Rejected

Junior is the sweet smiling boy on the right.
Junior is the sweet smiling boy on the right.

Most of us know how the sting of rejection feels. It comes to us in many forms, but regardless of how it comes, it always stings. Today, I got a first-hand look at one of the most tragic examples of total rejection in the life of others. It’s been twenty-four hours since I experienced it, and still I am feeling stunned. It is rare for me to be at a loss for words, yet I am finding it hard to write this, even now. What hurts even more is that very young children are involved.

On Monday, I had the opportunity to travel with Pastor Paul Odari and his wife Mary, of Divine Life Kenya, to the town of Kitale, the larger town near where I’m staying. I guess you could say Kitale is the equivalent of a small town big city. The reason for going to Kitale was actually a positive one. Twice monthly, as one of his ministries, Pastor Paul and his leaders feed children who are total orphans on the streets of Kitale. Essentially, this means that their parents decided for various reasons to abandon their child to live on the street, alone, to fend for themselves. Some were as young as babies when street life became their new normal.

When we first rounded a corner entering the town, one of the first things that struck me was something Pastor Paul said. We could see a group of boys hanging around on the side of the road. Pastor Paul pointed them out and said “there is my family.” I could tell he meant it. Pastor Paul has such a sincere, loving and passionate heart for those who are in need. Most especially hurting women and children. In an earlier trip into town, the boys instantly spotted him and ran up to talk to him. He was fatherly, assuring them of when they would see him again. I can tell by their response that they know Paul is a man of his word. He is.

So on this most-recent trip into town, it is time for the meal distribution to orphans. We go through a small restaurant, exiting the back into an outdoor area and there I see them. Boys. Paul’s boys. I would guess maybe 20 of them, thought Paul estimates there are as many as a thousand boys and girls living on the streets of Kitale. The boys are instantly happy to see Paul and react with surprise when they see me, several coming up to me to say hello and shake my hand. These boys look as you would expect abandoned children on the street to look. Their clothes are a mismatch of whatever they can find. Most are in bad repair, torn and all are very dirty. I would guess their average age to be ten years old, maybe a bit older.

While they are eagerly awaiting their lunch, possibly the only real meal they’ve had since the last time Pastor Paul fed them, they are rough-housing. There is one boy in particular who catches my eye. I later find out he is called Junior. He is one of the smaller boys and the others are picking on him. At one point, he is pinned under a pile and one of the bigger boys bends Junior’s hand back really far until he starts to cry. I felt so bad for him.

When I pull out my camera, the boys get very excited to have their picture taken and to see what they look like. I take a few photos and then, Junior comes up. Of course, I already have a stronger affinity for him since he is an apparent underdog in this group. I ask him if I can take his picture and he breaks out in the most beautiful smile. This sweet, precious, smiling face is the one that was streaming with tears, just a few minutes before.

I notice that most of the boys are toting around these little bottles. The look like a small bottle of alcohol. I inquire about this and Pastor Paul tells me that these are bottles of cheap glue. The kids sniff the glue to ease the pain of their circumstances. They are constantly sniffing their bottles while we are there. The only time they stopped sniffing was to eat. Who can blame them?

Around this time, food begins to be served. The boys eat as they are–ravenous. Their lunch is a full plate of food and I can tell it’s not going to take them long to finish their meal. Junior is one of the last boys to be served. I am watching him as he gets started eating. He doesn’t get very far before an older boy strolls over and swoops nearly all of the food from Junior’s dish. He immediately starts to cry. Their overseer does not see this happen so I can’t help but to rise to his defense. I told Paul what happened and he was able to get Junior another plate of food. He is brought inside to sit with another Pastor, Titus, to be sure he is able to eat. I find out later from Titus that he sat with Junior the whole time. They chatted and Junior asked why Pastor Titus could not take him home with him. If only it were that simple. Most of the pastors I have met here already have several children that are not their own living with them, but the means to continue to provide for more and more children are limited.

We leave soon after this. I’m devastated at what I just saw. I think of my own son when he was around Junior’s age and I simply cannot imagine my child in this situation, completely fending for himself on the streets, day and night. How must it feel to be so rejected, so unloved, so afraid? What is it like to dig through garbage to try to find something to silence your empty stomach? Even worse, what other horrors do they face in their vulnerability?  I had to work hard to hold my tears when I was with the boys but as soon as we get outside, I can barely breathe and start to cry. If I had not been in public, my cry would have been an agonizing wail. I’m just heartbroken.

I asked Paul about any social services or options for these boys; no such thing currently exists; they are truly on their own. Paul’s goal is to set up a boys home in Sikhendu, near his home and church, where they boys can be taken completely away from their current situation, rehabilitated, restoring hope. If I had the means, I would immediately get those boys into temporary housing and fund the restoration house that Paul has planned.

Last night, it started to rain and of course, my mind was on these boys, especially on Junior. Where was he? What was he experiencing? What will the future be like if no one intervenes for these young ones in a big way? I pray that God will call up just the right people to start making this right. Many people do have the means. Maybe it is many people doing some. All I know is that has to happen. Soon. If you can help in any way, please message me @ karenmichaelle@icloud.com. Thanks.

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Called

This subject of this post has been in motion for a long time — since June of 2013 in fact. It was then that I had to back out of my commitment of co-leading a mission team to Zimbabwe. I’d agreed to that trip for the opportunity to minister to women as part of our visit; also the reason I participated on a team to Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2012. So when an ongoing issue with health caused me to step out of this trip, I asked God what He wanted me to do next. He told me to “focus on His daughters.” He had already impressed upon me that I was to serve in women’s ministry. But this time, He seemed to be adding emphasis that I was to focus on His daughters as my priority. I committed to Him that I would hone my focus and wait to hear what purpose he was calling me to next, as talked about in the book of Romans, verse 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

In August 2013, I learned that my church was considering sending a women’s team on mission to Africa in 2014 and I was asked to consider leading. Of course, I was very excited at the thought of leading a team that would focus on women. What I didn’t expect was the strong reaction I had in my spirit when I heard the country the team would be visiting this time — Kenya. I had never been there, never even thought of going there really. Yet I just knew there was more for me in Kenya beyond the mission trip…but what?

By January 2014, the mission trip was confirmed, the process of selecting the team members was underway which, combined with my full-time corporate job, kept me very busy. I had not really thought much further about what the “more” in Kenya was supposed to look like. But then, on February 1, I received an inquiry through my ministry website – A Journey of Faith. The email explained that this person had come across my website, here is a snippet of that email:

 Dear of God Karen,

It is by the grace to have come across you and learn of the great things the Lord is doing with you in enhancing His kingdom. Very much touched and interested in working together with you as we GO FOR THEM.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

I am always excited to receive ministry-related communication and this was such a nice message. But what really caught my eye more than anything was who sent the email; a pastor totally unknown to me — from Kenya. I was curious, of course, especially as I knew there was no way this person could have known about my sensing about Kenya. Still feeling a bit guarded, I responded kindly, yet conservatively, inquiring how it was this pastor had found me. Here is some of what he said:

You have asked on how we came across you, its a miracle sister. I had just been talking with my wife Mary about ministry and thinking of many names in spirit. It has been our prayers of many days the Lord to connect us with saints In His service. And here is when the name Karen came in our mind, and we Google searched Karen ministries and we found you!! praise the Lord. 

Now, we count this to be divine connection! For before the foundation of this of this planet the Lord had this plan with Him. we request that you come as we work together. Your testimonies encourages so much. you need to come sister Karen.

Wait, what? They wanted me to go there. Wow! His words alone touched my heart in such a profound way. What was especially puzzling was that my ministry website address was not Karen ministries. I bet you can guess what I did next. Yep! I Googled it myself, just to see. Did my website come up? No, indeed. I heard myself ask out loud, God, is this you?

What followed was months of communication and relationship-building with Pastor Paul Odari of Divine Life Kenya. I also had the opportunity to talk with another woman from the U.S. who knows Paul personally. She assured me of what I had been sensing for myself; Paul is an honest man of God with a sincere desire to minister to the women of Kenya. Paul invited me to visit Kenya to serve as the key-note speaker at his 6th annual women’s conference. While I knew I wanted to do so, I also began feeling that I was meant to spend more than a short time in Kenya. But how could I do this?

It was around that same time that the amount of passion I was investing into corporate life was really beginning to weigh on my heart. I was really enjoying what I was doing, more than any job I had previously held. I was at the height of my career with more room to grow. But while that was appealing, at the end of the day, the fact that all my efforts were not benefiting people in an eternally meaningful way was making me increasingly uneasy. I’d long sensed that God was calling me to full-time ministry at some point, but was beginning to experience a growing sense of what has been called “holy discontent” with the deep need of so many women to hear about God’s restoration and hope.

I lamented about this to a friend, sharing with her that I felt I was supposed to remain in Kenya for a season, to really invest in the women there for more than a few days. I’d even looked at the option of taking a short-term leave. But the only thing that seemed to make spending a season in Kenya possible was to leave my job. I considered how to approach this topic with my boss, a man I deeply respected, just to see what other options there might be without shooting myself in the corporate foot.

Before I even had a chance to decide how to approach this conversation, God showed me that He already had a plan in motion. In an unexpected turn of events, during a routine conversation with my boss, I sensed there was a previously unknown option that I could initiate to resign my job while maintaining some of my security for an extended period of time. I knew without a doubt that God was opening this door and this is what I was supposed to do. So in February, I resigned from my corporate position, one I had invested nearly twenty years to build, to serve in full-time women’s ministry.

I did what? Oh yes, I did. And from a human logic perspective, this made no sense at all! Yet I have never felt so at peace about anything. In fact, I’m experiencing the exceptional peace described in Philippians 4:7:

 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There are many things I do not know. What I do know is that I did not leave the security of my corporate job for one with a regular salary, nor do I have unlimited resources stored up in the bank. But God has always provided for me, even through many financially nail-biting years of single motherhood. I also know He has in mind for me to increase my efforts to do what he Has created and called me to do, and what I am passionate about, which is the write and teach women about who He is and how much He loves them.

With the June mission trip to Kenya now behind me (yes, I got to meet Paul!) I will return to Kenya on August 20, where I will serve alongside Paul and Mary with Divine Life Kenya through November. I will concurrently be writing the first of many Bible studies for women that God has impressed upon my heart, with the goal of publishing this first edition in early 2015.

So like me, maybe you are wondering why God choose me for this? I’m just a simple girl, saved by Faith in Christ. Before God’s transforming power came into my life, my life was a mess. But He has redeemed all of that and set me on a new path. I know there is still more for me to learn and ways I need to grow. So my answer to this question about why me? I believe God knew I meant it when I told Him I would do whatever He called me to do and that I had stopped holding my breath while waiting for Him to reveal to me what that would require. In my case, this next step has required a gigantic leap of faith. While I did it, I still feel a little like I am also watching God’s plan unfold. I am very excited to see what He will do and I want to be a part of it.

I’ll continue to post updates on what we are doing in Kenya, and I hope you will follow my blog and share your comments and especially your prayers with me!

Blessings and peace to you.