It's back to school time here in the US in some parts of the country and also in Kenya as students start new terms.
We offer this prayer for the students as the school year begins:
"Loving God, be with these students. Be with them as they begin a new year of learning, teaching, growing and serving and bless them as students with open minds and eager spirits. Thank you for crisp new notebooks, folders that are waiting to be filled. Help them use all of your gifts to learn more about themselves and the world around them. Use the books in their backpacks to challenge them. Use the paper and pencils to capture their words and pictures. Use the scissors and markers and crayons and stickers to encourage their creativity and curiosity. Use their erasers to help them remember that mistakes are okay and are in fact an important part of the process. God, you have blessed them with so many gifts! Help them remember your call to be a blessing in the lives of others: their parents, their teachers, and their classmates."
Several of our Children of the Kingdom sponsors traveled to Kenya this summer with Share International’s annual short term mission outreach trip, and they were able to spend some time with their sponsored children during their time in Lodwar. Their time together is a testimony that connection and love are not bound by language, customs and culture. Both the children and the sponsors experienced God’s love in their midst and shared joy and delight in these family reunions.
Below are a few pictures of some of the sponsors with a few words about their time with the children.
"This young man (Dalmas) is growing so fast. Active in his church. Good grades. Desires to be a doctor someday. Couldn't be happier to reconnect with him and his mom and dad this summer. May God bless him and his family!"
"Of course we thoroughly enjoyed visiting with Musa, Obadiah, and their sisters—Miriam and Lucy. We were also really pleased to meet their parents! The children came back the next night (Monday) with a gift basket for us and sweet letters. Musa had stayed home from boarding school that day so that they could all shop together. We were overwhelmed at their love and generosity. We are so grateful for the opportunity of having a REAL connection to a family in Lodwar!!"
"It was such a thrill to see Priscilla again...I had been looking forward to it for so long! She is a sweet, quiet girl with an infectious smile, growing into a healthy young woman! My favorite memory will be reading a Bible Story book to her, her father on one side, the interpreter on the other, and all of us enjoying seeing her face as she saw the colorful pictures, opened up little windows in the book, and listened to the story. I'm so grateful to be part of Children of the Kingdom and what you are doing for these children in Turkanaland! May God bless you!"
Turkana County (the northwest part of Kenya) is facing severe drought, and this has taken its toll on the people and livestock in the region. Sasak Village which is about 40 miles from Lodwar has suffered greatly from the famine caused by the drought.
Children of the Kingdom raised funds to come alongside Sasak Village in May, and approximately 165 people received food with thanksgiving at this food distribution.
Seven of our Children of the Kingdom students (Kokure Kamaret, Sarah Losinyen, Silas Ekaran, Peter Akudunyang, Jessica Kebo, Zecharia Etabo and Everline Namuya) joined together to distribute food along with the director of Children of the Kingdom and several staff from Share International. We are so grateful for these servant hearts and for their work to share the gospel and their very lives through this day of service.
To the mothers who are struggling, to the mothers who are filled with incandescent joy.
To the mothers who are remembering children who have died,
and pregnancies that miscarried.
To those experiencing frustration or desperation in infertility.
To those who mothered colleagues, mentees, neighborhood kids, and anyone who needed it.
To those remembering mothers who are no longer with us.
Today is a day to honor the unyielding love and care for others we call 'Motherhood,' wherever we have found it and in whatever ways we have found to cultivate it within ourselves. -adapted from a prayer offered by Hannah Kardon
Sending love to the mothers around the world who pour out love each day!
In honor of International Dance Day that took place this week around the world, I wanted to share this video of some of our students dancing in India from their Christmas celebration.
Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him....
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
Psalm 149: 3-4
Thank you for being a part of the dance!
When Jacinta Akuwam was born in 1999 in northern Kenya with her legs bound close to her stomach, the doctors at Kakuma Mission Hospital determined that the only way forward was to amputate her legs. Life for a baby in this condition was sure to be limited. But God had plans for this child that were beyond anyone’s hopes or dreams.
In 2005, Jacinta began kindergarten at Olkalou Disability Center through sponsorship in Children of the Kingdom. While in this school, arrangements were made for her to get her first prosthetic legs. She went through tough training learning to walk for the first time. In the Children of the Kingdom report from 2011, the coordinator of the program in Kenya wrote, “Praise be to the Lord!! Nobody could believe that this is the same girl whom we met over 10 years ago abandoned in a village hut. When other people would go to meetings and churches, this girl was abandoned at home with small goats because there was nobody to carry her because she had no legs.”
She transferred to St. Paul School from 4th- 8th grade and did so well on her national primary exams in 2013 that she qualified to go to one of the best schools in the region called Turkana Girls National Secondary School for high school. She graduated in 2013, and she is now attending Turkana University College studying business management. Over and over again, Jacinta has pushed through the limitations stacked against her and has relied on God’s unlimited love to see her through.
Over the past year, she was in need of a new wheelchair and new prosthetic legs, and the amount we needed for these was very steep. Some very generous sponsors in Children of the Kingdom were God’s hands and feet as they reached out to family and friends to raise the support. We are so grateful for their contributions along with the support from our partners in ministry in Kenya to get this accomplished for Jacinta.
Richard Stearns, former president of World Vision, writes, “Jesus understood loss. That’s why He touched the leper, welcomed the prostitute, showed mercy to the woman caught in adultery, and healed the crippled and the blind. He touched, healed, loved, cared, and even wept when confronted with human brokenness and vulnerability. And then He went to the cross so all who are broken might again be whole. Jesus restores, reclaims, and redeems. We could not do it by ourselves. And after Jesus rebuilds us, then He sends us, healed and restored, to take hope and healing to others, to be His hands and feet. Love in action, not just words, because people are fragile. We can’t do it by ourselves.”
Children of the Kingdom continues to be a ministry through which God is sending and healing and restoring. As we look forward to our celebration of Easter, I want to thank you for being a part of Children of the Kingdom’s story as God is reclaiming and redeeming the limited and broken things of this world through your love in action and through His unlimited grace.
As we kick off the week of Valentine's Day, I wanted to share a post written by one of our sponsors named Nancy Peterson who went to India this summer to meet her sponsored children. This is love and connection at its best.
Channeling my Inner Elsa
I’ll start by admitting that I am used to being in control when I travel. I actually counted, and I have taken over 90 international trips over the course of my post-college life over the last 15 years. (I would ask myself where the time went, but then I look back at that trip count.) Almost all of these trips have been for work, where I managed my own travel and was most often the lead of the team I was traveling with. India was a good lesson in letting go and letting others lead…especially God, the real leader of this journey.
Landing in Rajahmundry, India was like a homecoming. Though I had never met the Thota family, who are the local representatives for Children of the Kingdom, our entire team was welcomed with open arms…literally! Big warm hugs all around, beautiful flower garlands placed over our heads, so many smiles.
And with that, we were off to our hostel and straight into learning the art of letting go (cue the Frozen theme!).
One of the big goals for our time in Rajahmundry was to visit the families of the kids Children of the Kingdom is supporting through sponsorship. I was of course eager to know when I would meet my kids…like, literally when, per the typed schedule we didn’t have, would I see them? And God being the jokester He is, meeting my first kid was a complete surprise.
We went into the neighborhood where many of the sponsored children live, but we were not sure who would be home. In particular I had asked (of course) and had been told we wouldn’t meet Preema Vani that day. But per God’s plan, as we exited one family’s home, it turns out right next door was the home of Preema and her sister! Suddenly then, there we were, being welcomed into the small space they share. This one room, which couldn’t have been more than 10x10 square, served as living room, bedroom, and storage for everyone. What I would consider a small bedroom back home contains their entire home life in India.
And yet it was the most beautiful space. Soft blue and lavender walls, beautiful saris in bright fabrics tucked away in cubbies, shiny aluminum pots on shelves high above the bed, framed photos of family and of Jesus.
There was instant recognition between the two of us, like meeting a distant relative. Preema was shy, but I was too and was trying to overcompensate with a huge smile that was probably overwhelming and adding to her shyness.
We also met Preema’s sister and I immediately connected with seeing them interact. It is so clear how much they love and look out for one another like my sister and I do. Unlike my family, they just have each other at this point. Preema’s father left long ago, and their mother also left for life in a city. They are the sweetest young women!
I got to see Preema a few days later after we served lunch for women in the sewing program (and many of their friends). Once again, God put her in front of me when I was least expecting it. And it turns out my friend Preema is a talented henna artist!
It was such a quiet and genuine moment to watch her create an intricate design on my hand and arm, including putting my initial in the middle of my palm. It was such a simple gesture, but in that moment I felt so known by her in a way that surprised and blessed me. Most fun was had at the Children of the Kingdom banquet. The shyness evaporated in the midst of celebration. Smiles and giggles came out of both of us. Selfies were taken…many, many selfies were taken. Like old friends we wanted to capture this time together and have a memento. It was an amazing time.
Meeting Varun was planned out, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. Welcome to India! We went to his school, initially planning to find him as school let out. But the distraction of few Westerners standing around as kids were being picked up was a bit too much, so we retreated to a spot outside the school yard. When Varun came up, it was a mixture of recognition and surprise. All the photos I had were of a little boy, but standing in front of me was a tall young man. Very different from what I expected! He was a typical teenage boy, trying to be polite, but totally self-conscious meeting this new person in front of classmates…and it probably didn’t help that I was a Western woman…oh the embarrassment we adults cause teens! It was so cute! We kept it brief, and I knew I’d see him later at the Children of the Kingdom banquet.
The banquet just made everyone more comfortable. Varun was clearly happy to hang back with the boys his own age…I’ve concluded teenage boys are basically the same everywhere in the world. As the evening wrapped up, we took a few photos and I was so happy to see a big, genuine smile on his face. I think I broke through his shell a little.
The best for me was yet another unplanned encounter…I got to meet Varun’s dad at the end of the banquet. Varun and his dad look so much alike! Their closeness was clearly not just in similar features. When so many kids that we met had dads who were not around or not supportive, it was heartwarming to see even in just a short moment how much Varun loved his dad and how his dad loved and was so proud of him.
Meeting the kids I sponsor seemed so fleeting and so impactful all at the same time. It has created a connection that turns my monthly donation from a simple deduction in my bank account and an occasional letter, to now a shared experience and memory with Preema and Varun. For all my travels and all my planning, these unplanned moments with Preema and Varun rank among the best of my life!
As a way to ring in the new year today and to start 2019 with some news of hope, I wanted to share some good news from our students’ 18th annual mission trip. Children of the Kingdom had a follow-up mission trip before Christmas between December 19th- 21st to Kekuto Village where they planted a church last year in December 2017. Kekuto Village is approximately 83 kilometers from Lodwar town. It is situated in Loima sub-county, the western part of Turkana County. On arrival to the village, they were greeted by the community with a very warm welcome of dancing and shouts of joy. The area chief was among the welcomers.
The team hosted an open air revival meeting, they showed the Jesus film, they donated clothes, and they also went house to house in groups of four to share the gospel. Over 700 people came to the meetings our students hosted, and they visited over 130 people in their homes. They got to be a part of God’s work of bringing over 100 people into His kingdom as they have been faithful to share the hope they have in Christ. Our mission is to share God’s love with children in need to equip them to be servants in the kingdom. They are definitely living this out and exemplifying the verse from 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
Paraphrase of John 1:12-13:
“For anyone who says yes to Jesus
For anyone who believes what Jesus said
For anyone who will just reach out to take it
Then God will give them this wonderful gift:
To be born into
A whole new life
To be who they really are
Who God made them to be-
Their own true selves-
May you be reminded that you are invited into this good news afresh in 2019 and may you experience hope and freedom as His beloved child.
"God of promise and hope and renewal,
God of love and joy and life.
Plant seeds of light within us.
Let them emerge from the darkness,
like the sun rising with the dawn,
giving new life,
where none seemed possible.
Newness is on its way.
Your Word, spoken from without,
Now flames within.
Your light birthed,
in the darkest places of our world,
and the hidden cracks of our souls.
Let the brightness of your Son shine,
In us, through us, around us.
Let your Spirit nourish and grow it,
until wholeness pushes up
through the broken surface of things,
and green shoots emerge
with the promise of life and hope and truth."
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
On Christmas Eve, students in Kenya gathered together to celebrate Christmas. The party started with praise and worship led by one of the students. Bishop Kaaleng, founding pastor of Children of the Kingdom, and Mzee Musa, parent of one of the children and former security guard for Share International, shared messages of hope encouraging the students to continue to follow Christ and to live lives honoring Him. Silale Arot, Bernard Lokol and Linda Akitela, students in Children of the Kingdom, exhorted their peers to work hard and try to improve their performance in 2019. The children gave thanks for the gift of love and kindness provided by their sponsors and had a wonderful time celebrating Christ's birth together.
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our Christmas season.
We who are anxious over many things give thanks for your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
—adapted from Henri J.M. Nouwen
Let Christ be born in the innermost
quiet spaces of your heart.
Let Christ be born in the streets and in the ghettos,
in the famines and the plagues and in the wars.
Let Christ be born not faraway in distant ages,
but in every heart and every place where love and faith are found.
Let Christ be born and find in us His Bethlehem.
"We think of Advent as a time of us waiting for the birth of Christ, yet in some ways it is just as much a time of Christ waiting for us – waiting for us to notice him and to take time to acknowledge him and waiting for us to allow his light to shine through us."
Thank you for making room in your hearts for the children in our program! May you continue to allow God's light to shine through you this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas from Children of the Kingdom!