Sometimes great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance. You could say this about a lot of Ndoto’s sponsored students, but in one particular case it’s also true of Ndoto’s leaders.
We have a covenant that students agree to when they receive sponsorship, and they know that violations can lead to losing their support. Over nearly fifteen years, we’ve had to part ways with plenty of students. The process, however, is guided by prayer, and Ndoto has a bias toward second chances.
|Lawi in 2012|
We met a young man named Lawrence in 2011. He lived next door to one of our staff members in Obunga and he and his older sister Molly needed help. Lawi, as we called him, was 4 years old, and they were staying with their grandmother. Their mother had recently died, and the father had disappeared.
|Molly in 2011|
Their grandmother brewed illicit moonshine as a means of survival, and the environment was as toxic as the smell. Eventually she dropped them at their uncle’s home, but they didn’t find a peaceful stay there either. The story changed for Lawi and Molly when they received sponsorship the next year, in 2012.
Lawi was beloved by the team and developed a close relationship with Ndoto’s founder and director, Allison Schlack. Even though Lawi was clearly a bright kid, his upbringing remained an obstacle. He kept missing school, and in 2015 he disappeared entirely and was found living on the streets. Life for an eight year old orphan on the streets is miserable, and he made a prodigal return to Ndoto after a few months.
|Lawi and Molly in 2017|
As a second chance, we transferred him to a boarding school for 2nd grade, but he couldn’t stay still. In 2018 he dropped out of school again, and ran away to Nairobi to try the streets there. The unfamiliar capital city was even more unforgiving, and the two-time prodigal made another miraculous reappearance.
There was something about Lawi that wouldn’t let us drop him. We took him to Agape, a Christian children’s ministry in our city, where he stayed for four months to seek a deeper rehabilitation. Still homeless at the end of it, he moved in with some other sponsored students at Ndoto, but it didn’t take long before he saw an opportunity to steal some money from Allison and disappear for a third time.
|Lawi today, a sophomore in high school|
Lawi was caught and sent to Remand, a government-run youth correctional facility. “At Agape they plead with you to change,” he said, “but in Remand they force you to change.” In six months there, Lawi finally began to see the importance of school and returned to school in 2019.
It didn’t take long before leadership started to come calling. He was elected class prefect, and then in grade 8 became the school president. He got good grades on his exams, and enrolled at a local public high school. Two weeks after admission, he was elected class prefect again, and in October 2023 he was elected school president, garnering more than 800 of the 1000 votes cast. He had been recommended by a nominating process of 150 teachers. To those who don’t know what God can do, it might be surprising to see a young man who struggled with truancy and theft sitting in charge of his student disciplinary board.
Lawi testifies that despite all of his mistakes, Allison and Pastor Michael never gave up on him, and he found a family that he had never had. “I am here today because of God’s grace through Ndoto. God exercised a lot of patience and taught me what love really means, and Ndoto saw a great future in me and helped rewrite the story of my life.”
His focus is now to remain disciplined and be a role model to his peers and continue to improve his grades with two more years of high school ahead of him. As for the Remand home, Ndoto continues to regularly visit the facility for outreach. On November 10, Lawi went with a group of our students and he gave his “paradoxical” testimony as a reminder to the youth that where there is life, there is hope. God has a good plan for all of us no matter what circumstances we come from.
|Lawi and Molly today with Joshua, one of our team members who has mentored the two of them for more than a decade|