I didn’t understand poverty until I saw it and smelled it for myself in Nairobi, Kenya almost three years ago.
I met Maureen Owino in 2010, and we served on a camp staff with Student Life together. Maureen grew up in extreme poverty in Kenya and has a powerful story of how God can use an ordinary girl to do extraordinary things.
She now serves as the co-founder and Executive Director of Mercy House Kenya, a maternity home for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya. I had the opportunity to ask Maureen some questions, and she was gracious enough to share her story.
Mary Margaret: Maureen, how would you describe the word poverty?
Maureen: In simple words to me, poverty is the tremendous lack of HOPE. People in the slums live for today and don’t know or don’t even care about tomorrow. They don’t believe in anything like the Scripture—”…that there may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Mary Margaret: You were sponsored through Compassion International. Can you describe the role it played in your life?
Maureen: Compassion played a very big role in my life. They taught me how to pray and understand the Word of God. They showed me that the way to hope was through Jesus Christ. I accepted Him and was not the same again. Compassion not only released me from poverty but also my entire family. Through God’s help, we are no longer statistics of poverty.
Mary Margaret: You and a friend were called to start a maternity home in Nairobi. Can you tell us how the Mercy House came into being?
Having come from a very humble background, I knew what it meant to be a girl child living in a harsh environment in the slums. Just as someone lifted me up, I also wanted to do the same by giving back to my community. When God called me, I definitely had to say yes.
As for Kristen, her first trip to Kenya (and more specifically to the slums) changed her entire world. She could not believe what she saw with her own two eyes. This burdened her so much and her life was not the same again.
We strongly believe that we were called to love mercy alongside the innocent girls and babies.
Mary Margaret: God is obviously at work in and through the Mercy House. How do you see Him at work right now?
Maureen: God has been so faithful to us. When things get difficult and it seems like God is so far away, the babies’ and girls’ hopeful faces remind me that God loves me.
My faith has grown strong, and I am nurtured everyday. This is one of the most fulfilling jobs ever. We’ve been blessed with 12 beautiful babies so far. Girls who were hopeless are now hopeful and have a personal relationship with Christ. We are so blessed with passionate staff and a beautiful house for holistic healing for the girls and babies.
Peace that surpasses all understanding is our daily piece of bread.
Mary Margaret: This has been a difficult year for you with the death of your mom but also an exciting year with the ministry of Mercy House and your upcoming wedding. How can we pray for you and the women at Mercy House?
Maureen: Please pray for the provision of a second home so that we can support more girls. Also, pray for the holistic transformation of the girls and that the Mercy House staff would be great role models for them.
The first four girls in the program are graduating soon, so please pray as we make plans for that. Please pray for Kristen and her family, along with all of the donors who have sacrificed in one way or another to see that the girls and babies excel in life. We would also appreciate prayer for more sponsors who will join us in loving mercy.
Lastly, continue to pray for the girls’ families and communities, peace for me when I am grieving and for my upcoming wedding, and that I would be a loving and submissive wife.