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Profile - Helen - Lessons Learned in Kenya

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

For many years I had felt the pull of Kenya on my life, whilst working as a play therapist (a form of counselling for children) in the UK. The fact that it was a hot country when I have always felt the cold was a definite bonus - our God has a sense of humour!

When I felt God say the time was right, I began googling opportunities and stumbled upon a website: “Kids Alive International”, a charity which ran children’s homes in Kenya. I applied and, in January 2017, found myself on Kenyan soil.

I applied for a work permit and then begin the process of adjusting to the new culture. I loved learning Swahili and was able to laugh at myself when I accidently said the wrong thing, such as putting shoes on hands instead of feet! (Talking of shoes – we learnt to check before putting them on when one of my team mates discovered a snake had taken up residence in her shoe!)

When our work permits failed to materialise, we discovered the applications had been lost, and so had to start the process all over again. Just one of many opportunities to learn patience whilst living in a culture where time is a fluid concept! At times, it felt like I was getting no-where fast. No work permit meant no play therapy, but despite this, my time in Kenya was fruitful. I was able to train local staff on a range of topics, such as child protection, emotional needs and nutritional health. I often only had enough work to last for a month, but, something else always came up just as the last piece of work finished.

God was teaching me to rely on him.

In August we left Kenya in case of election violence and went to Tanzania where I met my, now husband, Wilson. At the time I dismissed the relationship as impossible, because Wilson lived in Tanzania, and so I felt it wasn’t meant to be. However, he was persistent and 9 months later, after much prayer, we are married and living in Tanzania. Another reminder from God not to hold on too tightly to my plans and expectations.

I moved to Tanzania mid-April to prepare for my wedding which took place on May 3rd. (Incidentally, I never did get the work permit needed for practicing play therapy, but, if I had, I would not have been as free to move to Tanzania after my wedding.

Maybe God knows what he is doing after all!

I am currently adjusting to life in Tanzania which is very different from Kenya. Swahili is much more widely spoken. I’m washing clothes by hand and using a ‘jiko’ (a single-ring camping stove) as my kitchen. We have limited – often no – running water, but a large water vat and having someone bring water in buckets overcomes that problem!

Over the past 18 months...

I have learnt to expect the unexpected, to not limit God by my thinking, and to take steps of faith even when I don’t know where they will lead to.

I am now looking forward to seeing where God will lead me next in this journey.


Gateway Church Ashford, is a church in Ashford, Kent, and is part of the New Frontiers movement and within the Catalyst Network sphere.


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