It’s a new year, and a new decade! New Years festivities come with resolutions and goals, and as my pastor pointed out, also with just trying to recover from all of the busyness of December. I think we often roll into January tired, yawning, and unsure. It’s common that we, unfortunately, come into January in debt after all the Christmas shopping.
In Kenya children begin a new school year in January, which results in parents searching for school fees and for fare to send their kids on long, sometimes overnight bus trips, upcountry to their high school boarding schools.
My head was spinning a few weeks ago, as we kicked off our first GORP meeting of the year, and the entire first hour seemed to be consumed with all the finding solutions for multiple challenges. There was one of our kids, an orphan, who was stuck upcountry with relatives because his guardian (the aunt) decided she just didn’t want him living with her family in Nairobi anymore. The boy, who is mostly well-mannered, sat waiting in limbo not knowing where his home was going to be or if he was going to go to school again. There was another girl who lacked bus fare to get to high school and broke her glasses, so she couldn't see anything. Then there was another boy, whose mom is rumored to be considering moving to the Middle East to work (a far too common story and one that often has a heartbreaking conclusion), who now was likely being left without a mom. Then there was the girl who’d been accepted to a high school that just wasn’t the right fit--it was too close to Kibera, to temptations and people who could very well jeopardize her success. Kids get asked or "called" to certain high schools based on their grades, and they can't just go wherever they like or to the nearest place. Could we find somewhere for her that was safe and farther away and that would agree to take her? And finally there was the kid who ran away from home one night and was missing for several days.
On the surface, the kids seem to take things in stride. You won’t find them sitting around crying or sobbing or asking for a pity party. These ups and downs are just part of their life, things they have to overcome. Unfortunately, sometimes it is only later that we continue to see the lingering effects of all the trauma--the abandonment, the struggle for daily provision, the unstable circumstances that often come with living in extreme poverty. They are searching for a place to belong, someone to love them, and a sense of hope.
After an hour of all these stories, I felt exhausted...what exactly do we do? Naomi, smiled at me and said, “Don’t worry; this is January.” Having grown up in this environment, she understood it; she expected it. So we prayed, and we waited, and we did our best to act.
Here we are at the end of the month with some of the issues resolved, and some not. And more will continue to rise. But what I know is that our little center in the slums can continue to provide stability, love, and hope every day, no matter the circumstances swirling around. Still our doors will open; still our teachers will teach; still our kids will be fed. Sure, there will be days like today when the electricity is out, and we must sew and learn in the dark. There will be mornings where we can tell the mice ran in under the door overnight and destroyed the kitchen (no matter how many traps we tried to set or how much we tried to fill in the cracks). But still, we press on, insisting to let our light shine. Because Jesus helps us continue during the stormy seasons and the thriving ones, the triumph and the heartache. Maybe every year is not really about new beginnings. Maybe it’s about continuing through the old--choosing to keep fighting and keep going even when it’s hard. If that’s you too my friends, don’t give up. Our God is bigger than power outages and mouse poop. He finds us when we're lost and comforts us when we're lonely. He still reigns!