I think my head is clear enough to try and detail a few experiences from Kenya. This was my first trip to Africa and was in particular a very exciting opportunity to hear how churches and seminaries are engaging with children ministries in the region. The first part of the trip was devoted to the Now and Next consultation, where 106 theologians and professors came together, from 82 represented nations in what was one of the largest gatherings to discuss theologies of childhood and practical implications for ministry. It is always moving to see people touched by the presence of children and Jesus’ placement of the child in the midst in such meetings. Much of our time together was spent hearing from the likes of Marcia Bunge, Keith White, Ruth Padilla de Borst and others. It was a special time to work in global work groups in thinking through the Church’ agenda in caring for young people and training Christian leaders to develop quality based programs. Our final report included a theological and missiological statement that recognizes the lack of priority and focus theological circles have given to children. Much confession took place as we recognized room for improvement in our class rooms and ministries. In the end, it was a great opportunity to help represent ESEPA and to join together with people from around the world to strengthen our response to caring for young people today.
The gathering was made possible by the support of the Child Theology Movement, Compassion International, Daystar Christian University, the 4/14 Global Initiative, the Global Alliance for Holistic Child Development, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians (INFEMIT), the Lausanne Movement, Overseas Council International (OCI), and World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).
After our meetings concluded, I flew out to Kitale to visit with some ministries dedicated to holistic ministry with children. One project was Oasis of Hope, a ministry dedicated to caring for street-living and working children. In addition to a drop-in center, Oasis places an emphasis on informal education, street outreaches and three residential homes (among other things). I was invited to join the director, Geoffrey and team, at the drop-in center (and agreed to teach 3rd and 4th grade classes by teaching some Spanish words and recounting God’s stories and the lives of people who have been forever changed through his grace). After classes, soccer (football) became the entertainment and I couldn’t help but get involved. In addition to visiting and teaching (if you can call it that) at the drop-in center, we visited downtown Kitale, where dozens of kids as young as 8 could be seen sniffing glue (which brought me back to memories of serving with Niños de la Luz and all the other places where I have seen this). We also visited the homes of many of the children who are involved in Oasis of Hope taking small gifts to their parents (in many cases grandmothers and moms). Oasis of Hope staff check in on the families once a week to see how the children are doing. I was deeply moved by the poverty, yet resiliency of these families in the midst of difficult circumstances. In addition to these home visits we visited with both a girls and boys home that are run as family units, including house parents and no more than 8-10 young people. At night we we did a “blanket drop” where we found children sleeping on the streets and placed blankets on them anonymously. One young girl woke up just as I was placing a blanket on her and broke out in spontaneous dance expressing her joy. She kept repeating to everyone “thank you for my blanket”. Many of the kids asleep awoke to her announcement and were startled to see us placing blankets on them. In many ways I was reminded of other ministries I have been a part of over the years with the children, but blown away by the amount of children on the street. I also had the opportunity to visit with sister Freda’s medical clinic outside of town where we prayed for patients and saw all the programs that they have going in the form of a nursing program, children’s home, community farm, and children’s boarding school. While my time at the medical clinic was limited, it was certainly powerful. In one case, I prayed for a young man paralyzed from TB that has affected his spinal cord. As we prayed, his leg began to shake and I was told that this was the first that they had seen of this. I continue to pray that he fully recovers. My resolve for promoting training programs, both academically and through practical workshops, that will increase effective responses to care for children at risk and reduce poverty has only been increased because of this trip. No doubt God knew what he was doing in getting me to Africa. Here are a few pictures from my time there.
One way to support either the work of Oasis of Hope or Sister Freda’s ministry is through Guidelines International: click here for more information Support
You may also go to the Oasis of Hope blog site and contact Lydia Monroe about donations