“whatever you have done for the least of these you have done for Me.” she remembers reading that, and then reaching for her calendar to see when next she could free herself to travel. His message was clear, and she didn’t want another day going by, without a plan to travel.
she made it to Kenya.
her, her husband Chris whom she had pleaded with for days, and promised all sorts of promises, to have him join their travels to Africa. he eventually agreed, and there he was miles and miles away from home, in a country far from what he was accustomed to, yet from the minute he set foot on the dusty streets of Nairobi, he felt a certain intrigue about the place that left him thankful to have made the trip. he dared not mention a word to Anna, who had for weeks tried tirelessly to convince him to take the trip, and many a times he did everything in his power to avoid that discussion. their two daughters tagged along as well. one willing, and one unwilling. though Anna had solicited their feedback on traveling to Africa, much like her husband, the decision to travel was not up to debate. they would make the trip whether or not they cared to.
summer had made it’s way to that Eastern part of Africa. the sun’s rays, were as bright as bright can be, and the humidity not as bad as what they were used to back in California. it took them a few hours traveling behind an old unkept truck, listening to what they were to later learn was traditional Luo music, which was turned way up in the truck so that no matter how loud one spoke, ones voice would inevitably be drowned in the sea of music. the gentle breeze that came from the lake was a pleasant surprise, as the murkiness of the city heat, was slowly but surely building up. Kisumu, they found out was the closest city, to the humble dwelling where James, his sister and parents called home. they arrived Riat around four pm that day, and the only reason they knew the time, was because the old gray bearded man at the entrance of the market where they stopped for food, welcomed them with a grin on his face, as he stared at the bright shinning sun, and declared it’s brightness and direction of brightness, to mean the arrival of the four o’clock hour.
they found James seated by the fire place outside their mud thatched hut, which was by the way a complete surprise to all of them, as they had never known such a life to exist. it was obvious that the seemingly great supply of electricity, water and all that seemed regular in their lives, was not as great in supply as they had thought. James and his father had just made it home, from a days work of herding their one cow, two goats and a malnourished looking sheep they inherited when his grand father passed away a few months back. the sun was still bright as bright can be, and their youngest daughter who for the first time since departing California, seemed to embrace the journey they had dared as a family to take, decided to break the ice, and dare James into a game of catch. looking up, with one hand covering his dry face and eyes, like a sun glass would from the grueling sun, he smiled and gently and might i add respectfully turned her down.
having spotted him a few steps from his home, Anna had immediately noticed his frail looking body, the orange looking hair color and the look of despair that clouded his face. he seemed tired, and frankly over-worked. at the age of ten, James did what most young adults shy away from, and yet in this land so far far away from home, lived a handsome, frail looking boy who barely spoke English, and if he did he would often mix up words with his local language, who despite all odds, had managed to accomplish, what many even as adults struggle with. as he respectfully declined Anna’s daughter’s offer to play, he whisked her out a few steps from where they stood, and revealed to her that he would be saving his energy, for tomorrow’s work day. we were to later learn that dinner would not be served that night, as this year’s bright shinning summer, had brought with it severe drought, which had left James and his family many a nights hungry and hopeless. that night, was no exception.
it seemed as if the entire village had gathered together to bring their greetings to Anna and her family. James’s mother and father both smiled, and shock their hands with great joy and appreciation for their company. it was not long before they were all signaled towards some square shaped stones, to have a seat and receive their welcome. Anna caught on, and dragged her husband close to her, as they sat on these stones, and watched as Mary (James’s mother), prepared what seemed like a mud drink, and bread which didn’t look like bread, as it was made with a white looking paste that seemed to belong in an art store of some sort.
they were the only ones allowed to eat that night. it was their custom that visitors were blessings, and as such must be greeted with a meal to usher in the blessings they bought with them. and so it was that Mary served her guests, with the little they had, and the little she had toiled all day to make as good as she could, with what seemed like an empty supply of nothing edible. the rest of the villagers looked on, as Anna and her family took what seemed like painful bites into this meal that had been graciously served. Anna offered her food to James, as he looked more in need of it than she did, and also because if she was being honest, the meal that evening even though made with love, did not settle well with her tummy, and am sure the same would be told of her husband and her children as well. even then, they respectfully ate their meals, and called it a night.
as they were heading back to their hotel, they decided instead to gift the family with the blessings they had travelled so very far to bring. Anna’s heart seemed distraught at the condition they lived in. the mud thatched hut, had no heat or privacy available. the entire family slept in that one tiny little space, and had very few blankets to warm their cold bodies on cold winter nights. so it was a pleasure to then bring with them hope, and pass that along.
the gifts came as a surprise to James and his family. the seemingly hopeless faces, turned to hope as Anna and her family presented the gifts to them that evening. James particularly was very excited to receive his first pair of canvas shoes at the age of ten. mother and father were honored to know that the very next day and weeks ahead, Anna and their local friends would be drilling boreholes for fresh water, and building them a better place to call home.
it was a dream come true.
Mary cried helplessly that night. tears of joy flooded her face, as she danced around the fire that seemed to also light up even more, as joy filled the village that summer evening. they all joined her in tears, and danced for hours as they thanked God for remembering them. Hosanna had indeed visited them, they said. they were no longer the forgotten children, hidden somewhere in the vast land of Africa.
perhaps, hope lives James thought.
perhaps, becoming a doctor was no longer so much as a dream, as it was a possible reality.
as he reminisced about the many nights he had sat outside their hut, and dreamt of a life better than what they had. he had always enjoyed and found it a great blessing helping his father with their cattle, particularly when they were ill. he enjoyed learning how to make them feel better, and had always wished to maybe one day become a doctor himself.
that dream seemed possible that night.
hope lives, he said over and over again.
hope sure did live
as Anna and her family made their way home that evening, their truck made a turn for the worst and refused at all to start. they were stuck. the next city was not miles away, and the only friend they knew of was out of reach.
stuck in the reality of living a night in Mary shoe.
as if the thought was not as bad, Anna and her family followed Mary back to their hut, and settled down on the cold mud floor, with sheet coverings as their blankets and settled their eyes to sleep, as mid-night had made it’s way there. again, the only reason why they knew it was mid-night, was because a story is told of the mid-night crow that only crows late in the night, around the mid-night hour said Mary.
they woke up early the very next morning to the sound of the early morning birds, and growling stomachs. James and his entire family had not eaten much of anything for days. they looked tired, but after the night they had had, they shared a glimmer of hope. it was not long before a family friend joined them, and got their truck started which they then used to return back to the city to pick up supplies. James tagged along, and was happy to lend a hand after filling his tummy with eggs, bacon, potatoes and tea for break fast. he had never eaten anything as good, nor had a plate so full of food. he ate so much, and stuffed some food in his small pouch to take back home to his family. Anna caught a glimpse of him stuffing his food from the side of her eyes, and later that day she pulled him aside and let him know that she would never again let his family go hungry another day, and that they would be taking back lots and lots of food to feed them all. James was happy. that is all that seemed to matter. that his family would have enough to eat and live.
days and weeks went by, and Anna, her family and friends gathered together to bless a family that seemed to have blessed them even more than they could ever have dreamt or imagine. and when they eventually returned back to California, life was never the same again. never would it ever be the same again, not after meeting poverty, and it then speaking hope to them.
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