|Masudi, age 14, in 2004|
God used a unique way to reveal exactly why he sent me to this foreign land as a missionary. You see, when he dramatically interrupted my life all those years ago, the pieces of the puzzle only came into focus gradually.
God didn't give me a metaphorical compass or map to guide me. Rather when he called, I simply followed - one step at a time. I actually had no idea what he had in mind.
I was like Abram in Genesis, chapter 12 - God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you." So Abram left just as God said.
I first traveled to Shimba Hills, a remote village near Kenya's coast, in October 2002. I was with a group of Kenyans on a mission trip there, hosted by a local pastor and his wife. Our itinerary consisted of outdoor crusades, door-to-door evangelism, and showing an HIV-AIDS video in the local secondary school.
|The boys enjoying the beach at the Indian Ocean, 2004|
During those five days, I hung out with three boys - Musyoka, Marsha, and Masudi. We quickly formed a bond during the evenings when they weren't in school. The day before the group and I were to return to Nairobi, each of them invited me to meet their mother. That day turned out to be quite pivotal in my life.
We followed narrow footpaths, meandering through the thick vegetation, as the boys took me to their homes. Over a cup of tea or while chewing sugar cane, the moms told me their stories (a common practice in Kenya). It turned out that each of them was raising their children as a single mother; one was widowed young and the other two husbands had abandoned their families.
|Drinking coconut water at Masudi's mom's home, 2008|
Although it wasn't a sudden realization, indeed God used this day as my 'aha moment'.
Slowly it dawned on me what God had in mind. And after all these years I am still amazed how he orchestrated this trip and how he used three boys - and their moms - to unfold his plan.
You see, I also raised my four children alone, after an unwanted divorce. By God's design, my assignment in Kenya is a vivid picture of 2 Corinthians 1:4 -
God comes alongside us when we go through hard times,
and before you know it, he brings us alongside
someone else who is going through hard times so we
can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
|Stella at her home in Shimba Hills, September 2016|
Over the ensuing years, I have stayed close to Masudi (helping him through high school and college) and have also met with his mom periodically.
Now, fast-forward to last month, when I again traveled to Shimba Hills to visit Masudi's mom, Stella.
While there, I pondered the significance of this location. It has been 15 years since God called me to Kenya and 14 years since he revealed his remarkable plan.
I hope you will enjoy the following photos on my inadvertent trip down memory lane.
|Time passes rather slowly in the village|
|When I first came to Shimba Hills, there weren't any motorbike taxis, but now there are many.|
|I got to wear a helmet on one of the boda boda rides,|
from Diani Beach (near Ukunda) to Shimba Hills
|Masudi's nephew and niece|
|A camera always brings instant smiles and laughter|
|Masudi and his nephew|
|Katunge Mwema, Stella's 85-year old neighbor, heard I was around and came to greet me.|
She remembers me from one of my early visits to Shimba Hills and still wants to cook me kuku (chicken) someday.
|Squeezing everyone in for a photo after a nice chat|
|Masudi's sister, Emma, lights the solitary lantern as the sun sets and night darkness arrives|
|Kids doing their homework|
|Masudi's nephew, Modi, eating dinner by the light of the lantern|
|The next day, we made an impromptu visit to the beach, with Modi also joining us|
|We happened to bump into the bursar from Masudi's high school.|
I used to pay school fees to him, and he remembers me very well.
|Godwill is just about to enjoy his huge hamburger!|
An added and unexpected bonus on the trip was being able to connect with Godwill! I know him from Nairobi, but he's now a missionary at Kenya's south coast... not too terribly far from Shimba Hills. Hopefully I was able to impart some sage advice and encouragement to him, from one missionary to another.
|It also worked out to have dinner in Mombasa with Marsha, one of the original|
three boys I met in 2002. I've also stayed in touch with him over the years.
If you are truly recognizing your Lord, you have no business being concerned about how and where he engineers your circumstances. Be reckless immediately - totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything - by casting your all on him.
You do not know when his voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to him.
~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Whenever we walk with God and obediently follow his call on our lives, we burst into spontaneous joy, and maybe even turn cartwheels on the beach!