If you spotted these girls on the playground, they wouldn’t look any different from their friends. They are typical 4th and 5th graders busy with homework, projects and friends. Yet something stands out about them. Zeena Berrios, Adrianna Biggs, and Keira Syverson have all chosen to let God’s love lead them down new paths. Inspired by their parents’ love for missions, the three of them are following in their footsteps.
Zeena, a 5th grader at the Lower Campus, has been to the Royal Kids’ School in Mombasa, Kenya, three times. On her most recent trip, Zeena and her mom, Lena, arrived in the afternoon – exhausted but excited. Her mom, Lena, has developed a real passion for this school and loves doing what she can to help share the love of Christ.
The Royal Kids’ School has about 150 students, with many of those students boarding at the school. FCS has worked with them for years through the local non-profit organization, e3kids International.
For her most recent trip, Zeena mobilized her class to donate supplies. Their response excited Zeena! She was able to take arts and crafts, school supplies, and a bunch of Legos to leave at the school. “The kids at Royal Kids’ had never seen Legos and I had to show them what to do with them. They loved them!”
Zeena spent her days playing with the children, helping in the library, and attending devotions at night. “The high school boarders lead devotions every night. They love to sing and worship,” said Zeena. Lena talked about how joyous the worship time is. “The students have so many needs, but they are truly
grateful to the Lord for all they have and worship Him with reckless abandonment.”
One of the more difficult days was when they journeyed to the Bangla part of Mombasa. It is an area of extreme poverty and getting there involves walking over difficult terrain. “Their houses are just these one-room huts thrown together using anything they can find,” explained Lena. She and Zeena helped a local church deliver bags of food to quite a few families who lived there.
Back at the school, Zeena met two young children whose mothers worked in the kitchens. They followed her everywhere she went. Zeena shared, “They were too young to have learned English, so we did the best we could to understand each other, but it didn’t stop us from having fun with one another.” They became her little shadows, and when it was time to go home, Zeena and her two young friends hugged each other tight. Saying goodbye was tough.
Adrianna Biggs, a 4th grader at FCS, also went to the Royal Kids’ School in Kenya with the E3 Kids organization on a different trip. She accompanied her mom, Lindsey, her Nana, and several FCS teachers. Lindsey has been on other mission trips and loved being able to share this experience with her daughter. Adrianna was the only child that went. They too brought totes filled with arts and crafts, jewelry making kits, and school supplies. During their two-week stay, they endured heat, sweat, and no running water, but they didn’t allow that to dampen their joy.
Adrianna loved hanging out with the students. She visited classes and both the students and teachers enjoyed the arts and crafts. The teachers wanted to be in the classrooms doing the crafts right along with their students. Even though Swahili is their native language, they teach the students at the school to speak English, which helped Adrianna communicate with her new friends.
During her time there, Adrianna traveled to the rural Jomvu campus. An unexpected visitor to the school particularly amused Adrianna. “A goat wandered right up to the classrooms and started drinking from the water supply that the students drank from. And the kids weren’t at all surprised!”
Like Zeena, Adrianna and her group also traveled into the Bangla area to help deliver food bags to people desperate for help. “We wished we could have helped more people, there was so much more to do,” Lindsey shared.
Back at the Royal Kids’ school, Adrianna was excited because they gave a pizza party for the students’ birthdays. “They don’t do birthday celebrations, so it was fun to do this for them. They were really happy,” explained Adrianna. The students got to jump rope and even play corn hole that day.
For her mission trip, Keira Syverson, a 4th grader at FCS, traveled to Guatemala with her parents. They were part of a group that visited Hope of Life, which encompasses 3000 acres, including an orphanage, a hospital, a school, and a small village. Keira’s parents, Jason and Melissa, had been the year before. It was such a life-changing experience for them, and Keira wanted to be part of that. “I wanted to see the people they had talked about and all the things they had seen.”
One of the first things Keira did was to tour the orphanage. “There were so many kids there who need a home.” Heading back to camp, Keira stayed in a small bunk room, sleeping on the top bunk with uncomfortable heat.
On the first day, Keira got busy making bracelets for the kids with the supplies she had brought. Melissa shared, “When the school got out, the students overran Keira wanting a bracelet. I think she worked for seven hours straight without taking a break.”
Keira’s dad planned to help Hope of Life set up a leather shop and teach leather-making skills. Jason had completed one day of teaching when he and another member of their group became very ill. They were both taken to a private hospital in a different area. “Jason is diabetic and is on an insulin pump, but he was experiencing such severe dehydration, it made him unable to transport the insulin to the rest of his body,” explained Melissa. It was a scary time for them, but in time, the Lord allowed his body to accept
the insulin. He was in the hospital for two days and then taken back to the village to recuperate. “During this time, Melissa was with me that whole first day to help explain things to the medical staff, and Keira was back at the camp. People from our group were there keeping her encouraged, but she was on her own without us. We are so amazed at God’s protection for her throughout the whole ordeal,” said Jason.
What did Keira do throughout that long, scary day? Play with the children and the chickens, of course! “It was so fun trying to catch the chickens – I even named one of them Eggy.”
Keira attended devotions each night and the Sunday church service. Even though the children only spoke Spanish, Keira loved the friendships she built. “I felt God moving me during the worship times,” she shared.
One thing they did was to take food to the people who live right outside the landfill. Melissa stated, “You can’t believe the abject poverty there, it is overwhelming.” Keira loved visiting the village and the hospital at Hope of Life. There was a little girl at the hospital that began to follow Keira throughout the whole time she was there. When it was time for Keira to leave, she gave the little girl her hair tie. “I wanted her to know I wouldn’t forget her.”
Zeena, Adrianna and Keira don’t care that their mission trips were hot, sweaty, uncomfortable and full of hard work. They treasured the opportunity to bring the love of Christ to children. All three girls will tell you they can’t wait to go again. The passion the Lord has given these parents for missions is impacting their daughters, and for the girls, it’s not enough to just hear about it. Though the days may be hard, they want to be there when God’s love finds a way.