A few years ago I travelled with a group from church to Kenya. We spent the first few days of our trip in Nairobi and visited a school situated right in the middle of the slums of the city. As we drove through crowded streets to get to the school, several words came to mind—broken, hopeless, desolate, despair. And yet as soon as we walked in the school there was only joy. The school had children as young as five months and as old as twelve years, many of whom had special needs. Every single child was absolutely thrilled to have visitors, especially visitors who were willing to take their pictures and then show them the images on the screens of our digital cameras. We spent the day with those kids, playing on the playground and doling out high fives. We visited one two-year-old class where they sang us a song about butterflies, and to this day it’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I taught a few of the kids how to play peek-a-boo (a game they found completely hysterical), and one sweet little boy gave me a kiss on the cheek. As we walked around, I heard the teachers saying over and over again, “You can be anything.” It felt like the biggest blessing in that moment to know that those children were not only in a place where they had food to eat and could learn and play, but a place where they were loved—a place where they were valued and treated as children of God. We spent the latter part of the week in one of the more rural villages, building a bridge for the Pokot community. Their village was basically divided in half by a deep, fast-moving river that was extremely dangerous to cross. As we pulled the final pieces together, along with members of the community who had come to work and build with us, people stood on either side of the bridge waiting to cross it for the first time.
Kenya has been on my heart lately—partly because there’s been an ache in my soul to go back there and partly because I’m watching our nation be torn apart by injustice and racial division. As I went back and read journal entries that I wrote during my trip over two years ago, I was reminded that there is something within us that transcends culture and ethnicity and socioeconomic status. It is the thing found in music and laughter and the sound of children playing. It is our shared humanity, and it is a precious and beautiful gift—if we’re willing to acknowledge it.
Today I’m praying for a different kind of world. I’m praying for a world where children know they are loved and valued, where people have access to the most basic things they need, where we fight for justice and love and opportunity for all people—because they are people and people matter. And I’m praying for Kenya—for the Pokot community and the teachers and the boy who kissed me on the cheek.