By Dave Jolly
There are so many memories that come to my mind as I think about our time in Kenya. I remember the little school which was built on the former city dump where between 300,000 to 500,000 people live. We met two pastors there who helped begin that ministry. For two dollars a month, children from the slum can come to school, receive an education and some life skills. As we were there in the compound we could look across a little stream, where people receive their water, to the current city dump and see people picking through the trash looking for things to use to help build their homes of tin and plastic.
Or, I can think of our time at the Baptist Children’s Center located next to another slum area around Nairobi. We went to church with the children from the BCC and several more that came from the slum. I met two special children that day, Agnes and Peter Babu. They sat next to me during church and I was able to be a headrest for Peter as he fell asleep during the service. What a perfect picture of God’s love for us. Here was this little boy who has no father or mother in this world but fell asleep resting comfortably in someone else’s arms.
As our next to last day of ministry in Kenya dawned, we packed our bus and drove to a ministry outside of the western Kenyan town of Kitale, quite a ways off the beaten path. As we drove towards the building where Buckner International has established their ministry in the area (an abandoned church) it was evident that this was a very needy community. There are currently 15 or so kids involved in a foster care program there and those are the kids that we thought we’d be with primarily for the day. However, once people heard about what was going on, children and parents from all around the area showed up outside the fence of the property. They hung outside the fence hoping for…something.
Our team began its normal Vacation Bible School preparations, singing songs with the kids, performing the skit which we use to establish a topic for discussion once we broke up into groups and then doing crafts and recreation. As we saw the needs though with the people from the community outside the gates, we realized that those children needed to be involved, too. All in all, we then ended up with about 55 kids for the VBS program…many of them who had never seen a white face, nor heard of the good news of the gospel of Jesus. Wow! What an amazing experience and a humbling one to realize the awesome responsibility and privilege which had been entrusted to our group.
When we made our plans to come to Kitale, thinking we would really be only having about 15 children to give shoes to, we didn’t bring a ton of them. But now, with the additional children from the community attending we didn’t think that we would have enough. So, we began the shoe distribution one group of children at a time…first, washing their feet, then providing them with new shoes and socks. Once the first group finished and they had all received shoes, we brought in the second, and then the third. Before we knew it, all the children in the VBS program had received shoes and heard the gospel of Christ!
During our VBS program, however, we noticed that more people had gathered along the fence lines…both adults and children. One of our team members, Beth Bateman, suggested that we go and hand out the remaining humanitarian aid that we had brought with us to those individuals—things like toothbrushes, soaps, tshirts, pens and pencils. You would have thought that we were handing out $100 bills or something as the exuberance of the people was amazing! Hands outstretched over the fence to receive these gifts reminded us of the desperate need of so many people.
Later, as we marveled, somehow there were still more shoes remaining after the distribution had been completed. We then realized that God was doing something incredible — remember we had only planned on having enough shoes for just 15 children. We could possibly hand out more shoes to those children still outside the gate. So, even though we had actually finished the VBS program and our team had boarded the bus, we asked for the children still outside the gate to come inside and receive a new pair of shoes. What an amazing experience that was handing out new shoes to children, many of whom had probably never had a pair of shoes before! And, not surprisingly, the Lord had provided in advance the number of shoes we needed so that every child there received a pair of shoes. It’s hard to describe what an incredible experience that was for our team to witness and be a part of in Kitale.
The value of a pair of shoes and a hug is immeasurable in the lives of those who are desperate. It really is simple, but yet so profound.
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