Sunday, July 12, 2009

Make a Zebra!

-July 12, Sunday
Kisumu, Kenya-

I am so tired. Church is in a couple of hours, and I don't know how I can stay awake through another eight hour service and community teaching. I am not sure how I am going to be able to teach the community's young women when I can hardly keep my eyes open for long enough to even read a page-long devotion before bed.

This place has changed my perspective on everything worth a thought and more. I only wish that at the end of an amazing day, I could return to my own home and my own bed, and then reappear in Africa the next morning. Maybe this is only my exhaustion speaking.

Today is my last day to see Lavin, which makes me very sad.

The hotel doctor visited last night and examined Amy. He said that she has a bad case of food poisoning, but not cholera, thank the Lord. He said for her not to take Finnergan, because she needs to relieve her body of the poison, and so Amy was probably sick through most of the night. I pray that God will heal her quickly and give her rest.


We arrived at the church around 9:00 and greeted the elders before sitting in the second and third rows under a great big tent. We were sitting in our chairs, waiting for the service to begin, when Jared came up to us and said that they needed a teacher for the Sunday school. Nobody seemed to want to teach, and I enjoy teaching children, so I stood up and volunteered. Jared led me upstairs to stand before the children in a small, stuffy classroom. At least two hundred children were stuffed inside the tiny room, and many more lined the windows and the doorway all the way down the hall.

"What do you want me to teach?" I asked helplessly.

"Anything you like," Jared replied. He turned to the children and told them that they had a new teacher from the USA. "And who is the president of the USA?" he asked seriously.

"The honorable Barack Obama."

Jared sent up an interpreter to help me, because many of the children, especially the young ones, struggled with their English. I had never taught with a Swahili interpreter before. I taught the story of when Jesus healed Bartimaeus. I think that the story was a huge hit. I explained to the children that Jesus could heal their problems and their sadness as well, specifically with three things:

1. Hope
2. Joy
3. Peace

I read Hebrews 13:5 and 6 and then asked questions and gave out prizes to those who answered. I finally gave away rubber bracelets to all of the children, who ended up numbering at least three hundred by the end of my lesson.

After the lesson, we went out to the church, stuffing desk after desk after desk into the fairly small sanctuary. There had to have been more than five hundred children squeezed tightly into this room. It was astonishing... and very, very hot and stuffy. I was prepared to return to the main service, but the interpreter asked, "Teacher, please teach them until lunch. Tell them about your life in America, and about the Honorable Barack Obama."

I taught them how to sing The Lord's Army, and then the children joyfully sang the song I had taught them earlier in the week- Yesu ni Bwana. The interpreter had them all tell me what they thought of me, picking children out of the crowd to say, "God bless you," "Thank you, madam," "Please come again," and etc. It was precious to hear.

I went to sit through the last five or ten minutes of the service, and then we broke up into the community teaching groups. Before the sessions began, I pulled Lavin aside and gave her the gift bag I brought and my shoes. She beamed at me and hugged me shyly. Lavin is the sweetest little girl.

We returned to the stuffy church room. Connie, Olivia, and I were in charge of the women. We taught about Esther again, and we broke up into small groups at the end. It was an enjoyable experience. Jared brought in crates of Coca-Cola and Fanta, and we all sang songs together.

We left the hot church feeling sweaty and hot, and I saw a woman with the most precious five month old baby girl named Sarah. The woman, Lynette, must have noticed my adoration for all things small, for while I was sitting on a bench rather forlornly, eying her baby, she came up to me, plopped Sarah onto my lap, and said, "Hold her while I eat." What joy this gave me.

I examined this adorable baby from head to toe, tickling her round, chocolate-colored belly, listening to her chatter, touching her toes, watching her sweet smile. If you did not know this, and I have no intention of being racist in any way, the hair of black babies, at least African ones, is very soft and fine, almost like cotton. I loved to pet Sarah's soft hair, and she was fascinated by my long curls, pulling them with a kind of awe, so we were even. By the time that Lynette returned to take her baby back, my heart was stolen.

Lunch was chicken stew, greens, chicken, and ugali- all without any silverware.

Because this was our last day at Ring Road, we all gathered together with the Ring Road staff in one of the classrooms to sing and pray for the last time. Then we put on our new tee-shirts and went to take a group picture. "Mingle, mingle!" Jared insisted. "We are a zebra- black, white, black, white. Make a zebra. Anything else is dangerous." We took our photos and then got in a circle and held hands, now thoroughly mingled. We sang a resounding chorus of He Has Done So Much for Me, and then it was time to go.

I hugged Lavin tightly and promised to come visit her again one day, and until then, write her often. She held me close for a moment and then let go, retreating behind a corner, from where she watched me silently until I left Ring Road School for the last time.

We visited the Kisumu market, which is a huge, limitless space of land where people simply put all of their merchandise into messy piles on the ground, and eight billion people ruffle through it in the same space of land under a burning hot sun. There are thieves and pickpockets lurking around every corner. Everywhere I went, I heard shouts of, "Mzungu, mzungu!" I did not like that market at all.

Recently, my team has been taking precautions that we had not thought to take before. This is because a rapist with AIDS has been seen around the slums, following us. Milton even hired someone to follow us when we walked to the school. The rapist was hanging around even then, although I did not know it at the time. I am not that concerned for my own safety; I know that I will be fine. It is Lavin I worry about. She lives in the slums with only her mother and her uncle, and she often walks to and from school alone.

We are now at our hotel, exhausted. Supper should be at any time now. Tomorrow is our last day in Kisumu, and then we will spend a day in the capitol city of Nairobi before returning home.


After dinner, Christian and Micah and Milton and I sat at the table for a couple of hours, talking through the nighttime darkness. After awhile, Chase and Cheryl joined us, bringing cokes for us to drink. I swear that I drink more cokes in a day here than I have anywhere else, but when a cold coke is the only drink available, you take it.

Towards the end of the conversation, Audie walked up to our group, explaining that a man who was also staying at our hotel had asked for help on becoming a Christian. Milton left to help counsel the man, and sure enough, the man became a follower of Jesus. It was awesome to hear about.

I truly love it here- the people and the places and the faces- but I still cannot wait to be home.

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