January 5, 2017

A year of art in Kenya

Written by  Emily Jones
Students Telvin and Lucky at Kids 2 Kids, a small school for children from slum areas of Nairobi, learn to create with modeling clay in art class. Students Telvin and Lucky at Kids 2 Kids, a small school for children from slum areas of Nairobi, learn to create with modeling clay in art class. Photos provided by Evelyn Hershey.

This article appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

In a tin-roofed building with wobbly tables and old church pews for seats, Evelyn Hershey’s art students experimented with colors, lines, shapes, and images. Even though Evelyn and her students didn’t share a common tongue, everyone communicated through the language of creativity.

Evelyn’s year in Nairobi, Kenya, held many artistic surprises and adventures. Following the death of her husband in 2013, Evelyn served a yearlong term with EMM in Nairobi from 2015–2016. Although she officially worked as a hostess at Amani Gardens Inn, Evelyn’s background in art education came into play in surprising ways.

A perfect candidate

Shortly after arriving in Kenya, Evelyn met Liz Gitanga at the inn’s monthly hymn sing. Liz knew of several local homeschooling mothers who were in search of an art teacher — and Evelyn’s 20-plus years as an art teacher at West Fallowfield Christian School in Atglen, Pa., made her a perfect candidate.

[pulledright]“They had to find a larger room for me to teach art."[/[pulledright]Evelyn began teaching art lessons to a few children on her front porch, and then was invited to teach a class at a network for expatriate and local homeschoolers. Over the year, her class size doubled from 30 to 60. “They had to find a larger room for me to teach art,” she says.

Ministry expands

Soon, Evelyn’s art ministry began to spread. Liz invited Evelyn to bring art lessons to Kids 2 Kids, a small school she directed for children from slum areas of Nairobi. Evelyn found this a more challenging teaching experience because some of the children spoke only Swahili and the conditions were not ideal for art lessons, but she found the work very rewarding. “Those students remain in my heart!” she says.

Evelyn’s curriculum for her students in Nairobi included basic drawing and painting, collage, sculpture with modeling clay, and projects made with natural materials like seed pods, leaves, and stones. Her students were excited to create with high-quality American construction paper delivered by Evelyn’s grandchildren on a family visit.

Now back in the U.S., Evelyn continues to connect with God through art and to share the blessing with others. Evelyn is planning to visit Nairobi again, perhaps this year. She holds the lessons learned there dear to her heart. “God is the Master Creator,” says Evelyn. “I feel creativity is a part of each person, as we are all made in the image of God.

“In Nairobi, I just wanted to share the love of Jesus by leading the children in interesting and fun art activities,” she says.

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Evelyn Hershey returned to school in 1994 to earn a degree in education. After the death of her husband in 2013, Evelyn pursued short-term missions, serving as a GO! participant from June 2015 to June 2016. She taught art for over 20 years. Evelyn lives in Ronks, Pa.

This article appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.