Esther’s grandmother prayed for a miracle. She could see her granddaughter’s potential — she could be anything she wanted to be, if only someone would help her.
“I was 15 years old at that time, and I did very well in school,” Esther says. “But my grandmother could not afford the fees to send me to a good high school. I thought, ‘I scored very high marks, and now it will just end badly because I have no one to support me, and my family is poor.’”
Esther tried to imagine her future. Her grandmother was HIV positive, and her family didn’t own a home. How would she support herself?
“I was losing hope,” she says.
Kenyan Haggai leader Dr. Robert Wafula and his wife, Idah Assisi, heard Esther’s story and raised money to send her to St. Brigid’s Girl’s Community, a highly rated school in western Kenya. After meeting Esther and her grandmother, they decided to adopt her.
Dr. Robert Wafula works to nurture a generation of holistically healthy children.
“We took up Esther as our daughter,” Dr. Wafula says. “We also settled her grandmother in her own home on a plot of land. Esther’s grandmother died after three months — she said her prayers had been answered, so she could rest.”
Today, Esther is a third-year university student studying business management.
“I have never stayed with a dad, and he became like a dad in my life,” Esther says. “To be able to live with Dr. Wafula gave me a more positive way of thinking.”
A wise foundation
Esther’s story touched Dr. Wafula’s heart because it reminded him of his own. He grew up in a polygamous family, his father’s two wives each having 11 children.
“More often than not, what we had wasn’t enough for all of us,” he says. “To supplement, we children started doing manual labor to get a little money to buy food, school uniforms, schoolbooks, and stationery. I started working in Grade 3 — I had to survive by any means.”
Later, Dr. Wafula’s maternal grandmother took him into her home. She introduced him to Jesus and imparted a piece of wisdom that has been the foundation of Dr. Wafula’s faith, career, and family.
Dr. Wafula holds his grandmother’s hand.
“She told me, ‘My grandchild, if you serve God faithfully, He will bless you, so serve God as if your entire life depended on it,’” Dr. Wafula says. “’You are the A and the Z — the beginning and the end — of all your problems. When you find an opportunity to do something, do it with all your might unto God.’”
“God made my passion my profession”
Dr. Wafula kept his grandmother’s advice at the forefront of his mind as he pursued his education. In 2015, he completed a Ph.D. in developmental psychology. Today, he is a senior lecturer, director of the office of career mentorship, and patron of the Christian Union at Kibabii University in Bungoma. Wafula also travels to primary, secondary, and intermediate schools as well as colleges, universities, and church youth groups in Kenya and neighboring countries to speak to over 100,000 students every year about education, career development, and the importance of having a relationship with God.
600 students fill Kibabii University’s auditorium to hear from Dr. Wafula and his student leadership team about how to trust God, be faithful, and look to Kenya’s future.
“I want them to know the biggest answer to most of our problems is spiritual,” he says. “I want to empower young Christians who can love God, serve Him in their careers, and who are responsible in other areas. God has made my passion my profession. I like talking to people and inspiring people.”
Dr. Wafula believes building up the next generation — through education, faith, and mentorship — is the key to both Kenya’s future and ending Gospel poverty worldwide.
“It is economically, socially, and developmentally more viable to build up holistically healthy children who are reliable and responsible than it is to repair broken adults,” he says.
Dr. Wafula’s vision to build up a generation of holistically healthy children is not a simple task. Over half of the 53 million people who live in Kenya are children, and despite a marked decrease in Kenya’s poverty rate in recent years, UNICEF reported in 2018 that 41.5% of children in Kenya still live below the poverty line. One tragic consequence of this widespread poverty is the incidence of children who live and work on the streets of Kenya’s cities. It is estimated that over 250,000 “street children” (a term used in the Kenyan context to describe these children) exist in the country; half of them are 11–15 years old.
Dr. Wafula spends time with students from Kibabii University. His 2019 Haggai Leader Experience helped him realize he could apply Biblical principles to his mentorship work with students. “Now, I teach the professional and economic content, but I also say, ‘This is the Scriptural foundation.’
“Most of these boys have a family, but they are out on the street,” says Valerie Wamanga, a social worker at Reach International Children’s Center (RICC). “The fact that someone has a family, but they are on the street and are telling you they’re hopeless, it tells you something about the boy. They have nothing they live for every day. The biggest issue we’ve found is they have absentee or irresponsible fathers.”
Dr. Wafula volunteers with RICC, providing counseling, mentorship, and career guidance to street children and their families. RICC’s mission is to reconcile street children to their parents, who often have many needs of their own. Dr. Wafula assists RICC staff in helping parents create a more stable home environment.
Dr. Wafula completed the Haggai Leader Experience in 2019. “The HLE was like an explosion,” he says. “I had been a dormant volcano and needed a little ignition.” He set a goal to reach 50,000 people with the Gospel in two years. One month after the HLE, he was given the opportunity to share his faith on two television programs and reached over 11 million viewers.
“During the reconciliation process, he helps them understand it is possible to get out of where you are and become a better parent,” Wamanga says. “He approaches it spiritually and psychologically.”
After reunification, Wamanga says the atmosphere in the home is noticeably different.
“The parents tell us, ‘Our son is leading us in devotions. He is teaching us so many things,’” she says. “We know there is someone else present in that atmosphere now — Jesus. He is using these 12-year-old boys as an avenue to restore their entire families.”
Dr. Wafula’s pastor, Justus Ochuro, says despite Dr. Wafula’s expertise, knowledge, and impact, he remains one of the humblest men he knows.
“We have served together for many years, and he’s never puffed up or acts like he knows more than others, even though he is doing greater things than many of us are doing,” Ochuro says. “God has given him much humility in his service. The future of Kenya is certainly being impacted by Dr. Wafula.”
Written by Jill Clair Gentry