Due to the long delay and other issues concerning a new printer/mailer we tried out this past month, many of you are only just now receiving the World Orphans newsletter and learning to check in here for Fountain of Life updates. In my prior post yesterday (Fountain of Life Update), I included a few links so that you can view all the relevant updates you missed while we were in East Africa.
I would like to share a quick recollection from my first visit to Fountain of Life in 2004. It really serves as a testament to the impact of church-based orphan care on the participating indigenous church and its surrounding community.
When I first met the late Pastor James Mbai, founder of Fountain of Life Church and Children’s home, he shared a short history of the orphan home with me. He said that when he first started taking in orphaned and abandoned boys from the ‘streets’ of the Mathare Valley slum, many people criticized him.
He recounted that neighbors told him, "Those boys are little criminals. They beg and steal from us. You are making a big mistake by letting them onto your property."
Similarly, local police officers scolded him, saying, "These boys belong to us and need to be beaten into shape. You can’t possibly do anything with them."
Even families within Pastor Mbai’s own congregation were skeptical: "Those boys aren’t our responsibility. Why do we want them? They will be a bad influence on our own children."
Over the next few months, these children were transformed. When I first encountered them, the immediate thought that was impressed upon me was that they were models of manner and decorum. They were like polite, well-behaved English schoolboys. Most importantly, all but a couple had already accepted the Lord and participated in worship services to sing, dance and praise His name. When asked individually, over 60% of them said that they wanted to be pastors when they grow up.
(Image: The rescued street boys at Fountain of Life, 2005)
The local community church was the vehicle of compassionate care and teaching. The pastors were the new role models for the children. The children now desired to be just like these pastors. They aspired to be servants of the King instead of pimps, drug dealers, gang members and abusers. Changed lives. Missionaries.
The same stakeholders that were initially so critical were now very impressed and became champions for the cause. Community members started to bring more children. The police brought more children. Church members became involved and started to ask the question, "How can we expand to rescue more of them?"
You see, there is nothing that makes a church more attractive to its community than its participation in caring for the community’s lost and hurting children. By answering the call, and through the faithful prayers and support from people like you, Fountain of Life removed problem children from the neighboring slum. The community noticed. These children were then transformed by the Spirit, through the Church. The community noticed. The boys also went into their old ‘neighborhood’ and bore witness to Christ through example and word. Other people’s lives were changed. The community noticed.
Now, after a minority group of enraged Muslims destroyed the church and home at Fountain of Life, the ministry is fighting and will rebuild. It wants to show its neighbors that God is powerful and that their love extends beyond the violent actions of a few. Fountain of Life desires to convey that it cares so much for the community and its children, it is willing to go the extra mile to secure legal protections and go about the painstaking task of rebuilding. It wants to demonstrate that, even in the midst of hatred, love prevails.
The community will notice.
(Image: The FOL boys with Mike Vinson (World Orphans’ Exec. V.P.) and his family, 2005)