[From the Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor, Glide Memorial UMC, San Francisco: "In August, I took Glide's third team to Kenya. There are a couple of things that stand out about our team and trip:
First, the diversity of our team. To provide just a sample: The team included Angela Brown, a member of the Judicial Council and a retired assistant district attorney in San Francisco, who is doing her field education at Glide; a Katrina refugee who was homeless before finding a place to live in Glide housing; a young woman who was raised in foster care; and a business manager of a multi-national corporation. In addition, half the team identified as lgbtq - which is somewhat daring, in light of Kenyan attitudes towards lgbtq people.
Second, we made a commitment (as we have for previous trips) to ensure that all those who were called to serve in this way could go, regardless of ability to pay. A part of our team covenant was fundraising so that every team member could make the trip."]
By Clarissa Mendiola
After nearly 24 hours of travel, seven members of the Glide community arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, where they would spend almost two weeks in service at Ray of Hope's clinic, community center, and school.
Ray of Hope, just like Glide, provides services to the marginalized. The work there stems from a belief that we all are interconnected and share universal human values, which when cultivated, have the power to transform the global community.
People who benefit from Ray of Hope's services are not unlike those we serve here in San Francisco – communities that have no voice, whose needs often go unseen and unmet. From children who have endured unspeakable suffering and abuse, to those seeking medical attention for HIV, Ray of Hope shares Glide's belief in the power of unconditional love.
Glide's Ray of Hope Team spent months fundraising and preparing for a trip that would transform team members' lives beyond their imaginations. This year's team included a diverse array of members – from a former assistant district attorney to a man displaced after Hurricane Katrina and current resident at 149 Mason Street Studios [Glide housing] – the team represented the spectrum of Glide's family and a common call to service.
Throughout their time in Africa, the team members were consistently moved by the generosity and hospitality of the people of Nairobi. The Rev. Karen Oliveto (pastor at Glide) recalls, "We experienced unbelievable generosity from those who have so little. They shared their food (of which they have so little) and hospitality joyously with us."
Ray of Hope's lead teacher, Evelyn, explained this deeply imbedded generosity.
"I teach my children that even when it seems like we have so little to eat, there is always enough to give to someone else. When we give, even so little, we get so much more back."
Of the lessons learned by Glide's Ray of Hope Team, what Evelyn describes shines brightest. Oliveto reflects, "Whether at Ray of Hope Learning Center in Nairobi or serving a meal at Glide, when we commit ourselves to the wellbeing of others through service, something changes in us: we feel part of something greater than ourselves, we feel a deeper connection to others as we realize that what we do in this world really does matter. We can make a difference."