Our trip to Kenya was truly amazing. One of the words we heard repeated by Julie Mendonsa, the wife of the orphanage's director, was that they wanted their teams to go home "wrecked" - meaning, personally affected by the poverty and need that exists in their area, in hopes that individuals will share what they've seen with others back home and personally become involved. This is exactly how I've felt: wrecked. Sitting on the dirty floor of the preschool in Lunga Lunga slums, with a child on each side and one in my lap, hearing them cough (probably TB), and hearing them laugh, and knowing that although this is no school like what our kids experience, it's a HUGE step up for these children, who might actually eat a decent meal that day because they were at school. And their moms...she may have stayed out of prostitution that week because she was able to to do honorable work during the day since there was a school to keep her little ones. It was so neat. The Kenyan pastor that established the school lives in the slums voluntarily and is truly pouring his life out for these people who have never know life outside of this smelly, filthy slum. He prays that God will use him to reach this younger generation of people to give them a vision for joy and life and freedom outside of the slums, so they can break out of the cycle that their families have been stuck in for generations.
Seeing the IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) was fascinating. This group of hundreds of people walked around 400km from their hometown after the last presidential election in Kenya. The former president was of their ethnic tribe, but when the new president, of another tribe, came to power, their neighbors (of their president's tribe), turned on them and began doing malicious things, even murdering them. It was terrifying for them. (For example, Dorene, one of the orphanage workers, saw her husband die because everyone refused to sell him his diabetes medicine.) They left their property and homes to flee. And they ended up near the orphanage, right across the AIDS highway within walking distance. They lived in tents for a while, but an organization helped build houses for them. Most of them grow vegetables like corn, beans, and tomatoes on their little plots of land beside their houses. They are also raising chickens in a community chicken coop that Joseph built, a godly man that lives and leads among them. He aims to help them improve their community, find resourceful ways to earn money and get on their feet again. And some dear Kenyans named Issac and Esther Munji are working hard to establish a church nearby, called Rift Valley Fellowship, to reach out to this community of people. Almost all of them have endured tragic loss, and the Munji's want to listen to their stories, grieve with them, and help them find hope in the gospel. There are a few, very joyful, Christians in the camp that testify that God had them live so that they could share His love with others. Dorene, mentioned above, is one of them, giving every bit of food she has away to anyone from the camp that comes to ask for it. Oh, the joy and generosity of these people, who have NOTHING, but everything, because of Jesus.
And the orphanage...what a precious place. Anna and I feel like a piece of our heart is still missing. We want to go back! Every single one of the children came from a tragic situation, so they have a lot to deal with. But they seem to understand and appreciate being at the orphanage. They get great meals, daily baths, and the staff...wow. I was so encouraged to hear from the staff how much they enjoy their job, and how they see it as a special ministry that God has given them. So they are there for Him. Everyone who works at the orphanage, from the maintenance workers to the man out working the garden (yes, they grow their own vegetables!) to the house moms, engages the children in play and affection every day. And they truly love the kids.
There were other places we went, too, like Comfort the Children. One of CTC's goals is to help mothers of children with disabilities have work (there are NO programs for abnormal kids there, so they would usually be at home tucked away in a dark corner). But at CTC, there are women who can work with the children on development while their mothers sew. One huge project they were working on was sewing grocery bags. Whole Foods Market in the US actually ordered thousands of them. It was so neat.
Anna absolutely loved the trip. She adjusted beautifully. When I couldn't find her at the orphanage, I would look for her shoes beside the playroom or baby room, because she was often in one of those rooms hanging out with the babies or playing with the kids. She seems to have been tremendously impacted by the trip. My desire was that she would not be proud about having gone to Africa, but be significantly and spiritually affected by what she experienced and the people she met. This is such an answered prayer!
Our hearts went out to the children, who have to see teams and workers come and go all the time. We are praying for them. And the workers at Naomi's Village. And also the others we've met. Most of all, we want to be faithful to live completely for Him. God was working there in Kenya! He was all over the orphanage, rescuing, redeeming, showing that He is able to take the ugliest of scenes and orchestrate something beautiful. He is working in Lunga Lunga slums, and at CTC, and in the IDP Camp, showing His love, mercy, and hope to people that are suffering. And I know that He was working in our hearts, too.
I don't know what, if anything, we are called to do about it at this point, except pray that God would help us be faithful. But I do know that He is not just a God of white people. He is the God of all nations and peoples, the One drawing people of all ethnicities to Himself, the God that is redeeming a people for His Name. That's the great God we experienced in Kenya! We want to be a part of His work!
A Picture and A Prayer - Whenever I attempt to decorate a room, create a centerpiece, or fill the planters on my front porch, I try to find a picture that I can replicate. I’m no...