My parents have these friends who, for a long time, were pretty much just like the other couples my parents were friends with. Then their unborn baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 13, and everything changed. Baby Stephen died after only 8 days, and the Peifers moved to Kenya in the middle of a famine.
I was really young when this happened, but as I grew up I’d hear my parents’ updates on them with something like disbelief. First, they were just there for a one-year mission trip. Then they stayed because the kids were starving, and they wanted to feed them. Then they stayed because the kids didn’t even know what a computer was and they wanted to build some for them, using solar power. Then they adopted two Kenyan babies, so they stayed. And stayed. And stayed.
Steve and Nancy Peifer have been in Kenya for fourteen years now. The first year they were there, Steve saw a classroom full of local children all lying on the ground. When he asked the teacher why they were lying down, she said, “Today is Thursday. Most of them haven’t eaten since Monday. If they sit up straight, they will faint.”
At that moment, his life changed, and he knew he could no longer go back to living his old life in America. The organization he and his wife now run, Kenya Kids Can, now feeds over 18,000 school-aged Kenyan children per day. At their pilot school, the drop-out rate went from 46% to 1% once they started providing meals.
But that wasn’t enough for them. They watched these kids finish school and have nowhere to go, no job prospects, no way out of the grinding cycle of poverty, because they had no experience with modern technology. So the Peifers built a solar-powered computer center to teach the Kenyan children basic computer skills. It was so popular and so successful that they have expanded this to include 9 other computer centers. At one center, the teacher offers an extra half-hour of practice from 7:30 from 8:00 am. Get this: there have been students standing in line at 6 am to be one of the 10 who get an extra half-hour of practice.
It’s unbelievable, what they have accomplished in the last fourteen years. They literally built all of this with their own two hands. They have doubtless saved countless lives, changed countless lives, and brought hope to a world that must seem pretty bleak to the Kenyan children.
Five years ago, Steve was honored at the CNN hero awards. You can watch the segment where he tells his story here.
Since then, Steve and Nancy have written a book about their journey. It launches today, and you buy it on Amazon. Even if you don’t buy the book, you really should check out their website. The work they are doing in Kenya is incredible, and what they’ve managed to accomplish is astounding. I talk a good game about service to the poor. I’m even willing to give what I can to help them here and there. But I cannot imagine just up and moving to Kenya, with my kids in tow, risking life and limb (and there have been times when their lives were quite literally at risk), seeing starving children and saying, “I’m going to fix that,” seeing children without computers and saying, “I’m going to build some,” and then doing it. It’s staggering, what humans are capable of with the help of God’s grace. Truly astounding.