Njoro Sunday – An Opportunity to Give Thanks for our Kenya Partnership

Here is a post from Rev. Beth Braxton on the NYAPC partnership with the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Ministry in Njoro, Kenya.  This message as preached on June 16, 2019.

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“God has done so much for me, that I cannot tell it all.” This is a chorus we learned in Swahili and English last summer on our church’s mission trip to Njoro, Kenya.

It is the background music in the eight-minute video put together by one of the participants, Kelvin Njoroge, a member of the Goshen International Church in Henrico County, a congregation that partners with us to care for thirty-three Orphan and Vulnerable Children.  (Goshen International is an immigrant church of persons from Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya)

On Sunday June 16, I indeed felt that there was so much of God’s grace to witness to that we could not tell it all.  The video which we showed at the end of the worship service (and may be seen on our church website), is a quick history of the 2018 mission trip to Njoro: who participated, what we did, what it meant, and where we stayed. The Minute for Mission was given by two members of the Steering Committee, John Clark who participated in the mission trip and Brian Carlson who desires to go on the 2020 upcoming trip; Brian and John did a question and answer time to give our congregation an idea of what a mission trip to Njoro is like.  There are many stories of this inspiring journey; and it is a challenge to tell it all.

For “Njoro Sunday” we chose the theme of Hope; OR rather – the lectionary scripture for the day Romans 5:1-5 chose us! The Saturday program of Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) is just such a place of Hope for the students (most of whom are youth ages 12 through 20 – no longer young children!) This year especially, participants are getting not just spiritual nurture, help with homework, nourishing cooked lunch – but also are participating in a small mentoring group, led by one of the adult members of the Njoro OVC Committee – including the church pastor and the social worker.

One student who stood out for us last summer was Matthew Mokoa, a thirteen year old in Class 8 (we would say eighth grade).  Several of us visited his home , a two-room rental (no electricity or indoor plumbing) where his single mom, brother and sister all reside.  His mother does casual labor (doing laundry, gardening for $2.00 per day) when she can get work.  What was noticeable about the rooms was starkness and the soot on the walls from the kerosene lamp and the cooking fire.  The mother showed us that the lamp did not work properly so they had no lamp at night.  I asked Francis Muchemi, chair of the OVC ministry, about what it would cost to get a new properly-functioning lantern.  He suggested getting a solar lamp, which cost Ksh 2,500. or about $25.00.  We left that amount and a solar lamp was then purchased for Matthew’s home.

Matthew along with everyone else in Class level 8 throughout the country of Kenya has to take a National Exam near completion – and result of that one set of exams determines where (and whether) one will go to high school – a local day school, a national boarding school, just a technical school or even dropping out of school.  Matthew scored high enough to qualify for a National School!  Here is what he wrote and I share with you from my sermon –a sign of hope.  

“ the programme (OVC) provided a Solar Lamp, which made me happy and more encouraged. I thanked God because now I had opportunity to study to my limits. I used to wake up early to study. I was happy because the Lamp had no negative effect, like the other on, which I used to use. That one produced a lot of smoke which made me cough every time. When I got the Solar Lamp, I thanked the member. Then I had hope of passing my (national) exam.

I studied until the last minute. The day of Exam came. I did my best to achieve what I desired. I completed the exams( ended)  and I patiently waited for the results. When the results came I was happy because I persevered to score 379 marks out of 500. This result enabled me to have hope of joining a National school. I really thank God because if it were not for the Solar Lamp I don’t know what I would have scored in the exams.  After some weeks passed, I was glad because I got an invitation letter to a National school by the name Baricho Boys’ High School.  … I thanked God because the school had everything that I had desired for – when I was at home! The school had enough waters. I was happy of that, because the water was throughout. So I had no excuse of not washing my clothes. The school also has electricity throughout. Now I can read any time.  This school also has clean and healthful environment. Flowers and trees are planted all over the school (property) to ensure that there is enough aeration of air in the compound. There are CCTV (security cameras) ensuring security every time (all the time). The school also has improved equipment – e.g., computers, musical instruments and many other.

In reading materials, the school is rich in books and any other required material. So I have no reason why I should fail…. It has enough dormitories for every student has his own bed. The dorms are also well aerated (ventilated) and there are Inner bathrooms… The school is also the best in balanced diet. It provides different kinds of all types. I am pleased because some of the foods I have never seen them in my lifetime. I really thank the OVC programme for such a wonderful deed to me.

Hope is a solar lamp! 

Njoro Sunday is a gift and an opportunity to present to the congregation a connect with this engaging and inspiring ministry through testimony, photos, music, arts and craft, and a taste of mandazis and samosas from Kenya.  Thank you, church!

It is such a gift to be a part of NYAPC and connect with the justice issues of Washington, DC, through Radcliffe Room, Community Club, McClendon Center, 7 2 9. Scholars –in-Residence, and now the Day Service Center!  It is a gift as well to be able to connect relationally with persons in our Cuba Partnership and in a developing country such as Kenya, East Africa. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa membership of four million to five million is 10 percent of the country’s population! In Kenya, the Presbyterian Church is strong and growing.  Evidence for me – in the seven years I have been at the NYAPC and providing leadership to three mission trips to Njoro, the parish has expanded into three congregations! Their faith is contagious and encouraging and hopeful for all of us.  

The apostle Paul’s words are powerful: “Hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.”

Let me say it this way as I did in my sermon on Njoro Sunday — Because our transcendent creator God who put the planets in their courses, unique fingerprints on all 5 billion people on this earth, and the brilliant color in the butterfly wings and the immanent God who came to us in the human being Jesus who wept for Jerusalem and washed his friends feet and cared for the bent-over woman, spoke truth to power – this God, this transcendent immanent God, this magnificent embracing God of love has been poured into our hearts!! 

And Because of that powerful love, Hope will NOT disappoint us!  It is the fiber of our being that can help us make a better world and give us all the grace we need to enjoy it!! 

Living that love is life!

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