The Holy Spirit has led me to start a blog for “my community". I am calling it “Living Stones” as it best portrays the community of Believers who are called to advance the cause of Jesus Christ in
Africa. Our common purpose is to serve His precious little ones all across this beloved continent, especially in East Africa, in the name of Jesus. As a community, we will share our thoughts and prayers as we work together for His glory wherever He calls us.
After much prayerful consideration, I have decided that my opening entry will be about my very first trip to
in 1998. I was so moved by a little school in the slums of Kenya that I wrote about the Kinyago-Dandora Primary School (KDS) in my journal which later became an essay for course work at Nairobi . It was this trip that prompted me to pray that the Lord would use me to help those who had been forgotten by the world but not by Him. In fact, in 1999, I had a very profound experience in the Dandora village, just near KDS, that caused me to throw my lot in with these precious little ones. My life has never been the same since. It truly has been a journey of the heart. Be mindful of what you ask for…God is listening ♥ St. Thomas University
The Promise of
Kinyago-Dandora Primary School
The day dawned gloriously as I awoke to the sounds of a busy metropolitan city. It was and I was amazed at the traffic noise so early in the morning. From my hotel window, I could hear people chattering away as they waited patiently for a city bus to take them to their destinations. In
, one must get an early start to arrive anywhere on time. I had to hurry to be ready for the day's excursion that included stops in the Kinyago-Dandora slums and Nairobi, Kenya . We were going to visit a project called the Mathare Valley —KDS. Like a pearl buried within an oyster, KDS would challenge me to look beyond the scars of injustice and suffering in Africa to behold the radiant beauty within her. Kinyago-Dandora Primary School
The drive through the city of
was fairly pleasant. The roads were bumpy and busy with rush hour traffic. Pedestrians crisscrossed the streets in every direction. I became fascinated by my surroundings and for the next 30 minutes I enjoyed watching Kenyan life whiz by me as we made our way to Nairobi . I’ll admit, when I first heard of Mathare Valley I immediately thought it might be a scenic spot in Mathare Valley . I wondered if we were traveling to a hot and arid plain surrounded by dry, dusty hills in the Rift Valley or perhaps it was a small dell nestled deep in the green lush highlands. In my mind's eye, I saw quaint cement block buildings filled with bare-footed school children singing songs in beautiful high-pitched voices as portrayed in the few movies I had watched about Kenya Africa.
I was mistaken about
. It was a valley and it was surrounded by rolling hills, but there was nothing scenic about it. Mathare Valley is a slum. Our next stop was another slum village called Dandora to visit KDS. This little school sits right in the middle of a sea of destitution. It was not the first time I had been exposed to extreme poverty. My first mission trip was to a Haitian batey in the mountains bordering the Mathare Valley and Dominican Republic , so I felt ready to encounter the squalid conditions. However, I could not have imagined the extent of the heartbreak I was about to experience. Haiti
As we drew closer to Dandora, the roads seemed almost impossible to manage, and I began to notice a strange odor in the air. Our van slowed, and I realized we were on the outskirts of another vast indigent colony. We drove at a snail's pace as the roads were filled with huge gaping holes caused by heavy rainfall during the night. Like a strange carnival ride in slow motion, we slid side to side in the reddish brown muck. Our driver, Isaiah, gingerly swerved around each crater that threatened to swallow us whole. As I examined my surroundings more closely, my senses became stimulated in a way that completely stifled me and I could not speak. Feeling faint, I turned my back to the others in the van as I pressed toward an open window and tried in vain to process this sensory overload called Dandora. Even in the van, we were so close to the people that I could almost touch them. It was a blessing to be wearing sunglasses because I could avoid making eye contact with them. I especially appreciated being able to hide behind the glasses when facing those who were walking alongside the van begging for food, money, or peddling their wares.
I was very aware of the smell. In the damp, morning air, it was overpowering, and there are no words to describe it. The stench was a mixture of garbage and human waste...and garbage was strewn everywhere; it appeared as though the people were oblivious to the filth around them. We drove past some cows standing knee-deep in trash and stared in disbelief as we watched them make a meal of it. We were in a boundless ocean of rubbish. And in this place… people lived and children played.
The homes are no bigger than one room huts made of mud and sticks, cardboard, and rusty scraps of tin. Pieces of fabric fastened to the home's entrances make for interesting and colorful doorways. Many houses also served as storefronts. It was a common sight to see wire or rope strung up between the dwellings where clothing or battered trinkets were on display; as well as skinned animals of unidentified origin that hung in rows on hooks. Seeing us pass by, they called to us.
I was relieved when, at last, we arrived at KDS. We entered the fenced compound; I watched as the gate was shut and locked behind us. As I surveyed the school grounds, I felt like we had entered a completely different world. I was immediately struck by the contrast of the beauty and hope within the gates. Though the buildings were plainly constructed, they were freshly painted in light blue colors and magnificent hibiscus plants were in full bloom in the courtyard. It was a wonderful oasis in the midst of squalor.
All at once the children descended upon us. Joyfully and proudly they welcomed us to their school. The girls wore brightly checked gingham dresses, while the boys had on short pants and white shirts. The children began to dance about with reckless abandonment. They were taken with their visitors, especially those of us with blonde hair and lighter skin. Some of the children rubbed our arms laughing hysterically, while others simply wanted you to touch them and speak softly. The children were so small and thin. Their eyes so piercing would never be forgotten.
After a short time of playful interaction, we were ushered into a small building for an early Christmas pageant presented by the students. We sat down on bright green benches that wobbled on an uneven cement floor. This was a minor discomfort that was soon forgotten in light of our entertainment. It was an adorable production and I enjoyed the children's spontaneity and enthusiasm. As I was thinking of how wonderful it was to be there, safely tucked "inside" the school, I just happened to glance out the window.
Pressed against the fence and peering in at us, between the boards, were children from the "outside.” They were drawn to the roar of laughter and the happy banter inside the building. I saw the hopeful anticipation in their questioning eyes that seemed to ask, "what about me?" I began to feel really sick for the first time since arriving in the slums. Of all the things that I had just witnessed on my way to the school, most of it too hard to put into words, the sight of these precious children was simply too much to bear.
It was not that the children looked sad, they were waving and smiling, but the fact that very few of these children would ever experience the bare necessities of life, affected me deeply. I could see that a warm bed, clean water to drink, or an education in a simple school like KDS would be considered a luxury.
A curious thing happened in that moment; I realized I did not turn away. I studied the beseeching eyes of all the children on both sides of the fence. From that moment on, I would look fully into the face of poverty and challenge it by telling their story, and the stories of countless other children caught in the cruel arm of injustice and scarcity.
In June 2001, I was asked to become the President of
Children’s Fund, the founding organization of KDS, to rebuild the ministry. What an Awesome God we serve! Kenya