Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sleepover of a Lifetime

I write anything, especially a blog, I usually let it sit for a while, edit it several times, use a thesaurus to find the best words, and generally work on the piece of writing until I think it is good. I always ask my mom to proofread the essays and blogs I write, too. I did not do that this time. I just got back from this experience, and at Stacey's strong suggestion, I am writing all of this "raw." I corrected spelling mistakes, but that is it. I do not even know if post is understandable. But I want to show you a different side of me, the side of me that I do not groom to as-close-as-I-can-get-to-it perfection. This post is simply me writing what I felt I should write, telling the story as best as I could while still feeling the emotions I felt during the experience. Thank you for reading.

I was so tired. I had not been able to sleep until about 2 am Thursday night/Friday morning. When I dragged myself out of bed, I "got ready for the day" (but really, how could I completely prepare myself for this day) and made sure the kids were on track with school. As the kids only had a few subjects in school on Fridays, Spencer had finished all his work by 9:30 am. I laid down for a nap at 10 am. Though I did not actually fall asleep, I found great rest and comfort in daydreams about college and boys (specifically the boy I plan on meeting at college who will fall madly in love with me a la Fitzwilliam Darcy). An hour later, I overheard Stacey ask Andy, "When are you guys leaving?" and Andy reply, "In fifteen minutes." My mind did a double take. FIFTEEN MINUTES!!!! That couldn't be right; we weren't going to leave until 1 pm, right? My bag wasn't packed and nothing was ready! I jumped out of bed and asked Andy myself when we were leaving for Kahawa West. When he confirmed my fears, I raced to the bathroom to grab my toiletries and then raced back to my room to stuff a change of cloths, a pillow, my toiletries, bible, journal, and camera in my backpack and purse. I had wanted to have more time to mentally prepare for my 24 hour stay with the Kawe family, and I was a little mad to realize no one had actually told me when were going to leave the house. Where did I get 1 pm from?

Twenty minutes after my leap from bed, Andy was driving me to the Kenyan town of Kahawa West where he would drop me off at the house of a Kenyan family, the Kawes. Madison rode with us, but after the 20 minute drive and a quick drop off, I would be on my own with this foreign family.

Patrick Kawe is the pastor of a Kenyan Assemblies of God church called Kahawe West. I had visited his church before and met his wife, Joyce, and his oldest son, Sam. I felt pretty comfortable in Patrick's presence in part because Andy and Stacey spoke so highly of him and had such a good relatioship with him.

When Andy, Maddie, and I arrived at the Kawe home, no one was there. We waited for fifteen or so minutes then left to go to the church hoping Joyce would be there to take me. She was not present at the church. We waited fifteen or twenty more minutes. As we waited, I cut my fingernails (part of that preparation I hadn't had time for) and watched as the little children stared at us and occasionally shouted, "Mazungu!" which means "white person." I turned around in my seat only to be surprised by the presence of a Kenyan woman. Andy explained she was Patrick's sister-in-law, Jenny, and she would take me to her home. If this entire experience had stopped right here, I would have learned the valuable lesson about going with the flow when I am completely out of control of a situation in a very foreign place. The Lord had so much more in store for me, however, so I grabbed my bag and followed Jenny.

Jenny and I walked through the rough dirt roads of the town of Kahawa West. Occasionally, I caught a whiff of something putrid, and the areas we walked by sometimes contained trash and sewage. Children played in the shadows of concrete buildings, and goats grazed or wandered about the sides of the streets. My impression was one of "as clean as you can get it while still being dirty" and poverty while still having the necessities.

When Jenny and I walked into her home, I was surprised to see lacy coverings over her two couches and one chair. She sat me down in the chair, turned the TV on, and disappeared through the curtained doorway to my immediate left. She had introduced me to her three-year-old daughter, Terry. Jenny came out of the left-hand room, and asked me-with a thick accent-what type of soda I liked. I felt unsure and embarrassed. Jenny's home was very small and somewhat shabby and I knew sodas were expensive and a rare treat. I tried to tell her not to get me one, but with the language and cultural barrier, I didn't know how to graciously refuse. I told her Spirit was fine and at her question I sad I liked cold soda. She disappeared through the outside door and left me alone with Terry. I tried to converse with Terry, the little girl, but she didn't really speak English. Looking around the room, I saw white-washed walls. The coverings on the furniture reminded me of the material of lace curtains; I thought they looked like they had once been rather nice, but they had become used-looking and slightly shabby. A tall entertainment center in the corner to my right contained a small, square TV and cabinets surrounding the hollow for the TV set.

I worried about what would happen next. Why hadn't Joyce Kawe met me at the church or her home?

Jenny returned with two sodas-my Spirit and a coke. She went to the cabinet above the television and retrieved two glasses. She opened the two sodas and I poured myself a small glass. Jenny poured a glass of Coke for terry. When I inquired whether or not Jenny was going to have a glass, she told me she was allergic to soda. I think we made small talk, but I don't remember that well. Either way, I'm pretty sure I had a wide smile plastered to my face. Though Jenny spoke English, a language barrier still prevented us from understanding each other perfectly, and I wanted to let her know I appreciated her hospitality by smiling incessantly. Jenny was very nice. I asked her how long she had been married and after replying (I don't remember how long she said) she turned to the cabinets once again looking for wedding photos. She handed my a VHS box that was the video of her wedding. The plastic covering contained a collage of stills from the video and while I looked at those, Jenny looked for the photos. She eventually found them and left me to look at the pile while Terry demanded each photo I looked at and put them in her own pile. Jenny had disappeared through the curtained doorway again.

A boy who looked to be about 7 showed up around this time. He spoke more English than Terry, and I smiled and tried to talk with them. I finally figured out his name was Eliazar. Together he and I read aloud a book containing the English alphabet and phrases like "B is for boy." My favorite was "X is for X-mas tree." I didn't know how to read that one. Terry looked at the book, too. I was puzzled by a page at the back of the book containing drawings of birds and their English names. How is a three-year-old supposed to learn the English name for the "ring-necked whatsit" or the "brown-tailed whatever" if the child doesn't know the Swahili word for it? Is this about the alphabet or ornithology?

After I had been in her house for about an hour or so, Terry came out of the doorway (I figured out it was a kitchen) with plates of food. She served Terry, me, Eleazar, then herself rice, a cooked spinach-like dish, and a bean and tomato dish. It tasted very good. When she poured me a glass of water from a plastic jug (I think it used to contain cooking oil), I wasn't sure if it was good or not. But when she took a sip from her own glass, I figured it was probably fine. It looked clean, and when I drank it, it tasted clean.

I asked Jenny when we were going to go to the church to clean. "Oh, you won't clean." I almost panicked at that! Was she going to keep me here!? She was a wonderful hostess, but that was not part of the plan. "Oh no, no," I replied with a laugh and that permanent smile, "I want to clean." That surprised her. She made a few cellphone calls in Swahili, and after we finished eating, she told me it was time to go. Finally. I don't want to seem rude, but this unplanned for visit was pretty nerve-racking.

Eleazar left (who's kid was he, anyway?) and I followed Jenny and Terry out of the house and through the dirt and rock streets again. I was relieved to know Jenny wasn't going to kidnap me as her permanent, honored house guest. When we got to the church, we met Joyce, Terry (Joyce's twelve-year-old daughter), and another lady.

With five-gallon buckets, we gathered dirty water from what I thought was the baptism pool at the front of the sanctuary. I don't think it was a baptistery, but that's what it looked like. I wondered how the water got into the "pool." I didn't ask. The ladies poured liquid soap into the brown water and we took old, ragged kid's shirts as "dusters" to mop the floors with. Now, I have stayed in Africa for three months, I have witnessed Africans bending down at the waste to work many times, but for some reason I didn't put two and two together to come up with the ladies telling me to bend at the waste to mop the sanctuary floor. For about ten minutes, that's what I did. When my legs and arms grew tired after those ten minutes, I went to bend down on my knees. "NO, don't bend down!" You would have thought I was drinking the water or something with the strength of the ladies' reaction. "You will get your dress dirty!" Skirt, actually, which is why I had chosen my least favorite denim skirt. In hindsight, I was a little too dressed up for work, but pants would have been too hot, ladies wore skirts all the time, and I didn't know capris would have been acceptable. Remember, I had been rushed out of the house. The church ladies laughed at me. "She is going to pray for us while we mop," they said with light hearted laughter. It was only mildly funny to me. Smile in place, though, I just did like they did. After about twenty or thirty minutes of work, they found humor in my red-faced sweating. "She is getting salty!" Because of their dark skin, African ladies do not get red-faced. I felt a little foolish, but I was here to work, to help them and they weren't being mean. I felt my face dripping with sweat. This was so not what I had imagined, though I didn't really know what I had expected. I don't think a person can be completely devoid of expectations, even if they try to be.

After the arduous hour of mopping the sanctuary, we turned to the kitchen. The kitchen was just a little room to the left of the main room, and when I caught a whiff of it, I nearly gagged. Thankfully, we were not going to wash the dishes in the kitchen. We carried all the dishes out to a room in another small building-the building contained Sunday school classrooms. I squatted over a big metal basin (it was bigger than a sink) while another lady, Rosemary, bent over a five gallon bucket filled with water. She gave me some rags and a bar of soap instructing me to scrub the soap on the rag and wash the dishes with that rag. Then Rosemary would rinse the dishes in her bucket of water. That is what I did. The television character Adrien Monk would have apoplexy if he witnessed this crude dish washing session, but I was surprised at how well I was able to stomach the unpleasant smell and the painful squatting--Rosemary had to admonish me again not to sit or kneel down. As we worked, she and I talked. She spoke English well, and we talked about our families. When I told her I was eighteen, she said that was so young. I don't know why, but her acknowledging my youth made me feel good. It made me feel like my ignorance concerning their house work methods was more understandable. I felt a connection with Rosemary. She was very kind to me. After we had finished washing the dishes, she patiently showed me how to wash one of the Sunday school rooms using water and a straw hand broom. When most of the work was complete, she saw how tired I was and told me she would finish the work. When I asked her if she was tired she relied, "No." Her stamina amazed me. Throughout the afternoon, the ladies had asked me if I was tired. I mostly said, " A little bit, but I can still work." I didn't want them to think I was too proud to work hard or too soft to try my best. I knew I wasn't cleaning as well as they were, but when I asked them, they approved of my efforts.

After Rosemary and I had cleaned the Sunday school room, some other women who attended the church showed up. In fact, quite a gathering had accumulated while I hadn't looked. I was invited to sit in a Sunday school room with about ten other women as the rehearsed a drama for Sunday. They greeted me in English, but only a few seemed comfortable enough in English to try to converse with me. The ladies practiced their skit in Swahili, of course, so I couldn't really tell what was going on. As they began to rehearse the ten minute drama a second time, Joyce motioned for me from the window. Time for us to go. It took us another thirty minutes to get out of the the church compound. Several ladies wanted to talk to Joyce or me. As we walked home, I felt relief at the completion of the day's work. I was tired. Joyce and I spoke a little bit as we walked through the streets to her home. I had my camera out and took pictures of colorful buildings, drying laundry, kids, and goats. Sometimes I heard, "Mazungu!" shouted by little children (it means "white" or "white person"). A few kids said, "How are you?" and I replied, "Good," and then asked them in their own language saying, "Hujambo?"

I kept my mouth closed as I smiled, not wanted my mouth to catch dirt or taste the occasional putrid smells.

The Kawes live on the second floor of an apartment building. They keep chickens--or cukoos--in cages underneath the outside stairway leading up to their front door. When we walked into their home, the front room seemed dark and cluttered with furniture. An arm chair stood in front of me and a couch stood to my right. Another couch sat against the far wall--the wall containing the door to the kitchen--with two more chairs next to it. Joyce sat me down and I set my backpack and purse in an unused corner. A large "entertainment center" housed a small square TV and several cabinets.

Immediately, she sent one of her boys out to get a soda; when she asked me what kind I liked I said anything was fine. The boy came back with orange Fanta. It made me feel weird to have them go out of their way to get me a soda. Joyce had a glass, too, though, and that made me feel a little better. After our refreshment, we went to the kitchen, and I thought we were going to cook. When I saw the tiny room, however, and the huge pile of dishes, I realized we had to wash more dishes. I squatted down with a rag and a bar of soap over a really large metal basin. Terry, the twelve-year-old daughter, rinsed the soapy dishes in a bug of water. We talked a little while we worked. I asked her what her favorite color was. She said pink. I asked a little bit about school. Just small talk. My legs and knees ached, but I didn't want to complain or show fatigue. Joyce asked me if I wanted a chair. I said I was fine. Once we completed the dishes, we set to work cooking dinner.

The Kawes cook over a little stove called a "jiko." Joyce took the little stove outside on the porch, put news paper in the basin, added small pieces of wood, lit the wood and paper on fire, and then she added charcoal or "chaco." She carried the burning stove into the kitchen from outside and placed a metal cooking bowl on top of the device. She told me to slice a red onion and when I had I put it into the cooking pot. She handed me a jug of oil and told me to pour oil into the pot. I diced tomatoes and zucchini, added them to the cooking onion, and Joyce added some pieces of meat. In the family room, she had me chop great big pieces of spinach and sucumaweeki--a spinach-like green. We added the greens to the pot and let it all cook. During the cooking and chopping of greens, we watched a ridiculous Spanish soap opera with horrible English dubs. I had a hard time not laughing at the ridiculousness of the plot, but I did not want to offend Joyce or the kids. After the greens, vegetables, and meat dish had cooked, Joyce removed it from the heat and began to make another Kenyan dish, ugalee, over the jiko. Taking a bowl-full of ugalee flour (a very, very fine corn flour), Joyce dumped it into a pot of boiling water and stirred the mixture. I asked if I could stir, too, and while I stirred, Joyce instructed the boys to take my picture. The mixture soon became too thick for me to stir and Joyce took over. After the ugalee finished cooking, she dumped the contents of the pot onto a plate and stuck a knife in the top of the mound. I set this on the coffee tables in the living room. I was surprised to find they ate and sometimes even cooked around the two coffee tables in the family room. they had a dining room with a table in chairs right behind the family room, but it is filled with books and things and is more like a storage area.

We took plates and the dishes filled with food and set them on the coffee tables. When we had all sat down, Joyce handed me a spoon and said they ate this dish with their hands but I could use a spoon. I thanked her but said I would try eating with my hands like they did. Terry came to each of us with a pitcher of water and an empty bowl. She poured water over our hands in turn so we could wash them. I was thankful that Joyce allowed me to serve myself because I had heard stories of plates piled too high for stomachs to eat comfortably. I ate little compared to them, but I ate my full and enjoyed it. Eating with my hands was fun. In the middle of the meal, Joyce told Sam--the oldest boy (about 16 years of age)--to take my picture.

As we ate, we watched TV; I believe it was another Spanish soap opera in English dubs. I was tired. It was probably about 7:30 or 8 in the evening before we ate. Joyce saw my fatigue and asked if I wanted to go to bed. I said yes. She replied, "Okay, but first: tea." She served me a cup of chi--boiled milk and water with a spoonful or two of shredded tea leaves.

Joyce gave me some warm water to use for a bathing. I entered the little bathing room and broke down in quiet sobs. This had been one of the most overwhelming days I had ever experienced. I missed my family so much; I missed being in a familiar environment; I missed having my parents take care of me. I felt so alone. I didn't sob much. After wiping myself with the damp washcloth, I exited the washing room. Joyce gave me a glass of water with which to use for brushing my teeth. I think I retired into the room they gave me at around 9:30 pm. I changed into my pajamas, gathered anything I might need during the night, and climbed under the mosquito net onto the bed. I read my Bible and journaled a little bit. I cried some more in earnest. My mind kept skipping ahead five weeks to the moment when I would walk off that airplane and run into my parents' arms (my daydream did not include muddling through customs). I turned the light off at 10-ish. My stomach felt nauseous and so I just lay there in the dark, too queasy to even listen to music on my iPod. I got up to go to the bathroom several times before I lay down for good.

On Saturday, I woke up around 7:30 or 8 am. My stomach felt normal again, and I looked forward to the day "knowing" I would be back at the Whitman's home in a few hours. I got dressed and went out into the family room. I helped Joyce as we gathered bread, butter, and honey for breakfast. We also had tea. Kenyan chi is not very flavorful and tastes rather weak. It is alright, but it does not satisfy my caffeine needs. We ate bread and butter and honey in peace. Sam is the only one who talked much. He asked me questions about how the school system in America works and how many subjects people take. They do not have homeschooling in Kenya, so I explained how my parents had homeschooled me, too.

Right after breakfast, Joyce began to prepare the family room for making chapatis. She brought out a big bowl and set it on the coffee table. She also gathered salt, sugar, oil, and two bags of chapati flour. Joyce asked me if I liked my chapati with salt or sugar. When I told her I had never eaten chapati and did not know how I liked it, she said we would use both. She put four spoonfuls of sugar into the bowl and then one spoonful of salt. Then she dumped a whole bag of flour into the basin. She had a very large cup that she used to pour warm water on top of the flour. My favorite part came next when she actually measured out to handfuls of oil. That is one measurement I can duplicate for sure--I don't know about the rest of the process. Joyce used her hands to mix the mixture. I stuck my hands in the bowl, too, and worked at incorporating all the ingredients into the dough.

As she measured, poured, and mixed, Joyce taught me the Swahili words for the ingredients. Oil is mafuta, salt is chuvee, and sugar is sakarra.

After the dough was mixed together, Joyce took the jiko and prepared a charcoal fire in it. When she came back inside, she moved the arm chair in the line of the front door so it faced the couch on the far wall. Then she turned back the carpet in front of the chair. I was surprised when she carried in the jiko with fire in it and set it in front of the couch and armchair. The room became a little smoky, but not unbearable.

Taking pieces of dough, she rolled them into flat circles, drizzled a little oil on it, rolled the dough into a snake, then rolled pieces of the dough into rolls.

I don't understand the whole process because after she had made the little rolls, she rolled those flat. A flat piece of cast iron lay on top of the jiko, and Joyce lay the flat pieces of dough on it.

After turning the piece of dough so each side had cooked a little bit, she put another flat piece of dough on top of the first one, used a spoon to put oil underneath the bottom dough, and turned the two pieces of dough. She repeated this process until all the sides of the two pieces of dough were cooked. After repeating all of this a few times, she had me do the turning and oiling while she rolled out more pieces of dough. It was hot work, and I had to use a piece of paper and a spatula to help me turn the dough. Joyce used her bare hands. Sam grabbed my camera and took pictures of me cooking.

I enjoyed cooking with Joyce. She complimented me saying, "You are a fast learner." She was a patient teacher as I reviewed the chapati-making process and the Swahili words she had taught me.

I looked at my watch at 11:30 am, and was very thankful Andy was going to pick me up soon. I had enjoyed this experience, but my comfort zone was calling me and I had a skype date with my parents that afternoon. When Andy called saying he would be there within the hour, my heart secretly rejoiced. I did not want Joyce or her children to know I would leave them happy as they seemed to really enjoy my company and I did not want to insult them.

A little bit later, we sat there eating warm chapati. They were so delicious! The tasted reminded me of crepes, but chapati are a little thicker--somewhere in between pancakes and crepes. Joyce's phone rang and she handed it to me saying it was Andy. "Hey, Summer. Patrick says they really like you, and they want you to stay for another night. What do you think?" My stomach did a flip. What!? The Kawes were wonderful, gracious hosts, but did I mention how out of my comfort zone I felt!! Andy asking me if I wanted to stay made me feel like crying. "Um, could I pray about it and call you back?" I answered. Andy told me that was fine, I hung up, and I thanked Joyce and her kids for her hospitality and for the extended invitation. "I would like to stay with you some more, but I just have to pray about it first," I said with a smile I didn't feel. Please don't let them see I'm about to cry, I thought. They graciously dismissed me, I went to my room, and I sobbed. I did not want to stay, but I didn't want to insult them by leaving early. I wrote in my journal, praying and asking God what I should do. Of course, I was pretty sure how He would answer me, but when He answered me, the Holy Spirit spoke gently. "It is not a sin for you to leave now, but , dear one, you will be blessed so much more if you stay than if you leave now." I didn't want to stay, but I also didn't want to miss out on the Lord's blessings. I cried for a minute more, gathered myself, and went back into the living room. "Yes, I would like to stay with you for another day. Can I call Andy back and tell him?" Joyce lent me her cell phone, and Andy and I arranged for me to stay and for him to bring me a bag with a change of clothes.

While I waited for Andy to arrive with another bag for me, Joyce set me to work peeling potatoes. I helped her shred more sukumaweeki, and she showed me how to make two more Kenyan dishes. One contains mashed potatoes with corn (they call it "maze")and shredded sukumaweeki in it. The other dish was made of chopped green beans, diced tomatoes, diced squash, and diced eggplant. Both of these were made over the jiko. After cooking, Terry and I did the dishes. This time when Joyce offered me a stool, I accepted it with gratitude. Sam got my camera and took some pictures of me washing the dishes.

I was relieved when Terry and I finished the dishes. Andy had come and brought me a bag filled with a change of clothes and some other items. Stacey had called me and asked if I wanted anything special. I had asked her to put in some face soap and book. When I looked through the bag, I also saw she had given me a bottle of water, some packaged peanut butter crackers, and a Cadbury chocolate bar with nuts. Her thoughtfulness made me cry again. She also lent me Madison's cell phone so I could call my parents at the time when I would have skyped with them.

After the dishes, we sat down to lunch. It was very delicious. The potato dish (the one on the left) put a lump in my throat because it tasted like home.

"Now, we rest," Joyce told me after we had finished eating. The TV was on, and we sat there and watched as Denezel Washington showed up. I was feeling very homesick and on the verge of crying when I saw him, and I almost laughed out loud. I had not expected to see anything familiar on the television, but as we watched I realized it was the Denezel Washington movie called "The Preacher's Wife." I know the Lord planned that movie at that time because my emotions were anguished as I longed for home. That movie comforted me in a way that's hard to explain. I watched it as I waited for the time when I would call my parents. At 3 pm, I excused myself to the bedroom and dialed my home phone number. No one answered. I dialed my mom's cell phone. No one answered. I called Stacey and asked her what I should do. She told me she had emailed my mom and let her know I was away for another night and would phone home. Stacey said because the line had rung, nothing was wrong that we could fix. I must have dialed my home phone and my mom's cell phone nearly twenty times before I gave up. I was so upset, but on the other hand, I figured if I had talked to my parents I might have unraveled completely. I finished watching "The Preacher's Wife" with the Kawes.

Later on, I called Stacey and she comforted me a little bit. She encouraged me about by saying she was so proud of me for getting outside of my comfort zone by spending the night with this foreign family. When I came back from talking with Stacey, Joyce asked me if I had talked to my mama. I began to cry and told her no. She asked me why I was crying. I apologized and told her I missed my parents so much and I hadn't seen them in three months. She hugged me and told me it was okay. Kenyans are very family-oriented, and I think they understood my homesickness. I hid it as best as I could--I smiled a lot, I think--but when I couldn't hide the tears, they didn't mention it and were just kind to me.

Joyce took me for a walk through the town of Kahawa West and back to the church KAG Kahawa West. A group of ladies were sitting in the courtyard of the church compound cutting carrots for an event the next day. They invited me to sit with them. Someone handed me a knife, and I began cutting the carrots with them.

It reminded me of the work days I used to go to at my home church in Alexandria. I loved watching and listening to all of these Kenyan sisters in Christ as they talked in Swahili and fellowshipped together. At one point, they were really laughing at something, and I heard my name, "Shumer," spoken. "Okay, I know you are laughing at me," I said with a grin, "What am I doing wrong?" One lady spoke up and said, "They are laughing because you are cutting the carrots into different sizes." This made me smile. Of course, these ladies had been cutting with just their hands and no cutting board since they were young, so they were experts at the whole thing. I was used to chopping carrots and other vegetables with a cutting board on a hard surface. I explained this to them, and the women just smiled. I really enjoyed myself even though I didn't know what they were saying. I could tell by their chatter they were having fun, too. These are the ladies I sat next to.

After I cut my finger on the knife (I did cut up a good 5 or 6 carrots before my slip-up), Joyce motioned it was time to go. As we walked back to her home, I snapped photos of the things we passed that I found interesting. Here are a few of my favorites:

Patrick, the Kawe husband and father and KAG pastor, came back from a trip in the early evening. I helped Joyce prepare dinner, and we all ate together at around 7:30 or 8 in the evening. The television was just about always on, and we ate dinner to another episode of one of the Spanish soap operas we had watched the day before. The TV was a nice diversion from homesickness, and I enjoyed eating with the family, too.

I was very tired, though, and Joyce gave me some water to wash with around 9:30. After washing my face and arms, I retired for the night. I read my Bible in the bedroom, wrote a few lines in my journal, then turned off the light. Again, my stomach did not feel good, so I just lay in bed until I fell asleep. Thoughts of my homecoming at Dulles airport had comforted me all day long on Saturday.

I was much relieved to wake up on Sunday without feeling the sharp ache of homesickness and the threatening tears. At 6:30 am on Sunday morning, I knew I wouldn't go back to sleep. Hungry, I quietly ate the peanut butter crackers in bed and nibbled on the chocolate bar. It felt so good. I finally felt peaceful and in control of myself. I thought about the previous day and was so glad the Holy Spirit had prompted me to accept the Kawe's invitation to stay another night.

I got out of bed around 7:30 am or so and dressed for the day. My hair was pretty greasy from not washing in for about 60 hours, but I decided not to let it bother me. I sat on the couch next to Sam and we talked for a little bit about the differences in our culture and things like that. Patrick offered to let me write an email. At the thought of writing to my parents, I nearly became undone again, though not nearly has much as I had the day before. I wrote them a quick email letting them know I would look for them on skype later that day.

I enjoyed listening to Patrick as he told me about the five year plan he had for the church he pastored. He told me a little bit about some of the ungodly practices in some of the tribes and how he has held some camps and workshops about Godly behavior for young men and things like that. He and his wife went out to a remote village a few weeks ago and told some new Christians about how a Godly marriage works. Also, each year he holds a camp for young men and teaches them about how to be a man of God. His stories impressed me and I was encouraged to hear about how people were getting saved and learning more about God.

After that, we ate breakfast. We ate store-bought "cakes"--similar to pancakes--with our tea. Breakfast was quiet, but after we had all eaten, Patrick spoke. "We would like to take this time to talk with you and be together as the rest of this day will be busy with church. Peter has something he wants to say to you." Peter, the youngest Kawe, spoke. "Thank you for coming and staying with us." His gratitude touched me as I had not had much contact with him. He was rather shy, and as he was only 10 or 11, his English wasn't the greatest. His sweet, shy smile warmed me. He wasn't the only one with something to say, though, as each family member thanked me in turn for staying with them. They smiled at me, and I was so humbled by their thanks and the honor they showed me. I cried and smiled and hoped they understood how much they had blessed me. Joyce said she enjoyed cooking with me. Sam said he enjoyed my company. Joseph (about 13 or 14) said I was kind. Terry told me she felt like we were sisters. Patrick thanked me last. He told me they had enjoyed having me in their home so much. Perhaps the most surprising thing he said was this: "You are the first white person to spend the night under our roof in the history of our family." Wow! It humbled me and made me feel so little to realize how honored they felt that I had spent two nights in their home. All the discomfort and uncertainty I had felt, all the anxiety and fear I had experienced seemed so silly and self-focused when I realized how honored and happy I had made them by accepting their invitation. I was so choked up I couldn't make any eloquent speeches. I simply said something like, "Thank you so much for having me in your home. You have blessed me more than I can say." And I meant it, I knew that was true.

Patrick then led us in prayer. He blessed me, prayed over this new and God-ordained friendship between his family and myself, and he prayed I would have a safe journey back when the time came. They all expressed a desire for me to come and stay with them again. Then came picture time. This is me with the Kawe family. Patrick is taking the picture.

Here I am with Joyce and Patrick:

The Kawe family: Sam, Joseph, Patrick, Peter, Joyce, and Terry.

During my sleepover in the Kawe home, I experienced some of the most raw emotions I have felt the entire time I've been in Africa. In those two days, I was out of my comfort zone in the most extreme way I can imagine. But, the Kawes blessed me so much. I know the Lord orchestrated the whole event, and I am so glad He did. Praise the Lord! He showers blessings on us and gives us strength during difficulties. He never calls us to do something that He has not equipped us to do. I am so grateful to the Kawe family for the way the showed me kindness, love, and hospitality. May the Lord bless them richly for their faithfulness, grace, and love. Praise God! Amen


  1. This was the most beautiful thing you have written so far. From the heart! From the Soul. Barring all your weakness' and strengths. So proud to know you Summer. I am glad you are having this experience with the lord and with a new culture. I hope to hear more when you come back home. xoxo

  2. I am speechless, Summer. Such a beautifully written story. It made me laugh and made me cry. I know how hard parts of that experience were for you. You are brave and teachable. I love you.

  3. Thank you so much, Shawnda and Mom. Your comments brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

  4. Amazing story! I love reading your stories about your experiences because they're so wonderfully you! But this story is beautiful and makes me respect you even more. =)

  5. Wow, Summer, what an honor you gave them - staying at their home, enjoying them, facing your heart's challenges to give them the gift of your presence with them. How much you have learned and grown! I thought I was adventurous at your age, but my adventures didn't come close to this, and for such greater purpose. I'm proud of you, my friend! xoxoxo

  6. Thank you so much, all of you, for reading my blog and for these wonderful comments. Thank you for you love and your support. I'm so glad this testimony blessed you!