By Kristen Miller
NAIROBI, KENYA - Chad Erickson of Cokato uses the word “intense” when he describes the mission trip to Kenya that he and eight others recently returned from.
He and eight others from the Cokato area embarked on an African journey June 8 to bring food, shelter, and the word of God to children and the people of Kenya.
The experience was made possible through the International Adventure Center (IAC) and donations from the community.
Each person on the trip needed to raise $3,500 in order to participate in the trip’s mission to feed and clothe impoverished families in Kenya.
The vision for this trip was planted during a men’s retreat at Camp Shamineau Bible Camp in February, where Chuck O’Keefe, the founder of IAC, spoke.
O’Keefe shared a bit about past trips to Kenya and an orphanage he was starting for African children.
“We wanted to be a part of something bigger,” Erickson said, of himself and those who took part in the mission.
One of the goals of the trip was to distribute food to individual homes in the Eastern Province of Kenya, which has been in a three-year drought.
The team traveled with four vans, two of which were filled with food, according to Erickson.
The food that was distributed included rice, beans, porridge, corn meal, and baby formula.
“We’re grateful to the community for their support. They made this possible,” Erickson said.
Also distributed were medical supplies, including medicine to treat worms, which many of the people are infected with, and vitamins for nutrition.
In a past trip, O’Keefe worked in Kibura, a slum just minutes from downtown Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
That’s when he met the 12 children who would be taken out of the slum and brought to their new home in Embu, about three hours northeast of Nairobi.
All of the children were between the ages of 2 and 7, though this is only an estimate since none of the children had birth certificates.
It’s been estimated in this slum there are about 1 million people living within one square mile.
They have no running water, little food, no electricity, and sewage in the streets where the children play, according to Erickson.
“The smells are overwhelming. It was awful. But yet, your compassion was greater than any smell,” he said.
Erickson recalled the orphans were a bit scared at first, not knowing exactly where they would end up.
The group first took the children to their hotel in Nairobi to feed, bathe, and clothe them.
Eighteen suitcases of clothing and toys were donated from the people in the Cokato area, Erickson said.
He said it was just as much of a culture shock for the missionaries as it was for the children who had never experienced a shower nor been inside a hotel before heading to Embu.
Within a day of being in their new home, the children were excited to be there and didn’t want to go back to their former home in the slum of Kibura.
Here, the children had running water, a septic system, bunk beds, food, schooling, and two acres of yard to play in.
In the slum, these same children would play in the dirt alleyways where the sewage runs, Erickson said.
For two days, while in the slum, the mission team visited four different schools teaching vacation Bible school and playing games with the students. They also donated school supplies such as coloring crayons.
“They were absolutely amazed and so excited,” Erickson said.
The team also attended four congregations in Nairobi and Embu, sharing the Gospel.
In Kenya, they were referred to as “Mzungu,” meaning white people, in Swahili.
They were greeted by the children, saying in English, “How are you,” and “I am fine,” as if it were all one word, explained mission team member Tim Borg.
Borg encourages anyone to go on a mission trip to see for themselves just how rewarding it can be.
“It’s a great experience,” he said.
As Borg and his teammates have said several times, “We thought we were blessing them, and they have blessed us.”
“For the people we met that knew the Lord, and the joy that they had in their heart because of it, it was contagious,” Borg said.
“I was amazed . . . and thankful. It makes a lot of my problems seem pretty small,” he said.