January 16: mzungu

On a Sunday morning two years ago, our mission team attended the African Inland Church in Karati, just four hundred meters from where we are staying. While worshipping, I noticed that people in the congregation had brought their Bibles to worship but the Bibles were well-worn, missing covers and even entire sections. Upon returning home, I described this observation in a sermon, and there was an immediate outpouring of donations to provide Bibles for the congregation. In preparation for this trip, I contacted the pastor of the church to ask if we could do a two-day work project for the church.

Today, on behalf of that small congregation we arrived at the North Karati Primary School, ready to paint the interior of the small dorm for disabled students. These are students with learning disabilities. Unlike the other students who walk to school each day, these students live at the school. (a side note: for children with physical disabilities it is common that the child is abandoned, killed or secretly kept in the home with minimal food) It is a school of 900 children in Class (grade) one through eight, and it is obviously underfunded. We’ve been told that in Kenya the money never seems to make it to the local school level. The school was crowded. Many of the windows had broken glass. There was little grass, leaving children to play in the dirt. I asked how far a child might walk to get to school each day and I was told it could be as far as four miles – each way. I’ve noticed children walking home on the rocky road that we walk at the end of each day. Some are barefoot; torn clothing. What I saw at the public school was very sad. However…

On Friday, Larry and I had visited the headmaster of the school to see the work project and order the paint.  I kept getting the feeling that the headmaster could not believe we would paint his school. It is known that Americans come and help Light of Hope. This project would help people to know that we are also concerned for the community. This morning when we arrived at the school, Pastor Reuben was waiting for us as was the building contractor from LOH and two of his workers. The contractor has two children attending this public school and the two workers had attended the school. I could tell they were excited to be able to do something for this school. The headmaster stopped to see our progress throughout the day with a huge smile each time. Another teacher stopped and said, “Unbelievable!” Soon after the painting began, a group of children gathered at the door near where I was painted. They were speaking in Kerkuyu (the local tribal language). I asked Pastor Reuben what they were saying and he said, “They are saying ‘we have never seen a mzungu (white person).’” He told me there were afraid me, because they did not know what to think. They did not even know there were white people. Later in the morning, three of the women from our team arrived, creating quite a spectacle. They said they felt like rock stars with the 900 students suddenly gathering around them. For the children, it was the first time most had ever seen or been so close to white people.

Today we had an opportunity to show a school of 900 children what white people do. A building that we would say is more suited to be a chicken coop than a dorm is in the process of being transformed. We are painting their school. No one had ever done this before. The contractor brought his two children who attend the school to meet us. He returned with his wife and his sister-in-law to show them what we were doing. Teachers stopped. Students watched. I suspect we were the topic of conversation in 900 homes this evening. Unbelievable? Not really. This is what God can do when God’s people show up and allow God to work through them. What a day it has been!

Today’s readings: Genesis 39-41; Luke 16

The LORD was with Joseph. Potiphar saw that and entrusted Joseph with responsibility. But then through circumstances beyond his control, Joseph lost his job. Just because the LORD was with Joseph did not mean the circumstances of life would always be in his favor, but because God was with Joseph, he always had a way through the circumstances. Joseph’s faithfulness to God would put him in a position where he would save an entire nation and God’s people. God is always present. It is up to us to reach out to God. How has God’s presence made a difference in your life, especially when circumstances were not in your favor?

After reading Luke 16, I returned to verse 15. God knows our hearts. I wonder if we always know our hearts. What does it mean to you that God would know your heart? I am constantly seeking God’s understanding so that I might know what God can see in me.

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