by Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care Reuniting! Wholistic educational impact! Quality family time! Are we there yet?
Summer is in full swing and in less than four weeks, River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) will embark on their 6th annual partnership trip to Fountain of Hope church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya. What began with willing hearts and a common goal to care for orphans and vulnerable children has become a significant friendship and family bond between two churches from across the globe. It is precisely what we hope every one of our partnerships become.
I have had the joy of participating with a team from ROCC, which happens to be my home church, every summer. Our short week together is a personal highlight and a deeply anticipated family reunion. The icing on the cake is found in the time we spend with our beloved brothers and sisters. Christ’s love, and willingness of the church, is impacting the development of precious children who began with a deep need of rescue, nurture, and care. I love my Kenya family. I love their love. And today, as I anticipate this trip, I can’t wait to see their faces.
So, you may be curious, “What is happening after six years of partnering with a church in Nairobi? What difference does church partnership actually make in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children?” I'm so glad you asked!
FOH has been extending their arms and hearts to 24 vulnerable children, and their persistent love is making a difference. Any given day will likely include both laughter and tears, as caregivers seek to understand how to most effectively care for the ongoing needs of the children. The restorative development of orphaned and vulnerable children, through the church, is continually empowered by the Holy Spirit and the loving commitment they demonstrate every day.
One of the wholistic provisions of Church Partnership is education. FOH provides a loving and safe environment for the children to heal, grow, and learn. Precious young lives are continuing to be encouraged with the truth that their past does not have to determine their future. The remarkable result is that four children passed their primary exams last year and another eight have passed this year!
How significant is this? It is nothing short of miraculous! Half of the children have surpassed the statistical odds and have gained entrance into secondary school.
A little more background: the Kenyan education system is similar to what we have in the United States. The system is referred to as an 8-4-4 system of education. Primary school lasts for 8 years. Following primary school, there are 4 years of secondary school. Then, there may be 4 years of university for those who can afford it and have high enough grades. Sadly, enrollment drops dramatically after the primary level. Secondary schools, unfortunately, are not as well attended as primary schools, mostly due to the high cost of tuition and selective admissions process.
After primary school, children are required to take a national exam (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) in order to progress to secondary school. Only those with high enough scores are admitted to the government’s secondary schools. These schools are boarding schools and the score of each child’s exam determines the selection of the school for each child.
As a result, the children at FOH will often be found studying in the middle of the night as they realize how significant education is in regards to breaking the cycle of poverty.
You see, what is extraordinary is that all of the children who entered the program have come from heartbreaking circumstances. Some have experienced physical and sexual abuse. Most have suffered abandonment and neglect. Every single one of them has obstacles to overcome.
And this is where we come in. World Orphans wholistic approach to ministry seeks to care for the whole child (spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally) and the development of the 'whole' child is of great value, including a child's ability to learn.
2 Peter 1:3 – “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”
"Studies about early childhood development indicate that the brain develops in response to experiences with caregivers, family and the community, and that its development is directly linked to the quality and quantity of those experiences. The brain develops at an incredible pace during the early developmental stages of infancy and childhood. Meeting a child’s needs during these early stages creates emotional stability and security that is needed for healthy brain development. Repeated exposure to stressful events can affect the brain’s stress response, making it more reactive and less adaptive. The following are some of the possible effects of child abuse and neglect on a child’s mental health: Anxiety, depression, dissociation, concentrating, academic problems in school-aged children and adolescents, withdrawal and/or difficulty connecting with others" (Psychological Trauma and the Developing Brain, Stien and Kendall).
Clearly, it is no small victory that the first 12 children who have tested for the National Primary Exam have passed and gained entrance into secondary school.
Last year we spent a day traveling to all four of the children's secondary schools, hug their necks, and visit with them for a few minutes. This year we’ll do it again! I can’t wait to pile in a van, bring a picnic lunch, and trek across the countryside to celebrate the turning of a new page with the brothers and sisters I love.
My heart skips a beat as I ponder the descent into Nairobi and land into the loving embrace of the family we love and the partnership we share. Please pray for our trip, for FOH, ROCC, and for the amazing 24 children in Kenya.
Enjoy "meeting" the children from FOH and seeing a few photos from previous years trips...