Friday, October 9, 2009

Robyn Gloyd

I have had the absolute honor of going to Kenya three times. The last trip I went on before this one was in April of 2007. When I got home from that trip, I was not feeling well and thought that I may have gotten Malaria. I was wrong. It turned out I was pregnant. Utter shock is how I best describe my initial feelings towards finding that news out. My husband, Jesse, and I had not planned to have a baby so soon. But after the shock wore off, I came to realize what a blessing this baby was to my life.

Jack, my son, is now 21 months old. And he has brought a softness to my heart I did not know was possible. Jesse came on this trip with me for the first time, and we left Jack with grandma and granddad for 2 whole weeks…more than we have ever left him before. I knew this would be difficult so I prayed A LOT before we left for God to comfort my heart and to make sure that I was not distracted from the kids in Kenya who so deserved my time and attention. God is faithful and God is good. I am not going to say that I didn’t think of Jack all the time, I did. But God used my love for my son to be able to love on these kids, who so often don’t get any. It was beautiful. And now I miss them like I missed Jack. I think of them everyday, praying that God watches over them and protects them. I pray that he gives them strength and wisdom to get through each day. And I pray more than anything that they know they are loved, loved like they were my own. And what comforts my heart is that I know that they are Gods children and that he loves them in a way that I can’t. He is our father and even though we are half a world a part, we are all loved by Him and that ties us together.

I will go back. Every time I go I leave a piece of my heart there, and the rest of me aches to go see my family in Kenya. I can’t wait to see my family in Kenya again!!

Bwana Asifwe.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kerry Royce

“You’re worth it.” This was the message I was determined to convey to the kids as I returned to them this summer. You’re more than worth the journey; we (as representatives of Ecclesia) haven’t forgotten you and, more importantly, your Father in Heaven has never forgotten you and He never will. This was my second year going to Kenya with Ecclesia, and I was really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and basking in the children’s love and joy once again. My prayer this year was that the children would experience on a real, personal level how very much their Father in Heaven loves them. The fact of the matter is--many of the children of Kibera either don’t have fathers at all, or the fathers they have are less than perfect, to say the least. We experienced the reality of this as we watched the children of Ghetto Light perform skits in which fathers struggled with alcoholism and physically abused their wives and children. This is a reality they face, every day. So when we tell them, “Your Father in Heaven loves you, no matter what,” it is a difficult concept for them to grasp.

Our VBS theme this year was The Lord’s Prayer. The memory verse for our first day was Matthew 6:9—“Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name.” I wanted to know—what thoughts entered the children’s minds when they said “Our Father?” Were they thinking of an angry father, who is quick to criticize, slow to love? Were they thinking of a father who can’t be bothered with them; one who sees them as a burden? This was something I felt compelled to address with the children, and it surprised me to learn that many of them believed that we in America have near-perfect fathers, like the dad on the Cosby Show. I shared with them that this is most certainly not the case. In fact, many of us at Ecclesia have had a hard time believing or accepting that God the Father is not ashamed of us, or burdened by us, or disappointed in us, because our relationships with our earthly, human fathers have distorted our perceptions of who God the Father is, and how He loves us. I shared with them a verse my youth leader gave to me when I graduated from high school—Zephaniah 3:17—“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” I told them I didn’t believe these words when I first heard them, and I still struggle to believe them to this day. But the fact of the matter is—whether I struggle to accept God’s love for me or not, He does love me, no matter how many mistakes I make or how often I ignore His voice. He loves me, and He loves every single one of those beautiful children of Kibera. I continue to pray, and I ask my friends at Ecclesia to pray that each and every one of these children will come to fully understand how very precious they are to their Father in Heaven, and how nothing can diminish their worth in His eyes.

Many of you may remember how I said last year that I had gone to Kenya asking that God would use me to “be Jesus” to the children, and how He had in turn used them to “be Jesus” to me, even more so. Well, I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me this summer when God blessed me again by taking the very message I felt called to relay to the children and bouncing it right back at me, loudly and clearly. As the children ran to me each morning, singing out my name, grabbing onto any part of me they could hold on to, I heard my Father saying, "Kerry, you're worth it too." I had struggled for a time with my decision to return to Kenya because part of me actually believed the children wouldn't care to see me again. I knew this was a lie the enemy was trying to sell me, but I didn't realize just how colossal a lie it was until Friday afternoon when I was holding Njeri (pronounced “Nnnnn-jerry”) in my arms. I had met Njeri the previous summer, and we had felt an instant connection, smiling into each other’s eyes and sharing endless hugs and cuddles. And when we walked into the Ghetto Light Center Friday afternoon, it was her sweet voice I heard, calling out my name. And when she ran to me, jumped up into my arms, and wouldn’t let me go I knew why I needed to come back. When people ask me about Africa, I have a hard time putting into words this overwhelming feeling of pure love I experienced. I cannot tell you how overcome with joy I am, to know that we will one day be reunited—if not here on earth, then in Heaven. I recall the extraordinary love the children shared with me, and I imagine Njeri clinging tightly to me, and I can’t wait to see them all again.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jesse Gloyd

My wife had been to Kenya two out of the three trips Ecclesia has taken. She missed the last because of the birth of our son Jack, but was determined to make it this year. Though I had seen her excitement and her love for the Kenyan people, I very much had my fears and doubts about taking on such a task.

I have a hard time thinking back; it feels like years, even though it was only a little over a month. We made a lot of friends and solidified relationships that had started several years earlier. It was quite amazing to see the interactions between the leaders and the people of the slum. It was truly inspiring to see the progress being made and the work being done.

There really isn't much that I feel I can add that others haven't already expressed. It is amazing to see the things that God is doing in Kibera; this is a given. It is also quite frightening to look evil in the eye. Evil doesn't blink. Corruption is rampant. It was hard to reconcile the stories we heard with the faces we came to know and love.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lori Fox

I don't like kids.
In fact, I was in Africa with a design group and trusting God to use my skills in that way.
He had bigger plans.
On my days off from the design work I was able to join with the Ecclesia team's kids camp. I was a bit apprehensive. I never grew up around kids, being an only child from a small family, so I don't really know what to do with them. Woody Allen said "80% of success is showing up." I decided I could at least do that. I showed up. The kids came to me.
I can run.
I can sing.
I can dance.
I did, we did.
It wasn't so bad. They didn't bite.
The next couple of times I went with the team to the Kibera Slum to visit some of the children's homes. It was difficult to see what their definition of "home" meant. Pain. Poverty. Hunger. Loneliness.
Yet somehow they were so alive. So full of the hope of Christ at such a young age. A huge contrast to the hopeless eyes that watched us from the roadside. I've been on my own quest for hope the past few years. Knowing Christ is to be my hope, but what does that look like in the midst of darkness and death? I'll tell you. It looks like the faces of these children. Smiling in the face of hunger. Speaking back to the giants of injustice. For the first time since my quest began, I was able to see a clear visual of true Hope in action. The life-giving, living, breathing power of God, His Word, His Son, actively moving and transforming lives for good against all opposition. These kids were like little yellow flowers growing in a barren desert.
The last time I met with the kids was at the retreat center where we were hosting the camp. A couple of the children began to latch on to me by this point. When I wasn't playing with the kids I was able to tuck into the background and help with serving food, or making gift bags. I was thankful I was able to serve in ways I'm comfortable with, but also that I was stretched into new realms of service in "kid-land". It's not hard to love kids. Give them a teaspoon of love and it can nourish them for days. I was glad our team brought quite a few gallons between all of us.
I had to be in a design meeting for the last few hours the kids were with us. I was meeting with the Maasai women inside the centre, but could see kids performing on the outside. They were doing skits and dramas, songs and dances. And don't tell anyone, but I wished I was out there with them.
Luke 18:16-17 "But Jesus called the children to him and said, ' Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'"
I guess kids aren't so bad after all. In fact, I'd be wise to act like one more often.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Will Wadsworth

Africa, wow. I never really planned on going to Africa. I guess Africa planned on going to me. Now that I am back home, all I can think about are the kids. They had the light that we all talk about. They had the hope that we all need to keep. They had the joy that we often want. They had all of this in an environment where I find it difficult to smile. To add to this, so many of them seemed to care for so much for others. When praying for a little girl, I asked her what she would like prayer for. Her answer was, “That you all return home safely and then to us safely again.” In the midst of what I would call pretty dire need, her prayer was for us to be cared for and to be a part of their lives. On the first day, I wondered whether or not the children that we were going to be working with would really care about our presence there. At the end of that first day, several of the kids chanted, “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! We will see you tomorrow!”

The younger children had sheer joy. The older youths were a bit more sober, yet they had a determination to out-shine the darkness that they saw all around them (sorry if that was corny). Seriously though, these youths made me either realize or remember that its not what you have that matters , its who you have. If nothing else, they had Jesus Christ and they had each other. I could see this as they danced, played soccer, ate together, and in many other ways. Two young boys that I remember were named Felix and Alex. They were a couple of young athelets with great senses of humor. When I got out of the hospital (no big deal), Alex came up to me and asked if I remembered him. I did then and I still do.

When I was in the hospital (as a result of something I ate), I believe that I saw another side of Kenya. I saw compassion in the doctors and nurses that tended to me as well as others. I was in a bed next to a retired Bishop, a government counselor, and a Scottish ex-patriot. God was in there with all of us. I felt unified for a while with the other patients. I think that this was a result of experiencing some pain together. I may have felt frustrated, a bit sad, and a little scared in that hospital, but I did not feel alone. I could sense that God was in there with each one of us. While laying in bed, I thought about the kids of Kibera and their families. This made my tiny suffering seem very pale in comparison. I think that God may have used my little hospital experience as a way to humble me and as a way to ask me to tune into the suffering of those around me.

During our final week, I met an older youth named William. He called himself “Cartoon.” He was a bit of a comedian and a smooth guitar player. This young man was standing strong and celebrating life in a place that seemed like it could threaten to knock him down rather easily. I hope that I will be able project the kind of love that people like this had in Africa as I continue in my walk with Christ.



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chris Chow

It has been incredibly hard to decide which stories to share in this blog. Each precious child has an amazing and touching story, as you can see in my teammate's entries. I've decided to continue my blog entry from last year. I was blessed to be able to return for a second time and had the opportunity to reconnect with Dickson, a 12 year-old boy with a charisma that is difficult to forget. I was amazed by how much he has matured in a year. He has grown from a shy, soft-spoken 11-year-old into a natural leader - very aware and vocal. He spoke about the Kenyan government's issues with an eloquence and authority beyond his years. His dream is to become president one day to make a difference. He recited his favorite verse, Matthew 28:19, which speaks about making disciples of all nations. Dickson told us that his father used to be a drunkard and a drug abuser, but stopped ever since he became a Christian. He has so much potential, but the reality is that he has very limited opportunities living in Kibera. He asked if he could come back with me to the US. He inspires me to do whatever I can to give him an opportunity to rise out of poverty and fulfill his potential. I have a recording of our conversation:

- Me: Do you remember us, the camp last year?
- Dickson: Yes
- Me: Do you remember what you got on the last day?
- Dickson: I got a car (it was a Hot Wheels toy for reciting the memory verses)
- Me: What color?
- Dickson: Blue
- Me: Who gave it to you?
- Dickson: Chris
- Me: What did you tell Chris on the last day. Do you remember?
- Dickson: I will never forget you. God bless you, and take care. Next year - you will come next year?
- Me: I will try to come again next year
- Dickson: Are you going to help me?
- Me: Help you how?
- Dickson: Supporting me. I don’t have someone supporting me.
- Me: I would
- Dickson: I want to go to the US.
- Me: Why? To go to school?
- Dickson: Yes. And I ask you a question. Are you going to be taking what I’m saying to the US?
- Me: Yes. I am going to be showing this to a lot of people.
- Dickson: Thank you. Bye!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Erin Brown

On the last day of homecare camp we spent time and prayed for each individual child in a large group. Every child in the camp was prayed for by one of us from Ecclesia. After that we broke up into our teams and my team, the red team, decided we wanted to pray for each member of our team as well.

Naphtalie, Brent, and I had the kids sit in a circle and we traveled around it. I kneeled in front of each child and held their hands as I prayed for them. During that time the lord revealed a lot of things to me about each child. I began to pray for very specific parts of their lives. The kids all began to cry as I prayed with them, the holy spirit was revealing things to both of us… he was helping me get to know these kids we were serving, and he was assuring both of us of his presence and his love.

In that hour I got to know the kids more deeply and personally than I did the whole week prior.