Miracle House in Kenya aiding orphans
SUMMIT COUNTY Every day hungry, love-starved orphans live and die on the streets of Misiri, Kenya – a name that means Egypt in Swahili.”It has this name because they are as slaves, people of no hope. …. I just pray that the slum will one day be a hill of hope and healing,” said Deanna Bjork, of Silverthorne, who is working to get little ones off the streets and into a safe, learning environment.Bjork recently opened Miracle House, an orphanage in Misiri that is already having an impact on the 22 children they are teaching and feeding. One of the latest additions is two siblings, ages 6 and 7, they found struggling to survive on their own.”They are just precious little people. Those two in particular kind of steal my heart,” Bjork said. “They’re guarded, but after spending time with them, they’re just hungry for hugs and love.”The idea for Miracle House came in June 2005 when Bjork led a mission trip to Kenya. She had been on mission trips all over the world before, but the intensity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic there and the parentless children left behind struck her. According to UNAIDS, a world program on HIV/AIDS, 1,100,000 children are orphans in Kenya because of AIDS (about half of the total number).About six months after returning from the trip, Bjork contacted pastors she met there and asked them what they thought about an orphanage.”They said, ‘It’s a miracle. We’ve been praying for something like this. We just started a feeding program because we can’t stand to see the children die,’ ” Bjork remembered.So, she began asking questions in Silverthorne about how to start a non-profit organization. A month later, she gained non-profit status – something that normally does not happen so quickly. Then, in July, she returned with a group and papers in hand to start the process of becoming registered as a society in Kenya which will allow them to purchase property.Expecting that would take time, they rented and renovated a building in the slum. By September, Miracle House opened with five staff members from Misiri, including three teachers, a cook and a guard.”There’s been so many absolute miracles,” Bjork said. “This was absolutely not me. Miracle House is motivated by the heart of God and meeting the needs of the people.”
Seeing the impactIn January, the orphanage became registered as a society and Bjork visited for the first time since it opened. “It’s amazing to be there and see the enthusiasm and the joy,” she said. “I’ve never been in a classroom quite like it. … It’s so delightful that you can’t help but smile or even laugh to watch these kids. …. Here we are renting a building in the middle of a slum with no electricity, no running water and a pit potty – and yet it’s making such a difference in these kids’ lives.”One of the children, Diana, a 10-year-old girl who comes to Miracle House for lunch and dinner, told Bjork that she now has hope for the future. Before, food was not always an option for the little girl.The children who go to school at the orphanage are pre-school age. The older ones who attend the national school come by for lunch and dinner. A few of the pre-school children who are already 7 and 8 years old couldn’t get into the national school because they didn’t pass a certain test. Now, after learning at the orphanage, they’ve been able pass and petition the school to be let in, Bjork said. But space at the school is a problem for them to make the transition. Between 90 and 100 children are in each classroom, Bjork explained, adding that they are hoping to return this summer with a group to build desks for the national school.Bjork’s overall goal is to buy property, build an orphanage where the children can live, learn and thrive, and then maybe even do the same in other areas of desperate need.Currently, many of the Miracle House orphans live with neighbors, aunts and grandparents in one-room houses with many people, Bjork said. She doesn’t know if they get food on Sundays when they are not at Miracle House or what happens when they go home at the end of each day.Also, when they are able to buy land, Bjork said they want to pay locals to build the orphanage so it will generate some income for those in Misiri.”The unemployment rate is incredibly high,” she added. “All our staff live in the slum. We want to provide income for them. … You can be overwhelmed by the needs. Unless you have direction, it can shut you down.”It takes a village
Bjork has been amazed at how the Summit County community has really come together to help with her vision. Friends, Realtors, churches, Girl Scout troops and Summit High School students have all played an essential role in getting the orphanage up and running, she said. Bjork’s whole family is involved.
About 10 years ago, Bjork, her husband Dan, and their sons, Garrett and Landon, went on their first mission trip. They went to Jamaica and it changed their lives. Afterward, they spent four years working to adopt Jenessa and Jarelle, twins from Haiti who are now 7. Bjork has also led missions to Mexico, Haiti, Turkey, China, Thailand and many other places.
Arienne Abt, nursing student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, sits on the board for Miracle House. She has spent the past two summers in Kenya and plans to return this summer for a few weeks to help at the orphanage.”You hear about the AIDS epidemic, but until you go over there it doesn’t really hit you,” Abt said, remembering the shock she experienced her first trip. “The first summer stole my heart.” Then last year, a little boy found her the first day she was there and held her hand the rest of the trip.”If I was going to tell everyone what it’s like, I’d convey the desperate need for things we take for granted – housing, clothing, food – and yet they are happier than many people I know,” Abt said. “They have a better grasp on what’s really important.”
Do your part …Anyone interested in making a donation to help Miracle House grow can do so on the website http://www.Miracle-House.org. All the donations go into the orphanage. None are used for travel expenses. Also, anyone interested in becoming involved with the mission trips to Misiri slum should visit http://www.bfiministries.org. A trip planned for July is full, but there is a possibility of an August trip and one in December/January.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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