I have a hero and his name is Joel Karanja. Joel and his wife, Susan, are Kenyan and the founders of the House of Hope Home in Kenya, Africa. I first met Joel three years ago on our first trip to Naivasha, Kenya, and every year he amazes and challenges me with his faith in God and his commitment to the children in the home.
Several years ago, Joel had a burden – a burden for the orphans and street children that he saw every day in his community. He wanted to adopt them. His wife, however, did not share his burden at first. So Joel prayed. He prayed for seven years that his wife would share his burden and God finally answered his prayers.
Joel and Susan have invested their entire lives in being a Jesus-neighbor to children in need. Out of their own funds they purchased land and built structures to make a home that would provide for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of children – up to twenty-five boys and girls at this time. The kids call them Dad and Mom and light up when Joel and Susan walk into a room.
Joel and Susan are impacting the lives of families that live in the community around the school as well. They help single moms who are caring for children, one with a daughter with special needs. They provide dignified jobs for men and women in the community – at the home, at the school they built, and at the store that Joel owns. Each year I return Joel has added on another room to his store and tells me what he plans to add next – all as a means to provide income for the needs of the home. Joel and Susan don’t even own their own home although they could be the richest family in town with their earnings from the store. But when you are obedient to God’s mission and not your own, then your goals in life are different than most.
Joel and Susan are Jesus with skin on. They have moved into their neighborhood and God is being glorified.