Kids Alive was founded in 1916 and is a Christian faith mission dedicated to rescuing orphans and vulnerable children – meeting their spiritual, physical, educational and emotional needs. They provide children with the love and care every child deserves, and raise them to be contributing members of their society and witnesses to their family and community. While serving in Kenya, you would work alongside the children in their residential program as well as community children in their school. For fun, you would visit an animal orphanage.
Meredith Melby has been working in Kenya with Kids Alive since 2011. We ask her to share a bit about life on the mission field.
Family Christian (FC): What brought you to Kids Alive?
Meredith (M): My involvement with Kids Alive started before I was born! My great grandfather was the first president of KAI, and my grandfather and father have both served on the KAI board, so I’ve always been aware of the work that they do, but honestly, I never thought I’d end up working for them. I began sponsoring a little girl at the KAI home in the Dominican Republic when I was 12 years old, and had the opportunity to visit her when I was in the 8th grade. What an amazing experience! That trip, along with several other international experiences in high school and college, sparked my interest in cross-cultural ministry. During my Senior year at Wheaton College, I felt God’s call to work abroad. and as I researched different opportunities and organizations, I found that I strongly agreed with the thoughtfulness of the ministry philosophies espoused by Kids Alive – an organization that had been right under my nose for so long! I applied and was accepted as a Kids Alive Missionary, spent some time preparing and fundraising, and finally moved to Kenya in October, 2011. It’s exciting to be able to continue my family’s legacy with this ministry, and I absolutely LOVE my job here. I feel so blessed to work with such a dedicated Kenyan team, and I really enjoy being able to expose our US, Canadian and British teams to God’s work here in Kenya.
FC: Can you share with us some examples of Gospel transformation that you have seen with others?
A few months ago, one of our missionaries was walking through our local town with one of our older boys who is now studying international relations at a top university in Nairobi. He is a strong Christian young man, leads worship at his church and disciples his younger brothers in the home when he visits on school holidays. Our staff are all excited about his potential, and can’t wait to see what God has in store for him. As they walked, He pointed to a group of street boys, high on glue and suffering from brain damage due to years of drug abuse, and said “those are the guys I used to hang out with when I lived on the streets. If Kids Alive hadn’t rescued me 10 years ago, I’d be just like them now”. When I heard this story, my heart burst. It burst with love and praise for my God who rescued this young man from such desperation and has given him such purpose, and it broke for those young men still living on the streets – what could they have become, if we’d had the resources to rescue all of them?
Just last week I was talking with some of our middle school girls for whom I lead a weekly Bible study. All of them come from desperate backgrounds, and each has her own story of trauma, struggle and redemption. I asked them what they had done over the weekend, and they told me that they had heard that our social worker was visiting one of the more needy families in our community and asked to go along. The girls receive about $5 every other month for personal spending, and often use it to get their hair done or buy some new shoes, but upon hearing about the visit the social worker was planning, they decided on their own to pool their small resources and buy enough cooking oil, rice, flour, sugar, tea and soap for this needy family of 4 for a whole month. When I asked them why they’d chosen to do this, they responded “God had given us so much – it’s only right that we give back to His people in need”. My heart swelled with pride and praise to God for these beautiful young women He has rescued and redeemed, and is using even now at their young ages for His glory and service.
FC: Did you have to get used to some new types of food while living in Kenya?
I really enjoy Kenyan food. The fruit here is incredible – makes American fruit taste like cardboard. We eat a lot of rice, beans, maize and potatoes on a daily basis, and on special occasions we cook a flat bread called chapatti. The strangest food I’ve eaten in Kenya is goat head. It’s a delicacy usually reserved for men and respected older women, but I was allowed to try the cheek once. I actually found it tasted pretty good! I wasn’t brave enough to try the ear though, which most people say is their favorite – it still had fur on it!
FC: Is there anything that you miss on a daily basis from the US?
Fast internet, vacuum cleaners and Dove chocolate.
FC: How has God grown you through your experience with Kids Alive?
My experience with Kids Alive has taught me to trust God in a deeper way than I’ve ever had to before. From fundraising to working through culture shock, building relationships with the kids and my Kenyan coworkers to dealing with the CRAZY drivers here, God has proven to me again and again that He can and will take care of me no matter what circumstances I
meet. I’ve also gained much more confidence in my God-given abilities and talents. There are so many things I do here that I initially think “I don’t know if I’m qualified for this”, but then I take a deep breath and jump in, trusting that He’ll pull me through, and God has always given me exactly what I need to perform well and succeed in the work He’s given me to do. It’s a crazy adventure He’s taking me on, and I absolutely love it.
FC: What is your biggest burden in Kenya?
I think there are two: knowing that there are so many more needy children in our community who we currently don’t have the capacity to help, and trying to find the best ways to nurture and guide the children who are in our care to produce responsible Kenyan young adults who are serious about their faith and want to give back to their home communities.
FC: How can we pray for you?
Personally, please pray for continued strength to do what God has called me to here in Kenya, and that He will continue to fold me closer into his loving arms and perfect will. Please also pray for the work of Kids Alive Kenya, that we as a staff will be able care for these children in a way that is glorifying to God, and that we will prudently use the resources He’s given us to thoughtfully and effectively further His important work here in Kenya.
For more information on how you or your family can be a part of short term trip to Kenya, visit the Good Goers web site.