Still…these are kids! The seating in the church are benches. These are simple wooden benches. No back rests—just a hard board. Way in the back of the church, there are several of those ubiqutious plastic lawn chairs found all over the world, and we as pastors have the same plastic chairs in front, so it is fine for my old back.
But those kids! When they are not singing and dancing down the isle, they are sitting like little cherubs on their bench. With their wide and bright eyes, they are as cute as baby owls sitting on a stump.
Perhaps I should explain the seating arrangement in the church. When my friends from Kenya read this, they may think that I giving too much attention to such a small detail, but when something is new, everything is so interesting.
The children are on the front benches—the youngest children on the very front bench. Seated on the benches behind them, the ages of the children seem to progressively become higher until they become the adolescents, then young adults, and finally the adults in the back—the women first, and then the men way in the back. The back of the church seems to be the preference of men all over the world.
I have never tried to count the people in the church, nor do I think I will be doing that, but I would not be surprised that in yesterday’s four hour church service, there were 150 people present. The small church was packed!
We as the pastors are seated, not in the front facing the congregation, but in chairs along one of the sides next to were the people come forward to recite verses, sing, dance, or do other things. We have a small table in front of us where we can place our things like our Bibles, and in my case, my lessons and my camera.
From my vantage point, I can observe the children who are sitting in the front benches very well, and I do not deny that their quiet attention, and their wide and attentive eyes observing everything, often completely captivates me.
Most of the children are orphans. Pastor Joel has a special heart for the orphans, as do all the people of the church. These are children who had been abandoned to live on the street. The parents may have died from HIV/AIDS, highland malaria, or some of the children had simply been abandoned by their parents, who cannot be found.
The church has taken them in. There is no outside help for this work. Despite the fact that it is a poor area and I think that all who attend the church must be quite poor themselves, they have opened their hearts to take these children in. They have given themselves to feed the orphans, to clothe them, to give them schooling, and to provide for them a place to sleep.
The places where they sleep are unbelievably small. There are eleven girls and ten boys (or maybe it was the other way around). The girls have a room in the house of the pastor, where the pastor’s wife is the matron of the girls—she is the one that takes care of their needs.
All these girls sleep on a set of bunk beds in a room that is perhaps measures ten feet by twelve feet. Well…not all the girls sleep on the beds. Since there is not room for everyone, they also spread a cloth on the dirt floor and a couple of the girls sleep there.
The boys have a similar situation in a separate building. They have two cots in an area that may be a little larger, but since they do not have a bunk bed, that extra space is filled with the second cot. There is a young man who is the patron of these boys.
When writing about the needs of people, I always try to guard against appealing to the emotions of those who read what I write. Appealing to emotion is the easy way, and it apparently works. That is why we see all the photos of wide-eyed small children with the caption, “Please help me.”
I am not doing that nor am I even asking for donations. My intentions are different. I know that there are many who are reading these words who will be asking me what I have found on my trip to Kenya, and this is what I have found.
I had to come to verify for myself that this pastor who contacted me more than one year ago to thank me for the sermons that I posted on my blog page (this same page), and with whom my relationship has grown over the months…I had to verify for myself if what he was telling me was true.
Every word was not only true, but he has even downplayed the actual condition of the lives of the orphans. When he wrote to me that the children had to go to bed with nothing to eat for the entire day, he was not telling me anything but fact. What he did not mention was that I am sure that he and his own family went to bed that night in the same situation.