Tomorrow we leave. It has been an exhilarating and exhausting seven days (2 traveling, 5 in Kenya). We have met hundreds of at risk young adults. We have heard their heartbreaking stories; become friends with far too many who have had their parents die; listened to them call us their new family; and celebrated their stories of finding hope through Panua.
Before we left, our team met several times to prepare for our mission. We were not going to Kenya to build something. Or to bandage wounds. Or to run a vacation Bible school. It was to simply be present with the Panua youth. We were going to bring the hope of Christ by investing in relationships. We would show with our willingness to cross the ocean that we cared about them and were committed to walking with them in the coming years. We were going bring a ministry of presence.
There were a number of reasons for this form of mission. We didn’t want to give a hand out but a hand up. We wanted to empower the youth to take ownership of their growth. We recognized that a long term relationship of prayer and support was more effective than just coming in, doing a few things and leaving. But most of all, we realized that a ministry of presence is very Biblical.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to VISIT….’ Matthew 25:34
Truthfully, it would have been easier just building something. There is a part of me that wants to achieve something, create something, leave something tangible. I want completion. Been there, accomplished that. I found myself constantly fighting the urge to get up and do. And don’t let anyone tell you that driving over miles of rutted dusty roads, gathering with those who speak another language, opening yourself up to complete strangers, and then using all of your attention to focus on listening to a person in great need isn’t really tiring. And we did it again and again. But I am so glad we did.
On our last group visit today, there was a young lady who shared that she was sure we wouldn’t come. We were running late from visiting the previous group and she thought we just wouldn’t show. But she said, she was so thankful we HAD come. Because our PRESENCE gave her hope!
I ask you – are you bringing the hope of Christ to another? Are you investing in a relationship with them? You don’t have to go to Kenya to do that (though I certainly recommend it). There are those in our family, in our neighborhood and in our city that need your ministry of presence!
The truth is, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this trip. I have been blessed far more than I have given. I am thankful for all of you who make the Panua ministry what it is. You are blessing many through your generosity and your prayers. Finally, I am eager to continue the ministry of presence with others who need the hope of Christ. How about you? How about you?