Upendo Street Orphan Ministry: a project supported by Love Without Borders, Inc

In just two weeks, I set out again for missionary work in Kenya. Nearly four months have passed since I was last there. Regardless of having witnessed the deep suffering of others, it can be common — effortless really — for the “good life” of the United States to lull one back into numb complacency. While I’m grateful this has not happened to me, being away from the front lines of Kitale has made it easier for my heart to disconnect from the depths of discontent and utter grief I felt when ministering to the homeless orphans there. But then, new images of the work we are doing there arrive — like today — and my heart again weeps. Thank you, Lord.

I’m sure that many look at my life and wonder what the heck I am doing, walking away from the security of “providing for myself” and trusting God for every little thing. From a human perspective, I agree, to do as I have done makes no logical sense. But the life lived only by human perspective is no longer mine. Why? Because I’ve chosen to live my life as a ransom, placing my trust in the most compelling leader of all times:

“For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (emphasis mine)

I am not going to lie. When I look at my quickly dwindling bank account, with no income to counteract it, my self-reliance wants to kick in and start looking for a “real” job so that I can sustain my life here. But then, I remember all that God has already allowed me and others to do for Him since taking that first leap, here’s just a sampling:

  • Share the hope of God and life skills with impoverished women as the keynote speaker at a three-day women’s conference and over twenty other speaking opportunities
  • Provided a single mother of three with mentoring and financial support (ongoing) to re-establish a safe living environment and healthy life skills
  • Through awareness of my work in Kenya, both friends and strangers in the states were compelled to raise money to help
  • Enough money was raised to build our simple Upendo Home, from the ground up, in just three weeks
  • Eight young street orphans were rescued and given new hope through life in Upendo Home, where they now:
    • Eat fresh meals versus picking from the garbage
    • Sleep in warm beds versus on a cold hard street
    • Live under loving protection versus harsh vulnerability
    • Receive medical care versus suffering from untreated diseases
    • Learn in school versus lessons from the street
    • Feel the love and comfort of God versus the empty nothingness of sniffing glue

And just since returning home in November, we have:

  • Formed a 501c3 non-profit, Love Without Borders, Inc. (LWB)
  • Built a professional LWB team (all devoted volunteers)
  • Secured financial sponsors for all of our rescued children, sustaining Upendo Home
  • Received an unsolicited donation to cover my upcoming flight
  • Held an event to formally launch LWB
  • Secured a financial partner for our weekly street orphan ministry, increasing our weekly meals from ten to fifty children (today’s photos are from our recent outreach)

When I review this list, I must admit, I’m proud and I’m impressed. But not because of what my team and I have done — though we have worked very hard and feel great about our work. Rather, it’s because we’ve been equipped by God to accomplish all that we have. We rejoice with wonder over everything. I believe these accomplishments are an awesome reflection of what Jesus promises us in John 14:12:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

We are called to perform works like Christ. Love Without Borders is a compassion-based ministry, formed for this purpose. But the leader of this ministry is God, not me. Surely, a feet-on-the-street leader is needed. This is me; but I remain second in command. I want it no other way. My team and I will follow behind Him to continue to do His will. I believe in this approach, we can continue forward in confidence that we will accomplish what he has set for us to do.

God uses regular people every day as his hands and feet in this world. He will use anyone who is willing to say yes. You may not be used in the same way I have been. For example, most people I know will never be called to leave home for Kenya, and that is really okay. Rest assured, you can still be used to accomplish a great deal. If you want to serve alongside me in Kenya, you are most welcome. If you would like to partner with us in other ways, I simply ask you to begin by committing to look just beyond the good life and find ways you can help.

If you believe in the work we are doing, one easy way to help if you’re able is financial support. There continues to be more orphans to feed and care for and broken, despairing women to help. Also, my team and loved ones will really let me have it if I don’t also share that in order for me to continue to serve and give my life as a ransom as a missionary on the front lines in Kenya, I also need support. If you do support us financially, I assure you we demonstrate full accountability and solid results, as reflected above, for your investment.

Another way you can easily help is to share about what we are doing. Networking is essential and it is how we have already received much of our support. I’ll be blogging in Kenya. If you want to follow along on this next leg of the journey, just “follow” my blog and you will be notified when I post updates. If you are on Social Media, we can be found on Facebook @ LWB: Upendo Home and Instagram at LWB_Upendo_Home. PayPal donations can be sent to LoveWithoutBordersCA@gmail.com by clicking here (PayPal account not required).

Finally, we put together a video vignette about the Upendo ministry. Take a look, click here

We value your trust and we cannot do this alone. Thank you ever so much.


Our beloved boys and Upendo family members in Kenya..this is love

On this day of intentional thankfulness, my mind is set on things in ways far different than ever before. In the few weeks following my season in Kenya — and from one of the most profound experiences of my entire life — the things I am grateful for have come into clearer and more meaningful focus. While I strive to live a life of gratitude and optimism, and believe I succeed in this desire most days, this year as I give thanks, I am also mindful of and grateful for others that were not in my life at this time last year. In this post, I am desiring to share thanks on behalf of these dear ones as I believe they would want to if they were able to do so themselves.

Perhaps you’ve been following my recent journey as I have taken what most call “courageous” steps toward a redirected life. While I agree my decision to leave the security of my corporate career for full time ministry is the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken, I don’t call it courage…I call it obedience. But whatever it is called, I know it was right. Perhaps, even, you are growing weary of hearing about it…or seeing me post about it…or asking for your help. While I pray this is not the case, I am not deterred. Why? Because while knowing that you felt that way would certainly be discouraging, there is something unrelenting in my spirit as I seek on behalf of others, especially those who are most vulnerable and in desperate, life-or-death need. Surely, there are many who can be described as vulnerable and in need. Surely, we should all be looking — rather, be willing to see — those put into our paths, so that we can stand in the gap for those who need such help the most. Surely, there are others who are advocating for others, as I am.

For me, God has firmly and unexpectedly opened my eyes to see those I am called to help in my path. In my view are the ‘abandoned, unseen homeless street orphans’ of Kitale, Kenya and a cherished eight boys who will no longer only be known by such a dreadful yet applicable moniker. What has come to life before my very eyes — what I had the incredible privilege to do while in Kenya — is described this way in Scripture:

Defend the rights of the poor and the orphans; be fair to the needy and the helpless. Psalm 82:3 (GNT)

So it is today, on this American day of Thanksgiving, that I give thanks for these eight, and on behalf of these eight – Junior, Joseph, Arafat, Meschach, Davis, Joshua, Ibrahim and Mike. These are not just any boys now; these are my boys now. And they are the boys of a team of dedicated, loving people both in Kenya and here in the states.

If the boys could tell you something themselves, I’m pretty certain they would say that just mere weeks ago, they were frightened…heartbroken…hungry and cold. Further, they would share that they never believed that they’d ever know life to be any different from the destitution and hopelessness of a life on the streets; to freedom from the compulsion to sniff glue to the point of unconsciousness to ease their hunger, pain and loneliness. I think they would also laugh as they say that even if they ever did dream of such help coming to them, they would have never imagined it coming through the hands of a mzungu (white person) from the United States who would not stop hugging them, nor one so unable to stop the tears from seeping from her eyes when she had to say goodbye to them. Nor did this mzungu ever imagine being so humbly honored to be called as the hands and feet of God for these precious ones!

The boys would tell you that now, their lives are so blessed. They live in a simple but comfortable home where they sleep in a warm bed every night. They are loved by an amazing guardian family who have taken them in and love them as their own. They eat fresh food daily. They go to school and church. They love to play soccer in the nearby field, to laugh and play karate games. They know what it feels like to feel real joy now, as they no longer have to hold their breath, dig through garbage or beg for money to eat; nor rely on glue to help them escape their reality. Because today, their reality is so good. So for all of this, they would say thank you. And to many of you, their personal thanks are so deserved, because it is through your generosity that we were able to perform what they will always describe as a miracle in their lives  – the day that they were rescued from the street as nobodies and are now known as part of this beautiful family that now calls Upendo Home their home. They would say that their lives are living proof of Psalm 68:6 in action:

God makes homes for the homeless (MSG) and settles the lonely in families (NIV)

Many of us have mostly known a life of ease and comfort. Sure, we have our problems, but in comparison to what these dear ones have known – and the desperation that so many still live out as a daily reality – our problems will only ever pale in comparison. Are we meant to feel guilty for being so blessed? I say no! But I do believe we are meant to look beyond our own blessings to see –really see  — those who so desperately need our help, and take action to do something about it.

So in addition to ministering to God’s daughters as I have for the past few years, God has also called me to stand in the gap for these precious children. Those in Upendo Home and those who are still hopeful that I will return and help them too. And I must. And I will. But as I have said before, I cannot do this alone and I do not believe I am meant to. The fact is, that in the United States, we have a wealth of resources, both individually and corporately. We have the means to change the lives of many, and many of us are already working hard to do that. To that, I say bravo! But I believe we can generally do more. It is for this reason I will continue to share my plea. I hope you will remain a part of this journey. And if you’re ready to step onto the path I now share with these precious ones, kindly let me know — there are several ways you can help, not all of them financial. If you are able to help with a donation, you can do so either via PayPal to lovewithoutbordersca@gmail.com or via our open Indiegogo fundraiser. Blessings to you.


image1 (2)It’s been a little over two weeks since I returned to the states from Kenya. The transition back to life here has been one of much introspection, emotion, seeking; both within me and in observing this life around me. It has caused me to remain pensive and quiet for a time while I consider what my life is meant to look like now…what my new normal is.

Little did I know how deeply my heart would be touched, changed, broken and challenged during the months I spent in Kenya. But is was and it continues to be. Before going to Kenya, I knew some of what I was meant to do in God’s call to me to minister to women. I answered that call and it was truly amazing. But it was my unknown assignment that has left me so introspective.

I never expected to meet and fall in love with the street orphans of Kitale. I never expected to be one who would know what it feels like to rescue children from the utter desperation and hopelessness of a life abandoned and forgotten on the streets. I never expected to leave so many loved ones — especially so many sons — and a big piece of my heart in Kenya. But that is precisely what God had in mind. And that is precisely what happened.

During my privileged opportunities to speak to women and church congregations in Kenya, one of my messages was a challenge to live outside of ourselves…to help another. I cited a verse from scripture that speaks of the power of such an effort:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

So often in life, it can be overwhelming to look around at the deep need and do nothing to help another up because we question the difference a small effort can make in the face of such great need. In challenging others to rethink this, during my message, I asked several people to stand next to me in a line. I described how it felt to look at each of them, considering they each had a great need. I shared that if I focused on the overall need, I could easily feel discouraged and overwhelmed not being able to help them all and decide there was no point in helping anyone. But this is where the challenge came in.

Instead, I said I would choose to focus on what I could do for the one most immediately close to me, then I would take their hand to demonstrate my effort. In turn, I would have the person who’s hand I held — who had been helped by me — to then turn and help the one next to them and so on. At the end of this demonstration, when we all stood hand in hand, I asked the audience if through my influence of helping one, if I had not actually indirectly helped them all? Clearly, the answer was yes.

As I sit here today, my heart is overjoyed to know that for eight little boys, my hand was used by God to start the chain of change in their lives. Where there once was the pain of daily hunger, there now is regular meals. Where there once was a cold hard street to sleep on at night, there now is a warm, soft bed. And where there was once only the identity as a street orphan, these boys are now surrounded by a loving family of people — both in Kenya and the states — who love them and know them to be Junior, Joseph, Meshach, Arafat, Davis, Joshua, Mike and Ibrahim. Sweet, talented, adorable little boys. None of this would have happened if one hand of hope was not outstretched to start the chain of change.

For me, I know I cannot stop here. As I sit in the peaceful, warm comfort of my home, my precious boys and the remaining children in need on the streets of Kitale are always on my heart. There is a need to sustain what we have started in our little Upendo Home, and there are so many more kids still waiting to be known. One thing I promised them all was that they were seen by me, loved by me and that I was continuing to work to expand the work of hope that had begun.

Here’s the thing. I cannot do this alone. More so, I don’t believe I’m meant to. Before even leaving Kenya, I was amazed to witness an unsolicited team of women at home eagerly rising up to the larger task of securing the resources we need to sustain Upendo Home. To come home to a team already formed and engaged was a dream come true. So firmly beside me now on this journey are Nina, Laurel, Megan and Kristi and we have precious others such as Joyce and Stephanie supporting us through selling their handcrafts. These women have all said yes to stretching out their hands to the chain of change; to trusting the power of two. The equally amazing Kenya team is Paul, Mary, Titus, Caleb, Caroline, Enoch, Patrick and Rose. Everyone on the entire Upendo team is a volunteer. But the needs are great and we have a long way to go.

So I am going to ask you — yes you  — for a favor. Will you please take a moment to let this sink in? Really sink in. Once you do, will you challenge yourself to stretch out your hand to lift another up through the chain of change? If the answer is yes, there are many ways, great and small, that you can help; I’d love to talk with you. You can message me @ karenmichaelle@icloud.com or in comments. Thank you ever so much.


Meschach, “Mama Karen” and Enoch

This has been an amazing, whirlwind week. As I shared in my last post, we have successfully opened the Upendo Home in Sikhendu, Kenya. Seven precious boys who were previously abandoned orphans on the streets of Kitale are now living in Upendo Home…these are our “Upendo Boys.” I say our boys because although I was instrumental in coordinating this effort here in Kenya, Upendo started as the vision of Pastor Paul Odari of Divine Life Kenya and took the dedicated help and effort of many others who now love these boys as their own, just as I do.

Upendo means love in Swahili. I am proud to love and be an advocate for these precious ones. Jesus himself was an strong advocate for children. In fact, Jesus actually scolded the Disciples publicly as they tried to shoo children away from him. He said:

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37

In these days following their rescue from the streets, the boys’ personalities and experiences have started to surface. Although they are clearly happy to be at Upendo — elated is more like it — these dear ones suffered a great deal before they were liberated.

All of them suffered the rejection of their families when they were left on the streets to fend for themselves. In our first group of Upendo boys alone, we have boys as young as five and as old as twelve. Most have been on the streets for years. Imagine a young child in this scenario. They also suffered the rejection of the society as they are ignored or scolded as they beg for food in their filthy clothes, many without shoes.

So what did the rescue look like? First, Pastor Titus went to pick up the boys at a designated rally spot. When he arrived, the initial six boys were there, however, there were also nearly 20 others who had heard about what was going to happen. Pastor Titus had the heartbreaking job of looking into all of those hopeful faces and telling many that this would not be their day. When Titus came to meet us for the start of a long day of transitioning to Upendo Home, he had seven boys total. Two of the boys we had previously expected to rescue were MIA but Pastor Titus had found two really young boys among the group — truly our targeted audience — so this made seven total in a plan for six.

When the seven were presented to me, I immediately recognized several that I expected would be there. These were precious boys that I have formed a relationship with over the weeks I have been serving here — Meschach, Davis, Arafat, Joseph and Joshua. The two new boys — Mike and Ibrahim — were unknown to me until that day. If you know my heart, then you already know we did not leave that day with six boys but seven. I just did not have the heart-strength to look into Mike’s face and tell him he would be left behind, nor could I leave the older boys I had already fallen in love with. So instead, I quickly reasoned that although we had prepared everything for six, including beds and clothes, the two smaller boys could bed share and we could quickly get another round of clothes and shoes. So that’s what we did.

Next on the agenda was to go to the Kinyozi (barber) to get the boys’ hair shaved. Many times, kids who live on the street have skin problems, worms, fleas and jiggers (burrowing, flesh eating fleas). Once the boys’ heads were freshly shaved, a bath was next on the agenda.

But this was no ordinary bath. Where does one take seven boys to bathe in a city where they are not welcome? The car wash of course! Here locally, the car washes are done by hand and when we previously rescued Junior, the car wash worked perfectly. So we carted all seven boys to the car wash. They strolled across the street to an open field, where they stripped off all of their worn, filthy clothes and got a washing from head to toe. Of course for this part, I remained at a distance as I did not want them to be embarrassed. After all were clean, they got dressed in their new clothes and shoes. Talk about bright and shiny new! They felt so proud and I imagine so acceptable.

Following the bath, it was time for lunch. We took the boys to the local Nakumat center where there is a nice restaurant. The boys were so happy and confident as they strutted right past the guards that would previously have stopped them. Meschach laughed as he told us these very guards who would have previously scared them off or even caned them to get them to leave were now “saluting” them as they walked by (that is Meshach saluting in the picture above). No caning this time and not ever again. Our precious boys sat at a nice table with linens and were able to order whatever they liked. Most chose chicken and chips (French fries) and a soda. All were very grateful.

Next up was a trip to the doctor for a head to toe check up, including blood work. Most of the boys thought getting their blood drawn was cool. We were elated to learn that not one of them is HIV positive…such a common issue for many kids here. In addition, not one of our boys had jiggers either. Aside from a few mild and treatable ailments, all were in good health. Praise God!

After this, we took the boys to the Upendo Home. They were shown their new surroundings, including their own room stocked with six new bunk beds and more clothes and provisions. You have never ever seen such joy and gratitude than what we saw that day.

On Sunday, the boys came to church and I had the opportunity to introduce them and talk about them with the great pride I have. These boys — despite all they have suffered — are truly amazing. They are sweet, happy, and very talented. They all have dreams and aspirations like any child should. It made me so sad to think that because of some horrible circumstances they had faced, their gifts to the world could forever be hidden if left on the streets. Nearly every Upendo boy has already spoken of wanting to help the other kids who remain on the street. The older boys on the streets are pleading for their turn too. These are boys who did not have an early intervention like our Upendo Boys. But we are not giving up and we have told them not to either.

I leave my beloved Kenya in just over a week. My heart is already breaking at the thought of leaving these precious ones that I love so much. With the help of translation by my equally beloved Enoch, who is working with the boys as a Social Worker and mentor, their “Mama Karen” was able to explain to them that I must return to America very soon. In fact, the last day I will see them is Friday — just four days away.

While I watched a range of emotions pass across their precious faces, I also assured them that they are welcome and wanted, that I love them deeply, am so proud of them and am committed to continue to help them. They asked how soon I would return and I told them I would come back as soon as I can. I also let them know that I have made sure we have a strong Kenyan team in place to support them. And we do, including an amazing Upendo guardian family who already had three boys of their own. These precious people are now are raising ten boys! Finally, I told them to make me proud and to remember that they’re so blessed to be at Upendo. They promised me they would do their very best. I just don’t know how I will be able to walk away from them on Friday. I know my heart will break in a million pieces.

Friends, this has been the most incredible ministry experience I have ever been a part of. To have the love and devotion of these precious boys is unlike anything I have ever known. I am fiercely committed to seeing this through…and looking forward to watching these boys become strong men who will make a difference in Kenya. But I cannot do it alone. I don’t believe I’m meant to. Most everyone I know lives a life of great comfort, well above anything that a street boy in Kenya will ever know.

I am asking you to help me by sharing financially whatever you can to help support Upendo. Trust me, we will make excellent use of every dollar so even if you can only support a little, it will help immensely. Will you please consider either a one time or monthly donation or perhaps commit to sponsor a boy to help us? In my next post. I will share pictures and more details of each boy who needs to be sponsored. Perhaps you can forego buying coffee or dinners out on occasion, team up with a work group or with the holidays approaching, how about considering scaling back what you will spend and donate the difference to Upendo. We would be ever so grateful. You can either donate online via our fundraising page or for a tax-deductible donation of $100.00 or more, message me @karenmichaelle@icloud.com for instructions.

And would you also please spread the word? May you be ever so blessed as you bless our boys with your support. To see more of Upendo, including many photos, please visit our Upendo Facebook Page.