As I write this article I am sitting on a roof top patio in Nairobi, Kenya at the home of our missionary family. I close my eyes and smell the savory meat grilling nearby as the warm African wind is blowing my hair and I can hear banana tree leaves clapping in the wind. I opened my eyes to watch the sun set on Western Kenya. I am in awe of the tranquility and peace my heart feels in this beautiful country. As fulfilled as my soul is here, I am unable to escape Jesus’ call to follow Him. This country is beautifully broken and in this moment, so is my heart.
This is the Easter story, yet often I live as if this story ends in Christ’s death. Often I am merely a wolf among wolves, living as if Jesus never defeated death, conquered the grave, ascended into Heaven and graciously sent The Helper to come and be an all consuming fire burning my soul to follow Him. I live as if the same power that raised Christ is not alive in me and able to do greater than He. How foolish I am and would be so bold as to say: How foolish we all are. What could Christ do in us and through us if we lived out this Easter story?
Today our family followed Jesus and was led by the missionaries to the slums of Nakuru, Kenya. Behind a large blue metal gate and tall concrete walls is the Virginia House. This refuge is for children tucked away from the world in the pit of some of the world’s poorest of poor. My family has now spent several days with the children here. 150 students are educated on the Virginia grounds. 78 of these students call the Virginia House their home and 26 of these 78 are here because they have been completely orphaned: orphaned from the election violence of 2007, orphaned to HIV, and orphaned to poverty at its pinnacle. I had the privilege to be taken by nine students to the roof of the orphanage. I pray that it is moments such as this that the Lord uses to teach me to be a sheep.
Jeremiah, a handsome 15-year-old boy led the way to the roof followed by Marion, Vivian, six other children and myself. Jeremiah stood next to me as we looked out above the make shift homes that lined the filthy streets of the poverty stricken slum of Nakuru. We peered out over the courtyard covered in cow manure, their water source filthy and trash filled, and looked face to face with poverty as far as our eyes could see. Jeremiah turned to me, looked me in the eye and asked, “What do you think about this place, our home?” How do you begin to answer this question when you know that poverty, hunger, loss, filth and need are all that these children have ever known? “I think Kenya is absolutely beautiful,” I said, trying to avoid his true question. “Do you want to live here when you grow up?” I asked. His response, “NO. This will not be my home.” I nodded in silence, tried to swallow the lump blocking my throat and attempted to blink away the dusty tears filling my eyes. I turned and sat next to Jeremiah and faced the other beautiful brown faces staring at me on the metal rooftop. “May I ask which of you children have parents and which of you live here?” I asked this question not knowing if they would open up to me or if this would push them to build emotional barriers with me. No one answered. Then the silence was broken by Marion, a slender, tall, very dark skinned, 14 year old girl. “I have lived here at this place for 7 years. I have no mother. I have no father,” she said.
I tried to absorb her honest words and somehow comprehend them, and then asked Marion how she felt about being an orphan. I do not want you or I to ever forget her response: “I still cry almost every day.” I looked into her eyes and tears involuntarily fell down my face as I leaned over to wrap her in the arms of a momma who would love to shelter her from this world she knows. I held her tightly against me for several minutes as I thought: Who hugs these children and picks them up when they fall down? Who teaches them compassion and demonstrates grace to these babies? I realize the world has not forgotten these children. It is simply that the world has never even known they existed. 52 of the residents of the Virgina House are “almost orphans”. They are either missing a parent or their families are unable to pay for their education because a yearly education (not including food, shelter, clothing, books, clean water and all the necessities) exceeds their $250 annual income. Let that soak in for a minute. $250 is an annual income. Jeremiah is one of these 52. His mother died and his father is many villages away and is either unable or unwilling to care for him.
These children have the opposite of my American definition of abundant life, but they are able to experience Christ’s definition of abundant life. The last words Jesus spoke are found in
Matthew 28: 18-20 “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the ends of age.”
As I read that last passage I feel a massive pull on my heart. These children my family has fallen in love with have only learned about our Savior because of missionaries who are graciously and obediently living out the Great Commission. These missionaries have taken up their crosses, they have embraced biblical Christianity and their lives reflect the grace and redemption of the Easter Story. They die to themselves to live for Him. This story, in all of its magnitude, is available for us all.
This Easter season I pray we are changed and challenged by the truth, power and authority of Christ Jesus or Lord. I pray for hope of salvation. I pray for those who die daily to their flesh. I pray for the orphaned and for the many around the world who Christ is pursuing for adoption into His family. The resurrection story is intended to be shared with the nations.
“Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (James 2: 5)
How skewed my perception of is of being poor.
I want to leave you encouraged in your faith so that we may begin to walk boldly together in the security of our Savior.
“But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15: 51-55)
Death cannot stop us. The world cannot defeat us. This is the Easter story. This is our story.