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.

A normal day



By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara International

Try to imagine a calm, uneventful day at the Imara House. That was today. No significant, unplanned surprises occurred today. School for the moms and the kids all day, tea and devotions at 11:00 a.m., lunch at 1:00 p.m. exactly as the schedule predicted.

Kristine spent much of the day rinsing and hanging the tie-dyed shirts. Sharon and early childhood teacher Lydia did a rainbow project that might just find its way to Bloom in Minnesota. Celia, Carol’s friend did her normal Thursday morning yoga session with the moms.

Gipson and I repaired the broken door latch with the parts purchased yesterday. We also were on fence repair duty for a while, seeking to keep mother Oscar in the compound and safely away from the father of her five puppies. Barbed wire and cedar boughs will at least give Oscar pause before she crosses the road!

Carol and Sandy had a day of business downtown and around town. We all connected at Cape Chestnut for meetings, dinner, and a wonderful evening with Sophy.

Our hands, God’s plans

Tie Dye

Tie Dye

By Fred Hegele, Board of Directors
Imara Internatonal

Today is the half-way point on this journey. My goodness, have we already achieved half of our mission? God knows more about our calendar than our best-laid plans. Our time in Kenya is an apt reminder that God makes the plans.

Today we had a plan, but this morning on the way to the Imara House, guess what? We had a flat tire, or in Kenyan vernacular, a “puncture.” Frankly, we did not have time for a “puncture.” There was a matatu parked close by, and the driver was quick to offer his assistance in changing our tire. He was so helpful and soon we were on our way.

On with our plans for the day. Shortly after we arrived at Imara House, Carol received a phone call. Within minutes, Carol and Sicily, our staff social worker, headed for the courthouse. The judge had a new case that could be solved, in his point of view, by sending a young teenage pregnant girl to Imara House today (it’s God’s schedule, not ours!).

By noon, Carol and Sicily were waiting outside the courtroom to be summoned before the judge to explain why the girl in this case does not meet the Imara criteria. By some miracle, the head of child services and the judge quickly determined that this case needs to be resolved between the parents and the teenager, rather than an assignment to the Imara House. Clearly, Carol has developed some friendships and established some credibility within the Kenyan authority and that in the final analysis, common sense will prevail some of the time.

Next we had a meeting planned with Brian and Sophy, two of our Kenyan Board members to discuss the Imara Village project. We came to agreement on the process forward for the main building, with construction to start within six months. We discussed the need for a project manager on site and developed a plan for recruiting. As it turns out, a major business nearby announced some cutbacks yesterday and we expect some good people to be in the job market (God will provide).

Pastor Robinson arrived, and we moved into the first board of directors meeting of the new Imara International-Kenya NGO. (Director Beatrice lives in Nairobi, and we hope to connect with her next week.) We have a great board of directors. The discussion included several Imara Village and organization items, and we shared information about Imara history and core values. It was another step forward.

Carol’s friend Claire, from the British military base, trained Rose and Sophie in icing decorating this morning. They are developing some wonderful artistic skills. Thank you, Claire.

Kristine organized a tie-dying project with the Imara family today, as Wednesday is Skills Day. The dyed shirts will incubate overnight, before the big rinse tomorrow. Kristine’s hands look like a permanent rainbow. The moms and kids are excited to see if their shirts look as colorful as Kristine’s hands.

The excitement for the day continued at Imara House this afternoon when one of the doors became bolted accidentally with no one on the bolt side of the door! After a couple of hours of trying unsuccessfully, Carol was summoned with her magical tools from the kitchen to unbolt the door.