More than 200 Azusa Pacific students, staff, and alumni travel around the world for missions each year, coming home with incomparable life experiences. But sometimes, the most amazing stories are of people who continue to serve those ministries once they return home.
Karissa Soeter ’12, a Christian Ministries major, joined the School of Theology’s annual mission trip to Kenya during spring break 2011. A group of 17 students and alumni spent a week serving a small orphanage that houses 22 children a few hours outside of the capital, Nairobi.
The Belwop Rescue Center was founded in 2005 by a woman deeply concerned with the rising number of orphans abused, neglected, and abandoned. With a leap of faith, Veronica Mumbi Muhuri quit her job and opened the orphanage with her personal savings.
Twice per day, the APU team and orphans would worship together in the old, simple, three-bedroom, kitchen-less home filled with bunk beds.
“I heard the kids at the orphanage singing worship songs, and it just broke my heart. I just wept because they love God so much,” said Soeter. “Veronica came to me and said, ‘God loves a humble heart.’ I thanked her for letting us come and experience this and asked if we could pray together every day.”
That’s when the cherished relationship began. Soeter, Muhuri, and Kristen Carter, an APU M.Div. student, spent hours in prayer together over the course of the week, asking God to work in the orphanage by providing monetary, emotional, and spiritual strength for Muhuri as she raises the children on her own.
Muhuri lives out her vision of rescuing children from the streets and providing a home where they are loved and cared for, but keeping the center open has not been easy. Rent, water, and electricity alone cost $160 per month, which adds up to $1,920 per year. While that may not be much by American standards, Soeter said that amount of money is hard to come by in Kenya.
Soeter was deeply moved by the strength she saw in Muhuri, and it inspired her to continue helping from home. A group of alumni who went to Belwop Rescue Center a few years ago have been gathering funds for Muhuri to build a new orphanage. Soeter wanted to do something that would meet their current needs, so she set out to raise a year’s worth of money for rent, water, and electricity.
To get to Kenya, the APU team sold textbooks online to raise money. The success of these efforts inspired Soeter and Carter to call on the faculty from the School of Theology to go through their shelves and donate unwanted books. At the start of June, they already collected five medium-sized boxes full of books to sell.
“Some could sell for $10 and some could sell for $75,” said Soeter. “We’ll probably need a couple hundred. It’s funny because I’m not worried about it at all. I’m just trusting God will bring me the textbooks. I’ll just keep doing this until I make enough.”
In the meantime, Soeter and Muhuri communicate on Facebook every week, praying for and catching up with one another. Soeter does not know if she will ever return to Kenya, but she is confident that God has used her relationship with Muhuri to confirm her calling to women’s ministry.
“Kenya confirmed that I really want to work with women. My heart was really moved by working with Veronica,” said Soeter. “She even said to me, ‘I feel like God sent you to me so that we could pray together and encourage each other.’ That was a huge confirmation.”