Before I made my first trip to Kenya in 2009, someone who had already made the trip recommended that I spend part of each day listening. Just take time apart from everyone and listen, he said. As I approach the final days here, I wish I had done more of this. I have wrestled the entire trip with wanting to be in control of the schedule and what to do while also wishing I could let go and simply live into the journey.
While at Light of Hope, I was drawn to one of the gazebos to sit and listen for at least a few minutes each day. Light of Hope is located far enough from the main road that the road noise is not a constant. In the distance, I could hear the sound of construction – everywhere there seems to be construction of some sort. But unlike the US, the construction sounds do not involve machinery – more often a hammer against stone. I could hear the farm animals (chickens, turkey, cows, and even the sound of goats munching on the grass). And the voices of children – voices from inside classrooms and the laugher of children playing in the playground. And amid this cacophony of sounds, there was a silence – a peaceful silence – broken only when some of the girls discovered where I was and came to join me.
Sunday morning as we walked through the gate at Light of Hope, we could hear the singing of children coming from inside the dining hall where worship was beginning. There is something special about hearing such singing as we arrived for worship. Especially when that singing is unaccompanied and simply the voices of children all singing grateful praise.
I was asked to give the sermon. I selected the shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. “Love The Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Why would God want us to love God? I asked the children. Because when we love as God loves we become the person that God created us to be. And we are able to love others with God’s kind of love. We are able to be a jamani (neighbor). Then I offered holy communion – something many of the children would receive for the very first time.
And there was a moment as Amanda and I served the children. Out of the silence with children walking forward to receive the bread and the cup, unprompted, a child began to sing “Jesus Loves Me”. And soon the room was filled with every child, not just singing but proclaiming that she is loved.
And I listened. Girls who have come from some of the worst living conditions imaginable, many orphaned, some HIV positive, all of them the recipients of hope and singing “yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me.”