I'm pretty excited about what I'm presenting today - but I'm also a little nervous. No, I'm a lot nervous. Not because I don't believe in what I will present, but because I've never done this before. I'm afraid (to be honest) of what you may think. But, I decided it's time to act out on my own admonishment. Story speaks. And I believe this story needs to be told... I heard the other day a good story doesn't ask you to come alongside it - it invites you to become a part of the plot. Monday, as I watched our kids brainstorm fundraisers and thought about what would get people to come out vs. what would be lame, I remembered this statement.
And then I realized how all too often we forget.
We forget the power of our stories - the pull of flesh & blood words living in between adventure and struggle. We tend to rely on bells & whistles instead of the sweat & tears poured into a calling.
This is where you come in - and just in case you may be confused, this is where I invite you to join a story.
For those of you who may be new, and for those who have forgotten, this past summer I boarded a plane and entered a story far bigger than myself. Make no mistake. This story exuded "willing not able" - twelve students. Twelve adults.
We never would have stepped foot on that red soil had it not been for the inciting moment - the beginning of one's story where a simple decision catapults them into a greater narrative than they ever imagined or anticipated.
Candice is a teacher at a local high school in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of Austin. Two years ago, Reagan High faced closure because of student performance. Needless to say, morale was low. Despite continued efforts, students' motivation was no easy task.
She aimed to change that and in the summer of 2009 traveled to Kenya where she worked at New Hope School in Kibera - one of the largest slums in the world. Inspired by the students' resilience and determination to complete their education, she recorded them sending messages to her own students in Austin.
The message was clear: we love you. Come to Kibera.
She showed the video on the first day of class the following year.
She expected encouragement. She anticipated motivation.
What she received was something even she couldn't have planned.
Without any hesitation, these students who lacked most resources, answered the call.
What happened next is a whirlwind.
In a world where people most likely thought they were crazy, these Reagan students stood tall. In a world where most kids their age started saving money for a new car, prom tickets or the latest fashions, these kids brainstormed ways to get to Africa. Their goal was seemingly impossible - raise enough money in less than six months for twelve students to travel across the world to spend two weeks in a slum.
And they did - they raised 30,000+ dollars in a little over two months, simply telling their story.
Two stories were merging into one powerful example of redemption and grace and God's incredible promise.
Africa came quickly.
And it took about .5 seconds for our kids to fall in love.
For two weeks, their world juxtaposed with ours in a beautiful, chaotic and humbling way. We laughed with them. Cried with them. Listened to the stories of political unrest and for brief moments, shared their fear of corruption. Most of all, they challenged our comfort at neck-breaking speeds. What resulted were nights filled with tension as we wrestled with what we saw and experienced during the day. No amount of training could prepare us for what Kibera did to our hearts. Whether we were running around a field or squeezing into a tiny classroom with 50 other students, the breaking came swift.
Ashley met Christine - and was the first to receive the cherished notes from the kids.
Devyne met Isaac - and quickly realized distance means nothing when it comes to a fellow brother and sister in Christ and their dreams. Future photographers and writers and filmmakers exist in even the darkest of places. And these individuals may be the ones who bring the light to their country.
Bri met Rose - a spunky teenager who echoed her American counterpart's exuberance for life and laughter. And was equally as feisty.
Nijalon met Daniel. No one could have planned this collision of brothers. I do not exaggerate when I say from the minute we stepped off the bus these two were inseparable. And in through a course of events one can only attribute to Christ's provision and leading, these two wrote a rap song and recorded a music video.
Within moments of entering Kibera, Reagan kids began dreaming about better facilities. Classrooms with solid benches - enough for every student. Supplies. New buildings with stairs that aren't rotted with decay and won't bend with every step.
These students began dreaming - planning - accepting yet another challenge without any hesitation. Upon returning to America, one of our girls said: "Our goal - 40,000 dollars in two months. Our plan - shutup & let God do the work."
And I think that's a really, really good idea.
Since we've returned, the excitement continually builds about providing something for our brothers and sisters in Kibera. We plan. We conspire. We erase. We start over. We brainstorm.
We forget about the story.
The story of twelve students who answered the call. The story of twelve students falling in love with an Africa they never anticipated. The story of hope. Redemption.
And finding beauty amongst the ashes of this world.
In Kibera -
- 1 in 5 children will not see their 5th birthday.
- 50% of the population is school-aged
- 66% of girls will trade sex for food by age six.
- Common living arrangements consist of 8-10 people living in a 12x12 shack
Yet we believe in restoration.
Stories are powerful, but only when shared. And lately we've been noticing and remembering the power of this story.
Construction on a new school & church are currently underway.
What can you do? Join us. Kibera changed us - and we believe wholeheartedly in the calling to share our story in order to bring hope to our brothers and sisters.
Here are some ways you can join our story:
1. Donate!! Go to Manna Worldwide and set up an account. Once you are registered, donate towards Kibera New Hope building project. You will see a "Where it's Needed Most!" dropbox. If you click "other" and fill in project number 76137, all proceeds will go to Kibera. Manna will take no administration cost out of your donation.
2. Share this with a friend. Link it on twitter, post it on facebook, e-mail it to some family members....the possibilities are endless. But don't let the story end here. We understand not everyone can give money - but anyone can share a story about teenagers who gave up their summer, spent hours in community service and became forever connected to their peers across the world.
I look at my living room now, and it's empty. The kids have long gone home. But the thoughts remain. This week Nijalon's been swapping photos via facebook with Daniel. Daniel says hello. Nijalon, clad with suitcases and his African tunic, says he's coming as soon as he can get on a plane.
Devonte mentions this year will be the year he goes to Africa. No matter what.
Ebony quotes statistics of children in Kibera on her profile.
Devyne reminisces about Isaac.
A good story doesn't ask you to come alongside it - it invites you to become a part of the plot. We do not know how the story of Kibera will end. Her story is just starting - and the characters are still fighting for the place in her history.
This is your invitation.
If you do decide to join - please leave a comment letting us know. We'd love to thank you for your support and want to keep you updated on developments in Kibera. For more information, contact me at eloranicole[at]gmail.com