We recently returned from a two week visit to Kenya. This was the first time we took so many people on an organized mission trip for Kupenda. Please see August 12th posting for more on the trip and individual reflections.
The entire American team left with tears in their eyes and life changing memories. The best way to understand their experience is to hear from the volunteers themselves (more reflections in the August 12th post and more to come)……
Here are two children I met and two stories I have to share…
I met Kalama on the very first day we were at the school. He is a Deaf teenager, 13 years old. He has an amazing face and his eyes and smile are simply unforgettable. He also has a very natural empathetic aspect to his character and it is just so nice to be around him. Kalama definitely has the gift of helping. He was so intent to make sure the hearing Americans understood what was being communicated to us at all times. If he saw a confused look on our faces because we weren’t understanding what was being signed to us, even by someone other than himself, he would immediately try to do some interpreting for us until he felt that we understood a little better. I‘d say Kalama is an introvert; he never seemed to fight for the attention from anyone, and seemed perfectly happy to hang back and let some of his more outgoing friends take the lead. The gentleness and sweet spirit I saw in Kalama is something I believe I will remember always.
Mercy is also thirteen years old. I met and spent some time with her on the third day being at the Gede school. We bonded over hand clap games, something that seems to bridge cultural and auditory barriers. There was a moment when Mercy and I were playing a particular hand clap game for a few minutes without interruption that I had this thought, which I journaled later that evening:
“…we were just girls. We weren’t white or black or rich or poor or hearing or Deaf. We weren’t even younger and older…we were just two girls, who didn’t need words, playing a simple game…and we may have left a tiny part of ourselves with each other in those moments.”
One of my favorite memories from our trip was our very first day at Gede. I was a bit apprehensive—not quite sure about what we would be doing or how the kids would react to us. But all of those worries disappeared when I was greeted by a group of kids, some energetically signing to us, some running towards us on crutches, and ALL smiling. They immediately gave us our sign name (which was usually an indication of our most “unique” feature—not always our most favorite feature) and then patiently taught us other signs to communicate with them. Every child wanted a hug or a handshake, and from that moment on, I was hooked. I didn’t want to leave.
I knew I would like these kids. How can you not? They are amazing—their hard work, their joy, their kindness and the way they take care of each other is incredible. But I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love with these children. I believe it is the love that is described in the Bible—a love that only God can give and a love that I had forgotten how to live out day to day. I got to start and end each day with them—getting to know their unique personalities, learning their stories and where they came from—finding a common ground that we could share (sometimes that common ground was simply a love for coloring or playing soccer). I felt sad for the issues that they have had to overcome at such a young age. But mostly, I felt such hope for the future that they have through the help of Kupenda. I had no idea how big of an impact this organization had on the lives of these children and the community around them. I was amazed by the teachers, administrators, and committee members who have dedicated so much of themselves for the kids.
Aside from being able to spend time with each of the kids, and see the work of Kupenda first-hand, I was also so blessed to be a part of a team that was so clearly hand-picked by God. It was amazing how everyone played a role, and everyone came together in a special way. I have never experienced such a great example of how God uses the unique gifts of his people to bring about something good.
I saw God working through Kupenda each day, showing love to His children—whether it was seeing some of our team members working side by side, taking a desperate father and his disabled children to be evaluated by the physical therapist, or watching a ten-year-old push his friend in a wheelchair around the duck-duck-goose circle. My hope and prayer is to continue to be a part of what God is doing through this organization in whatever way I can, and to share this need with everyone I know.
About two weeks ago, I got back from Kenya, where I was working with handicapped children.I return a changed person, a women after God’s own heart. On this trip I experienced an overwhelming joy, like a light radiating from within. I knew I was in the will of God and felt his presence all around. I saw him in the faces of the children we looked after. In their eyes, I saw his grace, in their joy, joy that was pure, not contingent opon any material possession. I found what it means to please God, not with the way you talk or even walk, but with that radiance, with which once touched one can never be the same. There is no one in this world who can be loved with this sort of love and remain the same. One of the major duties of every Christian is to make the invisible kingdom of God visible. This is what these children did for me.