Note From Brett: Many people talk about changing the world. Only a handful actually do. Riley Banks is one of them. She started at age thirteen and devoted much of her teen years to the people of Kenya.
You can learn all about it by grabbing her new book, Riley Unlikely: With Simple Child-Like Faith, Amazing Things Can Happen. Riley has five gifts for everyone who orders her book this month.
When I made my first trip to Kenya I never thought my life would take the crazy turn that it did. I especially didn’t think I could start a non-profit organization that would change so many lives.
I always doubted that God could use me in such a big way. I was consistently outside my comfort zone in Kenya, and because of that I learned so much about the world around me, the love of my Heavenly Father, and myself. I’ve learned so much by being in Kenya, but by also working as a young person here in the states trying to run a non-profit.
Here are three of the most important things I have learned. Hopefully they will also help you in taking a step to leave a lasting impact in this world.
1. The Importance of Relationships
The relationships you make with people are what drive so much of what you do. The people I met when I was thirteen during my first trip to Kenya and the relationships I made with them are what drove me to starting are non-profit Generation Next.
You become passionate about people through their life stories. When I come home to tell people about Kenya I talk about these people whose lives have had such a deep impact on mine. Being intentional with every person you come across may open so many doors for you and the other people you care about.
I am a introverted person but when I get up to tell a church about Generation Next I am fueled with a desire to share how God has used me. Why? Because of the people I have met not only in Kenya but also at home. Generation Next would not be what it is today if it weren’t for or donors and the people that work so hard at home.
An amazing example is an organization called Project Patricia. The organization makes reusable sanitary napkins, which is pretty perfect for girls in Kenya. Over the years this organization has been able to provide thousands of the reusable napkins to us to be able to take to Kenya. If it weren’t for a relationship with this organization and its people we wouldn’t be able to take hygiene kits to keep young girls in school in Kenya.
A lot of people may share your passions, but you won’t ever know until you introduce yourself. Imagine what would happen if in some sort of way you were able to link arms with almost every stranger you meet. Maybe one of those will fuel your fire to make a difference and maybe one of those will help you make that difference. You can’t do it alone and what’s even better is that you don’t have to.
2. There are always struggles.
You are going to hit some roadblocks along the way. Things are not always going to go the way you planned and right in the middle of it not working you are going to have people who will say, “I told you so.” Then you will doubt yourself and think you can’t do it and believe the people who said it was a bad idea.
Trust me. I have people everyday that think and say some pretty nasty things and every time my steps falter a little bit. I stumble through the day not focused on what I’ve been called to do but on the negativity that seems to cuff my hands together and prevent me from doing anything.
Then I remember 2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God’s purpose and plan for my life far outweighs the harsh words of the people around me. James 1:3 says, “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” God is is with you every step of the way strengthening you and it is only His voice we need to listen too.
3. Focus on what others need, not on what you need.
The best way to explain this is through a story.
During my one semester at college I went to a missions meeting with our Christian ministry on campus to share about Generation Next and what we do in Kenya. There were a few others that had been invited to share about their mission experiences too. The one that stood out the most to me was a boy from Haiti who was there to share what it was like to being the receiving end of a mission trip.
He said that many go on a mission trip to serve themselves. They want the picture and to say “Hey look where I’ve been!”
He said that what was really hard was never seeing the same face more than once. When people would come in for their week-long visits he felt they expected him to immediately fall in love with the God they had known their whole life. It was hard when he could tell the people weren’t fully invested in a relationship with him. They were excited about going home and sharing the numbers of people saved and showing the pictures to their friends.
He was also hurt when people would find his culture strange instead of trying to understand it and get to know it. One person he met thought it was the strangest thing in the world that his family did not own a washer or dryer. But he explained to us, “My mom has fellowship and community with the people in her area by taking their wash bins to another house and washing clothes. Although strange to you, it is what we do.”
His advice was to try and listen to what the needs are of the people you are serving instead of trying to fulfill your own needs. Being willing to invest your time in people and in understanding the culture you are in.
One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In everything you do love like Jesus. A lot of people in this world need to know and experience His love and it is your job to make His love known through your actions. Make sure everything you do glorifies God.
Note from Brett: You can support Riley by ordering her book! Together we can show the book industry that inspiring stories of young people rebelling against low expectations are worth publishing. If you order before the end of this month, you’ll also receive a bundle of gifts from Riley.
Here’s what we’ve put together:
– Video tours of Riley’s school and community center in Kenya
– My interview with Riley for Do Hard Things University
– An extra chapter called “The Story Continues” (includes Riley getting married)
– A PDF version of the book so you can start reading immediately
– A live online hangout with Riley and me (Limited Spaces)