My name is Michael Omondi, and as a young leader, I have quite a story demonstrating how far the Lord has brought me. At 15 years old, the Lord called me, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ as my personal savior. This was such a different start to life than that of my parents. Both of my parents dropped out of elementary school due to a lack of school fees. By the time my father was my age, he was a polygamist with 3 wives and our family was struggling so profoundly I knew only God could rescue me.
In my early years, I attempted to run away from home several times and even attempted to commit suicide–anything that would end the misery I felt. Eventually, in grade 4, I did run away and lied to an adult I met in town saying that I was an orphan. This adult agreed to help me. Though this person promised to take me to school, they never did. Instead I worked for them selling donuts for nearly a year without pay. When I finally realized this person wasn’t really going to help me, I decided to leave. I had this moment of internal struggle, because I still had a good amount of his money from selling. I needed this money, but I decided then and there I wasn’t going to steal. I told God that I would return the money and leave, but I asked him to watch over me, take me home, let me see my mother again, and help find a way back to school.
Through all of this and much more, God has been faithful to bring me to the stage where I can lead his children. While many see the world as a stage where they must perform, we know our purpose is to help in the process of connecting people and creation back to God. I never dreamed that at 31 years of age I would be leading a church and non-profit organization in Kenya. I also never believed I would be getting a master’s degree at a place like BGU. Already in week 5 of my first class I realize that this is the start of an excellent journey that my wife and I both agree is God-given at this time in our lives.
Based on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, the call we have is a global one. Jesus gives us the mandate to make disciples of all nations beginning from where are and going to the uttermost parts of the world. This includes communities, villages, cities and neighborhoods. As a young leader, I am called at this time to serve, as part of the Great Commission, in a large slum in our city called Obunga. My wife and I serve a non-profit organization here with a three-fold mission to educate, disciple, and develop the people to whom we minister. We currently have 300 students in our sponsorship program ranging in age from kindergarten to university. We focus on bright and needy young people, and we have never run out of people to help. This community, the place of my birth, the only home I’ve known, has struggled for decades with chaos, riots with police, alcoholism, joblessness, lack of education, murder, and teen pregnancies.
As I grew up in Obunga, I saw people lose hope. People couldn’t afford to go to school and there were few opportunities. As a result, most young men joined gangs or became thieves to try to get money and girls as young as 10 years old were having children. They often felt trapped and married a man hoping they would take care of them, but this rarely ever happened. As a young man, I remember that even the police feared to enter Obunga and wouldn’t come to help us. It was seen as such a dangerous place to work and an even more dangerous place to live.
In the last few decades, there were two main ways people earned money: either working as fish mongers or brewing and selling an illegal and dangerous local brew. As people came from the rural areas to town to look for work, they often failed to get jobs, became frustrated and as a result the place they ended up living was Obunga. There was so much pain in our community and the saddest part of it was the hopelessness that consumed the young people.
It was 10 years ago that my wife Allison Renee Schlack started an organization called Ndoto: For Africa’s Future (www.ndoto.org). Since that time, things have started to change for the better. Ndoto has educated more than 500 young people who now feel they have a future and can proudly associate themselves with the slum where they grew up. The use of drugs has dropped and the number of young people going to school has increased.
There is now a belief that though the Obunga community has been abandoned by the country’s leadership, something good can come from a place long forgotten. God has used Ndoto: For Africa’s Future as a part of this work, and it is one of the only non-profit organizations that has remained in Obunga.”
My dream is to see Ndoto take 20,000 young people to school, not only in Kenya but all-over East Africa. I dream of seeing jobs created for the women within the community, so they have choices and don’t feel forced to brew illegal alcohol and watch the destruction of their families from drunkenness, unemployment, and men neglecting their duties as husbands and fathers.
During just my first few weeks as a BGU student, I have been amazed by several things, and what I am learning is helping me refocus on my community as a serving leader. I see myself as primarily focused on raising others up, leading in humility, and serving as a transformational agent within Obunga and Kisumu. I am also focused on conceptualizing my city by seeing, touching, and smelling the very people and places until they are so much a part of us, we are able to help them well. I am committed to working to identify city markers or those forces that are at work in my community. I plan to continue to approach them, speaking to them in love and humility as we try to change and reconcile that which has been broken in our growing urban area. I want to be someone who works to help restore things to God’s intended purpose.
Finally, I am inspired to be a street saint prophetically speaking to the situations in our communities which need renewing without fear of the forces that fight against the shalom of God. As a part of all of this, I have already launched into studying the community assets, structures, systems, and networks as a way to find others who are committed to serving the people and helping to usher in God’s desired order. Though this is very difficult where we are, I want to find and be a part of those who long for the peace and restored order of the people of God.
I am blessed by this passage from Isaiah 58:12 which says:
“And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”