Monday, May 25, 2009

Just in Time....The New Oasis of Hope Drop-In Centre

On a September day, 5 years ago...the Oasis of Hope Children's Centre opened its doors for the first time. Over 50 children showed up that first day. To most people, the unassuming little wooden shack with its tin roof, wouldn't look like much. But, sitting there next to the rusty, long-abandoned railroad spur....something amazing was beginning.

The street-children of Kitale, Kenya came that day after hearing rumors that a free breakfast and lunch would be served. They came; long-unbathed, in their dirty and tattered clothes. They came; barefoot and clutching glue-bottles in their hands. Those glue bottles - full of the noxious poison that kept them sedated, helped them sleep at night while it kept their empty bellies from realizing that it had been a while since they had eaten - those glue bottles were their prized possessions.

At the door of the little shack, stood Geoffrey Okumu.

As the children arrived (and the noise, fighting and chaos that always accompanies a group of street-kids high on glue ensued), he silently wondered if he was going to be able to do this after all.

We all know that moment of doubt that precedes a big step into the unknown. We ask ourselves 'What was I thinking?'. But, what differentiates the heroes of this world from the dreamers is the next moment....the plunging in and DOING the thing. And that, is exactly what Geoffrey did that day....he stepped in to the fray and Oasis of Hope was born.

In the 5 years that followed; miracles happened in that little shack. Hundreds of kids went from a life of hopeless despair to one of hope reborn. Children that would have undoubtedly died from malaria, an overdose of glue, a street fight, or just malnutrition - became whole, healthy and strong. Minds that had become dull with idleness - came alive again under the guidance of teachers Joseph and Geoffrey.

Little bellies were filled every morning and afternoon with the delicious meals prepared by Oasis cook, Jane. And woven though every moment was the message that they were worthy of love because God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die on a cross.

The program grew....children were transitioned into group homes to live as families and attend public school.

Others were enrolled in boarding schools where, despite their past- their futures began to look bright.

Kids began to participate in Scouting, in Soccer leagues, and in Choirs.

Oasis started a church to meet the spiritual needs of these kids and the joyful noise of praise shook the walls of the little shack each Sunday morning.

The Oasis Boys' Gospel Dance Troupe performs at Oasis Church

As of today-Oasis has placed 53 of these children- that the world viewed as not worth a second glance - in public schools.

But, there were always more children needing help. The little shack was bursting at the seams with over 100 children crowding in at its little benches and on the dirt floor. The termites were busy too...eating away at the little structure.

Geoffrey knew it was time to move on...but to WHERE?

In January of 2009...the answer to the question (and the many prayers) came. A wonderful property on an acre and a half of enclosed land became available. The two sturdy brick buildings were the site of a former nursing school that had relocated.

The property had running water....with toilets and showers! There was electricity and even a real kitchen. There were so many rooms- enough for each grade to have their own space.

The property had large, open expanses of grass - a place for the children to run and different from the narrow railroad tracks that had served as a playground for so many years!

But, the cost for this new facility would be much more... $300.00 more a month for the rent alone. That didn't include the costs for water, electricity and the night guard who would be needed. And....with a property this fine...more children would surely come! A blessing, to be sure...but, one that came with added expenses for food and supplies. The budget for Oasis was already stretched beyond the breaking point. Donations were down....way down...since the economy in America had taken such a hit. Was it wise to take on this added expense....even with as wonderful as this property was?

After much prayer....the decision was made to sign the lease.

And, in the way that often happens....God showed that this was indeed the right thing to do. The very next day, the Kenya Railway Commission sent a notice stating that the long abandoned railway spur was to be utilized once again. The little shack that had housed Oasis of Hope for so many years was going to be torn down!!!

So, the big step was taken. The benches, the books, the pencils and crayons, the kids and the staff moved across town to the new Oasis of Hope. All that remains of the old Oasis is the sign that adorned the roofline of the little was lovingly taken down and now has a prominent spot at the new building.

And so, Oasis of Hope now operates out of a wonderful new facility. As predicted...enrollment has almost doubled. Over 170 children come each day to be fed, bathed, educated and loved. The bright, sunny classes ring with the sound of children learning!

Money is tight to be sure. God continues to provide...but funding remains an enormous challenge. Geoffrey, the staff, and I continue to pray for people who will come alongside of us in this amazing adventure that is Oasis of Hope. Even ten dollars a month can help to feed a child- to change a life. Come and join won't regret it. The old Oasis may be gone....but there are plenty of miracles waiting to happen at the new one!

Oasis of Hope has partnered with Groundspring to facilitate easy giving. You can set up a monthly donation to Oasis (please note that Groundspring charges a 3% fee to process credit card donations).

DonateNow your bank to set up automatic withdrawals. Checks should be be made out to Oasis of Hope and sent to 1600 East Mcfadden Avenue, Santa Ana, CA 92705. Oasis of Hope is a 501c3 non-profit charity and all donations are 100% tax deductible. 100% of all donations go directly to Oasis of Hope in Kitale, Kenya.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

M.I.A No More

Has it really been over 7 months since my last blog posting? I guess I have to admit now that I am an unreliable blogger. I truly am envious of people that have the discipline and the fortitude to blog daily! It isn't as though I don't have creative and interesting things to say. (Well, at least they seem as if they are creative and interesting when I think about them!) 

It is more just the problem of finding the time to sit and write and find the perfect photos to go along with the text. What with trying to keep my landscape contracting business afloat in these crazy economic times, getting my mom's house sold and moving her to Huntington Beach, trying to get my deceased brother's house sold, and constantly trying to make funding ends meet for Oasis....there is hardly a moment to sit and reflect.

And, if I am going to be totally candid- truthfully...the other problem is that I am a bit of a perfectionist - can't stand the idea of posting something that doesn't seem significant. Ha! I guess I need to get over that and just start posting little tidbits of information on a more regular basis. 

With the time that has already gone by...I realize that I may have lost whatever audience I once had here. In a way, that takes away the pressure! OK...I know I have said this before - but I am going to try to post on a more regular basis. 

What would really help is if anybody who reads this would post a comment or two so that I know that I actually DO have readers. Thanks! 

And, on the off-chance that there are actually a few of you who have checked this blog regularly over the past 7 months...only to be disappointed that there has been nothing new to read....I feel as if I should pay a penance to you for my lack of attention. So, in that spirit... I have sifted through my zillions of photos from Kenya and am posting a some of the truly unflattering pics of myself taken over the years for your viewing and laughing pleasure. 

I love sneaking in a funny face!

On a taxi ride....

Teaching useful skills to the boys!

Modeling a 'gift' from one of the Oasis moms! sigh....

Ok.... penance paid. I'm Missing In Action no more!!!