Many have asked how our family will be spending Christmas this year in Kijabe, so here goes…
Mike and I spent the whole of last night staying awake trying to comfort our dog, Bosco, who was in great distress. For those of you who don’t know, Bosco came with us to Kenya from Bend. We got him nine years ago as a puppy before the kids came along. He was panting excessively and we were sure, in the dead of night, that he was going to die. I pleaded with God to spare his life. By the time the sun had risen, I was making a frantic call to the vet in Nairobi.
In the meantime, the kids woke early, eager to get into the Christmas spirit. Mike drove Bosco to Nairobi, while the kids and I headed up to the school. There was a large group of people gathered there ready to deliver Christmas hampers to needy families in the area. These hampers included: flour, oil, sugar, salt, maize-meal, tea, margarine and matches. We loaded up our group of eight into a four wheel drive and set off to navigate the swampy, mucky lanes down which many of the families that we were to visit lived.
Having lived in Africa for a number of years already, I have seen desperate poverty many times before. But today, it was different. Somehow, on the eve of Christmas, these peoples situations drove a stake into my heart. The first family we visited included a Grandfather (who was 94 and blind) and his wife. Together they were rearing their 8 year old granddaughter. They live in a small hut with some wooden chairs and a table. For Christmas decorations, they had tied a piece of twine from one end of the room to the other and had hung colored pieces of torn and tattered paper on it. The child’s parents had both died, who knows from what exactly. What would happen to this dear child when her grandparents died, which cannot be too far away.
The next family we visited was a young mother, with three children under the age of 7. When we started to listen to her story (which was translated from Kiswahili and English into Kikuyu, her mother tongue) we learned that she was in fact the grandmother. The children’s parents were gone. This grandmother in her one bed-room shack was tasked with feeding, clothing and educating these three children. The walls were made of mud and sticks with an area outside for making a small fire to cook. A hen pecked its way around the mud floor of the house, nibbling on bits of nothing that had fallen to the ground. When it jumped up onto a small table, Jane looked at me with wide eyes! The hen is allowed on the furniture!!
The last family comprised of yet another single grandparent who was rearing her three grandchildren, all under the age of nine. Both of their parents had died. Again, we were ushered into their home with open arms and grateful smiles. This sho-sho (grandmother) took the plastic bag of food in her arms and danced around the small room with glee. She spoke through the translator and expressed how grateful she was to God that she would now be able to feed her children on Christmas day.
Feed her children.
Not provide gifts for them, or a new dress to wear to church the next morning. To feel them with rice and bread and maybe some vegetables from the small farm she had to the side of her house.
I sat there with both Michael and Jane and tried to understand how all of the families we met this morning, with pathetically little, had so much JOY and thanksgiving. Each one of them praised God for His provision this Christmas.
I thought of how I had prayed to God the previous night for Bosco’s healing. How does He answer such different prayers? Does He see them as equal cries from the heart? I don’t know the answer, but what I do know is that our God is a father of lights. In grim, desperate, and horrid situations, He brings His light and peace. It doesn’t make any sense at all. That these people we met with this morning could be so thankful to God in heaven for the meagre amount that they have. But they are, and they continuously sing it from the rooftops.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
We sat tonight as a family and read the Christmas story from the Bible and proclaimed our thanksgiving…
For a warm bed.
A dry house.
Enough food so that we never have to go hungry.
And yes, for Christmas presents in the morning.
Tomorrow, we will be cooking a turkey and having dinner with 8 other friends at our house. Ruth (whom I first met in Tanzania) is staying with us for the week, which is a treat!
We wish you all a very happy Christmas. May you know His light in your life, the greatest gift of all.