Day 1 — Wells of Joy
Note: The internet has been limited, but promise to get pics when we can
We departed for the Lunga Lunga slums at 0800. As we approached we notice the slums are separated by walls which aren’t meant to protect those inside, but to keep those who live there inside and out of site. The slums are a collection of shacks with dirt floors and think metal sheets. To the eye things looked rough, and that’s because it was. But, when we looked closer, there was more beauty than ugliness within these walls.
Our van, which had bags piled on top of it, had to carefully navigate the narrow dirt paths between the various vendors stands. The vendors were selling anything they could get their hands on. To many in the slums, seeing a van bullying it’s way through the crowded street (which it was not designed for with only a few feet and at times inches on each side) caused many to expect that we would be received with some hostility or annoyance at the least. What happened instead was everyone on the road trying to help our driver navigate the dangerous terrain. To get through the narrow “streets” men would use sticks to lift multiple power cords up and over the van with our bags stacked up. Additionally, men, women, and children would wave and smile at us (us being a van of mostly white “mazunga’s” people).
When we arrived at Wells of Joy (WOJ) there was a light rain as we walked in. We were in the heart of the Kenya slums and all around us there was poverty of unimaginable depths. The WOJ building stood out among the slums as it was the highest in the area, but also because it was painted blue in a sea of dreary gray and rust. The building was painted blue a symbol of God's victory over evil in the slums. The blue paint makes a nice story, but it’s even close to the real story...
When we first arrived we entered a small room with a low overhanging ceiling accompanied by the smells of smoke from the kitchen where the cook was making the first meal of the day for the children - porridge. Once we were all inside, we were welcomed by the 8th grade children as they sang and danced for us. Words are hard to set the stage, but the only way I can explain it is we were witnessing the words of the Bible coming to life in front of us.
Next, we were able to sit down with the 8th graders to get to know them and pray with them. I was with Edwin, the first question I asked was him was to “tell me about yourself”, he was quiet and was looking at the floor then snuck in a smile and said “I love life”. Edwin, who lived in the slums of Nairobi told me he loved life! At first this doesn’t make sense, but this was just the beginning. See Edwin, like many of the children at WOJ see life differently, they see life the way God created it. Life is more than stuff. Edwin has hope, he has Faith in Jesus, Edwin is loved, Edwin knows he is loved, and he has a strong team of men and women at Well’s of Joy who are shepherding him.
Well’s of Joy is led by Pastor Geoffrey. Pastors Geoffrey has an incredible story, but can be summed up like this “God called. He answered.” Please understand, I’m not trying simplify his life because he expressed the extreme (and I mean extreme) challenges in the path the Lord laid in front of him and his family, but with the strength of God he gives hope to children like Edwin. I was not alone in my WOJ experience, at our evening meeting I took some notes from the team to describe their take:
“I fed children a small cup of porridge who then had to sit on the ground to eat it. I was expecting to feel sad, but the children were overjoyed - and that made me feel overjoyed. The way they came up to us and hugged us, it was pure love.” - PJ
“The kids didnt choose where they were born, but had true joy in their faces.” -Esteban
I can’t remember a day that had the pure joy of this morning. I don’t use the word joy lightly, actually I never use it, but there isn’t another word to capture how the children loved. Each child had a smile that allowed God’s love to shine out of them. They wanted to be held, to hold hands, to just be near us.
Our team continued as we went around the room:
“Pastor Geoffrey and his team built this from the ground up. It was reassuring and inspiring. The children wanted to grow up to be engineers so they can go out and help people. It was overwhelming” - Brian
“Seeing the need for Jesus in all their poverty was amazing. WOJ and the children held the need for Jesus out in front of their physically needs.” - Patti
We went to lunch outside of the slums with Pastor Geoffrey and his staff. I could write a book about Pastor Geoffrey and his staff, but do want to highlight that Hannah is a 22 year old staff member from Arkansas who is in the fourth month of her 6 month stay with WOJ (this is her third stint with working for WOJ). She has a strength and faith that comes from God and is inspiring to all in the group.
While hundreds of children (WOJ takes care of 400 children a day) scurried down the stairs to get their porridge, I mentioned to one of the workers how it must be a lot of work to care for all the children; his response…“it’s a blessing”
It was explained to the team that only about five years ago WOJ consisted of a small room on mud floors that at any time (or in particular if the children danced enough) the room would be accompanied by human waste that would come up from the ground. This room was lit with one lonesome lightbulb all the while the staff was tasked with the safekeeping of 100 children.
Today, this building may not look like anything but painted blue steel on the outside, but once inside it’s an unmistakable beacon of God’s love that beams with light from each child’s smile. The work the Lord has done through the WOJ ministry is a testament that God is true to his word.
“This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9
After lunch we went to a plot of land where Geoffrey felt led by the Lord as the next step in the Wells of Joy program. With no money in his pocket, Pastor Geoffrey explained how God put on his heart to have a school where he could take children out of the slums and teach them side by side with other children in Kenya to show them 1. they can learn just like everyone and 2. there is life outside of the slums.
We all walked the land and prayed to the Lord to bless the land and if it’s His will provide the resources because there is no doubt he can.
Brooke explained the moment like this, “it was inspiring to see Pastor Geoffrey’s faith. He believes without a doubt that the Lord will provide despite the odds. It was an example of the faith we are called to have. I’m thankful for seeing that kind of faith today”.
In conclusion, in a day where you’d expect to see Despair, Sadness, Poverty — we left with Hope, Love, Joy