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Church Office

Hours:
8:30 to 4:30 Monday - Friday

323 South Fairfax Street
Alexandria, Virginia  22314-3716
Phone: 703-549-6670
Email: opmh@opmh.org

Kenya Reflection

Kenya 2006 - Reflection by Kathy Prudden

Jambo!

That’s Ki Swahili for hello – something that we said a lot in Kenya. Our trip did not involve building houses; rather, we focused on building relationships – between individuals, churches, and cultures. Before we went on this trip we knew that a good relationship, and good mission work, includes a mutual sharing of resources and spiritual gifts, and that it also includes sharing struggles and joys with one another. This came alive in the encounters we had in Kenya.

Let me introduce you to one person we built a relationship with – the Reverend Stephen Chege – a retired Presbyterian minister and one of our hosts. Out of a heart for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, he has given his land, energy and love to creating The United Orphanage and Academy, which currently houses 40 orphans. One of them is 13 year old Miriam. She is a tall, beautiful, quiet girl with a shy smile. She shared with me some of her pain in losing her family, and then took me by the hand and proudly showed me the garden she helps to tend.

Then there is the young girl recently diagnosed as HIV positive. Yet this little girl radiates joy, and she loves to pray. A number of us commented that we felt that we were truly seeing an angel of God when we looked at her. Even though our hearts broke when we thought of the challenges she would face in her young life, we were encouraged by the knowledge that she is being well cared for.

With the help of Westminster Presbyterian church this orphanage has come into being. With additional help from us – The Meeting House – and other churches and friends in Kenya, Rev. Chege hopes to complete the children’s dormitory and expand the school.

After spending two days at the orphanage we visited the Elburgon area where we have partnered on several projects over the years. One of these is a health clinic, where funds have made it possible for them to finally have electricity and the basic equipment needed to create a laboratory.

Another project is a girls hostel which Meeting House members helped to construct, and all of us have supported. It was established by the local Women’s Guild because many of the girls had to walk long distances from home to school – which was often unsafe for girls and women. Here I met 17 year old Margaret, who shared with me her own personal story – - and reasons – - for why such a safe place is necessary for young girls. She also told me about her family’s tribe taking the land from her mother- following her paternal grandmother’s death – which left them destitute. She wants to become a lawyer so that this won’t happen to others. Unfortunately, the cost of an education may prevent her from realizing this goal.

We know that good relationships are built on mutuality and respect. One of the persons we visited with was the Reverend Phyllis Byrd, who spoke here a few months ago. She quoted a traditional Kenyan saying…..“If you have come to Kenya to help us, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied in with our liberation, then we can work together.”

On this trip it became clear how we are bound together, through the sharing of resources, encouragement, and life lessons..

From Reverend Chege we learned that one person really can make a difference.

From our Kenyan partners, and the children we met, we learned about hope, perserverance, and faith….and that it is possible to rejoice always, and to give thanks in all circumstances, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5. In the schools we visited we were greeted – mobbed actually – by hundreds of children with faces and voices filled with joy. These kids may not have had shoes or enough food to eat, but they had more joy and love than many of us have seen.

From our hosts we learned about hospitality and generosity. We stayed at the orphanage, and later with families in the Elburgon, Njoro, and Molo areas who opened their homes and their hearts to us. Everywhere we looked there was incredible poverty, and evidence of hardship. Yet our hosts were unstinting in giving to us out of the little they had. Food was plentiful – and we were always encouraged to eat, and eat, and eat, and drink lots of tea. In coming back to the States many of us have been struck with the contrast between the poverty in Kenya and our abundance here…. and have wondered how to now live in the light of that understanding.

In addition to the section in Romans we heard, Paul also talks about the body of Christ in the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians, where he says that if one part of the body suffers then all suffer together with it. And if one part is honored, then all rejoice together with it.

We were given an opportunity to share in the struggles and joys of these members of the body – - and were reminded of the importance of the community of faith working together. We were reminded that whatever our culture, our background, form of worship, or socio-economic status, we truly are all sisters and brothers in Christ. Our time in Kenya was about joining together in partnerships…about relationships… and we were challenged, and given the opportunity, to experience them fully.

Bwana Asifiwe. Praise the Lord.

Last Published: November 16, 2009 8:37 PM
Old Presbyterian Meeting House 323 South Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 703-549-6670