The following blog was written by Katie Hambrick, Ignite Hope’s intern for the fall season:
The summer of 2012 was an eventful time in Kenya. World politics were affecting the nation significantly, and radical groups were bombing the area surrounding the U.S. embassy. Kenya’s government was attempting to pass legislation to help their fellow Kenyans, but this was met with resistance. Although most Kenyans lived in the midst of turmoil, they had this sweet fascination with Americans. Individual Kenyans asked me over and over if I knew that he or she was President Obama’s cousin. The other missionaries and I tried to keep count of these claims, but it was impossible.
I traveled to Kenya with my youth group. We had around 65 people travel with ages ranging from teenagers to the elderly. We were honored to be able to go into the slums of Nairobi, but it left a scar on my heart. Some of the things we saw seemed more fitting for nightmares as opposed to real life. It reminded me of those commercials that say, “For just a quarter a day you can feed a child in need,” that always show a video of a kid fishing through trash or sewage for food. I was humbled to witness this very thing with my own eyes. A child who couldn’t have been more than three years of age was fishing through the sewage and trash on the street for food.
We also went to an orphanage in the slums that primarily consisted of HIV orphans. One word comes to mind when I think of this place: dirt. My most vivid memory of this place is of the dirt that seemed to cover everything and everyone, from buildings to children. It was not the red Georgia clay I was used to; rather, it was an all-encompassing and lung-filling dirt. The kids went to grab my blonde hair because most of them had never seen it before, and when they let go, my hair felt like crunchy dirt. Those children still had smiles on their faces that could be seen through the dirt and possessed a deep curiosity about why Americans would care enough to come share the Gospel with them.
We washed girl’s feet in the slums and gave them new shoes. I like to think that we were literally foot-washing Baptists at that moment to provide a token of humor in such dire circumstances. I struggle to find the right words to convey the suffering properly. I realized that human trafficking is real. These young girls were trying to take care of themselves and their families. They did it for food. They did it for toothpaste and a toothbrush. They did it for sanitary products. These girls told me stories about their experiences, and when I arrived home and began researching it, I realized that human trafficking is also happening in the United States.
I talked to one little boy after my youth group was finished performing one night. I asked him about his parents. He told me that he had never known his dad and had not seen his mom in a number of months. He would sleep on the streets that night, as he did every night.
I left my heart in Kenya with these girls and orphans, and I was so thankful that God brought them into my life.