New Friends and Transformed Lives

I made a new friend. In fact, I made a number of new friends, and I would like to introduce you to one of them. His name is James and he lives in Nairobi, Kenya.

James and I met at the Nairobi airport when I arrived to visit Christian Reformed World Relief Committee staff in East Africa. James had been assigned the task of safely delivering me to the retreat center where the staff were gathering for their annual planning meeting.

James has served the Kenya staff and guests of CRWRC faithfully for more than 20 years. Hired by the first director to do errands, deliver packages, retrieve guests, and generally help out, he has been at the center of CRWRC’s ministry in Kenya for all these years. In his low-key way he is excited and enthusiastic about how that ministry is transforming lives and communities.

As James tells it, he didn’t always feel that way. His first years at CRWRC were simply good years at a good job. He enjoyed his work, his colleagues, and his daily routines. Then one day he visited the field and for the first time saw the impact CRWRC’s work was having on people’s lives and their communities.

James said that after that experience his life and his job were never the same. From that day forward, he saw his work as a true calling from God. He realized that his daily tasks were not simply job expectations; they were helping to build the kingdom of God. His life was filled with new excitement and vitality.  

As James told me this story, his eyes lit up and his face took on a new expression.

I understand what James was telling me. I understand because when I visited refugee camps filled with IDPs (internally displaced persons) my life was also changed.

The men, women, and children at the refugee camps had been driven from their homes by angry mobs protesting the outcome of a presidential election. They fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

At one point during our visit to the camp, the people, in their excitement and gratitude, picked up CRWRC co-director Andy Ryskamp and carried him to a seat of honor. The elders of this makeshift village welcomed us as long-lost brothers. It was impossible to walk among them without becoming keenly aware that the work our church is doing through ministries such as CRWRC is changing the world, one life at a time. It was an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

As we continued our journey across Kenya, I saw evidences of God’s grace and love in the midst of suffering and pain. I witnessed the testimony of a woman who was freed from poverty by a single chicken that produced 12 chicks. The woman traded the chicks for candle wax, which she sold to buy a goat, and now she is the proud owner of both a cow and a savings account.  

I wish you could have been with me. I wish you could have seen and heard the stories. I wish that each of you could experience firsthand what God is doing through you, the Christian Reformed Church, around the world.

I know that’s not possible, but I thank you for making such transformation a reality. Through your prayers and support, people’s lives are changing.

About the Author

Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.
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