We have had a very busy and full two days since our earlier blog entry. Our team was honored when we were asked to prepare a message for Joska’s Sunday worship service. Vince, Seth, Daniel and Tyler spoke beautiful words about God’s love and provision, and the importance of prayer and fellowship. The students packed into the Chapel and those who couldn’t find a seat inside huddled around the doors and windows. With Bibles and pencils in hand, the Joska students drank in every word, often quoting the verses before we could finish reading them. It’s hard to imagine being part something more beautiful or humbling. With each moment becoming more emotional than the last, the service had yet another high note when Vince taught the children a new song.
‘How He Loves’ has always been a particularly powerful song, but to hear over 500 children from the slums of the Mathare Valley sing it, you would think they grew up having the best of everything and worrying about nothing. The genuine way in which they sang the chorus struck a cord so deep it took your breath away. God is alive in this place, and in these people. His faith and love can move mountains more vast than those surrounding all of Nairobi.
Soon, it was time for the students and teachers of Joska school to show their appreciation for us – something that still brings our team to its knees. Their dances, speeches, songs, and poems were heartfelt and unforgettable. It is moments like these when we hear God whispering in our ears ‘this is what I can do’ and start to comprehend the phrase ‘more of You and less of me until nothing but Christ remains.”
After the service, Ronald, one of the Joska teachers that had attended the men’s conference on Thursday, stopped Vince on Sunday morning to again thank the TPCC team for presenting the material and encouraging men to seek authentic manhood. He was so excited to share that he was starting a men’s small group to teach the material to other men next week!
Shortly after worship, we finished the first ever Kenya Bible Bowl Tournament at Missions of Hope – Joska. Everyone gathered into an assembly hall to watch the final four teams compete to be the Mshindi – the winner – of the tournament. The girls team (Rhinos) prevailed and beat the boys team (Warthogs) resulting in a loud celebration by the audience. Heaven was certainly applauding all of the participants in this weekend’s launch of the Bible Bowl.
It was especially significant to our Bible Bowl team leader, Seth Thomas, that the launch of Bible Bowl in Africa began the same day that his TPCC Bible Bowl sponsor from years ago, Warren White was laid to rest in Indianapolis. Seth knew his greatest tribute to Warren’s investment in his life (and many, many other Bible Bowl kids at TPCC) would be to “pay it forward” to the kids of the Missions of Hope.
Some particular details about the Bible Bowl project are worth further discussion. Leaders of the Missions of Hope – Joska staff were present throughout the weekend. You could see the excitement about the program in their eyes as they watched the kids’ enthusiasm for studying Scripture grow. Their participation even included the use of one staff member, Denin, to quiz the children for the final three games. He knew nothing about Bible Bowl before we arrived, but after three short days, he was leading the final competition. Every player learned nearly 150 verses and questions about Acts and the gospels. Ribbons were distributed to the top 2 girls teams and top 2 boys teams for their hard work to secure that placing. Incredibly, even as we left to drive back to Nairobi, the staff announced that high school players would be competing in a separate tournament — one that the staff initiated entirely on their own. Now, only days after it was launched, a great foundation for Bible Bowl has been laid in Kenya.
After leaving Joska, we visited the newly launched boarding school for Missions of Hope boys. It was about a twenty minute drive from Joska. The facilities were very new, and much construction was ongoing. Yet, the boys were enjoying a game of soccer (football) during a sunny Sunday afternoon. The Traders Point team took soil samples for future agriculture efforts to support the school. The school also is working to build a water treatment facility that may enable it to sell water from a spring on the site. Overall, spirits at the boys’ school were high and the team enjoyed the gracious tours of this new facility.
Today our team was back in the slums of Bondeni visiting families. Our visits included times of sharing the Gospel, educating families about HIV, malaria and safe drinking water. Sights…Sounds…Smells. A walk through Bondeni is overwhelming. The filth, muck, and stench almost knock us over. But there are smiling children, and one of them is Alijuma, a child sponsored by one of our team members. His smile fills my heart. Our team member felt so blessed to meet him and his grandma.
We are reminded of Scripture as we walk by the lyrics to “You Make Beautiful Things Out of the Dust.” Praise be to God for the Bondeni School and all of the schools and churches in the Mathare Valley of Nairobi. He has richly blessed the area with dedicated and spirit filled social workers, teachers, and leaders who are making this place more beautiful every day.
Yet, still today, Mathare Valley is called the “Valley of Darkness”. As we walk along a trash-strewn path with both sides flowing with putrid smelling, thick sludge, it is easy to see how this place got its name. We enter a dark, cramped home and meet a woman who has traveled to be with her son whose wife just died and left behind a 3-week old baby. She is left with sorrow and grief. The pain is real.
We visit an elderly woman who is infected with HIV. While she has medicine from a local Catholic hospital, she cannot work because she broke her wrist and can only wait for it to heal on her own without a cast. Now she cares for two babies to make a little money. The pain is real.
We visit a woman who is married and has six children but is separated from her husband and all but the youngest of her children because his parents want her to “go back to be with her family.” She is left alone and vulnerable without a husband to protect her. The pain is real.
Where is the hope? Praise God they are all born again and know the love of Jesus. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5. We leave each home only after we have prayed with them and given them the only Hope that can transform the Valley of Darkness into the Mountain of God. Praise the Lord.
One team’s last stop was with Florence. Florence is a Christian grandmother of four grandchildren. Three are students in Missions of Hope school. Florence was a bright ray of sunshine in a sea of pain. Her smile was infectious and inviting. It was only matched by the happy young children. A team member later commented “you could see Jesus through her eyes.” She asked us to pray for her sick husband, an upcoming move, and her grandchild that had dropped out of school. The joy from Florence and her hope for future was a buoy to a day that had many highs and lows in Mathare Valley.
Love from Kenya,
TPCC July 2012 Kenya team