May brought a fun month to our ministry team. We had the opportunity to visit some of the same churches we did in October, and continue the relationship with them. God showed up really powerfully and some even experienced the Holy Spirit for the first time. We had the opportunity to show a film out in one of their villages and many people came. They loved learning about the Lord and watching a movie for the very first time. It’s amazing to watch the fruit of these pastors grow as they continue to seek the Lord for their church.
“Wake up Jack”, he begins to stir “you’re going to be late!” Awake now, he crawls out of bed footie pajamas sliding across the carpet and onto the cool tile of the bathroom. “Something is different about today,” he thinks to himself as he grabs his toothbrush and begins the day, “I know it.
It took a few minutes for the daze of the morning to lift and the thoughts of the day to become clear. He suddenly remembered, “We’re making chalkboards!” he exclaimed. These weren’t just any chalkboards; these were those chalkboards, the ones for those kids in Kenya.
Second grade is fun for Jack. He gets to read adventure books and play with his friends; he likes his class and loves his teacher Ms. Sarah. She’s the one who told him about the kids in Kenya.
Ever since he heard about kids with no books or shoes or soccer balls, he’s wanted to help them. For Christmas he saved his money and bought uniforms for their soccer team, he was so proud. Sandwich bags full of quarters and crumpled cash, he had saved and saved, ignoring the pleas for ice cream and candy, all to do something nice for someone else.
And today again, an opportunity comes. Today he gets to do it again and this time with the whole school. Chalkboards. What a funny thing for a kid to make.
Her eyes open with the morning sun, staring up from her mat the holes in the roof are glaring. “I have to fix that,” she thought, “before the rains come.” Her bare feet hit the cool sandy soil and carry her outside into the already humid day. Jerry can in hand, she makes her way to the water house, it’s not far just a few huts down. It used to be farther and then they put in the water house.
“Today is a good day,” Janet thought “it’s the first day of school” as a smile broke out across her face. She has washed her uniform the night before, scrubbed it with her little hands and hung it on the fence to dry. “I’m going to learn today, I can’t be late.”
She hurries along to bring the water home for morning washing and afternoon tea. She quickly brushes her glistening white teeth with a piece of twig, dons her uniform and heads off to school.
Janet loves her school. She’s the first person in her family to attend and she’s as happy as a clam. She loves the 4th grade, they’re learning about geography and times-tables. She’s getting pretty good at math, her teacher thinks she’ll be a businesswoman.
She only recently got books, and shoes, and school supplies. Some people she never met bought them for her. Unloading her backpack is like watching Mary Poppins; it’s amazing what an 8 year old can carry. Pencils and erasers, notebooks and rulers, everything is precious. “Everything is here,” she says out loud, she knows to carefully account for these gifts, not everyone has them.
It was a few months ago that Ms. Sarah came back from Africa and told them about the children. “Do you think we can help them?” she asked. “YES!” they enthusiastically replied as ideas began to fly around the room. They first suggested a class trip but quickly decided that was out of the question. “What could we do?” they asked one another, “what do they need Ms. Sarah?”
They gazed around the room, pausing on every item and piece of furniture. “Do they have these?” they asked about nearly everything, as the reality of another world set in. A world that lacks basic, every day, classroom materials. What could we give them? The answer flooded in, “books” they agreed, “We can give them books.”
And books they gave.
Boxes of books. Books they read and read again, memorizing in their 2nd grade brain. Books they loved and wanted to share, stories of grumpy pigeons and clickty-clack moos. But books were not enough for this little crew. They wanted to do more. Some made cookies and sold them, others asked around and some, like Jack scrimped and saved.
“What is the capital of Kenya?” asks Mr. Moji as the students furiously write on their miniature chalkboards. In a flash they’ve written their answers and held them up, with a darting glance Mr. Moji can see who is keeping up. Little brown fingers covered in chalk dust await the contagious smile of approval for their answers. Before the chalkboards came they worked alone, silently writing their answers on precious, limited notebook paper. But now? Now they work together, Janet and her classmates talk and laugh, correct and question, all in an attempt to hold up their best work. It’s like a classroom full of little teachers.
The idea for little chalkboards came from Ms. Sarah, her own students use dry erase boards as a sort of quick response and group discussion. She organized some parents, teachers and coaches who all bought in. One parent went to Home Depot and convinced them to donate supplies, the art teacher organized the painting process and the coaches did the coaching. It was all hands on deck as the local boy scouts cut and sanded boards; the service club wore aprons and painted the chalk paint. The principal came, teachers stayed late and moms kept the paint coming. Everyone worked together, came together, and in turn, created something beautiful.
Everyone is looking for an opportunity; A chance to wake up in their footy pajamas and create something beautiful for themselves and for another. Chalkboards were a medium for giving and service and now they’re a platform for shared learning. When people come together, combining their shared experiences, talents and abilities things happen. Kids become servants and givers, parents become organizers and stakeholders, and teachers get to relish in the world classroom.
And the kids in Kenya?
They get the greatest gift.
Education with one another.
January is always an exciting month for us here in Kenya. Schools open for a new school year and it’s a flurry of activity as textbooks are bought, uniforms are measured, and classrooms are prepared. Our Mtwapa school is up to 190 students – the biggest attendance to date! Many of the students are in our sponsorship program, and the other students receive very reduced tuition fees. It’s our goal to make education accessible and affordable to everyone, no matter their income level. Our school in Birikani opened for the first time with 90 students. Most of these kids have never gone to school, and it’s an amazing thing to watch them open their textbooks for the very first time. We are excited about what 2015 will bring, both in the schools, and in the families we serve.
Sitting on the hot concrete floor, a lazy fan is circling overhead and the only thought in my mind is how hard it is to hear everyone over the roar of the traffic below. It was just supposed to be a short visit to the clinic.
A quick stop on a busy ministry day. But somehow I find myself still sitting here, straining to listen as these women share their story. The office we’re crammed in, is located on the busiest road in town, a quickly growing town, known for it’s heat and it’s night life. A town that’s dirty and loud and with the buses below us blaring their music… it’s hard to concentrate above the noise.
Amongst the sounds, I hear my husband ask for the name of their group. Hers is a quick response, “I do not reject myself”. That’s nice, I think, but what is the group name? Every group here has a name.
“I do not reject myself”, the women begin repeating. “We are called, I Do Not Reject Myself”. The full impact of the statement hits me. Here sits a group rejected by their community, rejected because of the violent disease that courses through their bodies, rejected because of the stigma attached to their sickness, rejected from jobs and families, from communities and villages. These women who meet at this small HIV clinic proudly name themselves the opposite of what society tells them.
I Do Not Reject Myself.
We smile with tears in our eyes as we ask them to tell us more. They meet, they encourage, they gather together. And together learn how to fight their disease. They proudly unite and stand in the face of opposition. Together they prove that they are not among those who should be rejected.
We sit and listen to their stories and learn about the mighty women sitting in front of us. They describe their difficult search for food each day, as the stigma surrounding their disease prevents them from work. Many days the sickness wins, and they are unable to get out of bed. Despite their struggle the only prayers are for their children.
“Please help my children go to school, they need a better future”, one says to us. Another momma agrees, “I don’t want my girl to end up here, please help her go to school”. Around the circle they go, all believing for God to do a miracle.
There is nothing quite like looking a dying woman in the eyes, and hearing her deepest heart cry. And that truly is all it is, a cry. With no means of support, no income, no future, these women know their children have no chance of success. No chance to read, no chance to play, no chance to learn. I look at them, pillars of strength and my heart breaks for these women.
As I sit and listen, my heart is burdened to help. I can’t hear this and do nothing. But what can we do? We are leaving soon and we don’t work here. This isn’t our town. It’s not our country. It’s not our ministry.
But I hear God say, “You’re going to put their kids in school”.
We step outside into the hot, dusty air, my heart still torn and confused. We begin to walk away and I hear my husband whisper to me, “We’re going to put their kids in school”.
We had the awesome opportunity to bring two of our favorite people to Kenya this month. Dusty Strickland and Sarah Roberts are our amazing Educational Coordinators. They spent a week at our Mtwapa school training and coaching our teachers. It was encouraging to see how excited the teachers were to learn and how willing they were to try new things. Dusty and Sarah covered topics like student engagement, depth of knowledge and teaching methods. It was an awesome time, and we truly believe our teachers took the trainings to heart. We are excited to see how deep our kids go next year!
This past month brought an incredible experience, one we are not soon to forget. After one of our Pastor Trainings, we went to visit a village we had heard about with no school. You can read the full story of what happened HERE, but suffice it to say we are now the proud owners of 12 acres of land in the middle of the bush – complete with an official land deed and all! We are so excited to dream about the future of this village, and to hear God’s plans for this incredible gift that was given.
Life with African Pastors
Earlier this year, we were challenged to train 500 pastors in a ministry curriculum that we were given by Randy Clark and Global Awakening Ministries. For years, we have desired to raise up national/indigenous leaders, so this sort of work was right up our alley. We immediately began emailing our contact in Kenya, working through the curriculum and planning for our time with pastors.
As time went on, we began to realize that we should start with smaller groups and then progress to a larger more comprehensive training session. So, our Kenyan contact set up a few 2 day seminars in various locations within about a two hour drive of our home base. The idea was to share sessions that would equip the pastors for ministry and also to establish relationships with them for future ministry.
Last weekend, we held our first pastoral training seminar with about 40 pastors in the small town of Samburu. Many of the pastors had traveled by foot from their villages, thrilled that someone was coming to minister to them. It was humbling to say the very least.
Our heart in ministry and in missions, is never to be the one who claims to know it all.
Contrary to popular belief, African Pastors know a lot. They’ve had missionaries, teams, ministers and everyone else come time and time again to their shores. These missionaries have often come believing that they are the ones possessing all of the knowledge and are ready to teach these untrained men and women the great things western society knows about Jesus. (I’m not suggesting that everyone comes this way, but so many have.) The aftershocks of colonialism and white supremacy are still felt 50 some odd years later.
We purposed in our hearts to set aside the curriculum we had been given until we had established relationship with the pastors. Armed with a mandate from the Holy Spirit to “go slow and stay low”, we began our time together by laying prostrate before the pastors and the Lord in a time of humility and repentance.
We repented for everyone who has come before us who thought they had it all together, we repented for white supremacy and racism, for judgement and confusion and for not coming alongside them as brothers but as rulers. It was such a beautiful time in God’s presence.
Out of this time together, we were able to minister to the hearts of the pastors as we shared with them messages on the Father heart, the orphan spirit, the Finished work of the Cross and the edification of the body through prophecy. We saw so many pastors physically healed of chest conditions, shoulder issues, partial blindness, wounds and a broken leg. We watched God touch their hearts so deeply, healing father wounds and even bringing together a Father and Son pastoral team that were fighting. It brought us to tears as we heard them testify of God’s goodness and shared a cup of tea together as the sun set over the African savannah.
There were so many men and women, who had been deeply wounded by the church and were desperate for someone to come alongside them. There are physical things they need, like bibles, and dirt-bikes (to travel to remote church plants), but the emotional needs of community outweighed them all. God has sent us to bring good news to the afflicted and to bind up the brokenhearted, and it just so happens, in this case, to be his children in ministry. It’s the honor of our lives to raise up sons and daughters that no one of earthly importance will ever know, and to reach people in mud huts and villages, whose names we can’t pronounce.
May revival come to the most unlikely of places.
Chris and Jennifer Hadsell are the founders of Retouch, a registered 501c3 that seeks to bring the restoration of God to the nations. To find out more, you can follow them at https://www.facebook.com/retouchtheworld and onhttp://instagram.com/retouchtheworld, to support the work of Retouch financially visit http://retouchtheworld.com/give/.
This month, we met with 4 different sister churches of our ministry. This was a great time of encouraging and equipping the local pastors. Many of the pastors who attended do not have a parent church that helps strengthen them. These pastors are tired, forgotten, and hungry for more of the Lord. Over 100 pastors attended these trainings and received a much needed touch from the Lord.