This summer, our friend Molly Neu joined us in Kenya for a visit with the Canopy Life students, teachers, and staff. Molly is a part of our Atlanta-based volunteer Home Team. When she’s not hopping on a plane to visit Kenya, she spends her days invested in various mentoring projects here in the states.

What prompted you to join a trip to visit Canopy Life Academy? 

I was lucky enough to have visited Kenya three other times—two of those times with with Christi as part of the Daraja Children’s Choir alumni retreat. I loved what Christi did with those kids, encouraging their creativity and instilling in them a confidence in themselves and Christ that I don’t think they would have had otherwise. It was like a testing ground for some of what Canopy now does. Knowing how God had used Christi and the Daraja team to have an impact on those kids, I jumped right into the Canopy family, and I knew that one day I had to see it in person.

So how did I get on this trip? For the past four years, I was a small group leader for high school girls at my church. I also helped lead a team of over 50 students to Costa Rica last year. After that, I thought I would take a break from trips for a year or two. But I knew I wanted to somehow still serve teen students. As usual, God had a plan! When Christi discovered she had a summer team of mostly teenagers, she asked if I would lead it. I hesitated… for about 10 minutes! God was so good to bring my love of Kenya and students together.

What did you enjoy most about your trip?

It was so great to finally hug all those kids I’ve been following on Instagram—especially James, who I sponsor. I loved seeing how everyone at the school truly is a family. From the students to the teachers, from the Kenterns to Mama Gladys and Peter, they all just love each other so well.

I also love how God brought just the right team together. The girls on my team were so ready to pitch in and do everything asked of them with no complaints. Everyone wore their “stretchy pants” and easily went along with any changes in our tentative itinerary, which can happen a lot over there! And I appreciate the little things like riding the bus on the way to field trips and listening to conversations, like hearing some of the girls teach Tonya and Hannah Swahili and how to make Kenyan dishes.

And I loved being able to see Julius, Rahab, and the rest of the Kenterns again. To see how much they’ve grown and how they are giving back to those coming behind them. My heart is so full I can’t help but get a tear in my eye while I write this! I am so thankful I had the opportunity to visit them again, and to let them know they are still in our hearts and prayers and to give them words of encouragement to keep chasing their dreams.

What’s something you learned about yourself and/or God through the experience?

So often as Americans, think we need to “do” something when we are on mission trips, and we sometimes feel like we have to have deep conversations to connect with others. But God reminded me how it’s so much more about “being” than doing. Just sitting next to each other on the bus, not saying a word, can speak volumes. Laughter + Hugs = The Shared Love of Jesus.

How would you encourage a friend who is considering going on a trip with Canopy Life?

So you are considering visiting Canopy, maybe even mentioned it a few times. Well, I would say what my friend said to me, “Why not? Why haven’t you signed up? What’s holding you back? Quit talking about it and just do it already!

Is it a doubt that you have anything to offer? This one almost kept me from going a couple times. But everyone has something to offer: hugs, smiles, words of encouragement, etc. We all have gifts intended to be shared. And the Voice in my head always reminds me, “Just love ‘em!” That’s really all you need.

Afraid you can’t raise the money? When God is involved, He makes things happen that we don’t think are possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. By not asking, you are robbing someone of their chance to give, as well as losing a chance to spread the word about Canopy. Sure, they might say no, but they might say YES!

Don’t want to go with people you don’t know? Yeah, this is a scary one, especially for an introvert like me. And I’ll admit, I’ve always gone with at least one friend. All I can say is you may not know every person on the trip before you go, but you’ll have new friends when you leave! Tonya and Taylor came on our trip without knowing anyone. And I’m thankful they did. Had they not had the courage, I would have missed out on getting to know them, and more importantly, the kids would have missed them too.

Is there anything about your experience that these questions didn’t cover, but you are dying to tell the world?

Did I mention we went on safari while we were in Kenya?  Yeah, as if meeting those beautiful kiddos isn’t enough, you get to see some pretty cool animals, too!

Molly, thanks for sharing your love of students both near and far with us. It was a joy having you on our trip this summer!