Bringing God’s grace to kids at risk
Beatrice Njoroge knows what it takes to bring God’s grace to kids at risk in Nairobi slums, because she goes where they are with her co-workers, giving them practical answers to their needs, showing them Christ – and sticking with them.
That might be at night, going to a police station after getting a call about some children rescued from domestic violence — and she takes them to her home, because at that time of night, where else is there?
Beatrice was already working with at-risk children before she discovered SIM. Coordinating a group of 15 women from different churches, she was trialling projects to feed, clothe and care for street kids, apalled at the sheer, vast number of tens of thousands of young lives without hope.
Then going to work one day, she passed two boys violently fighting in the street over a glue-sniffing bottle. As she approached, one was hit so hard on the head with a stone that he fell unconscious. She asked for help to get him across the road to a hospital. A woman said to her, “You seem to be really interested in street children,” and told her about an organisation called SIM which had a ministry for them.
Beatrice says, “When the boy was discharged I didn’t go to work but took him home — he was too badly hurt to go back on the streets. And the following day I determined to look for SIM.” That was 13 years ago. Today she heads SIM Kenya’s Children at Risk Ministry (CARM), living by faith on financial gifts the same way as overseas SIM mission partners do.
Raising support is a gigantic hurdle in an African church culture which usually sees funding of missions as something Christians overseas do for them. Yet Beatrice keeps pressing forward, remaining passionate and optimistic about what can be achieved, little by little, for the vulnerable youth on the streets.
From the beginning this ministry has been about working collaboratively with other small, struggling groups such as those concentrating on HIV/AIDS impacted kids and orphans, abandoned babies, slum schools and so on. It started, and continues, with a prayer fellowship, and now runs training courses, a resource centre and is spreading to cities outside Nairobi.
Rescuing children and hopefully reintegrating them back to a safe part of their own community is a major part of it, but as Beatrice explains, the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ needs to be replaced by care of these kids before they need that slow, expensive and difficult option.
She says, “Imagine a river… You see children drowning in it. The number is huge. So you call your friends and family and the government and say, ‘Come, there are children drowning.’ But even as you rescue them, every day there are many others coming down. Then you say, ‘Where are they coming from?’ So our key component now is to sensitise the churches to understand a wholistic gospel; to look after our vulnerable children. In Kenya we pride ourselves that 80% of us are Christians. Is it true?’
The ‘One Child, One Mentor’ initiative:
This is Beatrice’s plan. Over the next five years CARM will recruit role models, Christians who commit to caring about one specific child, supporting them in well-being, education and spiritual needs, involving their blood relatives. It just takes someone to ‘hold their hand’. Beatrice says, “There are many churches responding to the symptoms but we have only 3 churches in Nairobi and 4 in the rural areas actively involved in sustainable responses. These are churches that have given us a platform to sensitise and equip their members as mentors. Kenya has thousands of churches in 47 counties; our prayer is that God will raise men and women who would be willing to step out of their comfort zones and join us on the ground or support us in prayer and resources.
“The rescue strategy has only proved successful where children have mentors — if organisations only do part of the process, most children find their way back to the streets, unable to cope with the same issues that drove them there in the first place. And most NGOs are only responding to the obvious physical symptoms.”
Beatrice’s own family background points eloquently to the reason some children succeed and others fall on the rubbish heap, sniffing/fighting over cheap solvents, sleeping rough and living with hunger in their bellies. Her parents had very little materially, but “they had open and loving hearts as Christians and so they opened our home as a safe place for others to find love, warmth and acceptance in times of distress.”
To Give: Go to www.sim.org.nz/donate and quote #092617 (CARM) #035501 (Beatrice)
To Pray: For Kenyan churches to recognise that vulnerable kids are their community/gospel responsibility.
To Go: Are you a counsellor or social work trainer? If you think God may be calling you to this work as a support person, contact
[To gain a powerful insight into the depth of the problem for homeless youth in Kenya, watch Zombies of Nairobi here ].