The sights, sounds, and smells of being in this foreign land no longer assault my senses like they did during my first visit in 2001. I have quickly grown accustomed to the ambiance, the landscape, the daily routines, the lifestyle, the poverty, the crowds, the people, the language nuances, and the frustrations. Most times I remember to look right before crossing the street. And most times I remember that pedestrians do not have the right of way.
"Grandma Deb, don't get eaten by a lion while you're there in Africa!"
-Terran, my seven-year old grandson
August 2002, Nairobi
I’m occasionally overcome with the realization that I’m actually in Africa! It comes unexpectedly. As I looked out across the savanna to the mountain range on the horizon, that sudden awareness dawned on me once more. The savanna was sprinkled with Acacia thorn trees – somewhat the quintessential symbol of Africa. As strange as it may sound, it looked just like a picture postcard.
“You are doing exactly what I want you to do here in Kenya.”
–unmistakable whisper of the Lord in my spirit
|My house being framed|
August 2002, Matunda Mtoni
I watched the ongoing process on my house. A couple of times, the whole thing seemed very surreal. Was I really here in Africa? Was I really watching my mud hut being built?
“You are going to be in heaven in your mud hut – no water, no electricity, loads of dirt, loving God and doing his work! Hmm… what more could my mother want?”
-Jessica, my daughter
September 2002, Nairobi
My God-given mission in life is to meet the needs of those around me in practical and pragmatic ways – to serve, build, counsel, and support. God has used me I this capacity in the US and he is likewise using me in the same capacity in Kenya. He has not called me to the masses, but rather he has called me to minister to individuals on a one-on-one basis. I feel God has been preparing me my entire life for this assignment!
“I have watched you interact with us Kenyans and I see that you love us! You don’t see our skin color. It lets me know that God also loves us!”
–Mary Atieno, my friend
September 2002, Matunda Mtoni
Eventually Margaret and I neared the compound and I saw my house! It looks enchanting. The mudding of the walls is finished and nearly dry and the grass roof is on. The door and all three windows are in place. It felt noticeably cool as I walked inside, even though the sun was already warm. The house is so inviting and so wonderful. I can’t wait until it’s completed and I can spend my first night in it!
“Deb, I thank God for you. I praise God you are here.”
–Margaret Wanjala, my friend
God is especially using me to minister to single parents and single-parent children in Kenya. God, in his wisdom and sovereignty, continues to introduce me to such people. Imagine that he could use the pain of my divorce and ensuing single-parenting years to now encourage and lift up his children in East Africa!
“Oh, my! That is disgusting! I can’t believe you ate termites!”
–Autumn (age 11), daughter of an American friend of mine
At times, the many cultural expectations and assumptions all wear on me. Oftentimes I feel like the proverbial round peg being forced into a square hole! Kenyans are used to preachers and evangelists coming in for short periods of time and preaching or holding crusades. Or a missionary might come to set up a church, a school, an orphanage, or a hospital. Then they leave. It’s as if no one quite knows what to do with me – I’m still here and I don’t preach! Many seem to have his or her preconceived idea about what exactly a missionary is. It’s all a tad bit overwhelming.
“Deb, you have been such an example of God’s love. You are making a difference in so many people’s lives.”
–Chris, Kenyan pastor
February 2003, Matunda Mtoni
On my way home, I got caught in a heavy rainstorm. It rained so hard I could hardly see. The once dry and dusty roads were now awash with mud and streams of water. It certainly added a new component to my bike ride experience. Needless to say, I was soaked by the time I reached my mud hut
“Deb, most wazungu come to Kenya for a while and then they leave. But you have stayed with us. You live in a house like we do and you eat what we eat. It’s a miracle!”
–Nathan Kisiangani, farmer friend of mine
March 2003, Nairobi
My condition deteriorated rapidly. I had another violent shivering incident, my third in as many days. I cannot emphasize enough how horrible they are. My fever was high again and I was very weak. It required all the energy I could muster just to get to the toilet, and it required a ten-minute self-motivational talk just to do so… I suffered with the horrendous symptoms of malaria for ten days. It was not pleasant and was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life… This illness, although very difficult both physically and emotionally was just a bump in the road. My life is tucked safely in God’s hand. He has sent me here and I have no doubts about it.
“Suffering from malaria has been described as being akin to hell on earth.”
–Daily Nation, local newspaper
April 2002, Matunda Mtoni
After the downpour stopped, diligent farmers carrying a short-handled jembe (hoe) head immediately back to the fields. Their backs and arms have got to be aching from the weeks of back-breaking work. As I watch the whole process, my admiration for Kenyan farmers increases greatly. They live off the land and all their work is manual. They rely totally on God’s provision through the long and short rains. They are happy and contented people; they love God and others. They help one another and make sure no one goes hungry.
“You have been an inspiration to me in the area of your ministry. You love the hurting. Your unreserved dedication and commitment surely speak of a great heart. You have traveled, interacted, and fellowshiped with us without any reservations.”
-Syanda, Kenyan pastor
May 2003, village in Siaya
As I sat outside visiting with Carol’s two grandmothers, it was like being in a museum. It seemed as if I had gone back in time. These women live in a very remote area and by most any standard live a very simple life. They go about their daily tasks basically the same way they have all their lives. Modern conveniences and new inventions have simple passed them by and they are none the worse for it. They are quite content and happy with their lot in life.
“It’s a miracle! Imagine a white woman coming all this way to visit me in my home here in the bush! Ah, he’s my God. He has sent you here to bless us. I love my God. You have lifted my spirits and added hours to my lifespan. Ah, he’s my God!”
–Joseph Nyakako, father to my friend Carol
So many Kenyans have stolen my heart. It’s as if they have climbed right inside my very being and made themselves comfortable. They have established a permanent place in my heart!
“You’ve encouraged us a lot and also challenged us. For a mzungu to be down to earth like you, it really takes God. And you know what, Deb? You’re from God; he sent you to Kenya with a purpose. Deb, we thank God you were born.”
–Linet Obanda, my friend