By Nick Elizondo, Short-Termer from the Village Church
What a trip Kenya was… I am still trying to process everything that we saw the Lord do and all that we experienced. This is a trip that I can truly say I returned with a full heart and greatly encouraged by the work that is going on in Kenya, specifically through the ministry of SIM and Sports Friends.
We traveled to Kijabe, Kenya to assist in the running of a sports camp for young people with physical disabilities in the area. However, this camp was so much more than simply playing sports with some children for a few days. As we arrived at camp, we quickly learned that many believed this was the first ever camp for children with special needs in the whole of the country! We saw that in Kenyan culture, young people with physical disabilities are frequently marginalized or abandoned because communities believe that they are cursed. So, the purpose of this camp was to show the young people and their families that they are seen, known, and loved by God.
Connecting with children
These children were so precious. The camp was set up for ultimate attention to the children, so each camper had one American coach and one Kenyan coach assigned to them. It was our joy to love on them and serve them for three days — through eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them, accompanying them to chapel, and playing many different activities with them. For some, this meant kicking a ball for hours on end, and for some, this meant sitting in the sun allowing the child to feel its warmth on their skin. The three days were draining and filling all at the same time; physically tiring as some campers had to be carried everywhere, and spiritually filling as we were blessed with the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ in these campers’ lives.
Connecting with families
Many of these families have been living in isolation for many years. All of these families were from the same area and yet they did not know each other. While our team was loving on and playing with the children, the local Sports Friends staff were loving on the families through a workshop designed especially for them. They answered questions such as, “Are there people with disabilities in America or just in Kenya?” We heard comments like, “I thought we were the only ones with a child with a disability, I had no idea there were others!”.
It’s hard to put into words the impact of this camp. We heard one Mom testify that at the end of the camp she now saw her son as a blessing. No one had ever told her that before, and she had never seen it for herself.
- Importance of community: These families had no idea there were others in the world and even in their neighborhoods that were in the same situations as them. Until we are willing to be vulnerable and let others into our lives we will face many circumstances feeling alone. Walking in community reminds us we aren’t alone, and we aren’t the only ones facing whichever circumstance we find ourselves in.
- Freedom of the gospel: It’s the gospel that sets us free and allows us to serve out of this freedom. As the truth of the gospel was revealed to these families, burdens that had been carried for years were lifted. The gospel frees you to step outside your comfort zone to love on those who don’t speak your language, look like you, or can’t ever repay you.
- Global work of God: We serve a global God who is doing a global work all around the world. This week in Kenya reminded me that He is doing a work of drawing people to Himself of every tribe, nation, and tongue.
- The body of Christ: There is a strengthening of souls that occurs as servants labor alongside one another for the sake of the gospel. Both the missionaries and the short-term team displayed Jesus; not only to the campers and their families but also to me. Watching their actions helped me see Jesus more clearly and love Him more.
- People are people: Despite language barriers, cultural differences, abilities or disabilities, people are people. Precious image bearers of God who are seen, loved and known by Him. A smile or a hug goes a long way to connecting with them and pointing them to Christ. This comes easily on a mission trip, but it is imperative that we practice this in our daily lives with those we do life around.
I could go on and on about this trip, I don’t have time to go into all that I learned. The Lord is doing some amazing things in Kenya, I’m thankful for the opportunity to see a part of it; the people of God doing the work of God for the Glory of God!
“We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” – John Stott