Yesterday was the first day I went to the streets, to the kids on the streets, in their environment, where they live.
It was tough.
We went to, not a slum exactly, but pretty darn close. Walked a little ways through a market and some buildings to what they call a base. It is an area between 2 buildings with a big concrete slab, like a building project that started and never finished. Generally about 200 kids and a few adults live and sleep there.
There were about 40 boys when we got there, along with a few men, and some teenageish girls. And a few little ones toddling around. We learned that one of the girls who had given birth in November, lost the baby over Christmas. It is a wonder any survive at all.
The first and one of the most alarming things one notices is the glue bottles. I would say that all but two or three of the children there had a glue bottle stuck in their mouths or held up to their faces inhaling this seriously strong smelling yellow/brown glue. They sniff glue all day. It drugs them so they don’t feel hungry or…anything, really. I would venture to say that all of their eyes were glazed over. Many of them had their eyes rolling back into their heads. A couple had drool just dripping down their chins. No joke, because of their close proximity and the strength of the stuff I walked away with a bit of a contact high. The TKW team said that is pretty normal for the first few times; that they have had new people pass out on occasion.
It broke my heart. The kids who are being born on the street broke my heart. The girls who claim multiple husbands, the men who have known that as life for years and years, the families of these kids, the tortured and drugged existence they have breaks my heart. Who knows what has been done to these, what brought them to the streets. How could bear it without the drugs?! There was one boy, who was stumbling a bit, incredibly high, but still able to talk a bit. He spoke a little bit of English. Which means he had to have completed at least a few years of school. He had some sort of skin condition, one shoe, and was dressed in rags. His hands were rough and crusty, he did not smell nice. Where is his family? Does he have family? Are they worried? What drove him to this? What has been done to him on the street? What has he been through? Was it simple ignorance? Does he want to go home? Is there a home for him to go?
It is one of those things that you experience and your mind can’t really comprehend the enormity of the pain. Your heart can hardly bear to reflect or become invested because it is so bleak a situation and such a picture of human suffering. I will say that it absolutely got me fired up to dive into the trench’s, start setting some roots, and passionately start investing myself in children on the streets–the reason I came. Because I profess Christ, because I follow him, I have a responsibility to these kids. Each one is formed by Gods hand with love and care. They have more worth and value than can ever be measured. I am sure that God destines no one to live disconnected, one the street, alone, and drugged. Solace in glue? No. Solace comes from one source alone.
I was warned before going that I was going to be harassed. I am white. I am a woman. I am going into a slum area. It is kind of a given. Really, truly though, it was not that bad. But that has a lot to do with the covering of the local staff I was with. I quasi talked with a few boys. They were not rude or impolite. Sometimes the drugs make them violent but thankfully this was not the case at all. It did absolutely help that a TKW staffer never left my side and kept an eye on me, telling one boy who kept hugging me to stop, and pulling me close when too many boys surrounded me. I was so thankful. It could have been a much more negative experience otherwise.
While I am on the subject, I just want to say that I have so much respect for the staff at Tumaini Kwa Watoto. They are seriously quality people.
Every morning the day is started with an hour of praise and prayer for individual kids and families. This is crying out/falling on your knees/speaking in tongues/clapping/sometimes crying/shouting/heartfelt prayer and praise. Seriously. Hearts pour out. These folks care deeply about these kids from the streets and their families. They pray for delivery from spirits, and they even deal with kids who are from very dangerous areas and a super dangerous cult. One that is violent, known for beheadings, and dealing with the spirit world. Scary stuff. These folks are not phased. They pray heartily, and for each other. In word and deed you can see their incredible passion for God and for the work he has put before them.
It is encouraging to see some great men of God who are acting as father figures to the boys in the center. They love those boys and are a wonderful example to them. They talk with them about God, about responsibility, dreams for the future, success. Boys all around the world are without a father or father figure. These men are filling that gap and no one can measure the lives they are touching. They are in their lives not only for a brief time, but for the long run because of the empowering of families and follow up that they are committed to. One of the guys here has even given his number to a couple of the boys. One of the guards at the centre lets the boys use their phone sometimes and he talks with them in the evenings sometimes. Once in a while the center gets fed up with some of the boys and they set a deadline for when they will be kicked out of the center. This guy tells them to come to his house if that happens. How amazing is that?!
They often go without their salaries on time. When I came in mid-January they still had not been paid out for the year because the money simply was not there. They prayed, had faith, and it came in. Monday morning we prayed for provision for the rest of their January salaries. About an hour after prayer the director came down to say he got an email that someone made a gift that would cover that deficit. That seems to be a regular thing around here and it is really amazing.
When I shared with them on Thursday about the miraculous receiving of my visa (by the way, I got my visa!) and they seriously rejoiced with me (and a few told me not to go, that they wanted me to stay with them!:) THEN they totally changed up the schedule for the day so I could be able to visit a slum and then today go on a home visit and follow up. Over and above, really. They prayed over me as I go to a place that is much different–and they did it powerfully. I really do fall in love with people easily, and this great group was no exception. These folks have inspired, empowered, and challenged me. I have learned so much from them. I am so thankful to have crossed paths with TKW and I am blessed to call them friends.