IDP Camp! AKA best day of ministry so far!

I thought my heart broke when we went to the tribes in the bush of Africa. And it did break over the things that we saw and experienced there. But that heartbreak was nowhere near what I felt when we visited the IDP camp this week. We went to hand out food that our team purchased. When we arrived, the people staying there were in the middle of their church service. We were invited to sing three songs (nothing new there :P),as well as give a testimony and a sermon. After this, we played with the kids and began to hand out the food to the adults. We were able to provide one small bag of cornmeal, a small bag of beans and a small chunk of lard(for cooking with). Once we got towards the end of the line, we realized that we wouldn’t have enough food for each person. It broke our hearts but we had to send a few people away with just one small bag of cornmeal.
After we finished handing out the food, we spent the last hour visiting “homes” in the camp. Some of the houses are actually structures made out of brick but most of the homes are makeshift tents . The home we visited was so small that we barely fit inside. This was a family of four and I couldn’t wrap my mind around how they found enough room to lie down at night to sleep. There were two chickens who apparently share the home with the family as well. With the help of our lovely interpreters (Rachel and Ann, two young sisters who also live in the camp), we learned that the woman of the house was named Sarah. She has three children and they have been in the IDP camp for four years. She and thousands of other members of her tribe were forced to leave their homes because their lives were being threatened due to post election violence. Basically, there were two men running for president: each from his own tribe. In Kenya, presidents are voted for based on what tribe they are a part of. The people here don’t generally take into account the candidates ability to lead the country well. They just want their tribe to be represented. This causes a lot of unrest among the tribes. There are 47 tribes in Kenya; more tribes than any other African country. Some tribes are smaller than others but each Kenyan is very loyal to their tribe. When the past president was reelected four years ago, the tribes belonging to the losing candidates became very angry and violent towards the tribe who the winning candidate belonged to. They set fire to churches and homes. They were killing people left and right. In order to save their own lives, the tribe being attacked was forced to leave their homes and move into the IDP camp that the government provided. The government (partnering with African Inland Mission) tries to make these IDP camps seem like towns of their own. They build church buildings, shops, and houses. But in reality, no one feels at home. Food is scarce. The ability to plant and grow crops is limited. Jobs are nonexistent within the camp and very difficult to find outside the camp. In a situation like this, surely I would be miserable. I would most likely feel sorry for myself and complain about my circumstances. If you visit these camps though, you will not hear a single complaint. The people are joyful, hopeful, and patient.
When visiting with Sarah, I couldn’t help but notice her faith. She said she was waiting on the Lord to bring her home and to provide for her. She kept saying “God is good. He is faithful.” There was no doubt in her voice or on her face. She is so confident in the Lord and His ability to provide. I wish I had faith and dependence on the Lord more like hers.
I made a small handful of friends at the camp that day and we all hugged each other goodbye, promising to see each other soon. I wish I could have stayed all day. I can’t wait to go back and visit with my friends again. The girls that I befriended kept talking about how encouraged they were that we were there to spend time with them . I was so surprised by these comments. I couldn’t understand how I could possibly be of any encouragement to them! All I could offer them was a small amount of food that might last a week, a genuine smile, four hours of my time and  a few bible verses. In the end, they were more encouraging to me in my faith than I could ever be to them!

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