By Kathy Davis | Director of Wholistic Care The question is universal. When tragedy strikes and comfort seems a million miles away, where is hope found?
An Annual Trip Like No Other
As a member of River Oaks Community Church (ROCC) in Maryville, TN, and a staff member with World Orphans, every summer I experience the joy of leading our annual partnership trip to Fountain of Hope Church (FOH) in Nairobi, Kenya.
I recently returned and much of our itinerary looked the same as in previous years. We visited widows and families in distress. We spent valuable time with the precious vulnerable children we have come to know and love, all of them being cared for through the ministry of the church. We facilitated and served in a church-based medical/dental clinic where over 500 impoverished people were physically treated and spiritually encouraged. Souls were saved. Teeth were extracted. We worshipped. We prayed. We laughed. We shared meals.
And, this year, we wept.
Previous to our arrival in Kenya, I received tragic news that a family member, who is part of FOH's Home Based Care (HBC) program, was severely injured in an automobile accident. His arm was severed at the shoulder, yet we were informed he was in stable condition. We were scheduled to visit and pray for him.
Profound Reflections from a 15-year-old Team Member
One of our team members, Ella Pearl, recounted this experience. She eloquently writes about our team’s most impactful moment together, the moment where sorrow’s sting intersected the beautiful hope of Jesus.
My name is Redeemed, and I have been born again.
I believe in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and have grown up in a strong Christian family and church body.
I believe the entire Bible is God’s Word, which as a result is inerrant and infallible. But that doesn’t mean I lack confusion or gain context in every verse. I am human. I make mistakes for which I’m forgiven through the blood of His Son, but this isn’t a story about my life or my accomplishments. It’s a story about what the Holy Spirit has worked in my heart to see, and He has given me the ability to write it down.
Every year since 2010, my church has held a youth event called Mission 1:27, a twenty-seven hour fast to raise money for the medical camp we help facilitate with our sister church in Kenya. Mission 1:27 was taken from the passage of scripture, James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Previous to my trip, two of my closest friends traveled to visit with FOH for our annual partnership trip. Both were captured by their experience and exclaim, even to this day, of their desire to live there. I had never quite believed them until my dad and I felt led by the Holy Spirit to join this year’s 2015 partnership trip to our sister church. The team leader (a close family friend and World Orphans staff member) has asked my dad to come for years because of his heart for the vulnerable and his dental expertise. He had previously declined, but this would be the year that the Holy Spirit would say 'go'. I was very excited, for I had only been to Honduras on family mission trips, and yearned to meet our church family in Kenya. I would be my dad’s dental assistant yet again.
We had worshipped on Sunday, and now we stepped into Monday with a bit more rest than the days before.
Our schedule had been to visit a dentist in Nairobi to discuss the equipment we would need for the clinic, eat a quick lunch, and then continue to visit some homes involved in FOH’s Home Base Care program.
Terrible traffic, a late lunch, and general mishaps delayed us.
After lunch we were told that the father who had experienced a terrible accident had suddenly passed away leaving behind three children and a very sickly wife.
We were invited to visit and pray for the new widow (Veronica) and to attend the youngest daughter’s (Mercy) discovery of her father's death. I felt sorrow, but nothing compared to their grief at his loss.
We made it through a Holy Spirit filled afternoon visiting other families with the bluntness of poverty thrust in our faces and the power of Christ’s family encouraging our souls.
Due to all the delays, we weren’t able to make the trip to the grieving family until late in the evening. We were soon lost on the dark roads weaving through the community. Eventually a young boy was invited into our van, giving us directions with a proud, straight form. The widow greeted us outside with a melancholy countenance.
She led us into her faintly lit home, a stark contrast to the dark alley entrance.
A tiny living room with a middle aged woman and young girl met our foreign eyes. They stood, allowing us to squeeze our party of nine into a very small space. When we were settled, a quiet presence engulfed the warm air.
An Aunt turned to Mercy. Although she spoke in the complicated tongue of Swahili, we knew what she was saying.
We watched Mercy become orphaned in front of our eyes.
My dad rarely ever cries, but he and the rest of the team joined me in silent tears as we witnessed a ten-year-old girl’s heart shatter.
In the background Veronica’s close friend wept.
Our team leader sat with the widow, for she had known this family ever since the partnership had started. Veronica’s head rested on the kind leader’s shoulder, and our leader spoke in a soft tone to the widow.
“We have informed our church of what happened, Veronica. They are all praying for you.”
Veronica opened her eyes, her raspy breath and weak body reflecting the pain inside.
“They are all aware?” Came her reply in a barely audible voice.
“Yes. They are all aware.”
Our team leader couldn’t see the widow’s face, and I don’t know if the rest of the team saw what I did.
Veronica’s countenance, despite the grief-filled eyes and worn soul, changed. Relief flooded her face. This relief represented that someone knew, and was praying to an almighty God for her.
That feeling stemmed from the relationship sowed by many years of communion between our churches. I knew then that this wasn’t about going on a mission trip and changing the world. It wasn’t my proud American sacrifice for a good cause. The partnership was about the honorable privilege to pray and encourage a fellow believer in the midst of sorrow.
To be a part of the Body of Christ and obey his words no matter what the cost.
“...To visit the orphans and widows in their affliction…” Not to gain some shining medal or mark for my good sacrifice, but to sacrifice and gain nothing in return. And why didn’t this sink in before? I understood in part, but never knew until I experienced the context. Suddenly I had a face and life story.
Could some of us be afraid to reveal God’s love and the awesomeness of His plan?
Cannot we, those privileged with an abundance of wealth, give our love and prayers for those afflicted?
Can we defy the cultural barrier, the flames that could burn, and become a warrior of faith and brother to a brother?
Or are we like the people of old, who turn on brother and sister for personal gain?
Visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep oneself unstained from the world.
There is so much left to imagine.
I never could have thought of the ten-year-old girl weeping for her dead father would be witnessed by a fifteen-year-old American girl with her father beside her, alive and well.
And I never would have dreamed that American would be me.
I am blessed by the hand of the Holy Spirit to become a witness of affliction through a Church Partnership in the body of Christ.
Special thanks to: Fountain of Hope Church, World Orphans, and River Oaks Community Church.
"Bwana asifiwe!" (Praise the Lord)
- Ella Pearl Evans
When Suffering Has A Name
The Christian response to suffering engages human emotion where Church Partnership brings us face-to-face with suffering and tragedy. It is an honor to hold one another in grief and weep compassionate tears in loss. Jesus, who suffered and is sovereign, is our greatest living example of compassion and hope.
World Orphans wholistic approach to ministry sees the orphans’ need for food and education and, most importantly, recognizes the power of the Gospel as the greatest help and hope, both in this age and the age to come … until they all have homes.