Day Six began at an area mall to meet up with friends from Georgia. Donna and Steve moved to Kenya in July and started a marriage ministry program. Their organization, Kweli Moyo, was created out of their lifelong love for God, each other, and their strong desire to share the life-changing power of a strong, Godly marriage.
Our visit with them was way too brief, but their energy, passion and overwhelming love for the people of Kenya filled my heart with the hope and confidence of being in the right place at the right time. Feeling strong and self-sufficient, I forgot my daily prayer for God’s guidance and strength.
Next we met with Hannah, a young Kenyan woman, who is the founder of The Badili Centre. Sacrificing the security of steady pay and benefits, Hannah left her career as a church minister, answering God’s call to help the women of Kenya. We met her at Deliverance Church-Solid Rock, a small church and primary school in the heart of one of Nairobi’s many slums. Because we arrived early, they allowed us to tour the school while we waited for Hannah. The children were overjoyed by our visit.
We had left Donna and Steve at a quiet, clean, middle-class shopping center with well-dressed adults milling around. Now it was chaos, mayhem and rampant joy, as the children’s happy chattering and laughter filled our ears and their jumping feet filled our lungs with dust. I was having difficulty adjusting to this abrupt shift in environment. Just a few blocks away from the mall, we were now surrounded by smiling little faces smudged with dirt, dressed in tattered uniforms, running through a bare dirt yard, surrounded by delipidated buildings–with the smells of bougainvillae, dust, earth, leftover lunch, urine and garbage filling the midday air.
The paradox that is Kenya was dragging me down like an anchor in an ocean of despair, my confidence and self-sufficiency gone. The harsh reality of the world outside my safe little Georgia home was suffocating.
In the midst of the children’s carefree mayhem I was desperately trying to hide behind my camera so that no one could see the agony on my face–the agony in my heart. I silently cried out to God to save me from this school filled with more travesties of humanity than I wanted to face. It was a late and pitiful prayer for the strength I should have been leaning on all along. Then the voice of one tiny girl, crying in frustration and sorrow, touched my ears and pulled me out.
She was only two years old, the smallest child I had seen at the school; most of the other small ones were still inside with their teachers. She was following a large group of older children, trying to join in the frenzy that ensued every time one of our group tried to capture their lovely faces on camera. A mad flurry of arms and legs and laughter, shoving and jostling for position, made photographing these incredible innocents next to impossible. This one tiny girl bravely followed the bigger kids, just trying to be a part of it all–and was continually pushed to the back or knocked to the ground.
Finally, her frustration at a fever pitch, she just sat in the dirt and cried. Rubbing her eyes with dusty little fists, she wailed–a forlorn and pitiful sight, all alone in the middle of a churchyard filled with people. I, too, felt all alone in my despair and was wailing silently, deep within my soul.
Despite my desire to hide behind the camera lens–to remain unaffected by my surroundings–her lament reached my mother-ears and broke my mother-heart. I just couldn’t leave her sitting there, crying all alone. It simply was not–is not–in me. So when this precious, innocent child of the living God cried out in heartache and frustration, my heart leaped past my own desire to run away and reached out to her need. Forgetting my despair, forgetting my sadness, I simply did what God gave me a heart to do–I held a crying child.
In that quiet act of maternal love for a grieving child, it occurred to me that God must desperately want us to open our eyes and our hearts to the wider world around us, to overlook our own weakness and fear, and just hold one crying child…just take one hand in our own…just share our own small skills with one who needs a little guidance…just be a helping hand in a hurting world.
When she stopped crying, I gently placed her down and turned to walk away. I felt her tiny little hand slip timidly into my own; so I continued my journey around the churchyard, hand in hand with my new friend. With my larger hand in hers, she was safe to join the group, safe to face the onslaught of the big kids, leaning into my stronger legs if they got too close. With her tiny, helpless hand in mine, I felt the love and power of the Creator of the Universe enfolding us both in His strong, protecting arms.
Finally I had to walk away from this precious child. Placing her in the pastor’s care, I entered the church to meet Hannah and some of the people who work with her. It was time to learn more about Hannah, The Badili Centre, and their work with the widows of Kenya.
Widows are often treated like second-class citizens in Kenya. They are frequently blamed for the death of their husbands, no matter how they have died. Their homes and belongings taken by the husband’s family, they are left with nothing and no means to care for their children. The Badili Centre offers a unique, six-month business training program which spends much of its time transforming the mindset of these women. The result is that these women will begin to see and believe in their own worth to God and society, and can then make a better living for their families.
My day was filled with the paradox of Kenya: poverty and pain in the shadow of wealth and comfort; loving friends from Georgia, restoring broken marriages in Kenya; a young middle-class Kenyan woman bringing hope to the hopeless widows of the slum; and the eager, happy faces of children not understanding–or caring–that these strangers were from a world so different from their own. They just wanted to hold a hand (and have their pictures taken)!
There are no easy answers, no easy fixes for the injustices of this world. After all the contradictions of that day, I know we can’t just stand by and allow the injustices continue. The widows are worthy of hope. The marriages are worth a second chance. Those beautiful, innocent children are worth our kneeling down in the dirt and taking their hand in love.