Right now on the other side of the world from where I sit, a seven year old is fanning the flames of a cooking fire in a dark mud hut. Smoke is filling their home and puffing out the gaps in the thatch. Here in just a bit the kids will push a bicycle several kilometers barefoot to fetch their day’s supply of water. They’ll use old bits of rubber inner tube to strap the heavy containers back on the family’s only mode of transportation, and push it back home. They might get some breakfast, maybe some fried bread and a small banana from a tree near their home, or they might not. Their widowed mother may give up her meals this day so her kids can eat. This is their reality.
Right now where I’m sitting, it is a constant 70 degrees, no matter what the season. If I get hungry, I stand up from my plush office chair and open my refrigerator. I may decide to open a package of something that I bought last week, or eat something leftover that was delivered last night. Come evening, I can flip a switch and make it like daytime in this room. I could run across the parking lot without fear of stubbing my toe or cutting my foot on a piece of glass because I’m wearing one of who knows how many pairs of shoes I own. This is my reality.
Both of these realities exist in the same breath of time, and all it takes for me to go from one to the other is desire. Sure, there are other details like money, but I can have money and no desire and sit right here. There is another reality, and it’s better and more real than both of the ones I’ve just described. It’s the reality that Jesus reigns. Jesus is in control of all of our realities, His plan is perfect and He wants us to desire to join Him in it.
Some might wonder why God has allowed some of us to live so luxuriously while babies all around the world are starving. Why is it that I get to decide which shoes to put on my feet when I know kids that wear holes completely through the soles of their sandals before deciding to go barefoot? Maybe someone will give them another pair, they hope. I’ll argue that it’s part of His plan. This is what I have learned in my trip to Kenya.
In His perfect wisdom our Father has strategically placed people in this world to bring His reality to those who suffer. Recently He chose me to be one who brought His reality and His Kingdom to people in a village in Kenya. Until the day I heard Holy Spirit speak to me, I had no desire at all to go to Africa. And of all the years to go, now was not a good time for us to fund a trip like this. We were just finishing up the slowest year since our office opened in 2006. We had really just gotten by – by our standards. But I know my Jesus and I know that what He says He does, so I believed Him. And what a ride that has been. But it hasn’t been easy. Believing in His reality and His Word got me slaughtered. It got me kicked out of a church. I lost friends because of it. I was crushed by the things going on around me because I was just believing in what I heard my Papa say. In the midst of all of my hurts and suffering, God was glorified. Over and over again, His perfection shined through in every aspect of my family’s new reality.
As soon as I wrote the first check, committing us to this journey, God honored my faith. First one check showed up in the mail, then a man handed me some cash, both enough to cover the check I had floated in faith. When time came to pay the balance of this trip, the exact amount appeared in the same manner. The exact amount! But it gets better.
Well before all of this happened, God lined up great things for me to discover, as I felt like so many things were out of control in this time. God placed a new church right next to my office a year earlier. I had done nothing but offer use of our internet and just be neighborly to them. There was no agenda, we were doing our thing and they did theirs, until God flipped the switch. It was then our realities started to become one. Jesus has this planned so well; I can’t wait to see where it leads. He brought my wife and me His body when we needed someone to lean on the most. There was no searching; He put LifeSong right next door to us, just like groceries in the fridge. He gave us nourishment at our fingertips, proving yet again that His reality is perfect. Our departure date arrived and my reality then became that of those who live in Kano Village and in Kisumu, Kenya.
We Were Greeted With Singing
Women and children who have lived lives of tragedy met us with singing and dancing. Clapping, laughing and whistling, they met us on the road as our team approached in two vans. The door slid open and a rush of children fill the spaces in the van before we could even step out. My first words were “get back, get back!” only to keep from being overrun. The love in the atmosphere was amazing, people I had never seen before embraced me, children grabbed at my hands. We walked a short distance to the Maisha compound and continued greeting.
Every day that went by contained God’s glory and wonder. We walked to meet with HIV/AIDS patients and saw healing; both spiritual and physical. We saw something missing in many children’s eyes and brought hope and encouragement and Jesus to them. I was asked to give the message at a church in downtown Kisumu one Sunday morning. To date, it was the most difficult time speaking I have ever experienced. But Holy Spirit did show up and even one of our own team confessed and received Jesus that morning. I was then honored to baptize Dr. Sam in Lake Victoria that evening. That started the fulfilling of several personal prophecies, and I believe is the launching point of God’s next big move in our lives. It is more of His reality coming to pass, and I am so grateful.
I then experienced the closest thing to meeting the real skin-on Jesus in my life. This is what it must have been like to be around Him as He went about teaching small groups of people in the dust. I had one young man take me by the arm, and with great excitement, said “I hear you know the Gospel.” I replied that I know a little bit, and asked him what he wanted to know. So we sat down on the front step of the Maisha Community Center, and he began to ask questions. More young men gathered as we had this conversation about who they were as sons in Christ, about truth and about baptism. Holy Spirit proved Himself again by speaking through me, just as He did with Balaam’s ass in the book of Numbers. I can’t recall all that was said, but I do know their hearts were stirred. The first young man finally asked me if I would baptize him. I was honored to take him and nine girls from Maisha to a river and I baptized them. On the way back to the village, people stopped in their tracks as we drove by. The singing coming from the van was incredible, the girls sang all the way about Jesus and being born again. Later in the trip, the young man that asked me to baptize him told Beatrice that I had made him the pastor of these children, and that the next time we come to Maisha, he will have baptized more than 100 of the kids, all of them knowing the true gospel and what it means to be baptized, just as I taught out of 2 Corinthians 5:17.
The Christmas Bull
I spent a lot of time walking while in Kenya. I also learned that the meaning of “right over there” to a Kenyan is a little different that it is to us here in the states. We were blessed with funds to purchase a beef out of a local herd for our Christmas meal. Jason and I set out to bring the beef home, and when we asked our Kenyan friend where we were going, his reply was “right over there.” As it turned out, right over there was miles. I learned this like a little kid riding for hours in the car. We got to where I thought right over there was in my mind, and I’d ask if we were there yet. Nope. Right over there. Our Kenyan friends would point; the only distinguishing mark would be the horizon, so we continued to walk. Something like days later, we found the grazing herd and our beef was pointed out to us. Jason and I put a rope over its horns and just like walking a very large dog, proceeded to walk back to right over there. We did eventually arrive back at the Maisha Community Center and roped the bull off to a tree. He ended up being in the way, so Sam, a Maisha volunteer said we could tie him to a stake out in the field. I should have known better than to ask him where the stake was, he replied “right over there,” as he pointed to the horizon. I just shook my head.
That evening we slaughtered the beef the only way Jason and I knew how, just like we were at deer camp. We secured one end of a heavy pole up in a tree, the other we tied to another pole that we had planted in the ground. The carcass was hoisted up on this apparatus to skin it and cool it out. It was covered with a mosquito net and left it until morning. The next day we butchered, bringing chunks of beef to the widows to prepare the meal. I took the back straps (the best part of the ribeye) along with some other good cuts and grilled them over charcoal. Christmas Day we fed well over 300 orphans, widows and volunteers. It was a huge success, the children were elated. I had several of the men come and tell me that that was the best beef they had ever tasted, they didn’t know it could be so good. Not only did we serve by feeding them, we served them by teaching them how to do it a different way. We killed the beef in a fashion that kept it out of the dirt, with much less stress on the animal. We allowed it to hang and cool, all of which allowed the meat to be more tender and taste better. We left them with options; we left them with the experience to think outside of their box and better their lives.
Earlier in our trip, our friends Beatrice and Jennifer had traveled to Kenya before the rest of us left Oklahoma City. They spent time enjoying Nairobi and Nakuru. On the way to meet us in Kisumu, they were involved in a head on collision on the crazy road between the two towns. Our great driver Dan, along with Bea’s little sister Annah were in the car as well. What should have been a real tragedy turned out to shine God’s glory. Annah did suffer and nasty break to her femur which required pins during surgery. The others thankfully only saw minor injuries. We arrived in Kisumu and a small group of us went to the hospital that evening. Jim MacDonald, a great guy that joined us this trip, is a match to Annah’s blood type. He was on board right away to donate the needed blood, and did without a second thought.
Ann looked very poor, only hours after surgery and having low blood levels. Dan drove Jim, Jason, Bea and me to town and stood with us in the hospital room. We all began praying for Ann’s healing and recovery, as well as Mama Grace’s rest and comfort. Mama stayed with Ann each night in a rock hard chair and she was getting very tired and uncomfortable. We also prayed for three other ladies in the hospital room, one we led to Jesus.
The doctors did say that they didn’t expect Ann to leave the hospital for about six weeks. The fact is Ann was weight bearing the day after we prayed for her and left the hospital just a day or two later. Each day we saw her, her face shined a bit more. She wanted to be baptized with the others, but we’ll wait until her incisions close all the way.
We also were involved with the homecare visits, walking to meet with HIV/AIDS patients. One of these patients we visited in Kano Village turned into a great testimony of Jesus’ healing touch. We were invited into a small mud home, nothing fancy or ornate. There may have been a calendar on the wall, but nothing more. The furniture was questionable for a big guy like me to sit in, but I sat anyway. A woman who appeared much older than her years limped into the living area of this home and took a seat next t o me. Through translation, we found out that because of the HIV, she was suffering terribly. Her eye was nasty red and oozing, she complained of lack of hearing and pain in her ear and her leg hurt so badly, she had trouble walking. We prayed for her, gave her some rice and beans and Bea informed her of the medical clinic we were putting on, encouraging her to come get treated.
The next day, before we arrived at the village, this woman had walked to the clinic. When we arrived, she searched out Bea. Bea saw that her eyes were clear and that she was walking well. She had walked over two miles just to tell us that all of her symptoms were healed, and she hadn’t taken any medicine! Thank you Jesus! We experienced firsthand how Jesus wants to love on His people, through ministry and healing, all brought about through prayer.
We also spent time walking through Nyalenda Slum in Kisumu, visiting with HIV/AIDS patients. I can’t adequately describe the conditions in this part of Kisumu. Nyalenda is the second largest slum in Kenya; over 1 million people survive here. It’s made up mostly of mud houses and tin shacks. There is a municipal water supply; every so often you’d see women and children huddled around a spigot that is boxed into the dirt road, as they fill old cooking oil jugs with a trickle of water. Clothes lines filled with drying laundry rope off everywhere, children play in the burning piles of trash. Maybe they’re looking for a chicken bone to suck on or something of value to sell. Goats and cattle roam everywhere, nosing through the same trash piles as well.
We entered a store front where two women, both HIV positive work to support themselves and further the Maisha mission. The sew dresses and other clothes to sell, and everyday venture further into the slum looking for other HIV/AIDS patients to assist. They bring them rice and beans, make sure they have and are taking their medicines, and they love them. Many people die every day from depression or stigma, as they are infected with HIV. The culture is such that this disease is permitted to ravage through the society if people aren’t educated. They have many misconceptions of the disease, and once a person is known to carry it, they are abandoned. They are left alone and outcast to die on their own, with no friends or family to support them. By these volunteers reaching out to the forgotten souls, they are spreading love and compassion where it would not be otherwise. Stories of men and women days or even hours away from dying now are able to continue to be written, now with a hope and a future. Life is being reintroduced to those who are suffering, and the Kingdom is growing.
Our time on the ground in Kenya was short. Just when we started building relationships with friends of all ages, it was time for us to get home. I saw tears welling up in the children’s eyes days before it was time to go. There smiles dimmed just a bit, they started clinging to me. Groups of children swarmed each one of us if we sat down somewhere. By sitting, you would end up inviting at least three small children to sit in your lap. There would be more at your feet, playing with the skin on your legs or just leaning on you. These babies, who I was a stranger to just days before, didn’t want to let go. It really impacted me how these children, who have so little, can be so happy and have so much joy and give so much love. How just a simple act to appear in their reality, even for a short time, has an everlasting effect on their lives and on mine. All I did was be obedient to what I believe the Lord was saying to me. My obedience changed lives, my obedience changed my reality. I know it has set the stage for what God is going to do next in our lives here in the states. Whether it’s returning to Kenya to continue loving on these men and women and babies, or to take that knowledge of how to love the unlovely and share it here.
There are many other stories from this trip, probably a whole book’s worth. How the men and boys were taught how to garden more effectively, how to compost and how to better manage the resources that are available to them. The Vacation Bible School that children looked forward to everyday, and how we brought Jesus and His love to them. The stories of the time we spent just sitting under a tree, talking and playing with kids who have never known the love of a parent. We ministered to the young men and encouraged them to step up and truly care for these orphans and widows, just like it talks about in the book of James. We set the example of how to be men and women in Christ Jesus, how to stand up for what is right and how to love without boundaries.
The reality is this: that there are people out there that need to be loved and that is what Jesus has told us to do, and I’m all in.