I used to joke that God would never allow me to become wealthy because I’m so stingy with money. I’ll give you my time and talents, but not my money. I’m too German sometimes. Then, God called me to a country where I’m a millionaire. I’ve had to confront my ungenerous heart and pray for discernment regarding who exactly God has called me to bless financially and invest in, both monetarily and emotionally.
Whenever possible, people in Kenya hire house-help: someone to clean, do laundry, maybe cook, maybe garden. It looks different in every home. It’s a huge blessing in a country whose two seasons are dust and mud! My first six months here I went through five different house-helps. And, no, I’m not a super difficult employer…I don’t think. I just couldn’t find the right fit.
Then, in February, I found Ann. She’s a short, stout, spitfire of a woman. She’s a single mom of six children. Her husband left her when he realized that, though he liked making children, working to clothe, feed and educate them was too much work. Ann worked for me only a month when I returned home to the US. She continued to care for my material belongings in Kenya for the three months I was away. She has moved with me to the new apartment and we are growing our relationship of trust.
Ann frequently tells me that her children are ill. I recently gave her money to buy malaria medicine for her daughter. But, the girl wasn’t improving and her youngest wasn’t feeling well either. It was time to do more. So we made a plan for me to come and visit her home and take her and the kids to the hospital in Migori.
I brought my summer intern, Emma, along for the experience.
First, we drove out to Ann’s house. Ann is often late in getting to my house. Usually, this annoys my American sense of punctuality. I thought, “maybe she just wants to come late so she can sit on the couch when I’m not here”. My self righteous assumption turned into mortification and then compassion as I realized how far away Ann lives. It a 25 minute direct car ride from her door to the intersection of my new apartment complex. And she doesn’t get a direct trip. She waits for public transportation which won’t go until all the seats are sold. Once she reaches town, she walks the rest of the way. This makes arriving at a specific time impossible.
Ann was excited to greet us and show us her home. The walls and floor are made of mud. The kitchen addition fell down recently, so she rebuilt it to be a bit bigger, but you have to bend in half to pass through the stooped opening. Though, it can be aptly described a meager; it was spotless. Every floor was swept, beds made, clothing folded. There was a feeling of home, even without electricity, indoor plumbing, mosquito nets, real mattresses, or furniture beyond iron bed frames and plastic chairs. My spoiled self decided she can sit on my couch if she wants.
Emma, Ann, Emelda (14), Fabian (8), and I piled in the car and drove back to Migori to see a doctor at the hospital. We registered the kids, had HIV tests (all negative!!), saw a doctor, ran labs, returned to the doctor, visited the pharmacy, and waited for Emelda to get a steroid injection. It took four hours, which was shorter than I expected. All the waiting gave me time to talk to Ann about her life, her other children, her past. The total bill was under $5. I took everyone out for lunch for $7. We had soda. I dropped Ann and the kids off at home with big smiles and hopes to feel better soon.
On the drive back with Emma, I talked about what I wanted to do next. It would be easy for me to buy them new mattresses, better pots for cooking, vegetables every week. But I had to stop myself. What is best for them? How do I honor God’s calling to be generous and not be that rich American who just realized how spoiled she is and needs to drop cash to appease her guilty conscience?
I gifted them all mosquito nets. It was an immediate need and I’m praying it keeps the kids healthier and in school. Then I talked with Ann about my plan. She is really bothered by the state of her kid’s mattress. She showed me the disintegrating foam pad. I told her that I would match every shilling she saved and when we have enough we will go and buy the kids a new mattress. Then we can choose a new savings goal and work towards it together.
I’ve never seen Ann so still as when I suggested this. She looked me right in the eye and said, “this is a good plan.” She told me the kids looked at their mosquito nets and said, “Wow, mom, she really loves us.”
I won’t lie, it felt good to hear that. I looked at Ann and I said, “I do love them. And I love you. But more importantly, God loves you and them so so much.”
I don’t know if I’m doing this right. I don’t know that Ann won’t steal from me or just stop coming to work like it sometimes happens here. I pray and pray that I won’t instigate a situation that leads to unhealthy dependency. I pray that God doesn’t let my German heritage keep me from blessing others with the financial blessing I’ve been given. And, I pray that I can keep being a blessing to this really strong, hard working woman who is bound and determined to educate her six children despite her circumstances.
I do know that when Ann shows up at 10am, I’m not frustrated with her anymore. I’ve bought her Kenyan food to make a meal for herself at my house because I know she goes hungry to feed her kids, sometimes. I’ll occasionally send home some veggies, but not all the time. I’ll match whatever money she wants to save. I’ll be open to the leading of the Spirit, because I really think that’s what doing life together looks like.