Ready to Burst


I simply can’t believe the life I am living here in Kenya. I mean, how much better can it get than to have 44 amazingly beautiful, considerate, crazy, mischievous, and hilarious kids surrounding you with constant and overwhelming love all summer? I believe I’ve been too blessed because I certainly don’t deserve for The Lord to have given me such joy. These kids, ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old, continue to overwhelm me with their wisdom, their intelligence, their humor, and most of all their love. How can 44 tiny humans have so much to give? I’m receiving it more and more each day I am here.

My heart is heavy with a story about a young girl, named Ivone, who lives here at The Hope Centre. She is in 3rd grade, and, despite her young age, she has an incredibly fluid English vocabulary… which she cunningly uses to consistently make me crack up laughing. Not only is she more than hilarious, but she is also too sweet and beautiful for words. Her heart is precious, and I believe she will grow up to be a wonderful woman of Christ, setting an example for her future family and community. This is my hope and prayer for Ivone – for which I ask that you join me.

The other night Ivone asked me if she could see a picture of my mother and father. Because all of these kids have lost their parents in various terrible ways, I usually try to avoid the topic of my own parents, but since Ivone asked, I relented. I proceeded to show her pictures of myself with my parents and my older sister, which she really loved looking at.

The night after that, Ivone asked me, “Shelby, can I see that picture of your mother and father? I miss them, and want to see the picture so that I can see them when I close my eyes to go to sleep.”

As I am writing this my heart continues to break. I simply cannot imagine what her little life has been like. I cannot imagine what all she has seen, gone through, and what all she has had happen to her. My heart breaks because I cannot make all of her past pain go away, I cannot erase her memories, and I cannot make it all okay. Ivone and I call each other ‘sister’ because we share the same name… Aoko. Aoko is my Kenyan name and it is also Ivone’s last name. One day, I asked her if we could be sisters, and since that day earlier this week, we have called each other just that- sister. This afternoon as her and I were sitting on the couch together, she took my arms, wrapped them around her, and said, “Shelby, you are like my mother and my sister”. Again, I was just floored. That this little girl would look at me as her sister is more than enough, but when she said this, my heart almost burst with sadness, despondency, but most of all, love and adoration for this child.

I am eternally thankful to The Lord Almighty for allowing The Hope Centre to be a place of safety, refuge, and hope for the orphaned children of Kenya. I am eternally thankful to God for blessing me with such an exceptional family, and I pray with urgency that He hold, protect, heal, and bring joy to these kids who have lost their parents. Praise Jesus for allowing me to know these kids and to be continually blessed through them. I only pray that He might use me to bless them in return and that He would shine His light through me as I fall deeper in love with them each day.