By Lois Carr
My shocking introduction to serving poor families in Kenya was by volunteering at a cramped three-room pre-school where I cleaned and dressed festering wounds and tried to stress the importance of hand-washing where there was no running water. Children infected with AIDS, burned by open cook fires or born with physical deformities had little hope of receiving support. Life in the slums, with its poverty, crime and running sewage, was the place for which God had prepared me. He had aroused in my teenaged heart a pity for the sick, and he led our young family of four as missionaries to East Africa when I was in my 20’s. Not until my mid-forties, after being discipled in compassion and mercy by African women, did he allow me the privilege to meld those two passions into one vocation.
Mismanagement at that school forced me to leave and give birth to a new ministry, Kianga Kids, working in partnership with churches of our denomination for oversight and accountability. Pastor Julius and his wife Mary run a church nursery school for 100 happy, active little people in another slum. They welcomed a program that would monitor the students’ growth and teach parents to prevent illness and manage common health problems in their young ones. In this way, Kianga Kids became a tool to support Julius’s fledgling church in loving their community for Christ.
In the past decade, Kianga Kids has expanded to seven partnerships with local congregations using the successful model of Julius’s school. These are in urban settlements as well as rural villages around the country where broken families are struggling to survive hunger, addiction and tribal clashes – all common to life in a developing nation.
A Kenyan community health worker manages the project and trains the school staffs in my absence. A growing crafts business based in Fort Washington markets the handmade items of pastors’ wives, vulnerable women and local artisans as a way of funding the healthcare ministry.
In the Swahili language, the word ‘kianga’ refers to the rays of the sun breaking through the clouds to brighten the sky after a storm. My vision for Kianga Kids is for many more churches to be rays of hope for hurting families through children’s healthcare so that they will know Christ as the healer and restorer of abundant life.