Hello Friends –
My family and the broader IAMercy ministry was honored to have Lizzie Keegan visit Nairobi in August. Lizzie is the secretary of the IAMercy board and a dear friend. For this month’s update I want to share her reflections on her trip to Nairobi. I hope we are privileged to have many more come to Nairobi in the future. For now – enjoy reading about Lizzie’s experience in Kenya.
As I stood in church in Nairobi singing “Oceans” next to the young men who have been ministered to by IAMercy, my mind quickly traveled back to June 8th, 2014. On that Sunday afternoon years ago, I talked to Seth on the phone while he was in Kenya on his very first visit where he met the Saint Boys. Later that night, as Seth was listening to the song “Oceans” he heard God’s call to move to Kenya, care for those former street boys, and start IAMercy. It was surreal to remember that day and think about how much God has done in and through IAMercy over these last five years while standing next to and worshipping with the men, women, and children who are part of the ministry.
My two week visit to Nairobi in August was eye-opening, full of new cultural experiences, and so much fun. I got to stay with Seth’s family and get to know the boys and young men who have been through his home. I thought I loved this ministry as much as I could. Seth is a dear friend, I support and serve the ministry, I am on the board, and I have been hearing about and praying for the people we minister to for five years. But I had no idea how much more I could love IAMercy. The two significant takeaways for me from this trip were seeing the need our ministry seeks to meet and getting to know and love the people who our ministry serves.
The need in Nairobi -- and specifically in the slums -- was apparent throughout my trip. Kenya has a 60% unemployment rate, the government is very corrupt, and the cycle of poverty has many people trapped. It was shocking to see the levels of poverty in the slums -- the way people are forced to make money, the uncertainty of where their meals and needs will come from, and the danger & crime that thrive in areas ridden with poverty. I saw the depth of need that IAMercy longs to meet by providing food, shelter, school fees, medical expenses, etc. I was struck by the reality of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs -- that in order for our ministry to disciple people and develop leaders, we must meet the very obvious physical needs that so many people in Nairobi are facing. Despite the need, I was surprised and convicted by the level of joy and contentment I saw in the people I met. Yes, they wish they had more and they are envious of the wealth they see in the upper class (and on TV and in movies) yet there is a deep understanding of God’s provision for them. They are grateful for the very little that they have in ways most Americans are never grateful. One afternoon, I was talking with some of the young men who have been served by our ministry and when I told them that most Americans are not content, they could not believe it. They understand the depth of their dependence on God for every need and it cultivates such gratitude in them. We have much to learn from those in need about what it means to trust and depend on God.
My other takeaway from the trip was the love I have for the people involved in our ministry. I honestly was not expecting to love them as much as I did. Since Seth’s boys were on holiday from school, every day included a family brunch and then a big family dinner. The time around the table together was far and away the highlight of my trip. Seth and the three boys who lived with him were always there -- in addition to some of the young men who have lived with Seth previously. These men are in their early 20s now and live on their own but they still come around to help out with the house and the ministry. I fell in love with these boys and young men. We would laugh so much over meals, have deep conversations about life in Kenya and their experiences in the slums, and dance & sing while we cleaned up from meals. It was a joy to see the amazing men these guys have become, in large part because of IAMercy and Seth’s care and discipling of them. The teenage boys that currently live in Seth’s home have a carefree joy from being in a family where they are safe and all of their needs are met. Their childhoods did not have that kind of freedom before IAMercy took them in. The young men who have “graduated” from living with Seth are kind, hospitable, funny, thoughtful, and committed to Jesus. I truly became friends with them over my time there.
One of the best things about the trip was to see the ways our ministry functions. It was an honor and privilege to attend the Daily Bread feedings in Kawangware (the main slum IAMercy works in) and meet lots of cute and fun little kids. The young men who have been part of Seth’s home are now the people who pass out the food, lead the Bible classes, and play with the children at the feeding. It was amazing to see how they are giving back to the community they came from and are leading the children who struggle in the same ways they did. When I asked the young men about getting to serve with IAMercy, one of them said, “We love it. We know what these kids are going through and it is great getting to help meet their needs like IAMercy did for us.”
My trip was incredible and I have missed it every day since. If you don’t yet support the ministry of IAMercy, please consider giving to meet the needs of the poor in this community. If you give and pray, please consider visiting Nairobi someday. We may know the names and faces from Seth’s updates but nothing can replace the chance to meet and love these amazing men, women, and children involved in IAMercy.