The Same, But Different




by John Seale, Director of Operations
I recently got back from my annual trip to Kenya where I got to spend time with our staff and see the progress of our ministry firsthand. Between the distance, slow internet, and an 8 to 9 hour time zone difference, there’s nothing better than being there in person. Somehow, this was my 14th trip to Kenya and my 7th as an Ndoto staff member. I’m still grappling with how many years it’s been since 2006 when I first set foot on Kenyan soil. It shows me that I’m getting a lot older for one thing!


This trip was right up there with unusual trips I’ve taken. This time, political protests meant that I spent three full days locked in a hotel for safety as our offices were closed. I saw similar burning roadblocks during post-election violence back in 2008. During the pandemic I faced the unusual situation of not knowing until 24 hours before my fights whether or not I would be on them as I waited for negative lab tests, then enduring long travel days in a mask. On my travels to Kenya I’ve been with groups, I’ve been solo. There have been trips that felt productive and others that didn’t. And I can’t wait for more to come.


After my wife got to come to Kisumu with me in 2015, she remarked that she could tell how comfortable I was there. It’s probably presumptuous to call it a second home, but after learning the city and moving around, finding favorite restaurants and stores, and watching 17 years of changes and developments, I think she is right. After my own home in Dallas, Kisumu is definitely the place in the world where I feel the most comfortable.


A lot has changed since 2006. Bicycles were replaced by motorbikes. Shopping malls have risen. The number of grocery stores and nice restaurants has grown. Our community has gotten paved roads, electricity, running water, and a number of concrete buildings. Ndoto has grown from an idea to a reality.


John in Kenya in 2006
But there’s a lot that hasn’t changed. Our staff and students are still joyful and hopeful. Our community still has a lot of potential alongside a lot of need. Human suffering still has the ability to floor me. I still wonder when I walk into Obunga if I should take my shoes off because God has been working there since long before I ever heard of the place. And I still want as many people as possible to see Kisumu with me.


Every time I return to Kenya it’s amazing to see how much has changed and developed, and how much our ministry has moved forward. We have an amazing staff, and our leaders have done monumental work building Ndoto. God has been incredibly faithful and I have no doubt that Ndoto has great days ahead of it. Our theme this year is Open Doors, and I believe that we’ll see even more in the years ahead.
Sunrise at the Kisumu Airport

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