The neighborhood around the Baptist Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya can best be described with one word: Slum.
For Ben Oscar, the word he used to describe it was “home.”
As a 6-year-old in the early 90s, Oscar lived on the streets by himself. He didn’t know his mother or father. There was never any food, no money and definitely no going to school. But there were drugs and in such a dire situation, they eased his pain, if only for a little while.
A man from the Baptist Children’s Center, a Buckner school and orphanage, used to visit him and bring him snacks. Oscar, now 29, said he would sometimes ask him for a few shillings and instead of buying food, he would buy drugs.
Finally, the man asked Oscar if he wanted to move on the campus of the Baptist Children’s Center. Oscar was grateful to move to a place of safety, a place that provided food, shelter and clothing. But most of all, he was thankful for a home. “Sincerely, before I came to the Baptist Children’s Center, I was a street boy. If it weren’t for Buckner, I would be dead. The others end up dead within 10 years. So I thank Buckner for saving me, but above all, I thank God.”
Oscar remembers mission teams from the United States coming and teaching him about the Bible. Living at the Baptist Children’s Center was his first opportunity to go to church, which has changed the course of his life.
“For me it was a turning point when Buckner came,” Oscar said. “Buckner came with ideas like going to Vacation Bible School. They came and gave us Bibles. Being on the street, I could never have even thought about the Bible. They brought books. They brought clothes and shoes.”
While living at the Baptist Children’s Home, Oscar developed close relationships with a few of the staff, but his closest relationship is with Buckner Kenya Country Director Dickson Masindano, who took Oscar into his home and family as a foster child.
“He didn’t have any relatives to live with; he lost his only brother through crime,” Masindano said. “We keep in touch because one thing you realize when you are working with these children is they need a father figure around.”
Oscar lived with the Masindano family for several years while he was in school. Watching Masindano, he learned what it meant to live in a family and what it meant to be a man of God.
“I’ve never had a dad, but I normally say Dickson is my dad,” Oscar said. “Living with Dickson, I can say he provided me his fatherly love. And then his wife, I normally call her Mom. He provided me parental love, so I thank him for that very much. And if it was not for Buckner, who brought Dickson, I don’t think I would have experienced fatherly love or motherly love. So I thank Buckner and Dickson.”
Oscar was able to go to college because of the generosity of Buckner donors who provided a scholarship for him to study culinary arts. He now works as a chef in a big restaurant. He’s also married with a 10-month-old daughter, Emma.
“You can imagine someone who has never experienced parental love. A person who hasn’t experienced parental love can even be depressed,” Oscar said. “For me, since I experienced parental love from Dickson, I show that love to my kid. I have so many dreams for her. I grew up without parental love, but she will have that. I want her to get an education, to be happy and most of all, to be a Godfearing woman.”