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A Mission of Hope, Love, and Friendship: Kenya.

October 2, 2014

As most of you know, my parents recently returned from a medical mission trip in Kenya. Last week, I shared the end of their trip, the safari part. Today, I’m sharing with you the actual mission part. Since I was not actually on this trip, although hearing all of their stories and seeing pictures – sometimes I feel like I might have been there, I wanted to let them tell you a little bit more about their experience.

When and how did you feel lead to go on this specific mission trip?

Dan:  Sherri had wanted to go to Africa for a long time and talked about this often. It started out that I just wanted to experience it with her. As time went by, I felt like there was a real need in this slum community for medical people to come and do whatever they could to meet some of the physical needs of the people. I started thinking that maybe that’s why God lead me into medicine in the first place, to serve Him and the poor in this way.

Sherri:  Forty years ago, when I was a nursing student, it was my dream to travel on a ship called The US Hope and go to Africa and other countries to serve the people there. When I graduated, the US Hope disbanded. I never lost my desire to go, and put it on my Bucket List of things I wanted to do sometime in my life. When the church we now attend had a night where you could go to the church and learn about all of the mission trips they offered, Kenya was one of them! Dan knew of this long lost wish of mine and fortunately was on board with going with me. Our Life Group leaders at our church, a wonderful couple, were the ones heading up this particular trip. This was our beginning.

What was your “job” on this mission trip?

Dan:  My job on this trip was to help staff a medical clinic in the slum community of Bondeni, which is in Nairobi. There were five doctors and five nurses along with support staff to help out. We saw many people from the slum community as well as some children who went to the school in Bondeni. Mainly we treated a lot of infections from wounds and skin infections to intestinal parasites and worms, to lung and respiratory infections.

Sherri:  We all got the opportunity to do several things. Initially, I was signed up to be a nurse. This required me to triage the patients: take their health history and vital signs. Fortunately, I had an interpreter with me as I did not speak Swahili, the main language there. There were hundreds of women with many children waiting patiently to be seen by the doctors that first day. Things went smoothly until a 6 or 7 month old baby took one look at me and began screaming at the top of her lungs. Once my interpreter stopped laughing, he informed me that this was the first time this baby had seen a “Muzunga” – a white person!

Tell us more about this picture, this place. What was the slum like?

Dan:  The slum was unimaginable. The houses were thin sheet metal walls with dirt floors, no more than 10×10 feet, housing up to 5-6 people. No plumbing, no kitchen, usually no electricity. The people cooked over an open fire and drew water either out of a ditch, used rain water, or sometimes got water from a well that was not clean. There are no bathrooms so people just use a shallow ditch that runs through the community, as you can see in this picture (above). The shacks are all attached to each other with narrow dirt paths between rows of the houses, and they go on for as far as you can see. They are very dark inside, without windows and just a small door. The slum is also very dusty, there is trash everywhere, and the smells are pretty rough. It’s just hard to fathom how people can live in these conditions.

Sherri:  Being in the slums was very overwhelming and very hard on us emotionally the first day we saw this. It never got easier except for the fact that the women and children were kind and the kids flocked around us just to be hugged and loved on. This became very important to touch and love on them to let them know that they were valued by us and by God, and that they were NOT outcasts!

Tell us more about George and the ways you prayed together for other people.

Sherri: George! A lovely Kenyan man concerned for his own people! I loved him instantly. He was my prayer partner and interpreter in “the prayer room.” This was a place all patients would go after seeing the doctors and before getting their prescriptions filled. This was my favorite job! George told me about how it worked and some questions to ask (to mostly moms with their children) as to how and what we could pray for them. It was also important to witness to those who did not know Jesus. Following George’s lead, it became easier and easier to pray with these concerned moms who never asked for prayers for themselves but always for their husbands to find work and their children to be well.

Sherri:  It was my custom (I’m a touchy-feely type) to hold their hands as we prayed. No one ever refused prayer or to hold my hand and George’s hands. To have this precious moment with these lovely people was humbling and very moving (and emotional) for me. I often asked them if they knew who Jesus was and if they attended church. Most of them were Christians! But George and I had the awesome experience to witness and bring three new women to Christ! How we would celebrate with cheers and hugs! Moments I will never forget.

Sherri:  My most cherished moment in the prayer room was when I asked George if I could pray for him. He was touched at the very thought and teared up when he said, “I would love that.” I held both of his hands and prayed for things personal to him that I won’t share here, but it was a God given moment and blessing for both of us. I told George that if we didn’t meet again in this life, that I would find him in Heaven and oh how we would celebrate!

Sherri:  Another wonderful thing we were witness to was a thing called “Bring the Light.” Since they live in such small metal buildings with dirt floors and no windows and one door, you can’t imagine how dark and hot is in these little houses! We would, after asking their permission, cut a small hole in the roof and screw in a piece of heavy plastic to allow some light in. The process only took minutes and the results were unbelievable! Who, but God, would understand what a huge difference a little light could make in the lives of these impoverished and lovely people.

What was the hardest thing about this mission trip?

Sherri:  The hardest thing about this mission trip was realizing that THIS kind of poverty exists! That we couldn’t permanently cure these people from diseases we easily cure in the US. That a government could allow this inhumanity to exist… that we allow poverty to exist… anywhere. That people actually live like this and can still feel joy AND still have hope.

What was the story involving the sunglasses?

Dan:  Someone in the group brought sunglasses and some reading glasses. The reading glasses were very popular and needed by the community. The sun is very bright and harmful to their eyes, but culturally they don’t wear glasses much because they feel it means you are trying to hide something. At the end of the week, we brought out the sunglasses but only had enough for the nurses, social workers, and some teachers who worked at the clinic. They aren’t used to wearing sunglasses so we had to actually teach them to remove the tag that is over the nose part, and remove the stickers from the lenses. The guys were putting on girls sunglasses, so we had to correct that. After everyone had their sunglasses, we decided to take a picture and had to coach them up a little on how to stand and hold their arms and hands. It was hilarious having the white guys trying to coach the black guys “how to be cool.”

Sherri:  We also spent time going into the homes to talk about how to prevent Malaria, how to prevent HIV (many of the men had it), and how to get a little cleaner drinking water by putting it in a plastic bottle and putting it on the roof of their homes in the heat of the day so that the sediment would sink into the bottom and the heat of the sun might kill a few of the germs in the water. There is NO fresh or clean water available for these people so what they drink is what flows through the slum when it rains… there are no toilets or bathrooms of any kind and no trash service so everything is done or put outside the house. You can imagine what they’re drinking and washing their clothes in. But the women were always glad to have us, so we visited them with open arms.

With all of the sadness of this place, what brought you happiness? What brought you hope?

Dan:  At the beginning of the week, I was feeling really overwhelmed by the poverty and conditions and just wondered if we were making any difference at all by being there. One day I just started crying out of the blue, I guess out of frustration and trying to understand it all. I asked God to show me where and how He was working there, and how we were helping (if at all). Later that day, the school children and Missions of Hope workers had a party for us, and just thanked us for being there that week. They don’t get any medical care unless missionaries like us come over to staff the clinic. They also said that it meant so much that we would come from so far away to love on the kids and to help the slum community, not only in the clinic but with prayer and home visits. The native Kenyans won’t go into the slums because it is so dangerous, so these people feel like outcasts. It means so much to have someone show them love, and to help them understand that Jesus loves them so much more than that. The people in Bondeni are so loving and welcoming and beautiful, even despite such poverty – and the Missions of Hope workers are changing lives by giving these children an education, and teaching the adults life skills. So, God did show me what He was up to, and it was an amazing end to the week in Bondeni.

 

How can we pray for these people and this place? What can we do to help?

Sherri:  Prayer of ANY kind is never wasted or forgotten by God. Perhaps after you see these pictures and read our stories, God will tell you just how and what to pray for. And God just may put it on your heart to sponsor a child to get a good education or convince you that a mission trip might be in your future!

//

If you have any questions about Missions of Hope or how you might be able to sponsor a child, please email me and I will send you information! 

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  • What a beautiful story. I remember feeling very similar to your father when I first arrived in South Africa and spent time in one of the townships (it is what the poor communities are called). It was so overwhelming, to even imagine that as one person there for a short time you can make an impact. I'm so glad that they were able to see the lives that were touched by their trip and I truly believe that these issues of poverty, access to medical care, and most importantly the knowledge and relationship with our Lord, are addressed by one person at a time deciding they care enough to do something about it! A mission trip is definitely in my future, as is a trip back to Africa. This was such a great reminder of why I need to go back.

  • Such a beautiful story. I teared up reading some of the stories that your parents shared, but this was so awesome. I'm sure your parents changed everyone's' life there for the better. Thanks for sharing

  • Gosh. You parents are HEROES. I love this so much.

  • What a touching story. I agree with your Mom that witnessing first hand this type of poverty is incredible difficult. However, I think it's something that everyone should do at least once in their lives. It changes you forever and really puts your life into perspective. I've had gratitude every single day since.

    V
    Life+1

  • Oh Emily – your parents are wonderful people and what a wonderful mission they joined. It's such a great thing to take up 'work' like this in the name of God and try and better the situation of people who can't do it themselves. I will definitely have these people in my prayers. Thank you for sharing this touching story. XO

  • Em, my heart is so full of happiness for your parents and the people they were able to reach. I literally have tears in my eyes as I read their stories and look at these pictures. These people are sooo beautiful and loved so dearly by God. They are God's children, and I love that your parents could share that with them. So many thoughts and prayers for that nation. The slums remind me A LOT of what I experienced in Honduras, and their contagious happiness also reminds me a lot of the Honduran people. God is good 🙂

  • Your parents are amazing people. Thank you so much for sharing their story! It makes my heart happy to read about the wonderful things they were able to do for those people.

  • Meg Henning

    what a wonderful heart your parents have for medical missions. love reading this! so encouraging to me today

  • Lindsay

    So touching. As your mom said, I'm amazed that they can express joy and gratefulness while living in such harsh conditions. Puts things into perspective here at home. God bless your sweet parents for their good work!

  • Your mom is my fave!! What a precious lady…her heart is so ready to do this again and I can see she was ready to be used however the Lord wanted to use her. I absolutely LOVE this! Someday…my family, your family, in another country, telling people about Jesus!! Also…your mom mentioned not getting to go on the ship to do missions…if she still wants an opportunity, she should look into Mercy Ships. My sis worked with them (she's an RN) in Africa for a few months.

  • Tear, tears. This is so touching. I love what your parents did and their heart is so huge to help these people. As I was reading and looking at the pictures it made me realize truly how well we have it. I have 2 bahtrooms, endless clean water, a house with way too many room, etc. What these people has is pennies if not less than what I have. It really makes you appreciate everything. I hate that this exists in the world. Your parents are so awesome!

  • I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Heather! I have been on only one mission trip (to Romania, while in college) but hearing my parents' stories and seeing the pictures definitely makes me want to experience on one again.

  • I teared up too! There were a few things I didn't know until reading their answers (and NO idea about the US Hope ship my mom had always wanted to go on!) Interviewing your parents…. you learn so much!

  • So glad you enjoyed this one! 🙂 My parents are definitely MY heroes!

  • It definitely changes you forever… you never forget it. XO

  • Hearing these stories and seeing the pictures- my heart ached and I felt like I'd met these people… it's like the human connection, you know? Truly what this life is all about.

  • I had tears in my eyes reading their answers too. I still cry when I look at the pictures! When they were over there, my dad would try to email me each night and sometimes included pictures and they really just gripped my heart! God is SO, so good.

  • I definitely had tear-filled eyes reading their answers to share on here. It's an experience that, even though I wasn't physically there, will stay with me for the rest of my life. You don't forget stories like that or faces like theirs. There is still so much joy in their eyes! Thank you for praying XO

  • So glad you enjoyed this one, Amanda! 🙂

  • Thanks for reading and for the sweet note, Meg! I'm glad you enjoyed this one! 🙂

  • It definitely puts things into perspective, and fast. Thanks for reading, Lindsay! 🙂

  • Of course I'm most likely biased and think my mom is the most precious woman to ever walk the earth 😉 …. she is still processing things. I asked her if she'd go on another trip like this and she said she still needs time. This trip really got to her (in a good way, but … you know). I will have to tell her about Mercy Ships!!!

  • Gosh we really do have it so, so good. Of course, it's all relative and our rough days can still be rough but it definitely puts a lot into perspective…. I think this is why I think it's important to recognize all of the things we have in our lives and to give thanks, as much as we can. These people have nothing when it comes to material things, but they have SO much joy and PRAISE for a God who brings them love.

  • It's so great she's still processing…that is totally the Holy Spirit doing His thing in her heart. She'll be ready to go again soon. It's hard to have those kinds of experiences and never want to have them again, as hard as they are. She's probably still overwhelmed, it's so hard to come back to the USA and try to be normal again…whatever that means. It's hard not to feel guilty about the wonderful life we get to live here when others are suffering so much. I love her tender heart.

  • Totally, I'm sure you are right! I'll see her in a few weekends and am anxious to see how she's feeling then. xo

  • Missions is so close to my heart and I LOVED hearing more about your parents' trip and their heart for missions as well! Going on trips like this one or even hearing about them is so humbling. Thank you for sharing!

  • Do you have any plans of going on a mission in the near future, Leah? I hope to go again (I've been to Romania) in the next 5 years and would love to go to Kenya. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Oooh, Romania. I've never been anywhere in Europe and I would love to go someday. I completely plan on doing more mission work in the future. My fiancé and I are definitely going to be taking some trips together (we've always wanted to, but it's never worked out).

  • I have yet to go with my husband and would LOVE to someday soon. I hope you guys get to go soon, too!