Saturday, July 29, 2017
Friday, July 28, 2017
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A RE-POST OF AN EARLIER BLOG I WROTE DURING OUR TRIP IN 2014. It is a summary of reflections I had during that trip and is no less valid today than it was back then.
"Being in Kenya makes you reflect on your own life and the blessings you experience. I have purposed to not take life for granted, which is so easy to do. And sometimes it's the little things, not big earth shattering differences. Please don't get me wrong: I don't in any way intend to use this blog to lay a guilt trip on you. But it's a way for me to journal and get my thoughts in perspective. At home, there are so many distractions, it's often hard to hear God speak. Here in Kenya, it's much easier.
One thing I have never really spent much time thinking about is life expectancy. On Tuesday, I was working with the Kenyan laborers making a ladder for working on the top of the wall, and I got talking with my friend Rufus about age. I asked how old he is, and he told me to guess. He has three daughters , age one and a half to nine, and he is probably close to 40, although he never told me. One of the Kenyan workers offered that he himself is 45. He looks nearly old enough to be my father, but not quite! And I'm 62! Life in Kenya is certainly hard. I don't think that this man is an exception. For the vast majority of Kenyans, every day is an effort to just keep going, and it's not like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And yet the majority of the people we see and meet are joyful. It's hard to explain. But a few nights ago after dinner, a friend, Chief Francis Kariuki, who is chief over a large area of Kenya, spent time with us. In our group meeting, he addressed the subject I had been typing about just before dinner - he echoed that life in Kenya is hard. But he also gave the answer of how the Kenyan people can be joyful in spite of circumstances: "by the grace of God". Kenya is largely a Christian nation, as ours once was. I like to think that ours still is, yet it's sometimes difficult to find enough evidence to prove it. Christianity is constantly viewed in a bad light in the press and is the faith that is easiest to pick on without being criticized. And yet it is their Christian faith that allows them to find joy where others would find none.
Last night, we had a discussion about the standard of living of the people we see on the street. You constantly see people trying to earn a living in whatever way they can; many haul hundreds of pounds of dirty water in jerry cans, either on their back, head, bicycle or motor bike, to sell to others. Many more carry mountains of sacks of charcoal in the same way, since this is used by everyone to cook their food over small open cookers, and they have a ready market for the charcoal they make from raw wood. Many more set up whoever they can find to sell fruits and vegetables, whether at a small stand or with their produce spread on the ground at an intersection. We asked Sam, the Kenyan project manager for SWOK, what people could hope to earn from their endeavors and whether they could earn a decent living. His answer was hard. He said their hope is to earn enough to feed their family for THAT DAY. No planning for tomorrow, no putting away something for a rainy day, just trying to survive for that day for themselves and their family. That's a hard reality. We are so blessed that we can plan and save and put away for tomorrow. We actually have something called "retirement" that a lot of Americans look forward to. I wouldn't even be surprised to find out that there isn't a Swahili word for retirement. I'm embarrassed to even ask.
Another thing I know I take for granted is recreation. The only forms of recreation I have seen in Kenya are playground-type activities for the young kids (home-made hose hoolahoops, soccer ball or jump rope) and a soccer stadium in Nairobi. There is the evidence of some fun activities for the kids, but not much for the adults. Again, I wouldn't be too surprised if there is no Swahili word for "leisure". I cherish my weekends and time off, and it gives me something to look forward to during the work week. I'll try not to take it for granted.
It's a real rarity to see a Kenyan who is overweight. Food is a precious commodity, and I've never seen it wasted here. I try not to waste it either. But at home, it's everywhere. If I want a snack between meals, I have a myriad of choices. I have never wondered where my next meal is coming from. EVER! I've never in my life gone to bed hungry (okay, maybe there was that once when my parents sent me to my room without dinner for acting bad, but you get the point!). I'm a billionaire when it comes to comparison with the average Kenyan, and my food pantry and refrigerator prove it. I am amazingly blessed, and I don't want to take it for granted.
Another necessity of life that's easily taken for granted has been emphasized to me both this trip and last year: clean water. We think nothing of drinking water from the tap, swimming in a pond or stream, taking a shower and letting the water run in our mouth. In most of Kenya, you wouldn't think of it. I haven't seen a stream that isn't flowing brown, dirty and nasty. We are fortunate to be staying in a conference center that has an expensive, complex water purification system, so we are able to drink it or shower without concern. But this is an unheard of luxury for the vast majority of Kenyans. Their digestive systems are more accustomed to it than ours would be, but they get typhoid, cholera and dysentery just like we would if we drank it. And they have no choice. That is, until some organizations like SWOK and others started addressing the problem. There are organizations that have dug wells and put in water purification, but these can only have a limited area of influence, and they must be maintained to keep them running properly. SWOK has chosen to address the problem on a local, personal level. The filtration kits that they train people to use and give them for free will provide clean water to them and their family for the rest of their life! They will each produce over one million gallons of clean drinking water by gravity with no ongoing cost or effort except daily back flushing with a small amount of the clean water produced. SWOK has been distributing these for four years, and they have demonstrated significant reduction in waterborne illnesses in communities where they have been given away. They are truly making a difference here in Kenya, one life at a time."