This past Thursday, Belmont’s Office of Spiritual Development organized a virtual event with Dr. Cecilia Nyamwandha as a part of the Debate 2020 Programming. Dr. Nyamwandha shared her life story, from growing up in an impoverished community in Kenya to earning her PhD in Geophysics from the University of Memphis. She said she wanted to show what can happen, even in the midst of political division, when we choose to engage with one another to meet the needs of others.
Dr. Nyamwandha began by describing a picture of what her childhood was like. She grew up in a small village in western Kenya in a family of 10 children in a one-room house with walls and floors made of mud and a roof made of grass. Her family’s way of survival was farming; a good season meant they had food and a bad season meant starvation. One of the many struggles her family faced was a lack of health care. Nyamwandha lost two brothers to treatable diseases because her family could not afford the proper care. This tragedy is one of the reasons Nyamwandha always pursued her education to be able to make a difference in the lives of families like her own.
When Nyamwandha was 9 years old, her uncle saw the poverty her family was living in and offered to bring her to the city of Nairobi where he lived so she could receive an education and change her family’s situation. It was at this school that a teacher saw Nyamwandha’s struggles and shared her name with a social worker from Compassion International who was partnering with churches throughout the city.
Through the Compassion International program, Nyamwandha was sponsored by a couple who changed her life. When she was surrounded by poverty and hardships, the letters her sponsors sent her over the years gave her hope and showed her that she was loved. “As a young child, I could not understand why someone I did not know who lived thousands of miles away cared so much about me. They told me how much they loved me, and for me that was the first time someone told me that I was special,” Nyamwandha said.
At the program, Nyamwandha was able to forget her problems for a time and play with the other children. She received her first Bible from the program and learned about the love of God. When she graduated from the program, she continued with Compassion’s leadership development program to go to college and eventually went on to earn her PhD in Geophysics from the University of Memphis. She recounted that when someone sponsors a child with Compassion, they transform not just the child, but also their family, their community, and in many ways, their nation.
Dr. Nyamwandha is grateful to God and her sponsors who changed her life and gave her opportunities she would not have had otherwise. In an era that seems so divisive, Dr. Nyamwandha encourages others to remember that the will of God supersedes all else and that the Christian’s work is to do the priority of the kingdom of God.
“I believe that we are called to be different and we need to seek first the kingdom of God,” Dr. Nyamwand said. In a time of political divisiveness, she said that we are not called to set these matters aside, but to be actively engaged in order to stand up for the least of these, to seek justice and love mercy as Micah 6:8 teaches.
Dr. Nyanwandha experienced firsthand how people working together can create a future that fulfills God’s hope for the world. She prays that her story will encourage others to make a difference in others’ lives, whether that be sponsoring or corresponding with a child through Compassion or simply through prayer.
To get connected with Compassion International to sponsor a child, text Unite to 83393.