Bethel Free Baptist Church
Wardend Rd, Birmingham

Shelley Curtis is the daughter of Pastor Larry & Jane. Shelley was commissioned by our church on 2 May 2010 and given our blessing to go to Kenya, East Africa. Shelley has been an active part of the ministry with her parents since they came to England as missionaries in 1988 and is very actively involved in the ministry here at Bethel, particularly with the children, young people, and music. She has a great heart for God, for children and young people, for 'special needs' children, for people in general, for the lost, and to serve God in whatever way He chooses to use her. A number of churches and individuals are supporting her both with prayers and finances to make this trip possible.

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Shelley left England on 4 May 2010 and is scheduled to return on 2 September 2010. She is visiting and staying with Missionaries Tom & Denise Canfield. Shelley is not allowed on her visa to work in any official capacity and will not be receiving any pay or recompense for any of the time she volunteers while in the country. God has and is graciously supplying all her needs. She will be trying to be a support and encouragement to the Canfield family and the Santon Independent Baptist Church, though there are definite opportunities to spend some time with other missionaries in other areas of the country during her visit. While visiting the Canfields, Shelley will be seeking to help with the children anyway she can. This includes Sunday School, Children's Church, VBS (Holiday Bible Clubs), Summer Camps, Religious Education classes in the public schools, centres for 'special needs' children, orphanages, and other areas of need that the Canfields and other missionaries might have.

Dear Friends, Family and Supporting Churches,

Hello to you all and I hope this finds you well! This is my first update letter so you will just have to bare with me if I make lots of mistakes and it doesn‘t make any sense, as writing is not my forte! : )

It is hard to believe that over a month has gone so quickly. It has been quite a month and there is so much that I want to share, so I will try and start from the beginning of my adventures in Kenya, Africa.

My first week was, as expected, just a huge culture shock and me trying to take in the instant impact of the heat, mosquitoes, sleeping under a net, the horrific road conditions, crazy driving! (you have no idea, it’s truly a miracle there aren’t accidents every few minutes), the poverty and living conditions for most Kenyan’s, and yet still the beauty (the irony) of this place and the people.

The friendliness of the people and children has made it so easy to settle in quickly and enjoy all of my experiences so far. The Kenyans have made me feel so special by their excitement to have me here. I am called a ‘Mzoongoo’, which is Swahili for ’white person’. Wherever I go this is all I here from the people and the children and they just stare at me as I pass by. This really has taken some getting used to. You kind of feel like a celebrity when you go anywhere and, although this may sound like fun, believe me it can feel quite intrusive. But I have realised how rare it is for most African’s to see a ’white person’ and now I find myself noticing it less and less.

So, now to tell you about what I have been doing with myself since I have been here. For those who don’t know, I have been living with the Canfields, a missionary family living here in Kasarani, Kenya that my home church Bethel supports. They live just outside of the main city of Nairobi. They have been working along side another missionary couple, who have been here for about 17 years, church planting, and have set up a Bible College in which to train the Kenyans for the ministry and pastoring. They have 4 churches that they have begun in the area that I am living. The Canfields are overseeing and helping in 1 of those 4, called Santon Independent Baptist Church. This is the most recent church plant of the 4 churches and is needing the most help and support. So, this is where I have been helping in teaching the Sunday School and Children’s Church of anywhere between 40-60 children from the local area. The area where the church is located is poor and needy, but God is really using the church in Santon and the congregation is growing. People are very open to the Gospel here but the problem is that, although everyone openly talks about God, they have never been born again and do not understand the true meaning of Salvation. The children’s ministries are over-run with neglected children that are eager to here about God, and this is a very important ministry. However, there are very few willing workers for the amount of children that come. They are the future of Africa’s churches and also the way into many of the homes to reach the parents.

I have also been teaching Bible lessons in 2 public schools in a very poor area called Lucky Summer. At one school there are about 200 children (from the ages of 6-14) and 7 members of staff, including the Head Teacher that sit outside on the rubble to listen to the lessons from God’s Word. The other school is very small and was at risk of closing because of lack of finances. It is run by a lady called Maria, who claims to be Catholic in her religious beliefs, but is very open and eager for me to come in and teach the children about God. This class is very small, I started with just 2 children and the class has now grown to 8 primary aged children (from 3-6 yrs) and they know very little English, so this makes it a little more challenging when I am teaching! I have learned to just smile a lot! : ) I am trying to teach myself some Swahili and it is a challenge but I am getting down a few words and sentences which I can use in my lessons to help them understand. However, everywhere I have been so far they have wanted me to only teach in English because they desperately want the children to learn English from a ’white person’.

“We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace;
And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:”
I Cor 4 v 10-12

We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it
1 Corinthians 4: 10-12
I have also begun doing some voluntary work for an orphanage which is only about 10 minutes away by car from where I am living with the Canfields. It is called ‘Happy Life Children’s Home’ in Zimmerman, a very poor area. It is a Christian run orphanage for abandoned babies and is supported by a charity organisation in America. There are about 40 children from the ages of 1 month - 7 years old. It has probably been one of the most emotionally difficult experiences so far for me. There is such a great need there. So many of the babies are very sick, malnourished, traumatised, unable to walk or talk, special needs, and some have been abused. But the Lord has begun a great work there and these children are receiving a lot of love, support, and help. The manager of the orphanage has asked for me to come in and teach the staff some physical therapy and child development skills so they can use them to help the children and continue the therapy once I have gone. I have found that the Kenyan people are very open and eager for help and want to be able to provide more for the children but have just never been taught how to do it and many have not had the luxury of a good education but are so eager to learn if someone will take the time to teach them.

I have been to visit many missionary families while I have been here. One of my trips was to stay in a place called ‘Karen’ on the other side of Nairobi. I believe, if I am remembering correctly, this was the first place to be colonised by the British! It is very green and beautiful. I stayed with the Madory family for 4 days and visited the Christian School their children are attending. There are about 200-300 students and it has a fairly new addition of a special needs class. The Madory’s eldest daughter, Madeline - 15 years old, has Down-Syndrome and is in this class. The Head Teacher’s wife is a teacher at the school and has asked if we can meet so I can help with any special needs advice for the class. I will be visiting the school again in August to see if I can help in any way.

I also visited a special needs centre called ’Heshima’ which is in the slums of Karen. This was set up by a lady called Tracy, the wife of the co-ordinator for Wycliffe Bible Translator’s for the East African area. They have a son who has severe physical and mental disabilities. There is no provision for special needs children here so Tracy decided to set up her own. They call children with any kind of special need or disability ‘the hidden children‘ because if they even manage to stay alive, the are hidden away and sadly mis-treated. Once Tracy had raised the funds to open this centre, she then began walking around the slum area it is in and asking the local people if they had any hidden children and many would not admit to it or respond, but slowly children of all ages began arriving. There are now 13 children with remarkable stories, which I will happily tell you all about when I return.

There are so many amazing and challenging stories that I would love to tell, but unfortunately there is no way I can tell you about them all without making this prayer letter into a book! : ) So, I will tell in much greater detail the things that God has allowed me to be a part of and has taught me since arriving in Africa when I return.

At this moment in time, I am in a place called Nanyuki, about 8,000 feet in elevation at the foothills of Mount Kenya. I am here for about 2 weeks and staying with a single lady missionary called Tracy Williams. She is working along side some veteran missionaries, ‘The Daniels‘, who started a Baptist Church, a Christian School and 2 Orphanage’s here and have been serving in Africa for 37 years. There is also another missionary couple, ‘The Shaws‘, who have been here about a year and are supporting the Daniels. Mr. Shaw is a pilot and is trying to raise the money to bring a plane from America to the airstrip in Nanyuki to begin flying missionaries and supplies into un-reached tribes in the mountains of Kenya. I am here to see the work that God is doing up here in the mountains and be a help and encouragement where I can. I will be teaching in the school next week and going to help in the orphanage’s on Saturday. They have a choir for the school children and an Awana program on Sunday afternoons, which have both been wonderful to see and help in.

My plans for the up-coming months are:

* To continue serving in Kasarani with the Canfields at Santon Baptist in the children’s ministries.
* To begin training the staff at ‘Happy Life Orphanage’ as well as volunteering my time and help there with the children.
* To continue teaching God’s Word in the public schools on Fridays.
* To work as a camp leader and counsellor for a Christian camp called, ‘Camp Lukenya’ the second week of August with some other missionaries I have met, ‘The Weavers’.
* To help in VBS (or Holiday Bible Club) for 2 weeks in August teaching/leading, (1 week for Santon Baptist and another for a neighbouring church, Zion Road Baptist).
* To plan another trip back to Karen to work in ’Heshima’, the special needs centre, at the end of August.

Then believe it or not, it is time for me to return to England.

A lovely story..... Many people have never heard my name before and they like that it is different. They are eager to learn how to say it but sometimes struggle to pronounce it correctly, so I get called all sorts of things : ) but the favourites are Sheila and Sherry! Then finally this morning during our group devotions, I was given my first Swahili name by one of the teachers. It is from the Kikuyu Language, which is another dialect from the Kikuyu Tribe. They named me ‘Wambui’ (Wam-bu-ee) which means, full to the brim and overflowing!

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.less; being persecuted, we suffer it:”
John 13 v 14-15

Prayer Requests:

* Please pray for all of the up-coming plans, that God will have His hand on all that I do for His names sake!
* All of the missionaries that I have mentioned in this letter. Many are going through many trials, whether it be health or discouragement and could use much prayer.
* Denise Canfield has been having some health problems, so please pray for her, she has had tests but they are not yet sure what is causing it?
* Pray for Pastor Laurence, pastor of Santon Baptist Church, and his family. His daughter is just recovering from Malaria. Please pray for their ministry in Santon. They really need the people to begin tithing so they can begin to put that money into the ministry to allow it to grow and reach the surrounding community with the Gospel and for willing servants to come forward.
* Pastor Ben, Consolata and their 2 daughters, pastor for Lucky Summer Baptist Church. A gang of men tried to break into their flat 2 weeks ago and they are quite fearful but they cannot afford to move anywhere else. Please pray for God’s guidance and protection in this situation.
* The orphanages I am working in, that God will use me there to be a witness.
* The public schools that I am teaching in, that God will convict those who are lost, children and staff, and that they will come to know the Lord.
* For God’s continued wisdom and safety while I am here in all that I do.
* The upcoming Kenyan election on August 4th, as there could be riots and danger for many people/friends and there families here.

Answers to Prayer:

* My foot is doing much better. I used the support bandage and it has helped.
* The Lord kept us safe in the car accident on the way to Nanyuki, and throughout dealing with the police and driving the rest of the way in complete darkness. God’s presence throughout was amazing!

I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your continual prayers and financial support throughout my time here in Kenya, Africa. There are truly no words to express my gratitude and love for you all. I have been so blessed to be able to witness and take part in the incredible work that the Lord is doing here. One joy I do have is in knowing how much the Lord is going to bless you for your giving hearts and faithfulness to His mission to reach every living creature with His Love! (His blessings will be pressed down, shaken together and running over.) It is only because of you that I can be here serving the Lord. Please keep praying for me because I need them all!

This is not my work but the Lord’s. I have more of a love for the people of Africa now than ever before so pray with me that more souls will come to know HIM.

Love in Christ,
Shelley Curtis