The summer of 2010 remains the most influential time I have ever experienced.
That summer was the time I went to Kenya, Africa on a mission’s trip for thirteen days.
The things I experienced there, in the slums of the Mathare Valley, are things that I
cannot accurately describe because the people that are not even included in their
country’s census endure things daily that we Americans could not fathom without seeing
it firsthand. From trying to convince small children to stop sniffing glue to seeing threemonth-old babies dying in the arms of other members of our mission’s team, there are
certain images I can never erase from my memory. The funny thing is that I do not want
to erase them. They remind me of how blessed I am every time I see them. Here in
America, so many material things distract from my faith in Jesus Christ and the life I am
called to lead. In Kenya, God is the only thing you have to hold onto, because He is your
hope. The children at the orphanage I worked at did not complain or feel sorry for
themselves. They possessed this incredible joy, or rather, the joy possessed them. I see
their smiling faces and hear their songs of praise to God, but only after the recollections
of tin huts only six feet square and distended bellies of the little ones who do not have enough to eat. These children gave me one of the most valuable gifts in life: perspective.
I learned to see the world without the veil of American ignorance and stupidity that we
are so often labeled with. They embodied the verse in Philippians 4, “...Have peace and
joy in all circumstances.” I saw how much the people there were hurting and I hated
myself for every time I have complained about stacking the dishwasher or folding
clothes. They do not have plates to clean because they do not have food to make them
dirty. Kenyan’s wear the only clothes they own. The people of the Mathare Valley also
took something from me: a piece of my heart. This last Christmas I found myself asking
for a one-way ticket to Kenya instead of presents. Material possessions become such a
shallow novelty when you see people with next to nothing, most of them high, dying of
AIDS, or trying to provide for family members with those problems. On the trip, I was
apart of a sub-team called “Bring the Light”. We cut holes in their tin ceilings and put in
Plexiglas so they could have light in their huts, since electricity is a commodity. While
someone did the construction on the house, the other team member would share the story
of Jesus with the people who lived in the hut. Many people accepted Jesus and they can
now live forever with Jesus. I have had the light of their joy, faith, and hope brought into
my life, and I will never forget it.
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