Sandy with some of the children from the Makarios Children's Home in Nyeri.
The following is an excerpt from a reflection written by past OCMC Mission Team member Sandy Sipp. Sandy and her daughter, Ella (12 years old), went on the OCMC team to the Makarios Children's Home in Nyeri, Kenya, earlier this year (2016). Sandy reflects on a couple of stories about the people she encountered during her time at the children's home:
There is a devout man from the Congo who came to Orthodoxy on his own from reading and studying books on church history, who is in charge of the Children’s Home. He is a mighty advocate for the kids and will often spend his free time trying to find the extended family of the kids who live at the home currently or searching the streets for children who need a home now. He told us many tales about the children residing at the home that were troubling. From a young girl who bears the scars of her stepfather’s attempt to burn her alive simply because he didn’t want her anymore, to another child whose body stopped growing thanks to HIV, it’s obvious that he cares deeply and hurts alongside the kids who need his influence (they call him “Dad”). He is desperately trying to think of ways to make the school self-sustaining and gave us each a bracelet made by the kids that he hopes to maybe one day sell in America.
Ella, my daughter, befriended many, but bonded with two girls with troubling stories during the week. There was a beautiful and intelligent girl with severe scoliosis, and another young girl who was left forever changed thanks to untreated malaria, who would hold Ella’s hands to and from our different classes and breaks. One of these girls wrote Ella an eloquent letter thanking her for her friendship and love and gave her a plaque reused from her middle school graduation. Both girls were unwanted due to their ailments but are strong and love God. The relationship Ella formed with these two girls was precious and left Ella sad to leave them.
My most treasured relationship was made with a little guy who, during most of the week, made it known that he did not want to be present, and absolutely would not participate in the crafts or lessons we were giving. I spoke with a staff member who said that the little boy was recently pulled from the streets and wasn’t happy about losing his freedom and being forced to do school. One day I was reading to the kids about the saints when I felt my hair suddenly being braided by many hands. I kept reading and let what I thought were many girls continue to braid. After the story, I turned around and was surprised to find that it was a group of boys braiding with this particular boy in the lead! I let them finish while laughing with the kids about it. After this, that little boy was my friend. He would often sit by me or quietly walk with me to lunch and breaks. At one point he even jumped in while I was struggling to drag a suitcase full of craft items and threw the suitcase over his shoulder to help me out. I told the bishop, who said that, sometimes, all these kids need is the touch from another person on THEIR terms to feel validated and respected. Letting this little boy braid my hair made him feel loved and gained me a new friend.
These impactful stories mentioned by Sandy are just a taste of the many incredible experiences that can take place on an OCMC team. There are so many opportunities to share Christ’s love throughout the world, and to in turn be changed by Orthodox Christians around the world, like Sandy and Ella were impacted by the people they met at the Children’s Home.
OCMC has several teams travelling to Kenya in 2017. Please prayerfully consider the upcoming opportunities, which you can find by going to ocmc.org or by calling OCMC at 1-877-463-6787 (ext. 142).