by Brady Bates, summer 2017 Street Ministry Intern
As a street ministry intern, I spend most of my week at MITS' intake center at Eastleigh, which is a neighboring area to downtown Nairobi. An average day consist of half of our team going on base walks while the other half stays back and runs the program for the day.
Bases are areas throughout the city and suburbs where street children and adults congregate and call home. A base could be anything from a tree to an abandoned plot of land in which the members of that base hang out and sleep. Between the bases, there can often times be tension and conflict over territory, drugs, food or women very similar to that of gangs back in the states. While there are a number of similarities to the gangs we may be familiar with they are far less hostile and more survival based in my experience. The best way I can explain the bases is if Neverland from Robin Williams' classic movie Hook collided with Lord of the Flies. Rather than imaginary food fights and whimsical tree forts these boys walk around with metal pipe ties as rings (serving as a make shift set of brass knuckles in case of a fight), using drugs and sleeping under old cardboard or on mounds of trash. These bases are where the heart of the ministry starts.
Our team will go on a number of base walks a week in order to recruit new students into program in the hopes that God will transform their lives. An average base walk will include some chit chat with the boys followed by a lesson and words of encouragement spoken by one of our team members then a snack for the boys. With each base walk we try to encourage the boys to come to our center in Eastleigh and see what we're about. We stress to them that God loves them and we want them to know Him and for Him to change their lives. It's at this point that the seed is often planted and the ones God calls hear the message and show up.
Back at Eastleigh we have programs each day that offer breakfast, Bible lessons, lunch and games. This is where we start building relationships and noticing the ones who are consistently coming and want to change their lives. We periodically have intakes of students, which primarily take place after the graduation of a class or the opening of spots due to one of the boys or girls running away. Thanks to God I was able to be a part of an intake and see the entire process.
During our first week in Kamulu we had two boys run away, which left some open spots for some new students and kept our eyes opened for new candidates. A few weeks ago, the team was blessed to find a girl and bring her back to Eastleigh so she could stay at our property. Girls are extremely rare to find on base walks because they are less in number and are also either sent to work during the day or are hidden from us because of their value for sex. When we do find a girl it becomes a high priority situation and they can be brought into our Eastleigh center for protection from the Streets and all the dangers they bring. Two days after finding Linda we found another girl named Quinta who was also brought into our Eastleigh location.
Over the next week we interviewed a number of boys in preparation for the upcoming intake. This was one of the hardest things I've dealt with since being here. Investing so much time and emotion into the relationships we make at Eastleigh is a beautiful thing but also brings with it the potential for heart break. I was honored to have a say as to which boys we took in. Monica and Linda allowed me to help with interviews and bring in potential boys who I thought were ready.
One of the biggest benefits of my time spent at Eastleigh is the appreciation of how far the students at Kamulu have come. That alone has been worth my time there and has grown my love for those back at Kamulu that much deeper. It can be easy for me to forget where these kids come from and all the adversity they've had in order to be where they are. Seeing the bases, the influences, the hunger and the struggles they faced on the streets on a daily basis then coming back home to see how much they've grown has caused my heart to overflow with love for them. Some of them have shared parts of their stories about how they heard about MITS, why they were on the streets and the spiritual warfare and powers of evil they faced on the streets before they even reached their teens and it's absolutely humbling. I sit on my porch at night and look out on the property as the boys play soccer and cook dinner as a team and reflect on how contrasting our lives have been.
I come from an upper class American family where at the age of thirteen my entire family was attending my recreational soccer league games on the weekends and never had to worry about where the next meal came from.
My dad always tells me that none of us choose the cards we're dealt in life. We don't choose the parents we are born to or the place we are born but one thing we often can choose is what we do with that card. These boys and girls didn't choose to be born into broken families who's separation of parents put them on the street or lack of money caused them to have to live off of garbage and fend for themselves. They didn't choose to have no idea where their next meal came from or what their future would hold. They didn't choose to lose their parents to AIDS or be beaten and disowned by their step parents. All of those things were out of their control and given the choice I'd say most of them would rather have not had them happen. One choice they all shared was to make a change in their lives and strive for something more. They all chose to be at MITS and worked hard for the privilege to learn and pursue more than what they had been given.
I've heard stories from the boys about catching a ride on the back of a dump truck and riding for hours every morning to attend the Eastleigh program and show that they really do want to change. I've seen the trash dumps that some of them had to sort through for plastics and metals at thirteen in order to provide money for their mom and siblings to eat. These kids are warriors and have overcome so many obstacles that would put me on my knees resenting the one who made me. It's by the grace of God that they were able to break free from the hardships of the streets and have an opportunity to pursue a future and learn about their Father in heaven and the love Jesus has for them. It's a great honor and blessing to be a part of this team and the lives this ministry is affecting.
I want to say thank you to all who support this ministry through time, finances and prayer. Without your willingness to let God use what you have to offer this ministry wouldn't be possible. Within days of our new students arriving into program we had sponsors already lined up to support and encourage them. Praise God for you people and the hearts you have for this ministry whether you've been here or not. Keep doing what you're doing and letting God use the gifts he's given you because He is alive and working to change the lives of hundreds in powerful ways
"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping it together is progress. Working together is success."- Henry Ford.
One of the ingredients of coming together, keeping together and working together is establishing good relations. Here are a few of the relationships that have made Paulsen Asitiba's summer internship meaningful.
Darlene and Charles Coulston are the founders of made in the streets. Since I came here, Darlene has been acting as my mom. Every morning after chapel she greets me with a smile on her face and that really boosts my morale. In almost every conversation we have I learn something new from her. One day she came to the skills centre computer lab and told me that made in the streets set up the computer lab just this year because they realised how much the skills kids need to know about computer. She went ahead to tell me about the importance of them learning the positive things they can do with computers today, those words ring in my mind every time I teach and try to advise the kids. This adds that extra burst of motivation to work harder.
As a result of the good relations with Darlene, one morning she told me that my family was more than invited to come and see what we do here in MITS. I certainly arranged for that and when they came, they passed by her home. We had a good time, new friendships were created (my family, Charles and Darlene). That makes me feel at home in MITS.
Darlene always tells me that if I need any advice from a mother, she will definitely be there for me……I consider that highly valuable.
MOSES OKOTH AND STELLA WANGARI
Moses and Stella are both IT team members. My first few days here I had to learn from them because I worked with them in the IT department. Stella took me to a couple of her classes to see how she teaches. The step by step explanation, the way she answered the students’ questions and her desire to help them set the pace for me. I always use her class as a template when I teach. She also gave me a very good orientation and that’s why it didn’t take long for me to settle here. She is such a blessing.
Moses Okoth is another great friend and teammate. One day he walked me through the MITS internet infrastructure to explain how it worked. The theme of our conversations was how we can we work together to improve the IT department. It was a positive conversation. I learned that Moses always looks to improve MITS from the IT department and soon we are having an internet upgrade, can't wait for that. Moses is a great team member.
BRANDON (JUNIOR) AND JEREMIAH
Brandon and Jeremiah are both skills students. They are both great friends. They would spend most of their time in my room every evening before Jeremiah left. During supper time Jeremiah would try and make sure we eat together and later have a conversation with them. That made me learn much more about their lives. Brandon loves football and his greatest footballer is Lionel Messi. We train together and he works hard on the training ground. I can tell how good a player he can be from the dribbles he makes during a soccer match. One day after a soccer training session, Brandon told me that he thanks God for made in the streets because it provided a platform where he can play football and practise catering as his skill and dream career.
He loves playing against me because he knows dribbling past me is easy for him!!
Sharon Musonga is another great student who is in her final year in doing catering. One day during the students and teachers home visit, Sharon came to me and told me she would like me to escort her to her home to see where she comes from. I accepted to help her home and I met her guardians. They were so happy that her mum asked me to spend a few hours at her small kiosk where she cooks and sells food.
The few hours I spent there were so good, we created a good relation and she said she had much expectation in her daughter. I could see the hope she had from the way she talked, she said "judging from the way MITS has helped change my daughter’s life I pray and believe that she is the one who will help her siblings in future.”
That serves as a reminder to me that I should always work hard in my internship to help the kids reach their expectations in life.
Brady Bates is another intern who came in the summer to help out in street ministry. It was my first time meeting him less than four weeks ago and he is certainly one of my best friends now. He works hard and is committed to his internship. Some evenings we meet to talk about how our days have been. We share what we did on that day and how best we can work to be of help in this ministry.
Above all, we always end our conversations with a word of prayer asking God for more wisdom to be able to help this ministry as much as we can….Great lad!!
This week I prayed for opportunities to have intentional conversations.
And boy did God deliver!
My sweet friend Ruby (above right) and I had lots of great conversations this week. Ruby is a graduate of Made in the Streets (MITS) and has a five-year-old son named Dennis. The last time I was at MITS, Ruby was the cook for our group, and I was able to get to know her well. Ruby is now the cook for the Learning Centre. We have struck up a quick friendship and have been spending a lot of time together. Almost every afternoon we take an “exercise walk” around the village, either to the grocery store or the salon (that was quite an experience!) or to her house to check on her son. These walks have been such a gift to me. It is a great time to get out of the MITS campus and get a break, but also a great time to talk with Ruby about her life and her faith. On Sunday after church, Ruby invited me to her house for lunch Sunday after church. I know it was a sacrifice to cook for me. We sat and ate and sat and ate some more for over three hours on Sunday. I am truly so thankful for her and our friendship.
Jeremiah & Amos
On Monday, I arrived at chapel at 9:40 after being told chapel started at 9:45. Turns out it didn’t start until 10 however, two of the older boys were there early as well. The three of us were able to talk for twenty minutes about everything from running for exercise (converting miles to kilometers using a phone!) to the sermon from Sunday. It was a great way to connect with those two boys and one I would have missed if I had been told the correct time! After my session, these boys again asked me questions about scenarios when they graduate. We discussed the fears and worries. As we continued talking, they both opened up about their past. I continue to tell the students how proud I am of them to choose a different life than the streets and to choose to survive. They students have had such difficult pasts but have completely changed their lifestyle. God is good!
Paul is another intern at MITS. He is Kenyan and working with the IT team members. Paul and I spent a couple hours together one afternoon and discussed Kenyan culture vs. American culture. It was a very eye-opening conversation. At one point in the conversation, Paul asked if it was true that in America there are drink machines where you just pay for the cup and can fill it up with as much drink as you want. I told him that was true and laughed thinking that was the one thing that stood out to him of things he had heard about America.
Women’s bible study
On Thursday, I was sitting at the learning center trying to use the wifi when some of the female staff members came and asked if I wanted to join their bible study. They were studying James 1. They blew me away with how deep they study and apply the word to their lives. I cannot wait to continue studying with them.
Quinter & Lucy
Quinter and Lucy are two students in the skills program. They are both studying catering and love to practice their skills. I have provided the ingredients and they have cooked two meals for me (beef samosas and stew). Both have been beyond delicious and filling! At the last meal they cooked for me, I provided an appetizer of mac and cheese. They had never had it before and absolutely loved it, especially Shania, Quinter’s daughter. It has been so great to share a great meal with these two and get to know them and their stories on a deeper level.
I feel as though I am finally in a routine. Walking through the village during the day with Ruby is always hilarious. Adults and children run out of their houses and businesses to say “How are you” to me (usually the only English the kids know). They yell “mzungu” meaning “white person” and love to shake my hand. Ruby says we must walk through the village every day for exercise and to bring joy to the people. I tell her that in the States no one runs out to shake my hand! Among other sweet things that have happened while I have been here, Caroline, one of the students, gave me a bracelet that says “mum” because she said I am like all the the girl’s moms. So sweet and something I truly treasure.
Last month, Francis Mbuvi and Moses Okoth came to the United States to join up with our executive director, Brad Voss, and put in a lot of miles in support of Made in the Streets! Over the course of one month, these three guys visited MITS supporters and churches in 10 cities, building new relationships and dreaming for the future of ministry to street kids.
Here's what went down, by the numbers:
10 cities • 8 churches • 6 flights • 3 universities • 10 host homes • 50 cups of coffee • 100s of conversations • 1 broadway musical • Lots of MITS supporters • Lots of barbecue
Brad Voss, MITS' executive director, shared his thoughts on the trip, "We had a fantastic trip across the United States talking to lots of people about Made In The Streets. We made new friends and met up with many long-time MITS friends and supporters. We had some memorable experiences and received some incredible hospitality along the way. We attended an amazing fund raising dinner in Nashville; spoke in church classes, youth groups, and worship services; visited high school and college classes; met with leaders from KWO; met leaders from ACU, LCU, Lipscomb, and Pepperdine Universities; visited The headquarters of Apple; and met up with some cast members of the Lion King in New York City. We are so thankful to the many hosts and supporters that kept us warm, housed, fed and encouraged along the way. What a great trip!"
2016 was a big year for us... from new students to new hires to new ministry efforts on the horizon, we are amazed at how much has happened and how faithful God has been! Take a look at our 2016-17 annual report here.
Want to get involved with what MITS is doing? There are many ways to partner with us. Please consider sponsoring one of our students, making a one time donation, or even scheduling a visit to come see us in Kenya.
“Come. I will show you Air Jordan.”
Jimmy backed into position, already smirking triumphantly. He momentarily glanced at his hope before sprinting and springing forth right before the three-point line, feet fluttering. You know, much like you do mid-air following the plunge off of the high dive.
The ceremoniously dramatic launching of the ball amounted to, um, not three points. It lost momentum half-way to the goal and then dolefully bounced like a check. Much to our giddy delight.
In downtown Nairobi, just across from the Railways bus stage, in a cramped room on the uppermost floor of the Gatkim building, a peculiar fellowship gathers in the late afternoon hours of any given Sunday. If you stepped into the cool, fluorescent-lit hallways, squeezed into the perilously narrow elevator, and ascended to this meeting place, you would find a motley gathering of men and women. Cooks, bus drivers, shampoo boys, hustlers, and the occasional drug addict all attend, but everyone here shares a common background: each of these people grew up on the streets. This is Into the World, a weekly program for the MITS graduates led by power couple Jackton and Millie Omondi.
It’s easy to romanticize street ministry. Our annual intake of new students arrived from Eastleigh last week, and as the kids acclimate to the safety of Kamulu, their true personalities have begun to emerge as the drug-stained shells fall away. That kind of visible transformation makes for compelling narratives, and as the head of film production at Made in the Streets, I trumpet those narratives to anyone who will listen. Transformation is easy to brand: after all, everybody loves a ministry with visible results. Perceived progress gratifies our desire to make a difference, and that principal guides many of the stories I tell on behalf of this ministry. When I make films to document the transformative process, those films help reinforce our sponsors’ belief that their dollars have accomplished something tangible.
It’s easy to romanticize street ministry, but only from a distance. Despite our best efforts, when students graduate from Made in the Streets, they still face enormous challenges. They enter a job market with a massive unemployment rate and compete against candidates with college degrees. They struggle to overcome vicious prejudice against former street kids. They return to low income communities entrenched in a mindset which doesn’t want them to succeed. In the midst of these challenges, MITS graduates must also come to terms with unresolved trauma often caused by members of their own families. Some fall in with the wrong people and return to drugs, and eventually, the street. Others tackle their problems head on, but constantly struggle to make ends meet.
Jackton and Millie Omondi don’t romanticize street ministry. Over the course of two decades, they’ve worked at MITS in numerous roles, but for the past three years, these two have focused their efforts on Into the World, a weekly meeting which offers a place of community and rest for MITS alumni. Held once a week, Into the World combines Bible study with professional networking and counseling. As Millie observes, very few people in Kenya’s professional community have experienced the trauma of life on the streets, so it’s essential for former street kids to have a place to express their struggles to people who share their background.
This kind of story is much harder to tell. Aside from the logistical challenges of working as a one man film crew and surviving Nairobi’s infamous traffic jams, this project required me to navigate the uncomfortable reality that sometimes love isn’t enough. Even in the two meetings I recorded for this film, the Omondis had to figure out how to love and include a former student whose drug use had caused him to lose his mind. Sometimes loving someone won’t bring them back from drug addiction, won’t keep them from the streets, won’t help them find meaning and purpose in life.
But some people are brave enough to love anyway. Jackton and Millie, we see you. And we’re grateful.
MITS photojournalism intern, Kinley Cash, has only been in Kamulu a week. Born to missionary parents in Nairobi, Kenya & raised in Uganda, Kinley may be new to MITS, but she’s certainly not new to East Africa.
What led you to MITS?
K: "I've known the Conways (a local missionary family) my whole life so I've grown up hearing about MITS. When I was trying to decide what my next step needed to be MITS was always on the radar."
What will you be doing during your time here?
K: "I am here as the photojournalism intern. So while I'm here I'll be taking pictures of anything and everything, trying to record the students daily life at MITS."
"I will also be tutoring some of the kids in English when needed."
What is your favorite memory from your first week here?
K: "My favorite memory so far is getting to walk bases in Eastliegh. The base that we went to was super friendly and receptive and I got to finally see a part of the world that I have been hearing about for my whole life."
You’ll be seeing many of Kinley’s wonderful photos on Facebook & Instagram. Karibou Kinley!
Check out some shots from her first week below!
We'd like to introduce you to Brad Voss, who has joined the Made in the Streets team in the new year as our brand new executive director! Based on what we've seen so far, we are certain that Brad is the right person to lead MITS into a new season of growth over the coming years.
Check out Brad's responses to five questions that shed some light on why we think he's so awesome (and think you will too!), then read on to catch the rest of his bio.
#1: How did you first hear about MITS?
I met Lucky in my first week of 13 in Kenya. He was the kid in my scavenger hunt group wearing a shirt 3 times too big for his body with a Jamaican rapper plastered on the front. He was the kid who helped me find my keys when I lost them at the soccer field, and then proceeded to joke that he wasn’t going to give them back. He was the subject of countless photos in my first few days here.
I remember my dad telling me I could write a good story about a kid named Lucky. Though I certainly have not written nearly as much as I planned to this summer, I like to think that my photos can tell a good story on their own (with a few words here and there to elaborate).
Lucky is a young kid and his size shows it. It is hard for me to picture him living on the streets when he is still small enough to carry in my arms and young enough to not be embarrassed by holding my hand in public. He gets hurt easily and tends to express his emotions outwardly, sometimes through anger and sometimes through tears. When he does this I am reminded of his broken past and the hardships he has faced at such a young age.
The picture above, however, tells the other side of Lucky’s story. While the harder aspects of his life are ever-present, his childlike spirit shines brighter. His smile radiates love and joy and is always there to greet you when you see him. His sense of humor is that of a kid, meaning he loves to sneak up on you and play tricks and giggles nonstop when you mess with him back. He’s mischievous and loving and fun to be around. He’s the kind of kid that brings his Bible to church even though he can’t read yet, lovingly holds and takes care of a starving kitten, and jumps on a bus to give you a hug even though you’ve only been gone for a few days.
He’s the kind of kid that brings his Bible to church even though he can’t read yet.
For many of the kids here, the streets have robbed much of their childhood and it would be easy to think that this would dampen their spirits. I have been privileged enough to see the way this assumption is proven wrong every day at MITS. Lucky’s youth shines through in every moment of every day. I am moved and inspired when I think of the way coming to MITS has given Lucky a second chance at just being a kid, with all the wonder and ups and downs that that brings.
Lucky’s story is just like every other student’s here, too. They have all faced the world in a way no kid should ever have to, but they have come out on the other side. While they still have many challenges to face and a whole rollercoaster of a lifetime ahead of them, they have proven they are resilient in the face of hardships and have the strength to keep up hope and wonder when it seems like there should be no more. They are, simply put, incredible and I am lucky (wink wink) to have had the chance to learn from them and love on them all summer.
When you do this for 20 years, you're bound to pick up a few stories and lessons along the way. Thoughts, impressions, news, and highlights from our staff, visitors, donors, students and alumni.