I Shall Not Be In Want

To me the air in Kenya seems cleaner than the air at home, though I know it is not really cleaner in any sense. But when I arrive in Kenya, stepping off the plane in Nairobi, searching for our Kenyan family in a sea of people, I seem to breathe easier and not just because I have finally made it through the 18 hour span of flying across continents. Its like a release of tension of the busyness of my life, a release of being held captive to a world of stuff I know I don’t really need, a release of having to live up to a standard that I know I can never really reach.

For me, Kenya is one of those places where you know you are safe; safe in the sense that I am able to finally exhale and breathe in life fully and deeply. I think God gives us places like this for a chance to experience solitude and restoration for our hearts. And sometimes I think God gives us places like this to break our hearts for what break His, so that we can truly live the life He has envisioned for us, a place where we shall not be in want. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:1-4]

Tonight I find myself trying to write something positive about the last three weeks I have spent in Karai, Kenya and right now all of my brain waves seem to be falling short of joyful. Not because it has not been a great trip, it most definitely has been and for many reasons, but walking back to my room while trying to clear my face from mascara stained tears, I find myself rehashing the life story of the two newest additions to CRCA, brothers Brian and Lewis, and I just can’t seem to move forward from it. Not only did they timidly tell me about their lack of schooling before arriving at CRCA, but they told me that when they would finally receive some food or drinks from a generous person wishing their sick mother well, they would not eat it all at one sitting but rather they would save some for the next couple of days for their mother to have, otherwise they were not sure she would be able to keep on living without it. These boys were telling me how they chose starvation in order to make sure their HIV laden mother had some morsels to survive on… If that is not enough to make you want to curl up into the fetal position and just ball your eyes, then let me continue telling you about their story. Their 13 year old brother, Eric, was the one who really took care of them.  Their mother was outcast from her family some time ago and the only relative willing to help out sometimes, an Uncle, had unexpectedly passed away. Eric was the one who did the laundry, fed them and fed their mother if they had any food, Eric was the one who gave their mother her much needed medicine, changed her soiled bed, etc. At ages 8, 11, and 13 these boys had been living a life that most people can not simply even imagine, yet unfortunately for many kids in Karai this story is not unique to just Eric, Brian and Lewis, there are plenty more children living lives just like they were.

While watching 11 year old Brian cover his face as he tries to hide the tears while he recounts his not so far away past, my thoughts are flooded with hurt, displaced, discontent, overwhelming, burdensome, and broken emotions. How can people who call themselves followers of Christ, myself included, allow this to happen? Better yet, how can God allow this happen? I feel I should and do know the answers to those questions, but yet I keep shaking my head hoping to wake up from this nightmare. This is just a bad dream, right? This can not be real life, can it? Before the boys headed off to bed, I asked if I could pray for them and if they had any prayer requests… both said they wished to do well on their school exams taking place the next day and also that their mother would get well soon. After they had left, their “Aunties” at the CRCA informed me that they received a call earlier tonight that the boys’ mother, Lucy, had passed on after just being in the hospital 2 weeks. Brian, Lewis, and Eric are now orphans at just ages 8, 11, and 13.

I knew most of the kids at the CRCA safe house were orphans but this time around I experienced what the word “orphan” means first hand. I saw where Brian and Lewis used to live, the shanty swarming with flies and dirt and disease; I saw their mother barely breathing in the poorly staffed hospital, holding onto the last moments of her life; I saw the boys break down as they compared their current situation to their past life, how horrible it used to be for them trying to survive each day with a sick mother; and I am experiencing the mourning of her death with them at her funeral, trying to comfort them and remind them they are in safe arms now. The word orphan took on a whole new meaning to me when I realized just how much was stolen from Brian and Lewis.

I have no doubt in my mind that the Good Shepherd guided me to Karai at this point in history to tell these boys’ story, and the many other stories like it. Kenya may not be a green pasture where quite waters babble, at times it surely seems more like what I envision the valley of the shadow of death to be like, but here I find I still breathe easier knowing I shall not be in want, I can not be in want, after experiencing what I have experienced. Remembering back home that I have a family, I shall not be in want especially when many children like Brian and Louis have none, yet they are leading a life of righteousness. Remembering back home I own a house and its a house full of things, I shall not be in want especially when many children have only the clothes on their back to their name, yet they are content. Remembering back home I have a fridge and cupboard filled with food, I shall not be in want especially when many children go to bed starving every single night, yet they are joyful. I have been broken but I know its a good brokenness, a brokenness that reminds me “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”

~ Alyssa Wozniak, November of 2013

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