Thursday, September 13, 2012

see ya later, blog. I'm out.

We have moved!

I mean: my awesome friend Nate has graciously re-built our website, including a page for my blog, which means I don't have to (poorly and unsuccessfully) try to keep both my website and my blog up-to-date!

To follow my antics and shenanigans, please visit the blog link on our website. (Oh, hey look, there's a new blog entry for you to read!) 

Take a look around our new and improved website, and please keep reading my blog there. : )

Thanks, dear friends.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

furniture please.

In a stunning contrast to my post about the slums, we now want to provide children with beds, meals, clothing and other wonderful things that they are currently living without.

Imagine a child who sleeps on the floor, eats one meal a day and is torn apart by mosquitos at night.

Now imagine that child being tucked into bed, kissed goodnight, clean and safe, belly full. You can help us furnish our home by donating just $10. Find out more here: Visible Grace update.

And...thank you.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


We went to the slums last weekend. For a week now, I've been tossing words around in my head and on my laptop. I want to show you how people live. I want to show you their desperation, and their joy. I want you to understand, and I want you to mourn with me, and I want you to join me in this crazy endeavour; I want you to be as determined as I am to find housing, find parents, find security, find a better way for these kids.

There HAS to be a better way.

But words elude me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

T shirts! or, How I Saved the World Eleven Dollars At a Time.

Most of you already have a t shirt or two, so...I need your help selling the rest! Sell them to your friends! Your neighbours! Your co workers! Give them to people as wedding gifts!

No, seriously.

We have a few t shirts left in each size (and some sizes are sold below) and not only would  my parents like their basement back, but I would like to make a little more money so we can finish our building over here.

A lot of you have given what you can, and that's great. Your generosity astounds me daily. But we need more. More people, more money, more energy poured into this wonderful, beautiful project.

So would you please do me a favour, and share this post? Link it to your blog, your facebook page, your twitter page...instagram it. Pin it. Share it! Please please please? And thank you.

We have our new(er) t shirts, which are $9.50 plus shipping:

Which, as you can see, are not only beautiful and interesting, but make you look cool when you are hiking, exploring, taking pictures, kissing your loved one or catching a frisbee in mid-air.
(The text is our mission statement, basically.)

(Please note: women's run ridiculously small, because American Apparel has special ideas about the human body. Buy at least once size bigger than you normally would.) 

Grey Africa Shirts with White Text: ($9.50)

And we have our original t-shirts, which are $7.50 plus shipping:

Which are on super sale, and, are sweatshop free and made in the US.

 Also, the more I think about this message, the more I like them. The text reads, 'This shirt is a fence, a well, a library and hope'. And it is. We are actually BUILDING, and will soon provide kids with security and material comforts and books and pencils and clothing and a future. And it's because of YOU.
(Woman's sizes are slightly less ridiculous, but shrink- so I'd buy a size up again. Sorry.)

Original Acacia Tree Shirts: ($7.50)

In conclusion, you should buy a shirt RIGHT NOW. Or, you should tell your friends to buy one

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Food Distribution in the Slums

Over the past few years, as we've been developing our plans and raising the money to finish our home, Susan and I have worked to establish a relationship with the people who live in the slum near our apartment. We want them to know who we are, and know Visible Grace well, and, to be honest, I am so eager to be doing something, anything to help- so we go to the slums and we visit people, bringing them prayers and food and clothing.

The slums that run behind Ngong Town
Millions of people in Kenya survive on $2 or less per day. This is not enough to thrive. We want to go into the slums near Saturday, July 28th to distribute food and clothing to our neighbours there.

$8.50 will buy groceries for a family for one week. We want to raise enough money to feed twenty families...or more! Can you help?

Next weekend I will post pictures of my time in the slums as well as details about how we are trying to help the kids who live there. Some of the orphaned children from this area will be the ones living on our land!
One of the children we met in the slums last year.

We need 20 people to donate $8.50 apiece. If this is something you are interested in doing- having an immediate and positive impact on someone in need- please click on the PayPal button to the right of this post. All donations are tax deductible!

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

on the personal side: a day in the life of Ashby

A few of you have asked me what I do every day.

This morning we had visitors- Wilson's cousins- who I enjoyed meeting a lot! I ended up picking their brains about second hand children's clothing, sustainable farming, bio-gas, and solar power. because of course I did. I'm an Oregonian on a mission. They are going to take me clothes shopping (once we have kids to shop for, of course) and I'm confident we'll be getting the best bargain possible.

Then I went to Ngong to scope out the market (think farmer's market, but a tiny bit noisier) and a couple wholesale stores to figure out the MOST affordable way to feed our (future) kiddos. This involved riding three different buses, saying hi to whoever I ran into who recognized or knew me, and buying myself a shawl in Ngong because it was super cold today... I splurged on a cup of real coffee and spent some time making notes in my journal. I have so many nerdy menu ideas for our kids (basically I want kids! now!)

On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store near our apartment to buy some vinegar. On my way out they gave me free clothespins and soap! Susan is jealous and said they never give her free stuff. Ha! My new idea is asking for free stuff every time we go to the store, and saving it all up for VG. So far we have...20 clothespins and one bar of soap.
Your day probably isn't complete without a picture of me and my niece. I get it. Mine isn't complete without it either.

Finally finally home- with Susan's help I tied the baby onto my back, and then I started cutting up tomatoes and onions for dinner. Dinner, I should mention, is no small task. EVERYthing is made from scratch. Everything. Homemade croutons. Homemade tomato sauce. Homemade salad dressing. I learned how to light a charcoal stove today.

(Dinner by the way was awesome- soybeans in homemade bbq sauce, rice, a green salad and garlic bread. I win.)

(I NEVER cook back in the States. Cooking here takes time and effort and creativity. So I'm proud of my food!)
THEN after dinner- and watching and discussing the news with Susan and Wilson- I hopped onto my computer to catch up on emails, which vary from 'how are ya?' to auction planning to budgeting and bill pay and answering questions for my amazing volunteers and trying to get in touch with donors. Oh, and a bit of research on converters and adapters, because I want to sew this weekend!

Basically...a lot. I do a lot every day. Doesn't sound like a lot? You try flagging down a bus on market day in rush hour.  :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

mattresses and soap and other practical things.

Susan and I have been researching the prices of everything we need for our children's home- from $150 bunk beds to ten-cent cloves of garlic. we are working on a house budget, a weekly menu, a monthly budget... we have spreadsheets coming out our ears. it's fun for me to hunt down the cheapest pots and pans, the best deal on toilet paper. it's fun (??) for Susan to cross-examine the prices in an excel spreadsheet. to each their own. anyway...

if you feel so inclined, would you consider donating? you can buy a bed (or mattress!) for a child who, tonight, is probably sleeping on the ground. you can buy fruits and vegetables for a child who is likely malnourished. you can donate in ANY AMOUNT. every bit helps.

help us out here: Visible Grace® or click on the PayPal link to the right of this page. seriously- every bit helps. lots more details to come, I assure you, on budgets and on my pipedreams of home-making here in Kenya. : )

thank you, friends. (oh...and do me a favour and pass this along? you're the best. thanks.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

tea and sympathy

Dim sunlight filters in through the window and spills onto the small table in the center of the room, illuminating cups of hot, sweet tea, a plate of soft, white bread and a basin of cool water. The heels of my shoes are sinking into the mud floor. Rows of stools and small chairs fill the edges of the room. A single bed sits to one side of the room; a sheet hanging from the ceiling separates 'bedroom' from 'sitting room'. A knife leaning against the window sill denotes 'kitchen'. 

We are crowded together in this small home, knees meeting awkwardly as we hunch over our seats and reach for our tea. Mine is hot, too hot to drink anytime soon. I grasp the cup and wait. A small girl wearing a ski cap stands in the doorway watching me solemnly. She reaches for my hand. She takes some bread. She barely moves when a chicken pushes past her to get into the house.

Now from the bed in the corner comes the soft crying that reminds us why we are here. The baby's mother is young. Too young, and she delivered her baby three nights ago, in her home, alone. We want to see the baby, to hold her. We give the mother food, and clothing, and diapers, and prayers and advice: please, please keep her warm. Keep breastfeeding. Go to a clinic. Take her for a check up. Please. Please. Please.

And now I'm taking pictures to print for them later; pictures of the grandmother, of the mother, of the baby, of the neighbour girl in her cap. Pictures of our tea and our bread. Kim helps: pictures of my thumb, of his chin, of our toes. 

And now we're praying and now we're standing to leave and now we are walking home and all I can do, all we can do, is pray that the mother stays healthy, that she receives the help she needs, that she does the best she can.

             It's all any of us can do: the best we can. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Visible Grace History: part three (I'm pretending to write a book)

(part two is here.)

I left off with the entrance of a ‘young college student who thinks she knows everything’. Heh. You see, I was studying child development. I was an expert on all things kid-related, and I knew what was best for them, because my text books and teachers told me so. Plus, I’d taken the American Red Cross Babysitting Class when I was like 13. Thirteen!

So there I am, spending a semester in Nairobi, Kenya, at the entitled and enlightened age of 19. I have and do and always will love children of all ages, specializing in two and three year olds. I never really thought I would end up focusing all my energy on eradicating or relieving severe poverty. I’m not an economic or sociological expert. But I remember seeing the cover of a Christian magazine when I was maybe 10- starving Ethiopians holding their hands up to the all-knowing western photographer who, I pray, was working to ease their pain. That cover was the first time I was really aware- I mean to-the-core awareness- of other people’s pain. And that may well have been the day I began to shed the protective layer people keep between their hearts and the world’s.

Because I don’t have it, that layer. I feel your pain. If you’re in pain- I feel it. This is called compassion, empathy or awful. Take your pick.

So: my point is, I distinctly remember the first time I realized there were people who are suffering in this world. And then I went to high school with a friend whose parents were missionaries. She’d grown up in various parts of Africa, and regaled me with stories about Kenya- nothing spectacular, nothing crazily eccentric- just fond stories of the women, the colours, the children, the scents and sights that comprise daily life in Kenya.

And THEN I went to college, full of hope and energy and wide-eyed wonder and stories from my dad about how his ONE wish in college had been that he’d been able to study abroad.
So when my academic advisor returned for the school year brimming with stories about his time in Kenya…well. Here. We. Go.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

the plan! (part three)

first of all, a side note- I am moving out of my apartment at the end of April and staying with friends until I leave, to save money, and OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS, who let me accumulate this much stuff?!

anyway- the month of May will be spent visiting my sister and other family members, saying goodbye to friends, and preparing to leave.


on June 21st I will leave Oregon and head 'home'. and here's what I plan to do from there (Lord willing):

for the first few months, I will live with my Kenyan sister Susan (pictured left on her wedding day), her wonderful husband Wilson, and my Kenyan niece, Eileen (named after me. more on that incredible honour later). (you can expect to see pictures exclusively of me with her in my arms for the next...10 years or so.) Susan and Wilson live in an apartment in the town of Ngong, about 20 kilometres from our VG land. they are
saving to build a house for themselves.

my immediate goal and focus is to acquire custody of 6-8 children, who I will take into my care. we will move into the home on our land as soon as the house is ready. we are about $6000 away from finishing the house- trim, tile, countertops etc. did any of my readers happen to win the lottery?

choosing the kids will be a process consisting of prayer, advice and recommendations from leaders in the community, the vote of the VG board in Kenya, and the help of our incredible lawyer, Franklin. I am not expecting this to be easy, but God sometimes throws us for a loop by working everything out quickly! whatever happens, I know he is in control and wants what is best for these kids. his love for these kids greatly outweighs mine, and I know he will set them in homes. amen!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

part two: when, and how.

over the past ten years I've been to Kenya eleven different times for a total of 24 wonderful months on that beautiful red soil.

that's a lot of frequent flier miles, in case you were wondering.

I've always dreamed of living there- I mean LIVING there, not visiting- but I've been (almost) content just to visit. often. most of my friends know that my long term goal was to finally settle in Kenya, but it's never quite been the right time. there's always something to keep me here in Oregon. there's always so much to do.

but it's finally time. we have finally reached the tipping point, the point where my time and resources are better spent in Kenya than here in the US. the point where I can finally sell my car, give up my apartment, and invest in a better, faster, more awesome camera. finally give up on trying to keep my asthma, anxiety and insomnia under control, and just go home.


I will be leaving in mid-June. I can't wait.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

moving: part one.

for years I've felt like I'm living on the wrong side of the mirror. I'll look around this beautiful, beautiful town (seriously- I love Portland!) and everything feels upside-down, or at least backward.

my heart beats correctly in Nairobi (literally- but that's a different story). things are NOT easy there. they aren't convenient. don't get me wrong, Nairobi is fairly Westernised and you can get almost everything you want, and certainly everything you need- but it can still be really, really annoying.

the buses are always late, and slow, and prices change daily, and the potholes make me crazy. restaurants never have what they say they have, and the last time I went grocery shopping, the store was 'out' of rice. RICE. phone service is terrible, and expensive. internet is slow at best. the rains are late and crops are bad and employment is low and crime rates are high and people are hungry and tired. it's entirely imperfect.

but it's HOME.

I am moving home at the end of June. and when I say 'moving', I mean finally. moving. home. I've been waiting for this for almost a decade, and it's time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

ruin and treasure

where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure. ~Rumi

I spend about half my time and energy thinking about how to get children out of the slums and into (as of yet non existent) homes on my land, and the other half of my time and energy worrying about myself: why does my back hurt? why am I so sad? why can't I buy more clothes?

there needs to be some balance, probably. and by 'balance', I mean, less of me, more of Him.

more Jesus.

more of the One who loves these children, knows their names, and has authority over the dust and dirt, the disease and the filth, the poverty and oppression. authority, even, over my whiny, selfish self.

I need to take my eyes off myself, because I can't fix myself anyway. I need to throw myself into this project, because as I love and serve others, and spend time with the One who loves them, I will begin to heal; I will begin to be healed.

the problem is that I don't know where to start. I feel very stuck. not with the general concept, but with the actual day-to-day tasks: I need money.

a lot of it.

but there is One who knows, and today I'm choosing to trust in Him.