The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Kristi Hobbs has never had children of her own, yet across the world she is called “Mumbi” or “mother of many.”
She’s earned the name, and the children’s affections, through her dedication to building an orphanage, and now a school, for homeless children in Kenya, Africa.
Hobbs, 45, of San Antonio, was in Port Arthur Friday visiting her brother and sister-in-law, Mike and Becky Tschirhart, owners of the Mid-County Chick-fil-A franchise.
While at the restaurant, Hobbs was presented with a $1,000 check generated by restaurant customer donations to the cause.
The gift was just the latest in what Hobbs described as “God’s project.”
“I am just stunned by what Chick-fil-A raised,” she said. “I have faith that God will provide for those kids, that God will move hearts,” she said.
Her journey to Africa began 10 years ago, when she and her husband, Billy Hobbs, traveled across the globe as part of a mission trip sponsored by their church, Alamo City Christian Fellowship in San Antonio.
The Hobbs went to Narobi, Kenya, where they were paired with a couple from Africa, Peter and Jemimah Njao.
Though the trip was planned as a ministry to schools, hospitals, etc., Hobbs and her husband were immediately drawn to the African couple’s work with the homeless.
Their ministry, “Children of the Dirt,” helped street kids — those who literally had no one to raise them, and nowhere to live other than the earthen dirt streets.
“When we were first exposed to orphans, our hearts just broke for those kids,” Hobbs said.
So much so, that after the couple went back home to San Antonio, where they were both active in the church, they made it a practice to wire money to their African counterparts to help the orphaned children.
Most of the children had lost their families and homes to Aids and poverty, had no education, were malnourished, and owned little clothing.
Though the Hobbs had been married 15 years, the couple had no children. To see the African children’s plight had so burdened their hearts, that they began making plans to adopt a child of their own from Africa following a subsequent visit to Africa in 2004.
But, then the unthinkable happened.
Billy Hobbs was killed in a motorcycle accident.
The loss was devastating.
“I lost my husband, and the hope of having a child, all at once,” she said.
Billy Hobbs, who was 20 years older than his wife, had been her rock. He was a strong man, known for his Christian faith and from an illustrious professional football career.
In his heyday, Billy Hobbs was a two-time All-American linebacker at Texas A&M, 1967 Southwestern Conference player of the year, Cotton Bowl MVP and national Defensive Player of the Year. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played seven years professionally before ending his football career with the San Antonio Wings.
His work for God, led Billy Hobbs to become executive director of The Mercy Foundation, a group that was supposed to be a local ministry, but changed after the couple were led to Africa and India on mission trips.
After his death, Hobbs was asked to take over the ministry in her husband’s stead — a task she did not believe she was prepared, or qualified to accomplish.
As gregarious as her husband had been, Hobbs was introverted.
“He was bigger than life. I loved being his helpmate, but worked behind the scenes,” she said.
In 2005, a friend prompted her to look at her role differently.
“She said, ‘What if Billy was your John the Baptist. What if you were the one that God planned all along to use?’” Hobbs recalled. “That was the first time I felt like I was the called one.”
Armed with a new zeal, and a deepened faith, Hobbs decided to take up her husband’s mantle and made another trip to Africa in 2006 — this time with church members who had been part of previous mission trips.
The Mercy Foundation purchased five acres of land in rural Kenya, and began preparations for raising money to build an orphanage.
“God laid it on my heart to build an orphanage. The burden was so clear; I knew God had put the African children on my heart,” Hobbs said.
Back home, donations started flowing in — enough so that the orphanage was completed in 2009, and the first child enrolled. Today, there are 25 children at the orphanage aged 4 to 14.
They have learned to read and write and speak English in addition to their native Swahili.
Some are full orphans, with both parents dead from Aids. Others have one parent, or a guardian. Poverty is all they have ever known, with no hope until the orphanage was built to know a safe haven.
Now, the Foundation is building a school — one that is open to all children from the town surrounding the orphanage through sponsorships.
With the Chick-fil-A donation, Hobbs said the group had enough money to complete the initial downstairs.
Hobbs visits Kenya three to four times a year, and always has difficulty leaving the children.
They write her affectionate letters, and call her the name she had prayed she’d hear from the lips of children.
Mumbi — creator of life, mother of many — a name the children have given a woman from across the globe, who answered the call that she believes could only come from God.
“For me that has never born children, it is a gift, a gift from God, even if they don’t live with me,” Hobbs said.
For more information, or to make a donation, visit the Web site www.alamocitymercyfoundation.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,