When we first arrived in Kenya, one of my greatest fears was the hiring and sustaining a house helper. This was an entirely foreign concept to me, for I did everything a housewife does…all by myself. How would I know who to hire? Would I be able to live with someone else in my house all day, 5 days a week? What does an employee-employer relationship look like, especially here in Kenya?
One of the wisest decisions I made was taking the advice of a veteran missionary who told me to ‘interview’ several helpers before hiring one. In other words, I shouldn’t hire the first person that comes my way. As soon as I arrived, I met my first interviewee. She was lovely, had a huge smile and was a great cook. After she worked with me a few days, another beautiful lady came to work. She was equally lovely, had a bigger smile, was wonderful with the kids, had tons of energy, but could not cook. Both ladies were so sweet and would (and do) make wonderful helpers, but I still had one more person to try. Joyce was my third helper. She was quiet, very hard-working, self-motivated and smart. She couldn’t cook but expressed interest in learning. After only 2 days, I knew she was my perfect fit. God answered my prayers and gave me this women who met all my expectations! He is so good!
It is customary for a helper to invite their missionary family to visit his or her home. Joyce lives in a small apartment very close to the hospital, but her real home is about an hour away. She was eager for us to meet for parents and to see her land. It seemed like we just couldn’t find a time when our weekends were free at the same time. Well, it finally happened! We visited Joyce and her family last weekend. (Unfortunately, we didn’t take a camera.) Let me share some of the highlights of the visit.
We left the compound shortly after 10 a.m. in a large, green safari truck (the same one we took on safari and got stuck in the mud). Donald, our driver, and Joyce know each other, so they chatted the entire way. The boys listened to Adventures in Odyssey, and Aaron and I took in the beautiful landscapes. The rolling hills covered in tea fields helped distract us from the bouncing and almost constant attention from on-lookers. (Believe it or not, rural Kenyans still stop, stare and often point and laugh at white people. Some of them have never seen a white person!) After about an hour, we arrived at Joyce’s family’s home.
Many family members and their pastor were waiting to greet us as soon as we got out of the truck. Hands were shaken all around. Then, we were ushered into the sitting room. Chairs lines the walls and tables (like coffee tables) filled the center of the room. It looked like the walls were recently covered in fresh newspaper, and several posters with Scriptures decorated the walls. The pastor, who spoke some English, and our driver were the source of the majority of our conversation. Joyce’s father and her mother’s brother joined the conversation when it changed to Kipsigis…but then we were left out.
Chai was served shortly after we arrived. As soon as the boys finished their chai, they went outside to play with Joyce’s nieces and nephews. Lunch was served at noon, so the boys came inside to eat. They served us sukuma, ugali, some kind of stew, millet ugali, homemade yogurt, and water. I was quite proud of the boys. They tried everything, even the chunky-gritty yogurt. Fortunately, we eat Kenyan food at least once a week, so nothing looked too strange and tasted too weird.
After lunch the pastor and Joyce gave us a tour of the land. Three of Joyce’s five brothers have build houses on their portions of their inherited land. We got to meet these brothers, their wives and their children. Among the four families they grow many crops: maize, tea, potatoes, millet, etc. They also raise various animals: cows, chickens and a goat. We learned how to pluck tea leaves, picked some maize, and visited the river where Joyce had to fetch water when she was younger. (Now, they have a rain tank to collect cleaner water. They drink and cook with this water, and they use it to wash their clothes and dishes.) It was quite the hike, and parts of the path were very muddy. I wish I had pictures of us straddling the mud along one particular part of the road. On the way back up the hill, Jacob slipped and his hand caught himself in a pile of cow mature. He almost threw up from the smell! Joyce was gracious and took him to the closet house to clean his hands.
When we arrived back at Joyce’s parents’ home, we were served room temperature soda in a bottle with straws. (I love that the soda comes in reusable bottles and has no high fructose corn syrup! I’m not crazy about the room temperature part, but no refrigeration means no cold drinks.) The boys were delighted when the pastor handed each of them their own bottle of orange Fanta! I’m sure they’ve never had that much soda in one sitting…at least not under my watch!
Shortly after we finished the soda, chair was served again. This time it came with mandazis. Levi, being the closest thing to a Kenyan in our family, drank down his chai and devoured his mandazi. Then, he ran back outside to play in the dirt. Noah occupied most of his time looking for chameleons. When he’d find one, he’d chase the Kenyan kids around to make them scream. (Kenyans are afraid of reptiles.) I’m not sure what Jacob did. If I had to guess, he just watched Noah and laughed.
Everyone gathered in the sitting room around 3pm. The pastor opened with a word of prayer. Then, everyone took turns introducing themselves and giving a short speech. (This is totally customary here. No introductions at the beginning. We knew no one’s name up until this point. In fact, I was under the impression that Joyce’s uncle was her father and that her father was her eldest brother until people began to introduce themselves!) Joyce has 5 brothers and 4 sisters. Not all of them were able to attend, but the room was full of family. They all welcomed us and were so happy that we visited them. Joyce’s father went first. Since he doesn’t speak English, Donald had to translate for us. Apparently, he welcomed us, wanted us to return often, thanked us for giving Joyce a job, and hoped that Joyce was taking very good care of our home. Next, Joyce’s mother spoke. Then, each sibling followed.
On a side note: The women cooked and washed dishes all day. During this introduction/speech portion of the day was the only time we got to see them. I think it was the only time they got to sit down all day! I spent most of the day in the company of all men! Maybe I should have gone outside to help!?!?
After each person took a turn to welcome us, it was our turn. Aaron spoke first. Then, I thanked everyone. I reassured Joyce’s father that she was taking excellent care of us. Donald translated our messages back to her parents. They were pleased. Then, the pastor prayed for us again. That marked the end of our stay. We shook everyone’s hand again.
On the way out, Joyce showed us the kitchen, which also served as her bedroom. I so wish I had a picture of this, because no description will do it justice. In one corner was the place to build a fire and cook. The wood was stored of a loft. There was one shelf for storage. Then, there were two beds: one for Joyce and one for her daughter. The ceiling was black from the charcoal smoke. My mind immediately thought of Joyce’s lungs! I hope they aren’t as black as that ceiling!
We couldn’t leave quite yet. We had to receive gifts! While I brought a typical Kenyan hostess gift of sugar, tea leaves and bread, they far outdid me. We went home with maize, bananas and a chicken! Instead of saying “Thank you,” Kenyans give gifts. Practical gifts. We ate the chicken on Wednesday. The bananas are still ripening in the store room. I’m cooking the maize tonight…It’s a little late, but I have to try to eat it!
Overall, it was a lovely day. One highlight was Joyce’s father’s account of the way Tenwek evangelized the village. Almost everyone in the room could share a testimony of how Tenwek Hospital has impacted their lives, in both practical and spiritual ways. It was so neat to hear how they revere Dr. Steury, the first full-time doctor who served at Tenwek. And it’s humbling to be a part of his legacy. Tenwek Hospital has and is changing the world for the better. Thanks be to God!!
Praises and Prayer Requests:
1. Praise God for doctors like Dr. Steury who blazes the way for all the current missionaries all over the world today!
2. Praise God that He is the same Redeemer for all people!
3. Praise God for the way He answers prayers! He is so faithful!!
4. Please pray for us as we prepare to move to a new place and attend 8 weeks of language school. (I’ll give more information in an upcoming blog.)
5. Please pray for some friends of ours: Emily and Colleen. Both of these young women are preparing for their first mission trips to Africa. Colleen will be living with us! Please pray that God will be with them as they prepare and that He will show Himself real and faithful during their times in Africa, far away from home.
6. Please pray for the many heart patients recovering at the hospital. A cardiac team just performed two-weeks worth of heart surgeries. Please pray that the patients will heal completely…AND give God all the glory!
7. Please pray blessings over Joyce and her family! She works so hard for us. We appreciate her so much. Please pray that God would reward her for her service to our family.
I’ll close with the portion of I Peter that I’m currently memorizing. “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” I Peter 3:10-12