From Kenya, with Hope.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24 ESV)
The past few days in Kenya have been emotionally exhausting.
I’ve sat in the sweltering heat under the tin roof of mother of five who asked for prayers for hope…her husband left about 6 months ago when she found out that she and her youngest two children, ages five and 18 months, were HIV positive.
I sat under a tree on the grass in the rift valley and listened to a Masai grandmother tell how Compassion has brought hope to her family and been instrumental in helping her raise her three sponsored grandsons.
I listened to my friend Jared tell about the woman whose house he’d visited whose hope had been stolen by sorrow when her husband recently committed suicide. Her 2-year-old lay on the bed next to her gasping for breath; dying from advanced pneumonia.
I watched 16-year-old Hammington tell of his hope to become a “Footballer” on the national team as his mother proudly dug his certificate of excellence in football (soccer) out of a folder she kept on a shelf behind a curtain. His mother is hopeful that her son can break the cycle of poverty with God’s help.
There have been so many more stories like these that we’ve witnessed these past few days that are too many to tell here. But in-between all the powerful moments, both good and difficult, there have been the simple moments that remind me that children are children no matter their environment.
And that gives me hope.
It started with a tentative pat on the back of my head followed by a flurry of whispered Kiswahili and giggles. I turned around to find 4 pairs of eyes and expressions of feigned innocence. I faced forward again and after a few seconds, I felt a few more pats on the back of my head…this time less hesitant. Then the girl seated next to me reached over and gave a little tug as a sixth pair of shoes shuffled up behind me. I turned around and asked if they knew how to braid and their eyes lit up like Christmas. Apparently they had been hoping for this invitation and got right to work as soon as it was issued. They smoothed and patted and divided my hair in half and braided and whispered and giggled and took everything down and tried again. And again. I don’t speak Kiswahili beyond a few words (“Hello,” “Thank You Very Much,” “It’s OK,” “Welcome” and “bottled water” in case you were curious) so while I don’t have an accurate translation of the discussion these girls were having, I have a feeling it was focused on the mystery of why the braids fell out as soon as they let go, and how were they going to remedy this. Finally, they resorted to plan B, and six little pairs of hands tugged and smoothed until my hair was pulled tightly to my head in a single ponytail confined by a hair rubber band I’d given them from around my wrist. Then they sat back and admired their work with the occasional pull or pat that seemed to be more to satisfy curiosity than to correct some imperfection in their styling.
These girls live in tiny rooms with broken families surrounded by sewage and drug use. But today, for 15 minutes they forgot all of that and worried only about how in the world they could make my hair pretty? And their laughter gave me hope. Hope that the work being done is not in vain. My hope is in the Lord and I believe that He has a plan for each of my little hairdressers lives. A plan to prosper them and not to harm them. A plan to give them a hope and future.* “Surely there is a future, and [their] hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 23:18 ESV).