After driving through Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, we were introduced to two girls who are residents of Rehema House (swahili for Mercy). Our team divided into two groups and walked into the slums to the girls’ homes. After a very steep, slippery, and dirty walk, we were invited into Lavine’s home where we met her mother. The room where about 9 of us (plus Lavine and her mother) went into was probably smaller than most of our closets. Even there, the beauty of a mother’s love was evident. Lavine had just recently given birth to Isaac the week before, and her mother seemed truly proud that her daughter and grandson were being given a chance for a new life. She shared with us that she was thankful that there were no flies in the hospital where her daughter had just given birth. This was because Mercy House truly takes care of the beautiful girls and babies.
Our next stop (after a very bumpy, crazy ride) was Rehema House. After many years of reading about and supporting this organization, I couldn’t even explain my emotions. We drove up to the beautiful home on the side of a mountain and were greeted by girls singing and welcoming us on the porch.
Tears filled my eyes as a I saw with my own eyes these beautiful girls, rescued from situations that I could not even imagine, sharing the joy of Christ through their smiles and songs.
We were able to tour the house, be introduced to the girls and their babies, have lunch, and just learn more about Mercy House. We spent the next few days being around these beautiful girls and their babies, learning more about their dreams and plans, seeing their smiles, and hearing their laughter and worship.
At Rehema (Mercy) House, pregnant girls are brought in from sometimes life-threatening situations. They are given healthcare for themselves and their babies. They are taught how to take care of their babies and their homes, while being taught life-skills. Their days also include Bible classes and worship.
For the first year of the program, the girls learn many basic skills that will help them to care for their baby. During the second year, the girls continue their education by learning skills such as sewing, beading, and cosmetology. (If you’d like to purchase some of the beautiful products made by the girls of Rehema House and other fair trade organizations, visit http://mercyhouseglobal.org.) While we were there, the girls needed to do their final exam for nails and hair, so several of our team were given the special treatments. Kathryn got a manicure and had some weave extensions put in her hair, and Landry had his first pedicure!
Darren and I were honored to take portraits of the girls and their babies. Their beautiful smiles and sweet personalities were so fun to see. As we were able to talk to the girls, we found out about their dreams of the future. They want to be artists, teachers, journalists, and nurses. Because of Mercy House, these girls now how hope and reason to believe that they can pursue their dreams. After two years in the program, the girls and their babies go back to their homes, if it’s a safe environment. For others, they are able to continue their education in an extension program.
One afternoon, we were able to go with the girls on a field trip to a giraffe sanctuary. We all enjoyed feeding the giraffes, some even getting kisses from the giraffes! Hearing our kids’ laughter mixed with the laughter of young teen moms was such a precious sound!
Another part of our time with Rehema House included a visit to another slum. This time, we visited with a group of ladies who were having their weekly worship service. These ladies meet together and worship in song and study the Word. They also provide children’s services during the week and work together to start businesses which will help to get them out of the slums. This group, called Have Hope, was filled with beautiful ladies who obviously love Jesus and each other and those around them. We couldn’t help but smile the entire time we were with them. Read their story here.
The directors of Rehema House, Maureen and Oliver, grew up in this very slum. They were both helped through the Compassion International program. They both were able to go to college and move themselves and their families out of the slums. Now, they minister to the people there weekly, including sometimes rescuing girls and taking them to Rehema House. Again, even in the midst of filth and poverty, there was joy and beauty in the slums.
We are still processing all that we experienced in Kenya. In all that we saw, I’m so grateful that we were able to meet the beautiful girls and babies of Rehema House, learn some of their stories, and realize the impact that this organization has on girls and families. There are no doubt needs all around us and opportunities to help change lives through many great organizations. However, if you’re not sure where to start or if what you do makes a difference, we’d love to talk to you more about Mercy House. We saw, firsthand, changed lives because people support financially monthly or buy fair trade products to wear and share!