On Sunday, one of the dear sweet girls in our program was badly burned with scalding water when her siblings accidentally hit the jiko (charcoal cooker) as they were playing in the house and the girl was trying to study. The burn looked really bad (3rd degree, bubbly, fleshy, white—I’m not a doctor, but you get the idea) and she couldn’t walk and was in a lot of pain. Her mom is an equally delightful lady, who I’m learning even more is making so many sacrifices to take care of her kids. Unfortunately, her job is long hours, outside of Kibera, so she gets home late. If the mom stayed home from work to try to figure out how to get treatment for the girl, she risked losing her job. Jobs are hard to come by here and are what keeps families with small amounts of food on the table, so the in the end, there wasn’t really much choice. The mom called us, and Teacher Collins, with his sacrificial heart, went to her home deep in Kibera this morning, carried her to the motorbike and then again to the taxi because she couldn’t walk.
We spent most of the day at the hospital. I’ve had some less than stellar hospital experiences here, but we went somewhere different this time, and actually the whole experience was a lot better. I couldn’t believe it that by 11 a.m., they were actually getting her ready for a brief surgery. I knew of another case 2 years ago where someone’s sibling was burned by tea, and they literally spent months and months in the government hospital. But miraculously in this case, by early afternoon, she’d already been discharged, and we are really hopeful that with continued prayer, the infection will fully heal and she can walk again.
The entire experience of today made me think about a lot of things. First was remembering that most people here don’t have the option of walking into the really good hospitals in the city because they’re just too expensive. Most people in Kibera are stuck with the free or low-cost clinics that have far fewer resources, aren’t always clean, and are understaffed. I have bad memories of visiting the government hospital a few years ago and fearing being trampled during visiting hours when the stairwells were massively overcrowded with people squashed tightly together pushing their way up flights of stairs.
Another thing I thought about a lot was that I didn’t want it to feel like Grain of Rice or myself was the hero when in fact we are just people, merely servants, and there are so many true heroes in this story behind the scenes. The first hero is the mom who is out there working hard every day trying to make the future brighter for her kids. I was shocked when this girl told me her mom has to make excuses for her job once every month so that she can come and volunteer with us as all our parents are doing. I have underestimated the sacrifices some parents are making and how much they value the education their kids are receiving. I also didn't realize that this bright girl, who is often the first to answer questions, couldn’t read in 3rd grade before she joined our program and switched schools. The second hero is her third grade teacher and our 3 teachers who helped her learn to read. The other hero is this little girl because she’s coming home late every night after school and taking care of her siblings, warming up the food the mom made for them, helping her sister with her homework, hand washing her clothes, and doing her own homework all within 2 hours before heading to bed.
As I took her back to rest and get some food at our house, I felt really ridiculous looking around at everything we had and thinking about how her family of four has to share 2 beds in their single room house. Our fridge is full of food; we ate meat AND fruits for dinner, and all I could think about was the excess in my life. I asked her if she had a tv at her house (as I’ve seen in many Kibera households), and she said, “No, but how could you get everything done at night with the tv on?” Truly she is wise beyond years. I thought about the way this girl smiles, and tells stories, and has a joyful spirit despite all her circumstances. I watched her sit on the couch and read the Bible as I cooked and thought about how much I needed to learn from her.
Today turned out a lot different than I planned. Initially, I was selfishly bummed that the hospital visit interrupted my entire day’s plan. I missed VBS and making art with the kids. But you know what? God had a way better plan. Other people jumped in and taught VBS just fine without me. Today I was reminded that He’s in control, and I’m not. I was humbled in so many ways when I thought of the realities that kids here often face. I thought about all the beautiful qualities of Kenyan culture—the hospitality, the way people linger and talk and savor moments rather than hurrying. I thought about the many times I get it wrong and make mistakes here and impose too much of my American self. I felt a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to be around people who have so much to teach me and am even more grateful that despite all my flaws, even still Jesus gives grace.
Pray for this girl for continued healing for her foot. And pray that I and you and so many others would humble ourselves to learn from the true heroes that have so much to teach us.