And Then We Served

This is my third year in a row to come to Kenya.

And while I know I will see poverty at every turn, it’s the suffering I’ll never get used to. Our girls at Mercy House have been rescued and redeemed, but we don’t ever want them to grow so comfortable with life, they forget the smell of the city and the pain of humanity outside our walls.

If you ever travel here, you will see suffering at every turn.

We traveled across the city to a home for disabled children to serve our community. These children are the castaways of society. Maureen admonished us to love these children well, not to let our fear of the unknown or fact that they are different stop us from serving.

But God sees them.

I’m not going to lie: it was hard. My eyes burned, my senses overwhelmed, my throat closed. I pushed away my fear and tried to be the hands of Jesus. I was so proud of my American and Kenyan family. They didn’t flinch when the air was filled with loud screams or a child drooled. They accepted without questions, they hugged and served and taught me so much.

My oldest pulled out her flute and held a mini-concert. The children rocked, the staff clapped. It was a first for many.

We praised the hard working staff. They do things to serve these children than I cannot even begin to describe. They received our feeble words of encouragement and soaked in our visit, begging us to come again.

We brought a van full of food and supplies. Your faithful support of Mercy House made this Community Service possible. Thank you for giving.

Helping Without Hurting

When God asked us to start a maternity home in Kenya, Africa, we had no idea what we were doing.

That hasn’t changed much.

But for the last 18 months, we’ve had one goal in mind: to help without hurting.

“Unless a man undertakes more than he possibly can do, he will never do all he can do.” Henry  Drummond

It’s more difficult than you think. The easier option would be to create an American home in a third world country. But from the beginning, our vision has been to empower and employ local Christians to do the work, to create a Kenyan vision and a Kenyan home. It’s been beyond challenging in so many ways, especially since there isn’t a home like Mercy House in Nairobi, that we are aware of.

And anyone who enters this home will see that it’s exactly that, a home.

It’s not an institution or an organization, it’s a family.

If you know me at all, you know I’m extremely protective of our Kenyan family.  But I also know that none of this has been done alone. Ultimately, it’s up to God to provide and take care of them.

You won’t find any American employees (or any plans to add any). You won’t find American food or American influence. There’s nothing wrong with Americans, but our Kenyan friends look at us like a big brother. In many cases, we bring the mindset to offer aid and not development. Aid is good when there’s a devastating earthquake, but aid that isn’t temporary breeds dependence. We can easily influence consumerism and convenience among other things.

“One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make-by far-is applying relief to situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.” from When Helping Hurts

Mercy House is inundated with requests from people to visit the home and meet the girls. We love the idea of visiting sponsors, but we are implementing a pretty strict visitor policy to protect our girls and our guests. We aren’t bringing teams in to repair or construct because we don’t want to take a job away from someone who lives here or sending over supplies for product-making. If any needs can be met locally, that’s the priority.

We are very careful not to give our girls too many conveniences…a washing machine seems like a great idea until a girl returns to daily life and doesn’t know how to do laundry. Offering gifts and wardrobes and too much stuff, only makes transitioning out of the home in a few years harder.

“Our relationship to the materially poor should be one in which we recognize that both of us are broken and that both us need the blessing of reconciliation. Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us.”  from When Helping Hurts

[Maureen stopping on the side of the road to barter and buy vegetables. The farmers tried to triple the price because of her white friends in the van]

This trip has confirmed in more ways than one, that our beloved Kenyan family doesn’t need more of us. They just need more of Jesus. We see our physical presence in this home being minimized in the future. We can offer Jesus by simply loving and offering development and empowerment.

[Maureen and I in our 6 hour meeting, working on a 3 year plan]

Offering Him is the only way to help without hurting.

 

*If you feel like God is calling you to do something in another culture, I highly recommend reading When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikker. I can’t answer if what we’re doing is replicable, but I urge you to seek God’s face and I’m confidant He will lead.

WFMW: Happy 4th of July

Today, our family is celebrating this special day on the other side of the globe. Nothing makes you love your country more, than leaving it! We are proud to be Americans!

Happy 4th from our family to yours!



It All Comes Down to Love

Quinter is 16 and her daughter (our firstborn), Precious is 11 months old. When she came to Mercy House she was so traumatized she didn’t speak. In the past year, she has changed so much.

In 30 seconds, she beautifully sums up why this ministry exists.

We spent the last few days visiting organizations around the city, learning from what others are doing. Today we spent our time planning and dreaming about the future, developing the next phase of educational (higher education) and vocational options for our girls.

It was mentally exhausting, but also exciting!

Would you consider becoming a Mercy House sponsor for $10 a month?

(We need around 100 people to commit at this level to meet our current budget. And a very special thanks to the many who contribute monthly support. Thank you for believing in this dream even when you couldn’t see it! God has used you greatly.)

The Measure You Give, The Measure You Get

I met him on my first trip to Kenya in 2010. He is one of the children we sponsor through Compassion International.

I visited his home with my family last summer. It was there I discovered that changing a life changes yours.


Yesterday, we returned to Ephantus’ home where 7 people live (they’ve taken in two cousins since last year). It is the size of a large walk-in closet. Ephantus has grown taller, his missing teeth are in and his smile is just as contagious.

After visiting his Compassion project, we walked the winding path to his home avoiding raw sewage with every step.

We met his mother, Mary, the same and different as last year. We hugged and talked and inquired about their business and spoke of her improved health. She reached into her bag and said thru Maureen, our translator, “I have something for you. My 14 year old son wrote you a letter.”

She pulled out a piece of notebook paper so thin you could see thru it, it was worn from the waiting.  She handed me the note from the brother of our sponsored child, someone we have never met and only knew from an occasional mention in a sponsor letter.

I started reading it aloud to the small group gathered in the neat home and the lump in my throat doubled when I saw my name. I handed it to my husband to continue reading. By the time he finished, everyone in the room was wiping eyes.

Hi Kristen,

I am writing this letter to inform you that we really appreciate all the good things you have done for our family. I really love the ball which you gave to my brother Ephantus and even the bag you gave him. As you go on doing this, may God remember you and your family. I wish one day you will be rewarded by God because it is not easy for a person to volunteer and sponsor a person. I wish that one day we will meet there in your country. I like your family for writing letters to Ephantus. I like the horse which your son was riding. Thank you for your kindness. My sister says the dress which you wore in yellowish in colour was shining as gold.

My heart is filled with joy like butter exposed to heat. As you go in the USA tell your family that I thank them for contributing in all things. I prayed for you when you fell sick and my prayers were heard. May God bless you in a mighty way and bless your family. As you read this letter, I will be in school. So you won’t find me in our home and be able to thank you for the pictures you send to Ephantus. They are beautiful.

The measure you give, the measure you get. God bless you.

Love,

Joseph

The powerful words of a boy we didn’t know we were having an impact on us left us speechless.

We often wonder what we are to do in this world. How do we make a difference? Do our few dollars a month really matter?  As I sit here in Kenya, far from home, looking at my surroundings, I’m convinced they do.

It’s not the size of our contribution that matters, it’s that we contribute.

We must do something. 

I couldn’t have said it better: his words a gift:  the measure we give, we get.