Imagine the love you feel when holding a smiling child in your arms. Now imagine the child suffering from malnutrition, living with high risks of diseases due to sanitation issues and insects, and not having the chance to follow their dream, simply due to the poverty-ridden state they live in. Holding my sponsored child, Kip, was the best moment and most heartbreaking moment of my life.
As I held Kip giggling in my arms, I saw such a joy, hope, and limitless potential for life this child would offer to the world. However, as I held eight year old Kip I noticed his stunted growth, his ripped clothing, his brown teeth from contaminated water, and his constant cough.
On September 14, 2018 a team of eight students and two guardians journeyed to the Republic of Kenya for “The Kenya Project.” The Kenya Project is Faith Lutheran’s partnership with World Vision, the second largest nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization in the world. As World Vision’s first high school partnership, Faith Lutheran will be responsible for a long term commitment of redeveloping two communities in Kenya: Katito and Bandaptai. This school wide effort will aid in the redevelopment of these two communities, but serves as a dual purpose in opening the hearts of students as we reach out to our new Faith family 9,297 miles away.
As one of the students co-founding this project and traveling on this vision trip, what I took from the weeklong trip exceeded my expectations. Immersing myself in extreme poverty was a culture shock in itself, but the Kenyan people’s perspectives towards their conditions left me dumbfounded. From watching women and children walk six kilometers every day just to drink contaminated water to seeing toddlers alone with no shoes and ripped clothes on the side of bumpy dirt roads were difficult sights to take in.
The most difficult, however, was seeing their joyful outlooks. While that may sound odd, it disturbed me the most. From a kid living an individualistic and privileged life, the thoughts of whether I am going to drink clean water or eat that day never slip my mind. If I were to be in that situation, however, I am confident I would be complaining about my conditions and detest the world I live in. The people of Kenya wouldn’t think to ever be anything but thankful for the little they do have. I have always heard sayings about appreciating the little things in life, but I finally saw that phrase come to life. On our first day in Bandaptai, it began raining and my immediate thoughts led to how muddy my shoes and socks would be. As the members of our group saw rain as something that would be an obstacle in our continuing journey, the Kenyan people began to clap and sing praise. Despite their unimaginable strife, they never fail to find a way to be grateful for the little things God has blessed them with. Rather than looking as this life as a way to constantly and selfishly benefit from, they view the world as a miracle given by God that deserves praise and thanks, regardless of the injustices of poverty they are faced with.
My initial expectations were to see poverty surrounded with bitter and pessimistic people that realize their children should at least have clean water. Instead, I saw a people so appreciative of every drop of rain, every article of clothing they were able to wear, and every ounce of food they received. I saw a people fighting harder than anyone I have ever seen to get out of this web of poverty they were circumstanced with- and boy, are they improving significantly every day. I saw a people so reliant on their foundations of love, trust, community, and God that they couldn’t help but wake up smiling and hugging every community member like their own brother every single day. While our materialistic ways appear to be superior, their connection to the raw fundamentals of loving each other and gratitude towards God are the real treasures of life.
While I have countless examples and stories of these individuals, whom I now proudly consider my friends, it is difficult to illustrate the images of their hardship and love. I have found in my return, words and pictures will never truly paint the copious amounts of feelings of guilt, admiration, love, and heartbreak I felt. However, the change inside me has provoked me to show my change to those who don’t have time to listen to the numerous stories. Just as the once strangers of Kenya welcomed me each and every time with open arms, song and dance, and like seeing a loved one, I can show their love and appreciation of life in my every day routine. By treating every person with the same amount of love and acceptance that they showed me, while showing my appreciation for every single thing I have and not complaining, I can tell the stories of these people in ways more than just words. Visiting our Faith family in Kenya is an experience I plan to share with the world, and has truly changed my outlooks on this incredible life we are all lucky to be apart of.
Our friendship across the world has just begun, and we cannot wait to continue this journey. Child sponsorships are incredible ways to help, because not only will their life change but yours will as well. Prayer and thought, above all, will be the most effective. To view more spotlighted stories of the Kenyan people and our experiences, please visit https://blog.faithlutheranlv.org/the-kenya-project. If you wish to sponsor a child from our village, please visit worldvision.org/faithlutheran . Follow our journey on Instagram at FLHSKENYAPROJECT. This community effort wouldn’t be possible without the involvement of everyone, so from the bottom of our hearts The Kenya Project thanks you.