There is a village in a valley on the other side of the world that appears hopeless and where life is unimaginably challenging. The village is called Bondeni and it is located in the Methare Valley of Nairobi, Kenya. On February 21, 2014, a group of 32 Christ followers embarked on a short term mission trip to this remarkable place. Some were from Traders Point; some were from other churches; but we went as the “Big C” church of Jesus Christ. Some were doctors; some were nurses; some were business persons; and some were pastors. All were disciples. Unlike most mission trips this group left Indianapolis virtually as strangers because the majority of team meetings had been canceled due to the harsh winter weather. While the group had some diversity in terms of its focus, all possessed a common desire to to share the gospel in a dark and desolate part of the world.
We began the trip on a Friday afternoon with a long and laborious flight that was further complicated by delays and cancellations. After nearly 36 hours of traveling we arrived in Nairobi where we were warmly greeted by Vince and Stephanie Brooks and escorted to our hotel. After dropping off our luggage and grabbing a quick breakfast we attended church service at the Outreach Hope Church in Bondeni where Aaron Brockett delivered a message of hope through the power of Jesus Christ. The worship at the church in Bondeni was dynamic and uplifting. There was a genuine love of the Lord that was clearly evident. There is a wall that runs perpendicular to the church. Beyond that wall stretches the village of Bondeni, row upon row of tin roofed shanties are the homes of thousands who live without running water or electricity, where as many as 12 people live in 80 square feet of space on dirt floors. It is difficult to describe and almost impossible to imagine.
On Monday we gathered at the Missions of Hope Headquarters, located in the nearby village of Pengani, where we were presented with the information we would need to undertake a successful mission. We were also given to a tour of the building which houses a school and several training workshops. Finally, with some Community Health Evangelist workers as our guides, we took a walking tour through the village of Pengani which is similar in many respects to Bondeni. We were able to visit a few homes to gain a more in-depth perspective of the actual living conditions in this village. My small group spent some time with a single mom in her home. Her infant daughter was being cared for by a neighbor while her five-year old was off playing somewhere, unsupervised. After being abandoned by her husband, this woman and her two daughters occupied a dwelling that was no more than 60 square feet (many Americans have closets that are bigger) that had no source of light, no furniture other than a small table that was upside down and what appeared to be old blankets and rugs strewn about to partially cover the dirt floor. She had been drinking alcohol that day (although she said she usually does not drink) to help her cope with the stress she is experiencing. We prayed with her and invited her to church on Sunday and assured her that Jesus loves her. We encouraged her to seek the power of His love and told her we would continue to pray for her and her children. Standing in this tiny dark shanty home with this beautiful but broken women was a completely heart-wrenching experience. But somehow, even in that darkness the knowledge that the power of Christ’s love is enough to overcome gave us hope. I pray that it gave her some, too.
Tuesday began early with breakfast at the Grace House. The three teams went separate ways. As part of the medical team, I was only able to hear about the work of the other two teams. The pastor training had over 60 pastors in attendance which is considerably more than was anticipated. The business development team reported comparable success and were able to observe continued improvement in the business practices and success rates among local business people. The experience of the medical team was powerful! It was humbling, overwhelming and so very encouraging. With six physicians, three nurses, a dentist, a dental hygienist, and an occupational therapist, we were able to see a lot of people. We also had two team members who excelled at keeping us all organized and getting people to their final destination: the prayer room. On this very first day of clinic, we saw over 200 people and each one of them was prayed for. Entering the prayer room truly felt like stepping onto holy ground. There was such power there! We ended our day at the home of Vince and Stephanie Brooks where we were treated to a delicious meal and given the opportunity to share events of the day. The stories were powerful, tears were shed and God was glorified. It really doesn’t get any better than that……or so we thought.
Wednesday began again with breakfast at the Grace House. Upon our arrival at the school in Bondeni, a completely spontaneous worship service was held in the prayer room. Thanks to John Staub, we had music and it was beautiful! We began our day inspired to serve our Lord and witness His work. It began with a kind word from the nurses and social workers in triage, followed by the healing touch of our doctors and dentist. Then feeling hopeful and cared for, each person was prayed for in the prayer room that was still reverberating with the morning’s worship. Bonds were formed, bridges were built and satan had no foothold in Bondeni that day because the power of Jesus Christ was very much alive and well. Again, we saw over 200 people. While many of them came looking downcast, they all left with smiles on their faces. We ended the day at the home of Keith and Kathy Hamm where dinner was delightful and stories of the day were just as powerful,if not more so, than the day before. God is so good!
Thursday began our last day in Bondeni. We began at the old school in lower Bondeni. It is now home to the youngest students (ages 4 to 6). They were gathered in one big group to sing a song for us. It was a song about Jesus power and it was awesome! They have a custom that is difficult to describe but it is a real “WOW” and we had the honor if receiving it in only the way these little ones can deliver it. We sang “Our God is Greater” for them and we once again were blessed with the opportunity to participate in a powerful and spontaneous worship service. We then walked through Bondeni for a second time and it was still a harsh reality to witness, but there is hope there and as the song says, “Into the darkness He shines. Out of the ashes we rise.” There really is no one like Him.
We had to end our clinic day early so the staff, teachers and students of the Bondeni school could send us off with a celebration fit for royalty. Even though we stopped early we still managed to see almost 200 people and we did not have to turn anyone away. In fact, we didn’t have to turn anyone away all week! The celebration we were treated to was in true Bondeni style. There was singing, dancing and powerful prayer. There was cake, smiles, hugs and maybe a few tears. It was hard to say good bye. Hopefully it’s just “I’ll see you later.” Thursday ended at the home of Mary and Wallace Kamau where we were served a delicious meal and enjoyed the fellowship of these wonderful people through whom God is doing such extraordinary work. As our time together as a team was drawing to a close, and as team members began processing events and experiences of the week, several amazing realities began to emerge. A diverse group of 32 had bonded in a powerful way. Were we actually experiencing unity through diversity? Sounds like the power of the gospel. Lives were changed, souls were saved and hearts were overflowing with compassion and gratitude. Could it be the power of the gospel? Obstacles were overcome, comfort zones were shattered and the beauty of humility was revealed. I’m thinking that’s that power of the gospel.
We traveled to the other side of the world to share the gift of the gospel in a dark and desolate place. What we actually experienced was hope and light. As we left Nairobi to go our separate ways, some went on safari, some went to see family in other parts of Kenya, others went to London and some returned to Indianapolis. All were impacted in a myriad of ways. As we begin to process what we learned over the coming days, weeks and even years, may that hope and light shine brightly in this dark part of the world as well. As I reflect on the lessons I learned last week, one that emerges with vivid clarity is that the gift of the gospel is multi-dimensional. So too is its power. Bwana asa fiwe! (Praise the Lord)