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

Redemption

Walk Carefully and Deliberately With God” Let Your Life be an Image and Resounding Echo of His Commands. 
Blessed day beloved of God.
Many times, lack, extreme lack, is used as a valid excuse to disobey God’s direct commands over how our time and consequently our lives are to be spent. We become such an offence to those around us that we are tempted to offend God in the intimacy of our individual relationships with Him. Those that claim to still love us as well as those who hate us push us strongly towards specific paths of direct disobedience because they imagine our situation is because we didn’t make the choices they did, either with or independently of God. They surround themselves and give audience to those that slander our lives and callings in God. Their stance is “you either do what I want you to or think you should do and ignore what you believe God to be saying to you, or I will pull my love and help from you.
I am reminded in my own case of Who truly has been Jireh, Healer, Master, Friend, Deliverer… Who has led me into battle and with each breath, into His victory – and though God may have spoken once or twice through the giving, the love, the counsel of those that now stand strongly to sway you or I from what they define as blind or even foolish dedication to Him; He Alone is, remains and will ALWAYS be God – my God.
It is hard right now, but this is what the choice to lay down my life and follow Jesus, Christ was about. Above the din of these extremely perplexing times I will listen to what The Lord will say to me, for His promises are Yes and Amen.
As the song writer wrote and is my theme: “I have decided, to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” I have already gone too far with Him to look or turn back, for me now to live or die, is Christ and Christ Alone.
“I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly.’ Psalm 85:5
Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”  But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” Hebrews 10:38-39
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Called To Be Me

I love Romans 12:1-2. It has been, along with Colossians 2:16-23, Isaiah 54 and Proverbs 3:3-8, among the key scriptures that God has used as an extension of His Rod and Staff in guiding me through the narrow way in the past while. God The Artist. He did not create us to be like others but to honour Him by living to allow a transformation that would make us each, uniquely like Him.

Perhaps others struggle with conforming, as I am. A visiting friend shared with me some of the things she had heard said about me and my walk with God, that you can imagine, were less than complimenting. In her view. But as she said them, I gave thanks, understanding what God had deliberately called me from, and that He had been Faithful in working me to be different in some aspects that though offensive to some, honored Him. It was a good visit. She shared with my daughter and I, her own journey and after praying with us left us with a quote purportedly articulated by a servant of God; she said to us

“Someone had to be me – and unfortunately or fortunately for me (and others), I was called to be me.”

That settled it, one day at a time. God has lent me His Breath and His Time for SPECIFIC purposes. Every time I buy into someone else’ assignment and ditch my own, even if I succeed in these and gain the applause of men, I am simply wasting time and breath. God’s Time and Breath. He will call me to account, as all good lenders do, and what I did that wasn’t what He sent me to do, will be burnt with fire. I understood from this, that a major part of Heaven’s resourcing for the good works that God has laid for us to do, is Time and Breath. Exactly the amount of time and breath I need to do His given assignment.

So, whatever He has called you to be, a writer, banker, doctor, accountant, pastor, parent, spouse, intercessor, prophet, encourager, be that, waitress, house help, with all the Excellence of Heaven. He will come calling for fruit.  It may look simple, even shabby to another whose assignment and calling is more pleasing to the senses, but remember this; only I am called to be me. And God will call me to account for it. Therefore, be un-offendable and diligent as you spend His Time and breath His Breath.
Shalom

Keratoconus: Esther Thairu’s Story

As told to Vip Ogola by Esther, her father Stephen Thairu and their good Samaritan Mr. Kamal Sanghani

Stephen Thairu, Esther Thairu with Kamal Sanghani.JPG

Esther: I was young, 2 years old. I had eye trouble and started going to hospital for eye drops. I could see maybe, 30 centimeters and my eyes would pain. The doctors told me it was treatable. It reached a point where I was told I would go in for an operation. I was not afraid even when I saw the razors. I thought it would be painful but it wasn’t. I was anaesthetized and I woke up seeing better. I was in hospital for four days, three of those with my eyes bandaged.

Stephen: Esther was born in Loitokitok. She started having problems with her eyes at the age of two years. She would wake up and find her eyes clogged shut with pus. This happened annually between April and August and we suspected it had something to do with the cold weather. We took her to the district hospital there and she was told she had allergies that would resolve themselves by the time she was eight years old. She was given medication for this.

Esther Thairu.JPGEsther: I do very well in school. I am now 13 years old, and apart from academics, I play football.

Stephen: We moved to Githurai and Esther joined Mercies Academy where she is currently in Standard 6, having dropped back a year due to her medical challenges. Since she was a bright student she caught the attention of her teachers. Teacher Teresia noticed her problems with her eyes and advised us to change to Lions Hospital in Loresho. In the initial year of her treatment, they kept changing drugs. Her right eye was in terrible shape and needed urgent surgery. The left one was also in bad shape. The cost of surgery would be Kshs 350,000/ and they were not taking NHIF. I was confused. I was advised to take her to KNH due to the more manageable costs. On examining her, they concluded that her eyes were badly off. They only perform surgeries once as year so they referred her back to Lions for more urgent attention. We found that the costs there would be the same. I talked to my employer who suggested that we sell my father’s land to offset the costs. She talked to Mr. Kamal Sanghani of the Rotary club about my case and they referred us to Dr. S.P. Amin. We had to wait until he was available.

Kamal: Dr. Amin is in the Board of Lions. He was my contact. I would talk to him and then talk to Stephen. The doctors of Lions are good friends of mine. My family agreed that we would sponsor Esther. We did not know her then, and we have since sponsored three others.  One of the Rotarians told me about her. It took time but Stephen was both patient and persistent keeping me on my toes. Initially it was difficult to get a Cornea. We did not loose home. My mother insisted pushed me from the home front. Since we were working on a tight budget, we agreed that she goes to Lions four or five times. She is a bright student so we wanted to see her excel. There were so many issues and at one point I almost lost my temper with the hospital. Finally we received a Cornea for her from India.

Stephen: They started with her right eye. Then after two months they did Cross linking. She was in a private ward at the hospital and was the only child admitted there at that time.

Esther: I did not go to school. I was told not to by the doctor as it was possible to play a bad game and hurt my eyes. I also needed to avoid dust. I stayed home with Mum and really missed Shule.

Stephen: We had to go to hospital every Saturday after for check-up as she was on medication.

Esther: They would change my specks, I think twice between the first and second operations.

Stephen: They needed to do this to adapt to her strengthening eyesight.

Esther: After I did my first operation, Mr. Francis Mwangi my teacher at my school, Mercies School in Guthurai 44, put me to sit in front of the class. He then moved me to the back of the class to see if I had improved after two week. I had. Fellow students were also supportive in helping me catch up with them, especially Peter Mutuku. I am in Standard 6.

Stephen: She is supposed to be in standard 7 but she lost a lot of time that year and was not able to do her exams.

Esther: My grades are good. I get 350+. At the cross linking the doctors told me that I would go through pain for the night. I stayed indoors for three days with Mum. I am the first of three children and the only daughter of my parents. My mother sells vegetables and my father digs for a living. They gave me eye-drops to put after every two hours.  I was told I could go to school after a week. This was in March 2015. Since that time I have only had my specs changed once. I am in no pain and I can see relatively well.

keratoconus-side-bar

 

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)

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

The making of … a hero

How long it takes to shoot a 30″ TV commercial? It takes months and months of preparation, concept development, testing, drawing, shooting, post production. And a huge team: client, agency, p…

Source: The making of … a hero

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