Monday October 20th
Today we visited Mandarara. This is a neighborhood filled with deep poverty. We have two families in this neighborhood that are sponsored through the LIFT program. As we pulled up, as expected the streets were filled with children wanting to see the “mzungus”, which is the word used to describe white people here. But there was something different about these children than the other children we had seen when we visited other neighborhoods before. When we got out of the car instead of running up to us, they stood at a distance. They would wave and smile, but when we would walk closer to them they would run away until they were at a safe distance again. Finally, one of them whispered something to Alice in Swahili and it was revealed the children had never seen a “mzungu” in person before and they were trying to decide if my white legs that were peeking out from the bottom of my capris were socks. Alice invited them to touch my leg, and then my arms and hair. This seemed to break the ice because they realized we were in fact people.
As part of our group visited with the LIFT families in the area, the rest of us spent time playing games with the neighborhood children. There were a few things that were very evident as we played-first these children were very very malnourished, Some only had one article of clothing on, which you knew was most likely the only piece of clothing they owned, most of these children did not having a loving parent around to take care of them. Despite all of these things however, they were still kids that took such joy in simple things. Alice and Fred had done a crusade in this area a few weeks before and you could see that the children remembered them, especially Alice. They took such joy in singing a song for us that Alice had taught them at the crusade. They took pride in telling us their names and were thrilled to play red light green light, race across the field and play duck duck goose. They lit up when we asked them for high fives and tried to see who could run the fastest after the car as we drove away.
See despite the extreme poverty these kids face each day-it was not hard for me to imagine my own kids playing along side these children. But it was heartbreaking to drive away knowing that our visit, where we didn’t even give anything, may be the only time this week, month or year where they received attention and love in this way. It can be so overwhelming. But as we drove away I was reminded that despite the devastation, God does not forsake his children. God has connected Fred with the families in this community to begin LIFT sponsorship, bringing some resources to the community. This same community is near where Fred and Alice are building a trade school, finally providing opportunity for individuals in this community to receive education and acquire a skill. God is still working in this community, despite the hopelessness that may first be seen. There is hope. There is hope in the children that are provided with sponsorship to go to school. There is hope in the smiles and joy seen on each child’s face and there is hope in the guardians that although seem to have everything against them are still fighting for resources for their family. And every time Fred and Alice go share the gospel through their crusades, they bring hope. I am choosing to cling to that hope and to pray this community. Although the problem is big, God is bigger. In Kenya that is not something you can forget.