I’m back from a very full trip to Kenya. It was emotional and beautiful to be showered with love and condolences from the wonderful children and teachers I haven’t seen for 1 ½ years. I often feel undeserving of it all. When I get to see them it is such a blessing but spending time with them is not really the focus of my time in Kenya.
Part of the trip’s purpose included sharing the on-the-ground operations of Kupenda with Patty Prasada-Rao (Kupenda board member and friend) and utilizing her experience managing nonprofits to help us strategize as we continue to grow. Several stories and reflections connected to our trip can be found on our blog. Even more photos, with descriptions, are found in the Kupenda facebook photo album. We visited several children with disabilities homes, attended a workshop for parents with children impacted by seizure disorders, facilitated the first traditional healer meeting, participated in a Kupenda Kenya board meeting, and shared a message of inclusion at two churches (Luke 14). Our talks in churches, continue to have an extraordinary response.
Our message is focused on Luke 14: 12-23 which calls for the presence of people with disabilities in the church. Before the message, I share a little bit of my personal story and play my guitar to show the results of my parents’ encouragement. Many of the congregants pull out their cell phones to record the one-handed guitar player. We then read the Luke 14 scripture and describe its practical applications. The pastors and congregants often follow the scripture we share literally. They actually “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” Congregants bring children with disabilities to church, form committees to meet the needs of those with disabilities, raise funds for them to attend school, provide food for handicapped schools, organize support groups for parents, provide church services at local schools, and one church has even worked with the local government to establish a special classroom in the community opening in September. Therefore it came as no surprise to hear the response of the last church we shared with before I left Kenya.
The Marafa Anglican Church of Kenya is the church located adjacent to the Marafa Special School and is the official school “sponsor” (all schools have a “sponsor” church or mosque). Even though they are officially affiliated with the school, the pastor and elders had not visited. They were convicted to follow our message in a similar way other churches have. After church, we went to the school and actually participated in a “great banquet” with the 80+ children with disabilities that attend the special boarding school. One teacher said the students wondered if it was Christmas because of the amazing food they were eating with us. After the meal, the pastor told the children and teachers he wanted them to fill his church along with others like them. We also took the elders on a tour of this school that has grown so much in the last 9 years.
Thanks to the efforts of three guys from Adventures for Cure (AFC) who decided to raise money for the first boarding facility at this school 9 years ago, other organizations like Hungry for Life and Kenyan governmental agencies have followed. The Marafa School was just 5 children meeting under a tree when two young guys, Pat Blair and Adam Driscoll, met them in 2006. The school said they couldn’t have any more students or teachers without a boarding facility. These guys decided they could help and raised the money for this dormitory which made all that followed possible. Marafa now has over 80 students, several government funded teachers, two dormitories, 4 new classrooms, water, a fully furnished occupational therapy building, an expected government salaried occupational therapist, and a kitchen and dining hall which will be built in the fall. Like the simple church message we share, the first dormitory building at Marafa sparked so much more than most could have imagined.
As I looked out over the beautiful faces of the children of Marafa, it was a bit surreal to see how far we’ve come. I can’t help but wonder where we are going especially as I begin preparations for a new venture. I’m leading the disability group for the Lausanne Young Leaders Gathering in Jakarta Indonesia a year from now. The August 2016 conference will include 1,000 people from 150 countries involved in missions of all kinds. Our goal is to motivate them to include people with disabilities in their work in a similar way to our encouragement of these small churches in Kenya and Tanzania. If these churches, schools, and government organizations can do so much from our small efforts, maybe groups from around the world will respond in a similar fashion. It seems we are headed somewhere faster and bigger than we could ever plan. I definitely didn’t plan for all that has happened so far. Thank goodness I’m not in charge.
All of this shows that every resource we provide is multiplied far beyond the initial financial investment. Each one of you makes all of this possible. Thank you for continuing to be part of this journey.
With much love and gratitude,
If you’re interested in supporting one of the many children we serve, head over to our sponsorship page to learn about how you can make a difference.