Talk to anyone who has recently come back from a missions trip, whether it be for 3 days or 3 months and you’ll most likely start to hear stories about the children. After being out in the field ourselves it’s easy to see why. Language barriers diminish, cultural differences seem unimportant and the prospect of a bright future shines through.
Archive for the ‘Kenya’ Category
We were driving down the road on the outskirts of Kisumu, Kenya, a modern city in the banks of Lake Victoria, when something caught my eye.
We drove past a woman washing her clothes in the stream, next to a colossal billboard advertising a washer / dryer combo. It read: ‘Who said washing clothes is hard work’?
While the woman and the advertisement were directly next to each other, the two could not have been further apart. It was such a dichotomy to see an ad that would not stand out in North America next to a scene that does not stand out in Africa. But placed together, the two images were worlds apart.
She has no more chance of ever owning a modern-day appliance than I have of winning the Ms. World pageant. Maybe that didn’t bother her. Maybe it bothered me because even after all this travel I still consider things like a washing machine more of a right than a luxury. And that’s after washing a lot of underwear and socks in bathroom sinks. What I consider my rights versus luxuries are so separated from what that woman would consider a right or a luxury.
Now that we’re back and in our normal lives here in Canada, there are things that I used to consider my rights that really stand out to me now as overwhelming luxuries. It’s tough to separate what I experienced in our travels with what I see back in Canada. I feel different: I look at the world differently, I look at my finances differently, I look at my heart differently. Yet I live in the same world I did before. The struggle now is what to do now with the changes that took place in me.
It’s a good reason that everyone should be involved in missions. You change, whether that’s what you’re after or not.
I’m having a difficult time writing what I experience. I try to put my fingers to the keyboard and relate what I have seen, heard, shared. But all that stares back at me from the screen is a blank page with a blinking line, waiting for input.
Considering that stringing words into captivating sentences that turn into stories is the reason that I am even in this place, this concerns me.
What I find myself stumped in writing about is a story of two teachers working in the middle of nowhere in a place called Seje. It’s a small community in Kenya, little more than an array of huts about five kilometres from a village that at least has a few corner stores.
The only way to find the school in which they work is to follow a long thin ribbon of red dirt that someone had the sense of humour to call a road. It bumps and winds and has potholes so big I was concerned we would be abandoning the car and walking with our field partner Edgar to find it.
We arrived safely, to a dusty patch of land with two buildings. Inside the mud walls of the first room, children sing a welcome to their rare visitors from outside the community. Bright sunlight streamed into the windows, providing the only light. Unlike most Kenyan schools, only some of the kids here wear uniforms, and they are tattered and threadbare.
The circumstances these students find themselves in are awful. It is a hot and dusty place. Most of the children are orphans, living wherever they can find a sympathetic hand or with old grandparents in need of assistance themselves.
Do you know that girl? The one over there washing her clothes in a pale yellow bucket? What about that boy, the one playing with sticks in the dust beside the road? Do you know the man in the crisp white shirt, holding a briefcase and sitting on the back of a bicycle taxi? Now there is a young boy in front of us, stealing sugarcane off the back of a loaded truck, and another begging for money on the streets. Do you know them?
Neither do I.
I know nothing about these people, save the brief impressions as we drive through the dusty streets of Kenya.
We spent time with Kenyans during our time in this country. As I have listened to the stories of the few we met, I have heard tales of sorrow and strength. And I want to write their stories down and share them with as many people as I can.
But there are countless more who I will never know, never hear about and consequently never share their stories in my world. No one I know will ever know their plight and in turn have the opportunity to help them.
But what I do know is that God knows them. He knows their language, the size of their birthmark, what they last ate. He knows their hopes, their obstacles, their future and their past.
That is of comfort to me. The more we have travelled, the bigger my world has become. Too big. It can be overwhelming when I think about all the great need in this world. Everywhere we go, people are starving, people are living in the pits of poverty with no ladder out.
What I’ve loved about our task is that we get to hear the stories of how ladders are being built to help people out. When I see the masses in the markets, outside our car as we race by, peering out of houses and loaded in taxi vans, it can seem like nothing can be accomplished, no strategies can help. But to meet individuals like Pastor Michael, a small church pastor learning farming techniques to help feed his family and make as bit of an income, I know change is possible. It is in the individual lives where we see God’s hand at work. And individual lives affect families that affect communities which in turn can affect nations.
So do you know that girl? Maybe not. But by helping those we do know, someone who knows that girl may one day be able to help her too.Do you
Wilfreda’s weathered face reveals an old woman who has suffered hardship. To look at her arms, you can trace the bones within. Her clothes are tattered and threadbare.
Wilfreda lives in a small mud hut with a thatched roof. She and her aged husband have no means of making money. We visited Wilfreda at her home because she had been blessed with a male and a female goat through a project facilitated by Hungry for Life and our good friend Edgar.
We saw the goats first, as our visit was unannounced and Wilfreda was not home. As we talked to our guide Pastor Michael about the project, Wilfreda came running up the dirt path to greet us.
She happily shook our hands and told us through Pastor Michael’s translation what a joy it was to meet us and how excited she was about the upcoming birth of her goat. She talked of the blessing these goats will be when she can start to sell the offspring at the market to make a bit of money.
We had a little chat and headed on our way as we had much to see and a long ways to walk on this particular day. And I thought that was the end of my story about Wilfreda. But then we went to Pastor Michael’s church on Sunday.
The mud walled and tin roofed church was full of mostly widows and orphans. Some had probably not had anything to eat for breakfast; three meals a day is unheard of in Boro.
Pastor Michael’s flock is a very poor one. While they cannot bring much to offer, what they do bring is joy. Wilfreda and the others arrived at the church with huge smiles, dressed in their Sunday best.
They came to worship, and it was a sweet sound. Out of the congregation, one lone woman would begin to sing praise to God. The rest would repeat after her, moving and clapping their worship to Christ. As one song ended, another woman would begin a new song, and so it went for song after song.
It was beautiful. There was such a presence of God in this place, and the humble surroundings made it all the more evident that God seeks after our hearts alone. I watched as Wilfreda sang out to her Saviour, giving Him her praise. I am sure God smiled down on his followers in the Boro church that day.
The Hillside team’s pastor, Durwin, gave the message, and then it came time for the offering. A large basket was placed on a table at the front, and quickly after people began to drop in their offerings. As a team, we had decided to each give about 100 shillings each, a lot for these people but under $2 for us. I was standing right by the basket, and as I watched, Wilfreda and most of the others in the church came forward. They dropped in change – 5, 10, maybe 20 shillings at the most – releasing their grip and dropping their meagre offerings into the hand woven basket with a clink.
As I watched, I began to weep. I couldn’t help it.
We gave so little. These people gave a tenth of what we did, yet they gave so much more.What we gave was nothing in comparison to what they gave. How can I describe the sacrifice these people gave, their precious offering?
It was so real to me, after seeing Wilfreda in her home and witnessing the poverty she came from. To see her and others that come from similar living situations give their offerings to Christ was humbling. No sacrifice I have made for God’s glory comes close to the 10 shillings Wilfreda gave that day.
Written on Tuesday:
It’s hard to believe how quickly the time is flying. A friend just emailed me the other day talking about what her kids want to dress up as for Halloween. It seems so far removed from where I am right now: sitting in a gazebo inside our hotel grounds, watching the birds flutter and chirp to each other in the tall green trees. Flowers blossom beside the rich red dirt road into the compound. It’s a beautiful morning in Siaya.
We’ve been in Kenya for a full week now. After leaving Noah’s Ark, we spent two nights and one fun-filled day with our friend Kimi who is living in Jinja, Uganda. We got a chance to get out and meet some of the kids she works with there. It was great to actually get out into a community and interact with the locals. Plus it was nice for me and Justin to not have the pressure of needing to make sure we ask the right questions, gather the right information and take the best photos. We were simply there to enjoy the day, and it was pleasant indeed. Kimi is an incredible servant of God, and to see what she is doing there because God called her just swelled my heart.
So, she drove us to the Kenyan border and we had no problems meeting up with our Kenyan project partner Edgar. That was a big praise item for me as I was worried we might be at the border all day trying to find each other. It was much less confusing there than I had anticipated!
It has been a full week with Edgar, traveling to Siaya, seeing some of the project sites, meeting with those impacted and getting a good sense of what is happening on the ground here. We also got to spend a couple nights at Edgar’s home in Kisumu, which was very enjoyable. We had a great time getting to know his family and even learning how to make a few authentic Kenyan dishes!
On Sunday, we picked up a team from Kisumu Airport. They come from Coquitlam’s Hillside Community Church, and we are with them until next Tuesday. Not only is it fun to meet a new team, they also brought some much-appreciated treats from home including cookies and instant Starbucks coffee which they graciously have shared with us!
This afternoon we get to spend time with the kids from the Siaya Children’s Home, playing soccer (the team) and doing some interviews (me and Justin). This morning some of the team went to see Obama’s grandmother’s home, which is just a little ways outside of Siaya.
We’ve been feeling healthy for the most part, getting rest and are feeling blessed by our time in Kenya. As our new friend Pastor Richard says, “All is well.” Indeed, all has been well here in Kenya. I hope to start sharing soon on the blog some of the stories we’ve been hearing and of course some of the visual imagery to show you just how beautiful this land and its people are.