Kenya Update 4

Today we returned to the Watoto Wa Ahadi Rescue center (which is Swahili for Children of the Promise). We spent the morning doing more painting as well as some plaster work. The plastering technique involved scooping the wet mud with a trowel and slinging it against the wall. We ended up with more plaster in our hair than on the wall. I don’t know if it was a commentary on my lack of mastery of the trade, but at one point the Kenyan woman who was co-leading our work crew took my trowel away from me and started using it herself! My job at that point was simply to go behind her and scoop up the left over mud from the floor. It’s nice to know we all have a part to play.

This afternoon we had a second round of yesterday’s training sessions, only with groups from a different village. The team that taught the business session had a particularly moving experience, as the women in their group were very responsive to the information they were learning. They are eager to learn how to improve their lives, so they quickly absorbed the concepts on how to better market and sell their products. When the power of knowledge combines with a dream for the future, the results are amazing.

One of our members taught a session on leadership skills. He began by asking the participants to think about their ten-year goals. Where did they want to be in ten years? For most of us, that question triggers deeply personal thoughts. We might think of career goals or financial goals or something else that speaks to our personal lives. When the members of this group answered, they spoke almost entirely of group goals. For example, one person hoped that in ten years everyone in the group would have their own milk cow. Another person hoped that in ten years there would be enough jobs in their community so that every child of today could find work in the future. There is nothing wrong with our individual goals, but there is a stark contrast between our individual approach to life planning and their communal approach.

We often think of mission trips in terms of us going somewhere to help people by sharing with them something they don’t have. That is partly true, but it does not give a complete picture. For one thing, we arrive in a new place only to discover that God was already here long before we showed up. The church has been an active presence in Kenya for hundreds of years, so much so that well over 80% of the population professes to be Christian. But just as importantly, we discover that the people we came to help end up helping us just as much. They show us things about ourselves and our culture we had not noticed before. our Kenyan friends have much to teach me.

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