“I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11
As I prepare for my sojourn home, I leave some of my heart here with the people of East Africa. It is a miracle that a person can leave his or her native land, travel thousands of miles across the sea to a strange land and, after a brief time, discover we are not strangers, just friends who have not yet met.
In my last few days here, I was joyously welcomed by the boys living at Ukweli Home of Hope. The boys, ranging in age from six to twenty-two, had been living on the streets of Nairobi before finding refuge in this house. Each of the boys has their own story of life on the streets but fear, drugs, victimization and lack of love are common experiences. Ukweli , run by the Little Sisters of St. Francis, rescued these children from the pit of destruction and broth them new life, hope and love. The boys, many of whom have no family or families that cannot provide for their needs, consider each other family.
The children welcomed me with open arms, I shared their daily routine which is quite rigorous. On school days, the kids get up between 4 am and 5 am. They do morning chores, homework and dress for school. Breakfast is a cup of porridge or some white bread and tea. The bus picks them up for school but often runs late breaking down or getting stuck in the mud on the rough, dirt roads full of potholes the size of craters, Returning home around 5 pm, the boys hand wash their uniforms to dry in the warm sun, complete more chores and do homework before a simple supper.
I brought some red clown noses for the kids. I found that red noses elicit the most fundamental joy from anyone willing to put them on and that includes adults who are not embarrassed to let their hair down and experience child-like joy and wonder again. Joy broke out as the kids and their adult helpers put on the red noses. For a moment, we all forgot the dire poverty, the harsh life on the streets, the injustice that underlies such conditions and experienced the pure joy of being children of God. For a moment we experienced in some measure the reign of God and Jesus parting words to his disciples that “their joy might be complete” came alive.
Below are some pictures of the boys at Ukweli with the noses. As you can see, they figured out some creative ways to wear them. I will have more reflections for my blog over the next few weeks as I chew on this journey of missionary discipleship.