The 2012 retreat was nothing but special. First, it was held in the month of April when nearly all the students were home for Easter. Secondly, it was the first time we had not only a theme for the retreat but we also invited a guest speaker cum pastor to talk to the students so that the gospel is shared even as the students had fun; quite a deviation from what other organizations would do.  It was a few minutes past midday on Friday when the 68-seater bus picked up students at the Obunga junction in two trips taking them to Ahero multipurpose center, the venue for the retreat. It is amazing how fast Ndoto has grown and the fact that we had to hire a bus instead of the matatus that we have erstwhile used attests to our growing numbers.  The place was so big and more beautiful compared to Buoye that had been hitherto our center of choice. The students arrived at the center with smiles written on their faces. All students were immaculately dressed and it was easier to identify them by their impeccable name tags courtesy of Dana Melton. Having been briefed on expectations and introduced to the theme of the retreat 1 Tim 4;12 which says, “let no one look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity”,  the students were ushered to the main hall by Ndoto staff. Pastor Meshack Habib, Michael’s mentor was the speaker for the day. The idea behind inviting the pastor was so that students have fun, and the good news of Jesus Christ is preached to them. This is in keep with Ndoto’s mission and discipleship program which advocates for Jesus and Jobs for the students, and not just education.
Pastor Meschack preaching at the prince of peace church
The preacher talked about FAITH in line with the theme of the retreat, he emphasized the need to have faith and said that faith can change things. After that there were presentations from students and I was surprised to see the large number of students who signed up to present. It is so fulfilling to see how showing students love and caring for them can bolster their confidence and self esteem. I was so blessed to see Lawrence, the youngest student sing his heart out presenting a gospel song he had heard from the church. Having presented, students had supper and retired to bed on volition.  The younger kids were super excited, it was there first time to sleep away from home, and they stayed up late telling stories until 12.00am. Others woke up at the crack of dawn; they were so ineffably elated that sleep eluded them.  It is inexplicable how blessed I was to see the level of change that has developed in almost all of the students; the bonding, the discipline and the sense of love and togetherness that the students showed. Everyone seemed to genuinely care about the other. Orphans like Lawrence, David (Pastor), Kevin and Caleb felt like they had dads and big brothers and sisters who cared for them. They felt protected in every sense of the word as Edwin and Michael provided the security and tranquility that they so much needed. 

Michael and Sandra dancing
On Saturday we had games and more sessions with pastor Meschack, got letters from sponsors and wrote them back before taking a group picture wishing our sponsors a merry Christmas. A bull was slaughtered and older Ndoto students helped prepare early supper for the primary school kids who ate and left for home in high spirits. Discussions on love ensued with the speaker leading the session mainly attended by the older students. The discussions culminated in the speaker leading the students in singing “How Great is Our God” byChris Tomlin. To see all the students deeply engrossed in this song, singing with all their being is a spectacle that will forever remain etched in my mind.  Other than the power blackout at night, everything went on well and the darkness despite delaying our programs did not in any way deter the students from dancing as is customary with all Ndoto student retreats. As soon as the lights were back the students, old and young alike took to the dance floor and danced to their favorite tunes.
Some of the students dancing to their favorite tunes
The climax came on Sunday when all the students met at the prince of peace church with pastor Meschack preaching on purity. He is no doubt the best pastor I have seen in years! You should have seen the passion and aura of confidence he exuded as he meticulously delivered one of the best sermons ever on purity to a mammoth congregation of over 100 Ndoto students and other regular church members. The church was literally full to capacity, with the little kids resorting to sitting on mats as all the available chairs were all occupied. Pastor Meshack encouraged us all to NEVER GIVE UP despite our struggles. He encouraged the students to never allow anyone to look down upon them because they are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. He stated in no uncertain terms that we should all be people of integrity and that other people should see Jesus in us. We may be young and may not have authority over the will of other individuals, but we can have influence by our righteous actions and by displaying the character of Jesus as the Holy Spirit lives in us. Further, he said that we cannot make someone do something against their will, but we should desire to influence them toward God and God’s ways.

The best moment came when 3 Ndoto students received Christ as we all sang “How great is our God” in drunken jubilation. The church service having ended, all the students left for home, happy and looking forward to the next retreat.

Ndoto students at the church
I couldn’t be more proud of the team Ndoto and all who worked tirelessly to make this retreat a success. Words can’t express how blessed I am to work for Ndoto and impactthe lives of those around me for Jesus Christ and seeing lives changed through the transforming power of God! Some people say that they desire wealth in order to do good with it, and to bless others. Having worked for Ndoto for a year now, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that if your real desire is to do good, there is no need to wait for money before you do it; you can do it now, this very moment, and just where you are by serving others. We had volunteers like Susan come to the retreat with nothing but a willing heart yearning to serve. Some students just want someone to listen to them and show them love. This doesn’t require a penny.  No matter how poor you are, there is room for self-sacrifice, for did not the widow put her all into the treasury? I got to watch the movie “Small Act”, and was challenged when Chris said that he thought that his sponsor, Hilde was a wealthy white trying to shed off some of the wealth she had only to find out later that she was just an ordinary Swede trying to help and make a difference in the world because she too had been once a beneficiary of someone’s generosity and sacrifice.
It is amazing how we get better with every retreat. The change in the students is so evident and it is a blessing to us to see them get education and also grow in faith as their personal relationships with Jesus Christ get better every day. At Ndoto we believe that life is not about us, it is about Jesus. There are so many people who do not realize that Jesus is more than any of us will ever be. He is more than people referring to us as Christians or thinking that we are “good” people. It is about meeting someone who is hungry and providing them with food, seeing someone and feeling the urge to give them something, an umbrella if it’s raining, a coat if it’s cold, and education if they can’t afford it. It is about Jesus, it is about LOVE, it is about SERVING, it is about not thinking what others think of you. It is about ordering your steps in his word. It is about His amazing grace because you know you could not, and cannot save yourself! It is about knowing that life is short and quickly past, ONLY WHAT WE DO FOR CHRIST JESUS WILL LAST!!

   Ndoto has given us all a chance to dream until our dreams come true. Dream or Ndoto is deciding to do something worthwhile, based on who you are and what you love and believe in. God loves David, and my dream has come true so soon! I am so happy working for Ndoto doing something I love every day, waking up and realizing I get to spend my time doing something I couldn’t survive without than going to work just to make money. God bless you all who have stood with us as we support young people to dream and be what God wants them to be!  

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