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Centurion Ride for ReACT 2014

P9143949 Incredible.

This past weekend, ReACT had a team of ten cyclists led by Tim and Brenda Gordon that rode to raise funds for the children of ReACT. With pouring rain on Saturday and cooler temperatures all weekend, it was challenging for all on both days regardless of distances and times. Sunday's ride was a 50 mile course that crossed the Escarpment of the Blue Mountains and Beaver Valley with a vertical climb amounting to 903m. The team of ten cyclists rode along with over 1,500 other riders on a course that challenged even the of best riders. As challenging as the ride over the Escarpment was, a challenge perhaps even more daunting was the task of raising funds for this project. In the end, the riders not only faced this head on but also generously exceeded our original goal of $10,000. When all was said and done, as much work as it was to both ride and raise funds, ReACT ended up with an incredible amount of $14,615 that will go towards our annual operating costs.

Manon and I have often looked at each other in the past few weeks with looks of amazement and with thankful hearts. We remember well talking earlier this year wondering how our budget would be met this year since giving had been low and would not carry through the year as it has in the past. This work is bigger than us and we are grateful for the riders, the sponsors and especially for Tim and Brenda Gordon and the passion they put into this event throughout the past year.

Along with the exposure of our ReACT jerseys, we also had a booth set up for both days at the event. Not only that but one of our Team Members, Tim Szauter made it onto CTV News sports Sunday evening with a nod to his "classic" bicycle and gear. You can see that coverage here…

http://barrie.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=439949&binId=1.1272429&playlistPageNum=1

Thank you to all participants and sponsors for the role you played in making this event such a success. To Tim and Brenda, how can we thank you for dreaming this whole thing up?! I am humbled and grateful for friends like you in my life that both encourage and challenge. When God asked Moses at one point, "what is that in your hand?", all he had was a shepherd's staff but it was used to do the supernatural. Tim and Brenda, thank you for answering the same question and letting God use your bicycles! Most of all, we are grateful for a God that loves to use the ordinary to do the extraordinary.

And now, for your viewing pleasure...

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What is that in YOUR hand?

Four Days

In four days we take to the roads of Blue Mountain. Some of us are riding because we love to ride, love the feel of the wind in our faces and the burn of our muscles as they cry out. Some of us have never ridden like this before and are nervous, wondering how we'll complete such a challenging course.

All of us are riding because we believe in the work of ReACT. We believe in our friends in Kenya and in their future.

As I have been training on my bike this week I have been surprised to often find myself welled up with tears. In those moments I am picturing myself doing something completely new to me - riding on an open road in a pack of cyclists, climbing unforgiving hill after unforgiving hill. I see all the friends and family who have generously given their support and I feel as though they are riding alongside me. Mostly, images of Kenya are flashing before me: the red earth, the banana trees, the smiling faces.

And when I picture all of those things the tears start to roll and I put my head down and I push harder, harder. Friends of ReACT, I am riding for all of us.

Kathryn

Samuel!

Samuel

Here are some pictures and an email that I recently received from Mark in Kenya. Mark is our full-time Kenyan manager that helps oversee the work on the ground in Kenya...

"This is two year old Samuel, the latest and last addition to the Veronica Home. Samuel was abandoned in the district hospital by his mother. The mother left him in the ward of the hospital after discovering he was HIV positive. When I heard that he was abandoned because of HIV, my heart was broken. I remembered what the Psalms that say, "that though your father and mother may forsake you yet I will not". Since we are serving kids that are on Anti-viral drugs we decided to take Samuel under the Children's Department's supervision.

The Veronica Home has an ultimate capacity of 15 children, and so we know that the house parents will be able to manage them. At this time, we also have an "Auntie" that comes to help with household chores through the week and this ensures that there is none that are over worked. We have realised that the needs are more than what we have at the moment. Our vision as ReACT Kenya is to add a second home using the same model as the Veronica Home to help more kids. Will you pray and trust God for this in His time?

If anyone would like to sponsor Samuel or the part-time Auntie that helps care for the children, please contact us as we trust God for their support.

We want to thank God so much for our partners that have stood with us to serve this children. To those that are willing to partner with us you are such a blessing! Love you all God bless you and bless your heart.

Shalom, Mark"

Hope!

This is the face of Hope. She has now found hope and a family that cares for her thanks to a generous donor and is getting established in her new setting. Hope is registered with the local Children's Department meaning that they are aware that she is now being taken care of at the Veronica Home. Here, Hope lives in a family environment with parents, a diet that caters towards her needs, she will regularly attend school, receive the specialized medical attention that she needs and will learn and live in the love of a Father who cares for her.

Since Hope came to us in the past month, we have had other requests for children to join this home but we are not able to take in more children without compromising the care of the existing children. Dream with us as we pray about establishing another home similar to this one since the need is so great.

Thank you for helping bring hope to the hopeless!

Back Home

We have returned home now. While jet lag slowly wanes the memories of Kenya do not. We are still carrying with us all of the encouraging stories as well as the hard stories, we are remembering the inspiring new things we saw and, of course, all of the wonderful people. Over the coming weeks and months we are excited to share with you the ways in which we saw ReACT at work with the people of Kenya.

Stay tuned!

Kathryn

Together

Together.

In Kenya they say "Pa moja", interpreted "As one".

Reaching African Children Together.

Here we are. Kitale, Kenya. I am here with friend Michael Smele, Kathryn Gray and her two children Joseph and Anna as we meet with our Kenyan Leadership Team to reflect on the past year and look forward to the months to come.

Each of us is only a piece of the puzzle.

Each of us has a unique role to play.

Together, we can go further than we could ever go alone.

We have many alliances here in Kenya with the understanding that we can do more together than we ever could as a single Community Based Organization (CBO).

For example…

-Sean and Meredith have been a part of our Leadership Team for the past 14 months. They have a ministry called O5M but know the value of working together.

-Our Home Based Care (HBC) program works solely with community members in caring for local community children.

-The disabled and deaf children we support is in partnership with schools that specialize in their particular needs.

-Martin and Ruth Shikuku have their own vision and ministry that ReACT simply helps support while they provide the vision and direction for their home of almost 50 children.

-You, our partners, encourage us all and support these projects so that children can know Jesus and have an opportunity that they never would without you.

Each of us play a vital role. Each of us is only a cog in the wheel. Together, we can accomplish more than any of us could ever do alone.

"The horse is made ready for the day of battle but the battle belongs to the LORD."

Each of us have our role but even that is not enough. We recognize our need for the Divine in all we do and we are mindful of it especially here. Divine togetherness. Like pedals on a bicycle working in tandem, both are needed. Like a symphony of music under the direction of the Divine Conductor.

Please pray for our Team in the coming weeks as we listen, assess and determine direction for the coming year. We sincerely depend on each person doing their part as we are also dependant on the Divine doing what only He can.

Together.

Pa moja.

Buried Treasure

"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who found treasure buried in a field…"

What was your childhood like? Are you fond of these memories or are they a source of pain to you? Do you remember dinners around the table with your family and friends? Perhaps school was not your "thing", but you went like everyone else because the law required it and your parents knew that it was as important as eating. For some perhaps, the dinners and family times are not something you think back on fondly.

Now imagine being treated as a second class family member and community citizen because of your disability, not even being permitted to eat with the rest of the family or go to school with the others. Your siblings go off to school in the morning while you are a slave carrying water or firewood for the day. At dinner time, your family of 8 eats in the 125 square foot hut but you know instinctively that you are not welcome. Your "dining room" is under the tree at the corner of the property. In many cases, you may be told you are not even welcome at home and you are driven to an unknown town and dropped off to figure life out on your own. In this culture, if you are disabled at all, you have brought a "curse" on your family and community, you are denied your education and too often you are chased away with only promised threats if you return.

Variations on the above are the norm for most disabled children born in Kenya as well as many Third World countries. The Canadian standards of inclusion and tolerance are nowhere to be found here and too often, we westerners don't realize how good we have it.

This is Eric.

Eight years ago, Eric was living with extended family in Kakamega Forest in western Kenya. As a deaf boy, he did not qualify for government education as healthy children do and so while the other children in the area went to school, Eric stayed home. Without giving the details of Eric's background, suffice it to say that education was not in his future until someone found him and brought him to a local school that specializes in education for deaf children.

I was delighted to see Eric again yesterday at his school in Webuye, Kenya. His hugs and smiles revealed a healing heart. It was like finding treasure. Over the years, I have appreciated seeing his progress not only in education, but especially in confidence and character. His teachers describe him as a compassionate young man and have assigned him as a mentor to a class of younger children at this school. After being misunderstood for years, Eric is now in Standard 8 (grade 8) and heading into the country's national exams in another year. These exams will determine whether he will continue on into Secondary School or into a trade school.

Eric is one of thirty-four deaf children who the sponsors of ReACT have come behind over the past 9 years. Each has a unique story. Each heart is like buried treasure. Each heart is showing signs of the kingdom of God.

"…then in his joy, he went and sold all he had and bought that field."

preparations

It is time to dig passports out of the back of drawers, suitcases out of the back of basements. It is time to shift mental gears to prepare for long flights, blazing sun, mud between our toes. Mostly, it is a time of excitement and anticipation. Some of us are visiting friends we haven't seen in a year. For some it has been five years, and for some it is all brand new. Five of us are heading to Kenya next week, returning on Easter Sunday. While we may or may not be able to send you stories and photos as we go, there will certainly be many tales to tell and many thoughts to share upon our return.

Our trip will mostly be comprised of spending time with our Kenyan friends and partners to give the support and encourage them in the work that they are doing. We are always encouraged as we visit and in some way come behind them in what they are doing. Our trip is less about "accomplishing a project", rather, we hope to be able to simply understand and support what our Kenyan friends are doing on the ground. After all, are we really in a position to go over and impose our Western ideals on a foreign culture?! I do believe that we have perspective to offer, but who better sees what needs doing than those living ReACT's vision on a daily basis? If we are asked, "What are you doing on your trip?", the answer is simply to encourage, offer perspective and see how we as Western friends can support them from half a world away.

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4 1,2

On a continuing basis, we always feel the weight of trust that our sponsors put in the work our team is doing in Kenya. This"weight" is not a burden but rather it is sobering to think of the level of trust many of you put in us as we strive to see the children of Kenya know the love of our Father. As we travel for the next three weeks and see the children, visit the homes and schools as well as spend quality time with the staff on the ground, there will be some areas where we offer encouragement and some where we are encouraged. There may be some areas in which any of us (including myself!) need correction or even rebuke. We recognize that we are all ultimately "in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and dead…" and in view of that, we, as a team must carefully assess where we have been and where we are going to ensure that we are accomplishing the vision that God has given us as a team.

Please pray that God gives us wisdom, discernment and clarity as we meet, travel and assess the work at hand.

Michael

New School Year

The other day on CBC I listened to the story of Abeny Kuol, a Sudanese woman who escaped the conflict there by carrying her three small daughters through Sudan, Ethiopia and into Kenya. She journeyed for 15 months and after many years living in Kenya came to Canada.

(One of my children asked me if I would carry the two of them thousands of kilometres to keep them safe. I answered that I would, but if I'm honest with myself I really can't say for sure. I would certainly want to and would intend to, but having the strength - mental more than physical - is another thing entirely.)

Abeny spoke briefly of the way she was impacted by the many people who helped her along the way, in refugee camps and elsewhere. Having received love and support from strangers is some of what causes her to remain involved in South Sudan, often travelling there as part of an aid agency that cares for orphans of the conflict.

As I look at the above photo of children smartly dressed and ready for their first day of school I am reminded by them and by Abeny Kuol that we don't always know how we figure in to someone else's story. And while we don't know how any story will end, we know that it is our role to be present, to show love and mercy, and to do what we are able to.

Kathryn