Since I landed back on American soil, I have been struggling to form the words to describe my experience in Kenya, but I will do my best to share the life changing things that God revealed to me using our limited, earthly descriptions. So get ready, grab your safari hat, buckle up, and let me take you down the bumpy, pot-hole filled dirt road that took me to the beautiful country of Kenya.
So if you didn’t see the video I posted in my last entry, you can watch it below.
So I should start off by giving you some background on my amazing team. My experience would not have been the same without my team; God really knew what He was doing when He put us together. There were 14 of us: 12 college students and 2 leaders. We came from several different colleges: UNC Chapel Hill, NCSU, Meredith College, Elon University, and NCCU.
While we were all part of City Project this summer, we did not have much time to get to know each other before we got to the airport, but we all bonded so quickly! It is so amazing how the love of Christ can unify people who barely know each other. This team became my family, and I love them all dearly! God truly answered our prayers for a unified team!
Kenya get there?
So as some of you may have heard, we had a little trouble getting to Kenya. Our first flight out of RDU was delayed 2 hours. When we landed in JFK we sprinted to the other side of the airport to discover our flight had left two minutes before we arrived. We went to the customer service desk, and we were ecstatic to find out they could get us tickets with another airline in order to make our flight from London to Nairobi. When we finally got to the other airline’s terminal, the ticket desk told us we didn’t have tickets, and it was too late to get new ones. We drudged back to our original airline’s customer service desk to find out the line was exponentially longer than before. While Renette (one of our amazing leaders) went to stand in line to figure out our ticket situation, Rich (our other amazing leader), realized he lost his passport and wallet. As Renette was sorting out a new plan with the airline; some of us took shifts watching everyone’s bags while the rest of the group scoured the airport, the tram, lost and found, and security for Rich’s lost passport. Without it he couldn’t get on our next flight.
6 hours later Renette finally had made it to the front of the line to get us new tickets and a hotel room for the night. We also found out we did have tickets for the other flight, but the other airline didn’t look them up. Unfortunately, we did not find Rich’s passport or wallet.
We got to the hotel around 3am, and they had canceled our rooms. After sorting out the room situation, we found out they had booked five rooms with one king sized bed in each room. Even though there were about 3-4 people in each bed, we all were so exhausted that we didn’t care. We woke up sometime the next afternoon to get brunch at a diner down the road.
When we got to the airport that afternoon, we had some time to hangout before our flight that evening (which we DID make!). Rich, however, had to stay behind one more day in New York so he could get a new passport. It was difficult leaving him in NYC, but we all knew we would see him again soon.
While we were in Kenya we were partnering with an organization called Freedom Global . According to their website, “Freedom Global exists to display Christ’s love by developing sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty through social business, education, and discipleship. Our goal is to create a sustainable development model that meets physical needs and opens the door for Christian discipleship for adults and youth.”
Freedom Global has several businesses including different farms and Freedom Artisans. These businesses provide jobs to Kenyans, and the profits support their Girls Boarding School, Uhuru Academy. During our time in Kenya, we were able to work on one of the farms, and help out at the school.
Working at the Farm
One of the ways we served at Freedom Global was by working their Dairy Farm. Our first day on the job we cleared a field (using machetes), and we built a fence. Battling stinging nettle and safari ants, we managed to get all the posts in for the fence, and cleared most of the larger brush from the field.
The rest of the days we worked on the farm were spent making silage for the cows. We cut down the corn with machetes and carried it to a pickup truck that brought it up the hill where it was put into a machine that cut it up. Some of the girls were in the container stomping the corn as it rained down on them. It was tiring work, but worth it knowing we were able to serve the field partners and help the businesses that support Uhuru Academy.
Uhuru Academy / Other Local Schools
Uhuru Academy is a Private Christian Secondary Boarding school for Girls. 60% of the students have merit and need based scholarships that give them the opportunity to get a secondary education.
We helped with GLOW Club meetings, Chapel, and a Weekend Worship Challenge at Uhuru Academy. At GLOW Club (Girls Leading Our World) the girls learn life skills. At the meetings we went to they were learning HIV/AIDs Prevention and the differences/similarities between Love, Lust, and Attraction. During Chapel we would worship with the girls, and some of our team would lead a devotion to close us out. The worship was my favorite part of chapel! The girls would give their all: dancing, singing, praising the Lord! It was so much fun worship our Great God! Our team was given an opportunity to lead a Weekend Worship Challenge at Uhuru Academy; the topic was Purity and Holiness. Students in the group gave talks on What is Purity?, What is Holiness?, And Why Do We Strive for Purity?. Other members of my team were part of a panel to answer questions about purity. After the panel, I helped some of our members lead worship, and then Rich closed us out with a talk about Where Jesus Steps in When We Fail at Purity. It was a really awesome afternoon! I loved seeing my team’s willingness to lead hard discussions, and I loved seeing how God used their gifts and their testimonies to speak to the girls.
We also went to other secondary schools (some were co-ed), to help with Bible Studies and GLOW Club meetings. We even got to go to a secondary school for mentally and physically handicapped girls (Cheshire ). We helped with a GLOW Club game day, and we had a blast! We had different stations (Parachute, Bowling, Coloring, and Freeze Dance), and we sang together!
No matter how many books you read on poverty, you never truly understand what it is until you are standing in the midst of it, hearing the cries of children, smelling the mixture of burning trash and animal excrement, and walking amongst those who are struggling to survive.
Care for AIDS: Care for AIDs is an organization that was created to help people with HIV/AIDS. According to their website, “CARE for AIDS exists to mobilize the church in caring, both physically and spiritually, for families affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya. We approach the orphan crisis differently- by intervening in the lives of HIV+ parents, we enable them to live long enough to raise and educate their children, and even see their grandchildren.” We went with some of the Care for AIDs employees on home visits. This part of the Care for AIDs program helps their clients reconnect with people, since many clients are shunned by their communities. We were in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, which is located right outside Nairobi. There are about 2.5 million people living in shacks that are on average 12ft x 12ft.
We got to meet several families through Care for AIDs. One woman in particular was a mother of 7. Her oldest son was in his 30’s, and 3 of her daughters still lived with her in her tin house. As we sat in her living room, we heard the sounds of an infant behind the curtain in her bedroom area. She stood up and disappeared behind the red curtain, and emerged with a very young, adorable baby with chubby cheeks and dark eyes. As she talked, our translator told us that she had found the baby in a dumpster, and the chief told her to raise it. This older woman, who was struggling to support herself was also trying to raise an infant. I was in awe of her willingness to show Christ’s love and kindness by providing for this child.
It was so humbling spending time with Care for AIDs’s clients. I loved learning about them, and hearing how some of them had found Christ through this organization.
Jesus to the Streets: This was the hardest day for me. Jesus to the Streets is an organization designed to reach street boys. As we drove into the city’s slum, I saw so much poverty. When we entered the church’s compound, I saw boys, covered in dirt, with eyes that reflected pain. We were told more about the organization as we sat in plastic chairs in the tin church. This organization provides time for the boys to be off the streets, and gives them a chance to learn about Jesus through Bible study, Arts and Crafts, and guest speakers. After they explained more about Jesus to the Streets, they told us some about the boys. Many of these boys are on the streets collecting recyclables to make money for their families. They often times skip school, or cannot afford their school fees. Many of the boys are abused physically and/or sexually, both at home and by other street boys. There are also some that struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism.
Half of our group went to get a tour of the grounds, and the rest of us had to stay back in the church. While were there, we heard screams. I saw a flash of a small child running by the window; he was followed by several larger boys. The child was desperately screaming as the older boys were chasing him to beat him up. I felt so helpless in this situation. I had never experienced the brokenness of our world until I heard that child’s screams.
The guys in our group prepared a presentation on How to be a Man of God. They did an awesome job sharing their testimonies, and also sharing about the hope they can find in Jesus.
After their presentations, we went to another church down the road, where the boys learned a bible story and did a craft. They were each given half a loaf of bread and a bag of milk.
When church teams come to work with Freedom Global, they are given time to meet with a family of one the the Uhuru Academy students. Since our team was so big, we were split into two groups. My group was assigned to go to Virginia’s house. Virginia’s family was part of the Kikuyu tribe, and during her school breaks she stayed with her Aunt Mirium and Uncle John in the Rift Valley. She said her parents lived very far away. I LOVED Mirium and John! They were so kind and loving. While it was difficult communicating at times due to a language barrier, we all still had a wonderful time visiting, laughing, and drinking chai (and Kenyan Chai is the best thing ever!).
We had two visits with Virginia’s family. On the first visit day we talked for a while and drank chai before we went to help Mirium and Virginia pick beans on the shamba (farm). It was about a mile and a half walk to get to the farm (3 miles round trip).When we came back from picking beans, Mirium fed us rice, potatoes, and carrots for lunch. We also got to meet Mirium and John’s grandson, John. He was somewhat reserved around us since we were a large group of Wzungu (white people), but he warmed up to us some by the end of our second visit (mostly because he wanted to take selfies with us and play with our phones).
On our second visit, we came after church on a Sunday afternoon. We all relaxed and talked with the family. Mirium and John’s daughter, Ann (little John’s mom), was home, and we also met her two other children, Mirium and Joshua. They were all so sweet, and little Mirium even sang for us some songs she learned at school!
When we left our family, Mirium and John told us they were our Kenyan mother and father, and that we would always be welcome in their home if we returned to Kenya. That week, we had bought presents for the family. We gave them a new pot, rice, sugar, tea, and some vegetables. We also got the kids a soccer ball and a toy car. It was a small token of our appreciation for the hospitality they showed us. They welcomed us into their family with open arms. It was amazing to see how they reflected the love of Christ so willingly. When we gave them the gifts, they were so grateful. I can’t describe the look on Mirium’s face when we handed them to her. The look in her eyes said much more than any words (whether in Swahili, Kikuyu, or English).
It was a reminder of how we are not grateful enough for what blessings we have, especially the gift of Salvation God has given us. It is so easy to be entitled, to believe that we deserved Salvation, and act as though God should have saved us from our punishment. If Mirium and her family could be that grateful for simple gifts of groceries and a cooking pot, we need to be more amazed by our God who saved us from the death we deserved.
What we did on our Days Off
We had a couple days off during our time in Kenya. This was time for us to see the beauty of their country, and spend time with our team.
Safari: We traveled deep into the Great Rift Valley to Masai territory to have the Safari experience of a lifetime. We saw Lions, Gazelle, Cheetahs, Elephants, Giraffes, and much more! It was definitely a “WOW” moment! I got to experience such a beautiful and amazing part of God’s creation! Scroll through the photos below to catch a small glimpse of what I saw.
Mount Longonot: The other journey we made was up the side of a volcano. I can honestly say this was the most difficult hike I have done. At some points I felt like I was going to fall off the side of a cliff, but the view at the top we most definitely worth it. The pictures I got cannot begin to capture the immense beauty I saw, but I still want to share them with you! This was our last adventure in Kenya, and it was a wonderful way to finish our mission trip! While the hike was hard, it was worth seeing what God created for us to enjoy!
How We Met Our Three Goals
In my post, Durham! Part 4, I briefly touched on our three goals for overseas missions.
1. Learn to be with Jesus: I learned to be with Jesus in Kenya in many ways, and here are a few.
- Appreciating Quiet Time in the Mornings. I often found myself waking up extremely early due to jet lag. I took advantage of this time by having my quiet times in the morning before the rest of the team woke up. I really loved this sweet time in the mornings, where I was able to give my day to the Lord.
- Seeing God in His creation and His people. Kenyans did such a wonderful job of showing God’s love. I also saw God through the beauty of His creation. Kenya was such a beautiful place!
- Learning that a successful day is one spent with Jesus. Success did not rest on what we felt like we accomplished. Our day was considered a success when we gave it to God.
2. Learn to Serve Each Other: My team learned to serve each other in different ways.
- Taking turns watching bags in the airport.
- Encouraging one another.
- Making breakfast for each other.
- Getting to know one another by asking good questions and listening.
- Praying for one another.
3. Learning to Serve the Nations: This was done in two parts, serving the field partners and serving their cities.
- We served out field partners by being flexible. (Kenya has a very different sense of time).
- We served the cities by helping connect them to Freedom Global, and helping disciple students in the communities.
How You Can Be Involved
If you go to www.freedomglobal.org you can read more about the organization we partnered with in Kenya. There are several ways you can be involved with this organization:
- Go to Kenya.
- Host a Freedom Artisans event.
- Host a Mission:Connect Event
- Get your business to be a Partner
- Get your church to be a Partner
- Join the Freedom Global Community
- Donate to Freedom Global
- Apply for Career and Internship Opportunities
Click here to read more.
- Pray for that the people in Kenya are able to continue to grow in their relationships with Christ, and are able to begin a relationship with Him if they have not already.
- Pray for the students at Uhuru Academy as they continue their studies.
- Pray for the Form 4 students (seniors) at Uhuru Academy as they prepare to take their final exams that will determine their eligibility for univeristy.
- Pray for Virginia’s family (Mirium, John, Ann, little Mirium, Joseph, and little John).
- Pray for our Field Partners to be successful in their businesses so they can support the students at the schools.
- Pray for future teams who partner with Freedom Global.
- Pray that God reveals ways for you to support Freedom Global or be involved in other mission opportunities.
Below are more pictures from my time in Kenya!
Thank you again to all my supporters and blog readers! You all have truly been a blessing!
Much Love and Blessings,