Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Finding Hope

Victor, originally uploaded by Boyznberry.

This morning, I joined our social worker Ruth for some home visits. The families we were to visit are both ones with pretty dismal stories, and I didn't really know what to expect. "Show us, Father, how to share the hope that we have in You," I prayed as we started the journey.

First stop: Tekla's house. This mother of six has made some improvement since people from ELI have started visiting her. But she's still trapped in alcoholism, which truly prohibits the family from making much-needed improvement. Her husband is an alcoholic, too, and he smokes bang (marijuana). One night, while he was high, he attacked their one son, trying to cut his head off.

The son survived, but his vocal cords were severed, leaving him without a voice. He is now living with someone in another community.

The dad ended up in prison, but has since been released, and everyone's dreading the day he may show up at home...

In the meantime, Tekla continues to drink while having four children at home. There's hardly a thing in their house. No food. Just some dirty pots from having cooked porridge this morning. ELI's home-based care team provides the flour for the porridge. They've learned not to bring more than she can cook in just a few days since she trades food for alcohol.

Tekla wasn't there when we showed up, so we got to visit with the kids for a while. Jeptoo, the 8-year-old, reminds me a lot of Jemutai. She's yet another young girl who basically has to care for younger siblings... Ruth has been encouraging Jeptoo to help their 3-year-old sister Jesang to walk. Jesang is about the size of my American neighbors' 1-year-old. She doesn't walk. She hardly talks. We suspect it's from neglect, but Ruth is taking her to a clinic in town later this week to see if it might be a physical handicap. In the meantime, Jeptoo is shown how to hold Jesang's hand and carefully help her to take little steps.

While the girls are working on walking, 6-year-old Cosmas quietly plays with his baby brother, Victor, who is just shy of 2 years old. "Cosmas has a severe stutter," Ruth explains later, "so he doesn't talk much." But Victor is oblivious to the trails his older siblings have faced. His age has been the protecting factor, just like in the case of Kipruto.

We leave later with a promise of being back. I call the guys from our AA ministry, and they commit to come and visit Tekla, to talk to her about joining our November intake at Kipkaren. "Things will be better, Adele," Ruth assures me. "They already are. But the mom must stop drinking..."

A 40-minute-or-so walk from there, we stop at our next home for the morning, that of Lillian, the mom with twins. Her home is a stark contrast with the one we had just visited. The compound has been swept. Clean laundry is hanging on the line.

"Karibu!" the young mom says with a big smile. Her hair has been wound into small balls, and as we sit down in her sparse living room, she cannot stop fiddling with her hair, constantly twisting new balls. It looks cute, but I can't help but wonder about the mom. She's just . . . different.

We ask about her babies and she's happy to report that she's now producing more milk, but not enough to sustain both. "She's still feeding the babies uji," Ruth translates. "She says porridge has more nutrition than milk..." Riiiiight. For 2-month-olds! "And she says she's adding Blue Band [margarine] to fatten them up." I just about swallowed my tongue.

We visit more, and she tells us that she still gets really bad dreams. I pray for her before we head out, but somehow, I just can't seem to find the right words to pray. I don't know why.

Ruth stays behind to talk to her about family planning. The 29-year-old isn't interested. "I can't take shots," she explains to Ruth. "I have cancer."

"What kind of cancer?"

"It moves all over my body..."

"Would she be willing to give them formula if I bought it?" I ask Ruth on the walk home.

"We can try!"

Lillian used to brew alcohol for an income, but no longer does it. Typically, she sells her body to make money...

We walk home in silence. What can we do for our neighbor? Her problems go far deeper than producing enough milk for her twins. It's more than postpartem depression. I am no doctor, so I cannot say, but others talk of schizophrenia. And some major spiritual issues.

Where's the hope in this? 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you and accounting for the hope that is in you." I know my hope is in Christ. He gives meaning to my life. But I've never gone to bed hungry. I've not had a parent abuse me, or be psychologically unstable. How is it possible to keep the hope when your world is far less than simple.

God knew I needed an answer, that this week, more questions seem to be coming forth from my side than I can find simple answers for. So he sent Nellie to my door.

"Adele! I praise God for this chance to see you!" my friend said with all sincerity as she gave me the biggest hug. She's here for an interview, and still has to make the couple-hour journey back home, so we cannot visit for long.

As we walk over to the children's home so she can see her nephew and niece, she cannot contain her joy. "I have to tell you! My mother is now sober!"

"How did that happen??!"

"She just quit drinking one day! God has answered my prayers of many years. I cried for one week. Tears of joy, really. Our home is a different place. Imagine... my mom can now cook for us. I can find a job!"

Sydney and Niva smile the biggest smiles I've seen in a while when they see their aunt walking over. They give her huge hugs and fumble to find the right words. Having lived in a Swahili-speaking environment for a year now, they've forgotten much of their mother tongue. Nellie switches to Swahili and tells them news from Mt. Elgon, of cousins who send greetings. Then she tells them that gogo no longer drinks. Their little smiles cannot get any bigger!

"It's ONLY because of God, Adele," Nellie assures me as I drive her to the main road. "I have seen God break through so many areas! Now, people are starting to say in my village, 'I want my daughter to be like Nellie. I don't want her to undergo FGM.' Imagine! God is answering my prayers."

Indeed. Nellie was the first girl in her village to refuse FGM. She was shunned by her community and by her family. Yet she stayed on so she could serve her alcoholic parents and her siblings who were dying of AIDS. Today, people are starting to follow her example.

When I finally drop her at the matatu stage, my heart is light. God does indeed answer prayers. And though change happens slowly in rural Kenya, it does happen. It takes only one to stand up against cultural practices that have gone unchallenged for too many years.

As for cases like that of Tekla and Lillian, it takes a village to come alongside these families. To love and support them. To show them Christ's love.

I am infinitely grateful to be part of a village and a ministry who is doing just that.


  1. Adele -- as always - thank you for letting us share a glimpse of your world.

  2. Adele,

    About 2 years ago, the Lord gave me a scripture to pray over our entire assembly--and every day He would bring to my mind someone else to add to the list! The scripture is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. My prayer goes something like this. "Lord, in the authority of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, I take authority over every stronghold, every bondage, every dark spirit, every belief system, every argument,and every arrogant obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and I take every thought captive to obey Christ, in the life/lives of . . . I declare them free, redeemed, healed, delivered, and restored in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

    This doesnt take the place of my secret time with Him, but it's an intercession task He's given me--to exercise His authority over the forces of sin, darkness, and violence in His name. I go through the list every night, name by name, before I go to our secret place, and before I go to sleep.
    If I were praying for your friends, that is the prayer I would be praying over them--nonstop!