A FATHER’S HANDS OF LOVE
A FATHER’S HANDS OF LOVE
The boys unwind metal fencing material and stand up, beginning to unroll it across the wooden posts holding their new fence up. George Odede helps and watches, seeing the children’s eagerness to learn construction skills from him.
“They all want to do it at the same time,” George says of his kids’ help in the fencing project. “They get too excited and sometimes it’s hard to control them because they all want to do it at the same time.”
The scene brings joy to George, who, along with his wife Christine, parents 13 heart-adopted children. Satisfied with the work, he sits down to take a break in the afternoon sun. Children play and laugh in the background, and their noise adds harmony to the symphony that is life at Maono Light. He has a particular bond with the boys, who have found industrial delight in helping him with household projects like construction and painting. These days, George is a professional father – and all that comes with it – but his background has uniquely prepared him for the job.
Realizing he wouldn’t be able to afford college, George learned the masonry trade and began doing freelance work. He teaches his children at Maono Light the value of hard work because he knows the struggle, and the payoff, personally. George grew up in Kisumu county, about an hour east of Maono Light, but in the center of hardship. His struggle to pay for school fees, uniforms and textbooks made his school attendance spotty, as did the kilometers-long walk he took to school each day, but George remained dedicated to his studies and determined to graduate – which he did, in 1995.
Several years passed, during which George married Christine in 2005. It wasn’t until 2019 that the couple began to think something else may be coming for them. At a prayer vigil on New Year’s Eve, their pastor asked them to pray and see what God may have for them in the new year. On that night, George prayed two things: that he would find a way to serve God in a stronger way, and that he would have an opportunity to increase their income.
When George learned of an opportunity at Horizon several months later, he knew this was his answered prayer. “I was very excited at the thought of being a parent to the orphaned,” he said.
Though George couldn’t have known it at the time, the children who would come to know him as “baba” were getting an answered prayer, too. George and Christine’s presence at Maono Light ushered in a new era in the community, one more defined by family than ever before. The Odede’s also restored village life to the community – a part of their culture the children lost with their families.
An aimless abundance of life found its direction when the Odedes, along with other parents and staff members, came into the community. Remember that metal fence? It’s projects like this that allow George to connect with his kids on a deeper level, even through “work” – and the children love it. Whether fences, road repair, tank or chicken coop construction, the fascinating process of creating something with your hands has these kids hooked. But the benefits don’t end with the labor. Sometimes, it’s only a foundation to building a better relationship.
“When we’re working on something, that’s an opportunity to talk to them as a peer and not as a father. They’ll start joking around and opening up,” he says. It’s those times when life lessons flow naturally. “I teach them the importance of building connections. Not everyone ends up in the same industry, so I teach them that it’s good to understand yourself and what you’re good at.”
Listen to a short clip of George describing his experience raising 13 children:
Their children’s aptitude for construction is indicative of their own growth journeys in becoming active participants in family life, both the work and the fun of it. And believe it or not, sometimes work and fun are the same thing. “Children are always interested in doing tasks, and they do them perfectly,” George says. “They even ask us to sit aside and let them do the job.”
Maybe it sounds too good to be true – but maybe it’s the product of parents and children who have come together, rich in fortitude, and are learning to thrive. A metal fence could be – most certainly is – that enabler to thrive for someone. For another, it’s going from a withdrawn attitude to leading others in praise and worship. For everyone, it’s extraordinary love.
Parenting 13 children is certainly a feat, but it’s one George loves with everything in him. “Having worked alone for a very long time, I find joy in working with the kids,” he said.
“It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever experienced.”