Life brings situations that challenge, harden, and mold us. But it also brings us to events that will stretch our arms open, melt our hearts and change our minds. These experiences change the way we see things. All of a sudden what was murky is now clear, what seemed harmless is now life threatening. I experienced this all at once when I went to Kenya with my mom and my church in November of 2009.
My church sponsors Seeds Ministry in Kitale, Kenya. Seeds Ministry is a feeding station and school for over 300 children of the Kipsongo Slum. The only way I can describe the slum is this; imagine life in a garbage dump. The huts are made from garbage bags. When a girl is able to have children, she is either raped or forced into marriage. The Seeds Ministry school and feeding station is a light among the darkest of nights. It gives 2 meals a day for 5 days a week to children who would literally starve to death. Seeds also clothes and schools the children, and has an orphanage in Kitale.
Our endurance was tested before we even arrived in Africa. We took a 2 hour bus ride from Port Saint Lucie, FL to Miami, FL, in which the entire amount of luggage almost fell out of the bus when we made a turn onto the highway! My uncle quickly closed the door while my mom and aunt laughed hysterically. From Miami, we took a nine hour flight to Heathrow, London. By then we were weary, ragged and drained. It was another seven hours to Nairobi. The British Airways flight crew was extremely cordial and delightful, which lightened the long hours.
Once we touched down in Nairobi, it was around ten o’clock at night. In the Heathrow airport, everything seemed American and familiar. But here everything was new and exotic, which brought uneasiness to everybody. The people were darker than midnight, and we were lighter than the noonday sun. We stuck out like sore thumbs. But a friendly welcome from Pastor Richard and his wife Helen calmed us.
My mom and I were chosen to go ahead of the group the next day and flew out to Eldoret. We were picked up from the airport and headed to Kitale. I will never forget how I felt when we pulled into the orphanage to see the children standing on the porch and singing to us. I fell in love with them instantly, and couldn’t believe I was actually there.
As a part of this trip my mom and I spent several days at the school and feeding station where I met Otiis. Otiis was one of the kids who came from the slum, who probably didn’t have parents. He was about 4 years old. Otiis didn’t speak to me much, but once I held him, he never let go. His laughter bubbled up from inside of him, and spread through his whole body. Out of 48 Americans and 300 kids, Otiis found me every morning and grabbed my hand, holding it until I walked him to his classroom.
The last day in Kitale hurt. It was the hardest goodbye to say. When I held Otiis he rested his head on my shoulder and closed his eyes. It broke my heart to know that he wouldn’t find me the next morning, and if he became scared that I wouldn’t be there to comfort him. I pray for Otiis every chance I get, and some how I know he’ll be okay because God will always be with him.
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