This summer 14 Candler students are serving in ministry through Candler Advantage, a paid summer internship in conjunction with Candler’s Contextual Education Program. Over the course of the summer many of these students will be sharing their experiences here on the blog.
“We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free.” Romans 8:25-26.
You know that scene in The Sound of Music when Maria Von Trapp leaves the convent for the first time and bursts into the song, “I Have Confidence”? That’s kind of been my life lately—minus the tacky tweed outfit and hat. From the moment I boarded the plane to Nairobi until now, I have had to silence this quiet, anxious voice inside me that says, “You really don’t know what you’re doing- do you?” I hate that voice. It’s so lonely! With that voice, all of my successes and failures become mine and mine alone. But this past month, when I shush that voice inside me and listen, really listen to the Spirit move and work around me, I realize that I am far from alone. It’s the stories and people around me that give me confidence that God really is at work through God’s people and if look closely, you can see it right in front of you.
This summer, through Candler Advantage, I have the opportunity to work at New Life Home Trust in Kenya. New Life Homes has six homes across Kenya that provides care and support for abandoned and orphaned children. New Life has been a part of my life since 2004, when my parents adopted my youngest brother and sister there. Over the years, I have gotten to watch sickly, malnourished infants grow into healthy, happy family members. Most of the children at the homes are adopted into Kenyan families. But, there are 25 children who are in two family-style homes that have not been adopted due to special needs. Though the majority of these children are HIV positive, some have been diagnosed with other developmental or behavioral disorders. Over the years, only a handful of these children have been adopted.
Before I arrived, I tried to put together the perfect religious education curriculum that would take care of everything—feelings of loss and abandonment, Anti-retro viral adherence, self-love and acceptance, etc. Here is an exaggerated example, “Class 1 Theme-Parents; Goal-Help kids understand that God is a father and a mother. So, even if they never are adopted by parents, they will feel loved by God.” Pretty lofty goal for one Saturday afternoon, eh? It should come as no surprise that my first few classes were relative failures. Fortunately, those experiences have forced me to listen and watch those around me. “Pole, pole” (slowly slowly in Swahili), I am realizing that what I am part of is a process that began long before I came here and will continue long after I leave. In the meantime, being a part of this community has made me watch the Spirit groan, but it has also let me watch the Spirit dance in the lives of these children and their caregivers. There’s a Kenyan proverb that reads, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’m realizing lately just how far you can go, together.