A Chance to Catch a Rising Star
In the world of humanitarian aid, sadly, the dignity and incentive of those who need our help is often inadvertently crushed, while irresponsibility, dependency and corruption are bred. Over the years, we’ve learned it is never wise to do for others what they can do for themselves. The best gifts we can give to the poor are opportunities—in the form of education, tools and even loans—that give them a chance to lift themselves by their own efforts.
For those reasons, it is always encouraging to find folks who, despite their deep poverty, aren’t waiting around for help, but who are doing their best with what they have. Last month in a rural region of Kenya, I met some of those kinds of folks. Mostly subsistence farmers, they are a relatively new group of disciples of Jesus who are the fruit of an indigenous house church-planting movement. I visited them with American missionary Glenn Rosebery, who is the original human catalyst behind what has grown to be 13 house churches in a region ravaged by AIDS.
The spiritual leaders and members of those house churches—who are so poor they must hike every day to gather their water from seasonal streams—decided that their children’s education was so important they should start their own Christian pre-school/kindergarten. The plan was to also use their school as a practical outreach to unbelievers.
In Kenya, primary school begins with 1st grade, and 1st graders must be at least 7 years old. But many rural children, when taking the mandatory 1st-grade assessment, are deemed unready, and entry into school can be delayed for years. So the Kenyan government is encouraging parents to enroll their children in private preschools and kindergartens so they are ready to enter 1st grade by age 7. And that explains at least part of the motivation of the house-church parents.
One of them, a new believer, donated a little plot of land, and parents banded together to build a 3-room schoolhouse. They did the best they could, constructing the windowless walls with mud reinforced by sticks. The floors are dirt. There are no desks, pencils or schoolbooks. Some parents began volunteering their time to teach the 98 tiny students—children of local believers and unbelievers alike—ages 3 through 6. A neighbor’s outhouse serves all of those children. But everyone is proud of their new school, which they’ve named Rising Star.
The Kenyan educational authorities have encouraged the community’s sincere effort, but informed them that their upstart school is below official standards. Schools can’t be made of mud and sticks. Floors cannot be dirt. Classrooms must have window openings for ventilation and light. Simple desks and learning materials are required. Teachers need some training and be certified. Adequate water and sanitation must be provided. All reasonable requirements.
All of this gives our Education Ministry an opportunity to invest in a home-grown effort that is not only providing educational opportunities for children, but that is also being used as an evangelistic bridge to reach the lost. Through our Food Ministry, we’re already providing some daily nourishment for all the students, but there are many other ways that we can partner with these very poor Christian families to help Rising Star reach its full potential.
We could invest as much as $20,000 from our Education Ministry if the Lord provides it. However, if the school is unable to bring their building up to basic code, train and certify their teachers, provide desks, books and safe water for the students, then the government will be shutting them down, extinguishing this gleaming opportunity for the children to rise up out of their grinding poverty and experience a brighter future in the Lord. Please help if you can.
We’ve put together an online slideshow of more of my photos, along with captions, that will give you a better idea of what life is like for the families we want to help. If you would like to invest in our Education Ministry and this project, please give below. Don’t think that any gift is too small or too large. God will, of course, bless you, and you’ll be laying up treasure in heaven.
On behalf of those who will surely thank you in heaven,