Lenten Devotion, Saturday, March 6, 2021: By Michael Raimer-Goodman


Saturday, March 6, 2021 

Uncle Brings Sodzo
By Michael Raimer-Goodman

“Satan followed Jesus into the Wilderness, so then Jesus hit him with a panga knife.” Thus concluded Uncle’s sermon one Sunday in June 2019. Uncle, the affectionate nickname provided by fellow boys who used to live on the streets but then moved to the Watoto wa Ahadi Rescue Center, was born with Down Syndrome. His parents were unable to care for him, so he entered the custody of his aging grandmother, Denise. Denise loved, and still loves, Uncle, but the mix of poverty, food insecurity and schools ill-equipped to care for children with special needs resulted in Uncle moving to the streets. Uncle had been on the streets, fending for himself for over a year when Sodzo International staff found him and offered him a way off.

Uncle was the most loved (and loving) kid in his cohort at the Watoto wa Ahadi Rescue Center, also referred to as “Pastor” for his kind and gentle demeanor and his endearing extemporaneous sermons. Two main challenges faced Uncle’s future – one, few schools in Kenya are equipped to care for children with special needs, and two, Denise lived in deep poverty and often faced hunger. Sodzo staff did two things simultaneously to help restore Uncle to his potential. First, they found a place at a good Kenyan school for children with special needs and worked with the school’s administration to enroll him. He is thriving there, receiving much needed therapies and life skills education. Second, they reached out to Denise to see if they could help her fight back against poverty and hunger.

Denise brought together 29 of her neighbors in October 2019 to form the first Kuja Pamoja kwa Jamii (KPJ, or “Come Together”) group in Kalimbene – a small, rural village in one of Kenya’s micro-desert climates. Group members began bringing $0.50 each week to lend out, each person in the 30-member group receiving initial loans of $1, later $4, and currently $20. With the funds, the group is able to pay school fees like those for Uncle, clear debts, and grow small businesses. Over the past 16 months, Denise’s group has exchanged over $1000 in loans, typically with 10% interest. Other neighbors observed the increasingly outgoing and confident Denise and requested to form groups. One benefit of accruing interest over time is having profits that can be shared. Group members mention with pride that they can use the profits earned from investing in each other throughout the year to buy seeds for planting, goats for milk, and when needed, food. In Christmases past Denise’s table was empty, like it was so many other days. This year they were able to celebrate Christ’s birth with a full table.

Determined to show hospitality to visitors to their village, Denise’s group members saved their money and managed to purchase drinking glasses, serving pitchers, and even a chair to host guests in their home. They even call their chairs the “Sodzo chairs.” “Sodzo” is the word used in scripture when Jesus says you have been healed/restored/saved/made whole. In this corner of the world, participants in the KPJ program are seeing healing in their communities, one family, one child in school, one small business loan, one full table, one chair that increases the capacity to give at a time.

Uncle while at the Watoto wa Ahadi (Children of Promise) Rescue Center with Simba, the dog.

About the Author
Michael Raimer-Goodman has been a member of South Main for 10 years with his wife, Lauren, and children, Lilly and Jude. He has a Masters of Divinity from Emory University and a Doctorate of Public Health from UTSPH in Houston and serves as a deacon. He is the founder and director of Sodzo International, a ministry supported by South Main that is working in Kenya to rescue children living on the streets and strengthen families and communities living in extreme poverty.

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