Kitui County, Kenya
I mentioned in my last post that I had begun making home visits praying with the families here in the village. I have only done this for two days, Thursday and Friday, but already, I have had an experience that I will never forget. The easiest way to begin the story is to paint the scene that I found myself in. I am sitting on a wooden stool in the small living/dining areas that typifies the homes here in Nyumbani Village. The room is completely dark except for a lone kerosene lantern that sits on the table casting a faint yellow light on the weathered face of the Shushu sitting at the table. The children of the house stand around my stool in a semi-circle lit only by the faint shadows cast by the lantern. Behind me is Lillian, the village’s therapist/counselor, who is acting as my translator. The expression on the Shushu’s face is pained as she speaks in rapid Kikamba. I am relying on Lillian to give me the actual meaning, but just watching her speak, I hear anguish and need. Before hearing Lillian’s translation, I am struck with two divergent feelings. I have an intense sense that God has led me to this moment that something important is happening. Also, I have an intense desire not to screw this up.
I do not usually give into long descriptions that belong more in The Scarlet Letter than a blog post, but it is an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life. At this point, a little bit of back-story would be helpful. Friday afternoon, Lillian approached me saying that a particular Shushu had requested that I come pray with her family. The grandparents had reacted well when I mentioned that I would be coming around and praying with them, and I had said that if they saw me around that they should invite me in. I figured that someone was just taking me at my word and was pleased if a little annoyed because I had not planned on making home visits that night. I told Lillian that we could go after dinner. I showed up slightly late to dinner, and as I ate, Lillian was pestering me to get going. It was not until we were walking through the dark the village with one of the social worker, Anton, that she told me that the Shushu had invited me in specifically because the family was having “some problems.” However, Lillian did not provide any further detail. After walking about half a mile by flashlight, we arrived at the house and the scene that I set above.
After the Shushu finished speaking, Lillian translated it for me. There was a lot of discord in the family. The children were not respecting her. Her own biological grandchildren were having particular problems, and it was keeping them out of school. Her vegetable garden was failing, and she felt that evil spirits beset the house. The Shushu said that when she heard me speak at the meeting, she knew that deliverance had come to her house, and she trusted that if I prayed with them, God would answer that prayer. She had been trying to track me down for two days. This did not exactly ease my nerves, my sense of responsibility, or my awe at how God chooses to use God’s servants. With a little prompting for Lillian, I talked to the children about how a family is a place to share the love of God with one another that if we are open to it, the Holy Spirit can move through a family providing love, comfort, and strength. I also said that their Shushu was God’s servant their to help them that showing respect to her was a way of honoring God. I finished up with a piece about forgiveness that since God has forgiven us, we should not hold anger or grudges toward each other. After that, I prayed with the family for the deliverance from evil. I do not have the same concept of evil spirits as the Shushu, but I prayed that they turn from evil and discord and towards sharing the love of God with one another. After I finished praying, the Shushu said that now she will trust in God that God will help the family make a change.
As one might imagine, several things struck me about this experience. I am deeply struck by the depth of the Shushu’s faith. She truly believed that our prayer that night could make all the difference and that God would heal her family. I was also humbled that she thought that I could be a part of that process that God could use me as part of this healing process. In a way, this may be just part and parcel of being a pastor. It is part of the calling to be use by God in God’s mighty acts of redemption and healing. However, understanding that theoretically and sitting in a lantern lit east African home seeing it take place is an entirely different thing.
The final think that I was left with may seem a little out of place. I was hit with how necessary a good theological education is. I did not know going in what I was there to do beyond to pray. I ended up giving a 15-minute talk about how to live as a Christian family and then pray a 10-minute prayer about turning away from sin and towards a more Christian life. Back home, I am merely a pastor in training. I am not expected to ride the bike on my own. The training wheels are still on. Out here, those distinctions disappear. That family was listening in my words for the direction to take, and I was speaking completely off the cuff. In that moment, you really have to know your stuff, or one could do real damage. I did not have time to reference a book, or notes, or the Internet. I just had to know. As a Pastor, one just has to know, and that takes two things – trust in God and diligent study. In talking to my mother about this, she reminded me of a line from Godspell that seems to fit. “You better start to learn your lessons well.”