See below for the team’s blog updates!
See below for the team’s blog updates!
This was my third consecutive year going to Kenya and I had the honor of co-leading with Ernie, Lisa’s husband. When I went in 2017, Kenya was such a fun trip. Sure, it had its heavy moments; extreme poverty is never “fun.” But the trip held so much joy in doing VBS and celebrating the kids with a day of fun that it wasn’t what I’d call a “heavy” trip. Last year, 2018, the joy was still there, but it was mixed with deeper relationship building with students, teachers and families. I recognized students from the prior year, I was able to build much deeper relationships with the teachers and social workers as the reality of these kid’s life was made more known. Last year was the first year we served the community by doing a clean-up day with the 7th and 8th graders. One of the team members on our team last year, Brittaney, felt God speak to her and inspired her with an idea for a purity curriculum. This idea evolved into a purity conference for boys and girls in 6th-8th grade. We do VBS every year, but the purity conference was asking the kids to delve into some deep stuff we normally don’t dive into on our trips. You see, while the poverty in the Kenyan slums is heart breaking, an even bigger problem is the Kenyan culture and their view on abuse. Beating their wives, rape, substance abuse, etc, are culturally acceptable. Our partners in Kenya, Missions of Hope International (MOHI), are set on breaking these cultural norms and bringing freedom and hope through Jesus and Education. So, our purity conference focused on these cultural values. We wanted these kids to know that if you have gone through any of these abuses, whether you’ve tried some substances, been violated or abused, had thoughts of suicide, to know that God uses every story, that He restores and makes us into new creations when we accept and live our lives with Him. Getting this message across to these kids took extreme vulnerability from our team. We had members from our team share their own stories of abuse and redemption. It encouraged these kids to share their story so they can find hope in Jesus. And it worked! We had kids share their stories of abuse, and it was more heart breaking than we could have thought. But because this team brought purity to light and showed these kids what it means to share their story, MOHI is implementing a purity segment into their monthly youth gatherings.
It was such a privilege to lead this team and navigate through the delicate nature of the purity conference. It was even more rewarding watching this team grows in their faith and leadership as they led and counseled each other. This trip definitely felt more of heaviness than past trips. The ministry we did, the stories we heard, the seeds this team planted was hard. It was a trip planned with such intentionality that we proclaimed God’s love and restoration in a culture that doesn’t know it and I can’t wait to go back next year (God-willing) and see the progress made.
My trip to Kenya was amazing. For years I had been hearing about how life changing this trip was, but I didn’t really understand it in its entirety until I experienced it myself. The two weeks we were in country were jammed packed. Every day was a different experience and each of them was incredible. The people are what made this time so special.
Every day, I tried to own the moment and enjoy every second of the trip. Being back in the USA now I can’t stop but think about how impactful our Missions of hope partners are. The work they are doing in Kenya is incredible. It is so cool to see Mary Kamau, the founder’s dream become a reality and to see how God has multiplied it.
I can say so much more about this trip but words cease to describe it. Everyone needs to go on this trip at least once. I love Kenya so much. I love the people. I love MOHI. I love Grace house. I love Nairobi. I love the Maasai Mara.
We want to wish Pastor Steven and Jessica a BIG congratulations!! They celebrated their engagement with our team on their last day in the Mara!
Hey all! This was my second time experiencing Kenya. The first time I went was in 2017 with my Mom Carla, and it was such an amazing experience. This year I went on my own and got to have a whole different type of experience. It was absolutely amazing, every single moment was unforgettable. I made so many meaningful relationships and saw God through everyone I met and encountered there. This year we did a purity conference and it was such an incredible thing to have been able to be a part of. At Kiamaiko we had our first conference, I had a small group of about 5 girls and I really felt like I bonded with each of them. One of the girls in my group, named Eva. After the conference she came up to me and we chatted for a while and she gave me a ring that was passed down from her grandmother. Her grandma told her when she met someone special she could to give it to them. When she took it off her finger and put it on mine it brought tears to my eyes and gave me an overwhelming sense of gratefulness. I am grateful to have met her, along with the other girls. That was only the start of the trip…
God had so much in store for the things we were doing each and every day we were there. I’m beyond blessed to have been a part of it.
As I was waiting to leave the Massai Mara in Kenya, I was standing there watching the locals trying to sell their souvenirs to us while we waited for our plane adjacent to the dirt runway. Familiar merchants of the Mara people who were selling their merchandise caught my eye. One in particular was a man named Nixon about in his mid-30s who remembered me from 2 years prior was trying to sell me his merchandise. He introduced himself as Nixon but his family name was Letura. Nixon asked me if I wanted to buy anything and I responded with “my pockets are light.” I explained to him that the only way I would get something from him if it was gifted to me. In this way I would be able to tell people about him and who he is. Nixon then told me to buy two items and he will gift me one for free. I then told him my pockets are light. He then asked what does “my pockets are light mean?” I told him I have no money to buy anything and my wife has my money in California. He then asked what if my wife took all my money and ran away. I told him she wouldn’t do that because she’s a woman of Christ.
Nixon also asked me if I had to pay a dowry for my marriage. I explained to him that my marriage was blessed by my wife’s father who accepted me as one of his own sons and a union under the most High “YAHWEH”. He nodded his head like he understood and told me his marriage was arranged by his parents. They paid 30,000 Kenya shilling for his wife and along with two cows. He said he knew of his wife already and by paying the dowry she can’t dispute their marriage.
I explained to Nixion how our union is under God and my wife is mine and I’m am also hers and if anyone of us breaks this union under Him we are living in sin. I shared that the only way to have forgiveness is to know and accept Yahshua (Jesus) the Messiah as the Son of YAHWEH. I told him how Jesus paid that debt for our past present and future sins. Once we come to faith and have a marriage in Christ there is nothing a wife can do to separate herself from her husband. Christ forgave us all and we shall forgive each other if some sin arises in our marriage. I told Nixon that when you “Really/Seriously” come to faith in Christ you live as a new Creation and no longer practice walking in sin as you once did before. So for us, YAHWEH is the center of our marriage which is renewed only by Him and through Him.
Nixon informed me that the Kenyan law lets you have more than one wife only if you’re not a pastor. He then inquired if was I a pastor which I assumed because I only had one wife and asked did I pay dowry for my wife and will someone have to pay me for my daughter if they want to marry her. I told him that I won’t require someone to pay dowry for my daughter, but I would have to give my blessing. I told him I hope my daughter marries someone who is equally yoked. It’s between her and God.
We talked about our kids. We walked about arranged marriages. We talked about dowry cost. We talked about child sponsorship. We talked about Jesus. As we talked about God Nixon asked me questions as if he didn’t know God. I explained why I call God YAHWEH and why I called Jesus Yahshua. He understood. Nixon was testing me and already knew about Yahshua, Yasue which “Jesus” in Swahili. I heard similarly pronounced on the Holy Land mission trip. Nixon then revealed to me that he was a “CHRISTIAN” and he believes and accept Christ Yahshua as our Messiah and that his brother is the Pastor at his church.
Nixon then asked me why my skin was like his and the same time he proceeded to pull the skin on my forearm. He asked how I got to the United States? I shared with him the journey of my ancestors. I told him a little about slavery and my Great Grandma Mamo’ who was second generation removed from slavery and that her grandmother was most likely taken from the Continent of Africa. That our history may have some links, but there is no documentation for me to check. He kind of understood but he was still very intrigued that family had the same skin tone color as me. I showed him picture of my family.
We both started heard the plane circling above. Then I told Nixon that he was my brother. We shook hands and hugged each other and when I turned to walk away Brother Nixon tapped me on my shoulder and whispered and offered me a gift to choose from the items he was selling. I thanked him and asked him to pick any item out for me. Nixon gave me a necklace which to is the most precious gift that I ever received from anyone. It will forever remind me that YAHWEH’s “Will” extends over vast distance to the end of this earth. There is so much more to this story! May YAHWEH continue to bless and light the path of all who my Massai brother Letura encounters.
I don’t know why I am always surprised at the big, scary and amazing things God does. This was my third time visiting Kenya but my first time returning in 6 years! This trip was something I honestly had a lot of mixed emotions about but knew it was my time to come back. For me the trip started off rocky when I got some sad news of my uncles passing only a few hours before we were supposed to leave. Because of this, I made the hard decision to stay back and support my family. Prayerfully I would leave for Kenya in a few days. God is faithful and a few days later I was on a plane ready to reunite with my team.
I arrived in Kenya and hit the ground running. It felt so good to be back to the smells, the smiles, and the embraces. All of it was a breath of fresh air. This trip was packed full of intentional and impactful ministry that I couldn’t wait to be a part of. We put on a purity conference with 6th-8th graders at Kiamaiko and Joska for the very first time! These young adults endure so much on a daily basis and this conference was a time for our team to encourage them, speak into them and empower them through the daily struggles that their culture tells them to shove under the rug. Our team did such a good job coming along side each and every person they came in contact with. There was one moment when all the girls were together asking questions about how they can protect themselves. That moment I felt so helpless and there was nothing I could do to protect them from the pain and hurt they experience. Then God prompted me to empower them in a way I had not planned on. I threw out our scripted teaching and starting teaching the girls self-defense techniques. They light up! They went from a slightly defeated posture to a posture where they felt some power in a matter of seconds. They started practicing the techniques on each other and in that moment, I felt God revealing their power and worth to them. I could tell by their smiles and eagerness.
Another moment that was so special was seeing my sponsor child Susan before she moves to high school. I have been sponsoring her for 10 years and I couldn’t wait to see her again. It had been 6 years since I saw her last! The day prior we had done sponsorship meetings and I was not there due to my late arrival. So she had no idea I was coming. Before we started the purity conference, Pastor Lisa got on the mic and asked Susan to stand up so I could surprise her. She stood up, we locked eyes, I climbed over 20 kids to get to her and in front of everyone I grabbed her in my arms as we cried and cried holding each other tight. We have such a special bond and it meant everything to be with her again. I pray everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to go to Kenya and spend time with your sponsor child. It’s truly life changing.
There were so many amazing moments on this trip but the last I will share about is our “Refined” women’s conference we put on in the middle of the Massai Mara. I, along with Lisa, Tracy and Kathleen had an opportunity to share a massage of hope to 200 women in the Mara. Some of these women walked 10+ miles to get there. I had the blessing of sharing on the topic of “Having grace during trials”. I spoke on a topic that was hard and very fresh for me. I was nervous but it was so freeing. As soon as I started talking, it started to pour rain. I laughed, looked up to the sky and said ok God. I moved under the tarp and continued to share from my heart. I had to let go and let God. God is good all the time and I trust that he will use my testimony of His goodness in ways I could have never imagine. Not long after I finished, it stopped raining. Gotta love God’s sense of humor. I was so proud and inspired hearing Tracy speak on being a proverbs 31 woman, and Lisa and Kathleen on the power of prayer and God’s faithfulness. Tribal women sat on the edge of their seats listening to the power of God through those amazing women. At the end on the conference, women gathered, surrounded us while singing and dancing. They embraced us and praised God. It was perfect. The celebration went on and I left feeling so grateful for the opportunity to share and be inspired by the women who surrounded me.
This trip was a special one and I pray that as you are home reading and hearing stories from your loved ones, that you too take the leap and answer the calling. You won’t regret it and you will be changed forever.
After the last day of ministry in the Mara our team set out for a Safari adventure! Our teams always hope to see the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and Cape buffalo) and of course to catch a predator with it’s prey! We hope you enjoy photos from yesterday’s excursion.
These last photos are from our time with the Massai community! Last year our team celebrated the commissioning of a new well. This year we were able to bless the school in the Nkoiuwash community by pumping water from the new well to the school. The families in this community don’t have much, but they shower us with handmade Massai jewelery and beautiful bright colored blankets. They adorn us with these precious pieces and sing songs of gratitude and praises to the Lord. Every year they honor our team with the culture’s delicacy of roasted goat! Its a very big deal to be served this dish as it is only made for royalty and highly decorated political figures. Our Massai family has no hesitation to roll out their version of the red carpet for our teams. A lot of their community members marvel at the fact that there is a Church thousands of miles away who love and care for them so much! We thank our Crossroads family for their generosity and hope you are immensely blessed to be a blessing.
I love Kenya. I love the sights and sounds! I love the crazy bus rides, and exciting Jeep rides! I love the great big open sky and I love the animals in their natural habitat! But MOST of all, I love the people! The people here are so kind and caring! They are generous to a fault, even though they have next to nothing (by comparison). Their smiles come from a place of true joy…like the smile starts way down deep inside and has time to be fully formed before reaching their face. They have a strength that most assuredly comes from their joy in the Lord! They live content lives, striving to help others more than themselves. I love these people! They are why this is my fifth time traveling over 10,000 miles to come to this place and why I brought my twelve year old son Caleb with me!
Today we finished our “official” ministry work… no doubt there will be much more “unofficial” ministry in the days to come. We finished up with serving the kids at the Olochuria School in the Masi Mara. We have been out here for several days now, and it has been a wonderful experience as always. We finished with VBS, teaching the kids God is the creator of all and He loves them! We played games and sang songs. We put on a puppet show that the kids just loved. We played soccer and volleyball and ran in circles! We hosted a VERY needed medical clinic, that sadly had more needs than we had time. All these things were wonderful, and important…but I’d say the most valuable thing that happened today was simply holding these kids! Holding their hands, hugging them, fist bumps and wrestling! They knew for that specific moment that they had great value. They felt what it was like to have someone stop their lives and come a very long way just to get down on their level and affirm them! They knew in a very tangible way, that Jesus Loves them! I am honored that Caleb and I, and the rest of the team got to live out what Jesus has called us to do…to Love the least of these. I pray that every kid that we encountered this week never forgets they have immeasurable value, paid for by Jesus himself! I pray they grow into resilient young disciples who follow in the footsteps of the master and continue to further the cause of Christ out here in such a remote part of the world. May a simple holding of the hand today, truly have life changing, eternal impact. Thank you Lord for allowing me to do this. Amen.
I can’t believe that we’re getting closer towards the end of our trip. So far, my time in Africa has been so amazing. I’ve had the pleasure of co-leading the Arts & Crafts team for VBS in Nairobi & the Mara.
Every day here has had its own highs & lows. The most challenging day for me was Farewell day in Nairobi. That same day we did our community service with the 7th & 8th graders. We were divided into groups to clean the slums. It was so awesome seeing how even the community stopped to help us clean. Along the way, I met an 8th grader named Isaac. He was very shy at first but I kept asking him questions and eventually he opened up & started asking me questions. He was very close to me by the end of the day. Isaac was my bodyguard everywhere I walked he made sure that I was safe and would move me out the way whenever he felt like I could be in danger. It was the sweetest feeling in the world to know that this boy, not knowing anything about me could instantly show me so much love. It hurt me so much to say goodbye because I felt so connected to him after just knowing him for a couple of hours.
Today we had our last day of VBS in the Mara. There are so many kids in this village, even little toddlers were participating in the activities. I was a bit bummed out that I wasn’t able to help out in the medical team this week. However, today I had a chance to help the medical team for just 10 minutes and it made me realize how much more I want to become a nurse. Just a fair warning, I’m going to be all over the place when I get back, because it’s just so much.
It amazes me that these children get so excited to know more about God. I feel so undeserving of the love I’ve received from all the students in the schools. They just run up to you and start grabbing your hands and tell you how much they love you. My prayer for them is that they fall even deeper in love with our Lord and that the seed we planted continues to grow. It’s been so great that I’m honestly lost for words & find it difficult express everything but know that I will be sharing more when I’m back home. I miss & love you fam & friends!
Nothing is better than hearing the joyous voices of children praising Jesus and celebrating life. That is what our team experienced today at a school in the Mara. The children were so happy to participate in VBS. I was on the crafts team and it was exciting to witness how God made each child unique. The kiddos warmed our hearts with their precious smiles and genuine hearts. It is when you see the hope and strength of these kids you are reminded that no matter where you are in the world sharing God’s word will give hope in all circumstances.
Today was an unexpectedly impactful day. I wasn’t planning on doing the medical clinic, but I got pulled in when they needed some help. As a nursing student, I was just really interested to see the patients and help distribute medication. However, as I was watching Dr. Don work, I started to realize how extremely privileged we are to live in a country with great medical care. A mother came into the clinic with her son who attends the school where we served. She was complaining of fever, chills, and coughing up blood which are classic signs of tuberculosis. Her son had similar symptoms meaning that he could potentially be spreading TB to all his friends and classmates. This was hard to see because something that is fairly easily treated in America, could be so detrimental to this entire community of people. I felt almost helpless because we couldn’t do a lot to help these people that needed much more serious medical attention. Situations like these are when we need to remember that no problem is too big for God. We couldn’t heal these people, but that doesn’t mean that God can’t or that He can’t provide for them.
Although it was an emotionally hard day, there were moments that reminded me of why I want to become a nurse in the first place. A little girl who was about 4 years old came to the clinic without any parents. Her legs were completely torn up with flies covering them and she looked so scared. It broke my heart to see her so afraid and nervous. However, I was able to get down on her level, give her some crackers, and just build trust with her until she was brave enough to sit next to Dr. Don to be treated. I was able to hold her hand through it and she did so well though the whole process. Being there for that little girl reminded me exactly why I want to be a pediatric nurse and how God can use me in that field. I am so thankful to have this experience, and to serve with such a great medical team.
Today we had the opportunity to go serve in the Maasai Mara. We took a two hour Jeep ride to get there. Crossroads Church donated a girls and boys washroom to the school and we saw the opening. Then we did VBS with the kids. I was on the puppet team and got to preform for the kids. It was so amazing to interact with all of them and get to see all of their sweet faces.
Today was our team’s first day in the Mara. We headed to Nkoisuash and were welcomed by hundreds of kids celebrating our arrival. The first thing we did after we got there was celebrate the opening of the new bathrooms that our church funded. VBS was a bit chaotic because we had such a big language barrier with the kids, but I could tell by their smiles that they still had fun.
Today started off heavy after our conference yesterday. My group of girls opened up and shared things that made my heart break for them. So, on our plane ride to the Masai Mara I decided to read my Bible. My reading for the day was Philippians 4:4 and it said, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again rejoice!” When I read that I wrestled with God. How could I be happy when the girls I had just met we’re going through such hard stuff. But in that moment God shifted my mindset and showed me that this in-fact was something to rejoice about because these girls opened up about something they had never opened up about before. And throughout this day the Lord has continually showed me that he is in control of everything. I looked out of the window as we were landing in the Mara and I just realized that he’s in control, in the same way he controls the stars the moon the world, he’s in control of those girls lives and even in the midst of hard times there’s beauty in everything.
What a week it has been! The resounding theme from my time in Nairobi has been “hope.”
We visited the Mathare slums and saw paved roads where there used to be dirt roads. Cement trenches where there used to be muddy sewage trenches. We held two purity conferences where 21 people gave their lives to Christ. For the first time we opened up discussion of sexual abuse, substance abuse, suicide & identity with these students. We worked with the 7th & 8th graders to clean up trash & sewage from trenches in the slums, and the students worked harder than we did. We held a VBS where we told 1,100 students that God made this whole universe and yet He knows their names. We visited shut-ins that never leave their shanties and were able to bring them food & home supplies. It all brings hope for this area. We could not have done this 9 or 10 years ago – but because of the seeds sown by people who have come, we get to reap and then dig deeper and plant more. I have so much hope for this place, you can just tell God is taking care of it.
Personally, I was able to meet my friend’s sponsor children, Ian and Venah, and I just love them both! My sponsor child Sylvia passed away last year, and I had the honor of meeting her mother this week. We prayed and cried and prayed some more. I am grateful to God for that. I also am leading VBS for the team and it was an honor to see God’s plan come to fruition–and to see our team breathe life into these plans. My favorite is the poster you’ll see below with the fingerprint of every child that went to VBS, He knows the names of the owners of each of those little fingerprints.
Today was purity conference part 2! I decided to blog today because I knew today was going to be wonderful, and the purity topic holds a special place in my heart. We started with a long and bumpy bus ride out to Joska. Joska is an all girls boarding school that keeps them safe and out of harms way.
As soon as we walked out the girls were already in small groups which was a little different than the first conference. I sat at one of the groups and began to learn their names! They are all so sweet and kept asking me about America! After introductions we started worship and after a verse or two the girls joined in and it was so beautiful to hear their voices singing out loud praises to God!
We heard some testimonies from our Kenya team and as I looked around at my group I could see them writing down Bible verses and positive affirmations that the girls were sharing! When I asked them what they had learned they said things like, “” and “”.
My girls were so talkative right up until we began to ask heavy questions and it was heart breaking to see their eyes well up with tears. These girls are so strong that they won’t allow themselves to cry.
After I shared my testimony and answered the questions I was asking, a couple girls finally opened up about what they’re struggling with. We all joined hands and prayed for safety and healing.
Then as a family, we took a purity vow and found an accountability partner! Seeing the girls signing each other’s cards and putting their purity bracelets on was so incredible and i’m so grateful that God gave me the opportunity to experience girls making a decision to be clean and rejoice in the freedom God gave us!
After lunch the boys joined the girls for baptisms and I was lucky enough to bond with a kid named Brian! He was so eager to ask me questions about myself and about my home. He said, “my prayer is that one day I can go to America to see so much!” Brian also asked me to sing a song to which I politely declined. Since Brain said he lives to sing I asked him to sing a song! He asked me if I like Ed Sheeran and if anyone knows me they know that I love him! So Brian sang “perfect” and it was such a sweet moment to sing along with him and learn that he has a very good voice!
When they asked if the kids wanted to be baptized, his face lit up so quick and he was so eager to stand up, but wasn’t sure if he was able to, I asked him if he wanted to be baptized and he said “yes” so I told him to stand up and don’t let anything stop him!
At baptisms Lillian and I paired up to baptize the kids and it was so lovely to share that experience with her. We baptized about 10 kids together! I also got to watch Brian get baptized by the legendary Ernie and amazing Tracy!
When I was walking away from baptisms I was stopped by one of the girls in my small group and she said she wanted to talk to me so I stopped to listen. She opened up to me about dreams that have been making her feel sad and unsafe. I prayed over her and reminded her that God is in control. She has such a pure heart and I am so blessed to have met her!
Today was our team’s last day in Nairobi. We spent the day at Joska with 7th, 8th and 9th graders. The trip there was an adventure in and of itself. It’s like being on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, with some added dirt 🙂
Joska has a beautiful campus and is even more beautiful since it houses many young girls. We hosted a purity conference where we led worship, facilitated small groups and led the girls in a time of vowing to remain pure. I don’t know if any of you have or will have a chance to experience this, but there is something so special that happens when you hear hundreds of voices singing “I’m a child of God, yes I am.” It was such a unifying moment to be able to gather not as “mazungus” and Kenyans, but together as children of God.
We ended the day with baptisms right there at Joska. It was an incredibly special moment being able to help these young boys and girls publicly declare their faith through baptism. There was a joy that lingered throughout and one by one, we celebrated together with the angels in Heaven that more people had joined God’s family!
It also happened to be my 24th birthday, so that made today extra great! The Joska girls sang for me, made me a crown, and I even met my very own birthday twin, Faith! (pictured to the left of me). She had been looking for me and all she kept saying was, “it is my happy birthday too!” Faith, along with her peers who were baptized all now share the same birthday as me 🙂
My heart is already so full. I cannot wait to see what God will do with and through our team in the Mara!
Today is Saturday the 27th. Our day began early as we ventured to one of the high schools sponsored by Missions of Hope, called Joska. This school is also a refuge for younger children that have been removed from their homes due to adverse conditions. We were so blessed to be able to worship together and then conduct a youth conference with the younger children. Boys and girls were grouped separately, and listened to team members who had experienced challenges and chose to accept Jesus in order to change their heart. They were challenged to speak openly in confidence, or write any questions down so the leadership team could address things with teachers and social workers. The response was amazing! Our goal is to plant a seed, allowing them to be empowered and break the cycle of abuse!
Then came the baptisms! Crossroads team members were honored to bless these students and send them on to live a new and better life!
All in all, this trip has been a gift from God for all of us!
Continue to keep us and the Kenyan people in your thoughts and prayers!
On to the Mara tomorrow!
Where to begin? So far, my second trip to Kenya has been one for the books! This past week has been full of heartwarming, spontaneous and impacting moments to say the least. I met with my sponsor child Paul on Tuesday, and it was so cool to see how much he has warmed up to me. He’s a big fan of soccer and Spider-man so I make sure I came through with his gifts this year.
I was given the opportunity to be a VBS leader this year and host our games section on Tuesday and Wednesday for over 500 kids!
I won’t lie to you, it was the most fun (and chaotic) task ever. Man did those kids have the time of their lives playing at the 5 different game stations we set up. They didn’t even want to stop for their snack break!
On top of all that, I was one of speakers for our first Youth Conference on Thursday.
This conference was for 6th-8th graders, covering identity, substance abuse, purity and sexuality. There is power in being vulnerable and sharing what Jesus has saved us from. It was powerful to see some of the students open up about their struggles as well as ask us deep questions about the topics we discussed. Although it hurt to hear their stories, I learned that this event gave their teachers more insight on what their students deal with on a day to day basis. For that I am grateful. This conference helped them understand the power of our testimonies and gave them more confidence in sharing their own.
Today we had our service project/farewell day with the 7th & 8th graders at Kiamaiko.
I loved seeing the students work together with our team to clean up their community. I heard many people in the community saying “asante” (“thank you” in Swahili) as we walked through the streets with wheelbarrows of trash and raw sewage. This was a tough project for sure, but everyone had a blast while getting their hands dirty. One of my favorite moments during that project was when we were finished cleaning and one of 7th graders yelled out ”We are a great team!”
I can’t believe our time in Nairobi is over. The week went by so fast! It definitely was hard to say goodbye to the old and new friends at Kiamaiko, but Lord willing it’s only a see you soon. Keep MOHI in your prayers. They are doing incredible work all over Africa and I can’t wait to hear about where the Lord takes them from here.
This trip has been so great so far. Hands down God gave me the greatest team. A couple days ago was child sponsorship day and we got to see our sponsor kids again! This day was filled with smiles, tears, and laughs. I got to meet my new little boy, Vincent. The sweetest boy! VBS was also so amazing. All the teams working so well together made the day extremely smooth.
I do have to say before going into Kenya I was pretty nervous that my sister and I were both on this team. But I really couldn’t imagine this trip without her. Seeing her interact with all the kids and staff these past couple days puts the biggest smile on my face.
Today was the community service day. We picked up trash, unclogged the sewage’s, and cleaned the streets. It was so great to see the community wanting to join in and help. The kids were so willing and they were having so much fun. Connecting with the kids while cleaning up! After we got to serve the kids chips, smokies, and cupcakes!
Today was also farewell. Farewell means goodbye. Saying goodbye to Abdi and Vincent was so so rough. But I know they are in very good hands. Last October for Abdi’s birthday I got a “A” tattoo on my ear. Yesterday he saw it and I told him that behind it was for him. Today I saw him and he had an “H” and “T” written behind his ears. I will miss that sweet boy.
This year has been a lot different for me than from my past experiences. This past week has been amazing because I have been able to be used through others. God wanted me to do something different this trip. I got to share my own testimony which brought me out of my comfort zone and I was able to see other girls open up and have very similar situations of what I went through as a child. God really used my story to bless someone else. Meeting my sponsor kids and spending time with them during VBS is always something I really enjoy. I never realized what we mean to them and seeing those smiles is what I have missed a lot.
Then today we got an opportunity to teach the 7th and 8th graders to serve in their own community. We took them out into the slums and they got to clean the trenches by taking out the trash from the drains and being a blessing in their own community. When walking through the slums I have never realized what I take for granted and don’t appreciate what I already have. Seeing all the trash on the ground and how important it was to be this blessing because we were able to see what a difference we have made.
Then it came to say goodbye to all of our sponsor kids. When leaving my sponsor child she touched my face and told me she will miss me. In that moment I knew I had made a difference this week. Leaving these kids is is always hard but I know they always will have a special place in our hearts.
Today was absolutely beautiful.
My incredible roommate Brittaney led a Purity conference for our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. She did such an amazing job!
Many of our teammates shared testimonies about how they came to know Christ. Some stories resonated with our students. We then created small groups of about 6-8 students and discussed very serious issues regarding sexuality, drug abuses, and other personal issues that may occur when our students return home in the slums. It was a very emotional day. I wished there was a way I could remove our students from these situations.
I had a group of nine 6th graders. They were very sweet and kind. It was so amazing to see how the girls would lean in as soon as the word of God was spoken about. They wrote down every scripture we referenced and were eager to read them when they got home. As I was going around asking for everyone’s name, I realized I recognized one of the girl’s names. Her name was Grace, I met her 4 years ago because my sister was her sponsor. I was under the impression that Grace had gone out of country and was no longer in the system. It was sooo good to see her and catch up on how her life has changed within the last 4 years. I was humbled to see how her love for God and others has developed. She led the group with her gentle and quiet spirit. It was an honor to witness how God moved within a person’s life. I am humbled that God allowed me to see it. And I realized, MOHI has done such a great job investing into these children’s lives. In order to change the culture of the slums we must start with the children. To teach them right from wrong and teach them the life God desires them to live. This is how the culture of the slums will change. It is a privilege to help the cause with my amazing church family. I am always encouraged with the student’s joy. They truly desire to be close to the things of God. Many opened up about hard trials they endure at home, but they cling on to God. I will always remember my group of girls. I will pray for them as my heart and mind constantly think about the beautiful country of Kenya.
Every year we believe we come here to serve (and we do) but these sweet spirits always seem to refresh our spirits.
These past 2 days of VBS were so much fun! Today we had the opportunity to start something more serious with the older students and really dig deep. We held a purity conference at the school to talk about identity, substance abuse, and sexual purity. We were able to share testimonies with the kids and show that there is a better, pure life through Jesus. It really touched them and me. Three other men and I got to share our own personal stories to demonstrate to the kids that it is okay to be vulnerable and to not be ashamed and to show that there is always hope no matter the situation.
I’m thanking God for today! We finally made it to the Youth Purity Conference. We’ve been working so hard to prepare for this and today, it was finally made a reality. We felt and saw God work in beautiful ways, and I’m honestly still processing everything. However, I can say that the team was very brave and I believe we made a huge mark! I was told that the school realized the topics of rape and abuse have not been talked about enough with the students and they want to start implementing it more in order for the boys and girls to feel more comfortable opening up, should they be experiencing it in any way. Crossroads Church we have made an impact! So many students received Christ into their lives today. It was emotional to say the absolute least! ALL GLORY TO GOD for we know we couldn’t do it without Him! Also, I got to see my friend Sophie and it was a very special moment for the both of us! Excuse the ugly face cry, but this was an incredible moment! Shout out to my roomie, Jessica because she’s provided me with so much love and support!
We started the day off with VBS day two at Bethany. On the way to the school I was listening to music and then singing worship songs with the rest of the team. Lauren and Sara taught us a song they had written for CYA and had us look out the windows while we sang along so we could apply the lyrics to where we were and what we were seeing. During worship at Bethany, I found myself up on stage again holding in tears of joy as I watched these kids scream “olay, olay, olay, olay, Jesus, Jesus” at the tops of their lungs. I am so so blessed to be a part of the worship team with such amazing people. This whole Kenya team is more amazing than I can fathom.
After we finished VBS, we had a dance party with all of the kids. A girl named Lilian came up and took a picture with me because she was so excited we had the same name. Then when we went into the chapel, and I met Chantelle. She was so sweet, she danced with me the whole time and laughed with me when her friends tried to teach me how to dance. She and her friends were shocked when they found out that I’m fifteen and in high school instead of thirteen like them. Then another girl was shocked to find out I didn’t have a child at my age. Chantelle and I yelled over the music into each other’s ears to get to know each other. After lots of dancing and questions, she told me that she thought I was the best person she had ever met and that my best friend, Makena, was so lucky to have me. My love for this girl that I spent only thirty minutes with is incredible.
After a meeting and some rest back at Grace House, we went to Mary and Wallace Kamau’s for dinner. The food was delicious and Tara, Wyatt, Tanner, Brandon, Caleb and I laughed so hard at dinner. We had such a great day and we were so tired that we could not stop laughing. It was so great to spend time with them and share so many jokes. We debriefed at the Wallace’s after and I shared about my bond with Chantelle and how she touched my heart.
I couldn’t have asked for a better day to share my wonderful experience with you all back home.
Down in my heart I have joy, joy, joy.
Straight from your heart you give joy, joy, joy.
Wow! My third time in Kenya has been an absolute whirlwind of an eye opening adventure filled with both rejoicing and heartbreak. Every year I experience something new and this year has been no different.
Today, I led worship with my entire team to the 6th-8th graders at VBS. We introduced and sang a song that my team back at home, CYA worship wrote titled, “Joy”. It was completely humbling to hear hundreds of children (both today and yesterday) singing a song that came from some of my favorite people at Crossroads. The combination of the sound of their voices singing bold words about God’s love over their lives, the way my team worked together to encourage the students to worship and the Holy Spirit that filled the room caused my eyes to well up with tears while leading. Before I knew it chairs were in the air, voices were getting louder and the entire room was erupting with praise for Jesus. It was a sight to see!
I have been able to reconnect with a lot of familiar faces and make some new incredible relationships this year around. Zedin, who has consistently been my rock on all of these trips I have taken has grown into such an incredible, kind and smart human. I am so proud of who he is now.
My friend Lesley and I finished the poster in the pictures with the Psalms verse on it the night before we left for the trip. The dots you see on the poster are every single one of the children’s unique fingerprints. I was so excited to take something that had been in my own home to the school in Kiamaiko, and later next week to the school in the Mara.
Lesley said it best today after VBS, “We’ve only been here a few days and it’s already been so incredible.”
I can’t believe it’s already day 4 in Kenya!! This trip is going by so fast. Waking up today I felt God’s presence in a way I’ve never felt before. We started off the day praying as a team and talking about what we want to accomplish together. We hopped on the bus and started our day, driving to Bethany. We sang a beautiful worship song that calmed everyone’s nerves, with the words that God is everywhere. We arrived to Bethany Church and I already felt God’s presence here. We started with worship and I’ve never seen something so beautiful. The kids were so full of life and had so much energy! When you hug one child a million run up to you and hug you, it’s the sweetest thing in the world. We did crafts with the kids and made stars that symbolized Psalm 147:4.
“He counts the number of the stars;
He [e]gives names to all of them.”
It was so nice seeing all the kids coloring their stars and singing worship songs while doing the activity. We finished crafts with dancing to the song Bazoiko and a select few of the kids put on a performance for us. We finished off VBS with a dance party. I went on stage for a dance contest and it made me feel so alive seeing how joyful the kids were. It brought tears to my eyes experiencing how much fun they have. They love Jesus with their whole heart and love to worship Him. Later in the evening we gathered with the founders of MOHI and had dinner as a team. They made us feel so at home, cooking us Mexican- Kenyan food. It was great spending time with Mary and Wallace, especially in their beautiful home. This journey has been so beautiful but also so heartbreaking. I’m so thankful to have such a supportive team with me on this trip.
Coming back to Kenya has been so much different. I try not to compare 2017 to this year, but it’s been an honor to able to come back and see all that God has been doing through the community.
Yesterday, we had VBS day 1. We had to drive through the slums to get there and it blew my mind. There wasn’t as much trash as there was 2 years before and the area is being developed more and more.
I missed this place so much.
I got to spend SO much time with my sponsor kid at VBS it was incredible. We bonded a lot the day before at sponsorship day so being able to just have fun was really cool. He never left my side, and when he did he would randomly turn around find me and sprint back to me.
These children are as attached to us as we are to them. It’s been a gift and an honor to travel back to a place I call home.
After VBS we did home visits, but they were different than the day before because the people we visited couldn’t leave their home mostly due to illness. The women my group met was named Magdalene.
She has back problems and only has enough strength to walk outside her house door. When we walked inside her shanti (her home) it was pitch dark. We turned on our flash lights and behind me was a picture of Jesus. Tim asked her about the picture and she responded with “I love Jesus”. In the mist of hurt and pain and not having her family with her because she is ill, she still has enough faith and love for a God that many people would blame for their pain and suffering. Tim read her verses from the beatitudes in Matthew 5. What stuck out to me is God blesses you period. It doesn’t matter about your social status, your income, or the amount of followers you have on Instagram. Just because you have “things” doesn’t make you blessed… because here I am in the slums filled with people who have nothing, but I know that God sees them. He is continually blessing them regardless of the “things” they have.
I am thankful to be back and I’m learning to really be present in this place. There is so much peace and hope that I feel this trip.
Hi readers my name is Jae and today my blog is one that has been close to my heart. Medical jobs have been a passion of my for a few years and today I had the pleasure of being a part of the medical clinic hosted by Crossroads in the Kiamaiko slums. Our team consists of one doctor, two nurses, two nursing students and two Emt’s. We served the community with various medical issues from high blood pressure to thyroid masses. When we first arrived to the cite I was a bit nervous because outside of class studies I haven’t been a part of assessments for a long time but it slowly started to come back as soon as I stepped into my role thanks to the help of God. First we filled bottles and bags with medication that would later be dispense to the community as needed within our pop up pharmacy. Various medications were on deck to treat the common illnesses that plagued this particular area of the slum. This was huge for us as a team and many of us were very nervous and weary of our skills and abilities but God had different plans for our doubt. Yesterday’s devotion was a great reminder to cast our burdens, our worry and our doubt on to the Lord because His yoke is light when He takes ours from us and replaces it with His. We did this as a team and really connected to one another through our service and team bonding. I feel that our work was so impactful in a community that is primarily Muslim due to the fact that our clinic has such an open door policy. My job was triage; this is where the initial assessments began. In triage the assessment will tell us baseline vitals such as blood pressure, heart rate, weight and oxygen levels in the body to give us a better understanding on where to start as a team for that specific patient. This was so exciting for me because now I was able to use what knowledge I had in a Godly way and it brought so many desires to serve to Lord in His many ways. The highlight of my day though I would have to say is when God used me to identify a service case of infection for one of the guys in the slums. As we walked down to start our home visit with buckets of food and beds in hand a group of guys flagged our team down. Some of our team kept walking, busy on our mission to deliver these items. I quickly brushed them off and told them to go to the clinic to seek medical attention. As we sat at our destination for the home visit that situation didn’t sit well with me and I asked the social worker if there was anything we could we do for these people. After finishing our home visit we headed back out of the slums when the group flagged me down again! This time I was not going to leave without helping them. The guy who needed help lifted up his bandanna that was filled with dirt and other things, and showed me a hole in his ankle that went down to the bone. As I took a closer look I quickly realized that it was infected to the point where his skin had become ridged and hard due to the extra infection. I spoke to the social worker and expressed my urgency for this guy to receive treatment. We rushed him to the clinic to see the doctor because his leg has been like that for the past four days. God, being the all-knowing and loving father that he is, used me, even when my knowledge isn’t as advanced as others. The thought of when I feel week He is strong kept crossing my mind as we literally saved this man’s life. He could’ve lost his life within weeks without treatment. I was willing to step out of my mindset of being insignificant and God used me in this way. When I’m at my lowest and my mind is at my weakest God is still allowing me to be at my strongest because of the way He is using me. I just need to have faith and step out of His way to allow His work to be done.
In the three times I’ve gone to Kenya (2009, 2013, and 2014) I never had responsibilities. I was a child, who just came along for the ride. This year is different! I am the puppet team leader for VBS. I was put in charge of writing the scripts, and making sure my team was prepared. I was given a big team of hard workers, so my job was easy. Yesterday was a disappointing day for me. My team had worked so hard on getting everything right, and being prepared, but things didn’t really go our way. We needed a translator due to the language barrier. As I was standing on stage as the narrator, I saw the all 400+ kids extremely confused about what was going on. The language barrier was almost too strong and certain things weren’t translating clearly. I believe it was an attack from satan. He knows that I wanted the puppet performance to go amazing, and for the kids to laugh. They laughed, but you could tell they didn’t understand. After the performance I found myself mad, not at my team, and definitely not at the kids (that i adore so much) but, at myself. I should’ve done something different, something easier for the younger kids. As the leader I felt bad for my team. After some time of reflecting I realized that those kids had the time of their life that day. Getting to play and be loved on does more than any puppet show could do.
We ended the day with home visits in the slums, one of the best parts of the trip. I find the slums calming; all the hustle and bustle is calming to me. We went to a shut in, someone who can’t leave their house because of illness. The man’s house we went to was Simon, a man with tuberculosis. Our social worker said that this was the first time she had ever seen his face, or seen him walking. Already a miracle! We brought food, a mattress, bed sheets and blankets. Simon was so encouraged, and his wife was in awe. Seeing this made me realize that we can’t comprehend Gods love for He had provided them with exactly what they needed. Every day in Kenya is amazing. Seeing the Lord work out here is unlike anything.
So far it has been an amazing Monday! Today we had an amazing breakfast at Grace House before we headed out to Pangani School. I got beaned for the first time for being late haha! Tracy gave an amazing perspective on our daily devotional about how God is with us and will remain in us. I think it was so beautiful and a great reminder that even though we are in another country, God is always within us. When we arrived to Missions Of Hope we had an amazing group of staff awaiting our arrival. We then had an orientation. The orientation was so awesome learning all about Kenya. We then had chai time, which is a HUGE deal here in Kenya. It was nice getting to know the staff on a better level. Then we had home visits which is so very humbling that they open up their homes to us and tell our group all about their life and what they need prayer for. It reminds me to be more grateful for everything I have. Pretty soon we will be having lunch and then going to see our sponsor children. It’s my favorite part to see all the happiness and smiles on the children’s faces. Psalm 71:14. I really enjoyed seeing 3 children for sponsorship day, I was able to meet up with Missy’s sponsor girl and that was such a huge blessing! She is such a sweetheart! Missy she misses you and loves you so much and so do I! It’s such an amazing experience and quite honestly this team may be big, but we’re all one big happy family! I have loved every moment of this trip!
Our first full day in Kenya was everything that I imagined it would be and then some. After a full day of traveling we rested, got up and headed to Pangani Center, where we got to hear the history of MOHI, tour the school and do a community visit in the slums. Hearing it for a second time gave me a new sense of love and passion for what MOHI does & the people they impact for the pure glorification of the Lord. The lives they touch are real and true testaments to the God we serve. After that we went into child sponsorship meetings. I was seconds away from the day that I had been dreaming about for 2 years.
Anyone who knows me will know that I have such a deep love for the kids we sponsor. It feels as if they become like your own children and you can’t help but be so obsessed with them. This year I got to see my two kids again and what a special time it was.
I talk about Abdi every other day, if not every day. He touched my heart in a way that I had never experienced. He was young when I met him for the first time, he had a quiet and gentle spirit, but a smile that spoke volumes. When I saw him this year he was a whole head taller and even sweeter than I remembered. He again was quiet, even hiding from us in the beginning. Then he slowly opened up and we just embraced our time with each other. He is a true form of Gods love.
I sponsor another little girl named Grace. I got to meet her two years ago, my first time to Kenya. She was so itty bitty. I fell in love with her in every way. This past year I got news that she moved to a different school and my heart was sad that she would no longer be with the other kids our church sponsors, but all I cared about was the fact that she would be able to stay at MOHI where she has an incredible education, learns about God every day & is loved. I met her again and oh how she grew up. I wasn’t positive if she was going to be at sponsor meetings so I didn’t get my hopes up too high just in case she wasn’t. I didn’t see her in the beginning and so I assumed she wasn’t there. Then a couple minutes later I see her tiny self standing in line and we recognized each other immediately. She ran full speed to give me a hug and I just held her. She speaks well and grew so much in those two years. She loved all of her gifts and we took so many photos together. She is magical. She just went along her way when we were done. I know in my heart I have to see her again, so I cling to that.
The last photo is of Venah, a little girl we met who is sponsored by friends. (Mila, she is just like you in every way!)
All of this to be said I think the love of God is the most evident in His children. I cannot help but have an untouched feeling around these kids who are just overflowing with genuine joy. They just want to love you & for you to love them, much like Jesus. This was the most special day and it was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Kenya is gold, pure gold.
Hello family and friends. Greetings from Kenya.
So many great things happened today, but I wanna share two that were my favorite! Today we spent our day at MOHI where the social workers took us around the slums. I saw crazy things like a man cooking goat legs, 3 people riding one motorcycle, and small shanti’s with big families. Our social worker then introduced us to a women name Irene. Irene welcomed us into her small home and started telling us her story. Despite the fact that barely 5 of us could fit inside her home, she continued to praise God for providing her with a place to live. It was a very beautiful and humbling thing to hear. We then got to pray over her and she told us how happy she was for spending time with her.
We then came back to eat some lunch. As we were eating lunch, all the kiamaiko students came around the corner of the building we were in. I got super eager to find my sponsor child as returners started spotting out their own. I then saw a little girl from afar with big eyes and I knew right away it was Penina. I smiled; she smiled back and timidly tucked her head in her shoulder. I asked if she knew who I was and she shook her head yes! She introduced me to her sweet friend Suza! I got to sit with her and give her all the toys and school supplies I got her. We played with paint and ate sour candy together. It wa a super sweet moment i’ll always remember. She was very shy and didn’t talk much, but her expressions cracked me up. She would put her glasses on and fold her arms like she was all kinds of tough. I also saw her push a little boy so I don’t think she’s someone to mess with hahahah.
But in all seriousness, I am so grateful God has called me on this trip. My experience this far has been so amazing. The people here are SO welcoming and kind and ready to serve us all and the way they see the world is beautiful. God is using these people to reveal his heart to me and show me there’s more than just the little bubble I am surrounded by. His love is big and it stretches to the ends of the earth. That is beautiful.
Kenya Day One
I have been looking forward to this trip for over a year now! My dad has been coming for years and I love hearing his stories and seeing his pictures, but I knew I wanted to experience it all myself firsthand and see how God would use me in a place that I’d never been, but know so much about.
It’s crazy how long a plane captain can go without falling asleep, for me it was 15 hours!!!!!!!! And it wasn’t easy… picture this, you’re in a small little chair with a tiny pillow, and a tiny blanket, and a small little tv (which actually wasn’t bad at all) for 15 hours straight with only 4 hours of sleep…but it was the best plane flight of my life, and all the squished sleepless hours of the flight were all worth it! It made me look at solid ground in a whole new way. After an overnight layover where we had just enough time to take a quick shower and a nap, we got back on a plane for another 5 1/2 hour flight to finally land in Nairobi. Once we landed, we got on the bus and drove to grace house (our hotel) and we were greeted by the workers with a song! We then went and ate breakfast 🍳 (it was so good) then we got the keys to our room and unpacked. Then we went shopping at the market, and you had to barter to get a good price on anything, and I ended up getting a spear. Then the MOHI staff came and we played an icebreaker game with them so we could get to know each other. After that we wanted to bless them like Jesus would have, and so we washed their feet and prayed over them! Don’t worry it’s way less gross than you think… In fact, it was actually an amazing experience! I love that I got to serve someone that serves at the school teaching the kids in Kiamaiko (sorry if I spelled that wrong) after that we went to go eat dinner 🍽 and it ended in a big party that was so much fun! I can’t wait for tomorrow when we get to go to Pangani and I finally get to meet our sponsor kids, Jane and Calmus who we’ve been praying for as long I can remember) and Sammy (my sister Ava’s sponsor child). I had no idea Kenya was going to be so moving! And somehow, almost from the minute of getting off of the plane, it felt like home! Maybe it’s because my dad has been talking about it for years, or maybe it’s just because Kenya! Either way, I know it’s going to be a great two weeks.
Caleb R (12 years old)
These past couple of days have been crazy but awesome! Our travels were on a constant flow, from bus to airport to hotel then back to plane, to bus to hotel again, and all of the customs stations and security checkpoints in between. But God got us all through safely and all of our bags through too (at least to my knowledge!)
Once we made it to Grace House, our hotel in Nairobi, we were greeted by many kind and some familiar faces, singing a welcome song. The hospitality here is always off the charts. After our second breakfast (we had had one on the plane just before arrival) we were able to take time to visit the local Yaya Market and get some good deals on different items (for those brave enough to haggle.)
We then had an exercise with the MOHI workers that we partner with to get to know them and have a fun time. It was a great way to get to know them as people, not just workers.
Later, Steve gave a great explanation of the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and being a servant to them. We then had the privilege of being able to serve our MOHI partners by washing their feet and praying with them, and many of them said they felt humbled and were grateful. Maybe next year we’ll upgrade to giving them all full pedicures 😉
And finally, today was my birthday, and it was celebrated quite a bit before we left for Kenya, so I figured it was alright if it didn’t get mentioned in all the chaos here. But then after dinner tonight a HUGE cake with candles was brought in and all of our MOHI friends, Grace House staff, and our Kenya team started cheering and banging bowls and dancing and singing happy birthday!! IT WAS PRETTY STINKING AMAZING! And this then turned into a Kenya-sized dance party with table banging and singing! I’d say today was an excellent first day and look forward to the seeing the sponsor children in Kiamaiko and Pangani tomorrow. As I hear Zane say often LET’S GOOO!!!