Monday, May 20, 2013
A United Methodist Congregation
Global Connection - Uhuru
Jikazi – to strive, to persevere
by Jim Moody, April 2012
It was a bucket list item for me; Safari that is. Going and seeing the wilds of Africa has always been on my list. Going to Africa as a missionary was not; so why me?
I was sitting at home just doing my normal couch potato routine when the phone rang. No, it was not God calling, but close. It was my friend, Paul Brown. He knew of my recent agreement to become Chairperson of the Global Missions Team and asked if I would consider going to Africa with Uhuru Child. Initially, I was very excited. Then, as reality and commitments began rushing to my mind, I found myself resisting the urge to decline immediately. I was thinking… the trip is too soon…what about my family? I have work… this will be so expensive…and most glaring: I am not a missionary. In the midst of the reality check, I knew deep down inside that God had called me to go. The only response I could get out over the phone was “let me think about it.” After a short, but very positive poll of family, friends and my employer, I finally agreed to go.
With that, my preparation for Africa began. First on my list were the immunizations, followed quickly by travel advisories, research into the weather during the time I was going to be there, and finally planning what I would need to pack. My first doubts began to surface when people started to ask about my tasks on the trip. I began to wonder and ask my own questions. What was I going to do over there anyway? What did it mean to be a missionary? What were my qualifications? The answer that seemed most logical was to explain that I was on a fact finding mission, simply going to see the work done by Uhuru Child. So armed with supplies, questions, and a highly charged immune system I left for Africa.
Uhuru Child made things easy – our Mission was to do some work in the form of manual labor, but not to let it interfere with just getting to know the people of Jikazi. Work was a great concept; I can wrap my mind around that! The connecting with people part made me nervous because it is not my strongest attribute. With all of this in mind, we began our adventure guided by the leadership of Munsey’s own, Brad Brown, his Uhuru Child partner, Joe Heritage, and their Kenyan staff support, Lydia.
My time in Kenya began with worship on Sunday, followed by a tour of Jikazi, eating and visiting with people in that community and looking at greenhouses. Joe explained how the greenhouses provide jobs for Jikazi residents and how the profits would be used to support a school. The next two days were labor intensive. We prepared the ground and set a new greenhouse. All work was done manually and we worked side by side with several men from Jikazi. The work helped our group to connect with their group. We laughed and kidded with each other and made the work fun.
When we were not working we visited in the homes of our host families. They shared more than their hut with us as we learned about their lives and their hopes and dreams for the future. The people in Jikazi are a community of refugees that escaped after extreme suffering as a result of political unrest and violence. Peter, the father of my family, said he used to be a brick layer before escaping to Jikazi. Mama Jon remembered running from danger as she carried their oldest daughter Mary on her back while she was pregnant with their third child. Mary, the oldest daughter, contracted meningitis when she was nine-years-old and it physically crippled her. Even as they shared these scary stories of their past, I did not sense their loss as much as I felt their hope for better days. They shared their gratitude to God for their blessings and they shared their desire to help others less fortunate.
We also visited with some other missions underway in the Nairobi area. Our first stop was at the Angel Center, a non-profit organization that rescues and provides for abandoned babies reported by local police and the hospital. The Angel Center takes in babies that are only a few days old, gives them names, registers them for birth certificates, and takes care of them until they can be adopted. This place was very special and we all melted as we held and played with these precious children. We made a small donation while we were there, but they need more help and prayers for the crucial work that they are doing on behalf of the least of these children.
Next we spent some time with Care for AIDS, an organization sponsored by Chick-fil-A. They teach people with AIDS the best ways to managed their disease. They teach them about medications and good health practices. They also enable their clients to develop businesses using their creative talents, which gives them a much needed sense of hope and dignity. We made home visits with their clients, many of whom were women living in smaller slums in Nairobi. The slums were very difficult to see, as our hearts went out to people who had no other choice but to live in unsafe, tight, and filthy conditions.
We finished out the week in Jikazi digging a trench to extend the water from the borehole (well) to the greenhouses. We only had to dig about 1300 feet by hand with a garden hoe! Luckily, there were about 30 of us working on the project. We also walked a three mile round trip across the valley to gather firewood for our host families, carrying the bundle of wood (twigs) on our back. By this time my body hurt all over, but it was a good hurt. I made many new friends in Africa that week, some who still live there and others who returned home to America with me. I pray for them everyday.
Since my return, I have wrestled with one question . . . how has this adventure changed me? Up until today, I thought that I had not changed. I thought that my experience simply afforded me new information to adjust my perceptions of life and choices. Today, almost 3 weeks later, I recognized the change. A friend asked me about my trip and I told her, “When I arrived in Jikazi all I could see was the dirt huts and kids with dirty faces. By the time I left I saw a village with streets of hope and homes of joy – a real community.”
Thanks be to God for initiating that call!