” They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mt. 10: 46-47
Those who sat at the side of the road in Jesus’ time were the castaways, the unwanted, the undesirable people who did not belong or fit into the mainstream of society. Much of Jesus’ ministry was to people on the side of the road, those who were marginalized and stigmatized by poverty, disease, physical or emotional impairments. Throughout the gospel, Jesus always stops to see the people on the side of the road. They are important to Jesus. They are the reason he came with the Good News that God’s love extends to everyone, especially to those on the roadsides.
Today we visited Ukweli Home of Hope operated by the Little Sisters of St. Francis of St. Francis of Assisi on a farm in rural Nairobi. The home provides a safe shelter for about 125 kids from age 5 upwards who were formerly homeless. It is estimated that Nairobi has over 300,000 children living on its streets. Some of the kids shared their stories of street life, drugs, and the fear of exploitation on the streets and how they came to live at Ukweli. Many suffered from drug addiction. Most of these boys were either abandoned by their families or are runaways who are victims of abuse, extreme poverty and lack of education. Ukweli provides a loving and nurturing environment in which each boy can experience God’s love through the hands and hearts of their caregivers.
You might think this is very depressing and disturbing but every one of these boys feels that that now have a family and someone cares about them. They all attend primary or secondary schools to receive an education that will expand their horizons and help them dream about a life that has promise, a future that is hopeful. Ukweli Home of Hope is dedicated to seeing the kids at the side of the road and, like Jesus, welcoming them home.
On Sunday, as the other members of our missionary disciples team leave for home, I will go to Ukweli to spend 10 days as a volunteer. Ukweli may not have internet service so I may be unable to blog from there, but I will keep writing my reflections and upload them to my WordPress blog as soon as I can connect to the internet. If you have been following my blog, keep checking for updates. More to follow.
Until then, may the peace, Amani( in Swahili) of Christ be with you.
The Ukweli Kids