Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life… ~ Philippians 2:14-15
As our family, along with thousands of other families, adapts to the newness of the start of another school year, my mind drifts back to Kenya – to a special young lady who lives there.
Travel with me today, up a rocky mountain on a small bus with no air conditioning. All but a few seats are taken by our teammates who are going to hold a soccer clinic with hundreds of Kenyan children who live on this mountain. Many of them have never seen a Caucasian person before and almost all do not speak English. This is surely a first for my family and we are excited!
The scenery is breathtaking. Such beauty envelops us on every side. After quite a long, slow drive up, we stop. There, some local children are waiting. Clustered together, they giggle as they look at us. We smile real big and wave. That makes them giggle more. They are shy. Meek. Kind.
We are just about to continue our journey to the top of the mountain, when a young lady, probably 13 or 14, spontaneously steps onto the bus and sits down next to me. I am delighted to have her company, but am perplexed as to why she got on.
I asked her if she spoke English. She replied, A little. I was thrilled! That was more than I spoke of her native tongue.
She sat quietly, holding onto the seat in front of her as our bus rocked side-to-side up the stony incline.
Curious, I asked her why she hopped on the bus. She replied, I want to know what it feels like to ride one.
I was completely taken back by her words. She’s never ridden a bus before – or any transportation. The 2,400 families that live on this mountain never leave it. They farthest they go is a very long hike down to reach extremely contaminated streams at the bottom to fetch water. A trek they make every single day up and down the entire mountain. That is one reason we are there – in addition to presenting the Gospel and running soccer clinics – to help dedicate two rainwater catchers past teams of ours helped build with the locals at the very top of the mountain so no one ever has to die from water-borne illnesses again.
Wanting to let her enjoy the ride, I didn’t speak much, though I had a thousand questions about her, their way of life, their thoughts on things. I am always full of questions, and sometimes it drives my family crazy! 🙂
However, I had a question burning the tip of my tongue. If I didn’t ask it, I thought my tongue would catch on fire or I would burst. So I asked it.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
She did not hesitate with her answer. A doctor or a teacher.
You can be anything you want to be. Go for your dreams, I replied with a smile.
She sheepishly smiled back.
As we continued up the mountain together, I couldn’t help but stare at her out the corner of my eye. She is beautiful. She has dreams. Aspirations. And, they begin with wanting to know what it feels like to ride man-made transportation.
Her inquisitiveness is colorful. Her courage to get on the bus with a bunch of foreigners is inspiring. She’s already unafraid to chase her dreams and go for it.
A doctor or a teacher. Why? On this mountain, it really is all about daily survival in the most primitive of estates. They have one school and there are many cultural superstitions involved in treating their medical ailments that oppress the one government-ran clinic staffed by two nurses that service this clinic twice a week.
I believe it is because she sees firsthand, the difference one person can make. She is surrounded by her village of family and neighbors. Not too many doctors and teachers. But, oh what an impression a nurse here, or a teacher there, has already made on her.
Someone has made such an impact on this young lady’s life that she believes her life is bigger than the mountain she lives on. For instance, I met one woman who is incredibly talented. She is a Kenyan college graduate who has devoted her life to giving these kids an education. She is jaw-dropping impressive, because despite her tireless efforts and huge impact on the community, she one of the most humble, soft-spoken and unassuming people I’ve ever met.
My young friend has already realized that her purpose is more than daily survival. She owns nothing of value to this world, yet she possesses a spirit rich in hope and determination.
All because someone, a doctor or teacher or both, has touched her life in a unique way, sparking a love for life that God placed inside her when He breathed life into her.
As a new school year begins in places all over the world, my first thought is of this young lady. If she can have such amazing aspirations, so can other children who live in a longitude and latitude with ample resources available. It literally pains me to see kids nowadays sluff off school and whine and complain about it like they were being asked to donate a kidney just by showing up. It is a cliche to complain about waking up early, school bus rides, school rules, cafeteria food and homework. What privileges these are! And, this is not being said by a middle-aged adult who has forgotten how much homework can consume an evening, or the obnoxious pitch of the alarm clock screaming in my ear way before I’m ready to here it.
No. I say this because there are countless children all over the world who would give anything to have the resources other kids have – like my bus-buddy. They would give anything for someone to take a chance on them and let them learn. To give them the resources they need to chase their dreams.
How many poverty-stricken children in this world are being born, living and dying without one day of their life being given a chance to make a contribution to this world? How many of them have already died (26,000 children die every single day from preventable diseases), or are living now in a life shackled to grim, unforgiving circumstances, have the ability to learn and grow and accomplish miracles like curing cancer, finding new energy solutions, becoming agricultural geniuses, outstanding political leaders, pastors, ambassadors, surgeons, pediatricians for the 26,000 children dying in mothers’ arms every 24 hours, and teachers who train up another group of kids to chase their dreams and show them they are priceless, they count, they matter? It is well worth investing time and energy into these kids so they can understand the world around them and have a better quality of life right there in their own communities and beyond.
It saddens me to see slothful, whining kids portrayed in movies, in books, on tv and in person take such an incredible gift of education for granted. Would they want to trade places with the young lady I met on the bus? Not for one day could they handle her life. She is a survivor. Strong. Driven.
Will she have the opportunities needed to fulfill her dream? Only God knows. How I hope so. And how I hope other kids will mature to a point where they see their education as a gift and are thankful for it.
May this new school year be a turning point for children every to embrace their potential. And, may teachers be refreshed in knowing that they do make a difference. It’s not about numbers. It’s about lives. And making a lifelong difference in one child has the potential to change our world. Run your race strong. These children are the future of our world, our countries, our states, our communities, our neighborhoods, and our families. You, in fact, hold the future in your hands. What impact will you determine to have this year?
Here are some of my photographs from the mountain. May the images be etched in our hearts to never forget this young lady, or the many other children in this world she represents, who dare to look beyond their circumstances and chase their dreams.
Our greeters! 🙂
A typical home
Of one my children meeting new friends!
School uniforms are required, regardless…
We brought oranges as a gift of friendship
Harvesting tea leaves