By Larry Roberts
New Windsor, IL
As the Buckner mission group walked into the church at the Baptist Children’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya, one boy caught my eye.
He had on a black and red jacket and a shirt that looked like a baseball jersey. These were most likely his best clothes. He immediately came right to me and took my hand to walk with me into the church. It took me by surprise. Some of the children are not this forward and many hang back protecting their little hearts. Felix did not. He wanted to be with me, and I was immediately drawn to him. Felix did not speak much English. I asked him his name, and he told me. I asked him to write it for me on a scrap of paper. He did, and then above his name I wrote Jesus loves. Felix smiled as I put the scrap of paper into my Bible under Kings. I told Felix that he was like a king – strong – and that someday he would be with our king in a high place in heaven.
All the while the church service went on, Felix never left my side. Other children who were close sometimes looked over at me, and I would smile or tickle them. I could sense that Felix did not want to share me. He sat there and played with this plastic red and blue toy. To say that it was a toy is kind of a stretch. It once was part of some toy. It had a blue cap and red body and he would remove the cap and put it back on. There was nothing inside of it. A toy?
I let Felix hold my Bible and wear my sunglasses. He held them with great care. While we worshiped together and sang songs, I was looking forward to spending the day with him, giving him new shoes and having lunch with him; sharing God’s love with him the entire day. But this was not to be.
You see, the BCC allows “slum kids” to come in and worship. Many do, and Felix was one of them. I took some photos of Felix and me together and showed them to him on my camera. After church we had some time outside in the yard to play and take more photos. I still noticed that Felix didn’t want to share my attention, and this was hard for me because there were so many kids. More photos were taken, and the whole time all I was thinking of was how great the day would be with Felix.
Some time had passed, and the school teachers were trying to get things going. They told us that we adults should go on top of the hill to the dining hall, and what I understood was that the children would join us there. I told Felix that I would see him in a little bit. He held on to my hand and said, “No! No!” I didn’t understand. I knelt down and hugged him, told him it was alright, and I will see him later. He kept saying no. I left Felix at the bottom of the hill. I went up to the dining hall, fully expecting to see him there. I would serve him a meal and sit with him. The whole day was ahead of us.
I arrived at the dinning hall and there were kids everywhere. But no Felix. I looked outside and all around. I thought to myself, “Where are the other kids?” I then learned that the other children had to go back outside the gate. I was stunned.
I left Felix with nothing. He was a child from the slums and not part of the BCC. He would not get a meal, new shoes or spend the day in the green grass of the BCC. He would not spend the night in the safety and comfort of the bunk beds there. He would return to his make-shift house where some member of his family is trying their best to raise him. He would spend this Sunday doing what he did every day, hoping to eat and looking through the fence at people who have more than him. I would spend the day doing what God sent me there to do. Whenever I had time I would scan the fence line looking for “Little Felix.” Sometimes I would go to the fence and ask if anyone knew him. The only answer that I would get from the children was a chorus of “How are you?” over and over with their little hands poking through for something…anything.
I have a heavy heart that I did not fill Felix’s little pockets with granola bars and whisper in his ear to run home and show no one, like I would do later for children like Felix that I would meet. I didn’t give him anything. He did receive a bracelet that said “Jesus loves me” on it. I gave him love. I prayed for him and still do. I still carry his name in my Bible under Kings, and I still pray for him.
I hope to someday go back and see Felix again. Next time, I won’t miss the opportunity to make at least one of his days go by without hunger. If you are considering a mission trip, remember this story. If you don’t heed the Lord’s calling and go, you will be missing an opportunity. You will miss your Felix.
If you do go, you’ll meet children like Felix and have your heart made whole and broken at the same time. You will see Jesus in their eyes and you will be touched. You will shed happy tears and sad. You will do great things and you will fall short.
But if you go to Nairobi and meet a little boy around the BCC named Felix, tell him that Jesus loves him and that a man named Larry in the United States does, too.
Have you been on a Buckner mission trip? Volunteered with one of our ministries? Are you an adoptive or foster family? We want to hear from you!
Buckner is now accepting story submissions for Buckner eNews Now and the Buckner Web site from people who have participated on mission trips or local volunteering.
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