Mud in the House of God

Its been weeks of this…pain…increasing pain, escalating pain –  and then its been a week of intense pain.  I am sitting at a women’s meeting in a church near where I have walked my walk of faith for the last seven years. The worship has bought me peace but the pain, the darkness that clings tenaciously around my heart and head. I deny the weariness I have felt. The onset of my menses come with the call from God and His chosen servant to go in a fast, for this in indeed the gong of a new season. I have danced this morning, for the songs God chose for His daughters this day, resonate with the balm my entire life craves. I am not trying to impress God, nor any of His daughters…am fighting to find Him in this situation. I want to see my Daddy Eternal.

You see, with the silence of family- of friends, with the advice that I have received that points more to the grave…echoes the hollow taste of being useless to the world because you have measured your life by the standards of a system under which you no longer operate. I hear in my mind – a lot – “Did God really say that to you?” “But that is not really God’s MO.” “If this is how God treats you, then I would not follow Him.” “You are foolish to throw your entire lot with Him – you must leave Him just a little and throw your whole lot into surviving this world.” And the ache of hearing the comforted comfortable with whom I have stood saying to me “Your life is worth nothing without money – now look, where will you and your family live.”

I look down at my shoes, cheap rubber shoes, precious to me for they are a sign of a walk I have taken with my God. They remind me of the day God took me to view a house in an area I would never have afforded,even if i had turned my back to Him when He took me on this beloved stroll. They remind me of the many places, the many gates I have knocked, the many doors slammed on my face, the trips to my ATM – hoping and them weeping. They remind me of the morning, earlier this week, when I dared try take a step without them and ended up back home in less than five minutes with muddy sewage clinging on my sandled feet, all the way up my thighs, and up my beautiful orange dress and my sleeveless arms after falling into a pool that stood between me and the place I needed to get to. They remind me of both my yielded obedience, and my attempts at rebellion. They have dust atop and mud on their soles. I look at the floor around my feet and the black sooty mud particles that have soiled the portion around where I danced before weariness took over.

I look at the room full of women, and the aches of their journeys, their triumphs and their defeats crowd in on me. I begin to pray for them. I talk to their Father and mine, I ask Him to meet them here, because they woke up this cold morning to meet Him. I join in to their ululations, their worship of The King of kings, I sit down to listen to the woman of God. Then my phone rings and I see that its Daddy calling and the dams break for me. For the last eight weeks since this orgy of pain begun, i have longed to see his name on my ringing phone – I have longed for his voice telling me that it would be well…but there has been silence. And now I am not able to take his call. The tears escape and flow fast onto my dark blue skirt as I disconnect and text him a short message “I am in church.” I find out later, that he had not really called – his android reached out to me in error. But by then, I am frozen from all the weeping I  have done before The Throne of my Eternal Daddy. Why hasn’t He come? Why is my rescue and that of my family taking so long?

I look to my feet…there is sooty mud under my cheap but faithful rubber shoes…and I have caught the eyes of those that try not to stare at them – the combined dust and mud that have encased my feet. I have a race to run. I rest.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

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My One Time at a Time

Many times, you cannot imagine it getting to where you hope it will not: then it does, and God Alone holds you as you take a step at a time. A breath at a time. A word at a time. A tear at a time. A smile at a time. An ache at a time. A lifetime at a time. Sometimes a kick at a time, a setback at a time, an insult at a time, then back to a breath at a time, and His Embraces – one at a time.
Hope has endured. I look at another sunset, and the horrors of the night it heralds, but also the amazing view of what God’s words alone can create and sustain as I look at the moon, the stars, the clouds and sometimes encounter creatures that He made to conquer the nights.
So its gotten here, excruciatingly so, but how else would I have known His enduring Love, Might and Friendship here, if I hadn’t walked this night with Him? So I take another step, another breath, take in another bout of pain, block another onslaught of fear in His Might and allow His Word to take me in and hold me and mine within His Promise, Himself. I rest. I rest. In His Everlasting Arms. I rest.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

They Return

They Return.
They rebel in the dark. Enjoying the companionship, laughing loudly into the night…they think themselves clothed, and luxuriously so…not tattered like those with whom they come into contact and discard as inferior. Those whom God Himself had stripped and caused to fall flat at their onslaught. They capture cities, in the dark. They are well fed, seemingly orderly, considered wealthy by the nations that watch them march past…predictably. They pass by seasonally, and at the sound of their approach the nations flee to hide, for a season. In the dark. They are terrible and fearsome…yet almost frantically, they carry the worship of the conquered and vanquished as cherished and practiced souvenirs. In the dark. Oh, they are mighty, impervious, in the dark. Round and round they march, dying off yet rejoicing at the new births – the greatness of their numbers, in the dark. They are a coveted and covetous army, Laughing loudly, they articulate in their criticism of their God and His chosen leaders, in the dark, they march round and round.
 
Then…The Light dawned on them…and they realized that it had been long since they marched. The ancient chains that had anchored them to a mountain, had reached its limit. That they were hungry, wretched, that their decaying and shredding cloths covered patches of their bodies – just enough to keep them sufficiently deceived that they were luxuriously covered, in the dark. At the full stretch of their chains their left feet were captured tenaciously by concrete pits that produced maggots which crept up their legs, eating through their mobility rendering them dead even as they lived: laughing loudly, raining criticisms on those they could make out in the dark, believing themselves covered, fed,marching as they slowly died.
 
And The Light came and beckoned them, He broke them, crushed some, and then deliberately mended their hearts, their lives. The Light opened their eyes so that they could take Him in. He soaked into Himself the stench of the rot they had become in the dark; took over the dust that had imprisoned them causing them to tug their left feet free of it and take a step forward. Then another. They walked away from the stench of their own graves, God Himself stripping them of their grave-cloths; He embraced them, washed, refreshed, fed…then dressed them in true luxury…cloths that could not wear out, could not be stripped off them, did not attract decay, armors made to fit – that could not be stolen from them.
 
Now an army marches into the Dawn, limping as they re-learn to walk. They laugh deeply, cry deeper still, speak healing gently into wounds – their own and those of others. They speak and their hearers are no longer condemned but strengthened…they march away from their ancient path, forsaking ancient, rusty chains their heads raised and focused towards The Light. As they come…their true majesty is visible, strong, healed, prosperous, loving, kind, invincible…a people come destroying the feigned valiant, an army that heals the land they march through. Home is beckoning. They Return.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

The Child Would Not Die or Be Silent

How long does it take for one to forgive their mother or father for what they did to them?” the little girl asked me. I smiled, but not from amusement. I was trying not to cry. Which was impossible anyway…because ever since I had walked into this children’s home and rescue center in Nairobi my whole system had frozen. God had taken over…I had known to be in prayer about this particular assignment the whole week. I had been invited to replace Pastor Terry Gobanga who was away – and it was not really about filling her really large and excellent shoes. It was about being asked to share wisdom with about 67 children…who were there not because their parents were no longer alive, but had allegedly become predators that orphaned the children they had borne.

This was the second rescue center, mostly inhabited by children who were healing from sexual violence, that I had been asked to speak at in a month. I wondered about that. But as I held a five week old baby girl in my arms, then later looked around the circle of about 30 eyes (the rest had been excused from my session for a play session with other members of the group we had gone with), I wondered how I could answer that question. Most of us, resent those that call us to account for the way we raise our own children: Mostly because they catch us at a moment, and make it about our entire parenting. But these were not ordinary parenting moments…although it seemed that it was becoming more normalized, this was a crisis.

In this particular home, all ‘except one’ (and I shudder at the use of those two words – because it was still one too many) had been assaulted by a mother, father or uncle – biological. Most of these children were in delicate security situations since their parents’ cases were still ongoing, and there was need by some clans to either “mute or get rid of the evidence.” Most of them were girls…but there were boys too…one too many. There were others who were or had been admitted in hospital, to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries to lend their lives some semblance of normality. Most of the girls were first borns of at least one of their parents, or their only female child. I looked at their Mum1 – the founder of this home…fourteen (14) years of mothering other people’s children in their worst states had not dimmed her life Light.

How could I answer the children? What would forgiveness look like for them? How do you answer a child who in one moment, or a hundred, had endured war in their genitals to satisfy the hungers of a parent who temporarily forgot that they were supposed to protect not prey on them? Does forgiveness mean that what happened to them was ok? That it should be forgotten? That the children should repent of these (Because they were so often stigmatized – Mum1 shared for instant how one ‘church’ had denied them baptism after going through the classes under the excuse of not being able to afford T-shirts.) Many of these children bore the brunt of these shameful acts against them again and again as they lived each breath with the rejection of the extended families to which they had once belonged – who had perhaps initially celebrated their births and birthdays – who now wanted to forget them for the shame they are accused of bringing home. “For why hadn’t they just died instead of crying out, or getting pregnant, getting an important benefactor and family member whose quaint habits could be ignored into ‘disrepute’ or incarceration for ‘just’ a moment? Why wouldn’t they just let this go and keep up the facade?” This seemed to be the attitude their families had towards them.  What exactly would forgiveness mean for these?

The nightmares needed to end, the healing to come. Forgiveness may be about the offender (e.g. When God forgives our sins it puts us in the best place with Him), but it’s more about the offended (Humanly speaking). You forgive even when the fault is not confessed or admitted to because if allowed to – one offense can define the rest of your life in the worst ways possible. Unforgiveness often translates to meditating on an offence and giving it the power to shut down the functioning of what is still functional in us to hit back at the offender and survive the offense. Meditating constantly on what was done to you gives a grievous injury even more power over you than  it had initially. It can colour, darken everything…take away your smile…your life. I cannot remember what I said to them, because I was praying a lot, and asking God to speak to His little ones.  But they smiled…and they spoke…and they gave me strength as well. There was nothing God could not heal. It was hard leaving the home, leaving them behind to go be with my own household…I had intended to leave by 2pm. I was there till 6:30pm. It was hard to leave these little ones that because they still suffered from parenting wounds had become part of my own story. Their hugs, the whispered stories after the main session, the tears they allowed me to see, and the feel of them as they held onto me while I prayed for them – made them mine – indelibly. As I left though, I realized that they were indeed in the best place they could be for now, having been rescued and that for this moment were truly safer because they cried out and refused to die.

But somewhere in this same neighborhood, in this country, in this globe, other children were unfortunately starting the journey they were walking. I prayed that their parents would be hit by Heaven’s Might, that they would not put their babies through this, and that the babies who had gone through this, would find Hope again, find God, in parental touches by those in whose hands God would place them in. I don’t know…

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Keep Talking Penina

Keep speaking to me Penina, even though I am no longer listening…I am asking of God for myself, what you could never achieve in your strength. For what, if He gave it to me, I could never keep the crown for…but know for sure that I must return to Him – for it is eternally God’s.

Penina…if I were you, I would direct my speech at The Almighty, ask Him for more than this world could give…incomparable to any other; I would not waste my strength raging at my current barrenness…for there is no gain that my grieving could truly give you. I know my waiting and searching has taken long…but I am not cursed as you think.

And even though you use my place of worship, my bended posture before The Almighty God as an occasion for mockery, accusation, and although I have wept at your taunts and slander…I am not cursed…I am more blessed than you could ever imagine me to be. For when silence engulfs your mockery…you eyes will open to the Magnificence of God in my life…and while your name fades into oblivion…or maybe shines for reasons different…God makes mine unforgettable in His books…because of my bended posture before Him – the posture that brings you so much mirth.

I have touched The Scepter of God…I have touched His Heart…because He let me..stand on my knees..before Him. Keep speaking at and about me Penina, for it is your route to oblivion and my platform to eternity.

#HeHeardHeGave

“And her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it was, YEAR BY YEAR, WHEN SHE WENT UP TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, that she provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat.”
1 Samuel 1:6-7

Behold The Man

The Man is betrayed by his friend in the inner circle; and his friends scatter because of the menacing cloud of enemies that surround Him; one of His friends stands his ground a while, and takes out his sword to inflict injury on one of His enemies, but The Man, stays his hand, and performs First-Aid on His enemy, in a way that would be envy of the best cosmetic/reconstructive/plastic surgeons of this century.
The friend who stood up for him, who follows stealthily somewhere within his crowd of enemies, will a few hours later deny ever knowing him. The accusations against The Man are flimsy at best, ridiculous, false, but not one of the ones He so powerfully blessed is brave enough to stand up for Him. So they take away His name, tarnish His reputation, and He will not defend Himself. The slander against Him, kills Him literally. And yet His enemy is given no reprieve, for God rises to now cloud and shake the world, to open and spill out the contents of graves, and to tear at religious barriers that kept His people estranged from Him. Three days later, The Man walks – no longer dead. And God lifts Him up, and seats Him on a Throne before which both His friends and enemies must stand at some point in eternity. For The Man, on earth robbed of His Name, Heaven bestows A Name, The Name at which all knees buckle either in Loving Faith or in Terror.
 
Let Heaven name you for the name the earth has taken from you for your loving service for God. God is Worthy!
 
“Kite ne kit Nyasaye nyaka e chakruok,
to ne ok otuere ni nyaka osik marom gi Nyasaye,
to notimore gima nono,
Nokawo kit misumba,
mi odok dhano mana ka wan,
kendo konenore ka dhano kamano,
to nobolore, kendo no winjo wach nyaka tho,
mana tho mar msalaba!
 
Mano eomiyo Nyasaye ne Omiye duong’ ahinya e polo,
kendo Omiye Nying’ moloyo nying’ duto.
Kamano gik moko duto manie polo
gi manie piny kon manie bwo piny,
Omi Nying Yesu duong’,
kendo ji duto mondo ohul ni
Yesu Kristo e Ruoth,
Mondo Nyasaye Wuoro Bende Oyud Duong’.”
Jo-Filipi 2:6-11 (Philippians 2:6-11)

From Traditional Birth Attendant to Birth Companion – Jane Mukuyi’s Story

Jane Mukuyi4.JPG“My Grandmother was a ‘Mkunga wa Nyumbani’ in Chepkaka where I grew up,” begins the elegant 66 year old mother of four. “Of my many siblings I was closest to her. From the time I was 12 years old, I would assist her perform her vocation. She would send me for things while I watched her deliver women of their children. When I got married at the age of 21, and moved to a nearby location, I too, started practicing. My grandmother’s reputation had preceded me and they assumed rightly that I was likewise gifted and inclined.”

Jane was a nursery school teacher. She, however, gladly volunteered her services helping women through pregnancy and the delivery of their children. “When a woman, in the places where my husband and I lived, suspected that she was pregnant, she would seek me out for some sort of clinic. I would wake up at around 6am to find them waiting outside my house, most of them not having even washed their faces. They wanted me to touch their bellies and let them know the progress of their babies. They would come for me to massage them with oil, or just because they had woken up from an uncomfortable night. Many came in as many times as thrice a week during their pregnancies. In the latter parts, I would massage them to ensure the baby was presenting well. I have since learnt that this could mess things up for the baby and the mother.” She says sadly.

“When a woman went into labour, depending on our agreement and her condition, I would either go to her house or she would come to mine. In mine they would deliver in the kitchen. In theirs, it depended how many rooms they had. The idea was that men could not be part of the process. If there was only one house, they would make themselves scarce.” She remembers.

“If one of my women was due, I would prepare a herbal concoction to rub her down with during labour. The woman would get down her knees, legs apart. She was not supposed to have had a bath before labour. I would guide her to push down the baby. Twice there were complications that led to the babies coming out leg first, but thankfully I successfully managed all such cases without a single fatality. I never delivered a child that was in breach. In a normal situation, I would wait for the head of the baby to present, then using my thumb nail, cut her down there to allow the baby to come out. Once the baby was out, we would use one of the mother’s garments, normally a dirty one, to cover it. We would cut the cord using the bark of a sugar-cane. The woman had to stay indoors for three days. She would not bath. She would use an item of clothing that she had worn to get to the Mkunga’s house to catch her flow. It was all very dirty and unhygienic, and yet I knew no other way. Some of the children I helped birth are now married or even in university. I know of five that died before the age of three years.”

Nine years ago, Jane was one of the TBAs that the Ministry of Health reached out to, in response to a WHO policy, to train in emergency child birth and transform into Birth Companions. Until then, she had never met or known of any other TBA except her grandmother. “That is when I realised that we were conveyors of ill health and not of life as I had previously thought.”

abraham-wanyonyi1Behavior Change Communications Coordinator Abraham Wanyonyi of Save the Children elaborates on this. “More than 50% of unskilled deliveries are conducted by TBAs. They have gravely impacted on the Ministry of Health and their partners’, GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children – Kenya’s attempts to get women to deliver in hospitals under sanitized conditions. They can therefore not be ignored in our efforts. The National  Health Policy 2007 – 2012 provides that they stop providing deliveries and accompany expectant mothers to health facilities. This was just a statement, and there was nothing to support it in terms of making this a reality.” This is where the partners came in. They use the training curriculum adapted from AMREF’s Linda Afya Mama Na Mtoto to reorient them on their roles, give them a small reimbursement towards transport, and have monthly meetings with them.” He says.

“For many of them this is a calling. I remember that when HIV became widespread many TBAs in Western and Nyanza provinces were wiped out by it. You can imagine the hygiene issues, the infections, I mean many health facilities are still struggling with hygiene control. These challenges are more than doubled in a poor old woman’s house.” Abraham laments.

Jane is now an unrelenting firebrand with regard to getting women to attend clinic and deliver in health centers. From being the one sought out to offer clinics, she now accompanies those who do, and seeks out those who are resistant sometimes to the point of having interventions that involve the husband or the chief to get the women to go. “They are tough but I am tougher. I go with them for their initial clinic, then for the fourth of the five mandatory times, and then for delivery. I will ride with the woman on the bodaboda ambulance, and will only deliver if there is a roadside emergency. Otherwise, I go with her to the health center, and stand by her taking care of her needs throughout labour. I act as the link between her and the health facility staff on how far she has gone, and also alert them if I sense there is trouble. I will also accompany her back for post-natal clinic.”

Nurse Violet Nyongesa.JPG58 year old Nurse Violet Nyongesa, of the Bunyala Sub-County Hospital dons the Birth Companion Apron in solidarity with Jane for this interview. She describes the Birth Companion’s role throughout the maternity journey as crucial but thankless in terms of remuneration. “With all they do, we are not even able to offer them a cup of tea. They have really helped raise the number of women giving birth in health centers from 30 to about 100 in a month. We are normally understaffed, with about three nurses on duty at any on given time. When they come in with the mothers in labour, they stay with them. They get them water to shower, clean them after delivery and give them clean linen. They are also usually much better able to communicate with the women than we are. They are really part of the team.” She speaks softly. “I know it is better for a woman to deliver at a health center, despite the challenges we face, because of the sterile environment and because we are able to deal faster with any challenges during the process. The baby is also kept warm. When a child does not cry at birth, we are able to resuscitate them. It is also easier to register a child who has been born in a health center as opposed to at home.”

Jane now makes a living from her farm and also receives support from her four grown children of whom she is very proud. “The training that the partners have given us have earned us renewed respect within the community. The uniforms they have provided makes us stand out in a good way. We are also involved in Table Banking. I love that I am now helping give life the healthy way.” Concludes a smiling Jane.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Why Women Preferred Being Delivered by Traditional Birth Attendants, By Abraham Wanyonyi, Behavior Change Communications Coordinator and Communications Point Person in Save the Children Kenya, Bungoma Office

  • Facilities often understaffed and have little attention during labour whereas with a TBA it’s just the woman. She receives a lot of tender loving care, the backrubs and encouragement.
  • The language often used by the TBA is gentle as compared to that used by the overworked, little appreciated Health worker.
  • Men who find health facilities crowded have access to their wives during labour to support them.
  • Socialisation, everyone in your family has been delivered by a traditional birth attendants, its difficult for women to start a new trend especially at her in-laws.
  • The TBAs are part of the community. With Devolution in particular people may prefer to be attended to by someone from their own communities than a well-trained ‘outsider.’
  • Distance to the health centers make it preferable for women to walk into the TBAs house during labour.
  • People feel safer with older, and more experienced women.
  • Perceived high cost of delivery even in public hospitals whereas TBAs are compensated with what you have. A leso, a chicken etc.

Story and photos by NaMeD Afrika Studios, Kenya

First Published on The Standard Newspaper’s Wednesday Life Pullout, September 28, 2016

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2000217596/no-more-giving-birth-at-home-for-women-in-kenya

 

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