Sozdo International blog

Be informed on weekly insight, research, reflections and activities of Watoto wa Ahadi (Children of Promise) and Sodzo International.

Lost and Found - returned to their God-given potential.

Have you ever heard a group of children who used to live on the streets recite, by heart and in unison, the parable of the lost sheep who was found by the Good Shepherd?

I was filled with emotion thinking about these children who have slept on the streets, sometimes for years, without schooling, food, water, safety, nor much hope for a different future. Many turned to sniffing glue to numb their pain from hunger, loneliness and boredom. Children came to the streets from different backgrounds – some abandoned by parents struggling with alcoholism, others forced to the streets by poverty or parental death – but here as they recited passages from the Gospel of Luke together, they shared in unison the confession that we are all lost sheep and in need of rescue.

One of the children's favorite metaphors is leaving Egypt to find Canaan. Like the Israelites, they have left the comfort of the known for the uncertain future that lays ahead of them. Leaving the wilderness to find the rest of their future before them, these children prepare to be reintegrated with their families or other destinations. They have found each other, found Christ, and in so doing, found themselves.

As the children recited the parable, the fear and resignation that must have gripped the lost sheep met my heart. To be desperately without direction, alone and without hope, and then to be found by the Good Shephard – the one who seeks lost sheep to fold them in together and form a whole flock, is something we may all relate to. It is Jesus who calls us beyond the wilderness in which we reside alone and cold, and folds us into a global family that reflects God's generous searching for us.

You appeared in my heart and mind as I heard the children's words. My family and I have travelled here, but we have not travelled alone. We travel with your support, hopes and prayers. You are here with us. As the children recited the parable of the lost sheep, you were present. Though you did not know it, you have heard a group of children who used to live on the street recited the parable of the lost sheep.

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The Human Heart and God's Promise

I can't tell you how glad it made my heart to visit Watoto Wa Ahadi (Children of Promise) again.A little over a year ago, before the center opened, we spent time on the streets with the children who lived there.They were malnourished, had infected wounds, and worse yet – were hopeless.Most of them were high on sniffing glue to help them forget how hungry they were, and how rejected they felt.Many of them shared their stories.Mark was not quite 10 years old.His father left when he was very young and is presumed dead.When he was a young child his mother took his baby brother and left for the city to look for work so she could send money back to feed Mark.He lived with his grandparents who were physically and verbally abusive.He was required to work rather than attend school.Often there was not enough food to go around. He eventually left for the streets, where he lived with a group of 10 other boys.They carried firewood and did odd jobs during the day to try to earn money.If they were lucky they earned enough for one meal a day each.His wish at that time was to be able to take a bath.

Now Mark is a proud Child of Promise. He is thriving on the farm.Faster than expected he was ready to return to the primary school in the village.He spends his days studying for school, learning farming techniques, tending his garden plot, learning animal care, spending time in devotionals and counseling sessions and having time to be a kid. He is learning to make art out of banana fibers. He wants to be a pilot when he grows up, so that he can have enough money to send his brother to school.He drew a picture of an elephant for me to take home to remember him, as if I could ever forget the way his entire expression has transformed over the past year.His eyes now twinkle with hope. He talks of having left the harshness of Egypt and entered the promised land.

Over the next year we plan to work towards reintegrating Mark and all of his fellow Children of Promise back into the community with family members or foster families while bringing in a new group of children.Sodzo, as you may recall, is the Greek word that can be translated as healing, restoring, making whole.Our hope for each of these kids is that they will thrive once restored in the community.In order to make that happen, and to stem the tide of children being forced to the streets, we are implementing the next phase of the Sodzo model – the Family Strengthening Program.So far there are 510 families enrolled in groups of 30 families.Each group meets once weekly and contributes 20 cents to a group fund that is then loaned out to support start up costs for a small business, school fees for a child, needed farm equipment, etc.The loans are paid back and continue to circulate to other group members.At the meetings they learn parenting skills, business skills, farming techniques, health and water safety, marriage counseling, conflict management, etc. The pilot group has done so well that there are more families eager to participate than we currently have capacity for.We hope this project leads to more stable communities, with economic opportunities that allow families to stay together and live healthier, more peaceful lives. 

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Nearing the End With a New Beginning

Nearing the End With a New Beginning

Preparing to celebrate

The first cohort of children should come on Saturday. We had originally planned on bringing them on Monday, April 25. We'll still have a community-wide celebration that day, but we believed it would be beneficial to have thorough clinical review of each child before the designated pediatrician (Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman) leaves. Further, we really don't want to make these children wait any longer than they have to. The absolute earliest these kids could arrive is Saturday, as we're working very hard this week on finishing the last touches at the farm – purchasing food for 3 months (grains, beans, etc.), connecting the power (God willing!), flushing the plumbing systems to make sure water flow works properly (thanks EWB!!), building soccer goals and playground equipment, cleaning everything and arranging all the furniture. There are a few meetings with different grant agencies and potential partners we want to have on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, so Lauren will have the weekend to see and arrange treatment for the kids at our center.

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"The time is coming and is now here when you shall worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:23

Jesus goes out of his way to identify with people of ill-repute. In John 4, he engages with a Samaritan woman who has been married multiple times. He suggests she should ask for and receive Living Water – participation in the divine life that begins in the present moment and extends beyond any conceivable boundary including space and time. She asks for this water, and he responds by asking her to bring her husband. It then becomes clear that she does not want to discuss her marital history, and is surprised that Jesus knows this history. The discussion continues into the place of worship; Samaritans believed the location where worship should happen was Mount Gerizim, while Jews believed the place to be the temple in Jerusalem. The woman wants to know which location is correct, and Jesus continues to explain that real worship happens in Spirit, as is the nature of God, and truth, being faithful to our own nature.

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The kingdom of God belongs to such as these

My children met some of the boys who live on the streets of Maua, Laare and Mutuati today. 

They represented two different, understandable responses to the boys of these towns. Their responses are largely personality driven, but I can't help but find in them my own impulses. It completely misses the point to assess their behaviors as though one child responded correctly and the other incorrectly. We all have multiple instincts and manners of responding to adversity we see in other people.

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Easter reflection

Easter reflection

"Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee, 'the Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' Then they remembered his words."

Luke 24:6b-8

There is something startling about the faithfulness of God. God acts in bizarre and unexpected ways. Often, the fact that God's promise has been made true in history is more surprising than alternatives we could conceive on our own. Women came to Jesus' tomb, expecting the normal course of events – someone dies, their body is prepared for burial and you bring them gifts to pay respect. This is routine, normal and predictable. God, however, is not predictable – even in God's predictability. We are too ill-prepared for the bursting forth of life God intends for us, then when it comes we act surprised as though we couldn't have imagined what good thing was coming.

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