Head First

Posted Jun 14, 2009 by 12 Comments

As far as not-for-profit directors go, I’ve got to be one of the meanest. Anyone else bringing three interns to Kenya for two months would have undoubtedly started off slow. Gradually acclimating them to the climate, culture and customs. I, on the other hand, dropped them in head first…

We arrived in Nairobi on Thursday night with ourselves and our luggage mostly intact (long story). Then, we crashed at the guest house and woke up on Friday morning, ready to jump right in.

World Next Door's intrepid summer interns...

World Next Door's intrepid summer interns...

And jump right in we did. After having chai with the staff from Karura Chapel, Pastor Chris took us out to lunch at a local restaurant. Within 18 hours of getting off the plane, I had my interns eating meat stew and ugali with their hands!

Scott being swarmed by kids in Huruma slum.

Scott being swarmed by kids in Huruma slum.

For fear of freaking them out, I didn’t tell them what the meat was before being cooked (a leg of goat hanging on a metal hook, chopped up with a machete by an angry bald man). Haha… Whatever you do, don’t tell their parents! : )

But authentic Kenyan cuisine was only the first blast of the fire hose.

After lunch, we headed off for the nearby Huruma slum where we were greeted by a massive band of kids, yelling “How are you!?!” and pulling our arms in every possible direction.

Absolutely starved for physical affection, the kiddos made us pick them up, throw them in the air, spin them around, and take their pictures again and again. Within minutes, all four of us were covered in sweat, red dust and charcoal.

Christine and Scott playing with some kids from Karura.

Christine and Scott playing with some kids from Karura.

With kids in tow, we trudged through the slum, trying to avoid stepping in too much mud, garbage and stagnant water.

Jessica, Scott and Christine will be sharing more about our trip to the slum in the days to come, so I’ll just say this… after countless hours of airports and in-flight movies, and with bodies confused and jet-lagged, having our welcoming party be a band of slum children was surreal, to say the least.

Here’s a short video that might help you imagine the energy these kids greeted us with:

Jess with a whole band of kids in tow.

Jess with a whole band of kids in tow.

To get back to the guest house, we had to take a couple of crowded matatus (minibuses) which swerved in and out of traffic while blaring reggae music about five decibels past the point of discomfort. Christine called it all “sensory overload,” and I definitely agree.

When we finally made it back to our rooms, all three wore the same expression of exhaustion and dazed disbelief.

I wondered briefly if I had put them through too much for their first day. Did I push them too hard? Are they all going to be scarred for life?

One look at their faces gave me the answer I needed…

They may have been wiped out beyond description. They may have been filthy and ready for bed. But as we sat down for dinner, they couldn’t have stopped smiling if they tried.

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Dave Rod said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:20 am  

    Thanks guys for extending yourselves on behalf of God’s kingdom. Please greet our Kenyan partners for us!

  2. Dave Quigley said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:27 am  

    I love the faces of the kids looking up to the interns and the joy and respect that has been brought ot them for a moment in their day. – Thank you guys!

  3. Michael Poorman said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:58 am  

    Makes me want to go back. Thanks for all you’re doing!

  4. Aaron Elliott said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 10:45 am  

    I stood here at GCC this morning at the kiosk reading this post with Jessica’s Mom. We shared some great conversation and broad smiles thinking of what you all are doing! I think we were both very proud in our own ways….keep up the great work, and please do greet all our friends on behalf of GCC!!

  5. Curtis Honeycutt said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 1:01 pm  

    Fantastic! I’m so glad the trip got off to an eventful start. Those children are beautiful, but they look mischievous.

  6. Jo Nading said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 3:17 pm  

    speechless…..for the moment. seriously overwhelmed with so many emotions, thoughts, and memories. You truly are being Jesus to those kiddos…just look how they reach out to touch you – what a picture…my prayers are with you all.

  7. Jess, James, Eilidh and Calum said... 


    June 14th, 2009 at 9:58 pm  

    Way to go guys. We love you Jess! We’ll be following you here every day. We wish we could eat goat too [well, Dad does].

  8. shelli said... 


    June 16th, 2009 at 7:30 am  

    Sounds like a great start! Give hugs to all our Kenyan friends and family! We miss them!

  9. Pam Tomasik said... 


    June 16th, 2009 at 3:03 pm  

    My heart was toucjed by you interacting with the children…wow…thank you to all and Scott for loving the Kenyans for us!!!

  10. Brad Ruggles said... 


    June 16th, 2009 at 3:58 pm  

    Great post Barry. I love the video!! I know that you probably can’t do that all the time because of the crazy Internet access over there but that little brief glimpse into the eyes of those beautiful children was totally worth it!

    Looking forward to following you and all your cohorts on this adventure this summer!

  11. Sharon said... 


    June 16th, 2009 at 5:18 pm  

    Sometimes head first is the way to go. Love the picture of Jess and her entourage!

  12. Breanna Sipple said... 


    February 15th, 2011 at 1:44 am  

    <3 ! I love everything about this one :) I watched the video earlier today when I discovered the WorldNextDoor Youtube channel…Glad I got to finally see the story that went along with it. Can't wait to read the rest of these articles!

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