I’ve just finished reading the story of Sharon, featured in the latest Baptist World Aid Australia Matching Grant Appeal. It’s an inspiring story. As I read about this resilient woman and her dreams for her children, my mind quickly returned to the dry, red dirt of rural Kenya.

Suddenly sights, smells, and lasting memories came to mind from a visit I made to Kenya as part of a Baptist World Aid Australian pastors’ trip in January 2018.

Kenya is a special place. It draws you in so quickly. It is a place of contrasts. It’s a place of beauty and yet the inequity of those who “have” and those who “have not” is stark. It’s a country with immense opportunities, but, also, huge challenges.

My strongest memories of my time in Kenya are of faces. Beautiful faces, smiling faces… which despite poverty, drought, and many day-to-day challenges, still reflect hearts motivated by resilience and hope.

So many people I met in Kenya had good reason to live with self-pity. They had good reason not to smile! They could have embraced a “hand-out mentality”. They could have focused on what they didn’t have; the great trap of our materialistic, consumer-driven Australian culture.

But no, they chose to smile. They chose to cling to hope and faith.

Back at my home church at Crossway, I’ve shared the stories of a number of the people behind these beaming, smiling faces. People like Lois and Leonard.

Lois and Leonard shared their stories with me with humility and authenticity. Life was hard. There were many challenges, but what a difference hope made to life!

In their respective Kenyan villages, Lois and her husband and children, along with Leonard and his mother, were living with renewed dignity and purpose because of their opportunity to share in community-transforming development projects, supported by Baptist World Aid and their Kenyan Christian partners. Through innovative agricultural projects, health initiatives, and village savings schemes Lois and Leonard and their communities were experiencing the hope of community development partnerships.

Lois smiled as she humbly stood in the doorway of the tiny, three room home that she and her husband had been able to build in their small, arid village. Now able to derive an income, they’d paid their children’s school fees, they had food to eat, a savings plan, and a new house to call home.

Quietly spoken, Lois dared speak of a future once beyond her imagination. Christ-like compassion was producing new hope and new reasons to smile.

Leonard walked me around his Maasai country farm. He too was a humble, quiet man, but the more he spoke, the more he smiled. He was a tall man… and he stood proud in the midst of his vegetable plot, watered with innovative irrigation techniques. Not only was your generous support allowing him to sustain his farm and build an income base, he had also seized the opportunity to become a farming mentor to many others in his local community. Hope was being multiplied, one farmer at a time across his red-dirt homeland.

Every day I have many reasons to smile. I live in one of the world’s most affluent countries. I am blessed with a beautiful family and a purposeful vocation. And yet I am constantly challenged when I think of the likes of Lois and Leonard and, now, Sharon who are far away in Kenya.

So often in our culture our smiles can be driven by circumstance. We can so quickly lose sight of all we have and instead be distracted by what we still want. We all need to keep fighting against self-centred living.

Sharon, Lois, and Leonard live with the reality of poverty, drought, and uncertain economic times, each and every day of their lives. They have no guaranteed future; many dreams remain unrealised. But they still smile… big, beautiful smiles. Smiles that point to their faith in a good, loving and faithful God. Smiles that point to dignity, hope, and resilience. And smiles that reflect their thankfulness that they are not alone on this journey – Australian Baptists like you stand with them and make a real and lasting difference through the great work of Baptist World Aid Australia and its Christian partners.

Stand with mums like Sharon. Give to the Matching Grant Appeal today and make a real and lasting difference: baptistworldaid.org.au/matching-grant.