Some of my precious street boys. They stampeded toward me with surprise, seeing I was back in Kenya.

Today, I did something I haven’t done in a month and a half; something that on the surface may not seem all that remarkable. I took a long shower. And by shower, I mean the “real deal.” Hot water, unlimited, raining down with the effortless turn of a handle.

My showers in the days leading up to this? A bucket of water and pitcher I used to create my own rainfall. My shower water taken from a well, toted by a ridiculously hard-working woman who then heated it for me over a fire she built with wood; hot water a luxury, most use cold water straight from the well.

My Kenyan family takes such great care of me. I am always mindful of the efforts they go through and I’m so grateful. But today, I enjoyed the kind of shower I am used to in my daily life. And it felt…so…blissful.

Today, I did something else I’ve not done my most recent, 40 plus, missionary-mode days.

I cried.

There’s something about the safety of the shower that gives my heart room to express itself. And so today, I cried.

I cried because I know the hearts of so many loved ones in Sikhendu are crying because I have left.

I cried because I am now “Mama Karen” to so many Kenyan sons that I leave behind; sons who love me so much and whom I love too.

I cried because I just had to say goodbye to seven of them — my beloved Upendo Home Boys — all the while knowing their hearts were deeply hurting at my departure.

I cried because before I left, as we ministered through our Upendo Street Orphan Ministry, I was able to lay eyes on my eighth one, and wrap my arms around this one we lost – my beloved Joseph – who chose to return to street life and who once again looks like walking death. And I cried because he pleaded with me to take him to America; his plea one of desperation, to save him from himself.

I cried because I had to say no to him, knowing from the facts that my dear one needs to be allowed to live out his choice, all the while wanting to scoop him up and take him off the streets again.

I cried thinking of the hundreds more homeless street kids I interacted with while I was in Kitale — many whom also call me Mama — that plead with me to help them.

I cried because while I gave them reassurance that my team and I are working hard to do more to help them, they still must wait for relief to come.

I cried because these street kids — some as young as four — struggle to even eat — every single day. They’re filthy with no place to wash themselves. They’re sick with no way to get medical care…hurting…rejected…mostly unseen.

I cried because most of them are addicted to sniffing glue, with no reason to stop.

I cried because I want to give them that reason. I cried because I really hope I can.

I cried because I cannot get the smell of that glue out of my nose or my mind.

I cried because at times, I feel like this missionary life is too much for me, that I cannot do it, that I should just give up.

I cried because I know I can do it; I must do it; I want to do it.

I cried because I know I am serving God and it is only through His influence that I can continue.

I cried because I would not have it any other way.

I cried because real faith is hard, yet God has proven to be faithful.

I cried because I still have goodbyes to say here in Nairobi. The hardest one, to my adult Kenyan son – a young man that is one of the most amazing, sacrificial, giving people I have ever met.

I cried because I know it grieves his heart when I leave, as it does mine.

I cried because I’ve given all I have and am returning home to an empty bank account with nothing to offset that reality.

I cried because I told God if I needed to sell my house I would do it. I cried because I know that I really don’t want Him to ever require that of me.

I cried because I know I am to return to Kenya in August for an extended missionary season, but I have no way to know how I am going to financially manage fulfilling that commitment while also those at home.

I cried because God has told me not to worry about money. I cried because sometimes, I still do.

I cried because after six months at this effort to help impoverished women and children, it seems that so many who are able to help just choose to look away.

I cried because I have a team of women who persevere with me in this effort, despite the discouragement that often comes from so much seeming indifference.

I cried remembering those precious friends who have stood in the gap with us.

I cried because so many people rely on me greatly, both at home and now here in Kenya. I cried because I feel so hard-pressed to help. I cried because I still want to. I cried because currently, I can’t.

I cried because Kenyans are the most beautiful culture of people I have ever met. So gracious, warm and friendly, even though so many of them struggle hard to even feed their families, yet, would be the first to remind you to trust in prayer.

I cried remembering that God promises in Heaven, there will be no tears:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

I cried because while yet on earth, because humans are sinful, there are so many reasons to shed them.

Today, my tears seemed endless. My eyes are now puffy. But I believe my heart is clean – at least for now.

Because, I cried.


Friends, we need you. If you’d like to stand with us in the gap, we’d be ever so grateful and encouraged to press on. Kindly make donations via the following links.

Love Without Borders, Inc., is a 501c3 non-profit.

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To provide me with missionary support: PayPal to

2 thoughts on “Clean”

  1. I cried just reading this Karen. The ache must be agonizing. To leave young ones behind which will seem like a lifetime before you lay your eyes on those precious little ones and the congregation again. My heart aches with you. My continued love and prayers are with Kenya always. ❤


  2. Karen, my heart cries with you! My heart cries with all the women who need a place to live! My heart cries because I feel so inadequate in myself to supply all the needs of these precious people who I love so dearly! God, please see those tears and help us to change Kenya for your Glory! Please supply others with tears to further this work! My prayers for you, Karen as you return to US! Please make a way for us all to be there in your time! ❤


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