I was standing in the Kipchimatt supermarket in Bomet, Kenya. I anxiously searched the tall shelves, my eyes darting between the bottles of red Peptang sauce and bags of white rice. UGH, they have no coconut oil. I silently cursed the grocery store.
Back in Kenya for seven weeks, I’m reminded of the struggle. The struggle to lug fruits and vegetables from the market to my apartment. The struggle for missionaries to maintain sanity and Sabbath when patients are very sick and the demands of the hospital are intense. The struggle to keep a residency training program afloat. The struggle to afford hospital bills. The struggle to pay school fees. The struggle for clean water. The struggle for daily bread. And yes, even my struggle to find extra virgin coconut oil.
Friends of Tenwek donors are supporting the struggle for clean water through a bio-sand filter project through Tenwek Community Health and Development (TCHD). Last week I went into the village to visit some of the families who received a water filter through the program. TCHD empowered local churches to identify needy individuals and distribute the filters.
We were eagerly welcomed into a small home, the size of my laundry room in my home in the states. Two young girls smiled brightly and ushered inside the unexpected guests.
Deborah is 13 years old. Her sister Joyline is 15 years old. These teenagers are orphans. Their parents both died, so they live alone. Joyline has a six-month-old baby, Albright Cherono. She dropped out of 10th grade when she gave birth.
Joyline poured a cup of water. “We are so grateful for the clean water,” she told me, through the help of an interpreter. “The church gave us the water filter. The church has been like our brother.”
Deborah and Joyline and Albright. Two teenage sisters caring for an infant. Their lives feel like the epitome of struggle.
We all experience struggle. Struggle is real in every country around the world. God told us to expect trials and tribulations in this life. I guess the struggle just feels more palpable in this tiny home with soft dirt floors and clunky wooden furniture.
Later I found out that someone killed Deborah and Joyline’s single cow. In the middle of the night. The cow was stabbed and left to die. In Kenyan culture, a cow is a lifeline of milk and income.
“Why,” I asked.
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil,” answered Andrew Cheruiyot, one of the leaders of Tenwek Community Health.
The struggle continues. We wonder where God is. We wonder how life can feel so hard, so unfair.
So what do we do? What do we do about the struggle?
I wish I could solve in this blogpost the problems of unsanitary water
and teenage pregnancy
and hungry children
and burned out missionaries
and lack of health care
and rampant poverty
But for today, I just want to say thank you.
Thank you for seeing the struggle, knowing the struggle, caring about the struggle, joining the struggle. The $13 to purchase a water filter is so much greater than a water filter. It’s about knowing the struggle. Joining the struggle.
It’s about knowing Deborah and Joyline and Albright. Caring about them, praying for them, joining their struggle.
It’s about joining God and bringing His Kingdom to earth, as it is in Heaven.
The water filter is just the beginning. Now the local church has rallied around Deborah and Joyline. Visiting their home often. Bringing food, sugar and tea leaves. Encouraging the girls to stay in school. Hosting a fundraiser to purchase a new cow. Providing discipleship and community. Loving these precious teenage girls. Being the church.
Thank you for sponsoring a water filter. Thank you for praying. Thank you for serving. Thank you for caring. Thank you for bringing His Kingdom to earth. As it is in Heaven.
There is hope. Hope in the Kingdom of God. Hope that He is making all things new, both now and forever.
May we continue to know the struggle and join the struggle, in our neighborhoods and around the world.
Unwilling to surrender, I examined the Kipchimatt grocery store shelves once more. Like a knight in shining armor, I spotted a tiny, wonderful treasure. Tucked away behind the mayonnaise was one small jar of coconut oil, patiently waiting to be chosen for someone’s shopping basket.
All of a sudden I felt silly for being so upset over coconut oil.
Words from the book of Hebrews immediately came to mind: “…for here we have no lasting city…“
I am grateful for God’s patience with His children. Loosening my grip on coconut oil. Loosening my grip on this world and making room to love, serve and care for others. Making room to bring His Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.
So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood. So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.
– Hebrews 13:12-16
The answer to the problem of evil is Christ dying on the cross for the world.
– James K. Smith