My wife, my son and my mother-in-law are leaving for Africa tomorrow. Their bags are packed, and they will soon board a plane that will carry them for 16 hours. They will work for ten days at two of the schools in the Mathare Valley slums, near the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya
. They get a wonderful opportunity to partner and work alongside the teachers at the Navasha and Mathare Mission schools to help educate African students.
In the months leading up to now, we have heard from many people that the experience of going to Africa changes a person’s perspective about what is important. We heard lots of stories of the lovely people there, and about their contagious smiles, their joy—especially that of children living in an environment without what we would consider necessities.
As my family leaves our comfortable home in suburbia, they will enter into a small geographic area (three square miles), that more than a half-million people call home. Many of those homes are about ten square feet, and made from cardboard, tin and mud. Families of eight to ten share this environment, and many sleep on dirt floors. Although the workers won’t be staying in these homes, they’re looking forward to interacting with, and further developing relationships with Africans.
This past springtime, we had the distinct opportunity of hosting Dotun Modupe, one of our church’s mission partners from Christ Church of Oak Brook
, who was visiting from Kenya. He stayed in our home, and for many days, we were able to sit around the breakfast table with him, and hear stories about what was going on in his country. As we hung onto Dotun’s words, we became even more excited about supporting him. It certainly made this long-awaited trip more personal and meaningful to all of us.
But I wasn’t going to Africa, and I wanted to do something contribute.
I listened to a speaker the following Sunday morning trying to encourage the audience to believe in their own gifts and talents, and that everyone has something to contribute to the cause. Afterwards, an idea and a question came to my mind: why can’t I find a home that needs some love and attention, and fix it up to donate some of the profits to Africa?
That perfect opportunity came up almost as I was thinking about it. Another realtor listed a property in our neighborhood that had been lived in and cared for by its original owner for over 40 years. But it really did need some serious love and fixing up.
This wild idea that came into my head began to take form, and a vision of making a profit for Africa is now well in the works. A further vision of my children, experiencing my talent while rolling up their own sleeves to work together for a cause, is becoming a reality too. To dream and work alongside my family has been one of my greatest joys.
Just a few weeks into our design-rehab, the transformation is already taking shape. The painters took down enough wallpaper to fill a dumpster, and the original carpeting to the 1970s house is now out. Like an HGTV Fixer-Upper or Flip or Flop episode, timing really is everything, so we’re hoping a new family will love what they see, and soon.
The day has finally come, and a lot of thought has been given to what will be packed in their bags. They will take only the necessities that will be used, because the extra space will occupy room for pencils, extra shoes and anything else that the school or a family in Africa will need. I’m happy that my family will invest in something very meaningful this summer, and realize how to use the talents they have been given, for the good of the cause.
“To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” –Matt. xxv. 15.