Monday, September 1, 2014

Nairoib, Kenya part two: Our Kenyan Daughter // Joska

This is Lydia.
Seeing her face as I type makes me smile.. and miss her. She has been my sponsor child for about 6 years. I finally got to meet her this year! After many letters and years it was great to finally hug her. She was quiet, sweet, so excited to play soccer and had such joy in her spirit. I loved seeing Charles meet her. Even though I didn't even know him when I decided to sponsor Lydia he couldn't wait to hug her and tell her she was loved. It was kind of hard to connect with her but I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be to connect with someone from around the world. She ran off to play soccer with the other kids and brought me so much joy to see her in a safe place where she gets to run, learn, be fed daily and know God's love.

Lydia was learning to use my camera and took this photo. She shyly smiled as she saw what she captured.

So grateful for Charles and his intentionality in caring for people so well.

Each child who is sponsored experiences a truly different life. So many parents in the slums struggle to provide the basic needs for their family. Many women have been left to raise their children (and grandchildren) alone due to the lose or leaving of a husband. Five, six or more people will live in a shanti home smaller than half of my living room (which is really 'tiny' in our standards). With little opportunity to bring in consistent income their kids often work at a young age and take care of their siblings. This often means they do not get education. They aren't able to end the cycle they experience. The basic needs of life are so desperately hard to come by.

One of the greatest pieces of this trip was seeing the huge difference in the community since my first trip in 2007. In '07 the slums of Pangani were filled with aggressive drunk men, children suppressing hunger by sniffing glue, violence and spiritual darkness. The Missions of Hope school was newer and had about 350 children in attendance. There are currently over 1300 kids who attend school in Pangani now. They've built upwards many stories to accommodate more children. With more children being sponsored more families are provided for. The parents are supported by their children being fed daily, receiving health care, learning life schools and much more. Also, parents have the chance to better themselves by learning a trade like cosmetology, knitting, sewing and more. Maybe the biggest change in the valley is thousands of students and their families learning about who God is. They have hope, healthy choices and a great community. All of this has led to a community that lacks darkness. I didn't see any drunkenness, violence or glue sniffing. A dense community of people is so positively different because of a women with a dream, a school filled with committed staff and teachers and people from around the world who invest monthly to make sure these kids have a different future.

This is Joska: the boarding school for older teens. It's a few hours from the city. When I stood at Joska in 2007 it was a recently acquired piece of land with plans to be a school. We prayed over it and drove away. Today, this is the main amphitheater. It holds over 1000 kids (I don't know exactly how many). As we arrived the kids gathered to sing songs of worship, dance, perform and thank us. We got to feed them all hamburgers and deliver new shoes to many of the kids.

At Joska there is a culinary school for girls. Our team of chefs have poured their souls into these girls and their education. US Foods sponsored our trip with many supplies and the girls prepared a Mexican feast for us. It is so beautiful to see a group of young women learn such valuable life skills and have the chance to pursue their career dreams. They are so hardworking and deserve such a great future!

I didn't know this was happening but Eastside brought a check for $150,000 to Joska. This is a chance for them to build up their dorms and house more students. This means hundreds more can be educated, cared for and become leaders in their community. This really is life changing. These students are committed to being the people who provide change and I can't wait to see what happens. It was a beautiful moment and I am proud of our church for investing so much in compassion efforts around the world.

My summaries don't do justice to the way life is lived in the slums. It really challenges my perspective, breaks my heart and brings me joy. God is so present and alive in such beautiful ways. Friends, please don't overlook your ability to bring joy to those around you.. wherever you are.

Up next: The Photo Project. 

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