LIMURU, Kenya As Sam Meister began to talk about her recent visit to Kenya, she choked back emotion."You can read about it ... but when you get to go and touch and feel their (the children's) surroundings," she paused, remembering the trip. "It did something to me ... They have nothing, but the joy that they have just to wake up in the morning is something we can all take hope in. They have such a joy to live."Meister is a local realtor who also sits on the board for Miracle House, an orphanage the slums of Limuru, Kenya. It was founded about a year and a half ago by Deanna Bjork, of Silverthorne, after she led a mission trip to the area. The HIV/ AIDS epidemic struck her and she was drawn to the starving children living on the streets who lost their parents to the disease. Now, the orphanage has grown to help 25 children and on the most recent trip, a mission team built a second Miracle House in Webuye, about six hours from the first.Bjork is amazed at the impact the orphanage is having. It employs teachers from the slum and the children's personalities are coming alive as they develop confidence."The health of their skin, their hair ... You can really se a difference just from getting proper nutrition," Bjork said.The pre-school children spend the day at the orphanage learning, playing. The older children walk from their school a half mile away to come for lunch, and after school, they get help with homework and dinner.One of the lessons Bjork hopes the children will learn at Miracle House is about the importance of helping others - a message two little girls took to heart.They had a friend in need who they wanted to bring clothes too. However, it's hard because in the slums they have nothing, Bjork said. If they carry home a backpack or gifts, they may get it ripped off their back or end up in a ditch, she explained. So, Bjork and Meister gathered an outfit and the teachers put the clothes on the two young girls for them to transport it to the friend.
Meister heard about Miracle House at One Community Church in Dillon. Once she saw the pictures, she knew she had to go, she said. In the summer she took her first mission trip there and in January she went back. This recent trip, while the country erupted tribally and politically all around them, they were still able to use the time to make Miracle House develop further.Thirteen people from Summit County, Texas and California went on the trip. Some were familiar with Miracle House and others heard about it through Beautiful Feet International, which organizes mission trips. For several days, the team couldn't go into the slums because of the political unrest. It was too dangerous with the recent election, Bjork said, adding that in spite of the violence, overall, they've always felt welcomed with open arms. The days they couldn't get in, the children came to them at the hotel in Limuru about 15 minutes from the orphanage.Also, while a group worked in Limuru, another traveled to Webuye, about six to eight hours away to build a second Miracle House. In a week, four men from the US alongside Kenyan nationals built a 1,700-square-foot building. But because the team didn't know how far they'd get with the building, they didn't plan on opening it. Still, a few teachers were lined up and 11 orphans identified. The plan is to get it running as soon as they can, Bjork said.Bjork has been impressed with the support for the orphanage from throughout the country. Locally, community groups, businesses and individuals have contributed to its success and members of a church in California sponsor the children.The next step for Miracle House will be a building where the orphans can live 24/7 and be able learn a trade or to farm, Bjork said. She started looking into purchasing land, however, ran into issues with the cost.Bjork is also working on a children's book series of the orphans' stories. She hopes that parents will be able to use the books as an educational tool for their children.The first book, that is currently being illustrated, is about 10-year-old Diana. Her birth father was never part of her life and her mom died when she was 2 years old. Now, she lives with her grandparents who struggle to take of her and she attends Miracle House where she is fed and clothed."It's amazing," said Meister as she thought about the children who are cheerful in spite of the hardships they've faced on the streets or by watching their parents die. "They just want love."Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at email@example.com.
Anyone interested in making a donation to help Miracle House can do so on its website, www.Miracle-House.org. All donations go into the orphanage. Also, contact information is available on the site for anyone interested in finding out about additional ways to help.
Shortly after Miracle House opened in Kenya Sept. 2006, the founder, Deanna Bjork, of Silverthorne, began receiving messages that one of the little girls was sick.Margaret missed a number of days, but soon started feeling better and came back. However, in just a few months, she sunk into horrible health. "I had a heaviness in my heart for this child," Bjork said.One day, the young girl had to be carried home. And she didn't come to Miracle House for a number of days - something that meant she was very ill. At home she doesn't have any food, so if she doesn't come, she doesn't eat.Margaret's mother was on "her death bed" and "it's what they know. HIV means you are going to die," Bjork said.Sadly, the 6-year-old tested positive for HIV. However, lately she's been feeling better, and while a mission team was there in January, she was jumping rope, running and playing, said Bjork who has prayed heavily for the little girl. Recently, Margaret's health has continued to improve, Bjork added with a smile. Lory Pounder