Joytown

I’m back, friends. My son Jeremy and I just arrived from Kenya after two weeks of working with Bethany Kids in Joytown (a community in Thika, Kenya) and some other work in Machakos. Let me share the story of a remarkable woman with a most amazing story. Her name is Francesca.

Francesca was born with spinal bifida. In Kenya, those born with such conditions are thought to be cursed and a curse on the family. Often, such babies are either exposed (left out in the fields for the animals to devour) or poisoned by a concoction made from tobacco leaves. The deed is usually left to the grandparents. It so happened in Francesca’s case that her mother swooped her up at the last minute and ran with her. Eventually she came back to the house. (Many times mothers and their disabled children are ejected from the family.) As she grew up, little Francesca stayed close to her mother for protection. Her father rejected her and constantly called her the “useless one.” He began drinking, and the house became a nightmare. All things that went wrong were blamed on Francesca. When she was old enough she went to school, but the school kids were merciless with her. There was no place safe for her. In time her mother began to drink. She wished she was dead and even tried to kill herself.

An uncle came to the Lord and through his contacts Francesca was received at the hospital at Kijabe where Bethany Kids sponsors a children’s ward. There she was cared for and loved for the first time, and there Jesus broke into her heart. Unfortunately, her foot got infected and amputated, but she has learned to get along with prosthesis. The Lord led her to Joytown where there are hundreds of kids who struggle with similar conditions as she did as a child. There she works as an evangelist to the kids along with a very skilled and dedicated staff who love these children with a love not of this world.

Joytown was founded by the Salvation Army in the 1960s, the Kenyan government provides for the kids’ education, and Bethany Kids works with the children’s disabilities, ranging from the mentally handicapped to the physically disabled. On first impression, the place is repulsive to the senses. Everywhere there is the limbless, the lame, and the mentally retarded. The place reeks with urine because of incontinence. On a second look, one sees something one rarely sees in places with “normal” people; faces aglow with joy, pure joy. Joytown is well named. The kids have nothing of worth according to this world; indeed, they are “useless” to the world. This potentially opens their souls to God in a way that is far more direct than most of us on the outside. The staff is in love with these kids, and these kids receive the love of God through them. They in turn love each other. It is a common sight to see badly deformed kids pushing their friends with no limbs at all in wheel chairs, laughing all the way. The place is not heaven; there is much pain, suffering, tears and hardship. It is, however, heaven’s gate in the sense of John 13 where Jesus teaches us the way to the upper room by washing dirty feet.

Francesca is married now and has a boy named Jeremy. She had the joy of seeing her father come to the Lord before he died, along with her brother and sister. The once “useless one” is now supporting her brother through school.

Faces … I am left with impressions of smiling faces. The Face is the well of the soul. The soul is our treasure room, a vast place of spiritual space big enough to hold God, an interior cathedral. The rich possess God and it shows on the face, the eyes and the wide grins. The poor are bored, anxious and fearful, and it shows on so many of the faces I see day to day in the “normal” world around me. I think I understand better now what Scripture means when it tells us that God loads the “poor” with riches.

For an encounter with Francesca on YouTube, enter in

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