Passage to Kenya

“I’ll pray about it for next year.” Famous last words. Last year quickly became this year and Paige Haddick was caught completely off-guard by a friend and leader of the Ethos Young Adult Ministry in the hallway at Eastside. “He gave me a big hug and said, ‘I’m leading a team on the Kenya trip and you’ve got to be on it — are you in?’” The panic on the inside was left unexpressed while her mouth formed the words, “Sure, OK, yes…”

A full time undergraduate student with part time job at a law firm, Paige was in the throws of some major obligations. The introductory meeting for Kenya had already come and gone and she had to miss it, but now it was March and the first team meeting came just a few short days before she was to attend a 10-day law class in Washington DC for school and work. So, with minutes to spare, she slapped the online fund-raising tool together, created a link to it on Facebook and took off on her trip.

“I loved doing missions work when I was younger, but now that I’m working and living on my own with limited funds, going with the church group for a missions trip seemed like a much bigger challenge than it did when I had summers off and was looking for an adventure.”

Paige had great memories of past trips – a few when she was in high school to Mexico and one college trip to the Dominican Republic. The truth is, she felt an internal call to missions work. Even further, she actually felt more comfortable around people that were not like her than people that were like her. But, now that she was committed to the Kenya trip, she became overwhelmed with the task of raising nearly $3,000 in the next few months.

On the plane to D.C., she remembered a friend who had put on actual fundraising events to pay her way on a mission trip. Doubt settled it, and with it a barrage of panicky questions, “How am I going to raise this money? What was I thinking? I can’t do this.”

The first day of class in DC was exciting and Paige was fully engaged in it, but something was distracting her. Her phone was ringing – an urgent call from her aunt. Oh boy, did something happen? Was someone sick? In the lobby after class, Paige rushed to call her aunt back. It seems that her aunt and uncle had been praying and saving for the past year for the opportunity to send someone on a mission trip and after seeing her Facebook post, wanted to give the money to her. It was $1,000. Not typically prone to shows of emotion, Paige sat in that school lobby and cried, joyfully thanking God and regretting her doubt.

Immediately, the scripture she adopted as her lifetime verse came to mind. It was about Esther and her struggle to go to her husband, the King, and ask for mercy for the Jews of that day:

Esther 4:14: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

In the quietness of her heart, Paige heard God’s voice loud and clear. The message was, “Yes, you’re small, but I’m going to use you in the big picture. I’m going to do something in Kenya with or without you, so do you really want to pass that up?” Within three days, the total amount was raised with months to spare on the deadline.

In August, Africa finally came. Paige was preparing for the things she would inevitably see. Injustice, illness and poverty beyond belief. But Paige’s heart was for the girls of Kenya. She had set her career goals based on her passion for human legal rights – specifically women’s rights globally. As an American woman with many opportunities and privileges, Paige was infuriated that, in some other countries, women were treated differently. “I’ve come a long way in my own maturity to accept that women are not properly valued in some cultures, but I prayed that on this trip, God would teach me sustainable lessons and allow me to have actual conversations with some young women to encourage them.”

Paige’s Kenya team traveled to Nairobi and then northeast to Turkana, the poorest region in Kenya. In Nairobi, the group visited the school where she joyfully got to meet Josephine, her sponsored child, now in 3rd grade. “Josephine is so smart and full of dreams. She wants to be a pilot and she can do it!”

The team had plans to travel up to the tribal villages of Turkana. The Turkana are one of the oldest tribes in Africa, dating back thousands of years; nomadic, living off their herds of goats and camels.

The tradition is that one girl from the family has the job of water-bearer. In 100 plus degree heat, the girl must walk back and forth from a well to bring water to the village, sometimes making 5 trips a day with a 30-lb can on their head. And because of that, there is no time for education for that member of the family. Also, because it is a polygamous tribe, most of the homes are run by the mother only and the father is seldom seen. The girls in the family are also usually betrothed to be married by the age of 8 in exchange for a dowry of goods and currency, so education is a low priority for female tribe members.

ECC’s mission during this trip was dig a trench and run a one-mile water line from the well to the center of the village and that job was accomplished during the trip, much to the happiness of the village and the girls, who could now join their classmates at the school.

Finally, on one of the last days of trip, when ministry leader, Arty VanGeloof asked for volunteers to go with him to do house visits in the village, Paige’s hand shot up high. This was her chance to meet a girl and talk. Amazingly, she noticed that not one of the 20 other people had raised their hand.

The tribe’s school arranged the visits and they brought gifts of food and provisions to the families who welcomed them. On the last home visit, Paige met Priscilla. She was 12 years old and in 8th grade. She was the only girl in her class. This was only possible because Priscilla’s father, a Christian believer, was not willing to betroth her, and wanted her to get an education and succeed. Paige had her conversation, “Priscilla and I didn’t get to talk much that day, but I visited her at school the next day and we talked. She was shy, but she told me she was grateful for the food we brought and is happy at school and excited for the future. She wants to come to the USA.”

Reflecting back on her journey and the impact it had on her career plans, Paige left Africa with even stronger convictions than ever about her goals. “My heart aches for these women. I want so much to protect every opportunity they get to have a better life.” Paige’s dream job? “I’d love to be on the Refugee Board of the U.N.”

But mostly, Paige wants to encourage others to serve on missions trips in the future and give to the global causes Eastside supports. “These kids are really benefiting from the sponsorships – it’s real and it’s amazing. And if you feel drawn to go on one of the trips, just say yes. It’s going to be amazing whether you go or not, so don’t miss out.”