Back to the Future at Shepherd Hood Ministries

There are rock stars in Kenya and some of the stars are like the ones we look at above our heads at night and wonder how they got there. One of those supernovas is Pastor Simon Muvengei. 

Or as we call him; The Miracle in Mwingi”. I first met Simon by God’s invitation in August of 2011. We barely spent a total of thirty minutes together but that introduction was truly divine and since that day Orchid and Simon’s youth ministry have been empowering teenage girls and boys with education, character building, jobs, healthcare, vocational training and a heavy dose of the Holy Spirit. Now; nine years later I returned to Mwingi with Orchid board member; John Briguglio, to see first hand what has been accomplished and what needs are the most pressing for the future. It was a trip to remember!

The first thing we had to do was get there, and navigate the washed out roads that connected all the remote villages where our kids were waiting to see us. If you don’t have a strong car, back and will in Mwingi….don’t even bother getting up in the morning. Each day started the same; Breakfast with Grace (Muvengei) and prayers for safety.


Al-Shabaab is active in Mwingi, and we knew that our safety was in Gods hands. Pastor Simon made certain we avoided the most risky of villages, but John and I were two Muzungu that were hard to miss. As Simon so pointedly stated as we arrived in Mwingi; Al-Shabab loves killing Christians and Americans. Our car was full of both.

We didn’t have time to worry about it either way, as once our day started there was to much planning en-route and a lot of mentoring when we arrived. On this trip we were accompanied by Martin; a young graduate of the University of Hope who was using all the gifts and skills God gave him to change Kenya for the better. I have never met a more positive young man and he was a walking talking inspiration to every person he encountered. I hope he runs for President of Kenya one day. Now the four of us were focusing our collective energy on the young people who’s hearts and minds Simon had captured by casting a net that included balls for bait. He knew that the kids he wanted to reach needed a reason to come and listen to the truth; and sports is one sure fire way to get a young Africans attention. So back in 2016 he launched a program where each of his 11 remote churches kickstarted a boys and girls volleyball and football squad. Then in 2019, he got all 400 kids together on one field for three days; to hear the Gospel, learn that they had a reason to be on the planet, instill character, get them off drugs and alcohol and match them up with each other in a playoff competition for trophies and bragging rights for the next 12 months. The words Great Success don’t even begin to tell the outcome.


It’s truly inconceivable unless you are there to imagine what life looks like for these kids. To begin with, the roads after it rains are gully’s that are almost unnavigable. You are absolutely going to get stuck or worse. The good news is that no one has a car out here so walking 5 miles to the closest school is much easier. There is no electricity or running water. To get the wet stuff you take your donkey down to the dry river bed, dig down about 3 feet with your wooden bowl and expose sandy mud to use for your water. You strain it as best you can until there is more water than sand in your Jerry can.

The song “be true to your school” by the Beach Boys came to mind every time we arrived at a new one. Some were better than others but in the states we just don’t understand what reality looks like in the rest of the world. Fortunately these kids appreciate the simple things. As Simon put it when we looked at one school with no windows or doors; “Hey, this is a good one, it has a roof!”.

Our goal was to connect with six teams and the schools and churches they attend. These were the champions and first runners up in the football and volleyball categories. We were there to deliver on a promise that these teams would all receive brand new balls to accompany the already precious trophies each was guarding until the 2020 games this spring and summer.

These were proud girls and boys who had worked hard to achieve an honor they never thought possible and we had the extraordinary opportunity to share this moment with them. And it wasn’t just the kids. Each group had leaders from the community who guided them on their quest and they shared in the pride of place.

We didn’t only go to speak and encourage. We went to listen and everyone had something to share. Mostly; “Thank You” but there were desires too. Uniforms, sneakers, and level playing fields all made the list. John, Simon and I responded with promises of plans that would be even better than the requests.

But we let them know that we would expect something from them in return. To start with; demonstrate that they could break the habit of chewing chat, or, if only a boys team existed, they would take the responsibility of building a girls team and training them, and come to church on Sundays, and level a field with hand tools instead of wasting the money on a governments bulldozer and use that donation for new uniforms. We knew this was a way of making them responsible for their own success and not for making the Muzungu more important than they were.

It was a pleasure committing to kids who got excited for something as simple as a pen. When we donated $65.00 on the spot for 217 pens, we got a photo a week later with every one of the kids holding their .30 pen. It puts things in a real perspective.

You can’t make this joy up. It’s contagious and heart breaking and full of hope all at once. But Orchid and Shepherd Hood have BIG PLANS. That is a story for our next post. So for now, we share the moments that awakened a new chapter in the ongoing effort to make miracle mountains out of ruts and rubble. I hope you’ll continue to be the wind that fills Orchids sails and the waters that quench the souls of these kids.

God Bless




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