“Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:5

As I watched 10-year-old Allan happily unpacking his Christmas stocking in our Naomi’s Village dining hall, a burst of thoughts and emotions overtook me. His smile, competing against the tautness of third-degree facial burn scars, was dominating gloriously.

Joy and hope, two divine gifts, never run dry around Naomi’s Village. Given freely to us, often in ways we can scarcely explain or express, they soothe and fill, cover and sustain, and fuel us to continue when circumstances might have said otherwise. For example, one of our long-term staff just lost his grown son under tragic circumstances in November. The way our ministry family shared his grief, his return to work, and the wholehearted love he has been showing to our children are just further proofs of the same.

We don’t fully know what happened to Allan. There were sketchy details about a fire breaking out in a small house in 2022, three brothers all alone, Allan the eldest. In the terror of escaping, Allan realized Peter (8) and Michael (6) had remained behind. Accounts say that Allan ran back inside and led the two young boys out, sustaining severe burns to his scalp and face in the process.

Safe House workers in Naivasha told us that after burn treatment and a move to a new area, the boys somehow were separated from their mother and were found alone. A year later, by the grace of God, we were told about the three by a visiting couple from Dallas, and they came home to live at Naomi’s Village in July 2023.

We all marvel regularly at their beaming smiles, giggles, warm hugs, sweet words, and playful spirits. How can ashes and loss, separation and pain have been swept aside by so much joy and hope?

I have long considered that question and am okay with not knowing the answer fully. No work of ours, no formula of provisions and protections, inputs and gifts could have made these changes happen. God’s power to love and redeem cannot be quantified nor produced by human efforts. It simply pours freely from His giant, loving heart, rendering the opposite of what ought to be in this fallen, temporal world.

Seeing God animated in Allan’s grin, I had to look away again, to choke back the tears of something inexpressibly but painfully good. Love coursed through my body, from head to toe, like a fresh baptism from Christ Himself. When I had felt discouraged and tired, this heroic boy’s redemptive face filled me anew with hope and joy.

Thank you, God. The coming year will have its challenges. But you have reminded me again that you can do what I am unable to do. And it is far better for me to live not with the expectation of ease, but with the hope of even greater joys in the days ahead.