Going home

Sharon with giraffes

By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

On Tuesday morning, Kristine, Sharon and I enjoyed our last breakfast with Sophy on her porch overlooking beautiful gardens and more distant woods. It was cool at 7:30 a.m. The warmth of the morning sun was welcome. We were packed and ready to depart for Nairobi at 9 a.m. when our driver, Stephan, arrived. We returned with several boxes of unused homeschool curriculum, which we plan to resell. We have switched to the Kenyan ACE curriculum, which is working much better for the moms. It is self-paced and allows much flexibility.

We checked into the Amani Gardens Inn (formerly the Mennonite House), had lunch, and headed for the Maasai Market. The beautiful fabric, beaded items, wood carvings, soapstone items, purses, jewelry are simply remarkable. There are no price tags, of course, everything is negotiable. After some gift purchases, we went to the Westgate Mall, which was the site of an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack a few years ago, for our first visit since it was rebuilt by its Israeli owners. An enclosed Mall with limited entrance/exit design, one reflects about the virtual trap facing the unfortunate shoppers that fateful day. Ironically, Carol and Sandy were only a few blocks away at the time of the attack, so their recollection of tear gas odor is a lingering memory. We have an Urban Burger for dinner as we dial up our re-entry plans for home-sweet-home in the U.S.A.

On Wednesday morning, we visit the Maasai shopping area at the Hilton Hotel for more top secret gift buying. The street near the hotel was taken over by several hundred chanting demonstrators, waving tree branches, signs demanding their rights (for what we were not able to determine). Kenya City Hall is a block or two away, so perhaps it is a city issue. Thankfully we were safely inside, but they did capture our attention.

Carol and I had a meeting scheduled at 1 p.m. with Tim Kelly at Bethany International-Kenya. Our purpose was to share the Imara story and learn about Bethany’s missionary and intern programs, to determine possible fit for our short- and long-term staffing needs. The Bethany organization, people, and programs are quite impressive. Tim Kelly is warm, welcoming and very knowledgeable. We agreed on a phase one plan to seek candidates for our new House Manager position. Tim was also incredibly helpful with some practical advice about human resources, security, and networking matters. I think Carol has a new friend in Nairobi.

Kristine, Sharon, and Sandy visited the nearby Giraffe Centre, a non-profit set up to protect the endangered Rothschild Giraffe. Great fun!

Back at Amani Gardens Inn, we said farewell to Carol & Sandy and packed up for our three-hour ride to the Jomo Kenyatta Airport—at least half of which was spent idle in traffic. The Kenyans are quite patient—no horn-blowing or display of extreme impatience while we were deadlocked. Once we were on the move, the aggressive driving, lane changing, squeeze-in and out driving style was both amazing and a bit frightful.



The last (pizza) supper

By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

It is Monday and we are back in the Imara weekday mode. We had a number of errands and business stops in town before arriving at the Imara House late morning. One stop caused me to reflect back on the broken door latch that I fixed last week—well, it was fixed for about twenty-four hours.

The replacement latch was a lower quality, bargain priced unit which was simply not up to the rigor of eight teenage girls, nearly as many staff, and lots of use. So Gipson will try to return it for a refund. Today, I went to Modson Hardware and was able to find an exact replicate of the original hardware. After figuring how to change the latch from left-hand to right-hand, which required one more trip to Modson Hardware, I now feel confident that as we pack up and leave town tomorrow, the Imara family has a door latch that will serve them well for a long time. It took me less that ten days to complete the job! Carol is greatly relieved that she is not paying me by the hour!

We decided that our last day here should be celebrated with pizza, so Carol and I picked up wheat flour, tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, sausage, mozzarella cheese, all the fixings so that we could make our own pizza from scratch. We rolled out the dough that Carol and Veronica made this afternoon, applied the sauce and toppings, and baked it outside in the charcoal-fired oven. What a riot! I think that all enjoyed, and as we bid farewell to all until next year, I got the hint that the girls were about to make and bake some more pizza tonight after we left.

It is always so hard to say goodbye to these precious gifts from God in our lives. But we leave with a good sense that Imara International is blessed with a great staff, that the moms are making good progress towards their goal of independence, that the youngsters are off to an excellent start in early childhood education and development.

We also are so eternally grateful for the amazing commitment and service of Carol and Sandy. They make a mighty team in doing the Lord’s work here, and we all see more clearly the organizational steps this year to ramp up for construction at the Village and to prepare the first moms to leave Imara House for the start of their independence as adults.

I must admit that saying goodbye to Rose and Sophie, who do not plan to be here next January, was tempered a bit by exchanging email addresses and promising that we will visit them in their new setting if possible.

We are packing and departing for Nairobi in the morning. Please keep Carol and Sandy in your thoughts and prayers that they might feel your support for peace, security, confidence, patience, energy, compassion and wisdom in their Godly work here. They are the best!

Green acres

Corn field

By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

Sunday is worship day in Kenya as in many other parts of the Christian world. As Kristine and I sat on Sophy’s back porch before breakfast, we heard the spiritual singing across the river and through the woods to the rear of her property. Sophy is in Nairobi this weekend and will return Sunday evening, so we are in full charge of the house and the dogs. So far we haven’t locked ourselves out or in!

Carol accompanied the Imara family in a matatu to church, while Sandy picked us up in the Imara SUV for the fifteen-minute jaunt to Nanyuki Vineland Church. When we arrived, some of the children were singing in their Sunday school room while Caleb and Sharon burned off some steam outside on the grass.

We are warmly welcomed by Pastor Robinson and others at the start of the 10:30 a.m. worship service. Today’s message comes from Acts 16:16-34. Pastor Robinson used this scripture to talk about habits and curses. He talked about developing good habits like praying, worshiping, smiling, and trusting Him. Beautiful thought! As for curses, he talked about the curse of busyness, which surely caught the attention of us Americans.

After church, we traveled to the “promised land” to see our crops and to once again see the dream of Imara Village site. The maize crop towers over my head, probably more than seven feet high. I peeled back the husks on one ear; it looks like a terrific crop.

The high waters from last week’s heavy rain have subsided, but we see the evidence throughout the lower five-plus acres of our land. The river bank has moved back a foot or more, so it was indeed a major rain event.

There is some fruit on our citrus trees and the tomato trees. It was really good to be on our land—and it is legally in the ownership of Imara International-Kenya as of January 1, 2016. We also remembered the spiritual dedication of last January 2015, when we were last here, and we imagined the official groundbreaking for the Main Building that should occur in the first half of 2016.

Saturday scrapbooking


By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

Saturday at the Imara House is a day of chores: lots of laundry and cleaning. Two of the moms and one matron went to the market in town to buy produce for the coming week. Then they came home to wash, trim, cut, and prepare food for the meals to come. No school today, but early childhood teacher Lydia was on duty to care for the children while moms worked and shopped. Everyone had a chore and every task had an owner—a neat and well-organized system.

Kristine organized a Scrapbooking Day for the families. It was great fun to see the kids and the moms separately sort through the collection of pictures in Carol’s files over the past several years to pick just the right ones. Thank you, Kristine for your planning and organizing skills— and your patience.

Sharon had a “grandma day” surrounded by kids indoors and out. The swings got some serious attention today. She may decide to stay here until they all grow up, since it’s impractical to bring them all home with her!

Carol, Sandy, and I spent some time planning and organizing. We are looking forward to the next couple of years as construction on the Main Building starts, some of the moms complete their education goals, and some of the kids start kindergarten. The only constant at Imara House is change. The rate of change seems to accelerate each year as the families mature, the kids grow up, and frankly, the government rules do not make our life any easier. Imara International is growing and adapting and anticipating.

We are so blessed that God has sent Carol and Sandy to this mission. These two women have arisen to every challenge. They grow with each step. They walk closer to God as their roles evolve. I feel privileged to live in their shadow for a few days and witness the hands and feet of God. Thank you Carol and Sandy, and God bless you both.

Safari day

Safari January 2016

Safari January 2016

By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

Today was safari day for the mission team. Sandy and our driver Peter picked us up at 6:30 a.m. It was still dark—and chilly—-and Sandy brought hot coffee and baked scones that Carol baked last night before going to bed.

Our newly-purchased land for the Imara Village is across the Ewaso Ngiro River from the Ol Pajeta Conservancy. The only three remaining Northern White Rhinos, following the death of Nola at the San Diego Zoo on November 22, 2015, are at this privately-owned wildlife. Today we saw all three of these beautiful specimens inside the 700-acre endangered species enclosure where they are protected.

We saw warthogs by the dozen, giraffes, elands, waterbucks, hartebeests, impalas and gazelles, zebras, elephants, jackals, baboons, secretary birds and others I can’t recall at the moment. I will remember when I look at the hundreds of digital pictures captured today. We also stopped at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, founded by Jane Goodall, containing thirty-nine chimps, with whom we share 90% of their DNA.

We spent part of the morning looking for Simba, as our driver learned of a sighting of four lionesses in a particular section of the Conservancy. We looked and we looked and we looked. The grass in the savannah is very long and green due to the extensive rains during the past two months, and the lions are much more secure and difficult to spot. We continued to look until lunch time.

We ate lunch at Morani’s Restaurant inside Ol Pajeta and watched the rains move in from our outside patio table. And it rained incredibly hard for roughly an hour—-a heavy rain that Sandy calls a “potato harvest rain” after the muddy experience she had just before we arrived last week. The roads throughout the Conservancy were now quite difficult to navigate due to the puddles and standing water, but Peter is a skillful driver and he knows the area well.

We soon observed a large integrated herd of zebras, elands, impalas, gazelles, and others. Only this time, the wildlife was stoic, not grazing, seemingly on alert, suggesting that danger may be imminent. We had seen some jackals in the area prior to lunch, perhaps tracking the lions to support their scavenger lifestyle. Peter explained that when the “king” and the “queen” are in the area, instinct takes over and the rest of the population in the area assumes a protective mode.

We returned home at 6 p.m., headed to Cape Chestnut for a Friday night menu of tapas with some of Carol’s and Sandy’s friends from the community. They are saying farewell tonight to friend Tina, who is taking a new job in Nairobi. It was a nice ending to a great day.