This article is written with combined information from Karyl Kramer, one of the faculty sponsors from Upper Columbia Academy, and Jan Latsha, the director of Maasai Development Project which sponsors a number of lay pastors as well as the educational center, a rescue home for girls fleeing female genital mutilation and early marriage. Jan narrates the article.
I waited at the airport in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, in March 2017, for our new mission group from Upper Columbia Academy in Washington State to arrive. These groups from various schools or other organizations always interested me. I love watching the teenagers learn how people in other parts of the world live. Their hearts open to the girls at Maasai Development Project Educational Centre. It is fun to see new friendships blossom.
This group was special already, at least in my mind. I had told their leader, Dean Kravig, that Maasailand was suffering from a drought and a famine. Dean talked to his trip participants as well as the other students. All agreed that they should raise money for food. Two days a week in the cafeteria only beans and rice were served. This change in menu produced $5,000 to use for food for the Maasai. Other people in the church and the community donated another $5,000.
After the group had gone through customs, we all rode to the guest house at the East African Division headquarters to stay overnight. The next day we drove to the Maasai Development Project. The students were excited to see elephants and giraffes. They looked with interest at the colorfully dressed Maasai and were surprised to see little boys, and sometimes little girls, herding goats and cows. At the centre we discussed the projects planned for the group. Some of the participants would work on projects at the centre. Others would go with the medical and dental teams to nearby villages. Some of the students would help distribute food packages to those who had already been treated by the doctors or dentists.
One evening, as we were packing to leave in the morning for the second day at the clinic at Naikara when we planned to distribute food, lay pastor Stephen asked me how much food to take. “Enough to feed two hundred families should be plenty,” I answered, basing my estimate on the number of people who had come to the clinic the day before.
Some of the visitors prepared packets of rice, beans, and maize meal and helped him load the truck. The finished packets were loaded into gunny sacks to make them easier to transport. The students were excited about the work they would be doing the next day. After all they had helped raise the money to buy the food.
After we arrived in Naikara, I quickly noticed the long line of people waiting to see the doctor or the dentist. Oh no, I thought, we won’t have enough food.
Silently I prayed, “Lord, look at this line of hungry people. Please multiply the food as you did with the little boy’s lunch by the Sea of Galilee. May we have enough food for all of the them.”
After the people who had come for medical or dental care had received the needed treatment, they came to wait in line by the door of the truck for food distribution. The students helped Pastor Stephen distribute the packets of food to the waiting people.
One of the Maasai elders called me over. “Neither our local government nor our national government seems to care that our cows and goats have died and people are starving. Your gift of food has given us hope when we had just about given up,” he told me.
I didn’t know what to say. “God has supplied the food for your families,” was all I could say.
Hungry people came through the line, anxious to get some food to take home to their children. Soon the food was almost gone. I was silently praying as students gave the packets to each family. Pastor Stephen looked over at me and I could tell that he was praying, too.
“What should we do? The food is almost gone,” he asked.
“Take the rest of the food inside the building. Let only ten people inside the building at a time,” I answered. The students helped him move the last of the food into the building. Soon the last packet of food was gone, and many people were still waiting in line.
I saw Pastor Stephen walk over to the truck and open the back door. His massive smile revealed his joy. Two more gunny sacks of food were in the truck. We all knew that the truck had been completely emptied of food.
The students exchanged wondering looks as they realized what had happened.
A little later the food piles were again almost gone. Two of the students went back to the truck and again opened the back door. This time they found two more sacks of food. All of us put this food on the piles to be distributed. The students were jubilant as they watched people happily taking their packets home. I thought about the boys and girls at home who would love eating that food.
During the afternoon three more times our food piles were vanishing. The students went back to the truck and found more food. That day our group found a total of seven sacks of packets containing rice, maize meal, and beans in an empty truck. At last, the food was all gone. The truck had no more food. One of the adults looked up and pointed out to us that the line of people waiting for food had also vanished. We had given food to every hungry person. We had brought food for 200 families and God had multiplied to feed well over 400 families.
Everyone at the clinic — students, doctors, drivers, and sponsors — spontaneously joined in a prayer and praise service. We sang together “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Tears of joy ran down a number of faces. Many gave testimonies, telling of their wonder at what God had done
As we drove back to MDPEC, the students chattered to each other about the miracle God had worked for them and all those who received the food. When they saw the other students, who had worked at the centre that day, they all talked at once trying to explain what had happened.
“We took all of the food out of the truck.”
“The line of people needing food was really long.”
“Pastor Stephen went back into the truck.”
“He found two more gunny sacks of food.”
“We went back to the truck several more times, finding more food for hungry people.”
“God multiplied the food just like Jesus did when He fed the 5,000 with one little boy’s lunch.”
“It was amazing.”
“I have never seen anything like this before.”
“Our God is a god of miracles.”
Later that week when the students went back to Nairobi and stayed at nearby Maxwell Academy, we had a testimony and praise service. The students from Upper Columbia Academy told about the miraculous way God had multiplied the food for hungry Maasai families. As a result, some students chose to be baptized in response to seeing God answer their prayers and work for the benefit of hungry people.
About the Maasai Development Project Educational Centre
The Maasai Development Project first opened the education center in 2010. After working for 20 years in Kenya, Jan Latsha, the project director, was asked to build a rescue home and was able to obtain a 50-year lease where the project was built. The long brick building houses 70 girls who want to escape the cutting or female genital mutilation as well as early marriage.
The younger girls attend the local public primary school. When they finish the eighth grade, they attend an Adventist boarding school in another part of Kenya. After finishing secondary school, the girls take the Kenyan exams. Their scores qualify them to attend a university or a trade school.
Jan Latsha spends most of her time in the United States, raising money for the project. While she is gone, James Nanka cares for the needs of the project and makes arrangements when another girl needs to be rescued. A matron cares for the girls whom they call Mum. Jan is in daily contact with James Nanka via email and telephone.
To find out more information about the Maasai Development Project, visit 4mdp.org.
“Morintat’s Story” by Kirsten Roggenkamp and Jan Latsha, August 25, 2020
“The Beginning of the Maasai Development Project (Martha’s Story)” by Kirsten Roggenkamp and Jan Latsha, August 19, 2020
“Rescuing Girls from FGM” — an Interview with Jan Latsha, August 14, 2020
“Freely You Have Received, Freely Give” and “Meriano’s Story” by Kirsten Roggenkamp and Jan Latsha, July 29, 2020
Kirsten Roggenkamp earned a BA and an MA from Andrews University and taught at all levels from headstart to high school, from Massachusetts to California. Since her retirement she and fellow teacher Heather Blaire have co-authored two Bible story books for children, Boldly Brave and Securely Strong, and one book of modern-day versions of Jesus’ parables for children to perform as skits or readers’ theater, 21st Century Parables. Kirsten’s greatest accomplishment in life was raising four outstanding sons.
Jan Latsha and her family went to Kenya as missionaries in 1989. She made friends with many the Maasai women living behind Maxwell Academy and began teaching the women to read in their own language, using the Maa Bible. When her family went back to the States, Jan continued her work with many trips back to Africa, establishing Maasai Development Project in 1989. In 2007 she was asked to build and operate a rescue home for Maasai girls escaping FGM and early marriage. The Maasai Development Project Education Centre opened in 2010 and is home to 75 girls who are receiving an education at the local primary school, Adventist Secondary Boarding Academies, and Universities.
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