SACRIFICE AND GRATITUDE
Sacrifice and Gratitude are coupled in the lives of so many Kenyans. I’ve never encountered such gratitude as I have with the people of this land. No matter how small or great the gift was they expressed such thankfulness. As far as sacrifice goes, do you realize how humbling it is to come to a land where people who have so very little still make so many sacrifices for others? These aren’t just ‘Oh, I’ll skip my double latte so I can put an extra $5 in the offering plate’ type sacrifices. These are sacrifices that affect those who offer them every single day.
Take Boaz for instance. He and his wife have taken in so many orphans that they now have 40 children and counting that they call their own. What is his sacrifice, you ask? Well, it affects his wife, Helen, as well. They sleep on a small mattress in their kitchen every night so that there’s enough room in their home for their children. Coming back to our bedroom in the states, my husband and I couldn’t help but wonder how many orphans would fit in there. Boaz and Helen know sacrifice. They know the value and importance of it. They are grateful for every single provision the Lord makes for them. Boaz is a walking, breathing portrait of obedience and sacrifice.
Then, there are the women of the last church our team helped to build. I didn’t do hardly anything, really. I played with a few children before I went to the near by school. When I returned to the church, it was completely built. There was an elderly woman of the church who came to me and asked what I was going to give her that day. I told her I’d be right back. I ran to the van, frantically, searching for something appropriate to give to a bunch of church ladies. All I had were some plastic cross necklaces that I’d ordered from Oriental Trading for gifts for children. I thought, “Oh, great. They’re going to think this is so cheesy.” But, it was all that I had to give them.
You would have thought I was putting a diamond necklace from Tiffany’s around their sweet necks. They were so grateful. I went to sit down after they had thanked me. The next thing I knew, they had all busted out into a native tongue hallelujah song and were bringing this strange looking, very large fruit to me as a gift of gratitude. It was the size of a watermelon with skin the texture of a cantaloupe. They told me it was a jackfruit. Later that day, I saw the tree; yes TREE that it grew on. I sure wouldn’t want to be sitting under one of those when the jackfruit decided to fall. They sacrificed one of their prized pieces of food in an act of gratefulness. I didn’t deserve it by any means. But they served me with all that they had nevertheless.
These women, along with the women from all the rest of the villages we helped build churches in showed us gratitude and sacrifice after each completion of a church. Once the roof was on, you could be sure that there would be a group of women who would come out of nowhere, only to bring mounds of ugali (a wet corn bread dish), beef, chicken, kale, and rice. It never failed. How do these women know how to show gratitude and welcome to strangers? Well, I’d say that it’s similar to how women of the South in the US greet strangers…they fill people’s bellies with their best recipes. The difference between those two groups of women is that the beautiful ladies of Kenya don’t have the fully stocked pantries like the Southern Belles do. They just have what they grow or slaughter. No matter how successful their crop may have been, they shared what they had because they were grateful.
Another instance of gratitude that I saw was in that of a Muslim Headmaster. We were so thankful for the opportunity to get to share the gospel with his school children. At first we were surprised that he would even let us do so once we found out he was of the Islam faith. He looked us in the eyes and told us that even though he was a Muslim, he knew we had knowledge that we could pass along to his children. So, we did. We passed along the knowledge of Jesus Christ with joy to these school children.
When we went to thank the headmaster for allowing us to come, we were able to give him a bag full of gifts like crayons, paper plates, little cross mazes, and a soccer ball. Sitting on top, there was one of our “Smile, Jesus Loves You” beach balls. We were able to share Christ with him in a very basic form by pointing to that beach ball and telling him that we came to tell him that He can have hope like we have and that he can smile, because Jesus loves him too. We gave him the bag and told him that we hoped we would see him again in Heaven some day. Though stunned that a woman was even speaking to him so boldly and of all subjects- Christ, he looked us in the eyes and thanked us. My husband lagged behind to just watch him a little bit. He saw him grab the bag and go skipping and humming across the way to the teachers’ lounge to show them the gifts for the children he had just received. We could see his gratitude through the pep in his step.
Lastly, there was an old woman that we had heard a story of as we were approaching her town. She had been born cripple. Some time before our group came on this particular trip, the organization we were with had come to her town to build a church. She had gotten wind of this and crawled on her hands and knees for two miles simply to tell Phil, the leader of the organization, ‘thank you’ and turn around crawl back home. She had prayed for years that a church would be built in her town. Now, in just one day, it had been built.
We went to this same church, which now had walls and even a concrete floor, and had a program to feed orphans and widows three times a week. She came in while we were there. This time, she had a wheel chair. Yet, it had no seat. She was sitting on the bar of the chair precariously. That same look of gratitude that must have been there the day she crawled on her hands and knees was still on her sweet, wrinkled up face. The expression on her face surely must have resembled that of the one man out of ten that Jesus healed of Leprosy in Luke 17. When I think of gratitude, it’s her face that I see.
The women who sang the Hallelujah song and brought me the jackfruit
Standing under a Jackfruit Tree
The foot path to the school where the Muslim headmaster welcomed us
The face of gratitude.