08 October 2011

A Convoy of Hope

It has been quite a while since my last post, so I decided it was time for an update. I've had some pretty amazing "Kenyan" experiences in the last few weeks, so let me fill you in on one of them.

Last weekend I was able to participate in a food distribution and famine relief trip in the northeastern province of Kenya. A friend and fellow teacher here at Rosslyn, Jamie Dunning, has already written some great stuff about this trip on his blog, so let me allow him to give you some background information on this trip:

"The drought in East Africa, affecting Northern Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, is the worst in 60 years and has led to the worst food crisis in the world. 13 million people across the region have been affected and thousands have already lost their lives. Dadaab, a refugee camp in North Eastern Kenya, is now occupied with over 400,000 refugees seeking food and water, with 1,200 more people arriving every day...

This past weekend [we] joined a group of volunteers from International Christian Fellowship and Convoy of Hope to travel to a small village of Sombo, just south of Garissa, to deliver much needed food aid. The village of Sombo is made up of a combination of Somali and Watu people that have migrated from Somalia over the years. This area is desert and has not received rain in over 2 years. The results have been devastating. A common sight in the area is to see people digging in a dried river bed in search of water. People are dying every day. Even the camels have sagging humps and are thin. Our mission was to deliver food to between 300-400 people, enough to last each family a week or so. When we arrived in Sombo we were welcomed by the people with traditional songs and dances. They were overjoyed at the prospect of receiving food."

Jamie and a group of others had traveled to Sombo on Friday, then a group of us were able to take a Mission Aviation Fellowship plane up to join them on Saturday morning. They met us at the airstrip in Garissa, then we took a fun, off-road trip down a camel trail to reach Sombo. As Jamie wrote, the villagers were excited to greet us. Being a predominantly Muslim region, it was interesting to see how the groups of men and women were separate for most of the time we were there. We took some time to greet them and play with the children before we began to distribute the food.

As I looked around this dry desert region, it was just hard for me to imagine that anyone lived, or even survived, in this area at all. Not a drop of water to be seen (the closest source is the crocodile-infested Tana River). It was SO hot, and there was NOTHING around except some small huts, dried branches, and people. I don't even understand how they get clothes! WHERE do they get them, first of all, and how on earth do they earn any income at all in order to purchase the clothes, or the cloth to make them? I simply cannot fathom a lifetime that consists of that day in and day out without any real hope for anything to change.

There ARE small changes, though, that are making a difference. Kenyan pastor David Maina is working in Sombo. He has helped start a Christian school where Muslim children are attending every day and learning of the truth of Jesus Christ. A solar-powered water pump and tower have just been installed to help provide fresh water to the community. Bryan Burr, who is actually the father of one of my students, is a missionary with Convoy of Hope (yes, I borrowed their name for the title of this post), and he travels around to places like this in Kenya all of the time. Bryan and others like him ARE helping to offer hope in places where it seems like there isn't any. For a video update on what Bran and Convoy of Hope are doing in East Africa, check out this video:

Africa Famine Update from Convoy of Hope on Vimeo.

Now for the coolest part of this trip! A team from the U.S. had been here a few weeks before our trip to Sombo to assemble food packets to hand out to families. They had made 400 packages, more than twice the amount that the elders of the village had told Brian we would need. That morning, one of the men who was helping to coordinate the distribution counted the bags again to make sure all 400 were there. 400. As families arrived to receive their donations, we began to worry that there wouldn't be enough. What would happen then? How bad would it be to have to turn families away? Would there be a mob scene if that happened? These people were starving and desperate, and who could blame them if they got upset? So some of us began to pray. We didn't even really talk about it, but from conversations I've had since then, I know there were at least a few prayers being offered for there to be enough. There was. The last people went through the line, then quietly, people went home. It wasn't until Monday that we found out what really happened. Remember that there were 400 food packages assembled? Well, we handed out 450 that day. And no one went home without. 450. There's only one was to explain that! Jehovah Jireh, The Lord Who Provides, was at work that day.

As I think about the land that I saw last weekend, one verse in particular comes to mind, Psalm 63:1 :

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."

That was a dry and weary land if I've ever seen one, and let me tell you, I was THIRSTY! But this verse reminds me that, more than water, I need--people need--the life and rest that can only come from our Heavenly Father. As much as I hope and pray that the people in these famine lands receive food and water to keep them alive, even more I hope that these people come to know Jesus. Please pray for the people of Somalia, Ethiopia, and northern Kenya who are fighting to keep their families alive. Besides praying, find a way to help. It doesn't take much, and you never know what God will use to bring people to Him!

If you would like to contribute to famine relief through Convoy of Hope, visit https://donate.convoyofhope.org/sslpage.aspx

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