Saturday, January 14, 2006


I am back into the swing of life in Kenya and studies at NEGST. I have to admit that it was challenging to go from one of the poorest countries in the world to the most affluent and back again in less than a month. Today I wanted to share with you a reflection that I wrote in my journal less than a week after I returned to Kenya. Before I left for the US, my friend Mary told me that her two oldest sons had qualified for secondary school but she didn’t have money to send them. She asked me if I would be able to find some money in the US to help her sons go to school. Below is my journal account of what happened:

Mary stopped by my room today and I told her that I would be able to give her 12,000 shillings (about $150) to help her sons go to school. She immediately began sobbing, hugged me, and uttered thank you and praise God amidst her many tears. She then proceeded to tell me that her husband had abandoned her on Dec 21. On top of that, she is five months behind on rent (about $30 a month) and her landlord has given her a deadline before he kicks her and her children onto the streets. She has four children and supports her family by washing clothes for students at NEGST, where she probably earns between 40 and 80 dollars each month.

As we stood there she asked if we could pray together, and began thanking the Lord for this $150 that I was giving her. To her, this was so much more than money. It was hope. Hope that her sons would get an education and have a good life. Hope that her children would be able to escape from the crippling poverty that she has known all of her life. Hope that her children will not have to suffer in the ways that she has. All that life changing hope wrapped up in a mere $150.

I wish I could say that I felt good as I stood there awkwardly in my room hugging this woman as she continued to cry and to praise God. But I didn’t feel good – instead I was overwhelmed by a sense of injustice, confusion, and anger. I had no idea what to say to Mary. I didn’t even have to pay for my secondary school. I have never faced the threat of being kicked onto the streets with no place to live, and I have never had to face the pain of not having enough money to buy food for my children.

Honestly, I am very grateful that I did not know these struggles. But, this woman is also a child of the same God that I call my Father. How is it that we come from such different worlds? How can I faithfully live out the love of Christ in a world that is so different from the one that I have known? How can I reconcile the fact that I come from the most affluent country in the history of the world when I see things every day that make me realize the evil, pain, and injustice of the poverty that devastates the majority of people in this world?

So often I struggle to know how I am to respond. I know that guilt is not an appropriate response – certainly I didn’t choose to be born in an affluent country any more than people here chose to be born in a slum or a poor rural village. I know that love is the only genuine and appropriate response. And yet as I study the book of James, I am challenged that love must be practical. If I see brothers or sisters in need and do nothing to help them, how can I say that I genuinely love them? But what does this mean for me here, and what would this practical love of Christ look like in my everyday life?

I am not looking for answers to all of the questions that this incident raised. I guess I am sharing it with you because it had such an impact on me. As far as I know, Mary’s landlord has not yet kicked them into the streets, and her sons should be able to enroll in school this month. I have not yet been able to give her all of the money because my wallet was stolen on a matatu last week and I lost my bank card. But my own struggles seem pretty insignificant in light of what this family is going through.


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Blogger gib's said...

Hi val?my name is gilbert i just read your blog and i think u are fantastic in your way of communication.I hail from Nakuru town,my home is just opposite the B.O.H.I was there last year and appreciate the work you do there.i have some personal issues that i'd like to be sorted out by a councilor and maybe if you have time you can write to me via then i can reply.Kudos for the good work

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