The Beginning: Worship in Africa
In 2002, Executive Director, Brandon Smith, took his first mission trip to Africa. He visited the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe to lead worship for a pastor's conference there. Though he traveled through some rough areas to get where he was going, Brandon never really had much contact with the locals and didn't really experience what they experienced. He stayed in missionary housing or hotels the entire two weeks. Though God had started a work in Brandon's heart to minister to the people of Africa, He had not yet opened my eyes to the poverty and devastation that so many people live in on that continent.
Four years later, in 2006, Brandon was able to return to Africa, this time to the country of Kenya. Once again, the agenda was to lead worship for a discipleship training conference for pastors and church leaders on a regional basis, but this time would be a much different experience. There would be no hotels and missionary housing.
"How could I complain about the hardness of the bed I slept in when I know that down the hall a pastor and his wife and children are sleeping on the floor?"
This time, he stayed with the local pastor. It was amazing to see that the pastor and his wife and several children all gave up their beds and slept on the floor together in the living room, so he and his team could sleep on their "not so comfortable" bed. Brandon was struck with the thought, "How could I complain about the hardness of the bed I slept in when I knew that down the hall a pastor and his wife and children are sleeping on the floor?" What an amazing sacrifice they may for him and his team. This was his first humbling experience on the matter.
Brandon did his best to eat the food they offered. Some of it was recognizable, but some of it wasn't. After a few days he got so sick that he was unable to eat any more. But amazingly, when it would come time to lead worship, he would have supernatural strength. They literally had 4-hour church services twice per day. They would go from about 9a to 1p…break for lunch and a nap and then go from about 5p-9p and then go back and have a little snack (most people only ate one meal per day which was in between the services) and then hit the sack. God would show up in amazing power, as people would cry out to him for provision, rain, healing, etc…, but most of all for His presence. These people had nothing and no one else they could depend on except God. If God did not come through for them, they were dead… literally. Oh, how Brandon wanted what they had.
There were pastors and leaders from several African nations, including Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. This is where Brandon met Maurice Odhiambo, the founder of Manna Ministries. He was immediately drawn to him, as it was obvious he truly had a heart for God. He wanted to see others know God in the way that he had come to know him. He wanted to teach and train others to be able to teach and train others… a true disciple maker.
Upon returning home from the conference, after many more wonderful and amazing experiences, Brandon kept in contact with Maurice to see what God was doing. He began partnering with Manna Ministries to help them train and equip pastors to preach the Gospel and to help make disciples. But there were other ministries that Manna began to develop that God started to turn Maurice's' heart towards.
As a father of 4, Brandon could not help but take an interest in the feeding program that Manna had started in the slum schools of Nairobi. So after several years of hearing about what Manna was doing and partnering from a distance, Brandon decided it was time to plan another trip to Kenya to see the feeding program personaly and meet these kids and teachers in the slum schools of Nairobi.
Back to Africa
This time Brandon was able to take his wife Kim, his sister Wendi and his good friend and business partner Jimmy Gunderman (there's no way they would have let him go without them, because they were sick of hearing it from him… they wanted to see it for themselves!!) to see what God would have in store for a more intimate partnership with Manna Ministries. It was on this trip that they were able to see the poverty up close and personal. They were given a guided tour through the slums of Nairobi to visit the 7 schools that Manna Ministries had adopted to help feed the children who attended those 7 schools.
Instead of going to school... these children wander the streets in the slums of Nairobi looking for food
They came to learn that most of the children in the feeding programs would not eat anything at all during the week, except for what they got at school. Praise God, they were getting two meals a day at school, but they would eat nothing in the evenings or on the weekends. Again, these are the fortunate ones. When Brandon asked Maurice what they could do to help, he mentioned the fact that there are 1,000's of children that do not get to eat every day because they can't afford to go to school (uniforms and books are required by the government) or because the schools they would attend didn't feed them. Evidently (per Maurice), most kids don't have parents who can make them go to school because the parents are dead/missing, or the parents are off trying to make money. So, instead of going to school and getting an education without getting fed, these children wander the streets in the slums of Nairobi looking for food or trying to get (or steal) money to buy food.
The streets were so crowded with little children in the middle of the day that you would have assumed that school was not in session, but yet they would pull up to a school after passing by hundreds of kids in the streets, and there was another group of kids (the fortunate ones) who were eagerly awaiting our arrival because they heard "Americans were coming". It is a very sad situation with thousands of children dying of starvation each month.
After several hours touring the streets in the slums of Nairobi, seeing and smelling horrific things that should never have to be, they left and went back to their hotel room with running water and clean sheets and mosquito nets over their beds to protect from malaria. And that's when it hit them… ""WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!!"
For Only One Dollar
The next day they met with Maurice and asked, "What is it going to take to make more of a difference here in the slums? It's great that you're feeding almost 700 kids every day, but there are thousands who are not eating and most of them not going to school at all." He said the key is getting the kids to go to school. If they don't go to school then their chances of survival go down drastically. But if they don't get fed at school and they don't get fed at home, then they have nowhere to turn to try to live on a daily basis. So the key, Maurice said, is partnering with more schools to bring the feeding program into the schools so more kids will come back to school and more kids will eat.
When Brandon asked Maurice how much it would take to feed each child he said $1 per child. Brandon thought he meant $1 per child per day, but then Maurice clarified… "No…$1 per child PER WEEK!" Brandon thought he had to be kidding and asked, "Are you seriously saying that we can feed a child for a WHOLE YEAR for $52?" Maurice replied: "ABSOLUTELY!"
Brandon thought he meant $1 per child per day, but then Maurice clarified… "No…$1 per child PER WEEK!"
It was all Brandon could do not to start crying as he looked down in his hand to see the Coke bottle that he had just paid $1 for so he could have something cold to drink. He had to deal with that reality for a few minutes. ""Wow!", he thought. "The cost of this Coke would have fed a child for a week!". Maurice explained that they do not take a single penny out of what is donated to the feeding program. He said that they volunteer their time, energy, vehicles, gasoline, etc. to gather the money, go to the store, buy the food in bulk, load the bags of food and then drive to each school each and every week to deliver all of the food to make sure each of the seven schools they had adopted so far had food for their kids.
One of the great things that has happened since this feeding program has started is that each of the 7 schools Manna Ministries has adopted has grown in the number of children who are attending on a daily basis, because they know they will get food!! Isn't that amazing!! What a blessing. To know that kids who would not have gone to school are now going to school and getting educated and also getting fed.
And here's the most beautiful thing of all… because of what Manna Ministries is doing to help meet the physical needs of these children, they are allowed to come in and do Bible studies and tell Bible stories to teach the children about Jesus and help them see that HE IS THE BREAD OF LIFE!
No Hungry Children was born out of the realization that we could empower this and perhaps other inidigenous ministries to do even more by raising awareness and funds and assisting with expansion of their mssion. Since partnering with Manna, No Hungry Children has provided over 4.5 Million Meals, and we currently serve over 3000 children in 21 schools every day thanks to help from our donors! We encourage you to click on Ways to Give so you can learn how to your dollar can change a life.
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my children, you did it to me.'