There is a term that people in Kenya use: This is Kenya. It is used whenever something doesn’t quite go according to plan. When the traffic is so bad that you are late for your meeting. This is Kenya. When the electricity goes out and you are unable to have access to the Internet to send important emails. This is Kenya. When the paint arrives to your worksite and it is two shades darker than what you ordered. This is Kenya. When the hotel decides at the last minute to change your room reservation from singles to doubles. This is Kenya. When five of your group’s checked bags do not arrive at the airport and you have to wait 3 days and drive to the airport 4 times before you finally get them. This is Kenya. When a freak small fire turns into a devastating blaze that completely destroys the International terminal of the airport. This is Kenya.
There were many of these This is Kenya moments throughout the duration of our trip. Our incredible group of 16 was tested on more than one occasion while we spent time across the world. These moments could have been trip ruiners. They could have been moments that one or all of us chose to dwell in. However, that is the exact opposite of what happened. These moments became nothing but mere hiccups, barely noticeable, in the midst of a life-altering and heart-changing trip. In fact, for me, these moments were consistently overshadowed by moments of pure magic and miracle. To me, This is Kenya should be a term used to describe the moments where God makes himself known through the people of this beautiful country.
When Carese and Gibson stand up and talk about coming from a life on the street to Tumaini and how it has shaped their lives. This is Kenya. When Samuel spends every moment he can talking with Kate and Camilla about music and sharing his love of dance. This is Kenya. When Charles, the manager of Tumaini, bounces around from one working group to another making sure they have all the supplies and help they need. This is Kenya. When Kioko talks about how making new friends and getting to know us has helped him change how he thinks about mission and relationships. This is Kenya. When all the boys from the home stand around a bonfire and sing wonderful praise music to God during reflection time.This is Kenya. When all the older boys take us into the streets of Nairobi so that we can feed the children living on the streets. This is Kenya. When Carese looks at one of the street boys in rags and says, “I can’t believe that used to be me,” with tears in his eyes. This is Kenya. When Tumaini opens its arms and has us take 7 boys from the street that night back to the home so that they may have a better life. This is Kenya. When Gibson, holding back sobs, stands up on the last night we are there and tells us that we are all family now. And when all the boys stand at the bonfire that last night and sing a song of thanksgiving to God for us and then lead us in an epic dance party. This is Kenya.
Telling the story of this trip and how it has changed everything in terms of the way we as a group look at mission and how we see our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world will not be easy. But we know how important it is to tell it. For the 16 of us who were blessed with the chance to make a new family with the boys and mentors of Tumaini, our lives will never be the same. The way we see Christ in the other will never be the same. The way we build partnerships and do mission will never be the same.
Mission is not about us having all the answers and going in and giving it to people who seem less fortunate than us. We have learned and now know better. We don’t have any of the answers and the boys of Tumaini are more fortunate in the love of God and the support of their community than many here in the US. It is not about one side giving while the other takes. It is not about money or resources or which way of life is better. It is about love, family, and knowing that though our lives and homes look different on the surface, we are all the same beautiful children of God. It is only by truly seeing and understanding this that we are able to walk side by side as partners in mission and in the Kingdom of God.
Our journey with the boys of Tumaini and with Kenya is just beginning and we hope that as we continue the to build on the relationships we have made, that the rest of our communities will join us.
“Meeting the Boys of Nyumba Ya Tumaini”
By Chris Donelan
August 5, 2013
The emotions and connections I experienced today can only be described in one word: Unforgettable. It was one hell of a day. We began with a delicious breakfast consisting of potatoes, sausage, toast with jam, and juicy mango. Shortly after, we were on our way to Nyumba Ya Tumaini. Our incredible day started with a tour of the facility followed by an introduction from some of the boys and the director of the home. Their stories made any story I could ever tell seem very unreal and lame. One of the boys named Gibson openly talked about his struggle on the streets of Nairobi and how he eventually ended up as a member of the home. It made me realize that in the United States, no one would ever talk so openly about something so personal. Gibson’s story touched me and made me realize how fortunate I am to have grown up with a roof over my head and three meals provided for me a day.
After the stories, we began to play name games of all sorts. These games began connections that I knew none of us would forget for the rest of our lives. Needless to say, the games we played were the result of much laughter, and the laughter I experienced gave me more joy than I had experienced in a very long time.
Next, the cleaning commenced. Unfortunately, we were short on brooms, so I joined Gibson on a walk to the hardware store. Immediately we struck up a rich conversation that covered everything from sports to a comparison of taxes in the United States vs. Kenya. When we arrived, I watched a man construct five sweeping brooms right in front of eyes. First he whittled one end of a long wooden pole. He then attached the pole to the sweeping end of the broom and nailed the two pieces together. The walk to the hardware store made me feel alive and happy and was definitely one of the high points of my day.
To conclude our amazing day, I taught a lesson on the not-so-fine points of Ultimate Frisbee. We played an intense game, even if it was somewhat of a joke. At this time I felt that we had built a stronger bond in one day than any bond I had built with people on any past mission trips. At reflection that night, it was the most incredible feeling to hear some people say that their highpoint of the day was playing Ultimate Frisbee with us.