At New Hope Initiative's medical clinic in Arusha, Tanzania lives are changed on a daily basis. Of our 25,000 annual patients we have stories of amazing transformation very often. One of our more poignant stories occurred recently in the life of an older gentleman named Mr. Sikn. He for many years had a cyst growing in his forehead. Not only was it painful but it was unsightly causing him to be ostracized in his community and even to be ridiculed as demon possessed. Mr. Sikn visited hospitals and doctors for miles around his rural home, however, because he was poor and had no money, he could not find any one to help him. Finally he heard about our NHI clinic in Arusha and, even though it was hours away from his home, he heard that this clinic would effectively and compassionately help people who were poor. You can see from these amazing photographs the incredible job Dr. Byemba did in this surgery. We talk often about changing people's lives but truly Mr. Sikn's life as forever been changed by Dr. Byemba and New Hope Initiative.
Our New Hope Initiative orphanage in Sierra Leone has struggled greatly for the past 18 months as the Ebola crisis has ravaged that country. So it is with great joy that we can tell you that the country has been Ebola free for almost a month and that early in November the World Health Organization should be able to declare Sierra Leone Ebola free! This is the day we have been praying for. Thankfully our 72 children have remained healthy during this crisis, but the country as a whole has suffered untold damage. Economically inflation is running 20% and the GDP is in negative numbers. Educationally the school system is in shambles after months of closure. Practical things like food are in short supply as farmers abandoned crops in fear of epidemic.
We would ask you to continue to pray for our children and their leadership and to consider a special gift to help us offset the sharp rise in food and educational costs. Finally we would ask you to consider visiting this facility in 2016 with one of our teams. We have missed so much visiting the children and we are very excited that we have scheduled a mid February team.
If you are interested in being a part of that team contact our NHI project director Phil D'entremont at firstname.lastname@example.org
In July, Zack Kirago was hired as Project Director in Kenya for Kibera Penda Project. Zack brings ten years working in children's and youth ministries, as well as experience working with a non-profit and in social work. Zack is married and has two young boys. Previously, Zack was serving Kibera Penda Project on a part-time basis as the youth minister. He began the Saturday Youth Services and reenergized the time with games, discussions, and lots of cheering! It was encouraging to get to know him and see him interact with the students over the course of the past year. Zack's passion to influence the lives of young people is evident.
Since beginning in this position, Zack has been working to gain more background on the lives of our sponsored students and build relationships with the school's that we send students. He also took twenty of our students to a youth camp during the school break in August. This was a reward for some of the students and it was encouraging to see the growth of each of their relationships with Christ. Recently, Zack has been doing college advising with a few of our students who are applying to Kibera Penda Project College Scholarships.
Kibera Penda Project is thankful for Zack's heart, hard work and natural organization!
Used clothing is a huge business in Africa, you find sellers of previously owned items on almost every street. Recently when walking into Kibera I was surprised to see a golf shirt that bore the logo for the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, CA. This chain of hotels is known worldwide for its luxury and this particular property is a bastion of wealth and privilege on the opulent Southern California coast.
While looking at this shirt against the backdrop of the Kibera slum I was drawn to consider the contrast between the first owner and the next owner of this garment. The first owner likely lived a life of wealth, privilege, and power. They enjoyed the luxuries of life and seldom experienced want or need. The new owner of this shirt will live in one of the worlds largest slums, will be impoverished, ignored, and powerless even in his own community. The new owner of this shirt will feel want as a daily companion. Luxury will never enter his mind, only the constant struggle to survive. What a dramatic contrast between the 2 owners of this shirt.
I walked away that day with two pervasive thoughts. The first involved responsibility. You may or may not be a regular guest at the Ritz-Carlton's of this world, however, as a resident of a western culture you are in a position of extreme privilege in contrast to the rest of the world. This privileged position should demand a generous heart on our part. In the words of Jesus, "to whom much is given much is required." My second thought was about perspective. I can imagine how much the original owner of that shirt enjoyed his foray into the world of luxury. Perhaps how much he wanted to buy that logo shirt and enjoyed wearing it to impress other. However, today that shirt no longer carries an aura of luxury or privilege. It reminds me that every possession we have will one day rust, tarnish, or decay. We must be diligent to remind ourselves that the only eternal investments are those made, in people, for the sake of God.
I think the phase "putting on the Ritz" will forever have a new connotation for me.
We had an interesting and somewhat troubling experience this summer in Kibera. We had two NHI teams at our Kibera Academy campus who were participating in a variety of special projects and our students were also involved in important mid term testing, so it was a very busy day in the midst of a busy week. About midday on Wednesday I noticed a few unfamiliar faces who were obviously visitors on campus. So I asked them who they were and why they were on our compound. Their response surprised me a good deal. They were on a mission trip to Uganda and their flight had been delayed so they wanted to see a poor neighborhood in Nairobi. With that limited response the visitor grabbed a child's hand and marched into one of our classrooms. At first glance this may seem pretty innocent to you, however it is a situation that is wrong on so many levels. This is the type of behavior that gives short term missions trips a bad reputation and even causes people to question the validity of such an experience. Let's examine the different levels on which this encounter was so wrong. 1. The visitors did not speak with the administration before entering the school. Can you imagine taking a group of people into an American school and wandering the hallways and entering the classrooms without permission? Do African schools deserve any less security and respect than American schools.
2. Poverty is not a tourist attraction to be visited like a monument or national park. The residents of Kibera are a wonderful community of individuals who will lovingly welcome you to their neighborhood IF you have come as a friend. However, it is an affront to their dignity to treat this community like just another stop on your mission to "save Africa."
3. It shows a great amount of arrogance and a significant lack of respect. To interrupt a busy school schedule, to the point of entering classrooms uninvited, because some how you think your mere presence there should warrant every one else altering their routine for you.
4. YOU MUST EARN THE RIGHT TO BE INVOLVED. Even the best intentioned short term mission trip is severely lacking if it is only another stop on your or your church's tour of the world. It is subtly demeaning and overtly discouraging to residents of communities like Kibera when visitors come and have activities, evangelistic events, or even charitable activity but have no commitment to any long term involvement in a neighborhood. Poorly done mission trips have conditioned the local residents to welcome people into their hearts and lives and yet often they know they will never see them again and that is a bittersweet hurt. It is so important that mission trips are done right. We earn the right everyday for our involvement in Kibera and the other places NHI works. We earn it through prayer. We earn it through investment. We earn it through love. We earn it through longevity. It is personally offensive for me to have people with no commitment whatsoever to run in for an hour and take pictures with our kids and leave with a false sense of accomplishment. Good short term missions involves training, preparation, sensitivity, humility, and commitment. At New Hope Initiative we may not always do it perfectly, but we constantly strive to bring our teams into a mutually rewarding partnership with local ministries where each party learns, grows, and is affirmed through the experience. May God please spare us any more "mission trip tourists."