01 February 2011

Ode to my mud hut, August 2002 – February 2011

Somehow it was God’s plan
For me to live in a traditional mud hut
Smack-dab in the midst of local villagers
Drawing my water from a well
With no power for miles around
No indoor-plumbing - using a pit latrine
And taking bucket baths

I grew up camping and raised my kids with the same experience
So, it was no adjustment to cook with a small kerosene cooker
   And to use a lantern after 7:00pm
I believe it’s one of many ways God prepared me to live in Kenya

What pleasure it always was to leave the bustling metropolis of Nairobi,
To get away from the noise
The crowds
And the smog of the city

It’s an integral part of the Kenyan culture to have a place “upcountry”
To build and maintain a house in the rural areas - “ushago” - even while living in an urban setting

Bishop and Margaret suggested it during my first time in Kenya in 2001
I thought it was a cool idea
And so… I followed the prompting
Even though I didn’t really know the Lord’s reasons

Perhaps it was the lofty purpose of my over-all reason to be here -
That of nurturing relationships and loving my neighbors
Perhaps he wanted me to do it - not only in the big city - but in the rural areas as well
And, in fact, I did do that –
Primarily in the nearby vicinity
But also in one- or two-day trips to see folks in several outlying villages

Perhaps it’s because He knows my heart,
My love of being outside…
Surrounded by His creation
And worshiping Him in His out-of-doors

Perhaps it was to break stereotypes:
Of being white
Of being a woman
Of being an American
Of being a missionary
All of which… folks here seem to have hard-fast pre-conceived ideas

I did my best to teach people that my name is not “mzungu”
Asking them instead to please...
   Just call me Deb
Some of them now do just that
They see me as an individual and not just the color of my skin

I may never really understand His purposes
But I followed His plan

Memories now flood my mind
Eight and a half years ago,
Watching it being built - such a surreal experience
Painting the interior walls
Buying a few pieces of furniture
Hanging the curtains
Sleeping in it for the first time
Cycling the three miles of hilly paths between my house and the market

Through the years, I’ve watched the compound adjust to housing:
A medical clinic for the rural folks
A Bible college for local pastors
And now a “mixed boarding” secondary school

To be sure, there have been challenges, trials, and annoyances
In fact, plenty of them!

Numerous thefts
Blatant stares
Absurd expectations and assumptions based solely on the color of my skin
Being called “mzungu” far too many times
Dirty well water
Impassable muddy roads
Leaky roof and noisy rats when I want to sleep
Loud PA systems broadcasting election campaigns, crusades, and funerals across the entire valley
Noisy circumcision revelers as they parade and prance throughout the night

But there have been even more joys… along with absolute contentment

Sipping my morning cup of chai as I meditate on God’s word
And chew on Oswald Chambers daily reading from “My Utmost for His Highest”
Ah… time at the feet of Jesus
   It’s good for the soul

I enjoy nature
I loved to gaze out my door and do nothing but watch the grass grow
Or to be amused as the many-varied butterflies frolic and dance among the flowers
Being fascinated by a praying mantis or a chameleon
I loved seeing a new species of bird for the first time and identifying it (with my book from Teressa)

I revel in silence and solitude
Hearing nothing but the wind rustle through the leaves of my tall and majestic trees
The lovely melodic song of one of Kenya’s many beautiful birds
The bray of a donkey in the distance
And even the morning cock crowing somewhere in the valley

I marveled at the rock-hard strength of an ant-hill
And often drew encouragement from Mawe Tatu
Three large stones on the distant horizon
Remembering that God is my Rock
He will never leave me and He is always watching over me

I relished the gentle and soothing sound of rain falling on my grass-thatch roof
Not loud like the more modern corrugated iron-sheet roofs
Ah… the communion I’ve enjoyed with You, Lord
   As I sit on my simple and traditional chair made of tree limbs and reeds

Evenings were always marked by the low rumble of a “posho” mill
   Grinding maize into flour for a family’s ugali
The swift wings of a flock of mouse birds flying immediately over my roof
A bat or two darting for a mosquito
The familiar and pleasant sound of singing crickets

Watching the beautiful colors - pink, red, orange - unfold as the sun sets
Who can observe Your artistry splashing across the western horizon
   And not acknowledge there is a creator God
What simple joy to watch the full moon rising on the eastern horizon

Marveling in the spectacular starry nights, when I would step outside to brush my teeth
   Finding myself involved in spontaneous worship to my God
Enjoying storm clouds develop and observing lightening in the billowing and active thunderheads
Finding pleasure in and admiring several full rainbows that appear to actually touch the horizon
Also double ones - is there really a pot of gold at the end?

The fun of getting my hands dirty, as I planted 50 tree seedlings
Dropping a spoonful of DAP fertilizer in each small hole
Watering by hand, with a bucket of water drawn from the well 100 feet away
Nurturing and pruning them as they matured
All the while deriving spiritual lessons in the process
   Ah… it’s good for the soul to make such time to contemplate God

Watching the bougainvillea grow and become - oh so beautiful - flowering with its brilliant blossoms
Eagerly waiting for the Flame tree to display its large orange-red blossoms,
And the Jacaranda to burst out with its delicate lavender flowers
I love to feast my eyes on the bold colors overhead -
   the deep azure-blue sky, puffy white clouds, and the green leaves of my trees
Ah… it’s good for the eyes and good for the soul

Perhaps that is an analogy to nurturing the human relationships that God brought into my life:
Coloring with Martin
Playing “draught” with Collins and chess with Macharia
Making no-bake cookies with Rose
Flying a kite while wide-eyed children from the neighborhood watched and jumped with glee

Watching Nathan “slash” the grass and “live fence” and always making sure my compound looked good
Eating ugali and cow peas with Charles and Agnes
Simple celebration of two Christmases with the Alu family
Encouraging Zadok and Mary in their struggles of life

Watching Wycliff mature –
My reliable boda boda driver through all the years
Graduating from a bicycle to a motorbike
Meeting his wife and children

Attending numerous local events –
Village churches with their traditional instruments
Sharing the obligatory “few words”
“Harambee”, where folks come together to share their limited resources and raise funds
Celebration party after a circumcision, with one speech after another
Graduation at a small tailoring school, again sharing “a few words”
Assisting at a few two-day free medical clinics (with upwards of 250 people per day)
Not only “teaching” a class at a primary school… but even sleeping in the girls’ dorm!

I’ve consumed dozens upon dozens of meals and hundreds of cups of chai
   In the homes of folks in the surrounding village areas
I’ve eaten raw right-out-of-the-ground termites - wings and all - not once, but several times
I introduced banana bread to many grateful mouths
   Cooked over hand-made charcoal on my “jiko”

There have been numerous notable visitors –
The area chief
Kisiangani, the complete stranger that God sent to me for a timely word of encouragement
My daughter, Naomi, and grandson, Terran -
   I am so glad they got to see and experience my house!
Rose, Karl, and others from AWC
Several friends from Nairobi - Carol, Jeremiah, Jim, Joe, Kim, Robert, and Emily
Two teachers had extended stays –
   Frank (a friend of Bishop’s) while teaching at the Bible College
   Sarah (one of the teachers at the secondary school)
Bishop’s family slept in it during the week-long funeral of his mom
   He also used it to host his many visitors
During a variety of functions, it has been used to feed and shelter various folks from Nairobi

I’ve watched the ebbs and flows of life
Attending a “chai watoto”, to welcome a new baby into the world
The incredible experience of assisting as a new life entered the world - Duane
I’ve attended four “upcountry” funerals (which typically go on for several days)
   Watching as the casket is lowered into the ground on the “burial day”
   And listening to the finality of soil being tossed on top
I was at my mud hut with Kim and Collins (after our trip to Lodwar and Kakuma refugee camp) when I
   Received news of my dad’s passing from this life into the glorious presence of the Lord

Village children are named after me, my two sons, one of my grandsons, and my dad –
8-year old “little Deb”
7-year old Tony
6-year old Duane
3-year old Caleb Zachary

Alas… I am now vacating my house
God has revealed to me that it’s time
His peace prevails and surrounds my acceptance of His leading

I don’t know what God might have in mind
But I’m always willing and eager for the next adventure

“I am so in love with Him that I take no account where I go.”
- Oswald Chambers