The phrase kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba has become my motto while staying in Kenya. The phrase is a proverb that translates, “little by little you fill the pot,” and has become a metaphor for the way I have and will continue to approach the variety of things I learn while living here.
I wish that I was able to walk into a home, breeze past the language barrier, and carry on a conversation with the guardians and students as if I wasn’t a sudden intruder, a visitor with little to offer, a university student who can’t understand what it would be like to welcome strangers into your home as if it’s just one more stop on the Kenya tour. It is not the act of visiting homes, of showing one cares, of taking notice of students and families that makes the home visit such a stiff and segmented process; it is me.
The other day we did a GET UP (Girls Empowerment Team of the Umoja Project) session with the middle school aged girls at four of the Umoja partner schools. Our topic to cover was HIV/AIDS. Simple enough, right?
The home visits that we did yesterday filled me with joy and apprehension. Looking at these lives that are so different from my own, all I can ask is what is my role here? Why did God want me here? What do I have to offer the Kenyans? From my brief stay here I can tell you many things that the people of Kenya have to offer me and teach me about life. But I’m still wondering what my gifts are and where they factor in here.
After three days of planning meetings, orientation meetings, fellowship meetings and more meetings, I am left with a contented tiredness and an overwhelming admiration for the Umoja Project and all those in both Indiana and Kenya who work tirelessly to make it the beautiful organization that it is.
Last month, while the interfaith leaders group from Indiana was in Kenya, they met with congregational leaders from local churches in the area. They planned to have a prayer service together. Local congregations also invited their members to attend. We all met in a Catholic church – and represented three different faiths: Jew, Muslim, and Christian. Many Christian denominations were present, too many to count. Some of these denominations are international… some were founded in Africa and are very traditional to African culture. We gathered and filled the church.
The striking contrast remains vivid in my mind. Two attractive young Kenyan women – Caren and Evelyn. Twelve year old Caren sat in the front room of the two room house she shares with her grandmother. Shy but bright, and lit by the sun coming through the front door.
While preparing my reflection I was attentive to the fact that many of you have had some type of interaction with our Kenyan brothers and sisters through the Umoja Project, and I did not want to offer you a story that you had already heard. But I realize that my assignment today is not to entertain you with exciting or sentimental stories as though you were reading Chicken Soup for the Soul. Rather it is to worship with you, so God can remind us of how important it is to tell the right story, the right way.
I woke up about seven times this morning, each time trying desperately to ignore the crowing of the roosters outside of my window. Determined to be heard, these feathered alarm clocks made a noise that pierced through cement walls and thick windows, deep sleep and even ear-plugs. As I reflect upon this morning’s wake-up call I am reminded of the personal growth and theological enlightenment I have attained during my short stay in Kenya.
As I sat down to try to think who I could call to help me (or at least someone I could yell at) we heard a soft knock on the door. Lydia opened it to find two of the young students at Mawego Girl’s Secondary Boarding School standing on our doorstep. We immediately invited them in.