FORSYTH COUNTY — When most think of Africa, they probably picture scenic landscapes and wild animals a world away, but one family of Forsyth County natives saw an opportunity to spread the gospel and teach by example.
Beginning in 2005, Donna and Steve Taylor, along with their three children, went on mission trips to Kenya to help children and other locals in need. And after years of visiting, the family made a big decision.
In 2011, the couple had what Donna Taylor, previously a teacher at Coal Mountain Elementary, called their “Jonah moment.” After much prayer, they left what they considered a comfortable life locally to work as missionaries in Kenya with their ministry Kweli Moyo, which means “true heart” in Swahili.
“I just knew that God was calling us to move,” she said. “I knew that we were going to have to give up what I wanted to hold onto, which was being close to my kids and home. All of Steve’s family and all of my family live right here in Forsyth County.”
For Steve Taylor, living in Kenya was a lifelong dream, which only strengthened after his first mission trip.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I always wanted to go to Africa, specifically to Kenya and the opportunity came in 2001 to go and be a part of a prayer team,” he said. “My desire was animals and landscape, but when I met the people, that changed.”
So after much thought and prayer, the couple sold their home and possessions and moved to Kenya, where, like his desire, their mission changed as well.
“When we would go on the short-term trips, we were going primarily to a children’s home, and that was our focus, love the kids, take care of the kids, help them get a could start,” he said.
“We began ministering to marriages here [at North Point Community Church,] and as we were going there ... those people started picking up on our marriage and asking questions to us about our marriage. By helping marriages, you prevent a lot of the issues with children.”
The couple, who now teach at a seminary and help the underprivileged living in nearby slums, spent their first six months observing the culture and trying to keep in mind unusual things weren’t necessarily wrong, just different.
After acclimating and getting a handle on the culture, the pair began to address some of the obvious issues with a Christian, rather than American, outlook.
“They hold the same Bible, but the way they interpret a verse is different, because they apply their culture to their interpretation to the verse,” Donna Taylor said. “We don’t teach them the American twist on marriage, it’s the biblical way of marriage.”
According to the couple, the family structure in Kenya is centered on a dominant, revered father, and beating wives and children is not uncommon. Still, the couple didn’t want to appear as “the great white hope” and claim they had all the answers, instead leading through their marriage.
“What we both knew was, we didn’t feel like God was calling us to go to Kenya to make a big difference — the white people coming and making the change,” she said. “We felt like God was calling us to enable Kenyans to help Kenyans.”
The Taylors said it’s so easy in America to get caught up in life that people can forget that they live in the “Disney World” of countries. Living in Kenya, it is too dangerous to go outside at night and a task as simple as getting groceries can take more than two hours according to the couple.
They don’t have a dishwasher and must boil water to clean dishes, though they do have a washing machine. While they do have electricity and Internet, neither is reliable.
“We live in a house that does have electricity,” she said. “The power does go off daily, so everything that you have, cameras, computers, phones is constantly on charge because you’re not sure when you’re going to have power and how much you’re going to have.”
In spite of the hardships, both the Taylors said they are blessed to live in a house on Lake Naivasha and have a pretty big family of neighbors.
“We walk down to the lake there every evening that we’re home, but there are hippos in the lake,” Donna said. “There’s a family of 11 hippos that live right off the shore.”
While they have gone to teach, the locals have rubbed off on the family. They wear bracelets made by local craftsmen, Steve Taylor wears one to commemorate every trip he has taken to Africa.
The Taylor’s two oldest children, Michael and Maggie, still live and work locally, but their youngest son, Peter, followed his them to Kenya and attends the United States International University in Nairobi.
“He initially went with us to take … a gap year before starting college. And when he was there, he was just going to come and do some mission work alongside us,” his father said. “Peter enrolled four semesters ago, and even participated in their Mr. and Mrs. USA [contest] and he won. He’s the only American who’s ever won.”
Steve and Donna Taylor are currently home on a furlough and will return to Kenya in July. More information on their mission can be found at http://kwelimoyo.convergelocal.com/.