Sarah's Story: A Message of Hope for the Season
November 27, 2000
When this story was written, Sarah Clarke Mensah was a "Missioner of Hope" assigned to work with AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya. Missioners of Hope were engaged in relief and reconciliation ministries with children throughout the continent of Africa. Initiated by the Board of Global Ministries in response to the United Methodist Bishops' Appeal "Hope for The Children of Africa," the ministry focused on restoration of the physical, social, and spiritual well-being of children impacted by war, sickness, and poverty. In a letter to Global Ministries, Sarah shared the struggle of her witness of hope during the holiday season in a place of pervasive poverty. An excerpt follows:
Since starting my assignment in Kenya, I have been working at Maun Methodist Hospital and their outreach clinic. I visit disabled and orphaned children to see their living and health conditions. It is a pity to know that their problems cannot be fully addressed because of financial reasons. The hospital is doing its best with limited resources, but does not have sufficient medicine to administer to children whose living conditions make them vulnerable to many diseases.
As I visit the children, I smile and play with them and try to find words of comfort and encouragement. I often feel inadequate, for there is desperate need of food, clean water, shelter, clothing, education, crutches, wheel-chairs, and better medical care.
The drought exacerbates the situation. There is no tap water. Children who should be in school spend hours in search of water; mothers who should be planting are also in constant search of water in this region where the creeks are drying up. Because of the lack of food and other needs, children go to the street to beg. Some young girls are turning to prostitution. These children must be helped.Charity, a grandmother whom I recently visited, is caring for six orphans left by her daughter. She is an elderly woman in poor health, who feels she has no choice but to allow her grandchildren to go to the street and beg for their daily bread. She and the children are temporarily living on someone's land in a five-by-six hut patched with plastic and straw. Charity was put out of her home in town because she was unable to pay rent.
Simply knowing that someone outside cares makes a difference in the lives of these children. For there are smiles and laughter when I visit. The children also share their sorrows. The story I hear most often is like that of a brilliant disabled young boy, Moris Mwiti, who longs to attend school but is unable to pay the fees.
The Maun Methodist Hospital and local church want to come up with a recreational center. It would be a place where the children would be fed, have their social and spiritual needs met, and receive minimal education. Children up to age 12 would be served by this program. Currently, we serve 25 orphans, though there is estimated to be more than 150 in Maun alone.
The hospital and local community express deep appreciation for the "Missioners of Hope" program in this time when there are increased cases of malnutrition and cholera among children. As an African, I thank God for this ministry that has given me deeper understanding and the opportunity to be more involved in responding to the suffering of my people.
While life is difficult here, I know that God has blessed so many around the world. And I believe that they will share their blessings with others such as the disabled and orphaned children of Kenya. I am praying very hard that through Global Ministries, Jesus is speaking to people to help me accomplish my mission. For with Christ everything is possible-and this is the message of hope that I share with the children in this season.