If you’re new to our story and wondering how we were led to the Turkana tribe, here’s the story of our family. Turkana is a tribe and a region. They also have their own language, called the Turkana language. The Turkana people are nomadic. Their diet mostly consists of meat, blood, and milk. The meat, blood and milk mostly comes from their goats but they sometimes also herd sheep, camels and donkeys. We’ve had a heart for the Turkana tribe for over 10 years now. Before starting Mattaw, we wanted to start in Turkana but the Lord clearly directed us to start a base in Kitale first and then launch into Turkana. The way His plans unfolded were unexpected and better than we could of ever come up with. It wasn’t just out of a desire to go reach a certain tribe but it began with adoption within our own family.
In 2007, while in the construction phase of the first home at Mattaw, we took in two boys who were living on the streets of Kitale. Dan and Ian were around 7 years old. They became our sons and when opening the first Mattaw home in 2008, we had a strong bond with our sons and felt they should remain part of our family and not placed in a home at Mattaw.
Daniel, the day we brought him home
At a park with Ian, Dan and Caleb during the first month they were in our home.
Normally children living on the streets have some sort of family. In 2007, we found several of the children on the streets came from Turkana due to a terrible drought and food crisis along with other challenges found in Turkana. It was clear we weren’t only helping children in Kitale but would be able to help children from Turkana by opening Mattaw in Kitale. Our sons, Dan and Ian were very closed off about any of their past or any family they had, there was a lot of trauma that kept them closed off. Long story short, in 2012 our son Ian began having dreams about his mom in Turkana and after hearing about another bad drought, he was worried if they were still living. We were able to miraculously locate both of their families. They both have different parents but the clans that their families are a part of lived relatively close to one another in the southern part of Turkana. Both of the boy’s fathers had passed away when they were little and their moms had remarried. Normally this means the new father isn’t very accepting of the children from other fathers but over the years God has healed and restored relationships within our boy’s families. With God’s help, both families of our sons were very receptive towards us and even invited us in to their homes as their own family. Bud and I began bringing food to their families during times of hunger and we’ve shown the Jesus film in the Turkana language. There is such a hunger for Jesus in Turkana but there’s also still a lot of injustices in some of their cultural practices. Both families were thankful their sons were part of our family and they wanted them to remain with us and continue in school in Kitale. In the states this would be considered an open adoption where we are in close contact with the birth moms. On holidays, our sons travel to see the family in Turkana and we have continued to visit them and share the gospel and urgent needs that come up.
In 2012, Bud took the boys to find their families in Turkana. It was miraculous that we found them both. The boys had never known each other before becoming part of our family yet out of the entire region of Turkana, both of their families lived close to each other in south Turkana. We’ve been able to share the gospel through the Jesus film in the Turkana language. We’ve seen many come to know Jesus. We continue to go and learn from them as we also disciple those that are hungry to learn more about Jesus. The village where some of our son’s families come from were very much welcoming towards Bud the first time he went. They roasted an entire goat to celebrate.
Another very important part of our family story is how Caleb became part of our family. I went to an orphanage to volunteer at in 2005. Bud came a year later. It was there that they met Caleb. He was in the 6th grade and brilliant in school. We were able to support Caleb in a good high school and during breaks he would come home. We also helped him get to the U.S. where he graduated from a university in Mississippi in 2017. There’s much more to share about his story but that will be for another post.
Caleb, Bud and Ian in Nairobi in 2009
Caleb and Ian in 2010
Visiting Caleb at his high school in 2010
Back to Turkana story. After hearing all the stories about the boys going to find their families, I was so eager to go meet my son’s birth moms. They were excited to introduce us as well. I was a bit hesitant of what it might be like but it was such an honor. Bud and I count it a privilege to raise our sons and to now see them staying connected to their Turkana family as well. We’ve been welcomed over and over again into their families and thankful for the love that has grown amongst us all.
Ian’s first time to see his family in Turkana since 2005
Dan’s first time to see his mom since he was 4
We also have a fourth Kenyan son that is part of our family, Joseph Ewesit Elimlim. Joseph and Ian have the same birth mom and dad. Joseph was the last born of 3 before their dad passed away. Their mom now has 5 other children who are half siblings to our sons. They also have an older sister, Lomenai, who is married with two children. When Bud first found our son’s families, Ian was so excited to see his brother Joseph but struggled to see the life they were living. The mom told him to not worry about them, it’s their way of life and for him to not stress when he goes back to Kitale. Ian had such a desire to help his brother though. Joseph wasn’t in school and his day to day life was herding goats. Ian wanted him to come home the day he had found him but in ordered to keep peace in the relationship with the family, we took time to pray and wait on the family’s blessing to take Joseph to Kitale so he could go to school and grow up with Ian.
In 2013, Joseph came to live with us and has been attending school at Mattaw since then. Next year he will be going to high school and we’re so proud of him! He only knew the Turkana language when he came to live with us and now he is fluent in Swahili and English. He has also learned to play the piano and is really good at it! We’re so thankful for the way God formed our family.
On safari with our family in 2013
(Caleb was in America attending University)
Joseph and their birth mom and younger half siblings
First family photo with everyone in it, 2014
On our way as a family to Turkana for a mission trip
Attempted family Christmas photo but no one was too thrilled about it
Family trip 2014
Riding bikes in Naivasha, Christmas 2015
Besides our sons, there’s another person God connected us to that has been such an important person in our life. We’ve been friends with a pastor in Turkana, Wilson, for many years.
Before Bud and I married, we would visit a church Wilson had just started in the town Kakuma. Kakuma is where one of the largest UN refugee camps is located. There are people escaping war and conflicts from Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Unfortunately, the people inside the UN camp are taken care of better than the Turkana people that live around the camp. Our friend Wilson has planted over 20 churches around Turkana over the past 20 years. He was a Kenyan missionary from central Kenya and has been called to the Turkana tribe. He has such a gifting and anointing to preach good news to the poor in Turkana. Several churches have been planted in areas where no one had ever heard the name of Jesus. Many of the churches were also planted because of a miracle of healing and people being raised back to life after almost dying. Our heart has always been to partner with Kenyans and support the vision the Lord has established. We desire to see Kenyans be on stage and leading and we simply come alongside of them to help support. So out of a friendship with Wilson and the leaders and pastors he has trained, we began partnering with Elim pentecostal churches in Turkana. We also very much believe that the solutions to the problems and injustices should be given answers and solutions from the local church.
If you would like more information on how to get involved, email us at email@example.com. If you’d like to donate towards the mission in Turkana, click on the donate tab on this website.
And thank you for taking time to read our story. We thank God for leading us faithfully as a family.
(written July 2018)