October 8, 2015
“A passport, some clean underwear and a heart for Jesus is all you really need,” said Ryan, the CARE for AIDS African Operations Director and our host for the week, smiling as our Impact Trip group was preparing to go on Safari after a whirlwind four days of being embedded with theCFA staff and clients in the beautiful country of Kenya.
The statement caused me to pause as I reflected on the preparation our team had done for the trip. We had numerous meetings, shared packing lists, gotten immunized for any possible dreaded disease, agonized over theperfect “hostess items” to take to the Village and agonized even more over our individual talks and testimonies. As we left the landscape of Cleveland behind, I prayed that while I knew I had done the physical preparation, it was only God who could move me beyond my preparation and use me and our team for His glory and purpose. My prayer was that in some small way I could personally be used by the Lord and feel His presence in a direct and different way.
God never disappoints. Each day in Kenya, as I was taken physically and emotionally out of my comfort zone, I was met by Jesus and witnessed Him in the beautiful faces of each person we met. At the CARE for AIDS staff meeting, we were privileged to worship with and hear the stories of the seventy who are God’s feet on the ground, who are educating those with HIV about how to handle the diagnosis and remove the stigma associated with it. In fact, it is often the first time the clients have heard how to properly take their meds and eat nutritiously so they can manage their health. The clients are empowered to become self-sufficient again as skills are taught so a wage can be earned, thus providing for basic needs and cultivating self-worth. Each client is shown community, love and acceptance, often for the first time since their lives were forever changed by the HIV diagnosis. And most importantly, each client hears about the loving, saving grace found only in Jesus Christ.
One day of the trip was spent visiting clients in their homes alongside a member of the CFA staff. As I was nervously anticipating the day ahead, a line from our group morning devotion stuck with me: “Just do for one what you wish you could do for all.” I prayed that God would give me the words to show His love and care to those we would meet that day.
As we trekked through the dusty, and uneven paths in the slum of Kiganjo, I immediately saw the joy and laughter in the faces of the children while they played with each other alongside the many goats on the way. In each home we entered, we heard a story of a life and family being restored because of practical help given, in the form of education and food from Care for Aids. We met many potential orphans who will continue to have a mother to raise them. I saw hope in the faces of the clients because they were being cared for both physically and spiritually.
It was in our fourth home visit of the day that I realized that no amount of my preparation was sufficient for what was to come. We entered Florence’s tiny home where we met her and her little son, Joshua, and learned from Ann, the CFA Health Counselor, that Florence was expecting and in her eighth month of pregnancy. Florence said in her very quiet voice that she was very uncomfortable and needed to go to the hospital to be checked, but she had waited because she didn’t want to miss the visit from the Americans.
It was obvious that she was in distress, but she insisted on telling us about her HIV journey and her gratitude for what CARE for AIDS had done for her. We prayed with her, presented gifts, exchanged hugs and went outside, leaving Ann inside to check her physical condition. When Ann came out after examining her, she told us that Florence was in labor and that a baby was coming! As Ann confidently and calmly made phone calls to get the CFA van to transport Florence and to find some family members, I asked if I could reenter the home to be with her.
There, I found Florence in active labor with contractions coming quickly. It was then I realized that God had put me in a situation for which I could have never prepared! In the twenty minutes that I spent with Florence, I tried to encourage her. I held her hands while wiping her brow with Purell wipes (which was all I had in my purse) and prayed for her. The CFA van arrived, and we got Florence and her son inside. I hugged her goodbye as tears flowed down my face. A few hours later, we learned from Ann that Florence had delivered a baby girl and that she had named her after me- Laurie.
Do for one what you wish you could do for all. I will be forever filled with gratitude because God allowed me to experience His presence in a powerful way in a village in Kenya. And, I am filled with gratitude because I got to witness lives literally being saved by CARE for AIDS. To God be the glory!
Post written by recent Impact Trip participant, Laurie Graham