After over a month, of coming back stateside, I finally have been able to process the wonders that God has done in Kenya!
The itinerary was set. Bags were packed. We were ready to go.
This was my wonderful team:
We hashtagged ourselves as #kenyakrew. I really love how the Lord knit us all together. It was a small enough group to know each other’s stories, especially as we waited around in multiple airports.
We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya in the middle of the night, which was a perfect way to get over jet lag. We arrived on a Sunday and were able to worship with our brothers and sisters in Kenya. We went to Parklands Baptist Church. It was a super relaxing Sunday! We were able to get groceries for the rest of our time in Nairobi.
Monday, we went to Heshima Children’s Center and were greeted by such a beautiful ministry. Heshima Children’s Center is a school for special needs children. “Heshima” in Swahili means “Dignity”. In Kenya, if you have special needs or have a child with special needs, it is not uncommon to be rejected by your family and community. No one will hire you. It is a very isolated life. 15 years ago, Eric and Tracy Hagman started this school. Their son Simon, had suffered through multiple heart attacks as an infant. Because of this, the Hagmans wanted a safe space for families that receive rejection due to disabilities.
Years later, they have a full staff, including teachers and physical therapists that serve the children. They also employ the parents of the children as teacher assistants. Watching these mothers love other’s children as their own made them a family. It was really beautiful.
The other side of Heshima is Dignity Designs. Dignity Designs crafts beautifully handmade jewelry. Mothers of the children are also hired to make these beautiful handmade fair trade products while their children go to school.
In Heshima, we were able to split up into two teams. One team spent time with the children, singing songs, making crafts, and having story time. The team I was on spent time praying for the mothers and the staff. The resiliency that I see in these women is nothing short of the Lord’s grace and mercy.
One of the mothers had really connected with my friend Kayla and confided in her. She expressed hopelessness and ending her life. The next day, we made sure to speak with her. Lucia, also known as Mama Nimsy (In Kenya, one way to be acknowledged is to call you “Mama” and then the name of your child. Lucia’s child’s name is Nimsy, therefore she is known as Mama Nimsy.) We heard her story that was wrapped around rejection. Rejection from her mother, as a baby and as an adult. And rejection due to her child having special needs.
I started to tell her how Jesus knows the stings of rejection. And as soon as I started talking about Jesus, she interrupted me and said she did not want to talk about him. According to her, it was because of Jesus that all of these things happened to her. And we started telling her the Gospel. That God never meant for this world to suffer the way it did. How it was because of sin that this world is full of brokenness. And we walked her through the story from Creation to the Cross.
We asked her to read scripture that showed how God loved her. I showed her Isaiah 43. And her whole demeanor changed. It was as if the Lord took the goggles off of her eyes and she saw how much he loves her. Before we knew it, she asked to pray with us so she can surrender her heart to Jesus.
We were flabbergasted!!!!!!! We started the hour with her not wanting to even mention Jesus, and now she was willing to completely change her whole life! We received an update from Tracey via email, a week ago, and Lucia is still very much walking with the Lord and has completely changed her perspective in her life, forgiving those who have hurt her and sees the Lord in all things. Hallelujah!
We also got some really precious time with the Hagmans. It was really great to meet people who were following the Lord’s commands and living out the Gospel every day. We so enjoyed our time there!
After our time at Heshima (all two days! It felt like a sweet and beautiful eternity), we were on our way to Nakuru, Kenya to go to His Cherished Ones, which we were spending the majority of our time. We spent the first few days getting acquainted with the “aunties”, the caregivers for the babies. The team started getting trained to take care of the babies while the staff went on retreat over the weekend. What is super unique about this orphanage is that they really try to reunify the babies with family members. Trena, the founder of His Cherished Ones, realized many of these babies were abandoned, not orphaned. She and her team focus their time trying to reunite the babies with the families.
If the babies cannot get reunified with families, they are adopted; usually international adoptions. Unfortunately, for the past two years or so, Kenya has closed international adoptions. Therefore, the majority of the babies who are legally able to be adopted, have not been adopted because of this law. Kenyans can now adopt nationally, but Kenyan culture does not accept adoptions, openly. They see it as shameful. If they do adopt, they hide it. So the babies are currently in limbo. A huge prayer request would be for international adoptions to open up again so these babies can go to their forever homes. And that Kenyans receive courage to adopt.
After a couple of days of training, I went with the staff to go on the retreat at Brackenhurst. We went over a Bible Study from Priscilla Shirer called, “He Speaks To Me”. The whole retreat was about rest. We would watch the Bible Studies and then there was much free time for the aunties to rest, play, and enjoy their time with the Lord. During that free time is when I was able to counsel the aunties.
It was such a sweet time with each of them. Somehow, there were no language barriers. I was able to see their heart. At times it was just one on one time and teaching them on how to read the Bible and how to interpret it. Even our prayer time was powerful. Trena asked me how the aunties were doing with counseling. I told her that it was a sweet time and some even cried. Trena then told me that Kenyans don’t cry. It was amazing how the Lord was touching their hearts!! They really enjoyed their time at Brackenhurst. This retreat was not something they would be able to afford with their salaries. Heck, I know I can’t afford it!! So it was a great time to pamper them and for them to relax.
I was able to really connect with each auntie and through the power of Facebook, we have been able to communicate, even since I came home stateside.
The aunties continued to shower us with gratitude until we left. Brackenhurst is usually where our church team stays. The aunties were told that instead of our team staying there, we gave up our spots in order for them to enjoy. They were so moved by this. One of the aunties told us, “You put yourselves in our shoes and did our jobs so we can rest with Jesus. You didn’t have to do that.”
It was such a beautiful illustration because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He put himself in our shoes to have a relationship with God.
In between, we were able to kiss giraffes, feed them, watch them in their habitat. We were also able to go to an elephant orphanage. When a baby elephant is abandoned, it cannot survive in the wild by itself. Packs of elephants will not accept them, therefore they have the orphanage to raise them into adults before releasing them in nature.
This trip taught me so much. It taught me that poverty is not about the monetary value that people have. It is truly about the brokenness of humans who are in dire need of someone who will make them unbroken. The world is in need of Jesus Christ. And money will never save you from poverty, but Jesus does.
It’s really hard to put the experience into words. Hopefully through this blog post, you will see just a glimpse of what the Lord is doing and what he has done. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. That God would use me in all of my imperfections. That God would use me to speak to others who are hurt. That God would allow me to witness how he changes hearts, even within the hour!
It was very difficult transitioning back to life in America. Alas, His will, not our own. My hope is that the desire to spread the Gospel does not die in my heart, but that it fuels me in all my future endeavors.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14