Guest Post by Kambri Gabel
For those who don’t know me, let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Kambri Gabel and I am going to be a senior at Oklahoma State University. My major is Health Education and Promotion and I am currently in the process of applying to Occupational Therapy school. I graduated from Melissa High School in 2015, but my family just recently relocated from Melissa, Texas to Edmond, Oklahoma. This summer I had the unique opportunity to live in Kenya and have an internship at Naomi’s Village. I’m writing this to hopefully make known the needs that exist in Kenya and to talk about what all God showed me this summer.
To tell you about my summer, I first must preface it with a little information about where I was. Kenya is a fantastic place. The people are friendly, there are giraffes and zebra roaming free, the Great Rift Valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and there are a lot of other reasons that it is so great. But, like any other place on this broken earth, there are problems. The roads are bad, there’s corruption in the government, there are evil people who still exist here and do evil things, and then there’s the problem that Naomi’s Village is trying to help solve, the orphan crisis. There are approximately 60 million children in Africa who are orphans, 30% of these being because a parent died of AIDS. In 3 out of 4 of these cases, the other parent will succumb to the same disease leaving the child completely parentless. In Kenya alone, 2.6 million orphans are reported. All these numbers come from UNICEF, and they are truly shocking.
This is why in 2011, the Mendonsa family opened a children’s home in rural Kenya, to build up future Kenyan leaders to grow up and go out into their country and do something about it, all to the glory of God. Then in 2016, they went a step further by creating Cornerstone Preparatory Academy and allowed children from the community who are living in extreme poverty to attend, to try and combat the lack of education in rural Kenya. You see, NV and Cornerstone don’t just provide a child’s basic needs and education, they also provide a nurturing, family environment for the children to flourish and grow up into strong, Christ followers. This summer, I got to play a small part in this amazing family dynamic.
Trips to Naomi’s Village are not necessarily the typical “mission” trip you would think of. There are awesome opportunities to go and help in the community, at Naomi’s Village, and other surrounding ministries, but that is not the main reason for a trip to this awesome place. As an intern, I got to spend a lot of time with the teams who would come from the United States, and as one of my friends from the Sulphur Community Church in Louisiana would say, this trip is a “vision” trip more than anything. These trips give you an opportunity to not only go and see the clear need that exists in Kenya, but you also get to see how a successful ministry (and surrounding ministries) are operated. You can then take what you’ve seen and do something about it. Whether that be supporting Naomi’s Village and Cornerstone (or other ministries) financially, going on a short-term mission trip, enacting change in your own community in the U.S. (because everyone who’s breathing needs Jesus!!), becoming a missionary and going to an unreached people group, starting your own children’s home in a place that has a need, or a million other options. I hope that after reading this, you will do some research and realize there is a need–financial, manpower, and otherwise–across the world, and being among the richest people to ever walk this earth, WE can do something about it in the name of Jesus so that He might be brought glory!
In Kenya, especially in the rural areas like Maai Mahiu, you will see the material poverty that is present easily. People are without a lot of things and it is really hard to see and comprehend. You feel this intense desire to help everyone you see and give them what they need, but it just isn’t possible. The only explanation I can come up with for material poverty to run rampant like this is that we truly live in a broken world, and nothing will make it better until the One who created it comes back and restores it. Although these things are hard to see, I can’t be ignorant anymore and I think that’s a reason that God sent me to Kenya this summer. I can’t just live in my little bubble of Edmond, Oklahoma anymore. Or even just my slightly larger bubble of the U.S. I felt truly convicted because of this summer, and I hope my life is never the same because of it. Although a lot of people have a material poverty in Kenya, those who follow Christ don’t get down because of it. At Cornerstone, they do house visits to the community kids’ houses to deliver supplies, check in on the parents, etc. I got the opportunity to tag along on a few of these. Thinking back on this, one really stands out to me. After we had delivered a bunk bed to this single mother (who was also raising 2 of her grandkids along with her daughter) in her 2-room mud and stick house, we sat down to talk with her. After she introduced herself to us, the first thing she told us was that Jesus was her savior, and that He was the center of her life. Talk about someone who loves and trusts God, the second thing this lady ever said to us involved Him!
Material poverty is a visible thing, a tangible thing that you can see people are without. What do we ever go without here in the suburban United States? On the surface, the answer might be nothing. For the most part, with some exceptions, we can go and do as we please. We live lives that don’t require us to be uncomfortable very often. Now some may be able to argue with me, but in comparison to what I saw in Kenya this summer, I’m not sure the argument would hold up very well. Rather than material poverty, we suffer from a different kind of poverty. Any time I heard Julie Mendonsa (co-founder of NV and Cornerstone) talk to a team I heard her say the words, “poverty of self-sufficiency,” and then proceed to explain it in a way that is much more eloquent than the way I am about to explain it. This is the main thing that stuck out to me this summer, and I heard it maybe even more than 4 times, so I know that this was a divinely inspired topic that I was supposed to hear about.
The “poverty of self-sufficiency” runs rampant here in the U.S. We can provide everything for ourselves and we are content with it. Some people will never know Jesus, simply because they can provide for themselves and there’s really no need for Him. Now as Christ-followers, we know that these things cannot fulfill us, so we have turned to Jesus to fill the void that we have in our lives and take control over it. Although I do have Jesus Christ at the center of my life, I think this is a poverty that I still suffer from. It’s easy to do, we get comfortable and realize that we can do a lot of things for ourselves. We rely on ourselves, and in our world, it does work out some of the time. Because of this self-sufficiency, even if we do know Christ, we will never know Him as well as we could if we were completely reliant upon Him.
I went through a devotion over 1 Samuel and a little bit of 2 Samuel during my time in Kenya this summer, and I think it matched up perfectly with what God was teaching me through my experience. Looking back on it now, this was probably done on purpose by Him. After David was anointed Kind of Israel, he had to be completely reliant on God or he would not have survived. He was on the run for 15 years because Saul was literally trying to kill him! While he was on the run, David asked for God’s guidance in everything that he did. For example, in 1 Samuel 23:2, “he inquired of the Lord saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The Lord answered him, “Go attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”’ David gives us a great example of someone who has God at the center of his life and the center of all decisions that he makes.
After this summer, I have prayed every day that God would give me situations to completely rely on Him. I don’t want to be self-sufficient because one day, something will happen, and I won’t be able to and then I will be left with nothing. If I give it over to Him, I know I will never be let down. I pray that I would be like David and inquire of the Lord at every step of my journey. I pray I would be like the woman I met this summer, who, the second sentence out of her mouth told us about Jesus and how she loved Him. There is no way to get to know God any better if we don’t let Him talk control and provide for us. Maybe that is how David became so intimate with God. We see how well David knew Him by all the Psalms that he wrote for us. I want to know all the attributes of God, and I pray that anyone reading this would desire that also. I want everything that I “own” or “possess” to be used for God’s glory, and to not hold on to anything too tight. I want to give it over to God. It’s not an easy thing to accomplish, I really enjoy control and knowing everything that’s going to happen. You can ask anyone who knows me even a little bit. But I know that without becoming reliant on God, I will remain stagnant in my relationship with him. So, the small amount of risk that is involved with this mindset is nothing compared to the rewards that He will give to you, maybe not in this life but for sure in the next. This summer was a small step towards walking in complete dependence on the Lord on my part–I had never been to Naomi’s Village, much less Africa! But things fell in to place, and I knew that I was supposed to go. I did, and now my life will never be the same because of it!
Thank you for reading, and if you helped support me financially or with prayers this summer I will be eternally grateful. Because of you I didn’t waste my summer, instead I got to be blessed by the most awesome kids and staff in the world! If you ever get the chance to be a part of Naomi’s Village and Cornerstone on a team or financially, I highly recommend it. You will be blessed probably even more than you would be blessing the kids and your life will be completely changed by it. One of my main tasks this summer was facilitating skype calls between sponsors and kids at NV. This is a unique opportunity that allows the sponsor and the child to build a personal relationship and get to talk to them in real time! Sponsors can also send mail, emails, videos, etc. that will get to their sponsor kids and then they can even write back. I also helped hand out mail and have the kids open it. If you send something, you will usually get a picture or a video from your sponsor child saying thank you! There is nothing they love more than getting mail on Sundays. Naomi’s Village allows you to be as involved as you would like to be. I ask that anyone reading would prayerfully consider this! Visit naomisvillage.org to learn more and get involved. If you would like to learn more about some of the ministries also present in the rift valley and that I got to visit this summer, visit the links below.