Esther was born in a hut in a remote village in the Rift Valley of Kenya. Her mother died in childbirth and Esther was raised by her father who was deaf and communicates by sign language and lip-reading.
Naomi Kendagor first met Esther at the age of 4 in February 2009. Esther was with her father outside Naomi’s brother’s store attempting to eat corn on the cob; however, it was difficult for her to eat due to a tumor the size of a tennis ball on her neck.
Naomi helped Esther’s father attempt to get medical care at hospitals in Kenya but limited financial resources and inadequate medical care prevented Esther from completing her treatment.
Losing hope that she would ever receive the necessary treatment, her father left Esther with Naomi and her family knowing that he had spent almost all he had including his cows, and had little means to care for his daughter.
Two weeks after Esther was entrusted to the care of the Kendagor’s, Karen Smith and a mission team from The Rock Church arrived from the United States and took it upon themselves to find the means to bring Esther to St. Louis for medical care. Karen worked tirelessly to obtain the documents necessary for travel and medical treatment in the United States.
Esther received treatment for a neuroblastoma at St. Louis Children’s Hospital starting in November 2009 and returned home cancer-free a year later. Karen and her church raised money to build Esther House for Sarah and Andrew Kendagor and the many orphans, students, and families that they take into their care.
In the spring of 2015 Esther had a recurrence of her cancer (osteosarcoma) and Karen was able to bring her back to the states as her legal guardian. Esther sustained irreversible heart damage from the chemotherapy and passed away on August 8, 2016.
Esther represents a way of life we don’t typically think about. She became our conduit to Kenya, helping us understand the vast need of this community.