Obeying the Call by Debora Woods

HOW Jewelry Team - July 2009

HOW Jewelry Team - July 2009

As I boarded the first of two flights toward my very first Heart for Africa trip in Kenya, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  I was joining a group of volunteers who had been tasked to help widows and orphaned children in Kenya.  Other than that I was happy to be available and flexible during the trip.  What I was certain of, is that I needed to go on this trip because I was being called to something.  I just wasn’t sure of what that something was.  My presence on the trip was an act of obedience to this calling.  Otherwise, why would I leave the United States on the July 4th weekend, one of my favorite holidays of the year?  Why would I go half way around the world to an unfamiliar place and spend time with people that I had never met?  The answers to these questions would become clearer as the trip unfolded.

When I finally met the other volunteers, I could quickly discern that this group had a love for people outside of their individual spheres of influence.  They had come from all over the United States, each with their own rich stories of how they were led to participate on this trip.   We jumped into the trip with open hearts and flexible spirits.

The focus of our trip was to visit a government run girl’s rehab center, spend some time with the children at the Tumaini Children’s Home, and put the finish touches on the H.O.W? Jewelry Building in time for the July 9th dedication.  I’m told that these trips are usually devoted to work in and around the children’s homes, however, this trip, which consisted of more women volunteers than men, found a way to weave together all aspects of the work that Heart for Africa is doing in Kenya.

Early on, the theme of obedience took its place not just for me, but for all the volunteers.  We worshiped with the Glory Outreach Assembly, a church in Nairobi, Kenya which is led by Bishop David and Pastor Joyce Thagana.  Bishop Thagana is also the founder and visionary of the Tumaini Children’s Home.  His message, entitled The Blessing of Obedience, clarified why this trip was important.  Bishop Thagana shared his testimony of how God called him to move from his home in the Kenyan countryside into the city of Nairobi.  His obedience gave him the opportunity to start the Tumaini Children’s home.  Now, seven years later, 87 children call Tumaini their home, 181 children are in school there, 11 teachers and 6 staff members have jobs there.  Such an impact makes me wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t obeyed?  Bishop Thagana pointed out that his obedience has accomplished two things.  First, the name of God is worshiped, glorified and celebrated.  And second, the Kingdom of God is built.  His obedience to leave behind his home in the country and move to the city opened doors of opportunity to many children who would have otherwise been orphaned, living on the streets, or worse, dead because of disease or disaster.  Certainly, this is cause for celebration.  His obedience also opens the door for others to obey their call, like those of us who ventured to Kenya on this trip.  In a way, I began to see that my participating on this trip was part of a larger plan, and that my obedience would lead to celebration and worship of God, as well as someone else having the opportunity to obey their call to further build the Kingdom of God.

The rest of the trip was shaped by Bishop Thagana’s words.  When we visited the girl’s rehab center, we were able to provide each girl with a care package to meet her immediate needs (underwear, flip-flops, combs, petroleum jelly, soap for their bodies and soap for their clothes, and sanitary napkins) which led to their celebration.  And we left a door open for possible future work there. When we visited the children homes at Strong Tower and Tumaini, we were met with smiles and hugs from the children and staff and we left knowing that soon there would be water on-site at Strong Tower and school shoes for every child who was barefoot at Tumiani.  The volunteers who had given of themselves to get there, who had lugged loads of resources with them in extra suitcases, also pulled money out of their pockets and near-by ATM machines to ensure that every need was met.

However, it was the time spent with the Seagulls Women’s group at Tumaini that would prove the clearest example of the blessings of obedience.  We spent the next four days with the widows who live in the community surrounding the Tumaini Children’s home.  Heart for Africa has partnered with this special group of widows, whose families have been ravaged by HIV/AIDS, to increase their income opportunities.  Every day our arrival was met by singing, dancing, and rejoicing, as the ladies hugged each of us as we stepped off the bus.    The plan was to teach the ladies how to knit, to crochet, and to sew while we put the finishing touches on the H.O.W? Jewelry building.   Surprisingly, most of the widows already knew how to knit, crochet, and sew.  They just needed the resources, such as yarn, knitting needles, crochet hooks, material, sewing machines and reading glasses,  which were donated and mostly transported to the building by our team.  While the widows worked diligently on their projects, we put the final touches on the building by painting, completing the work on the tables that were already built, cleaning up the windows, building a place for a water tank, and finishing up the doors on the latrines.  Each day, working alongside the widows, there were chances to learn more about their lives and how the Heart for Africa partnership has given them hope.  Before leaving for the evening, a gift was given to each widow.  On one particular day, each widow was to receive a Bible printed in Kikuyu.  I was honored to hand this book to each widow, but I wasn’t at all prepared for the response.  To me, this was a simple enough gift, I mean, aren’t Bibles often bought for matriculating students, or friends who are new to the faith?  Their response to the gift is usually warmly received, but no big deal is made of it. However, each widow’s response to this gift was, in a word, amazing.  Some of the widows began to cry, some shouted with joy, while others danced, and all together they worshiped.  It was the purest form of worship that I have witnessed in a long time.  The widows would later tell us that this gift, out of all they had received thus far, gave them hope for their future, because now they had God’s word with them.  And so, Bishop Thagana’s words were lived out in front of us, the blessing of obedience was a moving celebration and worship by all of us and left open an opportunity to further build the Kingdom of God, all by giving the simple gift of a Bible.  We finished our activities and celebrated with even bigger surprises for the widows during the dedication ceremony as they were welcomed into their new workspace, the H.O.W? Jewelry building.

So, was the trip half-way around the world to meet people I’ve never met before worth the time and effort?  Yes!! Every single second was worth it!  I learned that I have a Heart for Africa and that my obedience to the call to participate on this trip caused celebration and worship by the girl’s at the rehab center, at Strong Tower, at Tumaini and among the Seagulls Women’s Group.  I also learned that my obedience is now opening the door for those in my sphere of influence to discover that they, too, have a Heart for Africa.  Maybe they will obey the call next year!

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