From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Saving the children

From News Service <newsservice@CTR.PCUSA.ORG>
Date Tue, 27 Feb 2007 11:29:12 -0500

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07085 February 12, 2007

Saving the children

A PC(USA) missionary letter from Kenya

by Lauren Scharstein PC(USA) young adult volunteer

ICACIRI, Kenya - My school reopened on January 8, so I am back to the day-to-day routine of teaching, coaching soccer, and living in rural Kenya.

When it was time to leave Nairobi, I wondered whether or not it would be difficult to readjust to life at Icaciri and whether people would be happy about our return. The readjustment could not have been any easier. We were welcomed with open arms and enormous smiles, with lots of shouting in Kikuyu and hearty handshakes by everyone in the community.

It is quite refreshing to be back in a place that I love and feel loved by so many people, to be back in a place where I wake up to sunshine and children laughing instead of car alarms and shouting. I feel more at peace here than ever before, like our return has made us even more a part of this place and these people. Our first week back was filled not only with classes, but every afternoon we had a different home to visit, and every time we left full of mukimu, ndoma, or some other Kikuyu dish.

Upon our return, we were greeted by Njeri, the daughter of our school's secretary, and her younger brother Njau, who informed us that all of the children were wondering where we had been and why we were gone for so long. Njeri is a good ally to have because she also let us know that they refer to Kari (Martelli, a young adult volunteer from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) and me as "the tall mthongo" and "the short mthongo" in Kikuyu, and that they are not really sure we are human because they think our skin is the color of pigs!

Gatundu Children's Home

The newest part of my routine here involves Gatundu Children's Home. Kari and I are volunteering there each Saturday, and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of the week. Every time that we go, we are greeted with laughter and hugs. We play and dance; we eat sukuma wiki and ugali and then help clean the compound. The kids spend so much time just petting our hair because they think it is "so soft" and that theirs feels like steel wool.

Gatundu Children's Home houses 43 children from the Gatundu area who have been orphaned by AIDS or poverty and who have nowhere else to go. They are children whose relatives, the people in traditional African society who would care for them, have abused and mistreated them. Florence, the manager of the home, visits each child before they are taken, and accepts only the most desperate cases.

There is Mary Wambui, a skinny 8-year-old whose 70-year-old grandfather was discovered to be abusing her before she was taken at the age of 6.

There is Ester Wainana, a light-skinned girl of 16 who is mentally retarded. She cannot understand how to put on pants (she puts both legs in one hole) and who was sexually abused by every man who passed through the home of her aunt and uncle because she could not tell.

There are Micheal and Patrick, brothers who were taken from a market in Kikuyu town where they lived with their mother and her "customers."

There are twin boys, Njoroge and Muthoni, who are 5 years old, who wrestle and fight like any kindergarteners.

There is Kamau who can climb to the top of a mango tree quicker than a monkey.

There is Njambi, who just finished Kenya High School, one of the best national secondary schools in Kenya; she wants to go to university and study pharmacy once she gets her KCSE results.

There are Susan, Naomi, Jane, Simon, Mbari, 43 children who have a home, who have food to eat, and a chance to go to school because Florence and all of the people, local and foreign, support them.

On our first visit, Florence explained to us why she works as hard as she does, and why she knows that this is where the Lord has called her to work, even though she turned down the job at first. Now when the Lord asks her "Where were you when I was hungry? When I was lonely? When I was sexually abused?" she will have an answer.

When I look at the children here and think about the pain that has marked their young lives, I realize anew that the battle against AIDS, poverty, and injustice is one that we must all fight. Because one of us is affected, we are all affected. Whether we have skin the color of pigs or hair like steel wool, we are all human. When one of us suffers, we all suffer; when one of us, even the smallest child, is abused, we all feel the pain. When one person is degraded, we all feel the shame because we are all human beings.

God poured out His grace on the world in the form of Jesus Christ, and in doing so, he offered us joy and freedom, yet there can be no real joy, no real freedom for anyone, unless there is joy and freedom for all.

Information about and letters from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission workers throughout the world are available on the Mission Connections Web site (


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