Let me serve you.... - by Heidi McCollester, 2017 Neema Team Trip Member

Virginia’s whole body tensed up as I placed my hands on her shoulders. As I began to give her a simple friendly shoulder rub, it was clear that this beautiful girl, so deserving of love had rarely ever been served, told to relax or made to feel as special as she was. My eyes widened as it dawned on me that the faces staring up at me were constantly put in the position to serve and not be served.

As we bumped down the red clay roads, uncertainty surrounded me. Cricket, Sarah and I were leading our group to the pastors conference to serve lunch. Although technically we were the group leaders, we were far from in charge when we arrived at the conference. I stepped out of the van and I swear I closed my eyes for just a moment to find that each girl fell right into rhythm. Every direction I looked, I saw dishes being washed, fires being made, bowls being filled and vegetables being cut. Each girl executing their job perfectly. Us three “m’zungas” stood in awe at these servant hearts performing a dance that looked as if they had performed it a 1,000 times.

We tried to pitch in where we could but it was clear that each girl could out perform us at any task. Even down to dish washing!! A smile stretched and a giggle emerged as Rhodas looked at the mess I had made of a cabbage that I was supposed to be shredding. That moment was one of my favorites because it meant that Rhoda was becoming more comfortable with me! That she wasn't afraid to make fun of me and laugh with me! I swear it was like a light bulb went off and I realized these are girls just like me, they want to laugh and have fun JUST LIKE ME! We spent the rest of the day laughing off every grain of rice and bean we ate.

I like to think that I spend a vast majority of my life laughing… but with no hesitation I can say that serving at the pastors conference that day was the most fun I have EVER had. We had so much fun that we got told to be quiet because they could hear our laughter and shouts inside the pastors conference!! The girls even crashed the conference and broke out into a spontaneous dance in front of all the pastors! It was insanely beautiful. I stood in awe once again as I watched something that would rarely ever happen in a church in the United States. The girls were never told to stop or leave but thanked for their joyful display of worship.

During a lull in duties, Cricket told the girls to relax and asked if any of them had ever had their shoulders rubbed. The girls blankly stared at her having no idea what she was talking about. She demonstrated on me and the girls ALL shook their head no.

Something so simple that most Americans can say they have experienced, was a foreign concept to these girls. What shook me the most wasn't the fact that the girls had never experienced a shoulder rub, but I realized that rarely and maybe for some never had they been served. Many of them did not feel like they were worthy of being served, but that they were the ones that should always be serving others. These selfless servant hearts so deserve to be served and loved.

Virginia’s shoulders slowly relaxed as she trusted me and realized that it was okay for her to be served. One of the reasons that I am so thankful for Neema is that they are helping to shift that mindset in the girls. That they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God made no mistake when he handcrafted them. That no sin, shame or fear causes God to love those girls less. I am so incredibly honored by the time that I had to laugh, play and serve those girls. They are truly the most beautiful, life changing people that I have ever met. “…serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

Heidi McCollester
2017 Neema Team Trip Member

Thirst - by Kate Enns, 2017 Neema Trip Team Member

John 7: 37-38
"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

Matthew 11:25-30 25
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

From the moment I met her, I felt she was thirsty. Thirsty for more of Him. Thirsty for fellowship. Thirsty for relationship.

I walked quietly into the back of the church. My posture prayerfully one of openness, yet quietness. As I stood quietly in the back, Gillian, the wife to Pastor Amos approached. She approached me with the posture of welcoming. Of joy.

We exchanged greetings and she grasped my hand. "Please, please, come sit! Share with me all you have taught to other pastor's wives in your travels."

Wow! What an undertaking. I shared from my heart briefly, then asked her to share hers. She shared with me stories of feeling isolated and alone. As the wife of a pastor, it is difficult to find a sister to speak with. We want to honor our husbands, but we also have questions. We have prayer requests. We have concerns we wish to lift up together. But how can we effectively do this when our husbands lead a congregation.

A few years back, I was thirsty. So very thirsty for fellowship. Thirsty for a safe haven to pray over my marriage. Pray over my family. Pray over fears, insecurities, joys and triumphs. A dear friend and fellow pastor's wife took me to a safe haven.

I was honored to help quench a small portion of her thirst. I was blessed to lay hands on my sister. To pray over her and her family. To share mutual insights with one another.

And I left thirsty. Thirsty for more fellowship with my dear sister Gillian. Her joy for the Lord. Her passion to help those in need. Her action with her tongue and her hands.

I saw her preach God's word with fervor. I saw her children, namely her son, Shamgar, honor his mother. I saw joy in her daughter Deborah. I saw a loving, caring mother. I saw an honorable wife. I was blessed with her generosity. I was encouraged by her boldness.

On our last day, my husband Ryan, my brother in law Greg, my father Carl and myself were blessed with the greatest honor in their culture. They killed a chicken for us and honored us with a meal in their home. After that, we travelled back to church. We spoke of marriage. We shared what the Lord has shown Ryan and I in our marriage.

After that, we travelled to a local village church where Gillian quickly jumped up and heaped generous portions onto plates, as myself and others served the village. What an honor to work side by side. Our thirst for the Lord and service unified for the kingdom.

May I thirst after the Lord. May I crave His abundance of grace. His wealth of freedom in His name. May I desire to serve Him in sacrificial ways. May I, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter strive deeply to give out of a place of humbleness, no longer out of excess. To thirst more after His calling.

Blessings,

Kate Enns
2017 Neema Trip Team Member

Age is just a number.... - by Cricket Gamber, 2017 Neema Trip Team Member

Age is just a number...until you go to Kenya and realize you're officially in the "older group" on your team.

Mentorship is such a crucial step in the development of relationships at Neema, and I have seen that more and more on this trip (my third). From all of the teachers and leaders to the girls, older girls to younger girls, and girls to their kids, God has used Neema to create a safe environment of learning and growing in knowledge and wisdom. Not only does this happen consistently day to day, but team visits give a unique opportunity for cultural and age differences to unite in learning.

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit and chat with Diana (a team member) on our way to Neema one morning, and we discussed the fact that so few people listen to each other anymore (it truly is a gift) and this seems to be especially true of the younger generation. It's rare that younger generations even view mentors as a good thing in their lives, but what a critical portion of growth that is being withheld when we do not take opportunities to learn from those who have come before us and simply experienced life before we have. I have had the privilege of witnessing such amazing wisdom on this trip in particular.

- Wisdom in culture where I felt completely inadequate in my ability to cut cabbage
- Wisdom in knowledge of the Bible and leadership from the pastors
- Wisdom in love from the teachers and girls at Neema
- Wisdom in God's divine work through purposeful orchestration

I remember my first trip to Neema, looking over to see Melinda off to the side with a Neema girl's arm wrapped around her, intentionally listening and feeding words of life into that heart. And then somehow it happened to me this year; I was standing with a girl's arms wrapped around me, intentionally listening and praying that God would speak words of life into that beautiful heart.

My role has begun to shift in life, and even though running around and playing games means more breaks and possible leg cramps in the middle of the night (that may or may not have happened), it also comes with a beauty of life experience and hopefully wisdom.

My challenge is the continued use of this new role in my life through my profession as a teacher as well as other opportunities to positively influence the next generation in church and community. My challenge to you is the same. Who is your mentor? Where do you see chances to mentor those younger than you? We never stop learning and growing, so when you take in knowledge and wise council, turn that around to someone else whom God wants you to lift up.

Stop. Savor. Listen.

Cricket Gamber
2017 Neema Trip Team Member