Traveling for nearly three days from our far home in California to the unexpected in Kenya, not only was the entire team exhausted but we were also eager to see the children and serve in any way possible.
For several weeks, I was flooded with questions: “How will you shower?” “How many medications will you be on?” “Aren’t you scared of diseases?” “What exactly will you be eating there?” For me, all of it was unknown to me. The taunting questions arose fear that I hadn’t felt before until then, but I always responded that if I actually do end up dying there, then I’ll at least die doing something good. If it’s my time, then it’s my time. Of course, my response never really comforted anyone at home.
My faith was being tested more than I presumed.
We arrive in the Nairobi airport late in the evening and the storm is just about to roll in. Insects that look like mosquitos but are the size of moths swarm everywhere we turned, and with my dreading fear of insects, all I was thinking was, “How am I supposed to handle another ten days here?”
We eventually arrive to the village, and it felt like pulling into a dome of a greenhouse. An oasis is what they always called it.
With orientation and a tour within the first day, it was quite simple to understand the system of the village and the who’s who and what’s what. We learned that each home has an auntie and an uncle: two parents who take care of each home consisting of approximately twenty children – either co-ed or gender specific with ranges of ages. Alongside, workers come in from their communities and get paid for whatever job assigned. During our tour of the village, we stopped by the baby home in which, of course, every person on the team grew overwhelmed of cuteness. One child, Nicholas, possibly close to the age of three, shook each of our hands and took over our hearts. So, I later returned in the day with a few friends, and the children grew attracted towards my orange floral bracelet worn on my wrist given to me by a special one, and whether it was the texture or the bright color, they were mesmerized.
As the week progressed, we began our work project to make a path around the village which will later include gazebos and benches for the workers to have their lunches, spend time in prayer, or simply have alone time away from their everyday lives. It was quickly seen that the Kenyans at the village work far more harder than anyone I’ve seen. While two Kenyans worked on one side of the path while five of us on the other end, they still worked faster than we did. Although we were distracted by the colossal sizes of the foreign insects surrounding us, their laughter as we screamed and ran away warmed me inside.
Eventually, during one of the work days we had, it began to rain, which was normal during that time of year, so we began to go back to the lodges. I unfortunately felt sick for a lot of the days while I was there, so I went inside to rest until I began to feel slightly better. And through my window, I can hear music through a speaker. I glance outside my window and spot our team dancing with the guys we were working with underneath a metal hut, which they use as their garage. With eagerness, I dismissed my stomach pain as much as I could, I slipped on my rain boots and jumped in on the Cupid Shuffle. Amusement and joy fled through the storm.
. . . . .
Every morning, we gather together in one of the lodges for devotions with the team and those in the village. To prepare our hearts for the day, we begin our morning with worship and “Good, Good Father” begins to play. As we sing together and I realize where I am and consume all that I have already experienced, the goodness of God really began to sink into my heart. I couldn’t help to worship Him and thank Him for offering this oasis for the children, employment for the workers to support their families, and provide us this opportunity to serve those who serve others.
Anticipating to finish the path, I began to feel sick again and ended up staying inside for most of the day. While I was inside, I began to journal and guilt overwhelmed me. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was curled up in a ball on my bed. I felt useless. I couldn’t understand why I had to feel sick when all I wanted to do was be outside and serve. Then Brenda, a head administrator of Open Arms International, asked if I was doing okay. I told her how I was feeling, and she told me that maybe it’s God’s way of telling me that I need to pause for a second and just listen. As soon as she said that, I realized that Brent’s devotion that morning related to what I needed to reflect on: to serve with an open heart and not with the intentions or expectations of only being with kids.
We have devotions and dinner with one of the homes that evening. The children lead with prayer, recited verses that they all have memorized, and lead worship. Every time one was about to speak, they opened with, “Praise God.” We say, “Amen.” They say, “Praise God again.” We say, “Amen.” And they begin. Throughout their songs of worship, the entire African-feel filled the room, and once they got around to “He’s Got the Whole World” as a worship song, my heart completely filled. They incorporated each other’s names, and their giggles brought me warm chills. I distinctly remember them singing, “He’s got mommy and daddy, in His hands…” and throughout that verse, I couldn’t help but cry. I look at the children around me, and their joy and laughter lets me know that all we need is God and just Him alone is enough. I realized that I have so much back home, and has everything and can get anything I want, and while I thought I had everything, the children who don’t have a biological family still have each other and that is family enough. Just one nursery rhyme sung by children can stir a sea of emotions.
. . . . .
We spend church in Kenya that morning, and again, their African-feel of worship brings me goosebumps. Brent speaks of a message about humility being key to being humble, which certainly applied to many of us. After the sermon, we hike to a waterfall and spend time with the children of the village and eventually make plans for a dance party and a game of volleyball after lunch. It begins to rain, so we postpone the volleyball game, but they set up a house for all of us to gather together so they can teach us their dances. And by far, their dances have more flare to it than our Electric Slide.