When we think of a sister, brother or neighbor, immediately our thoughts go to someone close to us or physically close, with whom we share something common. Further to this, we may think of a neighbor as someone next door, or a friend, and possibly, by a stretch of the imagination, someone we physically pass by on a daily basis. However, I challenge you, that anyone who extends mercy to us or to whom we extend mercy, is our neighbor.
We talk a lot today about the world as being a global, shrinking society, and that is so in many ways. Technology alone has succeeded in shortening the distance between nations in the area of Telecommunications. In addition, the advancements in Aviation have also done so. Places that took the Apostles days and weeks to walk or sail to in order to spread the Gospel now takes us hours to reach by way of airplanes; giving us tremendous opportunities to extend help and mercy where it is needed!
In our Mission travels to the various nations, I recall that one of the most beautiful, exciting yet heart-wrenching and life-changing experiences I have had, occurred on our (RWOMI’s) first Mission trips to Kenya. What I saw and experienced changed my whole way of thinking for the better.
As we arrived, I felt the dominance and presence of the Kenyan men when they met us; which was not at all offensive, overpowering or rude, but in fact was reassuring and refreshing! That the men took the forefront was culturally and spiritually visible. However, it was my experience with the women and children of Kenya that we met that opened my eyes a great deal.
As I met with the women, I was also met with their extraordinarily bright genuine smiles and warmth. As we travelled, we then saw the liveliness, laughter and excitement of their children, and then is when we saw hope – in contrast to the depressed surroundings we entered as we travelled! More than ever, our hearts were encouraged to extend our hands where we could!
All this hid the deep need and great suffering that existed in the slums of Nairobi – Kenya’s capital – and in the rural areas of Nakuru, Salgaa, Webuye and Lwandeti; places in Kenya that not many would want to go and not many talk about!
While we laud those men of Kenya who uphold the positive aspects of their culture, tribes and country, as they seek to be good providers and leaders in their families, the plight of the women and children particularly in in the rural areas hit home hardest. The great need as well as their willingness to be active partakers in their own health, growth and development was evident and heart-warming.
As we drove through rural communities, we saw that there were no working public facilities such as bathrooms.
We found that while in the urban areas of Kenya there were more modern conveniences – toilets, showers and so on, the rural areas especially, lacked greatly in that area. In fact, water was and still is an especially scarce commodity – even more so running water! The women and children had to go to wells or a designated waiting areas to collect water either from the well or from a truck that came once or twice per week! We saw first-hand as they did this the dry heat and dust-drench city of Nakuru – which by no coincidence means DUST! The women and children carried the pans of water on their heads while trying to keep it as clean as possible on their way home.
The older children whose families were not financially able to send them to school are forced by their circumstances to find ways of earning in order to help their families. The younger ones, while their families found it difficult to afford it, were sent to school for as many days of the week as they could (sometimes only twice per week). The schools in turn fight hard to keep them coming because of the genuine desire to educate the upcoming generation, but they too face the challenges of lack of funds/funding, little material and even less food. They make efforts to sell uniform materials to the members of the community for their children but they often just give it away because no one can afford it. Literally!
The schools often make every effort to provide at least one good meal for the children because they are fully aware that it may be the only meal they have for the week. The meals consist of rice or a preparation made with cornmeal along with beans. No meat or eggs.
The teachers of the school, who are mainly women, often go for months without a salary, but they still come out every day to teach the children. Keep in mind that they have families to feed and maintain as well!
The schools facilities are such as the bathrooms and the kitchen are sorely lacking.
The latrines used generally, were unlike anything we had imagined for they were simply holes in the ground in a small enclosed space and there was not usually toilet paper. The holes we saw were no more than 5 – 7 inches in diameter and when the door was closed it was completely dark; so your memory and aim had to be good regardless of what you were doing – whether you are male or female!
So pregnant women would have a particularly difficult time because it is risky to bend or squat. Furthermore, think of what would happen to women with difficult pregnancies!
While the women taught and still teach their children about proper hygiene, it is difficult to maintain the practices in real life without the proper facilities and running water. In addition to this, keep in mind the experiences the women and young girls would have during those periods of menstruation and the need for sanitary napkins, underwear and all the other conveniences to which we may have ready access. It is not so for our sisters and neighbors in rural Kenya; not in all circumstances!
I could simply tell you that we have a lot for which to be thankful; but that would only cause us to focus on ourselves and what we have. I will instead encourage you – command you even, to remember your sisters – your neighbors in Kenya! When we ask for donations for missions or even for specific situations or events, they are real and close! We have seen the plight and the need first-hand.
We encourage you to come on the Mission Trips if you can, but know that it is not a vacation! Otherwise, we implore you to give money, items of clothing, food, toiletries and whatever we may express as their specific need at the time – especially now!
Help us to empower the women and children with education, supplies of all kinds, the opportunity for access to running water and other basic needs.
Extend mercy! Give to the RWOMI Humanitarian Outreach that we may give to and help our neighbors – women and children in rural Kenya that there can be improvement in the quality of life!