In just under 41 hours, after our feet hit the Kenyan soil, on the last day of our mission trip, we arrived home. It was July 4th and each one of us had a new sense of independence after living outside our comfort zones for almost two weeks.
First, the back story. Seven of this eight-member team had never been to Kenya and half of us had never gone on a short-term mission trip. (Yes, you can, and should, feel sorry for our amazing, incredibly brave fearless leader, Eric Stellmack. And continue to pray for him…we think the nervous tic has almost stopped but he’s still talking to himself, occasionally.)
God formed this team by bonding four pairs, not eight individuals. We were a father and son, a mother and daughter, a husband and wife, and two best friends. Only four of us are members of TPCC. Then after our leader talked about having to be flexible and recognizing the variety of abilities we had, we branded ourselves, FlexAbility. If you’ve read any of our blog you have seen how appropriate the theme was.
We were all told something like “You’ll come back a different person.” And we did!
By stepping outside our “North American” comfort zone, our senses were stretched, our faith was strengthened, and our capacity for love widened. We saw God’s love and the love of God in ways we could have never imagined. During the worship service at Joska, on our last Sunday, we were all brought to tears. We heard what Heaven’s Choir must sound like as all the girls from the school sang in harmony and it echoed around us.
There was not one day during the mission trip that each one of us didn’t experience inspiration. From meeting with small business accountability groups and visiting the adult skills training classes at Missions of Hope International to praying with families during home visits and interacting with the Bondeni and Joska students.
We thought we were bringing the light to the people in Mathare Valley but just maybe it was us that saw the light.
One of the most important and emotional things experienced was the meeting of the sponsored children. Often we flippantly say “it’s a two-way street” when it comes to relationships. But there, it truly is. As the sponsor, you feel a reward as you talk to your child, hear about their hopes and realize you may be helping them reach their dreams. As the child, you have just received a gift that may seem so small to us, but enormous to them…recognition. They count, someone cares and they are loved. They know and believe God loves them and is always there. But as a sponsor, getting to meet the child, you’re a warm hand to hold, a smile they can see and a hug they feel. When you can’t meet them or are back home, sending letters that talk to them alone is so important. You are real and tangible to them.
We were amazed how so many of the children we talked to asked, by name, if we knew their sponsor at Traders Point and wanted to hear about them.
If you ask any one of us about our mission trip, be forewarned, there are thousands of stories and we WILL tell every one. To save you some time we’ve posted a few photos below. We hope you will see God’s love in them and the hope the people and the children of Mathare Valley have in us.