TESTIFY

Without assuming too much, I believe that you have been on the receiving end or perhaps the dishing-out end of an exchange such as this:

You: (collapsing on the couch) “I am so tired! I just finished mopping the entire house, cleaning out the dog house, went to the market and cooked lunch.”

Mum/Dad/Older sibling..etc : “That’s nothing. When I was your age, we didn’t even have gas or a stove, you’re too privileged. We had to chop down a whole tree every morning before going to school and kindle a fire by rubbing sticks just to make tea.”

Of course, in those days they had to walk 10 kilometres to school (one way) and the route happened to be uphill both ways. Everyone used to live in valleys apparently.

wheniwasyourage
Image Source: TV Tropes

 

The interesting thing about someone denying you the chance to feel sorry for yourself by telling you about a negative experience you may have had, is that it only works with bad things. A friend may tell you not to feel bad that the screen of your Infinix just cracked, while their (non-fireproof) iPhone fell into the jiko while cooking the other day. Or they may try to comfort you by telling you that you retaking classes you failed in Uni isn’t all that bad because in fact his cousin Jax took 7 years to get his undergraduate degree and he’s doing not-so-badly with life nowadays – in fact, he left rehab only last month.

However, you’ll never hear someone attempt to deny you joy by telling you of someone’s greater joy. No one ever got a baby and had a friend burst into the maternity ward screaming, “What do you think you are doing being happy?! Don’t you know the lady in the next room just got triplets and you’re here being proud of ONE baby!?” Perhaps nobody in the world ever said, “Wipe that smile off your face grandpa, how can you be happy to have made it to 109 years while the current world record is 113?” Let’s hope no one ever has.

The real reason however, why people share the experiences of their lives with us may not be to belittle our own experiences or emotions, but rather to give us perspective. And perhaps in the process, learn to appreciate what we may have probably taken for granted, instead of appreciating as a miracle.

***

When I met Salome, it was pretty much coincidental, just as many encounters in her life as she came to recount to me, seemed to be…but now that I look at it, maybe the word there should be providential. There seems to have been Someone’s hand in it.

I was coming from church, having attended a small group meeting with some parents, and since it was evening, I was just going to go home. I remember one of the mums there mentioned during the introductions that she lived near where I lived, so I approached her and asked if she had means to get home, and if not, that I wouldn’t mind dropping her. She was very glad, especially since it looked like it would pour soon.

So we drove. She was very easy to talk to and we exchanged pleasantries and soon we were talking about her children who she treasures deeply. I was surprised to learn that she has 7 children, something I wouldn’t have guessed at first glance – she seemed so vibrant and young. It was in my inquiry as to how and where her children were that the painful and serendipitous journey of her life unfolded.

Salome and her husband had settled in the town of Molo and had purchased half an acre of land, upon which they built a home and carried out subsistence farming. Things were going well for them, and they were active members of their local church and the community around them. What harmony they may have cultivated however went out the window onto the floor of the Rift Valley after the fateful Kenyan general elections of 2007. Salome and her family were from an ethnic community not native to the locality, and after the disputed elections, mass carnage arose countrywide with tribal clashes in some places and outright genocide in others. Salome recalls the incident that turned her life inside out and upside down.

“I had just delivered my last born son three days earlier when it happened,” she told me as we inched along in traffic. “I was home that day with the children, and my husband came back from church and was preparing lunch for us. It wasn’t long before an older man from our congregation came knocking at the door, but wouldn’t come in.” According to the customs of the community around them, men wouldn’t come into the house of a woman who had just given birth – at least not for a few weeks – so they weren’t bothered by this fact, and Salome’s husband stepped out to talk with the man.

The next thing she heard were screams of agony and as Salome ran out, she was met by the sight of a group of young men with machetes, hacking her husband to pieces. She remembers screaming and collapsing, and the gaggle of low-lives fleeing. Her screams drew the attention of neighbors who came rushing to the scene, but it was a little too late – her husband was no more. There was no time to mourn, however, because all soon realized that their homes were ablaze – including Salome’s. Her maternal instincts kicked in and she rushed in to rescue her babies, ages ranging from 3 days to 10 years old. They narrowly escaped and fled from the village with only the clothes on their backs, leaving behind the place they had known as home. Fortunately for them, they didn’t have to run too far, because an Army truck sent to rescue the displaced arrived and took them on board.

They were ferried en masse to the trade fair showground in Nakuru town where they were resident for 3 months. But Salome, the fighter that she is, having orchestrated a daring escape a mere 3 days after childbirth, was not content with living in a tent, eating rations supplied by wellwishers, and having only one set of clothes. So she did what seemed sensible to her – to walk to greener pastures, in Nairobi, 160 kilometres away.

And they walked – 3-month-old baby on her back and a ladder of 6 children of varying heights and ages in tow. They slept by the roadsides and ate whatever Good Samaritans offered them. And they kept walking, till they got to Kimende, 110 kilometres from where they began, when a truck driver pulled over and offered them a lift. Soon, they were in Nairobi. The driver, who ferried cabbages from farmers in Central Kenya to Marikiti (Market) in Nairobi had to drop his wares and make a return trip. Salome says he seemed very moved by her plight and told her he couldn’t help her much more than giving her the 1,500 Kenyan Shillings ($15) he had with him. He asked her where she wanted to go. The only place she knew in Nairobi was Ngong Town, as she had been there for a wedding long ago in the 1980s. So that’s where she trained her guns. He escorted her to the bus terminus, made sure she boarded the right bus, talked with the driver and conductor, and finally bid her adieu.

***

Looking at Salome now, I wonder how she was able to fight through the looming despair, the sorrow of losing her spouse, the burden of seven children. It all seems too much too bear. But she simply says, “It’s God. If it weren’t for him, I would have been nothing. I would have been caught up in self-pity and tried to cry to man for help. But instead, I chose God.”

I ask her where her children are now, and it’s as if I have lit a bundle of hay, the way she comes alive.

***

Her eldest, who was in Standard 5 when all the chaos in their life erupted, is a student at Egerton University on scholarship. She was sponsored throughout high school as well on account of her stellar performance. “Kwani what did she get (in her KCPE)?,” I ask.

“She got 420 marks,” she says casually as I almost crash into the car in front of me.

She goes on to explain how after they arrived, they could only afford a shack in a slummish neighborhood, whose rent was KES 500 ($5) a month. They had no electricity, no running water, and yet her daughter persevered through those circumstances to earn an A in her final examinations. She says when the people who came to evaluate her fitness for the scholarship saw the conditions under which they lived, they didn’t see the need for an interview – she was awarded a full scholarship.

“What about the others?” I asked. She explains that though she doesn’t have any permanent form of employment – she’s a day labourer, washing clothes, tilling farms, even construction work – God has provided a means for each of her children to be in school.

More than that, three others are on full scholarships through chance ordained encounters with amazing people who have all lent a hand towards her and her children’s destinies.

As we near her home, I tell her, “You have really blessed me. Would you mind if I shared this story with others, that they may be touched just as I have been?”

She takes a moment and answers, “There are times I meet people as I do cleaning jobs for them or whatever kind of work, and they treat me with such contempt and disrespect. I used to wonder, am I not a person like them? Don’t they know I was a wife to someone and had my own land and home? I would cry out to God in those times. I would even wonder how much tears a human being’s head could hold, because they would come out like a tap. But not anymore. God took away that pain, I am at peace now. So, if you can, tell them my story, so that they can learn to respect others no matter who they are. Because they don’t know someone else’s story and what they have been through. Go ahead.”

***

And I did just that.

This story is an example of how the life of someone else can help put perspective on our own. How the testimony of someone reveals the layers there are to people. How proclaiming God’s goodness in your life reveals that miracles aren’t just about walking on water.

We can never know at face value the value there is behind the face.

So, go on, don’t hold back, let the world know more than your face.

 

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Revelation 12:11

 

#PEV #Testimony #YourStory #BehindTheFace

2 thoughts on “TESTIFY

  1. This is a really touching story, may the Lord meet Salome and her family at their every point of need, may God glorify Himself through Salome’s life.

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