Saturday 17th December, 2011 is a day I shall live to recall. Erick, Dennis and I (David) braved the chilly morning to meet the students at the Obunga junction where the matatus would pick us up, destination being St. Rita Bwoye Retreat Center. We had been planning for this day for weeks and we were glad it was finally here. At least 50 students were already at the junction by the time we got there. All were smartly dressed. Hillary Omondi was very outstanding in his immaculate suit. I wondered how he was going to play and have fun in that attire. As soon as the matatus arrived, we got on board and left under the prying eyes of curious onlookers. Yes, we always amaze people at how fast we have grown, from the original 29 to the current 110 students. We had to hire 4 matatus, and still we didn’t all fit in. The three of us had to use Joshua’s tuk tuk while the students carried each other in the matatus.
The ever punctual and hardworking Director and co-worker; Allison, was already at the venue when we got there. She had helped fix breakfast for the students and everyone had a cup of tea. Having had breakfast, Allison, Lilian and I took the students through the expected code of behavior during the retreat and thereafter, Bonface and Brian; the guys we had hired to entertain us helped us with the introductions. They led us in a couple of games including sconces eating, complex race, musical chairs, sack race and dynamite field. These were meant to encourage interaction between new and old students as well as for team building. We all had fun, laughed and learnt so much from each other. Sconces eating was the most funny and educative game. Students were put in groups of seven. They chose a leader and the members sat in a circle, their hands behind their backs, with the leader at the centre. The group leader was given about 6 queen cakes which s/he was to feed to all the members within the least time possible and with the minimal wastage (crumbs). Paka Ywayo Tek (A cat is difficult to pull) headed by Dennis Osiolo was the winners; there strategy being the fact that they ate the queen cakes with the muffin paper!!! The take home message from this game was that we should take care of the resources we are given and avoid wastage. Those who succeed in life work well with the resources they have. This is in line with the biblical teaching on stewardship. Stewardship means not wasting what we have. Proverbs 21:20 tells us, “There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.” This means that all we have has come from God’s provision. Are we wasting what God has blessed us with? If so, do you think He is excited about providing more? To answer this, Jesus told the story of the talents in Matthew 25:14-29. The key verse says, “29. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.’” Jesus is saying that to everyone who is a good steward of what he has been given, more will be given. He is also saying that whoever is not a good steward, even what he has will be taken away and given to someone who is. Some say this sounds unfair. We must understand that God will not commit Himself to blessing someone who wastes what he has been given. God is speaking to us about our abilities and talents, not just our money. God is reminding us that if we squander our talents, we will lose them. If we use those talents and abilities for the glory of God, they will be blessed by God and will increase. God wants us to be wise stewards. Stewardship means that we are accountable to God for everything He has blessed us with. If we refuse to become accountable, we will not enjoy God’s provision. I find this message very powerful and it was great to see it being conveyed to all the students, young and old in a simple game of eating queen cakes.
After the games the students were given a surprise; the first ever Ndoto T-shirts! Everyone put on theirs and the site that ensued was one to behold! How beautiful it was to see over one hundred students in T-shirts of different colors conveying the most powerful message; NDOTO; Nyasaye Nyalo (God is Able). Great thanks go to the Reed family (Dale, Barbara, Jason & Ashley) for making the Ndoto’s dream of having T-shirts for all the students come true. Edwin, a young man who volunteers with Ndoto didn’t have a T-shirt prior to this day. He came to the retreat in office wear and was so happy when Allison handed him a T-shirt just like all the other students. You should have seen the big smile on his face as he received his T-shirt. The T-shirts were so cool that other people including the staff at the retreat centre came to Allison asking for the T-shirts. At least 5 people did. Having taken group pictures in our impeccable T-shirts, we had Lilian (Mary), Tabu (Joseph) and other Ndoto students act a Christmas story. To see Lawrence, innocent, Emma and Wanjiku play the sheep and victor the shepherd was so coooool. At the end of the story, Allison reiterated that God loved us so much that he sent His only son to die that we may live and that Jesus’ birth was a miracle so that we could have a miracle of re-birth. For many, Christmas is something that can be put back into the closet until next year. All the lights, the tree, and the decorations can be put away until next year. What about Jesus? Jesus is Christmas, and we cannot put Him away in our closet until next year. Jesus must be Lord of our life every day of every year. The supernatural birth of Jesus took place in the way that it did, when it did, and where it did so that we can know that He is God. His birth is the beginning of our life.
Later, students and staff were given presents or awards in different categories including most disciplined boy and girl (Dancan Aballa & Nancy Akoth), most servant hearted (Dennis Osiolo and Phanice Awuor), most loving and “Face of Ndoto” among others. Most servant hearted students are those students who do what they are asked to do without whining or complaining. Face of Ndoto is a student who in Allison’s words depicts exactly why Ndoto was created; s/he should be excelling in school, knows and loves the lord and is helping others. I was utterly perplexed and spellbound when she announced that I was this year’s Face of Ndoto winner! I didn’t believe my ears and I felt honored to be the first face of Ndoto winner.
The ultimate gift was the most loving and this went to none other than the director herself. It was emotional with the staff and George Odhoji representing the students giving an account of how grateful they are for the immense love that Allison has shown us by leaving her own country and family, selling all her property, missing her friends and family, working tirelessly through the night praying and recruiting sponsors and generally going at great length of personal sacrifice to provide for us. She loves getting to serve and advocate for us; the families of Obunga and has chosen us as her favorite people in the world. She has consistently shown us that she loves and believes in us and caring for us and pushing us to be all that God intended for us to be is something she wholeheartedly believes in. she has taught us to be bondservants, putting ourselves last and serving others in all we do. All our efforts should be focused on honoring God, serving people, and empowering others to change their own lives. Because we have been ridiculously blessed by the people that God has put in our lives, we must also pass it on to others, she always reminds us. After all, to whom much has been given, much is expected. I have heard her say a number of times that on the day of judgment, God isn’t gonna ask us where we went to school or how much money and wealth we amassed in this world. But God is gonna ask us if we knew Him, loved Him and served Him.
II Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” She has consistently taught us that God holds us accountable for wasting our lives serving ourselves when we could have served God. For a life of selfishness here on earth, we will suffer the loss of the rewards God wants to give us in heaven, even though we are still saved. No words can explicitly explain how grateful we are for all the great sacrifices she has made to be there for us. She deserved the best price and the best price we did give her.
Dancing completion saw Lawrence, Edward and Wekesa win prices of best dancers. Thereafter, the students danced in their own volition as Tabu, James and Bonface Sadia roasted the goat for dinner. 2 goats and 2 sheep were slaughtered for the occasion, a clear epitome of the growing number of Ndoto students. Only one goat was roasted last retreat in August before new students joined. Rumor has it that a bull will be slaughtered during the next retreat in April 2012. After dinner, we all went home, tired but happy for a successful Christmas Retreat!!! To all of us, Christmas came so early!!! God Bless Ndoto!!Can’t wait for April, see you there!!!!!!