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INTERNATIONAL LETTER

Toowoomba Lectureship, QLD

The Eastleigh team sharing a Bible story on the side of a bus to street kids. 

Made in the Streets by Joy Tabalujan

Where can you step in mud that’s sticky as glue, meet people who sing and dance like no one’s watching, and casually use the phrase hakuna matata in a conversation? If you guessed Kenya, you guessed right!

In November 2019, five Australians (Alan & Debby Rowley, Jackie Baldwin, Ray Thia, and I) were blessed with the opportunity to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, for a two-week mission trip to work with Made In The Streets (MITS). MITS is a Christian charitable organisation established and supported by Churches of Christ. MITS serves street children by providing a residential education program, vocational training, and a spiritual support network. Students range from 13 to 18 years old. After graduating from MITS literacy and skills programs, MITS helps students find jobs, accommodation, and a loving Christian community. In its 25-year existence, MITS has served over 1,000 street children and strives to continue doing so for many years to come.

Our relationship with MITS began in 2017 when the founders of MITS, missionaries Charles and Darlene Coulston, came to teach at our congregation’s annual family camp. Through their thoughtful and mission-oriented lessons, the Coulstons inspired our band of misfits to travel to Kenya to serve the MITS staff and students—only two and a half years later!

Our mission trip involved two aspects:

1. Conducting a leadership development training program for MITS staff: This was undertaken by Alan and Debby. The program focused on team-building, conflict resolution, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and design-thinking concerning MITS’ future plans.

2. Running a day camp for 80–100 students: This was conducted by Jackie, Ray, and me. We undertook activities including painting boomerangs, playing Bible trivia, and sharing devotionals. Through these activities and focusing on the overarching theme, ‘Out of darkness and into His light’ (1 Peter 2:9), we encouraged students to overcome the darkness of the streets with the wonderful light of God’s love.

While there were many highlights, perhaps the most eye-opening was to witness the transformative role of the MITS program in the lives of the street children. This was immediately evident in the high tea we were served at the start of our visit. The well-spoken catering students who served us dressed in their chef whites attested to the value of MITS. Other students were trained in hairdressing and car-servicing. Looking at the MITS children, you’d never guess that they once roamed on the streets.

We glimpsed the stark reality of life on the streets when we visited Eastleigh Centre. This is the ministry frontline where MITS staff first meet the street kids. To see Bible stories taught with magnets on the side of a bus to malnourished children—often openly sniffing glue to get high—was confronting. Though our visit was brief, the journey of the students—from kids sniffing glue on the streets to become confident graduates serving us tea and scones, all driven by a desire to know God—was truly extraordinary to witness.

Catering students after serving high tea & the Australia team.

Jackie, Ray and Joy with the Eastleigh team.

For me, this opportunity to work with MITS reminds me of three things.

First, we’re equipped and strengthened to share the Gospel by God, not ourselves. Though we may have insecurities or feel ill-equipped, we’re called to seize the opportunities to live out our faith. This is exemplified especially by the courage and commitment of the MITS staff. 

Second, we must be intentional in our spiritual walk. Even though we’re creatures of habit easily lulled into complacency and comfort, we have to choose purposefully to pursue the opportunities which God provides—even one as crazy as adventuring to Africa! 

Lastly, we must both focus on and trust in God. Opportunities may arise at inopportune times. They often demand significant time, money, and effort. Nevertheless, as Christians, we should prioritise God and his kingdom. Far too many of us are waiting for the ‘right’ time but, in doing so, forgo the opportunity to play our part in God’s perfect story.

That said, I want to emphasise that God-given opportunities don’t only arise in distant lands like Africa. Often, it’s through seemingly mundane interactions of everyday life—with classmates, colleagues, family, non-Christians and other Christians—that God works most powerfully.

On behalf of the 2019 MITS mission team, I’d like to thank Belmore Road Church of Christ for their steadfast support for our trip. If God wills it, we hope to send another team to Kenya in the future. Meanwhile, we ask for continued prayers for the MITS students and staff.

Ultimately, we all have a choice. We can ignore opportunities and hope that God sends someone else, or we can choose to pursue God-given opportunities to serve others in the name of Christ. For me, this trip to Africa was one to seize with both hands. And I’m glad to report that I saw God working both in us and through us as we served alongside our Christian brothers and sisters on the streets of Nairobi.

Joy Tabalujan is a member of the Belmore Road Church of Christ, Melbourne      joy.tabalujan98@gmail.com

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