- Hungry people sometimes measure things by how many meals it will put into their stomach, a camera translates into food for many nights in the slum. Why tempt in that way...
- To take pictures would have felt disrespectful. I was not there to capture glimpses of poverty --- I was there to obey...
Monday, October 7, 2013
Eager but timid feet followed the missionary in front of me. I had asked her several times to take me to the slum. She use to go there weekly, to teach a Bible study and pray with the ladies. But demands of work at the Children's Home had taken priority; she hadn't been to see the ladies in weeks. The urging inside me to visit the ladies was a pressing that came from above. It wasn't “my” plan ---- but it was something that daily came to my mind --- a Holy Spirit whispering, i've learned to listen.
My mind told my eyes to take pictures as we walked. I brought no camera with me for two reasons:
We walked with two beautiful, young, women, maybe in their twenties, if I were a modeling agent they both would have been hired on the spot. Slender with high cheek bones, small features, bright eyes, and skin that glowed, I wondered if they realized how stunning they were. They were kind and gentle; dressed in jeans, t-shirts, and wearing flip flops. I was amazed these two “models” were trekking through the mud and trash with us. But this is their home; this is where they live and minister.
Children were everywhere ---- children = hope.
As we entered the slum, school children were sitting on mesh feed sacks working busily stripping dried kernels from cobs. The pearly grains fell around them onto the waiting sacks. What a picture --- happy, busy hands all pausing to greet the wzungu shouting, “How are you?” in the common high pitched, nasally sound. It's comical the way they mimic the english accent. These were happy children --- they held golden grains of food in their hands. Returning greetings, we walked through winding, dry-mud pathways weaving between stick/mud houses, dodging low hanging tin roofs. We were fortunate the rains had not yet come for the day and the drunks were not yet saturated. I could smell the “brew” cooking; a homemade concoction that sells for cheap and rots the brain --- used by those who have lost hope (or thrown it away) and are willing to rob others of the little they might have.
Hut after hut we visited. Small doorways led from bright sunlight to a dark room. Each abode had two rooms, one for sitting and cooking, one for sleeping. Dirt floors under our feet, mud walls around us, tin roofs overhead with no electricity – we relied on the light flooding in from the open door. The smell of burned kerosene and homemade charcoal mixed with “living” was consistent. But each home we visited was neat as could be (all things considered). In a space roughly 10x12 there were usually six places to sit, a “coffee table” in the center and stacked bags of treasured belongings filling 3 corners with clean doilies (just like my great grandmother used) spread carefully over the couch and two chairs. It was their way of “welcoming” us. For surely the moment our car had parked at the slum entrance news had spread of our arrival --- their hands had been busy making jewelry they hoped to sell. Paper beads strung together = food for their children.
We sat. Talked. They would empty onto the table one of the plastic bags from the corner. My friend and I would buy what we could and then we would all pray together for their health, provision, protection, healing... prayers i've prayed over my loved ones ---- but somehow here it feels... different...it's Him or death (usually with much pain).
I was entering their world. They were allowing me to. And in the midst of the dirt and mud --- Light was near. These ladies (some of them) glowed with Abba. He was their most prized possession, something no thief could steal and no drunk could beat out of them. One older lady was quite mesmerizing --- did she know the Light inside her shined brightly? She was enchanting. The light grey halo in her cataract altered eyes drew me. Her unhindered smile and her gentle hand on the head of the child beside her warmed me. She wore a light blue t-shirt and a clean,old skirt, a simple white beaded necklace around her neck and a worn-tattered scarf on her head --- but the air around her sparkled. My friend shared with me, “She's a grandmother who cares for all these little children running around here – if they need anything, she is the lady they come to. She feeds them and loves them. They don't belong to her, but she makes them feel as if they do.” I loved her.
Sunlight poured into her tiny portion of the slum--- no dark shadows hung here.
How could beauty be found in the middle of------ this?
I was reminded of many houses back “home”. Just prior to leaving for Kenya I had visited a newly remodeled home. It was elaborate and beautiful but shadowy, filled with well-decorated “empty” spaces. But here, I stood beside a simple, mud hut filled with Light and children and a woman that was known as a giver, a lover --- children twirled around her and she radiated goodness and kindness and gentleness and peace. She wasn't “trying” to be enough or have enough ---- she was busy --- living and loving. Oh how I wish I could put her into words --- for if I could, we'd all want less of what we work so hard to have and we'd want more of what she so simply is. As we prayed, I thanked God for sharing her with me. He flows through her in that place...
A few huts more took us to the home of Martha. We entered her neat dirt world, pausing again to let our eyes adjust to the shadowy light inside, and found her lying on her bed. Our beautiful guides shared with us how long Martha had been sick. Her swollen body was weak, her voice came only in a whisper. Someone cared for her well though --- her grown son was just outside, a kindness to his face that spoke of his mother's goodness. She spoke in her native Turkana which was translated for us. She knew she was dying. She repeated softly, “i want to go home, I want to go home...” Quick conversation shared her story with me. She was Abba's daughter, my “sister”, now living far from where she had been born. Her dying wish was to end her life where she had begun ---- north of here, not in a slum, she wanted her tired body laid to rest in her homeland. She wanted to go home before she went HOME.
As I held her arm and looked into her half-blind eyes, my mind traveled back to my grandparents. While Turkana words filled the air around me I whispered out-loud to my Yahweh. “Lord, if she were my Pop or Papa James, i'd be emptying my pockets to honor their dying words. Oh Lord, what is my part here, why am I sitting beside your Martha, what words will you allow to flow from You to her ears. Can I please be your girl in this dark room with this dying woman...?
We prayed together.
She squeezed by arm.
Death was tangible in the room.
I whispered to our lovely guides, “What would it cost to get her to Lodwar?”
They answered, “1500 KSH” (my mind converted quickly ---- less than $20US)
I asked, “But how will she get there, she can not go alone?”
“Someone would need to take her...”
I whispered more softly, “If God provided the bus ticket, is there someone who would take her?”
Bright white teeth shined in the dark room as Patricia smiled. “If God buys her a ticket for tomorrow's bus, I will carry her on the long journey back home.”
Steve and I have precious supporters (you may be one of them). Dear ones who would want to reach 10,000 miles with love and buy a one-way-ticket home for Martha. I began to weep as I thought of their faces. I'm here out of obedience. I'm here to love. I'm here to be ready to speak Truth and live Love. Martha needed help--- she wanted to say goodbye in peace --- so she could finally go HOME.
“Patricia, I think I hear God saying, He's bought her a one-way ticket on tomorrow's bus, and He's bought a round-trip ticket for you.”
Mud/stick walls do not limit the reach of the Shepherd.
Sickness draws Him nearer ------ it does not repel Him.
Dirt floors do not hinder Him, mud matters not to His feet.
Whispers from a dying soul, like prayers from a child ----- capture the Holy One.
In Kipsongo slum I felt "the shelter of the Most High" and witnessed Martha "rest in the Shadow of the Almighty".
… “i will say of the Lord He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust...
… my heart is not proud... my eyes are not haughty... I do not concern myself with matters to great or too awesome for me to grasp... instead I have calmed and quieted myself... like a weaned child who no longer cries for it mother's milk... like a weaned child is my soul within me... oh martha... put your hope in the LORD now"... and prepare your eyes to behold His face at last.
(taken from Psalm 91 and 131)
"God isn't looking for people of great faith,
but for individuals ready to follow Him."
©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe