Today we (Jenn and the girls) had the opportunity to visit an orphanage 25 minutes from our mission hospital. The drive was an event in and of itself. We drove on any side of the road we needed to, just to avoid the huge potholes and roaming cattle!
The setting is rural; the only road leading to the orphanage is dirt. The countryside is lush and nestled on the side of one of the hills is a few acres where a small group of Kenyan orphans are having their lives changed forever. We saw the happy faces of the children; we played soccer, hoola hoops, catch with tennis balls and a new game the children taught us called “Through the bamboo fields”. After about an hour and a half of playing in the warm sun, the couple who founded and run the orphanage—Elijah and Rachael—invited us into their home for a meal. The home was small and warm, the hospitality incredible and the meal was wonderful—rice, beans and sakumawiki (a green weed that the Kenyans eat like collard greens). At the end of the meal, I asked Elijah and Rachael a simple question, “How is it that you started running an orphanage?” And this is what I was told:
In 1998, after the death of his mom and dad, Elijah’s 8 younger siblings were left alone. He saw how very hard it was to care for his own family and now to be responsible for his orphaned brothers and sisters. He felt God speak to his heart about the compassion that the Father feels for His own orphans in all of Kenya. Elijah felt called to be a missionary to his own country and to follow the command in the Bible to care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27).
So, after discussing it with his wife Rachael, they moved from his city to start an orphanage on his fathers land. He started with nine orphans, his own children and a three room home.
He told of his faith in God to provide through miracle after miracle. Our God, Jehovah, did provide and continues to provide with more than enough for this family. Here are a few of the stories he shared with me during my visit:
For many years there was no running water in Elijah’s home. In the African culture, the women do ALL the chores, like bringing water to the home by carrying it (often long distances) on their head. Men don’t help with this task—it is considered “beneath them” to help. Can you imagine Rachael bringing enough water from a long distance for her own family AND a growing orphanage? This bothered Elijah very much because he knew that this way of thinking was not right and that in God’s eyes Rachael was his equal. He did not dare let anyone other man in his village see him helping Rachael with the water or any other chores for that matter. So, he said he just began to pray.
Elijah shared how one day an American missionary visited and saw the work he was doing there for the orphans and a few months later returned and put in a rainwater tank with all the plumbing. Now Elijah and Rachael have running water in their home. Elijah laughed—“it’s just like our God, now neither of us have to go to the river for water!” Elijah and Rachael are caring for 80 orphans now on their little piece of land. They have a dormitory where the children sleep and a school. They raise all their own crops to feed the children, they have some cows for milk and chickens for eggs. Elijah shared with us that his present prayer request is for more cows and chickens. For now, he has to buy milk to supplement for the children because the cows do not produce the amount he needs for all eighty children and that can be expensive. He wants more chickens because his desire is for every child to have more than one egg a week for their nutrition, he prays for three eggs a week per child. He dreams of having so many chickens that he can sell the eggs for a profit.
A few years ago Rachael started a ministry to the widows in her village. She taught the women to pool their money and purchase a hen, which provides food and income from the eggs. Then with the profits the women buy another hen. Over time 15 widows have been able to buy a hen of their own. These women get together for Bible study and fellowship with Rachel regularly.
Recently the mobs were traveling up and down the road outside the orphanage forcing families from the ‘wrong’ tribe out of town and the remaining to join the mob that was protesting. Elijah told me how for one week during the peek of all the violence he and his wife took all 80 children (who are from many different tribes) into the bush to hide during the day. God protected them and the mob never came onto his land or discovered the children there in the bush.
This family is literally giving their lives away for the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ. It would seem they don’t have much by the worlds’ standard of wealth but I am reminded that one day the last will be first and the first will be last. I am certain that Elijah and Rachael will be at the beginning of the line. They are unsung heroes to me.