I have been living and teaching in Kenya for exactly two months and can honestly say that each day my heart breaks a little and my faith grows a little. I teach math and chemistry at the Agape in Action Academy for high school aged students in North West Kenya in a village called Kamukuywa. The transition from Canada to Kenya has been made easy by the wonderful students and staff I work with. The students are always eager to help, whether it’s carrying my books to class for me or erasing the chalkboard before the lesson, and they do it all happily and joyfully. They are also eager to share their story with me and to hear about my life in Canada. We’ve laughed about the differences that at first seem to divide us. My parents are not farmers and I don’t know how to milk a cow; I don’t have a dowry and do not have to marry someone from my own tribe; we do not have maize and beans everyday for lunch but instead we sometimes have toasted sandwiches (or as the students say we cook already cooked bread!). And then after getting to know each other a bit better, we realize that the things we have in common, a love for God and a love for each other, are more important and more binding than food choice or our parent’s occupation; that we are more similar than we first thought. And just like that we’re friends who study math and chemistry together, but also serve and worship together.
The ecclesia here in Kamukuywa is a lively, growing group of over 100 believers, where many of my students are also members along with their families. It has been a wonderful atmosphere in which to live and be a part of. And while I have loved every minute of life in Kenya, there are a number of things that don’t make sense to me…it doesn’t make sense that when I hang my clothes on the clothes line outside of the fieldworkers house there are street children no more than three steps away living in ripped, dirty clothes…it doesn’t make sense that a friends family cannot afford TB medicine for his sick mother, forcing the family to sell some of their land all to earn the equivalent of two Starbucks coffees…it doesn’t make sense that hardworking honest people who work 9 hours a day cannot afford to feed their families…it doesn’t make sense that when we sit down to eat our meals the street children can see us eating through the window and call out to us in hunger. These things are hard to understand and seem unfair.
With all these thoughts bouncing around in my head and weighing on my heart, I was at meeting a few Sunday’s ago sitting beside a dear friend and student of mine, Abby. Abby has been so kind to me over the past few weeks; she has always been happy to include me in any event happening on campus, she whispers and translates announcements from Kiswahili to English when needed and has a magnetic personality that draws people to her. In addition to these wonderful attributes she is also very poor…the students who have some extra spending money buy ground nuts (peanuts) at lunch on school days, Abby never buys ground nuts. On this particular Sunday I was sitting beside her in meeting, as she had saved me a seat. The meeting was wonderful, the singing loud and alive, so loud in fact I couldn’t even hear myself sing! We were singing together as the collection bag was passed from hand to hand and when the bag came to her, Abby reached into her pocket, pulled out some money and put it in the collection. It was 10 kenyan shillings, which is roughly the equivalent of 4 mites. (For context, a loaf of bread in Kenya costs around 85 kenyan shillings.) I was surprised and happy and heartbroken all at once. Her actions were such a powerful reminder of the lesson from the widow’s mite, that God doesn’t want our money, He wants our trust and our love. And that how generously we give doesn’t so much depend on how much we’ve been given but how much we’re willing to trust God; it’s a reflection of what is in our hearts. Abby loves God and gives generously, sharing the little money she has and the large amounts of kindness she possesses with those around her.
I may see life in Kenya as difficult and challenging, sometimes even wondering how God can be found in a place of such poverty and want, but Abby sees our Heavenly Father as a God who lovingly provides for us each day, a God of abundance. He gives us enough for today and will give again tomorrow; or to use her words “God will provide”.