk, heart and world. The next update will also have updates as to whats to come since returning, what steps I will and am taking in responding to this call here forward and a video recap and snapshots of the near 4 months in various countries combined. Stay tuned!
GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” - John 15:9-11, 16
"If our love were just more simple, we would take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine, In the sweetness of our Lord." - Streams in the Desert
A major 'Asante sana and Mungu akubarki sana' to all of you who have been partnering, supporting, encouraging, praying and following these past months as well as future leadings, prayer requests and all that will come attached to these recent invitations. Please continue to follow and if you have not subscribed to blog updates yet, please do so if you would like to get the most recent news and information sent directly to your email.