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By Liz Bergeron
Hi! My name is Liz and about a year ago, I embarked on my first trip with One Child Matters: the Women’s Circle of Caring (WCOC) trip to Kenya. From the start, I had no idea what to expect. I was unprepared for exactly how much this trip would impact my heart – and my whole life.
The Lord put the country of Kenya on my heart when I was just a little girl. It was at a church missions convention I attended when I was 8 or 9 years old. The speaker asked everyone to write down the name of a country and pledge to pray for that country. For me, that country was Kenya. Time went on and I got older, but I never forgot about Kenya. It was always in the back of my mind, and I knew in my heart that one day I would go.
Fast forward 20 years – I’m sitting in my apartment and suddenly feel a nudge on my heart to look into going to Kenya. I contacted a family friend who works for OCM, and he told me about the upcoming, fall 2013 WCOC trip to Kenya. Instantly my heart was struck. As I read through the trip details, I knew that this was for me and I was supposed to go.
A Test of Faith
I began fundraising, scrimping and saving, and God literally began putting things into place. Every time a trip payment installment was due, someone would give me a donation that “just so happened” to finish the amount needed for that installment. I was overwhelmed that as God began to grow and expand my heart for missions and for giving, He was doing the same thing in everyone around me. The payment process leading up to the trip was a learning journey in itself.
Then, on the Saturday before I was supposed to leave for Kenya (on Thursday), the news was full of reports about a terrorist shooting and hostage situation at a mall in the capital city, Nairobi. I thought, “Wait! What? This isn’t how things are supposed to happen! Everything has flawlessly fallen into place for this trip. Why would things change less than a week before I’m supposed to leave?”
All I could do was pray and trust. I knew it was a test of my faith. If I was supposed to go, God would open the door. If I wasn’t supposed to go, He loved me enough to slam the door shut. Still, I asked God to give me SOMETHING. I felt the scripture 2 Thessalonians 3:3 come into my heart. I opened my Bible and read, “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” WOW - talk about a confirmation! That was all I needed.
On Monday, OCM conducted a conference call to let us know that the trip was still on! They had put extra precautions and measures into place to ensure our safety. Thursday came around, and I found myself on the journey of a lifetime – my first time leaving the United States, my first mission trip and my first time to Kenya (finally)!
One in Christ
Upon our arrival, each person we encountered, from our drivers to the OCM in-country staff, was so kind and welcoming. I knew we were officially in Africa when while driving, we had to halt our caravan for a herd of zebras crossing the road! A couple of days into the trip, we drove to “the bush” to visit two villages where OCM ministers.
As we arrived at the church in the first village that Sunday, I could hear singing and the jingles of the jewelry worn by the local Maasai people pouring out of the little sheet-metal building. At the entrance, three sweet little boys welcomed us, along with the pastor. They escorted us to our special seats, and it took everything in me to keep from crying; I was simply overcome with emotion. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of the songs and didn’t recognize the melodies, I stood in amazement with my brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing that in that moment, we were all one. Regardless of different languages and nationalities, we were worshipping the same God.
Seeing Firsthand the Impact of Sponsorship
Later that week, we conducted a Children’s Day (when it felt like we did “the chicken dance” and “the hokey pokey” a thousand times) and a Women’s Day, when we painted the ladies’ nails and taught them how to build a tippy-tap, a mechanism used to wash hands.
I was able to see with my own eyes the impact that the new OCM Child Development Center is making. Now there is a place for the children to get band-aids and antibiotic cream for their cuts and scrapes. There are mats on which they can rest when they are tired or hurting. I also saw the site of a planned kitchen, which has since been constructed. It provides nourishing meals for the children, and no child is ever turned away.
On one day, I met my own sponsored child and her family – an experience that even now, I can’t put into words. Sponsorship through OCM took on a whole new meaning for me that day. I knew my support was helping provide care and resources to a child across the globe, but I didn’t know the impact it was actually having on this little girl, her family and community. now feels like an extension of my own family, with whom I am connected through sponsorship beyond language barriers and distance.
At this first village, people who do not have many earthly possessions showed me how to be joyful in all situations and truly honor one another. My heart was changed. I came on this trip planning to give, spend myself and offer everything I had to these people. But I was the one who was blessed, because they gave me so much more than I could’ve ever dreamed.
The Adventure Continues
I met even more beautiful Maasai people at the next village we visited and was able to see their gorgeous beadwork, as the ladies sat and beaded under the trees. We played games with the children, ate goat stew with them, and drank chai tea with the ladies. Then they took us on a tour to show us everything that has changed and been built since OCM and the WCOC partnered with them. There was a new kitchen with a commercial wood-burning stove. There was a beautiful garden, greenhouse and irrigation system. There were tanks to store rain during the rainy season to last through the dry season, and a huge multi-purpose church building. Clearly, sponsorships and OCM were making an impact!
As we were about to leave, they called us together and began adorning us with stunning Maasai jewelry – special pieces they had made just for us, as well as pieces off their own necks. I remember getting into the Land Rover as we left and losing all composure as I started to weep and say, “How do you even begin to put this experience – these people – into words, and tell others about them?” My heart was broken, and made whole … all in the same moment. Nothing made sense, and everything made sense. Even though I couldn’t imagine how to express this journey, this experience with the amazing Maasai ladies and children, God had put a passion for them in my heart. I knew that when words were necessary, He would put them there to express exactly what was needed at that moment.
Back to Kenya
I returned to the same villages in Kenya this past June with OCM’s WCOC. The people all feel like family, and I saw even more transformations in the villages since my first trip, just nine months before! In addition, earlier this year, the Lord opened a door for me to start a business selling the beautiful handmade items from the very ladies I met on my first trip. It helps provide employment for them, and it gives me a chance to share my story of meeting these wonderful people.
I urge you, if you have a chance to go on a trip with OCM – DO IT! I promise it will change your life forever, and you will NOT regret it! You will never view anything in the same way.
I also urge that if you feel a nudge on your heart, step forward to take on a child in sponsorship. Your heart will grow leaps and bounds! Your awareness of the world around you will be magnified because you will have a precious family member in another country! You’ll learn to bless and give more freely, as well as pray for other people outside your common circle. Beside all that, you will be making a true impact on the other side of the world. Sponsorship doesn’t just affect one child, not even just one family – but an entire community!
I now sponsor two little girls from that same village in Kenya, and God has always provided the funds to care for them every single month. I can honestly say that not one day have I regretted getting involved with sponsorship and OCM!
I have no idea what’s in store for the future. But I have no doubt that this journey isn’t finished.