Our trip is more than halfway over and we can't believe that our time here is beginning to dwindle. As we attempt to keep our hearts and minds focused on staying present, it was the perfect day to relax and enjoy the company of our young high schoolers. We spent the morning taking their photos for Grade 9 and 10 and then we spent the entire afternoon getting to know the freshman class and asked them to share their stories and where they came from to how they eventually came to REM high school. We were able to just sit and chat, show them photos of our friends and family back home and answer many questions that they had about life on the other side of the world. We were able to laugh and cry with them as they shared stories of their past experiences and the difficulties that they have been through. Beloved parents that passed away, loved ones with HIV or other sicknesses, people that mistreated them horribly...to now be in a place where they are cared for and are getting help and encouragement instead of abuse and neglect.
I'll leave you here with some thoughts from our entire team:
David: " My trip this time to Kenya has been vastly different than the last time. Every aspect of the mission trip this year speaks to the mission statement of GOYA, to radically change the slums of Nairobi through the love of Jesus Christ. From top to bottom, GOYA Ministries and the staff and volunteers of the Rural Evangelistic Mission (REM) are intentional and focused on this goal. I have witnessed first hand the transparency, concern and compassion for the kids and community in Nairobi. I have been blessed to learn about the organization and how GOYA goes about the day to day operations. I have also been privileged to spend time daily talking to the kids and staff here at the schools. The need is so great in the region, but so is the love of Jesus Christ. The efforts of GOYA Ministries and its global partners demonstrate that love in a very real and tangible way to the people who need it the most. Establishing a partnership to help support the efforts here in Kenya can be as minimal as $30 per month and can make a maximum amount of impact on the lives of children here in Kenya. Phil 2:1-5
Kayla: My time in Kenya has been eye-opening. Each day has been a completely different experience. Today is day five. I have been having a difficult time processing all of my feelings and putting them into words. The amount of love that God has been able to pour into all of these children is amazing. Every student has a different background, a lot of abuse and neglect. They say hurt people, hurt people. But to hear the stories and to see how they interact in such a loving way, you would never guess that they could come from such a history. They are all so happy and joyful because they believe that their God has gotten them this far and has given them this education opportunity. Every student a talked to today said that they were here "by the grace of God", how beautiful is that? They all have favorite Bible verses and typically know them by heart. I never knew my life could change so much in just one short trip. The best way to explain my feelings is 'love at first sight'. I knew I was going to love everyone here, but I had no idea that love could feel like this. By God's grace, I am here.
Joy: Where does my hope come from? My hope comes from the Lord. It is 9:30pm in Kenya and I am trying to collect my thoughts. I look down on my bed at 16 slips of paper that I received from 16 students in the 9th grade boys class. I asked them if they could write their favorite Bible verse. These 16 boys challenge me to show love and hold onto God's promises as my ultimate hope. This hope can dull the pain and darkness that has ruled the major part of their lives. I read each of their favorite verses and noticed Naphtali (one of the young men) had a favorite verse in Psalms. In honor of Naphtali, I'd like to encourage you to read Psalm 121:1.
I believe that in this small pocket of time God is reminding me that not only is God our Savior and Redeemer, He is a living God. There are many lives that are being sustained and held upright because of God's Word. These students are slowly learning the true meaning of being blessed, as they put their hope and trust in the Lord. Many already are having a glimpse of their future, one that will overcome the darkness of their past. This day is ending and my heart is full as I hear the students singing "It is well with my soul".
Wendy: My time in Kenya with GOYA has been eye-opening and beautiful. The people are happy, warm and welcoming. The children are smart and loving. They are so grateful for our support so that they can come here to REM high school and better their lives and family. The work so hard to achieve this goal. After spending some time in each school location, I truly see the need for our support in the States. As a mother, I see that they yearn for love, even with the support of staff and teachers. Faith runs deep in the REM school community and it is what they get by on, they see the Lord provide over and over again for their needs. They need our support even more than I realized and I am very blessed to know each child. I can't wait to come back!
Jenn: You never know what to expect when you go on a mission trip for the first time in a country that you have never visited. The most surprising thing to me has been all the love. I'm pretty sure my heart has tripled in size. Listening to their stories, hopes and dreams has been incredible. I feel as though I will process all of what has happened this week later, but right now, I am definitely treasuring it all up in my heart!
Our day began again at our South B school location. We looked through our paperwork and there were some students that had been absent from class yesterday so we were able to take a couple of makeup photos since they were in class this morning. Then we proceeded to finish out the rest of the school photos for class 6, 7 and 8. We were also able to take photos of our teaching staff. In order to pay for the monthly expenses of the school we offer sponsorships of the students for $30/month. This helps us pay for the teaching staff, curriculum, uniforms, 2 meals a day, as well as renting the building that the school is currently using. As our school grows, the needs grow. Would you consider partnering with our team to grow our sponsorships and provide even more for these precious kiddos?
After we finished up our work, we were able to help serve lunch to all the students. GOYA Ministries partners with the Midwest Food Bank to provide nourishing meals to our schools. Today's lunch was a healthy portion of Tender Mercies for each child. Read more about the Midwest Food Bank and their East African Division here: https://midwestfoodbank.org/locations/east-africa
We spent some time in the classrooms after lunch watching our rockstar teachers do lessons for the kiddos. I was in the preschool class and they don't speak very much english but they were learning the Bible story of David and Bethsheba as well as learning all the english words for items and spaces in a school. When Teacher Everlyne stepped out of the room for a min, I couldn't help myself but teach them "Baby Shark Doo Doo Doo" ....if you don't know that song, I'll warn you first that once you hear it...you will continue to hear it over and over and over again in your head! So you have been warned.
They loved it!
Our next stop was to spend some time with the orphans in our Children's Home. We are very excited for the new construction of the church and children's home in South B. The conditions are very tight in the home right now and the children have to share beds and squeeze many into a small space. So the new facility will accommodate the large group so much better! We spent time playing UNO, skipping rope, playing basketball and american football with everyone and it was so fun! These sweet kids have had a rough break in life and it was so humbling to spend time in their home laughing together, walking to a park to play and visit, as well as provide some fun gifts for them to enjoy even after we are gone. Our team struggled to leave and wished that our time could have been longer, but we know that we will get to spend more time with them at church on Sunday!
One of the things that our team discussed tonight was how much we take for granted seemingly small, insignificant moments. A word of encouragement to someone, a child slipping their hand into yours as you walk down the street, looking a person in the eyes and asking them how they are doing, playing a silly game of UNO and laughing for a half hour. These moments and human touches can go unnoticed at times in the US as we go about busying ourselves with the needs and to do lists that can sometimes take priority. But human contact, connection, isn't that what we all crave most? To be known and to be loved is such a powerful force and it has us weeping tonight because we got to be the laughter, touch, and voice of Jesus Christ today with some of his dearly beloved who have experienced trauma and neglect that no one should endure. We are comforted that they are in good hands and that the Lord will give them exactly what they need and that perhaps we were able to be a small part of that today.
Our third day here was such a wonderful day! We traveled into downtown Nairobi to our school location in South B slum. This slum is much smaller than Kibera slum but there are still thousands of people that call it home. The walk to the school is much further to the school than the walk to our Kibera school so there is a ton of local life to experience. Street vendors selling clothing, shoes, Mendazi (meat pastry), hole in the wall hair salons, homemade charcoal, and any and all varieties of items that you could possible need or want. After meandering through the narrow 'main street' of South B slum we eventually turned the corner to find stacks of rebar lining the streets. Before we could even figure out what was going on, happy laughter and smiling children in bright red sweaters waved to us from a second story building. REM school is truly a light in a difficult place, a city on the hill for those needing hope in darkness. We entered the school to once again be greeted by joyful, smiling children all eager to shake our hands and greet us with "Habari? ( how are you? ) and "Welcome visitors!".
With the number of students at our South B location, we went into today with low expectations that we would get through alot of grades. We knew that we would be returning for a second day there, but our missionaries prepared us for the possibility that we would need to return for a third day because of the sheer number of children that they have in the school. We settled into our new routine organizing the classes, adding students that were new, calling each child one by one to come into our 'studio' and be photographed. I cannot even tell you how amazing my team performed today. Each person really owned their role and as we worked together we also worked in tandem so well that we were actually able to take the photos for 7 out of the 10 classes at the school! We were hoping to get 4 of them completed and the Lord truly blessed our mission today with cooler temperatures and added minutes to our day in ways that we could not even explain as class after class came in and finished fluidly.
David said it best tonight in our debrief meeting, that while he was in the hallway organizing the students he saw child after child leaving our 'studio' area just absolutely glowing as we fixed their uniforms, wiped the dirt from their faces, and told them how beautiful their smiles were...what a humbling privilege to meet each child face to face and then, one by one, and remind them of their worth in the middle of a place that will tell them they are nothing.
After we finished at the primary school, we were able to walk a block or two into the slum with Pastor Shadrack. He showed us the progress that has been made on GOYA's new church plant. We were so excited to see the land cleared and holes were already dug for the foundation of our future three story building! This project has been long awaited as we have had other needs that came first, for our high school to be able to handle the number of students in our growing school. I am so thankful to all of the generous individuals and specifically my home church, Eastview, for their generous donations that are making this dream a reality today! The three story building will more than double the capacity for students at our primary school and also provide a large first floor to serve as our first church plant in South B! Since the demolition of our previous church in Mitumba 7 years ago, we have been unable to provide a home church for the families that we have served for the past 12 years that transplanted there. This is such a huge step for our ministry and we got to celebrate together today with a groundbreaking ceremony! Roxy and Shadrack jumped into the foundation holes and had some fun digging around for a photo op and then we paused to pray over the land and bless the people who are building it, pray for those teachers and students that will learn through it, and offer it to the Lord for Him to use for what He wants. It was a sacred moment that I will treasure forever. The magnitude of what this building will mean to so many children living in the slum was not lost on us. A literal life raft of hope and opportunity for precious babies not even born yet to have dreams and one day see that dream realized. To then know that complete strangers love them because Jesus first loved us. We were truly standing on holy ground.
There is not much that can prepare you when you walk through conditions that no human being should be subjected to. Certainly not not precious babies. Those of you reading with children will know the strong desire that you have to give your kids whatever they need, even if it is those aweful LOL dolls or legos that cause excruciating pain when tragically stepped on. The inner drive that we as parents have to protect and provide is innate. So, as you can imagine, walking through close quarters, mud, sewage and waste of all kinds is not easy. One of our team members was overcome by all the emotions that sweep through your heart when you see the injustice that comes in a third world country. As we opened the doors to GOYA's Kibera school, all of the preschool boys and girls rushed toward our team full of life, full of joy...the kind of joy and confidence that comes from children that are loved well, healthy and eager to share that same love with their visitors.
I could not be more proud of each of my team members today as they served each other and these dear ones. We were able to capture their sweet faces for our sponsorship program photos as well as help the children color pictures and write notes to their sponsors. We spent the rest of the afternoon together with the students playing "Balance the Ball, Balance the Ball" game, a super realistic, dramatic rendition of the Good Samaritan skit complete with a 7th grader donkey, and of course many many songs and "see you again soon" hugs!
After leaving our friends for the day, we stopped by the Kenyan market to check out some goods that they sell there. The team got to get their feet wet with bartering for items. As a culture that is not used to this form of negotiation, it was fun to see everyone maneuvering through the exercise! Lots of laughter filled our van on the ride home as we talked about trying to do currency exchange math on jetlagged minds, stories of how the Kenyan salespeople used various manipulation tactics to get us to spend more money, and all the excitement of seeing handmade crafts for the first time here. More laughter ensued when David and Roxy shared a story of how one salesperson offered to be his "side chick", they are ruthless but we survived nonetheless and hopefully a few momentos will make it back to the US so that we can forever remember the relationships, emotions, and God moments of this day forever.
Tomorrow we journey to the larger of the two primary schools. Please be praying for us that we will be able to get some cooler weather as it is very hot inside with the weather and all the bodies in a small space.
While we know that our work here is extremely important to the ongoing financial and emotional support of our various school programs, we also know that spiritual warfare is real and any attack to keep us distracted from our daily mission will come. Please pray for each of our team members to know that they are valuable in each of their unique talents. Pray for us to continue to be of one mind and one heart, working together as one unit. We saw this provision today and we are thanking the Lord for the unity that He has already brought and pray a special prayer of protection over it.
What a day it was! We woke up early after arriving to the high school last night very late after a short delay in customs. We had a brief snack from Chef Eli and then promptly went to bed at 2:30am.
After taking breakfast, we joined the worship service here at the high school with all 400 students + faculty. We enjoyed singing many songs with our young brothers and sisters as well as hearing from various speakers. We were very impressed with the service being led by the students for the majority of the time. There aren't enough words to truly capture what it is like to worship the Lord together as one body in both Swahili and English. If you have not experienced this, come to Kenya! It is truly unique and beautiful. The principal made introductions to our team in regard to each class as well as each teacher and their area of study. It is inspiring to be among teachers that not only use their academic skills but also their various talents in administration, music, and various passions to mentor the students beyond their studies. The work they are doing is literally from dawn to dusk with their students.
After that, the choir led us in song and parade procession to the baptismal where we got to celebrate two baptisms! One was a student in Form 2(Grade 10), Peter, and the other was our own team member, Kayla! Both were escorted from the church service in a musical procession by the choir to the baptismal where Bishop Shadrack Ogembo baptized the two by immersion.
Acts 2: 38-39 "...Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
In January, we learned that 4 of our team members were unable join our team on this journey, but what I love about the body of Christ is that not all members need to make the trek all the way to Kenya to make a difference! We are praying that they will be able to come with us in the future, but in the meantime, they decided to generously give to our trip! The funds that they provided allowed for us to purchase a gift for REM High School: caps and gowns that they will wear for their graduation ceremony in Feb 2020!
2019 marks the start of our first graduating class as well as the final year of studies for these students! Many are already studying and sitting for practical exams that will determine whether they graduate. Directors, faculty, and our team members celebrated with our first graduate class in the excitement! They also spoke of taking this final year seriously and finishing their high school career well. Will you lift these boys and girls up today in prayer that this gift would provide extra motivation and excitement for their futures? Without supporters like you, this future would not have become realized. Pastor reminded all of us that without the work of the Lord in faithful supporters and without the hard work and dedication that the students have devoted to their studies, many of them would be on the streets, living in prostitution, or becoming swallowed up in hopeless living like some have experienced in Kenya. It is truly a blessing and an opportunity for them and we thank God for your faithfulness to our ministry to provide it!
1 Corinthian 9:24 "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize."
After that, our afternoon was spent exploring the campus and learning about all the programs that happen in their computer lab, science lab, bakery, kitchen, and farm. All of these programs teach students practical skills that they can use in future jobs or to provide for their families. Sponsoring a student in our program ensures that their teachers remain employed and that they have all the materials, curriculum and tools that they need to fulfill the subject requirements within the "Career Compass". This compass serves as a guidance counselor of sorts for the students to know which subjects to take in order to reach their education and career goals.
To finish up our jam packed day, the students had prepared for us a talent show! They sang special songs, danced a traditional Maasai dance, performed an original rap song, and even schooled us on modern dance featuring the floss! Aren't cheeks are still in pain from laughing hysterically and our ears are ringing from the hoopin' and hollerin' that was accompanied be each performance as their classmates cheered them on! They have challenged us to join them for a show next sat so we are hoping that mystery talents arise from our group or that by God's grace we don't look too foolish!
We couldn't have started this trip off with a better day and with that we must say goodnight! Please be praying for us as we head to Kibera slum tomorrow, that we will have many travel mercies and that all will go smoothly as we begin day 2 of our trip and experience the first day of our 'task' that is at hand!
Bwana Asifiwe! And Good Night!
Is it Friday yet?!
Have you ever planned a trip and then felt like the days, weeks, and even months before the day you step into the plane will just never arrive? Or maybe it wasn't a trip but a date you were looking forward to like a birthday dinner, anniversary party, concert or a milestone like the birth of a child. These dates can seem so far off in the future when they are first announced but then as the days fall into single digits you can have a sense of panic and you start to question whether you are ready! As you can imagine, all these emotions and more take hold in our hearts this week as we count the number of sleeps until we are on that plane!
Our team spent some time together on this past Sunday to take a deep breath, open our Bibles, and focus on the true reason we are headed to the other side of the world. I know that today and the following days, we will need to take that same deep breath to remember that we are making plans but it is the Lord that will direct our steps.
I am passionate about partnering with our Kenyan friends for multiple reasons and could go on and on about the benefits of us taking the time and energy to raise funds to help spur them on and alleviate much of the stress and tension that comes from trying to have enough money to do ministry. But for our team, the importance is singular. Without regular, monthly funding, our schools would not be able to provide two meals a day, teaching, staff, curriculum, community support and much more. We go to Kenya, knowing that the photos we will take of each child will help our neighbors here in Bloomington/Normal connect with our ministry, sponsor a child and make a difference in a child's life forever.
Please keep our team in your prayers:
1. That we would be unified in our mission, that we would have healthy communication with each other about what we need to stay healthy mentally, emotionally and physically.
2. Emotions are high the last week before take off and even a couple days into our journey, keep us in your prayers that we would not let little things distract us from our purpose.
3. The flu is running around, please pray protection over our team as we are so close to leaving on Friday morning!
As scripture says, "Everyone who calls out to the Lord for help will be saved. But how can they call to him if they have not believed? And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!" - Romans 10: 13-15
We are humbled to go, we are ready to live worthy of that calling.