written by Kelly Little, Founder Light Up Hope
It has been a year since we started Light Up Hope and as an organization we have been blessed with supportive well wishers, financially generous donors, visionary Kenyan partners, and clear direction from God on where we are headed.
As an individual the blessings have gone well beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The most incredible blessing I have experienced is being used by God and having confirmation time after time that the Lord is faithful, the Lord has called me to do His work here on earth and the Lord is with me.
There is always the temptation to dismiss or ignore the working of God in my life. When things are going really well it is easy to focus on the tasks ahead and to take credit for the momentum in my life. But there has not been a single step of this journey that I can honestly say is because of the work I have put in. I am completely unqualified to run a non-profit organization. I have no experience.
I started this journey without an idea of where it would take me or how it would work. I spent hours agonizing, “how do I do this?”, but the incredible thing is I have never doubted this is what I am meant to do. God has been whispering on a regular basis into my heart and giving me the vision for what Light Up Hope should be. Now most of the time ideas have simply come to me out of thin air or through the introduction of people who have opened doors or walked the path with me. But this weekend I had a realization that I was given a vision of the work we are doing in Kitale, Kenya years ago.
The first time I met our Kenyan partner, Fred Afwai, was in the fall of 2007. It was on one of the very first Sundays that I had ever attended a church. Sure I had been to weddings and funerals and even visited a few churches as a child, but I had decided to check out the claims of Christ on my own as an adult at the age of 27. Fred was in the United States visiting Colorado and making connections with a variety of his supporters across the country. One of those supporters is Discovery Church in Broomfield, Colorado. They had asked him to come preach on a Sunday morning when I was sheepishly sitting in the audience, trying not to be noticed and desperately wanting to feel like I belonged in a church. Pastor Fred stepped on the stage and with a quiet but confident presence taught on the power of prayer. He spoke of the faithfulness of God and their daily dependence on Him to provide for their every need; literally depending on God to provide roofs over homes and food on plates. He also described the reality of childhood in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya and it was tragic. I pictured my two young boys (1 and 4 years old at the time) living in the conditions that the impoverished children of Kenya are forced to live in and I could feel my heart breaking.
I took off on a drive after church to pick up my sister from the airport and as I headed down the highway I could think of nothing but the children of Kenya and tears were pouring down my face.
I could see two little boys walking down a red dirt road – hand in hand on their way to school. I could see these boys walking miles to school in tattered clothes and shoes, but determined to make it there none the less. I had a vision of being there beside them, greeting them and taking care of them. I could see a long wire fence and green trees. I could see small houses made from mud and sticks.
I had no idea WHY this image was affecting me with such strong emotions. I have always had a heart for other people, but the depth of this experience was unusual for me.
Two years later I found myself stepping off an airplane onto Kenyan soil in Nairobi. I spent a week with Pastor Fred and his family in the city and I was surprised by all that I saw because it did not match my vision at all. I wrote off my vision as a case of “American ignorance”. I figured I had a Hollywood fantasized image in my mind of what “Africa” must look like and I did not realize the truth of what Kenya looks like and it looked like Nairobi. Beautiful in many ways, tragic in many other ways, but not the vision of the red dirt road.
Despite the unexpected realities I fell in love with the people of Kenya. I fell in love with the children, the women, the hard working men, and their beautiful worship of Jesus. I found myself connecting with the Afwai family. I knew that when I returned home it would not be the end of our relationship, and I knew deep in my soul that I was placed on a path to care for orphans.
Just this week I was retelling this story to a friend of mine. Retelling the beginning of all of this, before I had any idea that Light Up Hope would be created — and looking back and then looking at where we are now with Light Up Hope I was struck– the vision that I had five years ago was a vision of KITALE! Everything I saw in my mind, while tears were pouring down my face is in Kitale where we are building the new orphan refuge! In fact I have a picture of that very vision right here on my computer and I never put it all together until this week. I had a vision of the moment captured in this photo years before I had any inkling of an idea to begin advocating for orphans in Kenya. My whole life was oriented in a different direction. Little did I know that God was about to re-orient my whole existence to the east – to lonely and hungry children, to desperate and ill parents.
The skeptics will say it is merely coincidence, or offer up any number of other explanations for how I ended up on a red dirt road in western Kenya four and a half years after seeing such a vision in my mind. And maybe those people will even think I am a little crazy. But even if I am – the work we are doing is changing the lives of the children we are working with. They feel noticed, loved and cared for. They are being given a chance for success in life when they were born into a world with all the odds against them. So whether you believe it is God’s work or not, it is working. And I will thank God for that!
There are certainly days where I feel burdened down because it is a battle to let the story of my life unfold without “getting in the way”. But occasionally I have a day where I see my life from a higher vantage point. Days like the one I had recently when I am able to look back and connect the dots that create a beautiful picture of God’s presence, guidance and blessing with the work He is doing for the children of Hands with Hope Safe House, that make life really truly meaningful. Being part of something bigger than myself and feeling the close proximity of God leading my way is a gift, a gift that allows me to shine on the good days and struggle through the tough ones, to take leaps of faith and to wait for God. After all – that is the very first thing I learned about God from Pastor Fred and it certainly is not the last.
Here is a prayer to the next year ahead of us, that I may be open to the Lord’s guidance and be patient and accepting of the path he sets before us. Amen.