Kaakiring - A Village Transformed

In 2012, SERV International was told of a village named Kaakiring, located in the northwest remote desert region of Kenya, also known as the Turkana region. Due to the continual drought in this village, we saw a desperate need for food that we couldn't ignore. Once you see this type of devastation, it changes you. 

We met Jackson, who was a pastor in this village.  He told us of the months they have gone without food, and the toll it was taking on this community, resulting in death of his people and their livestock.  These villagers have depended on their livestock to use as their food or to sell to support their families.  Now they are left with little to nothing, resulting in a loss of hope.

We started with Food First and grew our relationship with Pastor Jackson and his village.  We kept going back with food to share God's love.  Once their immediate need for food was met, we wanted to meet their need for clean, safe water.  They were walking several miles each way to fetch dirty water, and we wanted to provide a long term solution for them by drilling a water well that would supply clean water for the entire village, as well as surrounding villages.  We shortly learned that the water well became their meeting place, as the women would gather for hours as a place to build their community.  

After SERV Food and clean water was introduced, the village began to thrive and the health of the village as a whole began to flourish for the very first time.  With Pastor Jackson leading his village, the local SERV team was able to provide financial support to him and his family, and provide a structure for him to minister in, as apposed to the tree they used to worship under.  Because of this, Pastor Jackson has now helped to plant over 20 surrounding pastors and churches, spreading the Good News even farther outward than ever before.

SERV has also planted the first successful greenhouse in this village, which has been producing fruit and vegetables for over the last 4 years.  This is a huge boost to their daily nutrition and provides even more community for them, as it brings people together from other villages who don't have access to food and water.

So when we say SERV Food is more than just food, this is why.

 

 

CATHI LINDSEY
Cambodia - How it all Began

 

Karen Heard boarded a plane for the 21 hour journey to a land that she knew very little about. A friend from church asked her to go on a mission trip, and after she said “yes”, she had no idea she was on her way to the calling that God placed on her life.  Karen said, “from the minute I stepped into the slums in the city of Phnom Penh, I knew that I would settle in, and this would be my passion.  I had been to almost a dozen different countries on mission trips before, always hoping one of them would be a part of my calling.  But it wasn’t until I stepped onto the soil of Cambodia that I felt that deep peace - the kind that comes when you know without a doubt that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.”  

And so, a ministry was born.

Along with team members from that first trip, Alex Williams, Henry Couser and Karen met Sony Meas, a Cambodian who had over 10 years of experience directing ministries with a passion for sharing the Good News.  He begged the team to help him tell his people about Jesus.  He never asked for food, a school or a building.  He just wanted help spreading the word of God.  The team believed that if God was in this, it would flourish, so they used their own resources to support Sony for 1 year.  They quickly realized that the needs were many and wanted to provide Sony with additional resources.  During that year, Karen met Steve Kasha, founder of SERV International, and shared what they were doing in Cambodia.  After a lot of prayer and several meetings that spanned over one year, Steve caught the vision of what God was doing in Cambodia and combined their ministry with SERV International to create an even larger presence there.

It's been almost 2 years since their 1st trip to Cambodia, and there are 20 children in a sponsorship program, daily English classes for the village children, 4 soccer teams, 2 Bible studies and a ministry that helps provide food, medical treatment and other physical needs for the people in Vealsbow village and Deumsleng, a cemetery slum in the heart of Phnom Penh. Karen said "God continues to bring people alongside us who want to partner with us to stop the exploitation of children, who are willing to give generously to feed the hungry and who have a desire to bring Truth to the nations.”

This has been a true step of faith for Karen, Alex, Henry, Steve and SERV International.  For the people we serve in Cambodia, it means the difference between a life of spiritual and physical poverty transformed into a life of spiritual and physical freedom.  

CambodiaCATHI LINDSEY
A Tender Heart

I’ve been in love since the very 1st day I heard his story and laid eyes on him.  Francis’ story is heartbreaking, but it tells of God’s immeasurable grace that brings beauty out of ashes.

When Francis was brought to House of Hope in 2010, he was bruised, broken, hungry and scared. His father was killed by cattle raiders when he was very young, and he and his sister were being raised by his mother in their village. They were left alone at home while their mother went in search for food to feed her starving family. Two babies left alone is never good, no matter what country you live in. His sister couldn’t stop crying from hunger, and Francis knew he had to do something. Acting out of his tender heart, he went to a nearby hut and stole some food to give to his sister. When his mother returned, she was told that Francis stole from another villager. This brought shame to her. In Kenyan culture, stealing is punishable with severe beatings or death. There are no police. There are no attorneys. There are no judges or juries.

 

Moses trying to soothe Francis

Moses trying to soothe Francis

Keeping with cultural customs, Francis’ mother decided to teach him a lesson by tying him to a tree and severely beating him – almost to his death. After countless hits, he was missing nearly all of his teeth and his little head and body were bloody and bruised. Then she left him to die.

Thomas, the Director at House of Hope learned about what happened to Francis, and he and Steve Kasha, Founder of SERV International, made the decision to quickly rescue him and bring him to House of Hope (HoH) with a team in October 2010. He was so shy and embarrassed to laugh with his friends, as he only had 1 tooth remaining in the front of his broken, wounded smile. The HoH family quickly welcomed him with open arms and hearts, and he started to learn about the extravagant love of God for the first time in his life.

 

Francis today

Francis today

Fast forward to today: Francis is healthy, happy, full of life and smiles all the time with almost all of his beautiful teeth.  All but 1 tooth has grown back, and he is no longer embarrassed to smile, laugh and play with his new family.  He is doing well in school and wants to be a pilot when he grows up. He is learning to be a man of God and a growing leader in his community. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the loving staff at House of Hope.

Consider making a difference in the life of a child.  The reward is eternal, and it feels great knowing there is a person who now has a future because of a small donation and a lot of love from someone in the States.  My prayers continually go up in grateful obedience to the One who’s truth has set all of us, especially Francis, free.

Written by Cathi Lindsey

Preston Todd
Rescuing Orphans
The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.
— Mother Teresa

This photo is the moment I picked up Julius for the first time. We were there to remove him from his critical situation and take him to The House of Hope; SERV International’s Children’s Home in Lodwar, Kenya. Julius was an orphan. I immediately looked into his eyes (that’s what I had always done in the U.S., engage with a child by making eye contact); this was different. He was different. I panicked inside. I’d thought this moment through a hundred times. I had no idea…

I had no idea how it would feel to pick up a 5-year-old boy who weighs what a typical American toddler would weigh. I had no idea how his bones would feel in my arms. I had no idea that he wouldn’t have eaten in over 36 hours. I had no idea how it would feel to look in his eyes and see nothing. There was no semblance of emotion; not even fear, nor sadness. I wasn’t sure what to do, I couldn’t communicate with language, so I followed my instincts and held on tighter. I could tell that Julius was not used to being touched gently and with love. Within minutes Julius locked his arms around my neck and didn’t let go.

We spent the rest of the day picking up other orphans who had been identified as being in critical need. We would bring the caretakers food and they would thank us for taking the child for whom they could not provide. Typically, the youngest orphan would be the last to receive food, water, or clothing, so they would be the ones we would take. I wish we could save them all.

I placed his first ever pair of shoes on his feet. He drank his first sip of clean water from a water bottle and ate his first bite of fresh watermelon. He would finally have 3 meals a day, a roof over his head, a bed to sleep on. He would have an education, medical care, church, and love. For a child in the unforgiving and drought-stricken desert of Lodwar, Kenya, coming to SERV’s House of Hope is like winning the lottery.

The older children welcomed the new, young orphans in the most awe-inspiring way. It seemed to me that they remembered what this day was like for them, years and years ago. The older children ran up to the youngsters and talked to them, showed them around, hugged them, sang to them, even helped them set up their new rooms. This was truly one of the most touching things I’ve ever witnessed. It was beautiful!

Fast forward 10 months, the experience was so impactful to me that I jumped on the opportunity to go again. Not only would I be honored with another chance to rescue more children, but, I would get to see Julius again. I wondered if he would remember me; if I had made an impact on him. Upon returning, I saw a completely changed boy. A happy boy. A healthy boy. As if seeing him happy, healthy, and thriving wasn’t enough; the countless smiles and unsolicited hugs I received from him melted my heart. I am part of his story.

I am endlessly grateful to SERV International for the opportunity to change this young man’s life; and, to change mine.

 

Written by Jennifer Felton

Preston Todd
Worlds Changed

On Sunday October 23rd, Susan Ekeno’s life changed.

Two Land Cruisers pulled up to her grandmother’s hut and a group of strangers climbed out. We circled up around Susan’s family and talked quietly amongst ourselves. What did the paperwork say about this one? Her grandmother is taking care of her? I wonder if those are siblings standing nearby. How old did they say she is? Susan didn’t understand anything we were saying. She looked scared. I wonder what it was like before we arrived. Did she cry? Did she hug her family and neighbors? Was she excited? Was she nervous?

Thomas and Moses spoke with the grandmother, and then Steve called Troy and me over. Little Susan looked away as a strange white woman, a mizunga, knelt down and took her hand. I told her hello and rubbed her hand with my thumb – the same way I caress my own daughter’s hand. I looked at the small, dirty hand in mine and the contrast of her coffee black skin against my pale palm was stark.

We all joined hands to pray, take a few pictures, and then we left. I gave Susan’s grandmother a cross necklace with our promise to love her granddaughter and take good care of her. I pray about them every time they cross my mind.

As we got back in the truck, Lopite clung to Debra’s hand and skirt. We had picked her up first and I wonder what it was like to watch another child, familiar in appearance and language, but a stranger, get loaded up into the truck with her. They would be classmates, roommates, hopefully friends. Sisters meeting.

Susan never let go of my hand as we made the trek back to town. She sat up, back straight and eyes wide, watching the landscape fly by as it changed from the desolate bush to the relative busyness of downtown Lodwar.

By Wednesday, she’d fit in so well, it was almost hard to find her in the group. But I got to hold her hand and hug her and take some bright, smiling pictures together. I ache to see her and hug her again and I can’t wait to watch her grow into a beautiful young lady. I can still feel her hand in mind, and I cried when I called the SERV office to sponsor her.

On Sunday October 23rd, Susan’s life changed forever. And so did mine.


by RoseAnne Shiver

Preston Todd
God's Tomatoes

She holds the tomato in one hand and the knife in the other. Juices run through her fingers as she drops slices onto a plate. The tomato is perfectly red – ripened on the vine in the hot Kenya sun and watered from the cold water of a well. I can almost taste it, just looking at the picture.

I think about the tomatoes in my local grocery store, just a mile and a half down the road. Dry, tasteless hot house Roma tomatoes for just $.99 a pound; vine-ripened tomatoes, probably imported from South America, for $1.49; or those fancy heirloom tomatoes shining in their unusual colors for $2.99. I can pick whichever I want without a second thought.

I imagine our House of Hope kids running into the dining hall and scrambling into their seats to await dinner. Shoes scuff across the concrete floors and metal plates rattle as they’re piled on the tables. What will the staff make with these tomatoes? Or with the other fresh vegetables proudly grown in their own greenhouses?

Spring is approaching here in Georgia and I’m thinking about what I’d like to plant in our little backyard garden. My daughter will soon be 3 and I know she’ll enjoy helping to water the plants and pick our harvest. I won’t think twice about turning on the spigot and feeling the spray of the cold water from the garden hose. She will laugh and try to spray me and turn to dance in the cold water. We’ll probably plant some tomatoes. She will especially enjoy going out every day to pick a handful of cherry tomatoes to pop into her mouth. There will be nothing special about it, other than the simple joy of growing something ourselves.

But I know that under the same summer sun, my friends on the other side of the world will be giving thanks for the nourishment and the vitamins provided by these greenhouse crops. They’ll deliver baskets of fresh produce down to the SERV store at the edge of the HOH property and local families will walk across sand and broken pavement to buy and bring home a small portion of that fresh food. And at the dining tables, the HOH kids will bow their heads to say asante to God for this delicious bounty.

Preston Todd
The Prodigal Children

Prodigal (adj): characterized by profuse expenditure, yielding abundantly

The Sunday after we got home from traveling to Kenya, our pastor started a short series on the parable of the Prodigal Son. He tied the word “prodigal” to the excessive love the father showed the son upon his return. In breaking down the father’s reaction and gifts, I realized that it mirrored our experience bringing home the new kids to House of Hope.

-The father ran to meet his son when he was a long way off: this shows the father making a concerted effort to get to his son. After flying to the other side of the world, we drove further over nonexistent or terribly ruined roads to pick up the new kids.

-The father hugged his son: we prayed over and embraced these children who are otherwise seen as burdens. Susan Ekeno, the girl I was paired with, never let go of my hand once we got in the car. She only let go when we got to HOH to jump into the open arms of the matrons and staff.

-The father gave his son a robe and shoes: driving back into Lodwar from the bush, we stopped at the market to buy our kids two sets of brand new clothing and shoes. Lopite didn’t have a shirt when we got her – Steve explained that because the family knew she would get more, someone probably took her shirt as their own. We watched in shock as Jack stumbled around the shop in his new sandals. He’d probably never had shoes on his feet before.

-The father had his servants prepare a feast with the fattened calf: after showering and donning their new, clean clothes, the children were immediately ushered into the dining hall and served a heaping pile of food, steaming hot and delicious, to be eaten to their hearts content. In fact, the children often get sick from overeating, but the staff lets them; it’s a lesson to show them that they’ll always have as much as they could want. Like the father’s abundant feast, these kids will never need to worry about hunger again.

-The father celebrated the son’s homecoming: the greatest gift the father gave was the restored relationship with the son. Like the father, we celebrated the new lives these children will have at House of Hope, with the staff, and with their sponsor families.

Granted, these children didn’t squander what they were given like the son in the parable. They started out with nothing, but we got to love on them and celebrate them coming home – to a place where they will always be loved and taken care of.
The parable is meant to demonstrate the outrageous, abundant love our Father has poured on us. But I got to see it in action as we proved God’s love to these children and their villages.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19


by RoseAnne Shiver

Preston Todd