by Jonathan McKinnon with Richard Moshi
Jonathan and his wife, Lynsey, are serving short term in Moshi, Tanzania. They are both part of a management team that help support Richard in the various ministries at Moshi Christian Children’s Centre.
In His Word God uses stories, true stories, about His people to communicate His love, His compassion and His saving grace to us in this often-dark world. His people suffered greatly at the hands of their oppressors but God was faithful to them through every circumstance, proving time and time again that He keeps His promises. I want to tell you three stories about some young people who have suffered pain and loss but who praise God for His presence and blessings in their lives.
Christian is five years old. He was born in the village of Himo, 30km from where he stays now, at the Moshi Christian Children’s Centre (MCCC). Christian has severe deformities in both his legs and feet caused by multiple tumours. His parents were able to hide this when he was a baby but as he grew and began to walk, his condition became worse and he was shunned by the community. Superstitious beliefs about the causes of disability are still prevalent, even in the more cosmopolitan areas like Moshi, and they believed God had cursed him and his parents. His Kenyan mother and Tanzanian father eventually succumbed to this discrimination and abandoned Christian, leaving him with his grandmother. Unable to support his needs and often abusing him herself, local authorities became aware of the situation and Christian came to stay with the MCCC family, joining 32 other children in our care. It is truly an awful start in life, yet God has moved in incredible ways to bring him to a place of love and safety – what a reminder to us of the mercy and compassion of our Lord.
The centre manager at MCCC, Richard Moshi, knows first-hand the trauma of an abusive start in life. He told us that Christian had never experienced love before from either his parents or the community around him. He explained that when Christian arrived, he could be heard saying, ‘I like it here because children aren’t beaten.’ Despite his disability, Christian is now a happy and positive boy. He is attending the Little Counters Kindergarten at the MCCC campus and thriving in his new environment. Little Counters Kindergarten is committed to giving children like Christian the best possible start in life, both academically and spiritually. We are blown away by God’s provision for him. Doctors from Israel, who specialise in Christian’s condition, were able to come and perform free surgeries to improve his mobility and quality of life. After 24-hour bedside care from the MCCC ‘mamas’, he returned from hospital to a raucous welcome from his adopted brothers and sisters. Due to his much-anticipated return and because his birthday was just a few days before, a celebration was had with cake and soda and Christian had the honour of being DJ at his own party. Pray for Christian that he would know God’s goodness in his life as he grows into the young man he is meant to be. ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Ex. 33:19).
I want to tell you three stories about some young people who have suffered pain and loss but who praise God for His presence and blessings in their lives.
Neria is nine years old and was born not far from Moshi in the village of Sanya Juu on the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. At just a month old, Neria had to be transferred to the care of the baby orphanage in Moshi as her parents were simply unable to look after her. MCCC works closely with the Mkalama orphanage, regularly receiving children from the age of five – Neria joined us in 2017. When she was born, Neria’s mother was suffering from severe mental health issues, her father was struggling with a musculoskeletal disorder affecting his mobility and both were diagnosed HIV positive. Thankfully Neria has not contracted this and she continues to excel both at MCCC and school where she is receiving the highest marks in her class. Sadly, in 2019, Neria’s mother passed away. Her father still lives in the village and she has two brothers, Joshua and Baraka. She often visits them on one of MCCC’s community outreach programmes. Richard said, ‘The most exciting thing is to see her growing spiritually. On holidays she gets time to visit her family and we have witnessed her sharing her Christian faith with her father and two brothers who are not Christians.’ Neria is a strong but quiet girl who has come on leaps and bounds since coming to MCCC. Her faith has been able to grow and flourish as the children are encouraged each evening at sala (prayers). She loves singing and has joined the centre’s Maranatha choir, sometimes leading praise and worship in her church. Neria’s Christian witness is an example to us all. Pray for her that God would use her in her village to be a light for Him. ‘You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely’ (Ps. 59:17).
Kelvin who is 22 years old was born in the Rombo district of Kilimanjaro, which borders with Kenya, and is his parents’ first and only child. Soon after his birth the police brought murder charges against his parents and they were found guilty. The punishment was a 30-year jail sentence for both of them. Kelvin spent the first three years of his life in prison with his mother. A prison is no place for a child and this experience deeply affected his mental health. MCCC has strong relationships with the social welfare office in Moshi and so when he was deemed old enough to be taken from his mother, he was placed at MCCC where he would find safety, a warm bed and hot meals. The trauma of his early years affected his behaviour and when he came to the centre, he was noticeably different from the other children, he had a short temper and struggled to fit in. However, it wasn’t long before his life changed forever. Richard told us, ‘While he was at the centre he got to know about Jesus and his life was completely transformed, he gave his life to Christ and was baptised.’ Kelvin achieved his primary and secondary education certificates and went on to study food production and service at college. While Kelvin still maintains a keen interest in all things culinary, he has developed a new passion over the last few years. He joined Berea Bible college in 2019 and God opened his heart to the possibility of serving in ministry. Kelvin is a passionate theologian, he’s the guy at the Bible study who asks the hard questions and thinks deeply about the answers. For many years Kelvin has run the Sunday school at church and regularly helps to lead Christian camps in Morogoro. Having completed the certificate programme, he is keen to go on and achieve a diploma in theology and is currently serving voluntarily as the assistant leader in his church. Like many young people, Kelvin is wondering what to do with his life. Richard is keen to encourage the young men and women to move on and live independent lives. But it’s not without support: MCCC helps every young person to get on their feet, contributing toward rent, a bed, a stove and money for food as they start their lives outside the walls of the children’s centre. Pray for Kelvin, whether he finds a job in catering and tourism or he serves in a local church. Pray that he puts God first and continues his passion for discipleship. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things’ (Mt. 25:21).
In His Family
Lynsey and I have had the privilege of working at MCCC for almost a year and we are thankful to know, and learn from, young people like Christian, Neria and Kelvin. Sadly, there are many children here, all with their own heartbreaking story. This centre is a family that opens its arms to children in the most terrible of circumstances and concentrates on making Christ known to them. Many return to visit after they leave, which is a testament to the loving family spirit that pours out from this place. Pray for the staff and ministry at MCCC, and for the children as God’s saving grace lifts them up and changes their lives.