In July, just a few weeks ago, three college students and eight adults from Indiana—myself included—took a trip to Kenya, almost 8,000 miles away from Indianapolis. After a two-day long journey from Indy, via Charlotte, then via London, we finally arrived in Nairobi, Kenya. A short night stay in Nairobi gave us a chance to shower, get brief sleep, and scarf down a to-go breakfast box, then we climbed on a vehicle to a four-hour trek westward to a Maasai tribal village; they are a semi nomadic people who live in the midst of cattle, goats, elephants, giraffes, gazelle, cheetah, lions, and sundry other untamed animals. We picked up a few Swahili words such as Jambo (hello) and Karibu (welcome) for fun interaction with people there.
In Indiana I have encountered many wild animals such as bald eagles and wild turkeys and still marvel at God’s creation each time I see them. But while traveling in Kenya, over mostly unpaved, rough, rocky roads, I saw a different landscape of God’s creation—beautiful mountains stretched like a canopy of God’s kingdom under which all types of creatures inhabit. Our eyes and mouths wide open, with awe and wonder, we enjoyed what Kenya has to offer: natural beauty, pleasant weather, wild animals, vast savannah, and most of all, beautiful people.
We gained a sense of awe and appreciation of the people in Kenya. That said, in spite of the beautiful landscape the country has to offer and its wonderful people, Kenya as a country faces serious issues, such as economic and political challenges, lack of basic infrastructure like decent roads and clean water, and there are millions of people are eking out meager livings in slums in Nairobi.
We trekked another four- hour plus trip on unpaved roads to Kisii County to visit the Amani Medical Clinic, which was established by Rev. Lynn Renee (retired Deacon from INUMC) and her friends from Aldersgate UMC in Evansville 17 years ago. It is the only medical clinic in the area, serving the whole county. Amani Medical Clinic is packed daily with people needing eye, dental, and other general medical services. We met Dr. Mike who took a summer off from his work in Wisconsin, providing care to many patients with eye-related diseases. Dr. Frank, the chief eye doctor in Kisii County Hospital, volunteers weekly at the Amani Clinic and spends time with our college students, sharing many challenges the country is facing, from substance abuse to various social ills. Several Aldersgate UMC members from Evansville were there giving of their time and services when we visited. It is a huge mission field wide open for those who wish to partner with God by giving and receiving riches together in Christ.
God’s love is so deep and powerful: we also visited Green Hill School in Amani, located close to the Clinic. It is a school for 120 children aged from kindergarten to fifth grade. We were informed that many children go to school with no meals and often fall asleep in the arms of older children due to lack of energy. The teachers and children welcomed us with their arms wide open: we played, planted fruit trees together, and visited their homes. Their homes were small, chiefly mud huts, and many are a good three or four miles walking distance from the school, on paths between corn stalks and tea farms, on a 70 plus degree steep hill, over 6,800 to 7,000 ft above sea level. The young children as young as five years old walk to school arriving at 6:30 a.m. and stay through 4 p.m. daily. No public utilities such as clean water and sewer systems were available, neither at the school nor their individual homes. They mostly rely on rainwater for daily needs. Parents have many aspirations to support their children’s education and health needs. One of the most memorable experiences was children showcasing their lessons with us by reciting poems, presenting songs, and bible verses in joy and laughter. Of course, we all fell in love with them instantly, which made our parting very difficult.
Our schedule was rather unusual: superintendents from both Indiana and Kenya hosted a two day long revival service in an open air, public space, on the police station property, for anyone to join. The police chief welcomed us and our revival services warmly. Choirs of local Kenyan UMC churches provided music and dance; it was a true revival service attracting locals, both children and adults. We sang, danced, and enjoyed the open air celebrations with the locals, and God was in our midst with His spirit warming the crowd. Each day was packed with activities. We were tired at the end of the days, yet it was the best kind of tiredness which left us with a glow in our hearts, a sense of joy, united and connected in spirit—truly God moments.
During this trip, I experienced that God has a universal reach and opens many doors to introduce His family who lives on the other side of the planet, who yearns to connect with us, to partner with us, who wants to meet our Lord, Jesus Christ, to experience God’s saving grace and His resurrection life together. The best part of the trip was God renewing our spirits. We recovered our sense of awe and gratitude in God, and reclaimed joy that comes from meeting God’s family on the other side of the world. Another lesson I relearned is that I confess that Jesus is my Lord and know that He loves me. Watching the children play, I saw they knew the heavenly King loves them deeply, and they completely trust God to provide all their needs (Deuteronomy 10:18). No purse of gold but food, clothing, love, and joy.
A thousand words of mine will not be adequate to explain how the Spirit of God moved us together on this trip. We were glad to be part of the United Methodist Church that reaches out to people all over the world for the sake of Christ, regardless of socio-economic conditions, nor of race nor any status whatsoever. I am reminded of John Wesley’s teaching: “Let no one rest in any supposed testimony of the Spirit which is separate from its fruits from love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, generosity and self control.” He further stated: “Let no one rest in any supposed fruit of the Spirit without the witness. A man may display certain moral virtues, but he must hear the divine voice within his soul and know by experience that he is a child of God.”
We are so lucky to be part of INUMC, traveling together, visiting communities on the other side of the ocean shore, and becoming impromptu ambassadors of Christ. I am grateful to my colleague Conference Superintendent Rev. Dr. Saneta Maiko who coordinated the event. It was good to have him, originally from Kisii County, Kenya, and to meet his family (who fed us homemade delicious lunches). He has scheduled another trip in July 2024. If you are able, please sign up as God’s mission field in Kenya is wide open. A thousand words cannot do justice to the work of the Spirit stirring up and reordering my priorities on that trip to Africa. God is great!
Gathering in the sanctuary of a UMC in Nairobi, Kenya
Serving in Christ,
In Suk Peebles
Superintendent, Southeast District
Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church