Retreat from the street

24th August 2013

Lydia of the bible (Acts 16) was obviously a woman of strong character and good education. A dealer in purple cloth, she became a believer and invited Paul and his fellow travellers into her home. Today Ruth and I met another Lydia of strong character and good education who, on becoming a believer did the unthinkable in Kenya and gave up her safe and secure job with a bank to create a home for some 30 of the orphan street boys she saw every day at the street corners of her town.

It was a long drive north through coffee and tea plantations to reach a height of 6,000 feet and the El Shaddai boys home on the outskirts of Limuru. El Shaddai is an ancient name of God meaning “All Powerful One” or “All Sufficient One”. And as we stepped through the solid metal gates into the small grounds of the home we quickly realised that this home survived day to day only through faith that the God of the bible truly is all sufficient for all our needs.

I have now perfected the African handshake which is just as well given each of the smiling boys demanded one. We were late in arriving and keeping many hungry boys from lunch but in the dining room we had the pleasure of hearing each boy introduce himself, quote a verse of scripture from memory, and tell us what he wanted to be when he grew up. It seemed about 40% pilots, 40% engineers, with a psychologist, an accountant, and “The President” thrown in for good measure. For boys that a few years ago were fighting for every scrap of food, it was clear that Lydia and her team had ensured the boys had no lack of ambition. And the results were beginning to demonstrate it was no idle ambition with the two oldest boys defying their start in life, graduating from high school, and off to bible college.

Dinner with the boys reminded us of our time leading SU camps for boys in East Lothian. Not just because of the drafty, slightly DIY looking wooden dining hall (no offence SU Scotland!) but also because of the boys’ mischievous grins, ferocious appetites, and their difficulty in keeping still for more than a few seconds. Later Lydia would tell us how long it took for the boys to realise that at El Shaddai they truly could forget their past, that they did not need to steal and fight. Now each older boy has a “little brother” who they care for as they sit at tables and share with each other and learn to care for each other. They discovered that El Shaddai is the loving home they had never had.

Even though they were still boys (and I could not resist a few games of basketball and volleyball with them) the transformation in the their character and behaviour was breathtaking and testament to the unconditional love of Lydia and her team. However, even more heart warming, was hearing the simple testimonies of so many of the boys to the way that accepting the gift of this unconditional human love had allowed them to accept the gift of Christ’s unconditional love on the cross.

Strong in character and strong in faith, Lydia is no superhuman. It was clear that things had not been smooth for her and her team over the last six years and she still faced weekly challenges to house, feed, school and care for the boys. But her God given vision is unbroken as she prays for the resources to start a similar girls refuge. Ruth and I left with the prayer on our hearts that God would raise up many more Lydias for Kenya.

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