Monica

Monica, our house-help (Maid) is one of my favorite people in Kenya. She is hilarious and some of my most entertaining conversations have taken place in the kitchen watching her cook.

First of all, she worries about me far too much. If I haven’t gotten home by 9:00 PM, she calls me and asks whether I am okay. If I’m too lazy to shave one morning, she’ll say, “Brother Dan, you need to shave to look smart”. If my shoes are dusty from the previous day, she won’t let me leave home until she’s had a chance to wipe them. In the evenings, she always makes sure I have my cup of tea, texting me instead of walking upstairs to my room. Last night’s said, “Hallo Dan, welcome 4 the cup of t”. Apparently bad texting grammar and laziness are not exclusively American problems. And even though she constantly walks around the house barefoot, if I attempt this daring feat she makes me put on sandals, saying my feet are not used to it.

Monica Shining Shoes

Monica Shining Shoes

She said one of my favorite lines ever the other day when I asked when Josephine and Pastor Brown would arrive home (the family I’m staying with). Straightening her posture like she was announcing the arrival of the Queen of England she replied in her Kenyan accent, “Brother Dan, I do not know when they shall arrive, but henceforth from now on they may arrive at anytime.”

We’ve also had some interesting conversations about Kenya, giving me deeper insight into the culture. I told her that Americans like to be slim but most of them are fat. Then I asked her why Africans like to be fat but most of them are slim. She corrected me, saying “People liked to be fat before because it meant you were rich. Now we know that being too fat is unhealthy. A person should not be too fat or too slim.” I couldn’t agree more Monica.

Then, there is her utter shock at the fact that in America, we don’t eat ugali. “It is my favorite food, I could eat it every day and never tire” she says enthusiastically of the unseasoned boiled cornmeal mixture. Personally, I think it’s just mediocre and could easily imagine life without it, but I didn’t mention that part.

Monica had been asking me to attend church with her for a while (she goes to a different church than the family) and yesterday, I honored her request. Knowing that Kenyan churches are in it for the long haul, however, I made a point of having to leave by 1:00. Leaving the house at 9:00 with Josephine who was driving in the same direction, I jumped out of the car at the “bus stop,” if you can call it that, waiting for Monica to join me. Monica fumbled around in the car for a while, looking for something. Apparently, in a moment of African blondeness, she had forgotten to bring her shoes! Josephine and I could not stop laughing. We quickly hatched a plan and I dropped Josephine off at her church, before taking Monica to buy shoes and attend her church. By 10:00 we were sitting in Monica’s church.

For some reason, evangelical churches in Africa feel the need to blast music as loud as possible and literally scream sermons into the microphone. Kenyans have told me that passers-by need to be able to hear the entire service because they might get interested and come inside. Monica’s church has about 20 members, and as the guest of honor (and probably the only white person who has ever stepped foot in the building) they put me front and center, right in front of the two loudspeakers. I was painstakingly aware of how absurdly loud everything was and I pondered why in a small tin shack with 20 people, we needed a PA system at all. When in Rome and To Each His Own I suppose.

Needless to say, this was not my most spiritually enlightening church experience, but I did it for Monica. As I watched the seconds slowly tick away, I prayed that God would grant me more patience. I also had the sermon to entertain me. From my perspective, the pastor seemed to be shouting out random God-related statements for an hour and a half, occasionally turning back to the Bible passage at hand. Taking meticulous notes for later use, some of his most interesting statements included:

 The devil is mute

I don’t believe in getting old

News is a disgrace to God

In the car I preach to myself

We don’t need government – be governors and senators of the word

Now I don’t want to ridicule, but let’s be honest, these are a bit ridiculous. Going to African church did, however, make me realize that as a result of my cultural upbringing, personality, or maybe attending a Christian university, my faith tends towards the academic rather than the emotional. Despite some theologically questionable statements, Christians in Kenya are undeniably passionate about God. After I left at 1:00, Monica attended the afternoon service, which continued until 6:00 PM. She was happy to stay all day and worship, not thinking about what else needed to be done or having personal time for herself. Sometimes I wish I had some more of that faith.

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Unfortunate Realities

Three strange conversations provided a lot of food for thought last week.  I thought I would share them with you.

I had a long conversation last week with a Muslim convert to Christianity who is completely disillusioned with Kenyan Christians.  He has experienced pastors that steal from orphans, believers that have sued him, and people with a complete lack of integrity working in the church.   He’s often considered returning to Islam because Christians have failed him miserably.  His only hope now is Jesus.  It makes me wonder how can Christians act like this.  These aren’t just nominal Christians that go to church on Easter and Christmas, these are pastors and elders stealing from their own congregation.  As I have noticed, there is sadly a lot of hollow religious talk in this country.  There seems to be a pervasive lack of integrity at all levels that isn’t being addressed.

I had a second interesting conversation with a long-term missionary in Kenya.  He’s been robbed, beaten, and threatened too many times to count.  Last year he and his friend were mountain biking through a rural area when thieves attacked them with machetes and took everything they had.  Now he just carries a pistol around with him all the time and will shoot to kill if necessary.  Unfortunately that is the reality here.  You have to think about your own safety first because if you don’t you won’t survive for long.  I know that’s controversial for Christians because of verses like “Turn the other cheek”, but you have to be in a similar situation before you can judge another person for their actions.  If it’s between your family and the thief, I have to believe that I would choose to protect our family, no matter what the Bible says.

Finally, I had a ridiculous conversation with two Kenyans about the way to treat women.  They were telling me about this show “Cheaters” and how much they liked it.  Basically the premise of the show is that people who think their spouses are cheating on them can call in and ask the show to spy for them.  Quality entertainment I know.  Anyway, the only problem these guys had with the show was that women could hit men when they found out about men cheating, but men couldn’t hit them back!  “In Africa”, they told me “you have to give your wife a proper beating”.  They even told me that beating your wife was a sign of love, just like you would discipline a child to keep them from getting spoiled.  All that to say, this conversation was definitely a moment of cultural realization for me and understanding how different this place really is.

So far I’ve been safe from any Al-Shabab attacks.  I’m trying to avoid crowded public places with lots of foreigners and stay on the down low.  Thanks for all your prayers and concerns.