In August of this year, I had the privilege to travel with a group of nine to Nairobi, Kenya on a mission trip. The trip was classified as a vision casting and due diligence trip for a small non-profit where I serve as Treasurer. The mission team was comprised of board, donor, and a former Kenya resident. As this was my first international mission trip, it was an eye opening experience for me, one in which I hope I will not soon forget.
The non-profit exits to provide hope through education in Jesus name. The slums of Mathare in Nairobi, Kenya are being impacted by the mission. In an area of two to three square miles just outside of the city, there are six to seven-hundred thousand people existing with nearly half being children. I use the term existing intentionally. Aside from obtaining sponsors for education, there is little to no hope of living outside of the slum area.
The experience was my first close-up view to not only poverty but also repugnant living conditions. Homes represented by 10×10 shacks with dirt floors where clean water is not readily available. Septic is just outside the front door, electricity is a luxury and the provision for daily bread is a daily prayer.
As Chief Operating Officer of Missouri Baptist Foundation, I have the daily privilege of assisting and witnessing individuals as they give sacrificially to support their church, Baptist ministries and other Christian causes through current and planned giving. Many of the ministries we know and love would not exist without individuals contributions. I am humbled and grateful for the generosity and Christian stewardship I see modeled.
As an American, I also see many of us give out of our abundance or perhaps not at all. Are we too focused on catching the American dream that we fail to recognize we have a God ordained part, we have a call, and we have a responsibility? In the Gospel of Mark, we have one version of Feeding the Five Thousand. A familiar story to you, I am sure. I noticed something after I had been to the slum, after I was evaluating, what is my part? How am I called? What is my responsibility to share and to serve? We will start in verse 30, where the apostles and Jesus had been busy at work and Jesus called them to a “quiet place and (to) get some rest”. Oh but wait, they were being followed by large crowds, and even though Jesus acknowledged the need for rest, He was moved with compassion to feed His sheep. This strikes me that even though we may be entitled to rest, there are times we must set that aside for the call. Going on, the apostles, being thoughtful and planning ahead, told Jesus he should send the crowds away so they could go home and, “buy themselves something to eat”. Jesus had something else in mind. You remember the story, he told them, “you give them something to eat”. Of course, the disciples saw this as nearly impossible, in fact, they estimated, “That would take more than half a year’s wages”. I love Jesus’s response. “How many loaves do you have?”, he asked. “Go and see”. Jesus knew, but he wanted his disciples to “go and see”.
Perhaps, we need to take some time and “go and see” what the Lord has so abundantly provided to us. I submit, no matter where you might be on the spectrum of income, you have abundantly more than those children the Lord allowed me to “see” in Kenya. While you are finding what you have, while you are being grateful for what you have, while you are prayerfully being a steward of what you have, I urge you to ask the Lord how he would want you to share.
The Foundation is equipped with staff to assist you as you “go and see” what the Lord God has entrusted to you. We will walk along side of you as you gather information and prepare to meet with your legal and financial professionals so that you can maximize your generosity to family, your church, Baptist ministries, and other Christian causes.
Something else I saw in Kenya, gratitude and contentment. It was everywhere. In the eyes of parents as they humbly invited us into their home. In the smile of the students as they thanked us for being a sponsor. There is Hope. His name is Jesus and He uses us to accomplish His purposes.
Shelly Vaughn is the Chief Operating Officer for Missouri Baptist Foundation. For assistance, you may reach Shelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.776.0747, ext. 542. ν