Since the first time that I heard the traditional beginning to all things Lasallian, “let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God” I was struck by how powerful the statement truly is. My experience in Kenya at our Twin schools has reinforced my belief beyond imagination.
At first glance, Kenya is a place full of underdevelopment, corruption, and poverty, a place where it is really difficult to believe that you are in the holy presence of God. And so I began my journey to answer the questions that immediately entered my mind: How could God be here? How can I find God in the slums of Kenya? Is God truly here in these schools? I have to admit that at first I was unsure that my questions would be answered, but I am now sure without a doubt that they have been.
Kenya is a place that authentically and zealously lives out the three pillars of the Institute; faith, service, and community. Right from the beginning of our experience here in the Lwanga District we were exposed to and taught about the most important elements of African culture. It was eye opening to walk through the streets and speak with people about their lives and their work, and their hope for the future. Hope is what keeps them going. Our Twin Schools are no different. Every administrator, teacher and student that I had the privilege to speak with talked about their hope for the future.
Time after time I was inspired by the mention of faith in God, and the gratitude that each person had in God for the opportunities that have been given to them. While walking through the slum of Kwinda, we came across a nursery school where the children spoke mostly Swahili. The teachers asked them to sing, and they began in English, “Jesus loves me this I know.” These children, between the ages of 1-3 had very little, but they knew that Jesus loves them. A large majority of the students that attend our schools have faced hardships in their lives that are unimaginable for many of us, and yet they are strong in their faith, and not afraid to express that they are Christians. Faith is what motivates them to succeed.
The students here in Kenya are appreciative of the gifts that they have been given and want to give back to others through acts of service. I was most touched by this when a student of Mwangaza College spoke to us about her horrific past and her struggle to give herself a future, and then finished by telling us how she tries to give to people less fortunate than she, even if it is one piece of clothing, or very few shillings. Service is what sets them apart and makes them shine.
One of the most touching things about African culture is their commitment to community. Most believe that we are to take care of one another, that no one is to be left on the outside. What little is had will be shared by many. I was able to witness community in action at my Twin School, St. Mary’s in Nyeri, Kenya. The boys encouraged even the youngest members of their school community during a talent performance, not laughing or making fun, but clapping, and cheering for their success. When speaking about their classmates, the boys often refer to them as brothers. The students at the Child Discovery Center (CDC) were immediately welcoming of us into their community. I was lead on a tour by a young girl named Jasmine, who was sure to know where I was at all times so she could watch and care for me. Community is the glue that holds them together.
From this experience I have overwhelmingly experienced the holy presence of God. God is here is the beautiful faces of the children. God is here in the smiling handshakes and the greeting of “Jambo!” I found God in the slums among the people who are so grateful for the things that they have. I was shown how much God is truly present in our schools, and it has been an honor to be able to do so.
I have always felt that I was fortunate for the experiences and opportunities that I have been given in my life, but my time and experiences in the Lwanga district have made me realize the true value of those things. Visiting Africa was something that I never thought that I would get to experience, and it has been something that will impact my life forever.
Live Jesus In Our Hearts!
We are blessed to be part of an Institute willing to do whatever it takes to serve those in need!