It’s funny where life may lead you, especially if you’re a person who feels called to faith.
Cheri Thompson and her husband, Rick, were in Kenya in 1992 when they saw 10 boys being beaten by police for the “crime” of begging for food. One boy was only 3. They knew they had to do something.
By 2001, they’d purchased a farm near the Kipsongo Slum just outside of Kitale, Kenya, and by 2003 they’d taken in their first 10 boys.
“We never planned that this is what we'd do,” said Cheri, about their Challenge Farm, where more than 200 young Kenyans live now.
But before it could even get started, Rick was diagnosed with cancer. Much of his treatment was at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem and that’s where they met Sonny Flowers. He’s the pastor at River Oaks Community Church in Clemmons. Flowers soon realized that his Young Adult Ministry could do great things for the farm – and the farm might help the members of “YAM” deepen their faith.
Not everyone was buying in right away.
“You hear stories of what these kids have gone through before coming to the farm and it’s tragic,” said Sam Walter, a member of River Oaks’ Young Adult Ministry and a FOX8 photojournalist. “How can our lives possibly benefit theirs? What kind of hope can I bring a child who has experienced so much pain and heartbreak?”
Walter and others in the Young Adult Ministry went to Kenya for 10 days to follow that calling and see what they can do. Flowers gets why not everyone would be behind the idea.
“A lot of people say, 'Why are you going to Africa, when there are so many needy children, here?'” he said. “But the worst poverty we have here does not compare to what you see in Africa. And what these kids have been through in their life, from living on the street from when they're 3 years old.”
The children and young adults told Walter and Flowers all about it.
“Others take advantage of you,” said one of the children, named Elizabeth. “You can be raped, you can be abused. You can be beaten by other people or by elder kids in the street.”
“I was thinking that life had just ended for me,” said another child named Veronica, about what it was like to lose her mother and be on the streets begging.
But, even in the short time they are at the Challenge Farm, the Young Adult Ministry program seems to have an effect.
“What's amazing is those kids that you meet, just for those 10 days, they will remember your name,” Flowers said.
See the farm and some of the children who live there in this edition of the Buckley Report.