When you chat with Sarah Maria, 19, it is difficult to know that her start in life as a baby was unusual. She is full of life and determined to shatter glass ceilings as a young woman. The University of Nairobi in Kenya has admitted Sarah for a prestigious course in pharmacy.
On the other side of town is Fredrick Okango, 23, who is determined to gain continental honors as one of Africa’s finest music video directors. Fredrick is pursuing a diploma in film technology at KCA University in Nairobi.
Maria and Okango have one thing in common. They were both brought up in a home for abandoned children on the outskirts of Nairobi.
“I joined Tumaini Children’s Home in 2003 as a baby since my mother could not take care of me. She was a teenager abusing drugs,” Maria told The Newlifer, a publication of the Newlife Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nairobi. This is the first time she is narrating her story.
“Tumaini is the only home I know. Besides getting my basic needs here, I have had an opportunity to mingle with other children in school, church, and other social places like any other child out there,” the teenager said. She recently scored grade B+ in her high school examinations to qualify for university.
Okango joined Tumaini back in 2005 after facing a lot of harassment and beatings from his violent father and stepmother.
“I decided to run away from home and ended up in Kiambu police station. At just six years old, with no one to turn to, I ended up in Tumaini Children’s Home, where I have spent all my life,” Okango said.
“I am deeply grateful to the home. It has really impacted my life greatly. They have provided me with a home, brothers and sisters, and also people I can call parents,” the KCA University student tearfully recounted. He added that Tumaini has helped him grow spiritually as a Christian by attending church regularly and taking part in Bible studies.
Maria and Okango, who are not church members, are just two out of the 44 children in Tumaini Children’s Home (“Tumaini” is Swahili for “hope”). It is there that the Newlife church has been conducting evangelistic programs.
In February 2022, a church group dubbed Missionaries Group decided to hold a weekend retreat. They needed a venue near Nairobi, and a Google search led them to Children of Hope Retreat Centre near Kikuyu town, west of Nairobi.
“We visited the place pre-retreat and found it attractive and serene enough for people who needed to spend a quiet time with God. In the same compound, there was a children’s home,” Sarah Wekesa, one of the group members, said.
“We decided to visit the children’s home on the final day of the retreat, and after spending a few hours with the children, they did not want to let us go. Little did we know that God was piecing together a story of hope between our church and the children,” Wekesa said.
Samson Kamata, Tumaini Children’s Home manager, requested that the church members create a program where they would spend more time with the children.
“Even if the children go to church on Sunday, I have a strong feeling that God wants your church to do something for and with the children,” Kamata said. Newlife missionaries instantly saw an opportunity to reach out to others with God’s love.
“The idea of a week-long Vacation Bible School in Tumaini Children’s Home conducted by our church was born,” Wekesa said. “We found it was a God-given chance of molding the children to be good citizens. We named our mission Beyond Church Walls Ministry.”
So far, the Newlife church, through the small group of missionaries, has carried out several outreach activities in Tumaini, such as visitations and Vacation Bible School (VBS) sessions, among other activities. The church’s ministries occasionally invite the children and staff to Saturday (Sabbath) services, where they participate in a whole day of fun-filled ministering.
“Since the Newlife church came into my life, my relationship with God has been fundamentally transformed,” Maria said. “It has given me an opportunity to share my story and get spiritual growth through Bible study. I enjoyed the way Bible study was made lively through fun activities and snacks.”
Okango believes many boys and girls will be written in heaven’s book of life thanks to the ministry of the Newlife church in Tumaini.
“I greatly enjoyed the way the Word of God was taught. Seeing so many of us young people enjoying the word of God not only inspired me, but also filled me with hope that come resurrection morning when Christ shall come, all of us in Tumaini will go to heaven,” Okango said.
A strong bond of love and spiritual connection between Newlife and Tumaini has been created. On the last day of the VBS program, children, staff, and church members let their tears flow freely. “It is very emotional yet fulfilling that the mission has indeed touched lives,” Newlife members explained.
“The children have realized that nothing is impossible with God,” Beyond Church Walls Ministry member Nelson Okenye said. “They now know that it is possible to love and serve God when young and at the same time excel in their studies and careers. Now several of them are regularly attending our services. We look forward to their baptism.”
Tumaini Children’s Home management has asked for a long-term relationship with Newlife Adventist church, with a regular holiday program when children are home from school. Longer missions to be held in the home and at their Kitale branch, where the children from Kikuyu will join their brothers and sisters in Kitale, are being planned.
“This mission has had a tremendous impact on Tumaini,” home director Abraham Kiboki said. “The children learned good morals from the Newlife youth and how to be respectful and hardworking. They were able to study the Bible together and learn new gospel songs.”
According to Kiboki, as a result of this interaction, primary and secondary school children are reporting better grades in school. What is more important, he said, is that they are also growing spiritually.
“Let us brighten the future of these children with food items, bedding, and learning materials,” he said.