Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am writing this letter to describe my visit and experience at the Elma Barnett Children’s Centre in Kamonong, Kenya. My name is Suzanne Anderson. I am the Director of the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories in the Chemistry Department at the University of California, San Diego USA.
The Elma Barnett Children’s Centre Kamonong is a nurturing place for these children to live. The children have nice sleeping quarters and are well fed. They are very healthy and physically strong. I have worked with many children in the United States. The children and young men and women at the Elma Barnett Children’s Centre are extremely kind to one another. I am amazed at how they get along and support one another. I have never seen a group of children as kind and well behaved as the children at the centre. In addition, I am also extremely impressed by their demeanor. These children are calm and well focused. They are well disciplined. They are gracious, sociable, and welcoming. The centre provides the children with a loving Christian environment. They are spiritual and are taught to centre their life around God.
Christianity and education are the primary focus at the children’s centre. These children are excited about learning and it appears they are receiving a first rate education. The children are very bright. I was surprised by how intelligent they are and quick to learn. They are highly motivated and several are at the top of their class. The children are well supported and encouraged to excel in their studies. The young men who were home from college were also impressive and provide a fantastic role model for the younger boys and girls.
Finally, I would like to say a word about the staff at the centre. The house parents, compound caretakers, board members and overseas representative are truly cultivating these young people. They are loving and patient with the children. They are firm and kind. I cannot say enough good things about the staff. These children appear to be in good hands with people who truly care about their well being.
My husband, Pastor Ray, has been on five mission trips to Kenya, so when he asked me to join him this summer, I had to make a confession: “I’m prejudiced against missionaries.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Well I don’t really know any missionaries, but the idea seems so arrogant– going to the other side of the planet to impose their “superior” culture on Third World peoples.”
“It’s not like that,” he said.. “Then why do missionaries go? And what would be my purpose? “You can go with me to Kenya to find out what mission is all about, he said. “To see the work that I do. To support me.” He was very reassuring. “Have faith in the Lord. Everyone who has gone with me to Africa has been transformed. We can find plenty of work for you, and the trip will change your life.”
Of course he was right. Africa is shocking—both beautiful and ugly, and the trip was filled with some of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. Our church’s mission work in Kenya revolves around two groups of orphans, a total of about 150 children, ranging in age from 6 to 18. RBCPC supports all of them financially, and in the past year sent Jill Weller to live and work with them. Jill is a very courageous woman, filled with love, joy and confidence in the Lord. When she and Ray get together, there’s no end to the laughter.
Jill drove us across the Equator to visit the Elma Barnett Children’s center in Eldama Ravine, a little town north of Nairobi. We stayed at a lovely place called “Sunrise Acres,” where for a modest fee Roy and Helen (Barnett) Stover offer their hospitality to missionaries and their families for a little R & R. “Sunrise Acres” looks like England, with grass, trees and flowers and little cabins with (thank goodness) electricity and hot water. Helen and her sister Pat were born and raised in Kenya as the Barnetts were one of the original missionary families in this part of Africa. Roy is the pastor of the Eldama Ravine Presbyterian Church. He’s a powerful intellectual, a principled and forceful man of God who is determined to protect and raise the orphans to become strong Christian men and women who will be a blessing to Kenya and not a burden.
Ray and Jill did give me several “assignments” on this trip, and the first one was to meet with the Eldama Ravine chapter of “Moms In Touch,” an international organization of women who support and pray for their families, especially children in school. We met thirty women who spoke good English and were intelligent, thoughtful, and beautifully dressed. Ray led the group in a Bible study and then I shared some photos of our children and grandchildren, which immediately prompted the question, “How do you get along with your daughters in law?” As I shared my ups and downs, they shared their struggles with sons who drink too much and husbands who are out of work. And as we talked, I realized how our loving God breaks down barriers and brings His children together. Ray and I delivered instructional notebooks and tapes from the Poway headquarters of “Moms in Touch.” I felt honored to receive a lovely woven bag, and I enjoyed seeing Pastor Ray in the red Maasai robe they gave him. Sometimes the role of a pastor’s wife is a symbolic one, and here was a good example. As we prayed, I tried to faithfully represent all of the American women in “Mom’s in Touch” whom I wished could be here with us.