The joy of the Lord radiated from her. She welcomed us into her home with anticipation and so much excitement. Her smile was contagious as we worked to squeeze five extra people in the door. Her home was approximately a 10 x 10 space located in the slums of Pangani, packed with random items piled all around leaving only a small space to stand. Her name is Naomi and she is the mother of three children, with the youngest being in college. She loves the Lord and her prayer request was for the community around her that does not embrace Christ. We were able to pray over her for strength and perseverance, for the light of Christ to shine brightly through the darkness in her surrounding community, and for the health of her children. She shared that Matthew 25 was what the Lord placed on her heart that morning. She shared how her desire was to be faithful to give back what God had given her and even though it was a small amount, she knew God could fill in the rest–that He could bring more.
Naomi’s faith, pride, and joy made an impression on my heart. I witnessed what it truly looks like to experience the joy of the Lord, and the abundance this brings to one’s life even when we have little to the eyes of the world. I experienced true hospitality that came straight from her heart, out of the love of Christ, and this is something I pray I can emulate in my own life.
While this experience was eye-opening because of the living conditions we were seeing, meeting in Naomi’s home and hearing her share her love for the Lord opened my heart to what was to come over the next two weeks and I was ready for whatever might be ahead as we served with Missions of Hope International.
Thanks to my friend, Randall, for capturing this picture. The kids were looking at pictures I took of them on my camera.
Some of us were able to spend time at the Skills Center at Kariobangi. The center had a sewing class, knitting, plumbing & welding, bead-working, computers, a beauty school, and a production center that produces backpacks and uniforms for all of the 18,000+ students attending the various MOHI schools.
I happily sat in on a bead-working class around a table with the teacher, her 3 students and a few of my team members. They were able to share their skills with us and taught us with great patience. They gave of their own time to create and prepare for exams in order to help us learn to create beautiful bracelets.
I loved listening to the teacher, Francisca, tell of her days as a social worker and how she saw a need to help women provide a way for their children to be educated. She saw her bead-working skills as a gift from God to which she said, “When God gives you a gift, it is meant to be shared and given away, not kept to yourself.” Francisca was able to pass on her bead-working skills to the women in these communities, whose husbands were failing to provide and care for their families. These women learned new skills and were able to start making income that allowed them to put their children in school, as well as pass their new skills onto other women in their community. I appreciated how Francisca used and still uses the gifts God has given her and how she works diligently to empower other women. When we arrived to our second day of bead-working class, Francisca placed the most beautiful bracelets on each of our wrists. The night before, she spent time making a bracelet specifically for each one of us. A few minutes later, each of her students handed each us a bracelet they had made for us as well. I was working with Patricia who was a mother of 3 and very quiet. It was fun to watch her open up to me and the rest of the team over the 48 hours we had together. She made me a beautiful white and blue bracelet. I was overcome with emotion for the generosity of these women. They made us feel so incredibly loved. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from these women and sitting quietly around a table, chatting, singing hymns, and creating. When the time came to say good-bye, I was overcome with emotion.
Attached to the skills center was the Kariobangi primary school through grade 4. Every class welcomed us with singing and smiling faces.
Over the weekend we were able to visit the rural part of Kenya and tour Ndiovani, the boys boarding school, and spend time talking to the students as well as playing volleyball and soccer (football). Likewise, we were able to tour Joska, the girls boarding school, and set up a craft my friend Joni put together for them to enjoy. Watching the joy on their faces while they worked on their craft was priceless.
(They wash and dry their mattresses every Saturday.)
At church on Sunday, we experienced very energetic praise and worship and my face hurt by the end of the service from smiling the entire time. Different student groups performed for us and I was able to hold the sweetest baby girl named Joy. At the end of the service, Joy’s beautiful mother, Esther, asked me about the blue and white bracelet on my wrist. I was able to tell her about the bead-working class and about Patricia who made it for me. Esther showed me the bracelet on her wrist which was made with the colors of Kenya. She put her fingers around my wrist, as if she was measuring, and then proceeded to remove her bracelet and place it on my wrist. She told me I was to wear it and remember them every time I looked at it. Again, I was overcome with emotion from the generosity and love shown to me.
Over the next three days we worked at the Korogocho Nyayo school to put on a VBS for students grade preschool-7th grade. Myself and two other team members were in charge of the music portion of VBS. Our theme verse for the week was from Philippians 4:13,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We taught them a song which recited this verse and sang it each day of VBS. To hear the students sing it out warmed my heart.
(Two Christmases ago, our church held a shoe drive to purchase shoes for the students at the Nyayo school. Our pastor and his wife were then able to visit the school and distribute the shoes to these students.)
Throughout the three days, the students heard stories having to do with courage. The three stories included Esther, Jesus walking on water, and David and Goliath. They did crafts, sang songs, and participated in outdoor field activities that went along with these stories as well. The three days flew by and I can still see the smiling faces and hear their beautiful voices singing praises to God. We all wished we had more time at Korogocho Nyayo.
I was able to sponsor a child while we were there, which allowed me to meet him and give him a gift. I cannot wait to return and see how he has grown. There are just under 100 students at the Nyayo school alone who need sponsorship, which helps to cover their education, uniform, and food. Please check out the MOHI website to see how you might be able to help. Our church, South Side Christian Church, also partners with Korogocho Nyayo, so if your church is looking for an international mission partner, please consider checking out what MOHI is all about and how you can partner with a school in Kenya.
We also went into the community for home visits to share the gospel story, as well as educate on HIV. The particular homes I visited belonged to parents of students at Nyayo, who all had a relationship with the Lord. They welcomed us into their homes with grace and shared prayer requests with us. One repeated prayer request was for a bible. It struck me how in America we can own several different bibles, in our favorite color or design, translation, ones for coloring and journaling, you name it. We have them readily available and at our fingertips on our phones, yet how often do we hunger for God’s word? I sat before brothers and sisters who loved the Lord and did not have access to a Bible and it wrecked me. They hungered to have God’s word at their fingertips to read over for encouragement in their lives.
Later when we visited the MOHI gift shop, we discovered we could order Swahili bibles. Our team took up our own collection of money and were able to purchase 25 bibles. That may not seem like a lot, but it was a start. To see our team come together to make it happen made made me so proud. What a privilege it is to serve alongside such generous people.
As we were loading to leave Korogocho Nyayo on the last day, a big group of students were waiting for us as we boarded the bus. We exchanged high fives and hugs. As I got to the bus, students started singing the theme song from the week. I loaded the bus with tears in my eyes. My heart was full hearing the words I knew would be ringing in their hearts and minds long after we left them. What a privilege to be able to share passions, talents, and the love of Christ with others and what a gift it is to be the recipient of appreciation and gratitude.
Our team headed to the Masai Mara for a few days to decompress and that is just what we did. I loved taking in the big expanse of God’s creation and thinking back on two weeks full of amazing people, new friendships, and absolutely wonderful experiences. God is shining His light brightly in our brothers and sisters in Kenya. It was a privilege to be able to serve alongside them and hopefully provide some encouragement for all they are doing in the lives and communities they are impacting.