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The Journey to Kenya: Lessons

Editor’s note: This is the last story in the four-part series in Buckner Today, chronicling Melanie Miller and Brittani Cirinna’s journey to volunteer in Kenya with Project Go!, the long-term mission of Buckner International. The following was excerpted from their blog while serving in Kenya. Read more at kenyalovesjesustoo.wordpress.com.

July 18, 2013
To serve

In preparing for this journey, I found myself reading Isaiah 53. I made a list of the words used to describe Jesus. No beauty or majesty, nothing in His appearance, despised, rejected, man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom men hide their faces, we esteemed Him not.

I thought others may describe the people we may encounter in Kenya by using some of the same adjectives or phrases used to describe Jesus. So I was going to serve them.

And then I spent my Tuesday in the kitchen.

There is a staff of three who work in the kitchen each day. Paul, the head chef for the past seven years, with a wife and an 8-month-old baby girl at home. Mama Agnes, the kitchen help at the BCC for more than 15 years who will remind you of the best parts of your grandmother with an unending “African woman” work ethic, an infectious laugh and a visibly joyful spirit. And Sarah. Sarah started in the kitchen about two months ago. She has a 4-year-old son, Jeremy and a baby girl, Violet. She is currently acting as a single mom – her husband is not in Kenya because of his job.

Most food for the 300 schoolchildren at the Baptist Children's Center is grown (kale, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, carrots) and found (cows for milk) in the farm, which you see if you are standing in the kitchen washing dishes at the sink.

Agnes says, “We waste nothing in the kitchen” after she tells me I have cut too much off of the tomatoes stem before I began slicing. She cuts around the pieces that can be used, tosses them in the bowl and goes back to what she was doing.

Sarah is quickly peeling off and washing the outer cabbage leaves covered in dirt and when I am found watching Paul says, “We waste nothing in the kitchen.”

The BCC kitchen has a tile floor, two windows that are usually cracked open and white cabinets. Ninety-seven percent of the cabinets are empty. There is no dishwasher or easy access cleaning area for the giant pots used to cook beans, rice or ugali. There is one ancient potato peeler, a few dull knives that are sharpened by Paul each morning on the stone outside, a broken box grater that will slice your hand if you don’t hold it like Paul advises, heavily worn SOS pads, rags and sponges, two cutting boards that must be quickly used, washed and shared, a few large but broken plastic bowls … And three joyful servants who arrive before 8 each morning to feed the children.

It is now 3:15 and the four of us sit down to take our lunch – almost an hour and a half after the rest of the BCC – and Paul quickly talks about how nice it was to have help in the kitchen today. He talks about how people may forget serving in the kitchen is a ministry. He talks about how the teachers may be frustrated if the cabbage runs out before they arrive for lunch and how he must smile and be kind. He talks about how nothing is wasted in the kitchen because if you go outside of the BCC fence, tears will be in your eyes. He talks about wanting to show me pictures of some of the resident kids when they first came to the BCC, and how many of them are unrecognizable in comparison to the way they were before. He says they are now nourished and healthy.

Paul ended our conversation by reminding me of the power in the words I speak and quoting Philippians 4:13 – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” – before he stands, takes his plate and goes back to the kitchen.

I realized quickly I knew very little about service. These three individuals are the living example of humble, joyful servants who have a tremendous workload that begins again each day. I thought I was the one coming to serve, but they have changed my life forever.

Matthew 9:37 says, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.’”

The harvest at the BCC is plentiful and there are workers in the kitchen.


July 21, 2013

Can you hear what God is wanting to tell you? Are you deeply searching for His plan?

Preparing for this trip, I prayed for us to have open hearts, open ears, open eyes and open minds to the Lord’s will for our lives over the month in Kenya. I can tell you our hearts are stirring, and our minds are thinking about everything God is trying to teach us while we are here. I am going to continue praying for this, and today was a great day for LISTENING to what God is wanting us to hear.

Today at church, we enjoyed the great voices of children singing in English and Swahili. Their voices lifted up to the heavens, and the words they sang were angelic. God was present the whole time. Their memory verse today for children’s church and for Sunday School was: “So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down. If someone (God) calls out to you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord. I’m LISTENING.’” -1 Samuel 3:9

When God calls out to me, I need to listen. When He tells me things I don’t want to hear, I need to listen. I am focusing more on listening than ever before.

Today in Sunday School, Belinda, the mother of the residential children, made a really awesome, yet simple, statement: “Praying is a two-sided conversation, you are not only speaking to God, but by listening to God, you will pray things that you did not plan on praying because He is speaking to you.” Can it be that God is speaking to me, and I am listening but I didn’t even know it?

I was asked before going on this trip if I knew what God was going to show to me while here. I answered several times with, “Valuing relationships, and slowing down to take time to spend with the ones I love, and not being too busy for them.” Did God tell me that? Did I know that is exactly what He was preparing my heart for through prayer – a two-sided conversation? That brings me to what was taught today by Pastor Richard in church today …

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure that was hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again. He was very happy. So he went and sold everything he had. And he bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader who was looking for fine pearls. He found one that was very valuable. So he went away and sold everything he had. And he bought that pearl.” Matthew 13:44-46

“When we meet God is it going to matter how much money we have? Is it going to matter how many hours you put into work? Is it going to matter if you work seven days a week and don’t go to church? Is it going to matter if you listened to God, valued relationships and reached out to the people who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?” – Pastor Richard

I’m listening, God. I’m listening. I’m going to look for the souls, speak to the souls, value the souls, and spend time with the souls YOU have created and made.


Did you miss an installment in this series? Get caught up:
Part I: Two North Texas teachers prepare to serve children on their summer break
Part II: When raising funds for Project Go!, it pays to have friends
Part III: A conversation of preparation


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