“What did you play on before the playground was here?”
My question hung in the air.
They were at a loss. Before? Nothing. There was nothing like this.
We had constructed a playground on the grounds of an elementary school, yet the school had never had a play structure like this. There was nothing that the kids could run over to and swing and slide and jump around on. Now, that was all changing and they were immediately flocking to the area, loving every minute.
For the last several years The Hope Venture has invested into Kenyan youth. 60% of high school youth drop out of school by 9th grade. Many of these youth end up on the streets, maybe getting into drugs and alcohol, maybe getting pregnant, maybe just not having the opportunities they long for to break out of a world of poverty.
We partner with a street ministry who is working with us to keep kids off the streets. We sponsor these kids at high school age so they can get back into school consistently for four years. They go to a local boarding school where they get a good education along with food, clothing, and a safe place to sleep.
A couple years back we began gathering these students for retreats 1-2 times per year. Since most of them are orphans, these retreats became like family time for them. We all loved it!! We gather for a few days to eat and talk together about life, God and all kinds of things. It has changed all our lives!
We quickly also saw that even though all these students had something in common in that they were all sponsored and needy in some way, they all also had something to give. All of us have something we can give. At The Hope Venture, we try to teach this value of generosity among all of us. But we were reminded with these students that they are a part of that with us and they too have so much to offer. None of us is only a giver or only a recipient; we are all givers and receivers. We are all needy in some way; we are all able to be generous and kind and loving in some way.
This past summer we put this to the test. We had a retreat with our Kenyan students, but instead of seeing it as a time to pour into them and build them up, we saw it as a time to link arm in arm with them… a time to love and pour into them, a time to receive their love, and a time to join them in pouring out to and serving other people. The playground came from this desire to serve together.
We designed a playground that we could all be a part of building. About 20 Kenyans and 10 Americans joined together to pound nails, cut wood, drill holes, and side by side, do something for someone other than ourselves. The recipients of this: the elementary students mentioned above. It was amazing. For one thing, we didn’t even imagine that some of these students wouldn’t know how to pound a hammer… a skill they were so grateful to learn. Others just loved doing a project together with their new American friends. The principle is true everywhere in the world: all of us have something to give.
What about you?
Ever feel like you don’t have much to offer? Ever feel like your small contribution won’t matter? We don’t believe that. All of us have gifts and talents and resources and knowledge and SOMETHING that we can offer to the world around us. We can serve others in some way and be a part of spreading love to a needy soul on the other end.
I’m needy. I don’t have it all together. But I am a giver too. And I can make a difference. So can you.