About 7 years ago something began to tug at our hearts. The Director over the children's ministry we led at our local church began telling us about some connections she made in Africa that would give our children's club opportunity to get involved. Every week when we met with her she would remind us of the desperate situation and share photos. So it wasn't long before we started an annual fundraising project where the kiddos could bring in money and see that they could help make a difference in the WORLD.
Who would have guessed the following year God would call my dear hubby and eldest daughter to go with our church's first official mission team to Arusha, Tanzania. There was a team of 50+ people heading to a land they had never been to before. Several had never even flown before. I N C R E D I B L E !
The team had SO MUCH going on - building a community center for the Maasai with a medical clinic. Bringing water. Medical clinics. Caring for orphans. They were getting filled to the brim with love as they were busy, busy, busy being the hands and feet of Jesus in action.
This experience was life-changing for my two peeps (and the rest of the team as well). When they came home from their 2-1/2 week trip they were changed, and to be honest so was I. I HUNGERED for more knowledge on how we could help. I cried over the photos. Especially over the two little precious ones they brought home with them.
Okay before you question "How on earth can this be?"... they came home in images not physical presence. They were however physically presently pressed upon my heart so heavily it became difficult for me to breathe at times. I was in COMPLETE love.
Take a look... you will be too.
(means Hope in Swahili)
-3 years old here
(with my Daughter Elissa)
Irene is 4 years old here
I just had to make these chipboard ornaments to hang in my house so I could look at their precious faces and pray for them every day.
Well let's face it once a Momma knows she has children out there she will make sure to get to them. So the following year my dear hubby, our middle daughter and I were off to Arusha and an add-on road trip to Kenya. Where we would be working in the Kibera Slum in Nairobi.
Soon I will post about how these precious Tanzanian girls of ours have changed our lives completely. I have SO, SO many words to say. It's enough for a whole post though. So we will wait on that one.
After our time in Arusha, Tanzania we took a bus to Kenya where we would spend 3 days. We could not possibly have prepared our hearts for the pain we were about to be immersed into. We had seen people starving, poor and hurting already, but this brought a whole new level of desperation to all of these words we thought we had a mental picture for. Our eyes were opened wider...
A few steps into these conditions and you realize it is very difficult for people to smile. Most families live in 12 x 12 Shanty's with no water or electricity. The Shanty's typically consist of one large room with a fabric hanging divider that leave a sleeping area and a living area. The waste runs down the dirt roads / paths throughout the slum. They are lucky if they have one meal a day - and that one meal would consist of ugali (corn maize) or beans. On a really, really special day they would have beans -or- vegetables -or- meat of some sort. Breakfast is a cup of tea for children and adults. Many days they live on tea only. It is a SEA of people under RUSTY TIN ROOFS. PACKED solid.
Yet in the middle of this we find our friends who provide the forgotten ones with an education where hope will rise.
It is a safe haven in the middle of chaos. It provides a solid education, the love of Jesus, hope for their futures and a solid meal to nourish them. These precious children end up crying when school holiday comes because they know they will go without food until they return.
We once again found ourselves falling in love with the least of these. What we once couldn't imagine we now couldn't get our minds off of. Our hearts and minds were burdened.
5 years later and all except for one year we have returned every summer. This last year 4 out of 6 in our family went. My husband and I have lead teams twice to Kenya and Tanzania. How we arrived as team leaders is another amazing story of redemption. I will post that one someday too.
Africa has become a part of who we are. We believe we belong there as much as here. Finding a balance between the two cultures can be SO TOUGH! We are thankful to rise to the challenge of it though - challenges are good. They make us re-think OUR WAY.
Bring on the challenge!
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”-Romans 10:13-15
Maasai Church in Kenya
If we had to choose our top 10 on what we L O V E about Africa...Church would be at the top of the list. Especially Maasai churches - the singing, dancing and worship. To experience it stirs something deep in your soul. When we are fortunate enough to find ourselves placed once again in Africa, in church, I frequently find myself closing my eyes to soak in the sound, to record it in my memory...I am certain this is the sound of heaven. This is one of those churches.
This photo was taken in Arusha, Tanzania at a medical clinic. We always give the patients an opportunity to receive prayer if they would like. This precious woman wanted prayer for her family. These people are so amazing, they endure such hardship, they work so hard, they stay so strong. As we pray it is common to see these walls disintegrate & the burden they have been carrying begins to reveal itself.
These moments are some of the richest moments on our outreach trips. The heart to heart moment where no matter our geographical origin, our skin color, our native tongue, we communicate together in our hearts as we reach up to our Heavenly Father. We have now become family.