By Kim Krull
In a country with nearly one million AIDS orphans, the opening of a new Lutheran orphanage for 24 Kenyan boys may sound small.
But it was a big day for these youngsters who once lived in a crowded mud hut — and for four LCMS pastors from the United States who attended the dedication of the relatively spacious brick center in Orthoro.
“It has been a dramatic transformation for these boys who lost their parents to AIDS,” said Rev. Jamison J. Hardy, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Mt. Lebanon, Pa. “They showed such joy in their faith and love for the Lord that I wish everyone in our church could have seen.”
Hardy was among those who attended the dedication of the Orthoro Rescue Center as part of a project review trip sponsored by LCMS World Relief/Human Care in late March. The orphanage is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK), an LCMS partner church, and was built with contributions to LCMS World Relief/Human Care, the Synod’s worldwide arm of mercy.
The new orphanage sits near the ELCK congregation where the boys — whose ages range from about 10 to 18-were baptized, worship and study the Bible. It replaces the mud hut where some of the youngsters lived as many as nine years.
The ELCK built and equipped the center with a $35,000 grant from LCMS World Relief/Human Care.
“A little can make such a big difference in Kenya,” said Rev. Matthew Harrison, LCMS World Relief/Human Care executive director, who first met the orphans more than a year ago when he visited the African country with Rev. Walter Obare, ELCK bishop. “Every congregation or pastor of the ELCK is caring for orphans, mostly in the midst of desperate poverty. The Othoro congregation orphanage is a community-based solution that we can replicate and, in time, profoundly affect thousands of lives, body and soul.”
An LCMS donor or congregation can commit $20,000 that will be matched by LCMS World Relief/Human Care, Harrison said, and “drastically improve the lives of children and an entire local Lutheran community for decades to come.”
At the orphanage dedication, the boys spoke of their love for Jesus and gratitude to “American Christians who regard us a human beings” and helped build the boys’ new home.
Rev. Phill Andreasen, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Spirit Lake, Iowa, called the opportunity to see the orphanage and meet Kenyan Lutheran leaders like Obare a highlight of his 30-plus years in ministry.
“In so many ways, we (in the U.S.) are materially rich and yet poor in our stewardship of the Gospel, while these people of Kenya illustrate how in their poverty, the wealth of the Gospel overflows into their daily life,” Andreasen said. “The whole experience was humbling, yet enriching.”
The pastors also toured the new wing of an AIDS clinic at the Emmanuel Lutheran Orphanage in Matongo. The ELCK built the addition with another $35,000 grant provided by LCMS World Relief/Human Care supporters.
“There is so much pain and loss,” said Rev. Allan Buss, of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Belvidere, Ill., whose congregation has provided support for the clinic through gifts to LCMS World Relief/Human Care. “But it’s inspiring to see what (Kenyan Lutherans) are doing to bring the love of Christ into lives and to know that we are helping them reach out with that message of hope.”
To learn more about LCMS World Relief/Human Care projects in Kenya, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1380 or 1381.
Posted April 27, 2006