Wise words from a friend “Bring a lot and leave with little. The people will steal a piece of your heart but you will want them to keep it.” It’s hard to believe I left North American soil for the first time almost 3 months ago. There was much excitement and anticipation as I boarded Air France on my way to Nairobi, Kenya.
Above the Nile River 35,000 feet high I think of the verse in Isaiah 66:1 “Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool.” WhyKenya, what will I learn, how will I be changed by your people? As I fly into Nairobi the night is black with lights spread across the ground like a thousand fire flies.
Matthew 19:13 “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
I knew from the second the children came running through the gate their love would change me forever. We share our first dinner together in the children’s home: beef stew and chapatti, which is flattened wheat dough fried in oil the children’s favorite meal. After stomachs are filled Eddie, the team leader, shares a devotional from the Bible. The children have prepared verses, songs and testimonies to share. In the background you could hear the neighbors celebrating and the smell of boiling goat over a wood fire drifts through the open windows. The children are so grateful for food, shelter and clothes and they express it with many prayers of thanks to God. I feel ashamed for everything I so often take for granted in Canada. The reality of our comforts and riches are confronted here in Africa.
We drive at night by car through the city from the children’s home to Amelies’ place, my friend and founder of Life4Kids. It is a dangerous time to travel so we conceal our appearance by covering our heads with dark hoods. The streets are crammed, horns honking all around. There is complete ciaos everywhere but it’s simply known as “jam” to Kenyans. In the air there is the continual smell of burning wood fires. We pass slums and byways buried in heaps of garbage. Children along with wild pigs are running through the trash, this is what they call their home.
A few days later we travel to Nakuru for Safari and get caught in a very dangerous fog as we cross over the Rift Valley. We pass by two major accidents along the road bringing me back to our Canadian snow storms. We arrive safely and it is amazing to see Africa up close in the wild, there is such raw beauty all around.
We received an invitation to share in a local elementary school with over 400 children. As we walk in the smell of urine and garbage demand the senses. Children are running all around through the ally ways laughing and filled with joy. Each class greets us with smiles, warm hearts and piercing eyes. I wonder what it’s like for these children. How do they dream, what can they hope for? What opportunities await them?
We move into the main auditorium plastic chairs lined with beautiful faces on a dirt floor. We share the story of the gospel and how Christ was crucified to give us eternal life and forgiveness of our sins. We invite the children to pray with us. Many came to meet us afterwards for prayer as they were welcomed to salvation.
That evening we traveled to the children’s home to share dinner. The boys are familiar with me now and have grown very comfortable. The children compete for my attention and affection, they especially love my camera. I love how they are filled with so much energy, passion and joy. These children are fighters and survivors of an extreme physical, social, spiritual and emotional landscape. All of these boys made the streets their home before being rescued by Life4Kids. Many were orphaned or neglected and abused at home driving them to try to find escape. The children show marks from the rough life of the streets. The scars on their souls can’t be ignored when you look into their eyes.
Due to your generous support I was able to sponsor all the children and staff to go on a day trip to the Elephant Orphanage. The baby elephants have been abandoned due to illegal poaching. The children were so excited to have this opportunity and we had a lot of fun.
Intense living here includes many challenges: power outages, days without water, not to mention the sound of malaria filled mosquitoes buzzing around your head as you try to sleep at night, and the dangerous “Jams”. Through all of the challenges and obstacles God remained faithful to us and we felt His presence every step of the way. I saw His heart for those I met and felt the burn of His love for the lost and broken.
The last day has arrived and we are heading out to feed the boys who still call the streets home. We purchase bread, nuts and small bags of milk from the local market. We travel through Jam to get to the place where they gather and beg. The boys see Amelie and start running up; she is familiar to them here. The children are covered in dust and dirt their clothes are torn. When you look down you see they wear mix matched torn shoes. The boys are so young and already addicts they are often high from sniffing glue, the bottle is held close to their chest. Eyes here are cloudy and distant. I see a major contrast to the boys in Life4Kids. It’s hard to imagine that they once were living the same way. I notice boys here don’t share smiles or laugher; there is no joy just deep sadness, hunger, aggression and pain. They spend their time begging for money to buy food and glue. The children sleep along the streets and protect one another from the older street boys. There are those who often steal from them and abuse them. We gather the children and hand out the food to each one. Amelie asks me to pray over them and bless the food. I am overwhelmed and think my prayer will seem so empty. I feel so helpless and the intensity of their reality penetrates my soul. I fight back the tears as I pray for their protection and provision. Seeing these boys in that state made my heart race and stomach turn. I am left quiet and caught in deep reflective thoughts.
These are God’s children. He wanted me to see what He sees and feel what he feels so I could love what he loves and share it with you. Thank you for sending me on this adventure, thank you for the opportunity to touch these lives and share Christ’s love. Gratitude fills my life in new ways. Many lives are changed forever by what Life4Kids provides. I pray God blesses you all for your giving and prayers. I know the children of Life4Kids thank you.
Love in Christ
Words from Clinton,11 years old.
“Thanks for visiting us in Kenya. Thanks because of everything and thanks for hugs and kisses. I wish you a good journey to Canada. Thanks for staying with us and spending a lot of time with us and I hope you won’t forget me when you go to Canada. Thank you.”I love you Amy.”