Every Tribe, Every Tongue
Leah Varghese is an MK — a missionary kid, whose parents left their secular jobs in the US 12 years ago to serve the Lord in Kenya. Their current ministry involves overseeing Emmaus Bible School correspondence courses for inmates in prison, and their prayer is that the inmates would “find the Lord, the Light of the world, in a place of such darkness and sadness”. Currently back in the US for college, Leah talks about her journey from wanting nothing to do with missions to now praying about how she can serve in Kenya alongside her folks once she graduates.
How did you feel when your parents shared their desire to serve the Lord in Kenya?
Let’s just say I wasn’t happy about their calling! Having grown up in the US, my nine-year-old self was scared and angry at my parents for uprooting us and our lives. At the time, the only picture I had in my mind of Africa was a desert wasteland teeming with lions and anacondas (courtesy of cousins trying to scare me, and several inaccurate movie depictions)! I hadn’t trusted in Jesus Christ as my Saviour just yet, so I had no idea why my parents were going to leave everything behind to ‘serve God’ — I didn’t even know what it meant to serve God.
I gave them both a really hard time, which I’m sure they can attest to. However, a few months after landing in Kenya, I started to settle down and actually like it there. God completely turned my feelings around and made a place I was sure I would always detest into my home. I can now say that, after having moved back to the US for college in 2017, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Kenya and miss it, my parents and all my new ‘family’ there terribly. Looking back, I really regret the way I complained and whined to the Lord, but I’m amazed at how patient and loving and kind He was and is to me when I was — and am — at my most undeserving.
I really regret the way I complained and whined to the Lord, but I’m amazed at how patient and loving He was to me when I was at my most undeserving
What encouragement would you give our readers who are going through life-altering situations too?
I’d say that all we can do is trust in God; He knows what He’s doing in His plan for our lives. It’s hard to let go and leave all our troubles to Jesus but, ultimately, worrying about situations we have no control over does no good, and He wants us to have complete faith in Him. Praying for grace to go through tough times and knowing that other believers are praying for you as well will give you strength for each day.
What were some of the biggest adjustments you had to make when you started living in Kenya?
First off, as an only child, I was terribly lonely those first few months. I had my parents, of course, but it took me a long while to make other friends like I had before. Still, God came through and helped me find friends who became like family, without whom the adjustment period would have been even harder.
Secondly, I had just moved to a different continent with a different culture, lifestyle and language. I was suddenly faced with a completely foreign school system and syllabus, having to deal with learning two new languages (French and Kiswahili) — and corporal punishment. There were times when I was completely disheartened and really longed for my old home and way of life. But through it all, God was there to smooth my path, even if I couldn’t see it at the time.
What did you take away from your struggle with loneliness?
Jesus truly becomes a Friend in times of loneliness. It’s hard to feel His presence sometimes, as we often long for a hug or a good cry on a friendly shoulder, but if you take a few minutes to talk to God, you’ll feel His love enveloping you and the peace that comes with it is better comfort than any human friend could offer.
Describe the people your parents serve and the challenges to their ministry?
The people of Kenya are very kind and gentle, and are generally very receptive to the gospel; they like to take the time to hear about God and salvation. Many people there profess to be Christian, but this actually only means that since they’ve been going to church since they were born, they assume they are Christian. For example, some people that I’ve met know that Jesus Christ died for their sins, but don’t believe in His death and resurrection as the only way to attain salvation. It can be difficult to persuade these professing ‘Christians’ that no good deeds can take them to heaven and that all they need to do is to put their faith in Him. But praise God for all the souls that have believed in Him, and for the hearts He’s working in to bring back to Him!
What are some of your victories from the mission field?
I have found, over time, that any opportunity to share the gospel is an enormous victory for which I ought to praise God. I have always been rather shy, not very outgoing or outspoken, but despite all that, God still gave me plenty of openings and the strength to share His good news with friends, or even with complete strangers I came across on the road on my walk to school. It’s amazing to think that a tract, or a few words explaining that Jesus Christ died and rose again for our salvation, could lead to a person putting their faith in Him right then, or even years later. God works in people’s hearts in marvellous ways and my duty and privilege is just to be the carrier of His good news.
I have found, over time, that any opportunity to share the gospel is an enormous victory for which I ought to praise God
What are some of your big goals and desires for your future ministry?
One of my goals is that God will show me a way to use my major in psychology for His glory. I would love to go back home to Kenya to be useful there, but I’m open and excited to see where God might want to take me and how He might use me.
How do you think the Lord is asking you to serve in Kenya when you go back? What would your ministry look like?
I would love to know the answer to those questions myself. I have no idea what God holds for me in my future, but I do trust He’ll show me the right way at the right time. I just pray that I’ll be useful to spread the gospel, starting right here and now, with my friends and classmates at the university I attend.
How can we pray for you?
I would request your prayers for all the mission work going on in Africa; I’m living proof of how much prayer can help a missionary kid adjust to a new and different life on the mission field. Also, as I am currently in the US for college, I humbly request your prayers for my education, that I would be able to use my degree for the Lord’s work in whatever capacity He wants me to.
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