Jesus spoke to a crowd of people one day and told them, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Mat. 5:9 NLT) The word peace translated in Swahili is amani. My first introduction to, what was to be one of the most significant two weeks of my life, was that word – amani. I saw it, projected on the screen during announcements at church. It was the name of the upcoming mission trip facilitated by Central Community Church in St. Catharines, Ontario. After a bit of fact-finding, I signed up as one of the 12 heading to Kenya in seven months. The only hurdle standing in my way was raising $2,500. I had no confidence in my ability to raise that much money, but some how was at peace and learned to trust God in this matter.
While in Kenya, we partnered with local ministries, volunteers and missionaries to bring the message of good news to those who had never heard it and to support those who had heard, but needed some encouragement. We came to lend a hand to those in need by bringing food and clothing, as well as listen and pray with those who needed encouragement. During our interactions with the local people, we shared stories, cultural differences and our faith in God. We played with children at orphanages, sat and prayed in the mud huts of the rural Kenyans and drove on some of the most dangerous and inhospitable roads we had ever encountered!
Saturday April 25, 2009
Our plane landed in Nairobi late Saturday evening. Rob Beyer, a missionary from Central Community Church, David Ewagata, from P.A.C. University and Ezekiel, our bus driver, were waiting for us. We gathered up our mountain of luggage as we took in the sights of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. They took us to our first destination (Mariapolis Guesthouse in Ruiru – 30 min. from the airport), which would end up serving as our ‘base camp’ at the beginning and end of our trip. After sitting on a plane for 17 hours, we were looking forward to a proper bed and a good rest.
Sunday April 26, 2009
Following a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast, we headed into Nairobi to attend Deliverance Church Lang’ata, in what we were told was a densely populated Muslim community. We participated in both services that morning – introducing ourselves, sharing testimonies and Roy, our trip leader, preached the sermon.
Sunday afternoon, the Youth Discipleship Program students from P.A.C. University, arrived with their gear. Rob, David and Roy spoke to all of us about our agenda for the next two weeks. Our task for the next couple of days was to integrate ourselves with our new team members. The majority of us were older than the students from the ‘Youth Discipleship Program’ so we officially tagged them with the name ‘YDP Kids’.
Monday April 27, 2009
Rob organized a team-building exercise for the day: hiking up Mount Longonot, a couple of hours outside of Nairobi. Where the decent into the Rift Valley began, we stopped at a tourist lookout platform to stretch our legs, check out some local merchandise and get a distant view of the mountain we would soon ascend. We arrived at the base of the mountain, and with unbridled optimism headed up the trail. During our hike we marvelled at the wildlife including: zebra, water buffalo, gazelle and giraffes. Our climb started with bright sun, which slowly clouded over, and as we neared the summit, a storm approached us. Some of the party continued to the summit while the rest hurried back, but we all got soaked during the cold downpour – some of us at the top of the mountain and some of us halfway down. As we returned to the bus, the sun broke through the clouds and we all tried to dry our clothes while we ate sandwiches.
Back in Nairobi, we spent the evening with Rob and Linda Beyer at Rossalyn Academy, where Rob teaches. To our surprise, Roy’s mother joined us. Roy grew up in Nairobi and came to Canada to attend Brock University. It sure helped to have a leader who was familiar with the people and places of Kenya.
Tuesday April 28, 2009
It took us all day to plan the rest of our trip, get to know the ‘YDP Kids’ and attempt to build a cohesive team before we headed out to present the Gospel. One facet of our planning was to divide into groups consisting of a variety of talents and gifts, such as music, dance and drama. After a few hours of practice, we felt confident enough to get us through a service, in the event we were needed.
Wednesday April 29, 2009
We travelled northeast to the Pehucci Orphanage near the small community of Ruai. Central Community Church has partnered with this orphanage through its mission givings by supporting Rob & Linda Beyer. We happened to be in Kenya close enough to the official opening of a new girls dormitory, so they had planned the opening ceremonies based on us being a part of it. That afternoon we invited the residents of Ruai to attend our church service [cover photo] in the village centre. We were greeted warmly by everyone, especially by the children, who wanted to be held, or at the very least, hold our hands. They enjoyed having their picture taken and really appreciated when we showed their image to them on our digital cameras. That afternoon, I learned the only Swahili that I have retained – Muzungu – which means white person. We spent the night at Pehucci and slept in the new dormitory that was to be officially opened the next day.
We were given a tour of the dormitories and classrooms. We saw how their meals were cooked, what and where they ate. Some of the children lived there during the school year, while others were there all year. Ever joyful, the children seemed to have a very mature understanding of their situation and a great appreciation of what they are given.
The celebration concluded with us marching single file across the road to the new dormitory, singing While the Saints Go Marching In for the official ribbon cutting. Mike Hicks said a few words of appreciation and dedication before cutting the ribbon.Thursday April 30, 2009
Under the scorching sun, 200 kids, our team of 35, special guests and community neighbours celebrated the grand opening of the newly constructed girls dormitory, through testimony, song and dance, food, praise and worship. Our participation involved leading praise and worship, serving food to the guests and the unforgettable dance with the Maasai Warriors!
Friday May 1, 2009
Upon arriving in Narok, we wasted no time meeting up with local missionaries Daniel and Caroline and proceeding with setting up another of our impromptu presentations of the Gospel. We shared personal testimonies, worshipped through music and Pastor Joshua preached the Word of God. All this took place on the side of the highway on the outskirts of town. The event was threatened by a storm that seemed certain to hit us and a herd of goats parading through the middle of Bev’s testimony. The goats wandered through as if they had seen and heard it all before and the impending dark clouds moved elsewhere.
That evening, we showed a movie about the life of Jesus at Pastor Joshua’s church, located right across the road from where we were earlier that afternoon. His church, though similar to a drive shed that would hold no more than a tractor or two, had all the essentials: wooden benches to sit on and a Bible to preach from.
Saturday May 2, 2009
A little ways down the highway, we stopped at a small church in the rural community of Ol Lalunga. We divided into small groups and walked through fields and forests to invite the local residents to hear our presentation. In homes of the many people we saw, we shared personal testimonies, gave them food and prayed with them. Some of these homes were mud huts; others had lumber with steel roofs. Many generations usually live in these homes and often the husbands were absent due to finding work far away or abandoning their families. We were impressed with the cleanliness of these homes no matter their economic situation. The Kenyans trusted us and were always hospitable with what little they had to offer.
After church, we headed back to our dormitories at Africa Hope Ministries, just outside of Narok. We had a free evening – some went back to Pastor Joshua’s church and some stayed in for a bit of rest and relaxation.
Sunday May 3, 2009
Half-way into our trip, we headed further down the highway to attend church in the remote community of Maji Moto. This place was an oasis in the desert – home to the Maasia. After church we distributed bags of clothing (courtesy of Sew on Fire Ministries) to many children and their families.
The name Maji Moto means hot spring. In the afternoon, we toured the community and explored the hot spring.
Monday May 4, 2009
Monday was spent travelling northwest to Kisumu, on the shore of Lake Victoria. We saw a lot of Kenya that day and experienced the discomfort of travelling seven long hours in a bus on very bumpy roads and rather steep hills. This is not a problem for most cars, however, our bus was not made for these kind of climbs. This was the first time we experienced extreme heat and humidity.
Tuesday May 5, 2009
Like most of our mornings, we spent time reading the Bible, sharing testimonies and thoughts from the previous day and a short time in worship. The drive to the Village of Hope, 45 minutes outside of Kisumu, was one of the worst roads we had driven on yet. After touring the dormitories that were in various stages of construction, as well as the classrooms, we played games with the children for a couple of hours. After that, we walked the county roads (more like pathways) and spoke with local residents, inviting them to attend our church service.
At the end of our service, we showed the movie The Passion of the Christ. We projected the movie from a laptop computer, powered by a portable generator onto a white sheet hung on the side of our bus. As the sun set, all the locals sat, stood or mingled as the movie illustrated exactly who Jesus was and what He did for us. Generator and projector problems almost brought the presentation to a premature end, but after much persistence and prayer, we did see the end of the movie. Numerous people responded to the message that night by deciding to follow Christ!
At that point, most of us were running exclusively on God’s strength and were struggling with various degrees of exhaustion. Almost all of our days started at 6:30AM and we did not stop until late in the evening, usually eating supper when we returned. That night was no exception. We arrived back at our hotel around 11:30PM and finally ate dinner and headed straight to bed.
Wednesday May 6, 2009
A normal trip of 3-4 hours in Canada takes 7-8 hours in Kenya, partially because of travelling by bus but mostly because of the poor road conditions. Sometimes the asphalt was missing from sections and Ezekiel would drive anywhere on the road (including both the left and right shoulders) to avoid slowing down or falling into a missing section and breaking an axil. At times, we saw bicycles passing us as we wove our way through the maze of potholes!
After a few rest stops, many games of cards – or for some of us who managed to get comfortable – some sleep, we arrived in time for a late supper and finally, an evening to relax.
Thursday May 7, 2009
The majority of the day was spent at P.A.C. University, attending chapel service, touring the campus and visiting with the whole team at David and Rose’s cosy flat. All of these events signalled the end of our trip was near – we were gearing down! The afternoon at David & Rose’s was very similar to the many hours spent travelling on the bus – there was little space and many people. The ‘YDP’ kids were back in their element and ready to return to their school work. We had one more day and then we were headed back to our familiar surroundings, back in Canada.
Friday May 8, 2009
We had never witnessed poverty at such an extreme level as when we walked through the corridors of the Mathare Valley. The population density is extremely high (approximately 850,000 people in less than a square mile) and there is no running water or indoor plumbing. Very few of the children living here go to school. We spent a few hours talking with Mary (co-director with her husband Wallace) of Missions of Hope, touring the school and visiting with the children in their classrooms. She guided us through the slum as we visited some of the residents inside of their shacks. Usually an entire family will live in one of these one room shacks, if they can afford the rent!
We spent the afternoon at the Maasai Market (held every Friday) at the Village Market in Nairobi and purchased souvenirs. For supper, we caught up with Rob and Linda at an Ethiopian restaurant in Nairobi. After an evening of good food, sharing thoughts and stories from our past two weeks and lots of good-byes, we drove back to the guesthouse at Mariapolis for one more sleep in Kenya. Early Saturday morning we boarded our plane and flew back to Canada.
I am certain that we all were excited to return home yet sad to leave this temporary home of ours. We each had our own reasons for raising the $2500 that enabled us to go on this trip. A common goal developed quite quickly after landing in this foreign country. We were there for a purpose – to demonstrate the love that God has for us and that we are to have for each other. The apostle Paul talks about this when writing to the church in Ephesus: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT)
As a group, we tried to model this and work together as a family. We all possessed a variety of strengths and weaknesses, our personalities were quite unique and yet we managed to become unified as the Body of Christ – God’s love in action.