When Marc and I went to Eldoret for his follow up appointment at the hospital two weeks ago, we ate lunch at a local bistro near the Nakumatt super-store. The food was incredibly American–head and shoulders above what we can get at the mzungu-style restaurants in our next big town. Needless to say, it was a nice “date” for the two of us. I mentioned to Marc that I thought it would be nice to treat the family to a celebratory meal there at some point, to spend some thankful time together as a family.
Travel in Kenya can range from uncomfortable to treacherous. The stretch of road where Marc was forced off the road on his motorbike last month has been the location of many fatalities in recent history–including one later on the very same day as Marc’s. So I’m not lightly saying, “Praise God!” when I say that our family praises God for His protection of Marc the day of his accident. We know that it is entirely possible he could have left for that day’s mission and not come back home that night. And although his injury was serious, it could certainly have been more so. Most significantly, we are thankful that Marc drew near to the Lord in his suffering and experienced a sweet fellowship with Jesus that has carried him through his recovery period in a way that has glorified God and been a witness to many in our community. From the very moments of his injury, the Lord gave Marc confidence that he would be back on his motorbike and back on the mission in just three weeks.
And last week (three weeks to the day of the accident), we saw that happen. Although Marc is still not completely healed, he hopped on his motorbike and met for three days with about ten local church pastors and house church leaders. These two groups of men have historically been in conflict in their community, but by the end of the second day of teaching on the Kingdom of God and Kingdom Expansion, representatives from both groups shared words of reconciliation before the group and publicly exchanged hugs in show of their new feeling of unity. On the third day, teams went out to local homes doing Luke 10-style evangelism–institutional church pastors and house church leaders laboring together for the Kingdom, not for the growth of their own congregations. Two of the people that they visited that day were actually given dreams in advance of the teams’ arrival. One man knew to expect a group of three pastors. Another woman already had her home set up for hospitality and was waiting expectantly for their message. Marc was beyond blessed to see what God did and was so thankful to be back doing what God has brought him here to do.
So after the mission, the subject of a family celebration came up between Marc and me. It’s always hard to make judgment calls such as this and we always debate. It seems unnecessarily extravagant to spend so much money on a single “event” (and involving self-indulgence with food at that, since we know that The Kingdom of God is not About Eating and Drinking), when our neighbors struggle to put ugali on the table. Even so, we knew it would be a blessing to our family and decided to go for it. It seemed confirmed when we received an unexpected donation earmarked for our family, and Marc’s Dad sent some money for the children as well. Even from afar, he still wants to spoil his grand kids.
We arranged for a car for this Monday and, after a weekend full of expectation, were off–on African time, about an hour later than we wanted to. We decided to let the kids order what they want, presuming that it wasn’t over-the-top. We made several requests for items not on the menu. They offered a “beef burger with cheese,” which I can only assume is a steak-burger, but we asked if we could have it “minced,” (i.e., an American-style cheeseburger). I even asked for bacon on mine and although it wasn’t confirmed when I ordered, it came through! Jonah was interested in the fish filet, but it was plain and not breaded. They agreed to bread it for him. We had a couple of small pizzas for everyone to share, including Hawaiian and four-meat. Jubilee, at age three, didn’t really know what she wanted, so I suggested something from the Chinese food menu called “Chicken lollipops.” The description was vague–something about breaded balls of chicken “that can only be described as ‘wonderful.'” It seemed like a fun meal for a three year-old and she agreed with my suggestion.
Everyone tried everyone else’s food and everything was absolutely spectacular. Most agreed, though, that the chicken lollipops were a favorite, and Jubilee beamed as she passed her chicken-on-a-stick around the table. Wish I had gotten a picture.
We window-shopped at Nakumatt, an experience we haven’t had since being in the States. It’s a real American-style store (with price tags to match!). You can think of it as Wal-Mart on steroids. I briefly looked at the covered garbage cans, thinking how nice one would be in place of the cardboard box we use for kitchen garbage, but nearly $25 USD wasn’t something I would be able to justify. We browsed leather furniture (yeah, right…) and the boys practically high-fived when they came around the corner of one aisle and discovered…BAMBOO SKEWERS!! When they had some pocket change in the US, they would often spend $1 at Wal-Mart on skewers to make kites, model cars or planes–anything a young boy can imagine. They’ve often lamented the lack of good “project materials” here in Africa, and skewers have certainly been mentioned by name. So no surprise, Isaiah dropped a pack in the cart: “I’ll pay you back when we get home!”
I paused at the pillow display and had a quickly-whispered conversation with Marc. When we moved to Kenya, we had many furnishings and household items purchased for us in advance of our coming. We were assured that pillows would be procured so we didn’t bother to bring ours. To our dismay, the highest-quality pillows available in town were pretty much rectangular pieces of 2-3″ compressed foam with some fabric sewn around it for looks. Certainly not the most comfortable, but better than nothing. When one of our short-term missionaries left behind what the children call “The Amero-pillow,” each child secretly (or not-so-secretly) hoped it could be theirs. But of course, Dad won. So we decided to suggest to the children American-style pillows of their very own, which they could consider a gift from Grandpa. I don’t think the Nakumatt has heard that much celebratory cheering in a while as the kids chose pillows and jammed them into the cart.
And even though sometimes when we try to do something special for the children, it gets tainted by arguments, selfishness, complaining, and so on (with eight children, they’re all rarely all happy!). But this day was remarkable in that there were no corrections, no bad tones…nothing negative at all. We were very blessed to enjoy such a special day as a family and are thankful to God for His faithfulness, His goodness, and His great love for us in allowing us this time together.