My 3rd time in Kenya and each time has been a completely different experience. Equally so, it has been the same in many ways, God showed up, God moved, and God did not disappoint. This year, I had the privilege of leading VBS with my good friend Jessica Luna aka Luna. This years VBS looked a bit different than normal, we had 2 groups that split for a few days our first week, Group A and Group B. This required many hours, days, weeks and months planning for an epic Kenya VBS experience serving 4 different communities and areas of Kenya. I lead group A while Luna lead group B. Group B traveled with Luna, Tracy and Ernie to 2 villages outside of the city (Olturot/Namarei) to put on VBS for those kids, while the rest of us stayed back doing VBS in Kiamaiko where Lisa and I lead. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Group A had to combine 2 days worth of VBS into 1 day in order for all age groups to participate in VBS, this means our 3 hour day turned into 7+ hours. We had 16 team members not including the leaders (Lisa and myself) serving approximately 475 kids, we were at the school for 7 hours and of those 7 hours, 5 1/2 hours of straight VBS time with 18 total rotations. Rotations included outside games, puppets, crafts, worship and arts and snacks. Our team was exhausted, it was hot, the classrooms were dark with not much lighting and very confined. Not one team member complained, in fact when we told them we were going to do tomorrows VBS today after our regular schedule in order for all the kids not to miss out, they all said “let’s do it”, “we got this”. No one wanted to let the kids down and with Christ by our side, our team pulled through and served all the children we planned to in 1 day. What a team! I heard many great things Group B encountered but I will leave that part of sharing to Luna.
This week we had both teams serve together in VBS in Maasai Mara, one of my favorite places in the world. We served over 400 kids for 3 days of VBS. Seeing the kids faces and the bonds that were made in those 3 days are things you can never forget. My favorite part of going to Kenya on a missions trip is seeing our team interact with the kids, teachers, social workers and each other. Together we served over 2,000 less fortunate kids with only 38 team members, that’s quite the adventure and I could not be more proud of the team and the God honoring work we did these last few weeks.
God is SO good! It has been an honor and joy serving and leading VBS out with my friend, Priscilla aka Peppy! Our team of 38 did an outstanding job selflessly serving during our time in Kenya. We did VBS in 4 different locations (Kiamaiko, Olturot, Namarei, and Maasai Mara) for over 2,000 children. BWANA ASIFEWE (Praise the Lord!).
Our team split and I had the privilege of leading 2 full days of VBS in Olturot and Namarei for the first time. Despite the intense heat in this dry and desolate rural location (it hasn’t rained in this area for 4 years!), this team had the time of their lives loving on these children and being the hands of feet of Jesus!
We even had the incredible opportunity to spend the night in the Olturot community (neighboring the children’s families houses) for the 1st time and we were able walk to school with them the next day. This part of the trip has been one of the most memorable experiences.
MOHI started schools in these two areas to rescue the girls who were being married off starting at the age of 8 years old. With knowing that and seeing these beautiful girls in school, so joyful, and excelling in their education brought so much joy to my heart.
Over the last two weeks we have seen the Lord move in such a mighty way in and through the people and children our team has faithfully served.
We may not see the impact we are making on those lives we came in contact with, but we know we are making an eternal difference in the lives of the children, people, and communities in Kenya!
This was my 5th trip to Kenya, and each trip is so different. I’m often asked why do I keep going back, and the answer is equal parts easy and difficult. The easy answer is I love seeing the work we do evolve and grow year to year, and I love building relationships with our Kenyan partners.
The hard answer is that once you’ve gone to Kenya, a piece of your heart stays there and calls for you to go back. I’ve seen many people return after going for the first time for this very reason.
This year’s team was quite large, the largest I’ve seen in my 5 years of going. We were 38 people. This team size helped us do more work. We split the team in half and sent 18 up to Northern Kenya to work in our newest sponsored communities, Olturot and Namarei, and the remaining 18 stayed in Nairobi to serve in Kiamaiko, a community we’ve sponsored and been working in for over 10 years.
I got to be part of Team B, the team that went to Northern Kenya. This was special because it would be the first time we would have a team stay the night in Olturot in order to do a full VBS in Olturot and then fly the next day to Namarei to do a full VBS day there, too. These communities are so remote and desolate, and they are some of the newest schools MOHI has built. It meant so much to then to have a team fly out there to spend a full day with them.
We served over 2,000 kids across 5 communities this trip. We took 7 in country flights, not counting our 4 international flights going to and coming back from Kenya. We put on 4 VBS’s and 2 mental health awareness conferences. We intentionally met with 97 sponsor kids one on one, and 21 of them in our newest communities in Northern Kenya.
The work we did was hard and grueling. The poverty we see is heart breaking. Many people on the team got ill at some point during this trip, whether from stomach bugs or head colds, but still the team persevered and showed what it means to have fervent love for one another. The team loved on the kids, teachers, social workers, and parents so well. And they also loved and encouraged each other.
I was so proud to lead alongside Ernie, Lisa, Peppy and Luna in caring for this team and organizing this trip. While we go to serve in whatever capacity the Lord has for us, I left Kenya with my cup overflowing, so grateful to the Lord for an opportunity to serve the least of these, but to also see what it means when Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” We saw the kingdom of God in these impoverished communities. By lacking in basic needs, these people cling to the Lord in ways we don’t understand. They depend on God for everything. I left so aware of my self reliance and convicted to trust God in everything.
Wow, where do I start…?
It was a first this year for Crossroads Church to split the team into two groups. Team A stayed in Kiamaiko and Team B flew in two small planes up to Olturot, which is in northern Kenya.
The Kiamaiko team did an amazing job, and the team had to rearrange their VBS schedule which meant doing multiple VBS rotations in the same day. One impressive thing that I heard was one of our youngest team members had to step in and lead out games. You might think this is not a big deal, but for a 14 year old young man to not only lead children, but also direct adults, this was a big deal and he did great.
The Olturot team experienced things that we just did not expect. The kids were amazing. VBS went off without a hitch, but since we were spending the night, we weren’t sure about our sleeping arrangements. I was joking with one of MOHI staff members saying it would be nice to sleep under the stars. Well, sure enough we got our wish. Five guys spent the night on a rooftop under the stars of Africa, while the women slept in traditional huts. We have five rules in missions, one of them being “be flexible”, the other one, “no complaining”, not one person complained about the sleeping conditions.
I’ve had the privilege of going on several mission trips to different countries and there’s always one or two things that seem to be so impactful that you won’t forget it, this trip was no different. The last day of our trip, just before our Safari day. most of the team went into the small town of Talek to pick up some Maasai blankets.
While waiting for the team to purchase blankets, I stood outside by our jeep talking to some of the younger team members. At this time a group of young local kids came up and noticed in the back of our jeep white boxes that were left over from our lunch. Maia asked me if we could give the kids a boxed lunch so I asked one of our drivers and he said that that was not a good idea because we did not have enough boxes for everyone that was standing around and it could cause a fight. One of the youngest kids stuck around for a while so I went back to the driver and asked him if there was anything we can give him? He said yes we could give him the apple which we did, and after saying Asante (thank you in Swahili) he took a bite and ran over and shared that one small apple with six of his friends.
Every time I eat an apple it will take me right back to little boy in the town square.