Who: Amanda Brown Where: Kenya When: 2010
"The summer after my freshman year of college, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kenya with SERV International. Never having partaken in a mission trip of this scale, it was a leap of faith for me to fly 18 hours and spend three weeks in a third world country. I left the States with bottles of bug spray, numerous shots and pills, my camera, and the words from a friend in the back of my mind. Her statement that “when you go to Africa, you leave a piece of your heart and you’ll never get it back” could not have proved truer for me. It has been three years since I was in Kenya and my time there still comes to mind every day.
Africa is a unique place. Something about its people, landscape, and culture embed itself in your heart. Like many others who have traveled to Africa, my life changed drastically. The most significant thing I learned while in Kenya was the power of love. I spent several days visiting IDP camps (Internally Displaced People) outside the isolated village of Lodwar, near the Sudan border. Pulling up in our Land Rovers, we approached what appeared to be a mound of rocks, except it was the people’s home. They lived on a hill of garbage under the scorching sun, taking refuge under several bushes, and yet they still loved their lives. And even more memorable, they loved God with a blinding passion. These natives had absolutely nothing, but they had not given up. They gave praise to God for every gift they received and every day they lived. The selflessness these people showed and the love they revealed to me, a white visitor who could not possibly understand their situation, made the biggest impact on my life.
While every person I met in Kenya made a memorable impression on my trip, there were several faces that still have a special place in my heart. I spent six hours with two girls, Sarah and Rose, in the slums of Thika, and to this day we communicate weekly through Facebook. They know my life, my story, my struggles, my friends, and my family. And then there was Nancy Amoni, a four-year-old native Lodwarian at the House of Hope orphanage. She spoke only Swahili and Turkana and had been scared of mzungu (white people), but managed to attach herself to my hip and reach deep into my heart. Nobody has ever affected me like she did, and telling her goodbye after two weeks may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I learned that the Kenyan nation has a welcoming charisma that you cannot help but fall in love with. I saw the true nature of selflessness and how the power of a stranger’s love can embed deep in your soul for years to come. And no, I still have not gotten all of my heart back."
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