Walking Naked: Blessed to Be Challenged

Today, while washing my face in the morning, I was tempted to rage at God for taking His time in keeping His promises to me. After all, doesn’t God’s Word in Proverbs 13:12 say “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”amp. But in that instance, God took over my spirit, and a thought arose above that which had preceded it “Even if it takes 400+, 70 or 22 years, I will keep packing, keep waiting for Your deliverance for YOU WILL COME.”

I realised this: It does not dishonor God to acknowledge one’s challenge, pain [[i]Romans 4:18-22, [ii]Hebrews 11:11-12] – what dishonor’s Him is to raise whatever it is above Him. To say in essence that He brought me to this trouble, and then left me. He is not a mere man to resort to such – After all isn’t He The One Who became and then overcame manhood to retain His Divinity? And isn’t it what I am called to?

So, in the last weeks my family has gone through an intense increase of occurrences on attacks on our health, seeming brazen heavens regarding our finances, deep debt and are currently walking through a season of eviction and are at limbo over exactly where home is. Loneliness bites, as associations stream out faster than you could take your next breath. I have known deep despair to the point of seriously considering taking my own life. Worse for me, is seeing those we love go through similar and sometimes even worse situations, and finding ourselves in conditions where we could be counted as absent to them in their time of need, because we could neither go to them or be of any assistance.

Key for me, has been my parents. This week for instance, things have been so hard for me that most of the monies received has gone directly to the hands of my landlord leaving me with nothing left by way of transport to go to them. The cabbie who normally extends affordable credit to us was arrested earlier on in the week for obstruction, and being unable to raise the fee stipulated by the courts, finds himself in a remand prison out of town. This, aside from the fact that I already owe him too much to even ask him for assistance if he was available. This was the week in which I desired mostly to stand with my parents as Daddy went through his clinics to receive an update on his health status. But I have not been able to.

Yesterday, I was reading through the chapter in the book of Isaiah [[iii]Isaiah 20], where God commanded him to take of his shoes and be naked before Israel as a symbol of God’s intention for His chosen nation. As I read that, I too felt naked, and empathised with Isaiah – THREE YEARS OF NAKEDNESS! Each day he lived through that must have felt like a year in itself. People looking and not looking, while seeing and not seeing, and making often unkind judgements about where you are at. About how you are. About how it should be worse for you…

And yet, God is bigger than all these. A week later, although we are no longer thought of as tenants in this house, we remain in it. Packed, but yet undisturbed aside from the constant visits by the agent demanding what we owe. God has also directed my focus on Him as my true Home. He also led seven prayer warriors and three old friends to give towards reducing the gap on what I owe the landlord. I am humbled, we are grateful for their initiative. We still owe, and we still have no idea where we are going. God has been Good to us, His Grace constant.

In this time, members of my household have received one attack on their health after another. Each time, without fail, there has been someone standing with us, who obviously would rather be elsewhere or spending their resources on what would benefit them and theirs. God placed them by our sides to bless them, to bless us and bring Glory back to Him. It has been for me extremely humbling – so much that there is no sense of relief for having received for the perceived deep wounds by those who have given. Still, we have slept and connected with God in our sleeping and waking hours. This too is God and His Grace. Oh, and in each of these cases we have received courage, God’s promise and healing. My daughter who emits chaos and mayhem at the mere sight of an injection told me last night that she had by herself taken off the stitches she received on her forehead two weeks ago after a fall, because we could not raise the money for her to go back to hospital for their removal.

Shame is a luxury we can no longer afford. A close friend of mine who faces an eviction from her servants quarter house, who had for years received a salary of approximately U$5,000 told me the same. Her seeming downfall has been so public that she stands poised, enraptured, expectant of her breakthrough from God. She too has been an invaluable treasure to me in this season; You see, when the world seems to fall on you, we are tempted to think that God is picking on us and giving everyone else a vacation. It helps our sanity to have someone to converse it who is both compassionate and empathetic, because they are either walking or have walked that path. There are many others, who have passed through this while I was still in it, overcome and turned back to judge me for not getting out as fast as they have – that was our mutual story. I laughed all through our phone conversation this week – of cause interspersing each spasm of humour with a sincere ‘HalleluJah’.

So, today I hurt. I have no idea when God has scheduled my healing and breakthrough for, but I am not alone. The One in Whose Hands I have trusted my life, assures me that in a place above and beyond time – I have made it through. I have not failed Him. By His Grace, I do not have the timings and the details of how this will unfold, but He has already convinced me that I am blessed of Him to be this way challenged.

Shalom.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

[i] Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he acknowledged the decrepitness of his body (since he was about a hundred years old) and the lifelessness of Sarah’s womb.

Yet he did not waver through disbelief in the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God was able to do what He had promised. That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22

 

[ii] “By faith even Sarah herself received the ability to conceive [a child], even [when she was long] past the normal age for it, because she considered Him who had given her the promise to be reliable and true [to His word]. So from one man, though he was [physically] as good as dead, were born as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand on the seashore.” Hebrews 11:11-12 amp.

[iii] “at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, untie the [a]sackcloth from your hips and take your sandals off your feet.” And he did so, walking around [b]stripped [to his loincloth] and barefoot. And the Lord said, “Even as My servant Isaiah has walked [c]stripped and barefoot for three years as a sign and forewarning concerning Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia),” Isaiah 20:2-3 amp

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The Boda-Boda Saint Named Gordy

gordy-and-the-12-bodaboda-men-of-bunyala2The man arrives at the health center late into the night. He is helped by a community health volunteer, and between them, they support a wailing pregnant woman. All of them are wet, and bloody. A nurse takes the man’s place and supports the woman to the labor ward while the man gets someone to sign a little book and then leaves into the night. He is back two hours later, in different clothes, equally wet, equally bloody, this time he is holding a baby in one arm, while supporting a tired woman with his other. The nurses rush towards him and relieve him. They know him well. He is here almost every night. He is not staff, he is a perpetual good Samaritan.

gordy-with-baby-hildaWe traveled to Bumula sub-county, Bumula village to find out from the 34 year old married father of three Godwin Simiyu Wanyonyi (Gordy) just why he does what he does. Many men would probably rather walk through fire, than be with a woman, for any period of time, who was in labor, especially in the latter stages, even when it is their wife or close relative. But in Bungoma County we met, not just one, but 13 of 23 men with a different perspective. And just in case you are thinking that Bungoma County has hoarded Gynecologists, you are wrong. These are ordinary men, Boda-Boda riders with a calling that leads them to choose to be around pregnant women in labor, to support them by taking them, free of charge, to a health center for medically assisted deliveries.

“I don’t know why, but most women give birth at night,” begins this hero in Kiswahili. “Some nights I get as many as three urgent calls. I respond to all. Many of them are in advanced stages of labor and this for me means that we sit on blood and water all the way to the health center. Sometimes we make it. Sometimes the baby comes on the way to hospital, and I never shy away from the challenge of helping out. Most times the lady is accompanied by a Birth Companion, a Community Health worker, her mother in law or a female relative. Sometimes, like last week, it’s just the two of us.”

Even in the best of times, the rush to hospital when in labour is, to say the least, uncomfortable for most women with the ever present risk of losing the mother or child to the journey. This is even more challenging in the counties outside the capital. In some places, women are ferried on the back of Lorries transporting quarry stones in attempts to save their lives and those of their soon to be born babies. gordy-taking-a-woman-into-healthcareBernard Mare, a Transport Officer with the Ministry of Health Bungoma explains “Many places in the County are inaccessible to regular ambulances due to climatic and infrastructural challenges. Many homes are at least 5kms from the nearest health centers and can only be accessed through footpaths, sometimes mountainous like in the Mount Elgon areas. When it rains, and it is night, family and community members here either use makeshift stretchers with blankets to carry women either  to the centers or to a waiting Bodaboda at more level places. Some are brought in on wheelbarrows. Bodabodas, though considered dangerous by most, is the way most people get anywhere these parts of the country, so it makes sense to encourage their use, with caution of cause.”

“I have been a Boda-Boda man for 9 years, and whenever I see someone sick, I help  them – for free. I think this is what built my regard in this area, but I didn’t know just how much until the election. In June last year, the sub-chiefs angordwinnounced in the markets and in the villages around that they were looking for a Bodaboda man to help the villagers get to hospital, especially in the night. They, the Government, GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children, had laid out about ten requirements that this man needed to have.  He was to be dependable, a man whose phone was never off, with a volunteer spirit, not a drunkard or criminal, someone who would best represent the community. I had a funeral on the day the election was to take place so I went” Says Gordy.

“The requirements were deliberately stringent. With the challenges in the area, including security, we needed mature men, with good reputations, with valid Riders’ licences, Insurance and a log book showing that they owned the bike they were riding.” Explains Felix Makasanda a Community Development Officer with the Boresha Programme that rose up to respond to Gordy’s initiative.

“When we were just about to bury, I got a call from one of the community health volunteers who knew me well. They told me to hurry back to the market and try my luck. There were about 60 riders who had responded to the call. Some had been campaigning and had come with their supporters. When I walked in, their morale dropped, and one or two asked me what I was doing there. The short of it, is that most of my competitors became my supporters. At the end of it, the community shortlisted five of us, and I got the most votes,” smiles Gordy. At least, Gordy could now fuel his bike on his mercy errands and have a something left to care for his family.

gordy-with-his-wife-janet2“It’s not easy,” his beautiful wife Janet Nafula contributes. “Many of the women get pregnant in the food season and give birth in the drought season. Sometimes these calls come in at night. As a human being of cause there are times I feel bad, but I have learnt to wake him up and release him, with a prayer. The night holds many issues. I am proud of what he does. Sometimes it rains, and in those nights, he could get as many as three calls. Which means I get to wash more clothes, but I do not mind it. I know he is out saving lives, and I trust him totally. He has never been one with a wandering eye, so that does not even worry me,” she says playfully. “He is a responsible father and husband. We have never slept hungry, he has bought and built on this plot, my children are all I school by God’s grace, the last being in a private school. He has helped set me up in a small hotel business where I have 4 employees, and where he comes in to help from time to time. We also farm goats, chicken, maize and beans, which is where we started off.”

How do they get to know his number? “My mobile number is like a hotline around here. The Chiefs announce it during funerals, in churches, at the hospital during clinics and at meetings. Former traditional birth attendants as well as community health volunteers have it.” Gordy explains. beneficiary-1-mildred-simiyu-with-baby-hildaOne of his beneficiaries Mildred Nanjala Simiyu, not a relative of his, who had her baby in March this year shares how on the day she went into labour, they had no way of getting to the hospital. The young mother of three, had walked to the health centers in the company of her loving mother in law for the first two births. This time though, it was raining, dark, and the path to her home in Bonambobi village in Bumula is full of twists and turns and narrows to barely passable footpaths closer to home. It is about two and a half kilometers from Gordy’s. She had challenges with pregnancy related hypertension. Her mother in law had heard about a BodaBoda Ambulance that transport’s people to hospital for free. “I was surprised by how fast he responded. He rode fast, it was just the two of us that night. My mother in law had to stay back to care for the other children. He saved my life and that of my baby Hilda. If it was not for him, I would have died in the process of trying to have the baby here. She kept presenting her chin first.”

beneficiary-2-jessica-wamalwa-with-baby-prosperJessica Wamalwa had a similar experience. She got Gordy’s number from a neighbor at around 11pm in the night. It was a rainy night. “I was overwhelmed. He was gentle and encouraging. He would ride at the pace that was comfortable for me, but would not stop when I asked him to. He said it was important to get me to hospital. Sometimes he would use one arm to hold me steady on my back. We rode also with my mother in law. By God’s grace I had baby Prosper at 3am.”

Gordy confesses that there have been some challenges. The weather, the roads especially on rainy nights, his susceptibility to frequent bouts to malaria and pneumonia. The lack of proper riding and safety gear is also a challenge for him. “I wish also that they would train us in basic first aid so that we could be more useful in cases where the babies come before we get to the health centers. I have so far, in the past years, had four women give birth when I was taking them to hospital.” gordys-colleague-pastor-wilfred-sifuna-otunga-1The other Riders agree with him on these challenges. Pastor Wilfred Otunga who has been doing this work for 20 years due to his love for children says “There is also said to be a ghost rider who terrorizes road users. Many who have seen it describe it as a jacket riding a bodaboda. I have never met it. I believe God has been with me. Many of us have also met with thugs and thankfully none of us has lost their bikes.” Lack of clarity on the role they are playing, by police on patrol was previously a challenge, but since their partners gave them branded reflector jackets with government and partner logos and branded as Ambulance.

Gordy’s twelve colleagues are grateful to him for his perseverance, and good example that impacted all of them to do the work they do. They also appreciate the assistance that has come as a result of their love for their communities. Like Gordy, many have bought land and built their simple homes on them. Some are educating children at all levels including at the University. They have also initiated businesses for their wives in which they work when they are not on the road. Most importantly, it has enamored them to the communities that chose them for this noble work and are committed to supporting them. They echo Gordy’s sentiments as he concludes our day, “I am convinced I was born to do this. I am grateful for the help I have received from the partners, but I did it before and I will do it long after they leave.”

vipslit@yahoo.ca

 

What They Said

Mildred – Gordy is the kind of person who reacts urgently to every call. If it was not for that, I would have died in labor. He is helping the women here, they will not have their children at home unless they do not have Gordy’s number. The number of deaths of mothers has also reduced significantly. I have his number and would recommend him to any woman in labor.

Jessica – Gordy’s work is meaningful. I don’t think my neighbor would have helped me without transport.  I had seen his number on display during clinic. But on that day, I got it from the community health volunteer who is my neighbour called Martin.

dr-brian-inima-moh-bunyala-subcounty-hospital

Dr. Brian Inima

Dr. Brian Inima – MOH Bumula Sub-County: The BodaBoda Ambulances have increased greatly the number of hospital deliveries.

transport-officer-moh-bungoma-county-bernard-mareBernard Mare –Transport Officer MOH Bungom: Gordy has a lot of passion for the work he does.  He has a big heart.

img_0031Dr. John Papaya – Coordinator of Community Health Services, Bungoma County: Gordy has a lot of humanity. No man would otherwise volunteer to do the work he is doing.

Photos and Stories by NaMeD Afrika Studios – (Nashon David Dwoya and Vip Ogola)

First Published on The Sunday Standard’s Sunday Magazine on September 4, 2016

http://sde.co.ke/article/2000214893/birth-by-boda-boda-bumula-riders-who-provide-free-emergency-transport-to-women-in-labour

To Climb a Tree

WHAT MADE A RICH AND POWERFUL MAN CLIMB A TREE:
I got thinking today, seeing in my mind the rich and powerful people I know, have heard of or seen from a distance, and imagined them, one by one, hoisting themselves up a tree for a better few of…okay, think of the ones you know, unless they are actors or environmentalists, what would they be doing up there? It would be more plausible for them to shove their way to the front, or get their security to do it for them so that they would get a better view. And then I thought of a group of rich and/or powerful men all trying to get a glimpse of the same thing, live. That would be even worse…a cloud of security would probably make it impossible for their bosses to get a glimpse.
Short Zacchaeus was in such a situation. He was rich, he was powerful, but the pharisees and the disciples seemed more fitted for a close up with Jesus Christ. This was not his crowd, and it was likely that they would not hesitate to remind him of the fact. Among this sort, his position was despicable…because you see, they thought they knew him well. The source of his wealth was, fishy, so they felt it was their duty to protect God and heaven from the likes of him. Even without knowing they were doing it. But this did not numb his keen hunger, to see Christ, and say to Him what only He could hear, understand, appreciate and mitigate.
So he did something that could mostly be associated with a child, or someone who life had drained of anything they could loose. He was both. And because the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to such as he, The LORD of Heaven, ‘heard’ his faith, his hunger, and saw him shed all, that he might have a glimpse of Him. And Jesus, spoke above the cloud that hindered Him from getting to Him, and then drew Him forth that they might fellowship together.
BELOVED, SO ‘THEY’ ARE IN THE WAY, BLOCKING YOU FROM SEEING THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE – THE LOVE OF ALL AGES. DO SOMETHING THEIR POMP AND POWER WOULD KEEP THEM FROM DOING, SOMETHING POWERFULLY CHILDLIKE, ENOUGH TO GIVE YOU A VIEW OF HIM. ‘THEY’ MAY DESPISE YOUR FAITH IN ACTION, BUT THAT HAS NEVER MATTERED, WHAT MATTERS IS THAT YOU DRAW THE APPROVAL OF THE ONE WHO MADE THEM AND YOU. [thoughts on Luke 19:1-10]
“let the LITTLE children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, ANYONE who WILL NOT receive The Kingdom of God like a LITTLE CHILD will NEVER enter it.” Luke 18:15-17
vipslit@yahoo.ca
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