Rocklin, California

Category: Kenya (Page 2 of 6)

For John

I met John several years ago while making a home visit in the rural area of Kenya. It is John who inspired the dream of opening a palliative care center/hospice house. A dream that is getting closer to becoming a reality.

For John

I still remember his face

smooth as butter, rich and dark as melted chocolate, swirled with a touch of caramel

I still remember his smile

easy, despite an occasional pain-induced grimace

teeth lined up like pearl buttons gleaming against the coffee dark skin

I still remember his tall muscular frame

from years of being a soccer coach

a frame morphing into lankiness, but still too big and too long

for the wood framed couch to hold

I still remember the concrete floor

upon which the couch and the man lay

the tininess and tidiness of it all

oversized chairs flank the couch and coffee table

an outdated calendar and a photo of the Kenya president are adhered to the concrete walls

I still remember the pale yellow card from the clinic

holding the fate of this strapping man

“(L) BRST CA”…  

(Left breast cancer)

I still remember the dread

that shot through my body when I lifted his black Adidas T-shirt

and gently removed the sticky white cotton, cross-ribbed gauze

from his left breast

I still remember the smell

(and it embarrassed him as if the offensive odor was his fault).

I still remember bathing the wound

no, I remember bathing the massof wounds and bulging tumor

ever so slightly with filtered water

applying a fresh clean bandage

I still remember his words

“sister, I am dying”

and the gentle nod of my head as he clenched my hand

closing his eyes as I offered prayers with him

I remember the righteous anger that rose in me

for the lack

lack of resources

lack of treatments

lack of something as simple and necessary as pain meds

I still remember my boldness at the pharmacy

writing a prescription for pain meds on a piece of scrap paper

signing my name with my R.N after it

awarding me a power I didn’t know I held

I still remember the fear of being

Handcuffed and put in jail

despite assurances that I was free to write such things in Kenya

I remember and cling to his words on my final visit

“safe journey home sister”

“I will pray for you”

I still remember the email a few months later

“John has died”

and the sorrow that settled in my breast like a sharp, shooting dagger

Love and Always Mercy,


To donate:

Make checks out to Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Earmark them for Kenya

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

4701 Grove St.

Rocklin, CA 95677

via Always Mercy

Making Change for Kenya

They came to me with smiling faces, eager to share something with me. The oldest girl, Olivia, was clutching a clear glass jar filled with coins and a few bills. “This is the money we earned from our lemonade stand. And I want to give it to you for the kids in Kenya,” she said as she handed me the jar.  

It had been a few years since I did a presentation at the Holy Cross Academy Olivia where was a student, but the photos of people in need and the demonstration of the water filter made a lasting impact on this young girl.

And, so I gratefully accepted their gift, humbled by their generosity and thoughtfulness. The total amount of money in the jar came to $22.50, (either they sold a whole bunch of lemonade or people were super generous!)

This is but one example of the many people who donate money to support the mercy work in Kenya: clean water, food, medicine, help for the poor and marginalized, help for the deaconesses who help those in need. This list goes on and on.

Jesus tells us, “Be merciful even as Your Father in heaven is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). Christ’s mercy comes in a myriad of ways, first and foremost from His death on the cross. But it also comes through the hearts and hands of so many of you!  Your generosity is mercy. Suitcases filled with 100 water filters is mercy. Donations to be used to help those in need, to gather deaconesses together to learn and support one another—that is mercy.

Thank you all who have supported me in these endeavors to Africa for the past 13 years.

Always Mercy,


P.S. This year, Dennis will be accompanying me for the first time, thanks to funding from the For One Another Foundation. (He has become an expert in water filter demonstrations and set-ups!). Along with deaconesses, we will visit the slums of Nairobi, and the rural areas outside of Lake Victoria, distributing water filters and following up on filters that have been distributed over the years. I am also gathering together 30 deaconesses for a little seminar and time for them to support and care for one another.  I hope to visit a hospice house, as we move closer to the dream of opening a palliative care center for those who are dying.

via Always Mercy

Mother’s Day 2019

Mother’s Day 2019

The guy who invented the Post-It-Note was a genius. I love sticky notes—these seemingly innocuous pads of pale-yellow paper with the right amount of adhesive on the top allowing them to stick to just about any surface, are remarkable. It is amazing how much writing will fit on that little 3”X 3” square. They can be used to make a list, write a love note, jot down instructions, (or in the case of my son many years ago, used to write a note and stuck to the outsideof the front door, “I went to the library…door unlocked”).

I admit it. I am hopelessly old school. I shun putting my life on my iPhone, still opting for a plain ole paper planner and calendar with lots of spaces for making lists, writing notes and of course, blank surfaces for attaching sticky notes. These sticky notes are adaptable too. If for some reason, you still need the information on a particular sticky note, it can be moved to the next day, week or even month!

I have one particular sticky note that I’ve saved. I received this note in January 2008. It is from my mother, in her familiar small, neat penmanship:

Well it’s not like I

forgot your BD—it is

just that I can’t get myself together—I can still

feel the thrill I

had when I was told I had a baby girl-…..

there seems to be a tight

bond with a girl.

Love, M & M

Now as much as I adore sticky notes, to receive a LATE birthday note from my mother on one of them was a sign that something was amiss.  For my mother to forget my birthday, and not be able to get herself together was a huge red flag.  Born two days after Christmas, it would have been easy for my birthday to get lost in the busyness of the holy days. But my mother always made sure my birthday was not forgotten. It was celebrated as its own day. No Christmas wrap on my birthday presents—no Christmas/birthday combo gifts. My celebrations always included a homemade cake, often from the Baker’s Coconut Animal Cake decorating book.

My personal favorite

As I got older and my tastes changed, she might make something like a black forest cake.  The point was that my mother never forgot my birthday. So, when December 27, 2007 rolled around and no call, no card, no nothing….I was a little perplexed. And when the card with the little sticky note attached arrive, I was taken aback and had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  (That sinking feeling still arises on occasion).

I carried that little yellow note in my wallet for months. Finally, my husband had it laminated for me. It now sits in a drawer of special things, nestled amongst photos, tiny notebooks and the pens and pencils I use for writing each day. It is a reminder of the redemptive love of my mother. As this Mother’s Day comes to a close, I pray a prayer of gratitude for my mother’s faithfulness, kindness and generosity throughout my life.

via Always Mercy

Mercy in Guatemala

We came to the pueblo of Santa Inez as the cloudy skies glowed in the waning light just before twilight. This particular neighborhood is nestled against lush green hills, slightly above the traffic, noise and bustle of the city of Antigua.

When we arrived at the home of our friends, Billy and Mirna, a small group of men, women and children were gathered on the concrete patio. These folks have come for the life-saving gift of clean water via the simple water filters we’ve brought with us. News of these water filters spread quickly after our visit this past summer when we brought 65 filters. Folks who used them told of the money saving benefits (no need to buy bottled water) and the health benefits (eliminates water-borne diseases), and others were anxious to receive this gift.

Folks usually come to presentations on the filters with anticipation, some trepidation and skepticism. We spend a lot of time explaining how the water filter works, how to clean it, and the health benefits of drinking clean water.  As each family comes to receive a filter, they must demonstrate that they can assemble the filter with the bucket and clean the filter. They are nervous, especially the men! But, after a few laughs and some gentle guidance, people relax and are quite proud when they finally finish.  They leave with smiles on their faces and many words of great gratitude to us and to “Dios”,God.

After this gathering, Billy, Mirna, Christopher (Dennis) and I went to a follow-up on a couple of filters we had distributed last summer. By this time, it was dark.  Although there is electricity in Guatemala, it is expensive, sparse and unreliable.  At the first house, the neighbor (la vecina) described the filter as “broken”.  However, some serious (más fuerza, por favor) back flushing of the filter, proved it to be not broken, but merely very dirty.  We had the husband and the wife, flush the filter, and Billy, our translator, instructed them to clean the filter each day.  Clean water is essential in this household as the wife makes tortillas to sell each day, and they have a young son.

In the next house, we found the filter working well and the recipient very happy to be drinking clean water.

We stepped out into the dark alley to the voice of the bread man, “Pan” he cried as he approached us.  He carried a large woven basket with warm, freshly baked bread of all sorts (pan tipico y pan dulce). We bought a bag full of various breads for about $1 to share with our hosts. A delicious treat after a long day

All in all, we distributed 100 water filters in one week. 76 went to teachers and staff at a Spanish language school, and the rest went to others in various pueblos. Many thanks to the For One Another Foundation for their generous funding of this trip, and to Holy Cross Lutheran Church for their support of this mercy work.  

To donate and save lives, please go to generosity will make a difference!!  $60 gives clean water to a family and community!

Our hosts, Nayeli, Billy, Mirna and Jenifer. 

via Always Mercy

Ready to Go!

By Dcs. Pamela Boehle-Silva

The rains have come to California, providing much needed water to our drought-stricken land.  I don’t know about you, but I take it for granted that I can turn on my faucet and out comes clean water. Not so in many parts of the world. Water, if it’s available, is not clean, nor safe to drink.  However, in order to live, people consume what they have and suffer the consequences of various water borne diseases.

Brian, Gabby, Pamela and Christopher (Dennis) 2018

It is with great joy that my travel partner (husband, and all-around great guy) and I are heading to Guatemala for a short trip. Thanks to the For One Another Foundation, we have 100 water filters packed and ready to go!  The impact of being able to drink clean water is tremendous.  People save money by not having to buy drinking water. For those who cannot afford to buy water, they now will have clean, safe water to drink, thereby decreasing the chances of getting illnesses from waterborne diseases.

A grateful family receiving water filters 2018

We are grateful to the For One Another Foundation for their funding of this trip.. To family and friends who support us with prayers and donations. To our Holy Cross Lutheran Church family who continues to support me in this mercy work.

If you want to support this work of providing clean water all over the world, please go to  This organization will also be helping us this summer as we travel to Kenya, bringing another 100 water filters to those in need.

Always Mercy,


via Always Mercy

Holy Darkness


There was


Has been

And will be

An everywhere


And transfixed


That point in time


One single


Open soul


The potency

Of the creative whole.

Elizabeth B. Rooney

I sit in the waning sunlight on an unusually clear and warm December afternoon. My bones gratefully soak up the last of the sun’s radiance. I’ve come to an Advent retreat in the foothills of Auburn for a day to ponder anew this holy season of the liturgical Church year. Advent is a season of waiting with hopeful expectation and preparing for the One who is to come. (Sort of antithetical to the rushing around our culture promotes this time of year with hardly a breath between Halloween and Christmas)  I’ve come in need of something—a pause. Some silent stillness. A retreat from the many demands within and without.

“Prepare the way.” “Prepare your hearts.” The familiar Advent words roll over me.

But I am unprepared. Coming here was a last -minute decision. My house is a mess. The to-do lists are scattered throughout my cluttered mind and house.

I hear the words again, “Prepare the way. Prepare your heart. Make room for the One who is to come.”

“If I had stayed home,” I tell myself, “I could be preparing and getting things done.”  But instead, I have come into this day to wait, to open, to clear space. A seemingly useless waste of time.  

And I wonder, is this preparation something I do, or something to which I say “yes”?  What is required of me? As I sit under the brilliant blue sky, in the imposed and intentional silence, I see my restlessness exposed. I see my tendency to fill my days with doing and accomplishing. And I ask myself, “How open am I to the darkness of waiting, of uncertainty and not knowing?” “How do I prepare?”

The answer is simple, “Make room. Empty out. Be filled by the Christ who is Love and Light eternal. There is nothing to do, but simply say, like the virgin Mary, ‘Yes. Let it be unto me according to thy word.’”

Like the oddity of Advent, these words of Mary are also antithetical to our culture. Her words of surrender and trust do not come easily to most of us. And yet, her simple “yes” –her gesture of faith, despite the uncertainty, the darkness of the unknown- brought us the Messiah.  In the darkness of her womb, holiness was gestating.  Jesus Christ, born of the darkness of Mary’s womb, brings light and life to a world wearied by the darkness of sin, shame, guilt and death. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. He came, He comes and will come again.

So, I invite you, in these waning days of Advent to ponder anew the mystery of the One who is to come.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Love and Always Mercy,


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He Restores My Soul

Suffering. It comes to all of us. Unbidden, unwanted and intrusive. And yet, it comes.

Why do we suffer?  Where is God in our suffering? How and where do we find comfort and peace?  These questions often swirl around us as we attempt to make sense of suffering in a broken world.

This book, He Restores My Soul. Writings on Cross and Comfort, is an attempt to look at suffering through the lens of Christ. Written by several women, each chapter reveals the pangs of struggle and sorrow in her particular life, and yet pointing to our hope in Christ. While written by women, anyone would find this book helpful, for we all deal with brokenness, be it in our own bodies, our relationships or our souls.

I was deeply honored to be asked to write a chapter for this book. My contribution is a piece entitled, I Remember You, about caring for someone with dementia.  And as most of you know, that person is my dear, sweet mama.  

It is my prayer that you may be find this book helpful as well.  To order, simply go to

via Always Mercy

The Gift Received

“We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them, but by waiting for them.” Simone Weil.

A shadow, a glimpse—some moments are fleeting, never to be thought of again. Others stay with us and imbed themselves into our very being. The summer of 2017, while sitting in a café in Antigua, Guatemala, I experienced one of these particular enduring moments. (You can read the story in the piece I wrote on this blog, The Gift Bestowed,dated October 13, 2017. To read it simply scroll back).

What was it about this encounter with a complete stranger that caused me to think about him for days, weeks and even months after I first saw him? In the eyes of the world, he was nothing to notice. Even I dismissed him. Small, quiet, bowed down with a bundle on his back, like so many other Guatemalans selling their wares. And yet, there was something about him that kept pulling me back to that particular summer afternoon, wondering just what it was that I had missed. What gift had I refused from his outstretched hand?

In reality, his wooden carvings were not really anything spectacular.  In fact, they were rather crudely carved. If I’d seen them in a shop, I’m not sure I would have given them much heed. And yet, strangely enough, thoughts of his carved angels and my missed opportunity haunted me throughout the year.

This past summer, on my very first day back in Guatemala, this man, whose name I still don’t know, presented himself to me once again. My husband and I were walking down the uneven sidewalk of 6 Avenida Norte, towards our favorite restaurant, Café de la Sopa, when I saw him. He was walking ahead us, in front of la Iglesia de Merced, with the familiar bundle on his back. I tugged on my husband’s arm with urgency and said, “It’s him. We have to hurry.”  We caught up with him as he rounded the corner near el parquet (the park). “Señor,” I said softly, while touching his arm.  He turned to face me with his kind brown face, and I realized how much I had longed to see him again and receive his offerings into my own hands.

I look at the photo snapped by my husband. I see that this man and I standing close together, my arm around his waist, his arm around my shoulder. We pull in close and both display his craftmanship.  My right hand clutches a Virgin Mary. He holds the angel I had chosen.  I am happy.

As I study the photo more carefully, I can see he is wearing at least four layers of clothing. He has a woven bag slug across his chest. What’s not in the photo is the bag that usually loads down his back. It’s laid open on the concrete ledge next to us.  From this bag, which is really just a large square of burlap and plastic, he proudly displays all the holy items he has crafted with his leathery hands: angels, The Virgin Mary, and a large crucifix—too big to carry home in a suitcase.  I look at each creation carefully, for each one is slightly different.  I choose an angel and Mary, asking if he has other crucifixes which are smaller.  He does not. Then we pose for the photo.

Does he remember me? I think not.  To how many people does he offer his gift, only to hear, “No, gracias,” or simply be ignored?  How many other people like me are too distracted to see—really see—what he has to offer? I tried to explain to him in my limited, broken Spanish about our encounter a year before. I don’t think he understood. But in the end, even that doesn’t matter, for on a warm, sunny day in June, I finally received his benediction.

O you who are everywhere present, filling yet transcending all things, ever acting, ever at rest; you who teach the hearts of the faithful without noise of words: teach us, we pray you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen                                                                                 St. Augustine

Gifts received: In our room, a Bienvenidos (Welcome) sign and flowers from our host family, alongside the angel and Virgin Mary.

Our Guatemalan family. Reunited again!

Deliciousness from Café de la Sopa. We ate it all!

Always Mercy,


via Always Mercy

Saving Lives–One Filter at a Time

We hike up the steep cobblestone path leading to even steeper steps and eventually find our way on dirt paths that wind through the various homes tucked in the foliage of the hills above Colonia Hermano Pedro, Guatemala  Far below us is the quaint city of Antigua her streets flooded with tourists, language students and vendors all vying for space and attention. Cars, motorcycles, tuk tuks (auto rickshaws), scooters, and huge buses crowd the narrow streets, spewing up a cacophony of noise. But up here, in the hills, it is quiet. It is almost picture perfect.  

After a few more twists and turns on the paths muddied by the daily rains, we come to a familiar gate made of corrugated metal.  Our friend, Billy, calls out, “Hola!”. A dog barks bringing children’s voices close. The gate is unlatched by eight year old Brian, followed close by his younger sister Gabby. Faint recognition floods their small faces, remembering us from last summer when we came to visit and gave them a water filter system. They grab our hands, “Venga!” (come), and lead us on towards the house on the thin path, flanked by clothes drying on the line. Their mother, Nancy, emerges from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron.  “Buenos días,”she says as she extends her hands to greet us. She invites us into the kitchen—a space with a dirt floor used for food prep and eating– the family sleeps in another small detached space.  The first thing we notice is the water filter, sitting on a table, clean and functioning well.

While Gabby, Brian and I play a combo of soccer and catch on the narrow ledge, Nancy tells us that since the filter was placed last year, Brian has had no stomach issues. Before receiving the filter and clean water, Brian was often sick and missed a lot of school.

That day, we gave out thirty-five water filters to a group of people from this pueblo. Organized by a colleague in Antigua, he helped interpret as we talked about the filter and its use.  We even threw a bit of dirt in the bucket to muddy the water.  (In these parts, the water “looks clean”, unless you are using river water, so to demonstrate the effectiveness of the filter, we threw dirt in the bucket of water before filtering it, so they could see for themselves how crystal clear it looks when filtered).

It is quite a feat to have thirty-five nervous people, learn how to put a filter system together and then demonstrate how to use it, clean it and care for it, especially when there is a language barrier! But with much patience and laughter, all 35 people succeeded. They held their buckets  proudly and offered profuse gratitude for the gift given.

During our stay in Guatemala, we were able to distribute 60 filters to folks in need.  One filter even went to an alcohol rehab center where our host mom volunteers. Our goal, along with the For One another Foundation is to provide clean, safe drinking and cooking water for families and their neighbors. The gift is meant to be shared!

Many thanks to the For One Another Foundation for the gift of 60 filters. And to Thrivent Financial, and donations from folks at Holy Cross Lutheran Church which covered the cost of buckets and stipends for our interpreters.

Want to help?  It’s easy. 

Donate here

Or send checks earmarked for clean water to Holy Cross Lutheran Church

4701 Grove St. Rocklin, CA 95677

Pamela, Carrie Beth and Dennis at Taste of Loomis, 2018.

Another group receiving water filters in Santa Inez

San Cristobal el Bajo

Step by step, learning how to clean the filter

Cleaning the filter using the water bottle method


via Always Mercy

Water is Life–6th Annual Taste of Loomis!!

Guatemala, 2017

We hear A LOT about water in California with the drought and all….but at the end of the day, we are still able to turn on the faucet and get clean water. Not so in many parts of the world.  This is why the For One Another foundation is hosting their sixth–yes, 6th!!–annual Taste of Loomis on Friday, June15, 2018. This event brings in thousands of dollars used to support clean water projects all over the world.

As you know, For One Another founder, Carrie Beth Bowin (Smith!!) and I have traveled to Kenya several times on the quest to provide clean water to as many people as possible.  Many of the filters I’ve taken to Kenya have been donated by this foundation. 

 Water collection at a pueblo outside of Antigua, Guatemala, 2017

 Last summer, my husband and I traveled to Guatemala to study Spanish. (That’s an entirely different story!)  We took 10 water filters with us, not knowing what we would find or how we might distribute them.  Well, when clean water is needed, it is not difficult to find homes for these precious filters. We are returning this summer and, thanks to FOA, we are taking 50 filters with us to distribute to the poor and needy. 

Brian, who loves to have his photo taken, was one of the happy recipients of a water filter.  Pamela and Christopher (Dennis) obliging!

So….delay no longer.  Get your tickets here!! And if you can’t attend???? Donate!


FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018


3690 Taylor Road, Loomis, CA 95650

Loomis welcomes the 6th annual Taste of Loomis food and wine expo June 15, 2018, presented by For One Another Foundation.

More than 40 local restaurants, breweries and wineries will offer a delicious combination of ethnic dishes, family favorites, exotic and local specialties for more than 500 guests at the Blue Anchor Stage & Park area in Loomis, Ca.

Let’s be generous!!

Always Mercy,


Marking and protecting property, Guatemala

via Always Mercy

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