When Justice Cries:

A Family’s Struggle with Injustice and Impunity

The date forever remains etched in my mind; it was the culmination of many of the worst days of my life. Fifth December, 2017 was a Tuesday morning and one of my childhood friends, Pam, had graciously agreed to accompany me to the city center, town, as many Nairobians would call it. The journey I was taking seemed surreal to me, how was I on my way to buy the last dress that my sister would ever wear?

It Wasn’t Supposed to be This Way

I nearly lost my mind on that journey because this was never our agreement. It was an understanding between my sister and I that her wedding dress would be a gift from me. I knew the design she wanted, she had shown me pictures, and of course as big sister I suggested some edits to it. I was supposed to watch her walk down the aisle and ululate with my other siblings as our little sister was married. I never imagined I would be combing through town trying to find a dress for her to be buried in. Someone had played a mean joke and my world was crumbling on Muindi Mbingu street. I stood in the road and wept bitterly and shamelessly. My heart was breaking not just for me but for the rest of my family, how were we going to face the days ahead?

Does the Justice System Work?

Death, is horrendous for those left behind. It is hard enough to come to terms with when it occurs naturally, but when it has been willfully caused by another human being, those left behind are always very close to the grave themselves. My little sister, Chichy, was unfortunate to meet her death in such a horrible manner.

As a family we never imagined that anyone would kill our sister. She wasn’t the kind of girl to go looking for trouble, she was a neat and organized person, tiny physically but had a big heart for people. Kind and faithful, she enjoyed laughter, food, and singing. When she didn’t answer our phone calls, it never occurred to us that she would be dead. The worst, we assumed, was that she fell ill somewhere and her phone went off. Unfortunately for us, that was not the case. It was the biggest shock of our lives when she was found dead in her apartment, badly mutilated. Somebody murdered our baby sister.

Before her burial, the DCIO of Nakuru assured our family that it was just a matter of time before the suspected culprit, a prominent Nakuru businessman, was brought in. He was confident that all the evidence they had collected clearly pointed to the murderer. A private investigation also identified a key suspect and linked him to the crime scene. Sad to say but shortly thereafter the DCIO went mute on us. A year down the line, despite many efforts the family has never received any brief or update from the police.

A Case to Answer

We have been left with many unanswered questions. We do not know why our baby sister was brutally murdered and we fail to understand why a criminal is free to carry out his activities in the confidence that the police are of no consequence to him. Our fear is that this has happened for too long. While other people may be comfortable to go on with their lives believing that it is best to leave things as they are; our family strongly believes in justice. It was wrong for someone to murder our sister; it is wrong that we are expected to go on with our lives as if nothing happened. Something did happen, we were mercilessly robbed of our beloved. It is unthinkable that we have such an incompetent police system that is either not bothered about the plight of the innocent in this country or that seeks to benefit from their misfortune. As a family, we are convinced that we have a right to the truth, a right to feel protected and a right to feel safe in our own country.  We have been good citizens of this nation and we do our part to make it better, despite the little we have, it is our right to demand #Justice4ChichyAmina.

Chichy Amina, a banker at Stanbic Bank, Nakuru, was murdered in her home on November 23rd, 2017. Read more.

Surprising Things Vol. 1

 Missy here. I’m going with themes for my blog posts as there is so much to share and I’m trying to keep it focused. Still, this email has a lot of words… 

Before I get to some things which have surprised me about living here… prayer requests.

1.       Pray for the work we are doing. I’m beginning to get into counseling in the schools and in the community. The need is overwhelming. As I’ve spoken now with the local psychiatrist at the hospital and school administrators, I’ve learned that although there have been counselors in the district in the past, there is currently no one offering counseling services other than for those in significant crisis – and then they go to the hospital to see the psychiatrist. This week I met with 5 students in two different schools and many others are getting parental permission to speak with me. I’ve already been hearing firsthand of horrific domestic violence, child abuse, significant trauma and disrupted attachments. Many of these problems are generational and cultural as the systems in place to address them from law enforcement to social services are only able to deal with things if they are severe – like life or death. I need discernment and wisdom. Please pray also that those who will most benefit from working with me would come.

2.       Annabelle has been having ups and downs with adjusting to school. She has been showing some anxiety symptoms that are not usual for her. Please pray for her little spirit to be full of joy and life and freedom and for us to help her through this transition. She is the 25th student in her class and the school work is rigorous.

Now for SURPRISING THINGS:

I had wondered many times how closely the Krio I learned in Sierra Leone would be to the Kriol spoken here. Despite the fact that I learned Krio 15 years ago and for only 4.5 months, much of it has come flooding back as I hear people speak the Belizean Kriol. There are many similarities in words, expressions, and grammar. Honestly, the Kriol here is far easier to understand and pick up as it seems more closely related to English and people often speak half a sentence in Kriol and the other half in English. But surprise, surprise, even as I study the Kriol-English dictionary I’m just amazed by this similar language half a world away and I’m surprised by my own memory 15 years on.

I have been amazed by how much Annabelle loves bucket showers. For the uninitiated – bucket showers are literally when you take a shower out of a “bucket.” For one reason or another, we have had only cold water coming out of our faucets quite a number of times since we arrived. Annabelle, who usually insists she doesn’t want a shower or bath (only to spend many long minutes playing and singing to herself once she’s in) loves bucket showers. We heat a pot of water on the stove. Then we pour pitchers of half heated, half cold water over her until she’s soaked, then shampoo and soap up, and then use the rest of the pot of water to rinse. Ironically, it’s usually warmer than even when our water heater is working. 😊 And also it conserves water.

Which leads to my next surprise – water disposal. I’ve been surprised that other than toilet water, all water from our house goes out into the street. Every dish we wash, clothing we launder, shower we take, time we brush our teeth, etc. Every last drop goes out into the ditch in front of our house. I will say that it makes me much more conscious of how much water we’re using and is good for conservation mindedness. Thankfully the toilet water goes into a septic system.

Annabelle has been surprised by some differences at school – not only are there 25 kids in Annabelle’s class but food can be shared and in fact, it seems encouraged. Annabelle was not allowed to share food at her schools in the U.S. We have also all observed that keeping one’s hands to oneself is not a thing here. All of the children at the school are quite physical with one another.

We’ve been surprised by the fact that we haven’t received any mail here yet. Not even one little piece. And I know some folks mailed us Christmas letters even before we left the U.S. I keep wondering where those pieces of mail are… perhaps they made it to the North Pole and Santa will bring them later – like next Christmas.

There have been many lovely random surprises – like how beautiful it is here. Every time I ride on the motorcycle, I kind of fall in love with this land. And we’ve had some really sweet conversations with random strangers on the bus that must be divinely appointed. On one of my trips to the capital, Belmopan, I sat next to a lovely British woman who lives in DC and was with a tour group. Our conversation was so nice in fact that she gave me a hug and a kiss when I left. I would venture to say most of our days are filled with random surprises.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve been surprised by how much we all love the food. We don’t all love all the food but there are so many things that are delicious and fresh. If you come visit, we’ll definitely be bringing you around to try yummy things! The one that blew me away this week was coconut pie for which they use coconut flour and is full of sweet, spiced coconut. It was amazing!

*Please note there is no judgment in these “surprises.” Things here are a mix of better and worse than in the States or anywhere else.

When Justice Cries: Remembering my Sister’s Murder

Fifth December will forever remain etched in my mind; it was the culmination of many worst days of my life. It was a Tuesday morning and one of my childhood friends, Pam, had graciously agreed to accompany me to the city center, town, as many Nairobians would call it. The journey I was taking seemed surreal to me, how was I on my way to buy the last dress that my sister would ever wear?

It Wasn’t Supposed to be This Way

I nearly lost my mind on that journey because this was never our agreement. It was an understanding between my sister and I that her wedding dress would be a gift from me. I knew the design she wanted, she had shown me pictures, and of course as big sister I suggested some edits to it. I was supposed to watch her walk down the aisle and ululate with my other siblings as our little sister was married. I never imagined I would be combing through town trying to find a dress for her to be buried in. Someone had played a mean joke and my world was crumbling on Muindi Mbingu street. I stood in the road and wept bitterly and shamelessly. My heart was breaking not just for me but for the rest of my family, how were we going to face the days ahead?

Does the Justice System Work?

Death, is horrendous for those left behind. It is hard enough to come to terms with when it occurs naturally, but when it has been willfully caused by another human being, those left behind are always very close to the grave themselves. My little sister, Chichy, was unfortunate to meet her death in such a horrible manner.

As a family we never imagined that anyone would kill our sister. She wasn’t the kind of girl to go looking for trouble, she was a neat and organized person, tiny physically but had a big heart for people. Kind and faithful, she enjoyed laughter, food, and singing. When she didn’t answer our phone calls, it never occurred to us that she would be dead. The worst, we assumed, was that she fell ill somewhere and her phone went off. Unfortunately for us, that was not the case. It was the biggest shock of our lives when she was found dead in her apartment, badly mutilated. Somebody murdered our baby sister.

Before her burial, the DCIO of Nakuru assured our family that it was just a matter of time before the suspected culprit, a prominent Nakuru businessman, was brought in. He was confident that all the evidence they had collected clearly pointed to the murderer. A private investigation also identified a key suspect and linked him to the crime scene. Sad to say but shortly thereafter the DCIO went mute on us. A year down the line, despite many efforts the family has never received any brief or update from the police.

A Case to Answer

We have been left with many unanswered questions. We do not know why our baby sister was brutally murdered and we fail to understand why a criminal is free to carry out his activities in the confidence that the police are of no consequence to him. Our fear is that this has happened for too long. While other people may be comfortable to go on with their lives believing that it is best to leave things as they are; our family strongly believes in justice. It was wrong for someone to murder our sister; it is wrong that we are expected to go on with our lives as if nothing happened. Something did happen, we were mercilessly robbed of our beloved. It is unthinkable that we have such an incompetent police system that is either not bothered about the plight of the innocent in this country or that seeks to benefit from their misfortune. As a family, we are convinced that we have a right to the truth, a right to feel protected and a right to feel safe in our own country.  We have been good citizens of this nation and we do our part to make it better, despite the little we have, it is our right to demand #Justice4ChichyAmina.

Chichy Amina, a banker at Stanbic Bank, Nakuru, was murdered in her home on November 23rd, 2017. Read more.

Starting the Year Right

Life Update – Christmas Break – First Day of School

Hello Friends! 

 We are now in the second full week of January and we’re getting a better sense of life rhythms. There are a few things I really wish I had taken photos of, but alas I did not. In this update I’ll share photos from our trip to Dangriga, Annabelle’s school experience, updates about our work permits/visas, and how our work is shaping up. 

 1) Chewie Update: Chewie is lost forever. Annabelle is sad, but handling it well. Fortunately her chewie wasn’t a stuffed animal out of production, but a blanket made by Missy’s amazing mom, Naomi. This was actually Chewie#Twoie. I’m sure Chewie#Three is nearly born and will be on it’s way to a loving, chewing home here in Belize soon. 

2) No work permits yet. I applied for mine on November 8th! Once I get my work permit, we can apply for Annabelle’s Dependency Visa. The good news is we were granted Visa extensions, and were able to do that  at the border in Benque Viejo. It’s much easier and faster there than the capital, Belmopan. MAJOR UPDATE!!! THIS JUST IN!!! As I was writing this, Missy received her approval to practice from the Ministry of Health. We still need work permits, but this is a huge hurdle and a major praise. 

3) If you would like to support our work here in Belize, we would be most grateful. You can make a tax deductible donation through SAMS in order to do this. Here is a link to our giving page. 

 

Annabelle

 Annabelle started school this week. So far it’s going very well. There are the usual issues that accompany assimilating into a new group of kids, but she doing a great job of navigating them. At her school, students have an hour for lunch and for the younger kids, parents come to have lunch with them, or take them home. We have really enjoyed this rhythm! While we’re there we spend time with kids from the church as well. 

There is an amazing city park a couple of blocks from our house. We’ve gone quite a bit, but only just noticed the little library! It is like a taste of home, as these are all over Charlottesville. It even had a book from the Magic Treehouse Series. It really felt like a gift from God. 

 

Community Life/Work

 

David and Mary Beth came to our place for a New Years day dinner at our place. It has been so much fun getting to know them and working on our friendship. We’re so grateful for them! 

I started playing music at church last week. I have had to learn a lot of new music and I think it went pretty well. I’m excited to do more of that. David hurt his elbow this past year and playing guitar aggravates his injury, so he was ready for me to start playing. 

I was asked to start teaching beginner guitar lessons. I taught my first class this past week and it was SO MUCH FUN! All of the kids are at St. Andrews school and some are a part of the church as well. I taught them the phrase, “I tune because I care” and we learned to tune our instruments. 

We have transportation! This makes so many things easier. FYI, no supporter funds went to the purchase of the motorcycle. I sold my bike in the states to fund our transportation here. It is an inexpensive 250cc Chinese made enduro bike. 

Dangriga

 

 No matter how many times we told Annabelle we were moving to the jungle, she thought we were going to live at the beach. To help with this, we promised Annabelle a trip to the beach before school started. The travel to and from Dangriga was absolutely perfect with no delays at all! When we were changing buses, a tour guide asked us where we were going. I told him and he said, “Why?! Dangriga is horrible.” On that happy note, we kept on. Our plan was to stay at a cheap little beach front place and eat some meals at a local resort so we could use their facilities. 

 

  • Dangriga is the center of Garufina culture in Belize, a culture of freed Caribbean slaves. Missy said it felt more like Africa than Belize.
  • The food was SO GOOD.
  • A lot of wind meant no crystal clear water, and it pushed seaweed up on the shore.
  • We had breakfast with some missionaries there who are friends of friends (Thanks for the introduction, Jonathan Ruel!). After breakfast they asked us to help unload a truck. It was a truck of Operation Christmas Child boxes. Talk about a workout! 
  • There was a lot of trash around the shore, and Missy cut her foot on glass.
  • The resort was AWESOME. Annabelle swam a lot.
  • Belizian Beignet are Fry Jacks (flour dough pockets) covered in powdered sugar. Incredible!
  • Annabelle apparently loves Cooking Competition Shows. We don’t have a television and this was all she wanted to watch. She would plan out her strategy to the challenges. She would always ” top it off with Chocolate Ganache.”
  • We were so grateful for this time to settle before Annabelle jumped into school.   

A Chapter Ends, A New Begins

A Chapter Ends, A New Begins

From SAMS Associate Missionaries Wayne and Nicole Curtis

As you know, we returned to the United States in late February. I will be honest; transitioning back to life in the U.S. has been difficult, much more difficult than I was expecting. It has been a year of ups and downs and mixed emotions, but God has been faithful, seeing us through the rough patches with the love and support of our family, friends, and partners in ministry. For the most part, I think I have struggled more than Wayne. For him, it’s a new country, life, and adventure. For me, it has been a time of emotional and spiritual grappling, trying to redefine what “home” is for me. My old life and home in the U.S. has changed because I have changed, my family has changed, my country has changed. Redefining home has been sad but also joyous. I left as a single person and returned as a wife and mother. My life has never been so full of joy, and I’m beginning to feel more settled as I begin to define home for my family.
 
We do miss our life and ministry in Cape Town, but we keep up as much as possible with the work of Growing the Church. In October, GtC hosted their fourth International Anglicans Ablaze Conference, and it was the largest one to date. The youth track had more than 750 youth, and I think Wayne and my leadership of the 2014 and 2016 youth tracks helped to make the 2018 one a success too. And in so many other ways, our work still exists in the hands of local South Africans, and that is the way it is supposed to be.
 
Thank you for supporting us through prayers and finances through the years. It has been a privilege partnering with you in ministry. We are so grateful that you joined us for this chapter of our lives. We appreciate your prayers as we continue to live into this new chapter of our lives.