In 2017, thanks to our inspirational National Director, Georgie Read and the Marejesho project, we started our first base in Kenya, near Kisumu; one of the largest cities in Kenya, where an estimated 60% of the population live in slums or slum-like conditions.
Currently we work in a village about 10 minutes outside the port city of Kisumu on Lake Victoria. The village has been badly impacted by HIV – most of the population are elderly widows living with young grandchildren, with the middle generation having passed away from AIDS. The elderly caregivers often struggle with sickness or are too weak to work in an environment that relies mostly on manual agriculture. As a result, many children are sent to relatives to work as cleaners, guards or cattle farmers or too often are put into orphanages.
One of our core values in Every Life is relationship; our aim is that all we do flows out of healthy relationship both with God and with each other. As part of this, we spend a large part of our week doing ‘Frontline’, which simply involves going into the village just to spend time with people, pray and assist the community in any way we can.
Sometimes that means helping an elderly widow with her crop harvesting. Other times it means providing emergency medical expenses or making referrals to specific organisations. And sometimes it means just sitting, asking someone how they are and being able to listen.
Every Saturday we hold Children’s Discipleship in the village – a group for vulnerable or orphaned children in the area. We play games, worship, learn from the bible, have a snack, perform dramas and songs and generally have a great time!
The turnover of children is currently quite high – the mortality rate is such that children are regularly orphaned and send to children’s homes or distant relatives. But despite this, our numbers have continued to grow and the children have astonished us with the emotional, spiritual and relational changes we see in them.
Through a year focusing on Frontline we have built relationships with many people in the village and spent time listening to the issues that affect the community. Now we are preparing to launch our first Life Group, focusing on widows within the community. By bringing these vulnerable women together and introducing them to Jesus, we hope to see them restored in every area of their lives.
Catherine cannot walk – her legs have become too stiff and her sight isn’t good. She hasn’t left the house in years. All seven of her children died from suspected HIV and she is cared for by her granddaughter, Rachel who is the only relative willing to stay in a place associated with so much hardship. Rachel should be at school but there is no money for that and it’s as much as she can do to provide food for both of them. Yet Catherine sings for joy when she sees us coming and tells us how faithful God has been through her struggles…