Each day after working with my girls last year they would escort me towards Mama and Baba’s home. I was persistent on walking. In addition to exercise, I enjoyed the bonding time. Teresa and Susan would teach me new words in Kiswahili and laugh when I repeated the words in my country Kentucky accent. As we walked on the road just past the church towards carwash, a brownskinned woman with straight long hair dressed smart as ever would approach me. “Did Sophie come?” she’d ask. After a few days of seeing her, she stopped me one day and invited me to her home. She encouraged me to continue my work with the girls. She commented on how just in a short time Sophie had become more loving towards her siblings, helping out in the home and having a more pleasant attitude. She felt that change was because I had become friends with Sophie.
One day Sophie took me to her home. An extremely tall skinny business man met me at the door. He immediately welcomed me into his home, offering me tea. It wasn’t long before his wife came home. She was so excited I had come to visit. We chatted long. They asked questions about American life and shared the differences between that and Kenyan life. It was an instant bond. For once I felt like I had friends, not parents but friends. I was longing for friends in Kenya, people I could relate to and be myself around. Raphael and Nora invited me into their lives that day through a simple cup of tea. I didn’t want to leave their home. Through that simple conversation I knew these were the people who should host my team.
They don’t live in a fancy home. They don’t even have a guard at their gate nor do they live in the safest environment. They aren’t prominent members of the church. They haven’t been Christians their entire lives. They don’t have silver spoons in their mouths nor do they have exotic meals at their tables. What they do have is humility and love. They have encouraged me beyond measure.
I had no words to explain why I wanted my team to stay in this home. I only knew I could not get the picture of this family out of my head. I knew my team’s mission was not only to love the orphans in our program or the girls in the school but to build deep relationships with our hosts.
As we exited customs in Kisumu, we saw Nora yards away. She ran to me and embraced me. A week didn’t go by that she hadn’t communicated with me. For the past eleven months she had called, texted, emailed every week. And now here we were in one anothers arms. I held her as she cried with joy.
I walked with Nora through tough times: when she felt misunderstood, alone, grief-stricken over the loss of her big sister. When my team came, she fell in love with each member. Every morning Lynette could be found having tea and long conversations and laughs with Nora. In the afternoons she smiled from ear to ear watching Elizabeth, Jeanne and Christian entertain her girls. She even removed the vehicle from the driveway to spin in circles with Mariah, dancing cares away. Every dinner she and Raphael gained the wisdom of Mama Cal. Overnights she and I shared stories until the wee hours of the morning.
It was no mistake for my team to come to this home. Nora encouraged devotions in the morning and prayers before bed. We sang, prayed and cried together. It was meant for us to come and rebuild the confidence in Nora, what had been torn down by others. It was meant for us to come and show her that singing in the choir, ushering or teaching Sunday school are not the only ways we can serve God. As a teacher she can serve him each day by showing love and grace to her students instead of treating them like animals the way other teachers do. As a mother she can encourage and motivate her children instead of ridicule them and abuse them the way other parents are doing. Nora is such a giver. She reaches out to the community, helping those who are unfortunate.
Kenyans believe that visitors are a blessing. While I know that our team blessed her family, I also know that it was Nora and her family who blessed our team.