The Time of My Life

My time in Nairobi is winding down, and I’ve begun to reflect on my life and work here. It has truly been an incredible year – probably the best year of my life so far. I am not really sure what has made it so great – maybe it’s the simplicity of life in Kenya or that every day living in East Africa is an adventure; maybe it’s because I’ve gotten to do something I’ve only dreamed about doing; or maybe it’s because I feel so satisfied in my work – like what I am doing really matters.

Ultimately, I know that God is the one responsible for the contentment and satisfaction I have felt this past year and a half. He has been so kind to me. I have experience joy and peace like never before. The Lord has grown my heart for others and deepened my understanding of who He is and how He works in this world (and how He works in my own heart). I am left with one feeling – gratitude.

I am grateful for my God – because He not only saved me but has given me an amazing life with Christ. I am grateful for my family and friends back home who have supported me along the way. I am grateful to Sandy and Karen Baird for giving me this opportunity. I am grateful for my Kenyan colleagues who have received me and loved me so well. I am grateful for my Kenyan church, EBC, and for my Kenyan and ex-pat friends in Nairobi . You all know who you are.

I still have a few weeks left in Africa, but, while I’m on holiday, I wanted to take this time to say, thank you.

I am currently on holiday with two of my most dear friends in the world. We drove down to the southernmost point in Africa yesterday - Cape of Good Hope.

I am currently on holiday with two of my most dear friends in the world. We drove down to the southernmost point in Africa yesterday – Cape of Good Hope.

Laughter is the best medicine

Today, I had one of the most frustrating days since I have been in Kenya. I don’t want to get into the details except to say that the best part about the day was spending it with Festus Muendo, New Hope’s local leader in Kibera.

Festus and I drove three and a half hours (one way) to check on our Penda students who are in boarding school. New Hope sponsors over 130 high school and college students in secondary and post-secondary education. Seventy-six of those students attend two boarding schools outside of Nairobi. As Festus and I were driving along the last 40 minute stretch which was a dirt, washed out road, we both asked the question “why did NHI pick this school?”

Well, our question was answered quickly when we arrived and met with the school staff. The leadership of both schools (boys and girls) were professional, smart and cared deeply about our kids. Festus and I both left encouraged and confident in choosing these schools.

If you are interested in learning more bout Penda Project, check out the website here.

The frustrating part was when we learned that someone we care about disappointed us. That’s never easy and for me creates a lot of internal frustration. On the flip side, I learned that Festus is one of the best people to be with in a crisis. After a thoughtful time of reflection and cooling down, he cracks a joke about the whole situation and we both have a good laugh. Like I have said before, sometimes humor is the only way to cope with life in Kenya.

I have learned so much from Festus. I am going to miss him when I am back in the States.

Festus and Steven.

Festus and Steven.

Festus leads exercises for the kids before their exams to help them relax.

Festus leads exercises for the kids before their exams to help them relax.

DC Friendships

Ugh…it’s the first time I’ve missed my Wednesday blog post since January. I was doing so good. So, here’s this week’s post…two days late!

I’m hosting a team from the Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia, and I’ve gotten behind on my usual postings, photography and, generally, life. The team has been great, and it’s been nice to have people from my sister’s ministry visiting. And, of course, it’s always nice to have Bulldawgs around!

In all the busyness this week, I was reminded of God’s careful hand in our lives and how He ordains everything, even our relationships. Yesterday, Susan Sweat stopped by our project in Kibera for a visit. I met Susan almost 15 years ago when I first moved to DC. We both worked on Capitol Hill right out of college and had mutual friends. We share a southern heritage. Over the years, we haven’t been close friends, but we’ve stayed updated on each other’s lives through our mutual friends and attended the same church. And, we were often involved in similar ministries and social circles.

Well, she and her husband, Scott, have been supporting a ministry in Kenya for the past several years. She was here to visit that ministry, David’s Hope, and contacted me to stop by New Hope. As we chatted yesterday, we realized how similar our ministries are and identified some areas we can partner and share best practices. The Director of David’s Hope was with her, and we got a chance to connect him to New Hope’s local leader, Festus Muendo.

It was encouraging to me to chat with her, catch up on our mutual friends and common interests and dream and plan about how we can work together in the future. I’m excited to see how God may use this friendship that He began years ago. You just never know who God will keep in your life and how he will use those people for His glory.

Check out David’s Hope and the wonderful ministry they are doing for the people of Eburru, Kenya.

susan

My Favorite Emerging Leader

Grace helping out with the kids at New Hope Academy in Kibera

Grace helping out with the kids at New Hope Academy in Kibera

Last week we had many visitors in town, but one, in particular, was a very special visitor. Grace Sathului is the daughter of Pastor Timothy, the gentleman who leads New Hope’s India project. They operate a special needs orphanage on the outskirts of Hyderabad, India. Locally, it is called the Child Blossom Center. Sandy Baird and I saw Grace last October when we visited the orphanage and invited her to come to Kenya to visit our project here. Grace and I had a wonderful time together as I hosted her in Nairobi. She volunteered at our primary school and business project and even got to go on a Kenyan safari. She spotted 4 of the Big 5 – not a bad experience for her first time on the African continent!

Before she departed, I sat down to interview her about leadership and her current role with New Hope. She has a full-time job in Hyderabad, but leads and directs the orphanage with her family in her free time. We believe that she is one of NHI’s most promising emerging leaders.

Q: How long have you been involved with NHI and what position did you start in?

About 7 years ago, my father started taking in children with special needs and by 2005 we were a registered orphanage helping children in our city with special needs. These children were not being taken care of by their parents and/or they were abandoned. At the time, I was in college. About 5 years ago, I finished college and the Lord drew me closer to the project. I started to take more of an interest in what my father was doing at the orphanage. I started visiting the children regularly and taking more interest in the ministry to them. I have a heart for children so that makes me more attached to the orphanage.

Now, I visit the orphanage about once a week when I am off of work. I also help my father in making leadership decisions and directing the work of the project.

Q: Who has been the most influential leader in your life and why?

My brother has been the person that I have looked up to since a young age. My dad has been very influential in my life, because he taught me how to have a heart for children, be service oriented and be obedient to God and no one else. Also, Uncle Sandy (NHI Founder, Sandy Baird) has influenced me, because I’ve learned a lot from him to move the orphanage forward and grow it. The way he helps us, assists us and advises me has been a big example to me.

Q: How do you define leadership?

Leaders are supportive. That’s how things get done. Not being authoritative. Leaders also have the knowledge about what they are doing to accomplish their goals.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the children of the Child Blossom Center?

I want our children to have a room of their own and better medical facility. Also, better funding on emergency medical needs; better housing; better teachers and courses or material that can teach students with special needs. My dream is that each of our children would learn daily life activities, so they can do things on their own and be more self-sufficient and, ultimately, have a better quality of life. Their needs will not allow them to be totally self-sufficient, but they can learn activities to keep themselves occupied and give them a purpose for their life.

Q: Anything else you want to tell my blog readers?

I don’t know if you have interacted with children with special needs – if you have, you know how difficult it can be. It’s a challenge, but we believe that God made everyone for a purpose. There are children in India who don’t know that – we want to take care of them and tell them that and help them know they do not have to be alone.

On safari in central Kenya.

On safari in central Kenya.

Meeting some of the staff in Kibera

Meeting some of the staff in Kibera

More bunk beds, more visitors, more grace

Now, I’m up to 3 sets of bunk beds. I am hosting a second team and have a full house. In addition to the team I am hosting from Detroit, we have another team from Houston here bringing our current total visitors to 45. The Detroit team is hosting a day camp for our lower class students and the Houston team is leading a sports camp with the upper class students. The kids are having a blast. And, we are maxing out every restaurant in Nairobi!

With the extra visitors comes lots of logistical challenges and coordination. Our founder, Sandy Baird, is a whiz at the logistics and some how he always gets people where they are suppose to be at the right time. For me, it’s a bit exhausting. I love the visitors and it’s so much fun meeting new people and showing them the work of New Hope Kibera, but it does require an extra dose of grace.

A couple of weeks ago, after hosting our first round of visitors, I was sharing with our Biashara Director, Scola, that I was struggling a little, mostly just tired and lacking patience. Scola is such a godly woman. She listened to me with understanding and just said, “Lauren, God’s grace is sufficient for you.”

What a reminder! She is right. Sometimes I don’t believe it and many times I try to rely on my own grace to get me through the day. I try on my own to bring peace and patience into my life and my daily struggles, but the reality is that I can do NOTHING on my own.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Our team members are always interesting to our kids...

Team members are always interesting to our kids…

Our kids love when visitors come because they get to take a break from school work and have fun!

Our kids love when visitors come because they get to take a break from school work and have fun!

Team member, Erma, encouraging our teachers.

Team member, Erma, encouraging our teachers.