Iris Richard is a mother of seven children and grandmother of six. She and her husband live in Kenya where they have been involved in missionary work and humanitarian aid projects for the last 25 years. Iris is a nurse and counselor.
Last year, during one of our aid projects in a poor community, we met Benson, a young freelance reporter. He offered to take some professional photos for our website. On another occasion, Benson asked us for prayer regarding the hardship he had experienced for most of his life, and which still affected him in a negative way. Let me tell you his story.
I was born in 1955 into a family of blue-collar workers. At the time, Germany was in reconstruction mode after the devastation of WW2. “Work hard and grit your teeth” seemed to be my family’s motto. Life was tough, supplies sparse, and my parents both worked, leaving my sister and me to ourselves most afternoons after school. There wasn’t much talk of faith or prayer, or even time for addressing our emotional needs.
We were just finishing up the distribution of 50 ten-kilo care packages to poor people—most of them widowed or disabled—in a hall at the edge of one of the largest slums in East Africa.
Happy to have completed the project, I turned to leave when my colleague Sally held up the last package, saying, “Before we close, let’s quickly deliver this one to Willie up the hill. He isn’t able to walk down here.”
The other morning I read a passage from Acts, where Paul, in his farewell speech to the church of Ephesus, talked about living life generously and working hard to make sure to always have something to give to the poor, because it is more blessed to give than to receive.1 Little did I know that I was going to be tested on those very principles a few hours later.
My grandfather, whom I called “Opa,” and I were best buddies. He sharpened my instincts and shared his love for nature during our weekly hikes in the woods.
Each weekend, I eagerly awaited the moment when I was dropped off at Opa and Oma’s one-bedroom apartment in a small town at the heart of Germany’s industrial center.
In a video clip I watched on YouTube some time ago, one of the participants in a panel was talking about a trying time in her life that had led to serious depression. A friend advised her to put together a list of 1,000 reasons for gratitude, so she started keeping track of the good things that came across her path each day, and slowly the tide of negativity turned.
Have you ever felt like life took you down the wrong road, or that things just weren’t meant to work out for you? There was a time when my life didn’t seem to make any sense, like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry.
A serious case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, left me depressed as a child and then heightened the usual teenage worries about the future. By the time I was 15, I was on drugs. It was a wonder that I managed to make it through those troubled years when I couldn’t have felt more lost and helpless. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
Fred was 19 when our paths crossed—a troubled ambitious youth in search of purpose. After leaving home as a teenager, he’d tried many different ways to make a living and had unfortunately made some wrong choices along the way; but there was much potential for change, and Fred was blessed with numerous talents and the willingness to learn.
It was snowing when we packed the last items into the container that was waiting at an appointed lot in an industrial area, almost ready to be shipped. This was the last trip to the container before it left on its journey across the ocean with a load of personal effects and donated items that would help us build our new lives. We’d sold everything we couldn’t take along, moved out of our home, said goodbye to relatives and friends, and were now ready to take off. We were moving to Kenya!
I was caught in one of our congested city’s dreaded traffic jams. The endless line of cars, trucks, and buses was crawling forward at barely a walking pace, while pedestrians, motorbikes, and bicycles managed to make a bit of headway, weaving between the lanes. The polluted air was heavy with the fumes of exhaust, and I felt sick to my stomach. With lips pursed in impatience, I observed the puddle-strewn unpaved sidewalk, still muddy from a recent downpour, and amongst the vendors displaying secondhand wares, fruits, and vegetables on tarps, I spotted a crippled beggar boy, not older than seven, holding out his hand.