So, I just got back from a couple-week vacation in the States. It was so good to just rest, and to be encouraged by friends and family, church and community. I re-discovered a peace that I had lost somewhere along the way. And, praise the Lord, now I feel refreshed and filled and ready to begin again.
It’s difficult to believe that I’ve been in Nairobi for over a year now. It has been a journey, and I have been changed, and the Lord has been faithful.
I’m currently living near downtown Nairobi with a couple of very dear friends, Ann and Eunice. We have been blessed with a home near the boys, and have had opportunity to bless others with hospitality that flows out of the abundance of our Lord’s love. We’ve been able to welcome sick boys, hungry boys and crazy-dancing, movie-obsessed boys. And we’ve been blessed by the fellowship of these boys: boys who gladly cook with us, help us to clean, bring us water when we are without. We’ve, in some small way, shared life with these boys, shared with them in their joys and struggles, and in their dancing and their crying. And we’ve been blessed (enlarged, if you will) because of it.
Up to now, we’ve focused our efforts on the streets–feeding programs, football, bible stories and trying to connect children with established ministries. We’ve learned a lot about the boys and about life on the streets, learned from other ministries and built really strong relationships. But now I think it’s time to shift our focus a bit.
After prayer and brainstorming with my community back home, we’ve come up with a three-part plan:
Part 1: Building community within the established local church (Shauri Moyo Baptist).
Shauri Moyo is a diverse church located near the center of the city, ideal for reaching out for street kids. The church has already reached out to the boys, welcoming them to services and inviting them for meals. Also, since Mwangi lives on the compound, and has a heart for the same ministry, it is an ideal starting place. We will try to develop community within the church by gather a group to participate in intentional times of prayer, meals together, bible studies and serving together. The vision is a reflection of the early church, with members loving one another, serving one another, and caring for one anothers’ needs.
Part 2: Inviting older street boys into the growing community.
Part of the problem the older boys have reintegrating into society is the lack of a solid support community. By inviting the boys into the Christ-centered fellowship of an established church community, the boys will be able to make connections that will help them re-enter society successfully. They will have opportunity to live and serve among believers as equals, learning that they have also been gifted by God to bless others. The support of a community will help them to make relationships within the society, and to find help as they begin a life off of the streets.
Part 3: Supporting the church in their efforts to begin a rescue center for younger street boys.
The church has been working to begin a rehabilitation center for boys under the age of 14. They have established a good plan, and are now in the fundraising stages. We want to support the church as much as we can in this plan to bring boys off the streets, and reunite them with their families after rehabilitation.
Please pray with us as we begin working toward these goals, and continue our interactions with the boys on the streets.
Again, it’s been long.
As I told a friend recently, my life these days feels like a never-ending series of varying degrees of crises. Take, for example, this week. I got back on Sunday from a couple-week vacation in England, and also (a land completely unrelated to England) Ireland, and a week-long work meeting.
Tuesday afternoon, I get a call. Some of the boys have been arrested, and are being held in the local police station. So I walk down to Riverside, and spend some time trying to figure out what has happened. Turns out, around 9 in the morning, a group of police surrounded the roundabout where they stay, arrested as many as they could. Many of the boys escaped with some beating, but six of them were arrested.
So, along with an entourage, I headed to the police station. There, I was shuffled from office to office, until I was presented with a dull knife.
“Evidence,” I was told.
Evidence of what, exactly? I had saw them using the knife the day before, to butcher a goat, but surely that’s not a crime, I argued. Eventually, I was able to meet with the new officer-in-charge, and promised the boys would be out the next day.
Fast-forward to the next day.
5:30 a.m I receive a call from Jack Omena.
“I have arrived in Nairobi,” he tells me.
This, despite the fact that I had asked him not to come. We had helped him get home (a long way) a few months ago, and he’s been there. Because of family issues, he hasn’t returned to school, and was hoping I would be able to help him find a job in Nairobi. I told him I would look, but didn’t make any promises.
But two hours later, my doorbell rings, and there stands Jack with two other boys, who showed him where we stay. So, of course, we invite them in for chai and bread and an early-morning movie marathon.
So much has happened since I last found the time to write it here.
Sammy is in drug rehab. However, the place is very expensive, and doesn’t seem to be a good fit for him. Pray that God works in spite of this, and that we can find a better place, where he can find some healing, and be loved on well.
We are trying to get Sam into school (which is of course a three-ring circus of government forms and government officials and government offices and conflicting instructions.) Pray that all of the necessary documents can be found, all of the necessary officials are kind enough to help us, and that a kind and loving family welcomes Sam into their home, so that he has somewhere to stay while he goes to school.
We took Jimmy and Chwaki to a children’s center in a nearby town. These are boys we have known for a long time, and have been on the streets for a long, long time. We were really excited about getting them off the streets, and helping them find a new life. Unfortunately, after just two days at the center, they ran away, and we found them back at Riverside.
And the rest of the boys left at Riverside have turned (a bit) violent and most of them there don’t seem interested in getting off the streets at all these days, so we have put our weekly program on hold.
Things with Shauri Moyo Baptist Church are going better than we could have ever expected. A doctor who goes to the church has offered his home in the country to use for a center until we can raise funds to buy/build a permanent place. Now, the church is searching for resources to begin the center, and hoping they can begin early next year. Pray that God continues to provide, and praise God for all that he has already done in this church.
Mwangi is getting baptized on Sunday!
In short, a lot is happening, and has happened. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and for life to feel like a never-ending succession of emergencies. I think we (Eunice and I) are feeling exhausted, and finding it difficult to find rest. So, keep praying for us, please. That said–I wouldn’t trade any of this. I am thankful to be here–thankful for the opportunity to love these children, and to be loved by these children. Thankful to be holding their hand when they need stitches, and thankful for the opportunity to tell them they are, indeed, loved by the One who will never leave or forsake them.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Sammy.
Sammy is 14 years old. He is a complete orphan (his mother died when he was 9), and has been on the streets for the last year or so. Because of a weak immune system, he looks much younger than his 14 years, maybe 10 or 11. I got to know Sammy a few months ago, when I found him with major head injuries from being hit by a car. Through the course of many hospital visits, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. He likes to make fun of my Swahili, and how little ugali I am able to eat at meals. “Kristen, she has a problem with food,” he likes to tell the other boys.
Sammy has the most delightful giggle. He loves to dance and to draw, and is really good at football. And he’s incredibly intelligent, and funny. When I put my arm around his shoulder, he likes to hold my hand, or make me wave ridiculously at people walking down the street.
But when he is high, he is pitiful. He is silent, and won’t look you in the eye. Any question you ask him, the answer is “nothing.” His eyes are big and full of tears, and he walks around in a complete daze.
For the last couple weeks, I’ve been trying to get Sammy enrolled in a school. His friends Sam and David (both 17) have offered to let him live with them again, and to go to the local school in Dandora. But time and time again, he runs away. Time and time again, he sniffs glue, or jet fuel and then lies about it. Every time Sam or David find gum in the house, they pour it out, but Sammy always comes back with more. But time and time again, Sam lets him come back home, and Sammy promises to change.
Last week I found him sniffing glue at his base, and I began to cry. I told him I couldn’t bear to see him like that. He called me a few hours later, and all he would say was, “Why don’t you want to see me? Why did you say don’t you want to see me?” Later that day I found him in front of my door in a pool of blood, from a deep cut to his hand. And so we began going to the hospital again every day.
Last night, I sent Sammy back to Dandora after spending a few nights on the streets. He arrived and refused to bathe. Sam told him he was sleeping outside unless he would bathe, and Sammy still refused. Around 11 p.m., Sam let him come in and sleep on the floor. This morning, Sam left Sammy at home and came with me to church. While we were there, Sam got word that Sammy had run away. I was worried sick. As we were singing, Sammy comes in and sits down next to me, immediately holding my hand. I was so relieved.
When service ended, I asked him if he had glue–if he had passed by Riverside on his way to church. He said no.
So we began walking back to town. Sammy lagged behind. When I went back to find him, I found him with glue in his pocket. Sam and I took the glue, and threw it away. He ran, and we arrived, we found him back at Riverside.
“Give me back my glue,” was all he would say. “It’s mine, I bought it, give it to me.”
Sam, Mrefu and Rasta tried to reason with him, to threaten him, to convince him he needs to stop making bad decisions. He finally spoke–a string of insults and pained resolve to stay on the streets.
I asked Sam what he was saying, and Sam looked at me for a long time.
“I can’t tell you what he’s saying, because I don’t want you to cry.”
So we left. Five minutes later, Sammy calls. “I’m sorry.”
And now, I don’t know. God has given me a love and a burden for this child. I’m not sure I could love him any more if he was my own son. And I don’t have any idea what to do next. So please, I need prayers. Prayers for wisdom, and prayers for Sammy.
Children aren’t meant to be on their own in the streets.
Yesterday, on the way home from football, Mashangi told me he wanted to go to church with me. So this morning, I passed by Riverside on the way to church, and asked him if he was still wanting to go. He was, so we set off for church. On the way, Chwaki, Jimmy and Odongo decided to come as well. So we set out for church, all of us laughing hysterically as we rode a tuk-tuk through Nairobi. Mashangi was pulling at his ears, telling me that he was trying to open them, to hear the Word of God.
As we arrived at church, the boys asked me to hold their msi (jet fuel in gin bottles) and glue. So, I entered Shauri Moyo Baptist with four boys, and 5 bottles of msi/gum in my purse. As we walked in, I was hit with the terrifying realization that the Swahili service was at 11 am, and I had brought boys who have a difficult time paying attention to a 15-minute story each week to a two-and-a-half-hour church service, in a language they don’t even understand. I braced myself for disaster.
But, praise the Lord, it wasn’t so bad. Everyone at the church was welcoming and friendly. The boys danced and sang throughout the beginning of the service. While the pastor preached, Odongo slept, Jimmy sat quietly, and Chwaki and Mashangi read the sermon on the mount from the Swahili Bible on my iPhone. When the time came for the offering, Chwaki emptied his pocket into his hand, and out the coins he had, he gave a few shillings. Jimmy and Mashangi did the same. Humbling.
The boys waited in a nearby hoteli while Eunice and I went to a street kids ministry meeting at the church. The meeting was beyond encouraging. The spirit is working in the people of the church, and they see the boys and are touched with compassion. Plans are moving forward to begin a ministry there, and I am (very) excited to be a part of it.
In the afternoon, Eunice and I headed to Dandora to visit Sam, David and Ford. On the way home from the hospital on Friday, Sam was walking down a busy street. Near him, a child was playing with a toy made from wire and a small tire. The toy got caught in the spokes of the bicycle, and the man on the bicycle fell, along with several dozen eggs he was carrying. Sam rushed over to help, and was blamed for the accident. He was asked to pay 960 KSH for the eggs, and when he didn’t have the cash, the man took his floor from his small house and his radio. He called us asking if we could help him, so we went to check out the situation.
We weren’t able to get in touch with the egg man, but spent a happy couple hours hanging out with the boys, hearing about their struggles and dreams, and laughing a lot. I’m amazed at these boys. At 17, I was still a child. My parents still provided for me, and I was without a lot of worries. These boys have been on their own for years. When they are sick, there is no one to care for them. They work long, hard hours doing dirty work before most of us are out of bed. When rent is due, they pay. They have no one to turn to when they are arrested for no reason, or when all of their rent money is stolen. They have lived on the streets, and they have survived. And they have retained their spirit, and their joy.
I continue to learn from these boys. I learn from them when they give out of their poverty. I learn from them when they forgive those have hurt them, and when they share the little that they have with joy.
We are praying now for someone to disciple these boys. Please pray with us that God will put a man in their lives who is willing to walk with them, and to show them how to walk after Jesus.
riding home from sam’s house in a matatu, i was overwhelmed. crying, i wrote:
sammy is back in the streets. for the first time, yesterday, i found him sniffing jet fuel. when i asked him why, he told me, “my aunt told me to come home, then she told me to leave. i’m confused, i’m alone, i have nowhere to go, so i want to forget. i want to sniff.”
and sam. sam came to kenya from tanzania with his mother when he was 8 years old. his mother passed when he was 9. he’s been alone and on the streets ever since. now he’s 17. today, for the first time in years, he tried to call his uncle in tanzania, the last connection he has with his family. the line was disconnected. he returned the phone, stopped, and said quietly, “my family is finished.”
as we sat in the clinic waiting room, waiting for sammy’s wound to be cleaned, he listed to my ipod, softly singing, “don’t worry about a thing…every little thing gonna be all right,” while his eyes filled with tears.
we left the clinic for the public hospital to visit stephen, who was hit by a car almost two months ago. both of his legs are broken. and he, also, is alone. at the hospital we met david, who was staying with stephen before the accident. we made plans to visit him again on monday, and see about getting him out of the hospital.
after the hospital, we went to visit sam’s house. back in february, jack had paid the first month’s rent for some houses for sam and two other young guys. the guys were living two to a house–one older youth, and one younger. sammy was living with sam, stephen with david and two other boys.
we reached their house, a tin shack in a slum outside of nairobi. sam immediately welcomed me in, and began washing dishes and preparing chai. he washed and changed his clothes.
sam’s rent is approximately seven dollars a month. to earn that $7, he wakes up early in the morning, walks two hours to riverside, where he used to live on the streets. there, he collects metal, digging through trash in industrial areas, getting paid mere cents for all of his work. during the day, he lives like the rest of the street children–despised, insulted, dirty.
he’s worked this way for 8 months, slowly buying every thing he needs. now, he has a bed. he has a few dishes, a couple pairs of clothing. he has a radio, which is always on full volume, and he has a dog. his house is spotless, and all of the neighborhood kids greet him with hugs and fist bumps as he walks home.
and as i sat outside on a jerrycan, he served me chai, and bread with blue band, i was amazed, and filled with joy.
it’s difficult for me to imagine what he’s been through. an orphan, an alien, a child on the streets. but like he told me yesterday, he is surviving. and i’m humbled and awed at his courage, his perseverance and his strength.
pray for sam. he is an incredible young man. pray for encouragement, for comfort in his loneliness. pray that he can find better work. pray for his protection, and pray that God brings good friends into his life–friends that can walk through these difficult days with him, and who can hope and trust in Christ together with him.
(This is a guest blog post by my very good friend Eunice Ng’ang’a.)
“It was just a day, just an ordinary day.” This song was in my head as Kristen and I left the house at the break of dawn in search of Derick (a small street boy we met yesterday who had jet fuel poured into his eye) to take him to the hospital to have his eye cleaned. A matatu ride which we thought would lead us to where he stayed us was not fruitful and we rode back and set off on foot again from home, tracing the path she and Derick used yesterday. We had been walking along that road for awhile when I heared some one call my name. I was recognized even thou I was so bundled that only a small part of my face was visible. Boniface, a man I last saw three years ago was crawling from the place he was slept the night before. He walked up to me and asked, “Do you remember me?”
How could I forget him? The last time I saw him he was reformed, living off the streets and doing well. He had a job and was putting his life back together after three years in prison. I asked what he was doing there after our last encounter and he said that the devil lured him back to his trap and now he has stolen, destroyed his life and the only thing remaining was for him was death.
We asked if he knew the boy we were looking for and we proceeded to follow him all across Eastleigh, looking for Derick at every base. I told him that God could still give him another chance. We had a lengthy conversation and after looking for Derick without success, we went to have chai in a small hotel. I told him we were going to Shauri Moyo Baptist Church, and he said it wasn’t far and he wanted to come. I told him he was welcome to. All the way to church as we made our way through the slums, he talked of how he made a promise to God while on death row.
He had been imprisoned for armed robbery and even sustained bullet wounds. He had no money and no lawyer to defend him .He told God if He helped him get out of there alive, he would serve Him for the rest of his life. When he was rescued from death there, he served God for a little while until he went back to his old ways. He describe himself like the disobedient Jonah: he had ran from God’s calling on his life, and he was in the belly of the fish. Only, he pointed out, for God, one day is like a thousand years, so he wasn’t sure how much longer he had left in the fish.
Kristen ans I encouraged him to ask God for forgiveness,he is faithful and loving enough and will forgive him. This conversation went on util we arrived at church.
We sat on the last row at church, and all danced during the worship. As the preacher came, he asked all of us at the back to move to the front, saying that the last will be first and the first will be last. So the guys led us to the front, where we listened to the sermon together. Unfortunately, the service was in English so Boniface and his friend did not get much. But toward the end, the pastor asked if anyone had an issue in their lives that they needed prayer.
Boniface and Gitau walked together to the altar and said the wanted to receive Chisrt in their lives. We were overjoyed! The churchwas overwhelmingly supportive of them and they even contributed 2000 KSH (about 20 dollars) to buy them shoes. Some people pledged to bring them clothes, some young men also volunteered to disciple them and everyone was coming to the front hugging them and welcoming them to the church. Then, as we left the church, to get them a haircut, Boniface kept telling us how he may be very dirty on the outside, but his spirit was white as snow–he is a new creation.
What started as an ordinary day ended on a very good note!