Transforming troubled young Londoners in Kenya
Some 20 years ago, I took a young leader friend of mine, Andy Smith, from South London, to Kenya in East Africa. He was interested in introducing his South London church to some overseas mission concepts. Andy, and his supporters, also lead a helpful charity called Regenerate.
Having gone on this "one off" trip, Andy has gone back to Kenya over and over again. He built a relationship with Sammy Nawali, a Kenyan church leader, who himself was a "street boy" begging a living on the streets of Nakuru, the former provincial capital of Kenya's Rift Valley province, with roughly 300,000 inhabitants, and the third largest urban center in the country.
Now, in what was two decades ago, an empty field, stands a school for 250 children, and two orphanage buildings catering for young boys and girls rescued from the streets currently housing some 106 children.
It has been great for me to see the development of the work there. Now housing all the above, plus a regular place for church to meet and now my latest and greatest, delight is to see them selling bottled, and natural water, to the local community, especially as clean water is such a great need in Kenya and many of the people there have faced an on-going battle to get H2O.
When I learned about this situation, I first of all took a team from London there, alongside this a business man who came with Andy and put up the money to drill for the water, which is very expensive in Kenya; it's like drilling for oil. Then others came from various parts of London, and have continued the work, helping the local team to put in pipes and lift tanks to the tops of buildings. One of the great workers, who joined the team, was from my friend Keith Manley's Grace Family Church in Rockford, Illinois. Now the sale of the water is helping to feed and clothe the orphans in Kenya.
But back to Andy and Regenerate; not only has Andy continued to take teams to Kenya and do important things like painting and building, but he has included in those teams, young people from the housing estates [projects] who come from very deprived situations, many of whom were into gang culture and other illegal activity.
The local government people in London are glad that it's happening. I talked to Clair Smith, also part of Regenerate, and asked her what was the thinking in terms of taking such vulnerable and sometimes difficult, youngsters to places like Kenya?
Clair said, "It is often a help to these young people on their spiritual journey. We are not only working with them locally, but exposing them to others in another situation with great needs and lots of poverty, and without some of the support that you might get in the UK, and this gives these young people a new understanding in life.
"Many come back from Kenya changed and some of them really meet God in a powerful way, and often, they want to do something to make life better for others. The big example of course is a young man called Luke, who came back from such a trip, and is really now a dedicated follower of Jesus. He was so impact by the experienced that he then saved his own wages and bought land for the project in Kenya. This money was used to set up a garage to give street young people a job, training and hope for something better than simply sniffing glue."
"We are encouraged by what these trips do, not only in terms of help for that developing work there but help for the Londoners too."
So, not only are these Kenyan people being impacted by "Water and the Word," but also many of the disadvantaged of London.