Kenya- land of sunshine and friendly smile, fresh fruit and veggies, vast Mara plains and
beautiful mountains. Kenya- land of poverty and in many places, drought; far too many unwed teenage mothers and orphans; senseless murders and bribery. Life is full of paradoxes wherever we go. Kenya taught me that very clearly. I went to share God’s love. And I came back feeling as though I received more than I gave. Miriam Adeney once said, “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” I found that to be so true.
In July of 2016, my parents were asked to go pastor a church in the small town of Ugunja in
Kenya. They moved across the ocean in April of 2017. My sister and I followed them two months later. She planning to stay for two months before moving back to the States to get married. And I, well, I thought I might go for a year or so. I really wrestled with this idea of serving in Kenya. I am the youngest of four siblings, and after my sister got married, I was the only sibling still at home. I had just turned twenty-one when I moved over to Kenya. While my parents were called to pastor a church over there, what was I going to do? I knew I would need something to pour my time and energy into. God took care of that aspect. About a month before I went, I was asked to teach grades one to three at the small school they had for the missionary families. I was excited about the opportunity to do that, but I still wasn’t ready to commit for more than a year. I suppose we all have dreams. It seems some people dream more than others. Well, I had a lot of dreams about what I thought I would do at that point in my life, and Kenya had not been a part of those dreams. So, I wrestled with whether to go home or stay longer than a year. But it felt as though God was asking me to stay. Reluctantly, I did. Surrender is a difficult thing. And neither is it usually a once and done process. God was asking me to trust Him and the plan He had for me. I thought my own plans were pretty good ones. I still have a lot of dreams today, but I’m trying to hold them with open hands before my heavenly Father. Maybe someday they will be fulfilled, maybe they won’t. But I am trying to learn to trust His heart in the things He allows in my life.
The first year of my time in Kenya was probably the most difficult. Like I mentioned earlier, I was
wrestling with a lot things. I don’t think I was prepared for all the adjustments of living in a place so entirely different from what I knew. I didn’t expect it to take as long as it did to adjust. I missed home, the familiar, and the comfortable, dreadfully. I wasn’t used to living in a city (especially a compound) where we could hear our neighbors talking next door. I grew up in the country, and I missed wide open fields and spaces to roam. I wasn’t used to being in the minority. Going to church, we were the only mzungus (white people) there. Holidays were hard. I missed family gatherings. I missed out on quite a few of my friends and cousins’ weddings.
Our little church at Ugunja was about an hour and a half drive from the city of Kisumu where we
lived. In between there, there were about seventy speed bumps to bounce over. Yes, I counted! Kenya can make very effective speed bumps. If you’ve been there, you know! It’s amazing what can become normal and almost mundane. Church services where everything gets translated, backless wooden benches, chickens wandering through the church house, and the sound of loud music coming from another church nearby. Now, I miss that and the Kenyan people that became dear friends. I miss trying to make conversation with my limited Luo and their limited English. I learned that there are ways to show you care about someone that go deeper than words.
I would like to tell you about my friend Caroline. One of the ladies from our church. Caroline had
polio which caused one leg to be shorter than the other and makes her walk with a limp. Caroline’s husband left her years ago to “find work” in Uganda and has only very recently come back. That left Caroline to raise her children by herself including finding funds to send them to school. But I don’t remember hearing her complain. Instead, she worked hard to try to support herself and her children. When I went back to Kenya to visit, I spent an afternoon at Caroline’s house. She mentioned that she had wanted to buy a pair of sandals for me, but that she had had to go take care of her mother and had to use the money for transport. Later, after I was back in the States, she bought a pair of sandals and gave them to someone from the mission to send back to the States with visitors that were over there who then sent them to me. That was one of the most special gifts that I have ever received! I know that there are probably a lot of things that she needed worse than I ‘needed’ those sandals. That gesture of friendship was priceless.
Teaching school was my job description, but I had the opportunity to travel to so many beautiful
places in Kenya. Mount Kenya, the Maasai Mara, Mount Kilimanjaro, Rusinga Island, and Jinja, Uganda were some of the highlights. We lived in the city of Kisumu which is right on the shores of Lake Victoria. Going down to the lake to just sit and listen to the waves crashing in and watch the sunset was one of my very favorite things to do.
I was also privilege to experience a bit more culture during a ten-day bible school called Christian Believers Youth Conference or CBYC. It was a place for the youth from all of the churches associated with our mission to come a learn more about the Bible and make new friends. The majority of the students were Kenyans with a few of us mzungu youth joining them. We slept in dorms, ate traditional Kenyan food, went to classes, and well, did life together. The cultural differences sometimes seemed glaring, like when I was sitting a table surrounded by Swahili talk and feeling very lost. I had learned more of the tribal language of the people of our church, but there they spoke the national language which I knew very little of. Eating the same food day after day was a bit of a challenge for this American who is used to variety. I learned to wash my laundry by hand. Though, let’s be honest, I did as little laundry as possible.��But in spite of cultural differences, I formed friendships with the Kenyan youth that worth all the challenges. It was that that made it so painful to leave Kenya.
Three years after I arrived, I found myself in tears as I said good-bye to a place that had become
home to me. I’m so glad I stayed in Kenya longer than I had thought I would and learned the lessons God had for me there. I am richer for having experienced life in Kenya. I’ve been back in the States for about two and half years now; and, sometimes, I still get “homesick” for Kenya. I miss my friends there and the sunshine, especially in the winter.�� However, God has also blessed my life here richly, and I want to faithful to place God has called me to be here.
Thank you Miss Kaylita for writing this! We are so blessed to know Kaylita as she has helped our family with school the past several years! She is a beautiful lady that shines gentleness and Jesus wherever she goes!