Joel Karanja and Ruth
I have a hero and his name is Joel Karanja. Joel and his wife, Susan, are Kenyan and the founders of the House of Hope Home in Kenya, Africa. I first met Joel three years ago on our first trip to Naivasha, Kenya, and every year he amazes and challenges me with his faith in God and his commitment to the children in the home.
Several years ago, Joel had a burden – a burden for the orphans and street children that he saw every day in his community. He wanted to adopt them. His wife, however, did not share his burden at first. So Joel prayed. He prayed for seven years that his wife would share his burden and God finally answered his prayers.
Joel and Susan have invested their entire lives in being a Jesus-neighbor to children in need. Out of their own funds they purchased land and built structures to make a home that would provide for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of children – up to twenty-five boys and girls at this time. The kids call them Dad and Mom and light up when Joel and Susan walk into a room.
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I own part of a cow in Africa. I was thinking of her today and what a beautiful cow she is. I haven’t seen her but she is beautiful because of God’s story in her. Like so many of us – beautiful because of God’s story in us.
In June, we went to Kenya to spend time with our friends and our partners. On the second morning, our partner Joel picked us up to take us to the House of Hope.
‘How did you sleep last night, Joel?’ I asked.
‘Not so well. Our cow. She died.’
Thinking my broken English was too broken, I said with the deepest compassion – ‘What?!’
‘Our milking cow died last night.’
Not the actual cow but a friendly Google cow for this post.
Their only milking cow – that they only had one week – got sick in night, bloated beyond help, and died. Joel went up to the home in the night while the children were sleeping to take care of things.
Our team was shocked. We had just mocked that cow the day before as it grazed on the soccer field. We mourned with Joel who didn’t need this kind of blow. Every day he fights to keep his head above water and to care for these 23 children. Now, he was out 40,000 shillings ($400) which can be nearly 10 months salary for many Kenyans. With school fees, food needs, medical bills, salaries to pay and water to buy due to no rain, Joel didn’t have the money. But he never said that. Joel never expressed doubt – only faith. Faith that God would provide.
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