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
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