The morning sun was bright and vibrant. Kenya’s winter months of July and August - typically with dreary overcast mornings and cool temperatures - was finally giving way to warmth and exhilaration. The gorgeous day beckoned me outdoors.
Last night, I had scoped out a possible route on Google Earth and had dutifully printed out three Google maps, piecing them together with tape.
This was finally my chance. I’d had good intentions over the past several months, but something else had always come up. It had been exactly a year since I’d moved to the Hardy area. My sense of curiosity was nagging at me to explore the neighborhood further.
Some time ago, Kim and I had headed west and explored some of the area on foot. Our mutual sense of wanderlust took us past Gataka, over the stream, and into the forest. Carrying a simple sack lunch, we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves that day.
|While on the hike with Kim, October 2011|
But this time I went alone and I cycled. I left at 10:30, more than glad to get away from the noise of two fundis (carpenters) installing the soffits of my newly-constructed house.
My agenda was simple: explore. I had no real destination or route. Most of the Hardy area is residential, consisting of asphalt roads, large and immaculately landscaped compounds, several varieties of mature tropical trees, and what are affectionately called: mansionettes. Like most anyone, I had basically only ventured out on the main roads. Today I thought I might meander around a bit on some of the side roads.
Additionally, my map indicated there was a way to reach Gataka Road going a bit east and then south. From there, I imagined I might head down the road to Gataka village. Hmm, I decided…. maybe I’ll give that a try first.
Within five minutes of heading out, I was giddy with delight; I love adventures and doing something out of the ordinary.
Turning off of Ushirika… I headed south down Twiga. Numerous times in the past, I had noticed houses off in the distance across the valley. Each time I had seen it, the view had piqued my curiosity. As I continued past the junction with Lamwia, I thanked God for simple pleasures. I love following my nose and I love seeing what’s around the next bend.
I headed east on Koitobos. Neither of these roads are particularly scenic, but still… it was all new to me. I cycled to the right and past Giraffe Center on Nyumbi Road. I observed and listened to some interesting birds as I followed the curve of Kirma Road down to Tumbili.
However, by the time I reached the dead end on Tumbili I hadn’t seen the road that was to lead to Gataka Road. When I asked a young man working alongside the lane, he sort of mumbled and gestured that there was a road to Gataka just ahead going to the right. Once again, I passed by the Maasai guard lazily sitting in the dirt and wearing the stereotypical red-plaid shuka (blanket).
The only road I saw was murram (dirt) and it didn’t appear to be a through road. I continued cycling past the junction with Kirma. There was a group of four men clustered around a game on the ground, called Bao in Kenya; it’s considered the oldest game in the world. Two of them were playing and the other two were observing.
Finding another dead end, I decided maybe it wasn’t so important to find a way to Gataka. Back-tracking but not quite ready to give up, I approached two gentlemen walking toward me. Both wore smart-looking sweaters.
After exchanging greetings, I asked, “Do you know if there’s a way from here to Gataka Road?”
“Sorry, but we’re both new here. This is my first time to this area and only the second time for my friend. If you continue ahead, to the third gate on the right, you’ll see an askari (watchman). Ask him; he should know.”
When I mentioned that I was just out exploring the area, they amazingly said they were doing the same. I thought that was pretty cool, especially since I don't see curiosity as a common trait among Kenyans.
After finding the uniformed guard and exchanging greetings, I asked him the same question. “I’m sorry, but I’m new to this area. I’m just completing two weeks at this job.”
Alas, I decided I would just explore some of the other roads I’ve never been on in Hardy. Or perhaps I would go head to Gataka Road via the other direction.
As I headed back uphill to the “Y” junction, so I could explore Kirma Road, I again spotted the two gentlemen in sweaters. I paused momentarily to mention that I had been unsuccessful.
After turning around at Kirma’s dead-end, I noticed a fifth fellow had joined the crowd around the game. Passing Giraffe Center, I took a left onto Duma Road and again spotted the two gentlemen. They now carried their sweaters hung over their shoulders, as the sun continued to climb higher in the sky.
I stopped again to chat with them, asking why they had chosen to explore this particular area of Nairobi. With a big grin, one of them explained, “We always hear about Giraffe Center, so today we decided to see what it looked like. We’ve been told that it’s very expensive to enter, but we came anyway just to see where it was.”
Both young men are from Kapenguria in West Pokot. When they asked if I’d ever been there, I mentioned that I’d passed by it on my two visits to Lodwar and Kakuma Refugee Camp. I further explained that I had once spent the night there, before dropping down into the Rift Valley to Sigor (a very obscure and little-known place in the Rift Valley). Not only were they beyond amazed to find out I’d been there, but they went on to explain that’s their actual home area!
As is normal, our conversation steered toward where I’m originally from and why I’m in Kenya.
|God's special agents: Sikamoi and Isaiah|
“Oh, you’re a missionary,” said the one called Sikamoi. “You know my friend Isaiah here, his name is from the Bible. In the book of Isaiah - chapter six and verse eight - it talks about God asking, ‘Who should I send? Who will go?’ Isaiah’s response was, ‘Here I am. Send me.’ That’s just like you. You told God you would come to Kenya!”
How amazing that I’ve just met these two guys and suddenly we’re discussing God’s Word!
Isaiah probed a bit further, “And what type of work do you do?”
After giving a brief synopsis of what God has called me to do in Kenya, he very naturally expounded an encouraging word for me.
“It’s good to follow God’s plan for our lives. Someone like you, coming to live in a foreign culture in obedience to God, it’s not easy. I know you can go through discouraging times. But God knows all about the difficult things you’ve experienced. He’s the one that knows why he sent you here and He’s the one that knows the impact you’re making on people’s lives. You just keep doing what he told you to do. He’s the one who knows how he’s going to reward you.”
As Isaiah spoke to me so intently, tears came to my eyes. I struggled to maintain my composure. Indeed, I have to admit, I do get discouraged. Lately I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed. It had been a difficult few months of outflow and my emotional reserve was just about depleted.
God is so, so amazing! Here was yet another complete stranger speaking encouragement into my life! How seemingly random it was. There we stood - the three of us - in the hot sun on the junction of Duma and Nyumbi Roads in our own little world, oblivious of anything going on around us.
Who would have guessed that on my supposed day of exploring on my bike, God had this agenda in mind?
Well…. I don’t know if Sikamoi and Isaiah are really angels - they do, after all, both have email addresses, phones, and Isaiah is on Facebook - but I ‘entertained’ them nonetheless.
I decided these two guys should not leave Hardy without seeing the giraffes, so I offered to pay the $2.50 entrance fee for them. I greatly admired their curiosity and the way they had acted on it!
It was so much fun to watch them take it all in! They were beyond amazed. I could hardly get Isaiah away from feeding and petting the giraffes.
After listening to the brief lecture on giraffes, Sikamoi exclaimed very animatedly, “I’ve seen and heard things today that I’ve never known in my life! Did you hear that young man say that the heart of a giraffe can be 15 inches long and can weigh 25 pounds? Ai… and only one hour after a baby giraffe is born, it can run 58 kilometers per hour! And did you know that those long necks of theirs have the same number of vertebrae that we short humans have – only seven? Look at this book where people sign. People come to this place from all over the world. Have you heard all the different languages being spoken since we came?”
|Holding the lower jaw bone of a giraffe|
It was my pleasure to also treat them to biscuits and a soda to round out our time together. Isaiah told me he’s studying computer programming and statistics at Kenyatta University, whereas Sikamoi is studying finance and accounting at Daystar University. What a pleasant diversion it was to meet these two charming young men!
The icing on the cake that day was two energetic British lads, not more than 12 or 13 years old. They had noticed I was wearing a cycling vest. Also out on their bikes, we swapped stories of biking events we’ve done in Kenya. As we parted company, they really wanted me to head out with them on a rough and rugged trail. Laughing, I told them I’d rather stick with the tarmac, as I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. But I have to admit… it did my 57-year old heart good to have them enthusiastically and sincerely invite me!
What a simply delightful day it had turned out to be!
Meeting Sikamoi and Isaiah wasn’t my first encounter with a stranger sent by God specifically to encourage me.
In 2003, it was Vidzo at a crowded café, where we shared a table and chatted over our chai and mandazi. In 2004, it was Kisiangani who paid me an unannounced visit at my mud hut in the Mtoni area of Matunda. [In fact, those of you that have my second book, can read about these two encounters starting on page 82.]
It seems it’s been happening more often in recent months. There was David Benard at the Webuye District Hospital; Jacob, the teacher on the matatu between Kitale and Misikhu; and the elderly white Kenyan lady, named Jenny, at the Kitale airstrip.
- - - - - - - - - - -
The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. - Isaiah 50:4
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:2
I was a stranger and you invited me in. - Matthew 25:35