The biggest brown eyes and sweetest smile you have ever seen-that was my usual response when anyone asked me why I was heading to Kenya for the first time in February of 2007. I was heading there to meet my daughter and I could not wait! The rest of the story is pretty familiar to most of our readers, but needless to say, we fell in love with that smile, and that of Sundi’s baby brother’s as well. It wasn’t a surprise to me or anyone who knows me that I would lose my heart to these little people, I was not at all shocked by the intense happiness I found in my children in Kenya, but what I did not plan, could not have anticipated, and I have to honestly say, didn’t really want, was the incredible sadness that also invaded my life. It’s a sadness that sometimes makes me cry,sometimes makes me sick, and sometimes makes me just plain angry. It’s a sadness I share with millions of little people all over the world. It’s the emptiness I see in the eyes of the orphaned that breaks my heart.
I have truly enjoyed watching that sadness fade from my Sundi and Damon’s eyes. It has been such a gift to be able to fill that emptiness with love and security. I want that for millions of little kids (and big kids too) that went to bed tonight without a family. In a world so broken, there are many pain driven passions to follow, this one is ours. Born in the pursuit of our sweet daughter Sundi, this passion has grown into a fire that fuels our lives. It’s fuels our desire to eradicate poverty, one of the leading causes of child abandonment in Kenya. It pushes us to be a part of providing relevant education and job training to the students and their families at Provision Education Centre. It forces us to take leaps of faith to be a change agent in the lives of those who long to belong.
Understanding that this passion is best pursued in the context of the church, our family has chosen to support the birthing of a movement in Kenya that seeks to educate, encourage, and mobilize Kenya’s pastors and community leaders to pursue a Kenya without orphans. Many say they are crazy to believe that eradicating the need for Kenyan orphanages is possible, but we believe that nothing is too crazy for God! He loves to prove our impossible possible through HIM.
In about 24 hours, the Third Annual East African Orphan Summit will begin. This conference will bring speakers from over five different countries including Zambia, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, and the Untied States. For two days, nearly 500 Kenyan pastors and leaders will gather to glean from these speakers, as well as each other, practical ways that the body of Christ, in Kenya, can answer the James 1:27 call to care for God’s children.
Jeromy, my husband, is over there now providing support for the pastors leading the conference. The kids and I ask that you join us in praying for God’s best for this conference. Right now, prayer is the greatest need. Please pray with us that the speakers will have good health. That hearts will hear exactly what God wants to be heard, and that the necessary resources would be available so that every person who desires to attend will be funded. Right now, funds are low, but again, we are trusting God in the midst of our “impossible.”
Below is the blog Jeromy posted tonight ….
Yesterday was a reminder that every orphan has a face, has a name, and has a unique emotional response to the tragedy that stuck them with that ugly label—a label with which nobody wants to be identified. This orphan’s name is Hannah.
It is always a blessing and a heartache to visit Happy Life Children’s Home here in Nairobi. The dedicated staff there loved on and cared for my eldest son and daughter while they were so vulnerable, and diligently prepared them to receive the love of a forever family. It is a blessing because my heart is filled with gratitude for the staff there and the support team in the US; I do not care to entertain what my children’s future would be without this team.
However, I never, ever get used to holding a child with no mother or father to love them. Even in the best of all institutions—of which Happy Life is certainly in the ranks—the likelihood of unfavorable outcomes for children without safe, loving parental protection remains extremely high. Unfavorable outcomes is, of course, a sanitized first world way to refer to homelessness, drug addiction, difficulty holding a steady, well-paying job—and of course, human trafficking.
I am reminded of a powerful scene in the movie Amazing Grace (spoiler alert—sort of), when William Wilberforce storms out of his poker game in disgust, after the Duke offers his slave up as collateral to up the ante on a bet. Wilberforce’s friend William Pitt follows him outside and tries to reason with him as follows: “William, you act like you have never seen slavery before.” Using his legendary gift of articulation, Wilberforce returns, “Slavery is like arsenic. Each new dose doubles the effect.”
That’s what I feel like every time I hold a precious child with infinite value that has been tragically separated from God’s intended caretakers—his parents– due to death, war, disease, neglect, poverty, abuse or abandonment. I never, ever get used to it. And frankly, I don’t think I am supposed to.
When I set Hannah down to leave the home and continue with my luxurious life, she stared at me with penetrating eyes and tightly grasped my finger—she did not want to let go. Fighting back the tears, I asked God to hold Hannah’s hand until her Mommy came for her.
Hannah is why we are partnering with Kenyan leaders to host the East African Orphan Summit this week (1-2 August). Because every—yes, even and especially “those kids” in professional care, every kid deserves a family. As Luba, Happy Life’s dedicated and loving Social Worker, said yesterday, “These kids don’t need a social worker; they need a Mom.” We applaud Happy Life for the amazing job that they do placing children in safe, loving families—primarily Kenyan indigenous families. International adoption plays a vital role in addressing this crisis, but we are praying that one day the NEED for international adoption from East Africa will be gone. That the local church would be the primary engine that drives us to an East Africa without orphans– one in which the standard for care is not “the best we can do” but “what we would want done for ourselves”.
It is not too late to sponsor a pastor or community leader for $36 US. If you are led, you can go to www.wearekenya.org and select “Ways to Give”. But in any case, please join us in prayer that we may rapidly move closer to an Africa Without Orphans! Asante sana, na Mungu akubariki! Thanks so much, and God bless!