Holly Kehlenbeck visited Kenya for the first time last September. She shares her thoughts on the Mulango Children’s Home.
Our first day at the Mulango Children’s Home was certainly one to be remembered. After our more than memorable courtyard greeting, the home’s manager Festus, along with several staff members, led us on a full-scale tour of the property. We explored the rich smells of the kitchen and watched as Joseph, the home’s head cook, stood over the wood cooker preparing the next meal. Now that’s work, people. Daily preparing three meals for over 150 children and staff members. Neatly stacked bags of rice and grain sat in one corner, while fresh lettuce and eggs adorned the other.
I remember being led into one of the large dorm rooms that housed a number of the younger boys. I took in the neatly made bunk beds, a bright blue mosquito net hovering above each one. The cool Kenyan breeze fluttered a thin curtain over the window. I noticed that shelves against a nearby wall held a number of small wooden boxes. Festus explained that each child owned one and used it to store his or her personal belongings. A small wooden box. A box containing all of the possessions they had in this world. Phew…Lord, give me a heart of contentment. Let me not freak out when the wifi is slow or I’m sitting in traffic or heaven forbid the waitress got my order wrong. Give me joy in the little things and the things that matter. I loved that one of the boxes had the words DON’T TOUCH scribbled in big letters. So natural and childlike.
We were able to see where the dorm mothers lived during the week, the small library housing as many books as it could handle, the washrooms, as well as the outdoor grounds complete with chickens and goats. After the tour was finished, we moved into the Dining Hall where the children performed numerous welcome songs, dances and speeches. I could try to describe for you what a chorus of over one hundred excited Kenyan children sound like chanting, clapping and singing at the top of their lungs, but I suggest you find out for yourself. We also stood before the staff and children as a team and introduced ourselves. There were even a couple male members of our team who attempted their own version of a Kenyan welcome dance (key word: attempted.) It was a good effort, boys.
We loved spending the rest of the afternoon and evening conversing and spending time with the children and staff. After all, you can’t build relationships easily from across the world. We were here…with the people we had all prayed for and sponsored for years. In some ways it felt surreal, but what a blessing. It was incredible to look into their faces and be reminded that they are people, just like us. People with problems, joys, heartaches. I remember having a conversation with one of the female staff members about some of the struggles she and I had both faced in early motherhood. We understood each other. Maybe our upbringings varied, and maybe the countries in which we lived were different, but we connected…as people made in God’s image and loved by Him. It was a strong moment for me.
After a good night’s sleep at the guest houses nearby, our team woke up the next morning excited for the day’s events. Since the Olympics had just concluded a few weeks prior, we had planned a day full of Olympic events for the kids. We all met in the Dining Hall to divide the children up into four different teams. Each team represented a country – Kenya, England, Brazil, and the United States. We had fun with the Opening Ceremonies…we presented each team with a large team flag, a homemade Olympic torch (shout out to Kelly Cornell), played the Olympic theme song, and sang (well, they did) the Kenya National Anthem. We then trekked down a rocky dirt road and through town to a large schoolyard field.
First, warm up time. The children jumped, stretched and laughed in anticipation. Festus and other staff members had organized the competition into over twenty separate running events. Oh man, could these kiddos run! And BAREFOOT, no less. Race after race they sped along the white chalkdust track around the perimeter of the field. When they weren’t racing, we were able to goof off with the kids, ask them questions, take pictures and continue to deepen relationships. After countless gold, silver and bronze medals had been given out, we all relaxed and celebrated with a special treat for the kids…glass bottles of soda, with orange Fanta the clear favorite.
As we wrapped up our Saturday later that evening, the team spent time together conversing about the details of the day. It’s always interesting how the Lord can reveal Himself in different ways to people sharing the same experience. What was clear is that He had handpicked each team member to be in this place at this time. We set out to be a blessing, but what an extraordinary blessing our Kenyan friends had been to US so far. I couldn’t wait to worship our same Lord and Father the next day with our fellow African brothers and sisters.