I remember when I first heard about the opportunity to travel to Kenya to partner with local leaders to care for the vulnerable. I was a sophomore in college and found myself shocked over the living conditions of people in the Kibera slums. I had never seen what poverty in another place looked like. But what struck me even more was that some of these people did not know the gospel—that God the Father sent the Son to seek and save the lost. My immediate thought was that they needed Christians who could tell them the good news. Thankfully, this trip also exposed me to the ways God is already working there through Christians to meet physical needs and to share the gospel.
Fast forward, I joined a team and traveled to Kenya where I was introduced to an amazing ministry called Swahiba Networks. Swahiba’s mission is to meet immediate needs to provide a means to share eternal truth. While in Kenya, I was so encouraged to see the ways they were already meeting the very needs that had overwhelmed me when I first heard of them. They disperse food baskets, offer mentorship programs for young believers, distribute shoes to children, and generally help build up the community of Kibera. I was fortunate enough to witness how they acted as the hands and feet of Jesus in that place.
One day, we accompanied the Swahiba staff to disperse food baskets and to engage in intentional conversation with community members. Swahiba staff filled these large boxes with necessities—everything from rice to soap. On our route, the staff took us to meet a widow in the late stages of cancer. Like many of the individuals living in Kibera, this widow had faced extenuating hardships and could not provide for herself or her loved ones.
I was eager to meet this particular widow as soon as I heard her story. When we approached her home, my heart broke for her and her family. She was living in a small, mud-room home with children who relied on her. As Swahiba staff talked with her, I could hear her stomach rumble because the family didn’t have food. She was grateful for the provisions that Swahiba gave her. But a look of devastation, sorrow, and hopelessness never fully left her face.
When I was eight years old, I remember my mom having those same emotions on her face. She too had suffered from cancer. She went to be with the Lord on August 18, 2006, leaving behind three kids. I often think of how she felt in that last year of her life. A mother gives life, nurtures, and wholeheartedly loves her children. I wonder about the hurt she felt leaving us without a mom.
By the grace of Jesus, my mom knew him as her Savior. She trusted Christ with her life. Despite the struggles of this world, she knew her eternal home. Throughout her battle with cancer, she rested in this verse:
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” - Romans 8:18
Remember earlier when I said she passed away on 8/18? Realizing that her favorite verse was Romans 8:18 has been a comforting reminder in the years since her passing. Our loving Father, who empathizes with us in our suffering, promises that this world is not all there is. Yes, we experience brokenness, and our world may even shatter. But this world is not our home. Our home is in green pastures and beside refreshing waters with Jesus. Eternity with him cannot compare to the trials of this world.
In that seemingly hopeless situation in Kenya, I told this widow my story. I normally shy away from speaking in new situations, but the Spirit guided me in that moment to tell this woman that there is a loving God who would care for her children. Just as God has cared for me over the course of my life, he would do the same for her children. Not only would he care for her children, but he cared for her even then. She could find rest in Him. Better things are always coming with him as our shepherd.
I don’t know if this widow knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior or not, but I hope that if she didn’t, she has since come to trust in him for salvation. I know he wants to restore all people to himself and only through knowing him can our hope truly be restored.
It’s encouraging to know that the Swahiba staff have continued sharing the gospel with people like this widow and her neighbors in Kibera long after my team returned home. I would never have met this widow if not for their consistent presence in that community. The staff at Swahiba illustrate James 1:27 so well:
“Pure and undefiled religion is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
127 Worldwide connected me to Swahiba, and Swahiba in turn connected me to this widow. But only God knew how both of our stories would intersect that day. It’s amazing how he can use the broken parts of our lives to accomplish his mission in places we might never expect.
How might he use your story?