Adapted from: The huntsville times
NAKURU, Kenya – The baby coughs repeatedly while her mother holds her tight against her chest.
Sitting close by on the small bed, Teresa June Webb strokes the baby’s sweaty head. “How are you today?” she asks the mother and baby.
The mother nods and hands Webb the 4-month-old girl, who could have a cold or malaria. The mother doesn’t understand the question, but trusts the gentle touch and Webb’s broad smile. It’s something Webb does all day, every day – especially for people who live on top of the city dump.
About 500 people live at the dump – pigs, goats and dogs, too – in conditions most Americans have never seen. The women and children spend their days competing with the animals for rotten fruit, scraps from restaurants and kitchen tables, while the men look for work in the city.
The families live in 8-by-10 shacks made of cardboard and sheets of plastic, held together with tacks and bottle caps. The fancier houses actually may have a sheet of plywood on one or two walls. There is no water, toilets or electricity.
Eight people live in one lean-to we visit.
“Believe it or not, I’ve seen even worse,” Webb says. “There’s a family I visit in the bush who doesn’t even have it that good. They live out under a tree. No house, nothing.”
kenya2.JPGCurtis Coghlan / The Huntsville TimesA girl picks through the garbage outside of Nakuru, Kenya. Missionary Teresa June Webb, who is from Huntsville, ministers to families like hers.
Webb, 51-year-old a missionary from the Hampton Cove area, has made the poorest of the poor in Nakuru her primary work for nearly two years. She’s only getting started.
“They are the ones who need to be touched more than anybody. Imagine going all day or all week without a hug or a kind word from anybody. What if you never heard someone say that you may have hope?” Webb says. “That’s my mission – to touch the untouched, to reach the unreached. To tell them God loves them, that they have hope.”
She hasn’t always felt that way. For years, Webb, who was born in Athens and raised in Kentucky, was busy working in medical and pharmacy jobs and raising a daughter. Really, she says, she was busy ignoring God’s call on her life.
But gradually, she began exploring, going on several short-term trips to Albania, Mexico and the Fiji Islands. The untouched began calling to her. She earned a theology degree from Impact International School of Ministry in Huntsville in 2000, but still didn’t commit to full-time missionary work.
“Finally, I ran out of excuses. God forced me into trusting Him, and then I knew I had to do this,” she says.
Down the hill from the dump, Webb ministers daily to people in the slums – the most dangerous part of Nakuru, a city of 300,000. And she’s preached in open-air crusades in Flamingo Estates, a public housing area known for ongoing riots and battles with police. Two people were killed and six police officers wounded there during mob violence in September.
webb3.JPGCurtis Coghlan / The Huntsville TimesFamilies build shelters with what they can find in the garbage outside of Nakuru, Kenya. Missionary Teresa June Webb, who is from Huntsville, ministers to families like this.
“She goes places I don’t go. No one would think to go to the places she goes, ” says Stephen Towett, the pastor of Freedom Fellowship Church, a small congregation Webb attends when she’s not preaching. “She is so brave. This lady is tough.”
Webb says her mission outweighs any concerns about her safety and health.
“Before I came to Kenya, God said to me, ‘You have nothing to fear.’ I believe that. It’s not me being brave, it’s God’s grace. If I thought about how dangerous it was, I might not go after the people who need love and hope.”
So she walks deeper into the slums to expand her mission, leading a home church on Thursday nights for drug addicts, alcoholics and prostitutes.
“I feel like they are in the first steps of seeing what God can do in their lives,” she says.
Webb says she would go to even more places if she had her own transportation. She jams into taxi mini-vans packed with upwards of 25 people. Or she catches a ride on the back of a motorcycle taxi that is usually driven through the busy downtown streets with the abandon of a New York cabbie.
A lot of times, she decides to walk. “That’s the most tiring part – trying to find transportation.”
But even on those walks, she runs into more people to share the Gospel with.
“It took us an hour to walk a mile because so many people know her,” said Dick Stanley of Hampton Cove, who spent several days with Webb recently on a medical mission trip from Cove Church. “It is incredible. Every fourth or fifth person, it seems, knows her and wanted to talk to her.”
Clara, a member of Freedom Fellowship Church, says Webb “has become one of us.”
She says Webb’s studies on foundations of faith have taught her and other members “how to stand strong when storms come.”
webb2.JPGCurtis Coghlan / The Huntsville TimesMissionary Teresa June Webb, who is from Huntsville, speaks during services at Freedom Fellowship Church near Nakuru, Kenya. Members have covered the rafters with their favorite Bible verses.
Pastor Towett says her Bible classes have helped many members and even some pastors to a better understanding of the Bible.
“We have people who can testify that after hearing her teaching, they are changed and changed forever,” Towett said. “The vision she has given us has transformed our lives.”
Winnie, another church member, says Webb “came and opened our hearts and now God is indwelling in us. We are very happy. She encourages us with her joy.”
The members have given her the tribal name “Chebaibai,” which means “Joyful Person.” Webb smiles as they repeat that name.
“I like to think I’m being the hands and feet of Jesus, bringing them happiness and hope and love, telling them that God has not forgotten them. I explain to them that it’s not about what you do, but about what Christ has already done for you. When you understand that, it will change your life.”
Teresa June Webb is looking for 100 people to sponsor her missionary work for $20 a month in 2011. She is also trying to raise funds to buy a used car. To help, go to Nation-to-Nation International, www.ntni.org, a mission service agency, where you can donate directly to Webb, who is missionary No. 176. Follow the links on “How to Donate.” More information at: 1-877-838-9032.
She also wants to raise $480 to buy solar-powered audio Bibles for the villages of East Pokot. Donations for the Bibles can also be made at to www.ntni.org. Webb is missionary No. 176. Follow the links on “How to Donate.” More information at: 1-877-838-9032.