Sunday, July 5, 2009

Did someone lose a bandage in that pot of beans?

-July 5, Sunday
Eldoret, Kenya-

Today was fantastic. We got up and left for church by 9:00 in the morning. KipKaren Church of Christ is held in the same courtyard as the Milton Jones Eagle Academy. People were already gathering when we arrived, and the children ran to greet us.

I am not going to describe the entire service, but let me just say that the worship part was not over until 11:00, and the preaching was not over until 2:00. The African people are very ceremonial. They would present with great honor various speakers and choirs and people. They had Barbie, Christian, and I go up to sing He Reigns with our team, and then all of the girls of our team sang Amazing Grace with one of the women choirs.

At one point, they called each of us up by name and presented us with a gift. Mine was a hand-carved lion, because Francis said, "Emily is a lion, so she must be the daughter of a lion." These people are all very generous and loving and truly honored by our presence in their church.

During the service, I was swamped by little children- one in my lap, three on each side of me- all trying to hold my hands and pet my hair. I entertained them with my watch. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I suppose that these children had never seen something like this digital watch before. I taught them how to push the button that makes the screen light up in a flash of fluorescent blue, and that was still entertaining them when I left for the hotel at 6:00 in the evening.

Lunch was the usual... and I mean that very literally. These people have the same thing for all three meals: greens, beans, rice, random (and I mean random) chicken parts, ugali, and a type of bread, such as chipati or mandazi. Oh, and tea, of course. They must have tea with every meal. The food here is unbelievably monotonous. I skipped dinner, mostly because I could not stand eating any more rice and ugali for the rest of the day.

Larry, one of our team, had been in charge of stirring the beans in a huge pot.  He began stirring with a bandage on his finger... and he finished stirring without one.  Needless to say, our team skipped over the beans today.

At church, we broke up into small groups so that we could teach the community. I was with Olivia, Connie, and Barbie, and we taught the young women. There were probably around forty of them in all. Barbie spoke first, and then Olivia, and then I did, and finally Connie. We told the girls about the book of Esther, and how Esther stood up for what was right, and how they could as well, in any situation.

When I first spoke, I had the girls hop around and dance to get out their 'wiggles' before I taught them. I think my lesson went well. The girls seemed to respond in the right ways to the teaching.

Right when Connie began to talk, the sky began to pour down rain. Everyone was distracted, and so they all stood up and began singing... and singing... and singing. Even thirty or forty minutes later, when the rain stopped, these girls continued to sing for more than an hour.

Meanwhile, I was swamped with children once again, and I mean swamped. They all had to touch me and stroke my hair and my white skin and my face. "We admire your hair," they would say. "Do not return to the USA. Remain in Kenya, with us."

"I cannot stay," I protested.

"Why? Are you afraid of black people?"


I became friends with a young lady named Lydia. She told me about how her parents had died a few years before, leaving her the eldest of six younger siblings. When not in school, she raises her siblings in their small shack in the slums.

During the service, Francis told us to ask one another, "Are you happy?"

I turned around and asked several of the children sitting amongst me, "Are you happy?"

Their faces lit up with a joy that only God could give as they each replied, "Yes, I am happy. I am very happy."

When it was about time to leave for the day, Olivia and I were each told to sit in chairs that they had set out for us, and various members of the congregation took turns taking pictures with us, one-by-one, using the church camera. I wouldn't be surprised if they took sixty or seventy photos of me by the end of the photography session.

Two girls pulled me aside and asked for my email address. "Today you taught us to have courage," Marina said. "You are our teacher. Send us letters of encouragement so that we may have strength."

When it was time to go, hoards of people had to shake our hands and embrace us and speak to us for one last time. When we waved goodbye, several children followed behind our matatu, waving and laughing.

We arrived at the hotel exhausted. Cheryl, Micah, Holly, and I went on a short walk and then visited an extremely small version of an African sports bar, and we watched the Wimbledon on television.

We returned to the meeting hall, and eleven of us played a game called "Rhythm." We probably played that game for over an hour. We were all so tired that even the stupidest of things seemed hysterically funny at the time. I am sure that if I wrote them down here and you read them, you would stare blankly at my words, wondering if I had come down with mild retardation while in Africa.

Oh, yes. We actually had warm water this morning, which was wonderful. I feel hardly sick at all, and so today I was able to truly enjoy myself.

I love these people. They are so welcoming, so hospitable, so joyful, so thankful, so giving, so loving, so trusting, so honest, so kind. They make my heart ache with a mixture of joy and sorrow. These sweet people literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs, and yet they cannot help but sing for joy.

Today I saw a house made of sticks, tarp, and newspaper, and the people inside smiled and waved as we drove by in our matatus.

When I taught the girls about Esther's courage, I knew that I was doing what God wants me to be doing. I have a future with this precious people. God wants to use me to teach them.

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