Darlene Coulston, Founder
Laurent is here on his leave also – he was in our very first “school” in 1996. My mom taught him to read. He has been working in Kenyatta University catering dept. for all those years. He too is happy to come help.
I read Narnia tales to the newest students, have for years. While I was gone, an intern, Madeline, read to them – the kids loved it. I can see a three-month improvement in these students’ manners and especially their English. Wow.
Last week, we had some of the single MITS Team over. We talked about the students, told funny stories, and Charles and I shared some early stories of MITS. We fed our guests hamburgers, and then we wanted them to experience roasting marshmallows. To start with, our “marshmallows” are from Mumbai. Then, we didn’t have enough charcoal briquettes and no charcoal lighter (only thing we had was “surgical spirits” – bad idea), and only old files to use as paper kindling. So imagine lots of smoke, and marshmallows that won’t lightly brown…..! We still had fun but won’t do that again, ha.
We love our two lives. This ministry is a joy to us. We rejoice in the Team; they truly love the students and each other. They have fun with them. They know how to do “LIFE.” It is wonderful to see teens come in from the streets, learn and grow, and go out to honor Jesus in the workplace.
Brad Voss, Executive Director
When I was much younger I loved sleeping outside. It was so much fun. I slept in the backyard, on porches, in treehouses, on trampolines, in state parks, on football fields, in tents, in hammocks – even on the side of a mountain (or two). Anytime I got the chance, I was so happy to sleep outside. On balmy summer nights growing up in Texas I was thrilled to sleep outside with little more than a blanket of stars across the sky as cover. As I grew a little older I was lucky enough to travel to places like Colorado and New Mexico and Alaska where warm nights were replaced by much cooler nighttime temperatures and thin quilts were replaced by down sleeping bags and four-season tents. Waking up on those crisp mornings and crawling out of a toasty sleeping cocoon was the stuff of dreams. For most of my life sleeping outside was incredible. It was romantic and exciting and fueled some of my happiest memories.
When I made my first trip to Kenya in 2016, sleeping outside took on a whole new perspective and meaning. It was during this trip that I first came face-to-face with children and teenagers who sleep outside every single night. And not because it was fun or adventurous. And not inside a nice tent or wrapped in a down sleeping bag. It was on this trip that I learned and understood for the first time that thousands of kids go to sleep - no, try to sleep - outside on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya (and in many other cities around the world). It’s not romantic. It’s not filled with happy memories. It’s cold. It’s dangerous. And it’s real.
Each night tens of thousands of kids in Kenya and millions of kids around the world will lay their heads down on cold ground – not because it’s fun to sleep outside, but because there is no inside. They didn’t plan to be there, but because of abuse or neglect or lack of resources or a myriad of other reasons, they are there. The nights are cold and scary and very dark. They will hopefully find friends with whom they can share the night. They will huddle close together to increase warmth, and they will take turns staying awake to fend off the dangers that often appear in the darkness. And they will pray. They will pray that the night passes quickly and that the sun shows itself sooner rather than later. These precious kids love the mornings. They love seeing the sun come up and feeling the heat that it brings. And they love seeing people (like the team at MADE IN THE STREETS) who love and care for them.
I still really like sleeping outside. I like camping under the stars and the moon with friends and family. But now, on every night I sleep outside (and on most nights that I sleep inside) I’m mindful of the many incredible kids that are also out there. I pray that they find warmth. I pray that they find friends for protection. I pray that they find a softer, more comfortable spot than the one they found last night. And I pray that somehow, someway, with God’s help and all of us working together, more of those kids can find their way off of the streets and into the exciting, fun, romantic, and adventurous life of sleeping inside.
For more information about how you can help street kids move from outside to inside check out the Plan A Fundraiser or Serve In Kenya pages on the MITS website.
Lauren Meandro, Filmmaker Intern
R - RAIN
The rainy season came late this year and the roads around here get pretty muddy. The mud sticks to your shoes and if you don’t have “gumboots” (rain boots), clean feet will be a thing of the past. While the rain has been an inconvenience, it has helped the farms and we are thankful.
S - SICK
If you don’t get sick here at least once, then I feel like you really haven’t been to Kenya (it’s pretty much unavoidable, since you’re exposed to so many unfamiliar bacteria). I might as well have been here four times then, since that’s how many times I’ve been unwell! Being sick away from home is never fun, especially in a foreign country, but I have been well taken care of here. I even got to experience a Kenyan hospital - which I can happily say was not a traumatic experience.
God also sent a little blessing my way after all my suffering. While bedridden, I craved chicken noodle soup. When I showed up on Monday to work, the visiting group had made Chicken Pho for lunch! I could have cried I was so happy.
T - TIME
Kenyan time and American time are different things. As I’m typically late to everything and patient with those who are like me, I figured I would fit right in. However, turns out it’s harder to escape my American roots than I thought.
U - UNIVERSAL
Another one of my favorite parts about traveling is just discovering how small the world is. Some things that I’ve found to be universal are a baby’s love for silly noises, the love of a good beat, and sharing good food together. Oh, and all small children love the Baby Shark song. You can’t convince me otherwise.
V - VACATION
While on the outside it may look like a vacation, living and volunteering in a foreign country for the summer is definitely hard work. That’s why a break every now and then is so important. Our intern team was able to get away a couple of times to not only rest and be restored, but also to experience other parts of the Kenyan culture! Here are a few pictures from our visit to the coast and our safari in Maasai Mara.
W - WORSHIP/THE WORD
Listening to people praise and learn about the same God in another language. There’s nothing quite like it. I think I really developed this love when I attended a German church when I lived in Leipzig. Seeing others praise His name in their native tongue, praising Him alongside them, though I don’t know the meaning of the words, learning the countless names for Him (Yesu, Bwana, Mungu, Baba)… It never gets old.
X - EXTRA
Sometimes you think you're going to need a lot more of something than you actually end up using. I for one brought so much sunscreen it’s not even funny. Guess how much I’ve used of it?
Y - YUM
Kenyan food is heavy, but it’s good. Chapati (which is kind of like a thicker tortilla) is a favorite. Also, like, all of the fruit.
Z - ZERO POWER
The power will go out a couple times a month. Sometimes for a couple hours, sometimes a couple days. It’s been an adventure cooking in the dark or coming home to charge a device only to realize you can’t. It’s just all part of living here so you just gotta be flexible.
Lauren Meandro, Filmmaker Intern
I - INTERNS
What a blessing it is to serve with this wonderful team!! Each of us is so different from the other, yet we are bonded by our common goal to love others well. I could write a whole blog about each one of them and the amazing gifts God has given them.
J - JOY
Whether you’re missing home, in a place you’re completely unfamiliar with, or just overwhelmed by your work and circumstances, it can be hard to have joy. I’m not gonna lie, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for me so far. I’ve felt lonely, overwhelmed, and anxious. There have been days that I come home feeling like it would have been easier to just stay in the States.
Through these seemingly joyless moments though, I know God is still faithful. Along my daily path, He reminds me in little ways (like a new student walking home with me from Chapel or the sun shining just right through the flowering trees) that He is there and He is with me. I just have to look up from my trudging feet to see Him and to see how I can have joy in those moments.
K - KARIBU
“Karibu” is Swahili for “Welcome”. While I have felt homesick, God has also provided warmth and welcome through Kenyan hospitality! The other interns and I have been loved and welcomed into this community so well.
L - LANGUAGE
The language barrier (or often, the accent barrier) has been rough on me for sure. I’ve never experienced a language quite like Swahili before. Since I have really no other language to compare it to, I have found it much harder to pick up on and understand. Being in a Christian setting has definitely helped, though. Seeing Bible passages I’m familiar with or singing songs I know in English has helped me recognize and translate certain words on my own.
On the flip side though, mispronunciation can sometimes be quite unforgiving (like the time I was practicing numbers with some students and was tricked into saying the word for an uncircumcised man). As with all language barriers and learning though, patience and grace are key.
M - MATATU
Oh, matatus. Matatus (buses) are the main mode of transportation here, if you don’t have a car. They can be big or small, colorful or just plain, but either way, the entire experience feels like organized chaos (but mostly chaos).
N - NEW, NORMAL, AND THE "NEW NORMAL"
O - OVERWHELMED
P - PRAYER
Q - QUICKMART
The first grocery store we went to. It’s honestly more than a grocery store though, as it has three floors and sells washing machines. It’s in the next town over, Ruai, and takes about 20 minutes to get there. It doesn’t have many American products like some of the larger grocery stores do, but it has Nutella and Oreos, so I’m not complaining.
Samuel Montoya, Teacher's Aide Intern
Time is funny, isn’t it? In the same forty minutes it takes to complete each class every weekday, one student could ponder how fast the class seemed to fly right by, while another, being continuously bored, could finally celebrate as a seemingly never-ending class had finally past. Time, it’s funny. It’s funny because we use time as a construct for everything. It was Einstein who once said, “time is an illusion.” An illusion that has overwhelmed our everyday lives keeping us going from one thing to another.
Time always seems to keep us in motion. Scheduled events of each day bookmarked by time stamps. Calendars of events earmarked by time frames. They say time is everything and that concept has never felt more real than these past couple weeks leading up to my inevitable departure from my MITS internship. As I count all my “maybe-last-times” to do something incredible, I’m reminded by my new Kenyan family that time is not as important as presence.
I can schedule meetings, plan events, organize classroom activities that all take time; but, when was the last time I planned a meeting just to talk with someone because I cared about them; when was the last time I hosted a social event with no planned endtime; when was the last time I scheduled a classroom activity that wasn’t just busy work; when was the last time I was present?
Being born into the fast-moving, always-going society of American life, it’s hard to be present with people. To be totally entranced by the moment that you forget (or ignore) all other time, meetings, schedules, and plans. If there’s one thing I learned while being here in Kenya is that you always have enough time to be present; you always have time to stay in the moment; there will always be time.
Sure, there may be a time when I go back to the states that I stop listening to Toto’s “Africa”; there might be a time when I stop trying to learn Kiswahili; there might be a time I stop missing the bumpy van rides to Eastleigh; and sure there might even be a time that I take my bracelets off that reminds me of the kids who made them for me. But what I’ll never forget is that time is just time, bracelets are just bracelets, bumpy rides can happen anywhere, Kiswahili is constantly changing, and Toto’s “Africa” will probably never go out of style, and being present with people gives them purpose. And when we give purpose to people, it gives them hope; it makes things...personal.
Lauren Meandro, Filmmaker Intern
As I’ve lived in Kenya for over a month now, it’s hard to pick just one experience to talk about. So, I figured it was best to go back to the basics and go through the ABCs. This month I’ll focus on letters A-H.
A - AIRPLANES AND AIRPORTS
We had to take three flights to get to Nairobi. Traveling is already tiring itself, but tack on a nine hour layover and a missed flight and you have a recipe for some delirious interns. We survived though, despite the several days of jet lag that it caused us!
B - BONFIRE
C - CONNECTION
D - DANCING
Boy, can these students dance! While much of the staff goes to visit Eastleigh bases on Eastleigh Fridays, the students have the day to hang out and just be kids. Many of the students play soccer on the field while others dance. I’ve been able to join in a few times, and though the students are far better than I am, I’ve definitely enjoyed the experience!
E - EXPERIENCE
Over the last few weeks I’ve definitely had many new experiences. One of them was pulling a banana directly off the bunch! Here’s a video of some of the other interns pulling bananas with MITS founder, Charles Coulston.
F - FLORA AND FAUNA
There are many things I love about being in different parts of the world (as you’ll see throughout this series), but there’s just something special about the different plants and animals that are native to the area where I'm living. Here are just some of the pieces of God’s creation that I’ve been seeing.
G - GABU
H - HOMESICK
The honeymoon phase has definitely faded and I’m missing certain pieces of home. I’ve found myself missing my car a lot recently, though I think that really stems from missing the independence that I have in the US. For several legitimate reasons, there are not many places MITS allows me (as a young white woman) to go by myself. Abiding by cultural and carefully considered standards are often just part of living “sent”. It may be hard sometimes, but leaning into God’s purpose for me here is far better than focusing on what I’m missing.
Ashlynn McNeal, Teacher's Aide Intern
Coming to MADE IN THE STREETS as a teachers aide I did not have many expectations. I did not know the different levels the students were at or how much English they would understand and know. While being a teachers aide over the past few weeks I have found that it is both rewarding as well as challenging.
What has stood out to me most so far would be the confidence the students have within themselves. One of my favorite classes is the beginners library class. They are all eager to stand up in front of the class and read. Most of the students in beginners don’t know English very well. So hearing them stand up in front of their peers with confidence and reading without hesitation brings me joy. I enjoy seeing the students want to learn and not giving up even when frustration takes place.
A challenge for me has been one-on-one tutoring with a student that knows barely any english. The alphabet song has been played over and over again but we will continue to listen to the song until it sticks. A few small steps everyday is all it takes. I have learned repetition is the key to progress. It might not happen overnight but with time, difference is made.
Through this, I was then reminded of repetition in prayer. Our prayers are not always answered right away but that does not mean to give up on that prayer. Over time it will be answered, not necessarily in the way we asked or hoped for but better than we could imagine. Just like the Lord does not give up on our prayers, I have seen the MITS staff never give up on the students. There will always be rewards and challenges but the key is to not give up because progress will take place.
I look forward to seeing the progress that will be made over the next few months and watching the students grow in confidence within themselves and around their peers. Like mentioned above it might not happen overnight or as fast as we would like but with repetition, all things are possible!
“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” -Muhammad Ali
Madeline Surdacki, Street Ministry Intern
The sound of freshly sharpened pencils skating across blank pages echoes throughout the room, like a blade on freshly zambonied ice. Lips purse into meticulous grimaces while steady hands try to color within the lines, careful not to waste an inch of the 4x6 canvas. Feet scuff across the floor as erasers are torpedoed across the room and laughs are shared over mischievous sketches that most definitely do not fit the prompt’s criteria. In the middle of the chaos, one masterpiece jumps off the page, particularly coming to life. Slowly the edges are rounded, shapes are formed, and labels are given one by one: fine course adjustment knob, lens, body… the page could easily be mistaken for that of a textbook as the sketch is finished up.
The student proudly addresses the room with the confidence of a professor, introducing himself as Isaac Newton. He explains the importance of each part and how it contributes to the quality of the image. The rest of the room becomes transfixed on his lesson as it transitions from microscopes to the plant life cycle. His lesson comes all from memory, there is no textbook, not even a worksheet, because Isaac Newton is street smart.
In the hours I’ve spent in Eastleigh I have seen intelligence manifest itself in ways I’ve never experienced before. I’ve seen boys use a piece of string to tie up the ankles of their pant legs so that they don’t drag in the mud after a rainy weekend. I’ve watched smoke rise out of an almost invisible tunnel, a fire just deep enough that it doesn’t burn, but sustains a comfortable temperature. I’ve crouched in a chair made for a human half my size with three littles balanced on my lap, soaking up every line of the picture book cradled in my hands. I’ve witnessed a hunger for knowledge like never before, students hanging on my every word hoping to learn something new that afternoon. I have learned that street kids are some of the best inventors, engineers, architects, and emergency responders that inhabit our planet. Deprived of an access to education, these children have quite literally made a classroom in their backyard. They don’t have playgrounds, desks, or pencil pouches. Their idea of glue is nothing like Elmer’s. Their uniforms hardly resemble anything accepted as standard school attire. Yet, because these boys are street smart they have survived, and I get to be a witness of their brilliant existence.
by Samuel Montoya, Teacher's Aide Intern
Each day the sun sets and rises over a clearing across the Kamulu area. And each day when the sun rises, it will rise a little bit brighter. In a small, but impactful, school lies around 100 students whose lives have been drastically transformed. Why is that? The best answer we can give is God’s goodness, His mercy, and His never ending love.
The school, MADE IN THE STREETS (MITS) has given hundreds of children a chance at a fresh start. Each student that walks through the door frames of the chapel that you can see praising and singing to God are the same kids that you would have seen high and addicted to glue or rocket fuel 2 years (sometimes 2 weeks) before. This incredible transformation is a lot of times unfathomable and indescribable knowing where street kids start from.
A passage that came to mind since being here these past four weeks comes out of Ephesians. Paul begins his letter by addressing the Ephesian church about their citizenship in God’s kingdom. Ephesians 2:19-22 reads: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Throughout my first four weeks here in Kamulu, I have seen God’s transforming power to take a child who is left for dead on the streets and turning them into a bright young mind of the future with their hearts turned towards Him.
I can see this transformation through their writing abilities. On an Eastleigh Friday, I asked Irene if I can provide the dictation writing prompt for the students (to help me out with a side poetry project I am working on this summer). I had all the students answer three questions relating to sin and how sin affects them in their everyday lives. And the responses I received were incredible. Not only did all the students know the nature of sin, but some even provided metaphors to how they thought sin worked in their lives. Reading through near 90 essays regarding sin, I could tell that these students have come a long, long way since being on the streets.
MITS has provided a platform to launch these students, these former street kids, into a new life, a new direction that doesn’t look back. I am enthralled at the levels of eagerness and perseverance that these kids have shown throughout their lives and their willingness to soak up any, and all, information that comes their way.
Do you have a heart for missions? Have you ever thought about moving to Kenya?
We may just have the opportunity for you!
We are looking for an individual or couple to serve alongside our MITS team in Kenya.
This is a 2 year mission opportunity to support the spiritual formation of our visitors, mission trips, internships, and staff in Kenya.
Click here to submit an application!
If you are interested and wanting more information, email Christian Yoder with your questions!
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.