HJ/EDApril 3, 2006

A life-changing experience in Kenya for father and son

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

One Cokato father and son team learned what it was like to go from a land that has everything to one that has nothing.

Rick and Torrey Sorenson left March 8, not knowing what lay ahead in the small village of Kisii, a region in Kenya.

The Sorenson family belong to Hope Community Church of Cokato and sponsor three Kenyan AIDS orphans who lost their parents.

The family was able to see first-hand the children they had been sponsoring and just how their $15 a month per child was being used.

In the small village, families with five or more children per household have adopted orphans whose parents have died from AIDS, so not only do they have to support their own children, but the orphans as well.

Their trip began three years ago when Pastor Neal Thielke from Morris Community Church out of Morris Minn., went to Kenya to see what their major needs were for these orphans.

Most of the homes consisted of stick framing and red mud, with plaster made of cow manure and roofs of grass with the more fortunate having tin roofs.

There kids sleep sometimes three to a bed, on an inch-thick mattress, “And kids here complain about sharing a room,” Sorenson said.

With Malaria so prevalent, mosquito nets are a must for sleeping. Torrey explained how they are so small you don’t know they bit you until you swell up.

Rick wanted to take his 14-year-old son along on this adventure so he could see “what the world is like and that it doesn’t revolve around America,” he said.

The village of Kisii still has traditional tribal ways of thinking, when it comes to lifestyles, but the next generation will see more of a change, he said.

The majority of the trip was based on relationship building with the families and orphans.

They listened to the orphans and played with them. “These were kids who watched their parents waste away, it’s very emotional for them,” Rick explained.

It’s a Christian village but they haven’t adopted much of the Christian ways yet. For example, the reason AIDS is so prevalent is because men share women, even outside of marriage.

The orphans were able to express their wants and needs to the group. Many of the girls just wanted a dress and new shoes, Rick said.

“We need to find a way to help them longterm,” he said.

Some examples of longterm help would be, teaching of agriculture for their type of land. They have two growing seasons, and they only work on five to 10 acres. Their main crops are maze and tea.

Also, providing the women with sewing machines, so they can build small businesses to help them grow on a long-term basis, Rick explained.

The people of the village have only the bare minimum, he said. They are sustenance living where most of America is affluent. They live day-to-day.

The women work extremely hard, he said.

They walk up and down a hill with the water from the well on their heads and often work in the fields with their baby on their backs.

There isn’t access to doctors. Many aspire to be doctors, Rick explained, but after they get their license they become unaffordable to many.

Rick told of a young child who had an irritated eye, he gave him drops of Visine and in a few days it had been healed.

Another child suffered from allergies and Rick was assured all the boy needed was Claritin.

“When we need something we can just run to Keaveny’s, but they have no access to medication,” Rick said.

This is partly due to the corruption with the governmental system. There are programs helping people but the supplies never seem to get to them, the mayor explained to Rick.

Their experience in Kenya has brought them both to appreciate the life they have.

“You realize what is important and what’s not as necessary as you once thought,” Rick said.

In a journal Rick kept while on his adventure, he wrote:

"I will be praying for these people that they will be relieved from their poverty, but I will also be thanking God for what they have taught me.

"I will remember the awesome times of sharing their lives with me. The way they received the Biblical teaching with so much hunger and willingness. The way they responded to the good news of a fuller life in the Holy Spirit. How we all worshipped the same God even though we didn’t understand the words of their songs.

"We felt the Holy Spirit in our presence and knew he would be at work here as we leave.

"I thank God I was able to spend this little bit of my life with these incredible people."

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