Building Connections in Kenya

Sarah Fishbien first started talking to me about Rehema Home orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, when I was working with TRUE Mentors. Sarah had been working with them for years and told me all about the beautiful children who lived there and about the way God was using Ruth and Irv Schwandt, the couple who run the orphanage, to love the 63 children they had taken in and called their own. Our first idea wasn’t to go to Kenya, but simply to connect our TRUE Mentors children with the Rehema Home children to create greater awareness for both groups about the other.

TRUE Mentors kids received letters and pictures from the children in Rehema and in turn sent cards and pictures as well. Our hope for building connection grew when the TRUE Mentors children wanted to raise money to help support their friends in Kenya. We created a T-shirt design competition for the children and worked with a local company to produce shirts to sell. One of our leader’s businesses got involved and not only matched our funds for raising the money, but also purchased a shirt for each child at Rehema Home.

When Hoboken Grace began to expand their love globally through mission trips, it seemed right to propose a trip to Rehema Home to continue building relationships. The church agreed, and we had a small group of amazing people sign on. Having never been to Kenya, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen the pictures and heard some of Sarah’s stories about the children coming from the slums of Nairobi, but it was still a big unknown.

During our trip, my heart wasn’t ready for the love the children exude. They are amazing, happy, well-adjusted, well-behaved and clearly very loved. They just wanted to love you, know you and spend time with you. I thought I would be the one to go and give, but my time with them proved I received so much more. I was able to connect with several of the children one-on-one and even after leaving, build a mentorship via email with one of the older boys who is interested in the same line of work that I do.

We’ve been back a second time, and the relationships continue to build and expand to new team members and new church members. Many from Hoboken Grace have begun to sponsor children at Rehema and connect with them one-on-one. Last year, Unilever made a large donation of products because one of the generous women in my dinner group wanted to get involved but couldn’t make it on the trip. And more companies with connections to Hoboken Grace members are getting involved in supporting the orphanage.

The third trip (Sept 30-Oct 15) and our informational fundraiser (July 14, at 7 p.m. at the Pilsener Haus & Biergarten) are coming up. We are very excited to see how the mission for loving these beautiful children in Kenya is going to continue to evolve. During the trip, we will be building a house for the children who are aging out of the orphanage. Some came in as babies and now are starting to turn 17, 18 and 19. God has helped raise money for a transitional home, and we are going to help with some of the construction of the house, called “The Bridge.”

To find out more information about Hoboken Grace’s trip to Kenya, email Anthony at anthony@hobokengrace.com.

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