The Year in Brief and Grief

Seasons and times are a very fundamental aspect of every society. A review of all cultures show that every society had the day and night divided into various parts. The sun, moon, rains, migration of animals, how plants grow and shed off leaves were some of the indicators of changing seasons. Globalization has continued to result in a harmonized calendar to show changes in seasons. Probably, only religion and a few cultures still remain with some sort of their own calendar. However, there is every sign that this may change with time.

It is therefore not a surprise that we are looking forward to and are energised for another year called 2022 by the majority of the world’s  over 8 billion people. People have high hopes  that the new season will come with good tidings and favour that propels them forward. It is common knowledge that the covid 19 pandemic has affected the last seasons. Social and economic state of our lives were greatly disrupted. All of us have had to accept, adapt and adopt new realities of living. 

Even with this major change, there are still many that believe there is no “corona” as covid 19 is mostly referred to. In various social media platforms, many people will be found arguing first whether it exists, it is a human creation and whether we should be vaccinated.  The debate even gets uglier when laced with religious views and perspectives.  

The reality is that our lives have majorly been interrupted and disrupted and even as we review 2021 and look at the future of 2022, we cannot be oblivious  of the things around us. Anyone planning for 2022 must have this in mind and make it a necessary consideration if you want to make progress. Covid 19 has made healthcare costly, death a closer reality and something that changes families forever. 

Adios! A look into the coffin

The year had so many deaths. Many of my friends were bereaved after the loss of mostly their parents. Some lost their children and others spouses. Loss of a loved one is always a very tough experience and not an easy one to climb that mountain and conquer unscathed. My friends from church to Net Ministries Trust, Kenyatta University Christian  Union Alumni and Onjiko High School 96 Alumni groups, work place and space  among others lost their parents, children or close relatives. Apart from parents, there were also the loss of colleagues. Death is a bad reaper, says Elechi Amadi in his book, The Concubine. I have no words to share with those who lost their loved ones. Death has made many orphans, childless, widows and  widowers. I pray the Lord hold your hands as you walk through a phase without someone whose life meant almost everything in life. 

In my reflection of 2020 year titled 2020 briefs, I had indicated that if God was to open the pandora box and get to allow us to see our future of mixed grill- good and bad, sadness and joy- many of us would not even live. We would lose hope. 

The year brought us another death.  Baba’s death was just very sudden and unexpected.  He just went like that without any serious sign of looming death. The previous week we had gone to Nyamakima, Nairobi town to check on some land matters and he was very jovial then now he was gone. Where do you start from? How do you start? When do you start? Why do you even start? There is always that state of confusion, disbelief, pain, grief and the unknown future when death strikes. Family members find themselves in a shaky boat with little or no ability to chart the course and steer the ship. 

The sting of death, while the Bible says is defeated and asks a rhetoric and sarcastic question, is usually real to the most affected. Even condolence, comfort and caring messages may not alleviate the pain. As I reflect on this, I have learnt that the pain of grief will take many years to end or to be forgotten. I have just learnt to carry my grief with me- cry when my heart is bleeding, find laughter over some of the events and our history and forge ahead by being inspired by the values and vision of my departed father. This lesson was also learnt from Rev Simon Mwangi of Parklands Baptist Church, who narrates his experience of grief in the book, Embracing  Seasons Wisely, by Bishop Simeon Oyugi.

“My major disrupter happened on the morning (5am) of Sunday  6th March,2011. This is the moment when my wife Joy went to be with Jesus….I now had to face the future without her and with five young children……I broke the news to my children . We did the burial within a week and the long walk began. I determined that I was to engage my new season under three areas namely ‘a person, a parent and a pastor.’ I took a prayer retreat and reflected on  these three considerations. I resolved to march on……I sat with my children and agree that we would pursue the values their mother had inculcated in them, namely God first, develop self through education  and investment, and finally serve by giving back to the society.”

My method of dealing with my pain may not work for someone else. I am always pressed from inside to comment with messages of comfort but deep inside I am wondering how and whether the message will make any meaning.  In his book, Where is God when it hurts, Philip Yancey says:

 I feel helpless around people in great pain. Helpless, and also guilty. I stand beside          them, watching facial feature contort and listening to the sighs and moans, deeply aware of the huge gulf between us. I cannot penetrate their suffering, I can only watch. Whatever I attempt to say seems weak and stiff, as if I’d memorized the lines for a school play. 

The Fowler’s snare

It was a dark period of over two weeks. Waking up each day to go to hospital to get a report either way. The year also had its fair share of sick family members. Shuttling between home and hospital daily, reaching there to attend to my patient in the best way I can. I thank God for the gift of friendship who for those 12 days prayed, visited and checked on my children. Some used their finances to support me sort out certain issues. 

Being a caregiver is energy sapping. One is easily drained while you still have to give 100% attention, energy and hope. At times the caregiver and the patient are all in need of hope and assurance. For those who are struggling with health challenges, may His grace be sufficient even as you bear this thorn in your flesh. In this world, these are some of the things we must go through however strong you are. 

Relationships 

The year 2021 found me severally reflecting on the Economics of Relationships, a blog I am yet to publish. I learnt that it is important to establish, maintain and enhance friendships. In a world where social media is making those far away to look closer to us and those seated near us to look very far away, we must be deliberate and intentional in building relationships that foster unity, togetherness, friendship and that can propel us beyond our comfort zones. 

During the year, this required that I work on my people skills of relating, initiating and sustaining regular conversations (calls, sms, whatsApp, messenger and in person engagement). Additionally, getting involved in people’s  issues by being there for them as much as possible. One may say that building relationships is only possible for extroverts, however, God expects us to all work on this area. 

In a world that is becoming unkind, uncaring and mercilessly hurting down one another, a sense of brotherhood will take us far. We do not need to pay a heavy price on this. Rather, just commitment and consistency will take us far. For example, deciding that this year, I will reach out to someone once a week or a month makes a big difference. 

The words of pop singer Jackie DeShanon speaks clearly on this: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It is the only thing there is just little of”. However, the cry from the world is mostly,“what the world needs now is jobs, sweet jobs, it is the only thing there is just too little of.”

Leadership perspectives

It was a year of various assignments entrusted to me by the Lord through His people. Some came as surprises while others were mostly part of my daily routines. 

Leadership is never a walk in the park. It has its fair share of challenges, most of which are man made. Leading Christians is especially one which is unique in challenges and self fulfilment. 

The biggest challenge is the balancing that is required to juggle between job, christian service and family. Juggling the liver in this situation is never an easy assignment. Some key practices I developed to balance my time were planning, prioritization, regular reflections, spending quality time with my family, holding effective meetings, regular exercise and delegation.

Another lesson I learnt during these engagements is what I call monkey management. As a leader if you are not careful, people will hand over their monkeys for you to handle on their behalf. However, I have now learnt fully well how to deflect monkeys and ensure they do not perch on me. 

Lastly, a key thing was excellence in execution. It is not just about doing an assignment but also doing it in style and ensuring the oomph that accompanies the results. Excellence is never an accident. It is the results of endless efforts, sacrifices and commitment to deliver in a better way that not only satisfies self but others in the game as well. 

Every season has its ups and downs. 2021 had its fair share of challenges. However, looking at life with a positive perspective enables one to press on knowing that the challenges are short term. I celebrate life. I celebrate the fact that I had food, friends and family. They made my life better. They kept oozing freshness even when all around was marshy and salty. 

Happy new and blessed 2022. May you walk with God steadfastly and faithfully. May your mind and heart be connected with the Lord’s and endeavour to do what the Lord wants you to do.

The Power of Endurance

 “Every ant knows the formula of its ant-hill, They know it in their own way, not in our way. Every bee knows the formula of its beehive. Only humankind does know its formula.” FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY

While growing up, I remember some two families who lost their parents. One family, the mother died and the children remained with the step mother and father. I do not know what happened but what is known is that all the children who I guess were six lived alone. They would leave school, go to the river to fetch water for domestic purposes, another to the market and another to fetch firewood. For the years I knew them, they were always latecomers. Some of my classmates used to make a joke that the time keepers would always dream every night calling their names at the school assembly. It was a known fact that daily they would be caned in the morning and after lunch for coming late. I still regret the fact that no teacher or Board of  management member checked to establish what was happening. 

The struggle to survive primary school in the village was real. Every day was marked with hunger, corporal punishment, bullying, hard tackling and other incessant strides. Looking back these merely strengthened our resolve and determination to break even. It was a persistent desire to change the situation.

A few months ago, NTV, a media house in Kenya, had an interview with the Chief of General Staff of Kenya Defense Forces. The CGS mentioned how they are changing to meet new trends in the training curriculum for the recruits. He indicated that in the last few years they have had to reduce the rigour and vigour of the training as more recruits have been experiencing fractures. Are we becoming brittle or we lack sufficient mental resilience?

There are many today who are giving up along the way more than yesterday. While I do not want to look like am cheapening the issue of suicide, I believe the increase in number of both attempts and final suicide is as a result of inability to persevere or reverse certain situations. 

The world has become too comfortable and this has raised up a generation that is brittle and fragile and must be handled with care. We concentrate more on sailing and soaring and assuming that there is no struggling and surviving. We assume that the world has rejected us if we are merely running in the storm almost daily. 

Media has also not made things better. The invention of social media and the accompanying advantages has also thrust us to a life where we assume everyone is enjoying and there is nothing to be endured. We post our good moments. We share our photos which have fillers or where we have done make ups to enhance the looks. This makes “only me to have pimples while the rest of the people have smooth faces. Why would I be the only one with pimples. I would rather die than live alone with pimples in a world where everyone else is having a smooth face”. That is how thoughts run through an individual and decides to do the unthinkable. 

In the book, Heroes who changed the world, the author shares the story of Hudson Taylor and his commitment to evangelization of China. At one point he lost it all. His health had deteriorated, they lost some of their children to tropical diseases and during the voyage the storms were too much. 

“Day after day, the ship was battered by one typhoon after another. Rain and sleet kept the decks wet. The storms kept blowing the vessel off course and threatened to destroy it. For twelve days, the crew and passengers fought fear, nausea and discouragement. Then one morning, they saw the coast of China. Just as they began to rejoice, another typhoon came along and blew the ship in the opposite direction. ‘Please don’t use force. We must try to do everything to stay afloat. We must keep working. God will bring us through this, but the navigation depends on you.” Hudson pleaded with them.

The reality is that in as much as technological advances have tried to make the world a more comfortable place, the stress levels of people have gone up. We find little comfort in the things advertised as making us comfortable. We find no beauty in the things meant to make us beautiful. The clothes we buy hoping to look like the models posing with such attire make us look worse in the mirror and worst when no one comments about the dressing. Mark you one could have invested life time savings to buy the same. 

A model posing in a dress for marketing

Why are we losing it all? Why are we not finding the joy, happiness and excitement that drove us into those things? Probably, I posit, the world is a long shot of endurance and challenges. It has its fair share of sufferings, pain, sadness, sorrow, storms, difficulties, discouragements, distress among others. These populate our lives everyday. These we live with daily. We cannot escape them irrespective of the comfort we buy or we receive. Jesus Himself says that in this world you will have trouble but take heart I have overcome the world. 

We do not want to pass through the storm and even when we find ourselves in the storm, we are busy praying to get out of it. When we get out we struggle to get out dry not knowing that in any storm you cannot get out dry, but will be wet, drudged, weak, tired and hopeless. 

The reality is that in a world where storms are the order of the day, we must work on our emotional fortitude. We must persist and insist on weathering the storm. We must strengthen our capacity to endure turmoils and tough seasons. 

We must pass the same trait to our children: learning to endure the trials, tests and temptations that come along our journey. We must push knowing that inside us and with us is a generation that will get better if we press on. We must realize that we are an embodiment carrying all the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers who endured and never gave up. They did so so that today we may be alive. We cannot fail them. 

Look at the generation of the black Americans today. Their great great grandparents who were picked as slaves transported to unknown destinations. Some gave up on life and threw themselves into the sea having lost sight of any future as slaves. However, there were those who saw the beauty of the future even in slavery. They worked hard for their masters despite the flogging and hard work. They endured shame, betrayal, guilt and wickedness meted on them. Some married and had children because they believed that better days may come when they are still alive or when their children’s children are alive. 

We must develop an inner resilience that is willing to accept, adapt and advance. We cannot do this when we want our children to experience only comfort. I mean we cannot withdraw comfort from them. That is being a sadist but we must show them that the world is tough and endurance is the sure way of not only managing the forces of destruction but also making it to the other side which is better. 

In schools today, parents want to have their children feel at home. They want the children to have samosas and sausage, bacon and beef. We carry big hot pots to school filled with all types of food stuff. We want to make them comfortable. A very good initiative, however, even with that we must remind our children that life is about enduring the tough moments. Seasons will always come that are tough and we must be right inside there not at the periphery and deal with the hailstones, cover our heads with our hands and walk through it till the end. 

The paradox 

Have you realized that even with all the technology that provides comfort, education increase in the area of counselling, medicine etceteras, our problems have increased? Moreover, the challenges that we face in life have not only increased in number but the intensity of each challenge has so much grown. There are more cases of disagreements, separation and divorce in as much as there have been Pre marital counselling for many marriages. We are experiencing a crisis of mental health cases in a generation where we have more psychiatrists. clinical psychologist and motivational speakers. 

Life is so tough friends that we must cultivate a sense of humour about it. One has to intentionally choose to laugh about issues that life brings your way. Michael Ramsey, an earlier bishop of Canterbury, spoke of this many years ago while ordaining some clergy.  He said, “Laugh about things, laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh about yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God’s universe. You have to be serious, but never solemn, because if you are solemn about anything there is the risk of becoming solemn about yourself.”

What keeps us strong in the storms?

Hopeful aspirations, positive attitude, type of company.

Aspirations are the personal dreams and visions one has for life. They give hope and assurance that tomorrow will be better because there is energy, time and focus one is putting to make it produce desired results. I remember while growing up and walking to school on an empty stomach. First, there were the wild animals especially leopards and hyenas in the wee hours as I walked the 3km journey to school. At the gate was always a timekeeper to indicate what time you had arrived. If you were late then several strokes of canes awaited you. The whole day was a period marked with caning, insults and bullying. Walking home again late evening, you could encounter snakes basking in the evening sun or some just in the bush ready to strike. To make matters worse, we had to walk 12km daily just shuttling between school and home without shoes. Stones, thorns, hot soil, wounds were part of one’s foes and friends in this journey. I remember, one of us urinating on his legs as part of cooling mechanism since the ground was too hot. 

The desire to make it to a good high school; to become better; to make my family better would drive me to endure all these. 

Positive attitude. 

While life generally looks tough, we must intentionally focus on the things that grow and build us. Life is a reality that rules that what you focus on becomes your reality. Any focus on the wrong things or on problems takes us away from possibilities. Our eyes should look to the way we can solve the problems that come our way. That eye can only see clearly when our mind is not clogged with the negatives. 

The company one keeps

While we have mostly two types of companies – bad and good- we also have the self company. These three influences differently and contribute to our progress or our downfall. 

Successful people who can handle situations well are engaged in building positive relationships daily. They build networks where they are learning and becoming better. 

In their book called Winning, Jack and Suzy Welch says that in order to be successful one must have a strong penchant to surround himself or herself with better and smarter people than they are. 

“Every time we had a crisis at GE, I would quickly assemble a group of the smartest, gutsiest people I could find at any level from within the company and sometimes from without and learn from them.” 

In essence we must learn to ensure trials, temptations and tests that come along our way. We can neither give up or give in. Our bodies are made to endure very tough challenges. I once attended a training dubbed Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) which was meant to enable survive in the most hostile of environment as a humanitarian worker am exposed to. Working on my mind to think positive and endure was critical rather than imagining whether your captors will kill or maim you. It was worth to think about the good times you had with your family and friends rather than how tough it will be staying with your captors. 

The place of God

Our chief comforter, a man familiar with sorrow. He was smitten for our sake. He is the one that in all our pain, sorrow and grief as a result of loss, betrayal among others we can turn to. We must become vulnerable and lament. Bear it all. The culture of suit makes us want to go to God in an organized manner. However, when we become vulnerable and express our challenges and inadequacies, then the Lord grants us strength to overcome. We are able to endure the doubts and shame to reach the brighter side. 

Who is in your leadership Journey?

“One is too small a number of people to achieve greatness!” John C. Maxwell

In his letters to various churches, apostle Paul was consistent in mentioning some people who were his companions. Some were constant others would leave either for good or for bad. 

Constant names include: Silas and Timothy who seemed to have been in his inner circle. They knew his thoughts and plans. They shaped one another’s ideas and philosophy. They prayed for each other, cared for one another and extended the burden to the churches. 

Paul says this about Timothy: I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the Gospel. Philippians 2:20-22. 

In Acts 16:1-3, the scripture details the first encounter of Paul and Timothy. 

Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey…

Paul’s missionary journey had began with Barnabas and John Mark. Along the way, Paul and Barnabas split and Paul went with Silas. It is at this point that he felt he needed Timothy. Fortunately, the community at Lystra, Derbe and Iconium approved this because of Timothy’s good standing. 

It is a fact that every leader cannot lead alone. You need a team. The team consists of companions who believe in you and in one another. The companions lead alongside not behind you. They water the vision. They stand as guards against attacks. They propel the vision. 

When you look at King David you find him surrounded by companions who had been with him not just when he became king but many had been with him earlier. There is no room for lone rangers in leadership. One must have true and trusted companions to not only enjoy the journey but also endure the setbacks that come along the journey. 

The first companion any serious leader needs is God. He is the first leader. He inspires growth and character development. Much more, walking with God instills values and belief system that allows one to lead the way God wants one to lead. I believe that people who walk with God intimately are better leaders. Develop a closer walk with God. Great leaders in the bible were consistently committed to a closer walk with God.

“And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.” 1 Chronicles 11:9

Do you aspire to be a great leader? Whether in the family, community, church, organization or chama you must start with God. A few people think they can lead greatly without God. However, observe any great leader in history and you will discover their complete trust in God for guidance and strength. 

Godward Focus

Throughout the book of Nehemiah we are challenged by the kind of focus he had- Godward. It is a reminder of God’s constant presence, provision and protection. Nehemiah himself was so much conscious and vigilant to keep a Godward focus. 

“The good hand of my God was upon me.”(2:8); “The God of heaven will make us prosper”( 2:20); “Remember the Lord who is great and awesome (4:14); “Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people”(5:19; “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31). 

Any great success must focus on the true north- God Himself. Whether you are overwhelmed by joy or pain; whether you are facing moments of success or failures the only sure focus is being Godward. 

King David’s company

These were the men who came to David at Ziklag while he was banished from the presence of Saul son of Kish (they were among the warriors who helped him in battle, they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right handed or left handed; they were relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin)…… They were brave soldiers, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and the spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains….the least was a match for a hundred and the greatest for a thousand. 1 Chronicles 12:1-2, 8b

“We are yours, David!

We are with you, son of Jesse!

Success, success to you,

and success to those who help you, 

for your God will help you.” 1 Chronicles 12:18.

David had started building a team of companions very early in life. He never waited till he was a leader. Some people struggle with leadership because they are not able to add value to others. They assume that only leaders can. With such an attitude it is difficult to deliver. Leadership only grows out of an environment where a potential leader adds value to the people all the time. 

People who add value to others attract strong leaders and as a result they grow too to become very strong leaders. 

Who should you attract?

Leadership guru John C. Maxwell says you only attract who you are. If you are a lazy leader who is poor at connecting then you attract such fellows. Hence, your company is determined by your character, values and beliefs. David attracted men who were warriors, swift in battle and able to handle the weapons from any side because he was one. 

Reliability: A companion in leadership must be highly reliable. They should be readily available for the assignment irrespective of the risks and will always be trusted to deliver on the expected outcome. That sense of dependability enables the leader to delegate with ease. 

Loyalty: Though not an important aspect for companions  to have, leadership is much easier when you have trusted lieutenants who can walk with you through thick and thin of the jungle thickets in the leadership journey. Loyalty is not just about saying yes but also, I believe, about having people who can tell you when you are heading in the wrong direction. They are your watchmen to check if you are on track. They are your panel beaters to shape your thoughts, words and actions. Loyalists see you naked, cover you and tell you why or how you got there so that next time you avoid it.

Faithful: One outstanding characteristic among Paul’s companions in his missionary journey was faithfulness. The people he entrusted with special assignments had proved faithful. 

“Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.” Colossian 4:7

In the book of Revelation the Scripture talks of those who are faithful to the end will be rewarded. Leadership companions must be faithful. 

In my leadership journey I have learnt the significance of thinking about who is in my list for the assignment. A leader needs cheerleaders who are encouragers, thinkers, idea generators, vision carriers, implementers.

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” John Wooden.

THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF SUCCESS

“The human comedy doesn’t attract me enough. I am not entirely of this world….I am from elsewhere. And it is worth finding this elsewhere beyond the walls. But where is it?  Eugene Ionesco

The world over we long for success, we actually want it so bad that we would do anything to have it, keep it, sustain it or propel it further to another level. A few years ago a research was undertaken and the results were shocking. Majority of the youth indicated they do not care how they get the money so long as they have it. 

Failure is not a good word for us. It denotes incompetence, inadaptability and poor attitude among others. Consequently, we loathe it and even loath those who fail. All our mentors are people we look up to. People we enjoy hanging around and gleaning wisdom from. Wisdom of success,growth and development. Wisdom of conquer and triumph. 

Does success brings only good tidings with it? Most if not all times it does. However, there are casualties along the way. The very things that enable us to reach the top also make us not progress. Going to the top usually involves determination, resilience, positive attitude, strong support system among others. Then we get there and find the honey jar, we begin to lick the honey and our fingers as we celebrate fame and other things that come with success.

The reality is that all the times our problems today are as a result of our yesterday’s progress. The world around us keep on changing with every success we have. Yet we cling to these past successes as if only the world should change but not the success. Successes take us to a new place where we would need a new strategy to advance further. 

However, we always celebrate the successes for too long then continue to enjoy their warmth. Soon we reach a point of contentment and lethargy. We build a strong status quo unintentionally. With these, walls that block our foresight are built. We see the current reality as our preferred future. 

“Our previous success often prevents us from achieving more success. What got you here won’t take you there.” Marshall Goldsmith.

Success comes with competition, pride, jealousy, hunger for being known, thirst for personal significance, insecurities, constant dissatisfaction among others. Worse is usually the feeling of contentment that sets in.  

Recently, Bishop J.B. Masinde gave a serious comment on influence of social media and ministry. Many religious organizations are busy looking for the numbers (likes, views, subscribers). Churches are trying to be like comedians. It is a matter of fact that in success we end up with more issues usually personal struggles that are incomparable to the very success the world see us having.

Success can also put us into another jail trap. A trap where we do not acknowledge others. A trap where we fail to realize that it is not about winning alone in life. There is much more. Many a times we hear of “self made”, a term used to describe the singular effort of an individual to reach the highest level where they are. This is a term that is misplaced and merely encourages self gratification rather than sharing the contribution of others. No one can make it on his or her own. You need others not only to scale the heights but also to sustain the tempo and keep remaining there. I consider the term “self made” as misplaced and one that can easily allow for pride to set in if unchecked.

Most times our goal is to celebrate success. I do not mean to say that we should celebrate failure either. Rather, in this heat of celebration, we fail to celebrate God’s faithfulness irrespective of the outcome. We forget to highlight our need for grace and that Jesus is still our ultimate leader. We fail to acknowledge the fact that many were involved in this process both tangible and intangible, visible and invisible. 

Both failure and success have the ability of making us focus on what is seen rather than what is unseen. We fix our eyes on the temporal rather than the eternal. We assume that success is actually what we are seeing. 

In a documentary titled “The weight of Gold”, successful Olympic athletics share moments of difficulty and despair. Some describe how they have found themselves desperate for the “real me” because the “real me” left them long ago. The person they have is the one “the world knows as successful”. 

“We are unnecessary to what [people] insist that we must do and be; as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition. Congregations want pastors who will lead them in the world of religious competition and provide safe alternative to the world’s ways….they want a pastor they can follow so they won’t have to bother with following Jesus anymore…[Don’t forget:] everything depends upon God, so we are unnecessary. Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor. 

Each one of us have an assignment. It is an assignment to ensure that success does not take away the real you and give you another self. As you climb the ladder of your vacation or profession, are you able to remain the real you? Does fame drives you crazy and you abandon the very people that have been your ladder along the way? 

Fame is one of those things that has been too hot to handle among artists, journalists and politicians going by the trends. No sooner are they splashed in the media than they create or recreate another brand that is not them but that easily destroys them. Fame without character development will merely lead to shame. The reality is that the person successful probably never intended to be famous but along the way success brought this and because there was little effort put to manage it, only destruction becomes the outcome. 

The letter of Paul to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 rings clearly reminding us of our position that we need to maintain:

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things that the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things that are despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considered important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

This should really humble us to walk without pride of the achievements. To avoid some kind of self entitlement to our success. We must realize that we are because He is and not just to ourselves but to many others in the crowd who are either still struggling to be where we are or were part of the invisible or visible cheering squad that kept us scaling the walls or holding hands when our blood was oozing due to the bristles along the path. 

Prophet Jeremiah makes a similar assertion:

 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me…” Jeremiah 9:23-24.

May every success and failure take us back to the cross. To tarry there awaiting His powerful arms to continue enabling us to sail, soar or even struggle through. Anything that takes us away from realizing that we are nothing even with our succceses or failures is a trap that wants to eat our flesh. Be careful. 

The masks & the make ups.

 

  It was the season of best times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  Charles Dickens

The coming of Covid 19 virus (it is important to know that it is one of the corona viruses. Corona virus was discovered in 1960) has introduced a game changer, a powerful feature of our dressing- masks. Just the same way we budget for tops, pants and others, masks have to be budgeted for. 

Masks are now a permanent feature of our faces. Though many still put it on wrongly- under the chin or below the nose- we recognize its value. 

However, masks also have introduced another challenging issue- identification. We now have to take more time to really be sure of the person we are with. Discussions are much tougher because it is almost impossible to know the response of the audience- sad, smiling, or staring. 

However, since time immemorial, we have always masked. We mask intentionally and deliberately many times. At times It is a way of telling the world, “This is not who I am. I am this other one.”

Make ups and filters are another group of good items we also use to enhance ourselves. I see social media jokes about “me in Instagram, me to my friends and me to myself”. It is a salerperson kind of life where we are concerned with how to make our customers happy, how to lure more customers, how to package ourselves much better so that our customers will pay more money. In a world where many date online and are attracted to others by the good photos and videos they post, many get disappointed when they finally meet the real person and discover how make up and filters had enhanced one’s image.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians 1 Thessalonians 2:1-5:

You know, brothers, that our visit to you was not a failure.

We had previously suffered and been insulted in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition.

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

The reality is that it is very possible as it do happens that we can easily mask ourselves and portray who we are not. Many times even our masking is unintended but merely happen to be part of the processes we are involved in. We lace our words with sweet encouraging statements even when we should be honest and candid with others; we take certain “messianic” actions to show that we care and are willing to go any length and breadth; we become brutal with facts without an iota of minding about the other person because we want to show we are real. Yet inwardly, we may be after self glorification rather than helping the other person. 

What causes masking?

Masking comes as a result of perceived, real or imagined personal failures,  fear of shame, rejection or loneliness. . It is an attempt to cover up and present a picture which is not existing. It is a desire for a self image that can be appreciated, accepted and or acknowledged. 

In a world where “image is everything”, we find ourselves trying to be real by either imitation in the name of practice or masking to veil our true self. T.D Jakes in the interview by Steve Furtick called “Don’t drop the Mic” poses a question: “Why try to be a true copy of an original. The greatest achievement is to find oneself and to live by it.”

Secondly, masking is also now common because of the high expectation the society puts on us. Society has created a culture of what being successful is. Some of those expectations are oppressive, unattainable and unsustainable. As a result, we have to mask our struggles, storms and survival tactics to show we are thriving. Media seek audience on “the formula of our success” and we have to create stories. If you are a “successful pastor” the least people expect to hear is a confession or revelation of brokenness, failure or struggle. They may even help you mask them. 

Lies that bind

This state of masking easily leaves us exposed to being gullible to the things that can keep us safe from the troubled waters of being truthful about ourselves or our state. 

It is a real race run well and marked for us by others to show our competencies, our successes, and that we have it all fixed together. It is becoming difficult to be oneself probably the reason for the ever deteriorating mental health of many. 

In a documentary titled “The weight of Gold”, successful Olympic athletics share moments of difficulty and despair. Some describe how they have found themselves desperate for the “real me” because the “real me” left them long ago. The person they have is the one “the world knows as successful”. 

The level of idolization has reached crescendo levels and we must continue feeding the self with masks in order to survive and thrive. When these masks finally fall off then the very people who idolized us run away from us to go and celebrate another masked fellow. You realize that all along you were working with Judas and Peter. 

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36. 

We have to go back to the very intentions of God in creating each one of us. Any deviation from it is myopic and chaotic. It results in loss of identity and a race to make yourself happy by scrambling for what is neither you nor yours. We all have space for molding ourselves to be and remain God’s original intent. 

We must flee from the desperate attempts by the world to repackage our image and torso to appeal to a thirsty society that is ever drinking our blood by putting us on the brink of losing self and become a true copy of an original. 

If you remain in me and I in you,you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5.

With this reality, taking stock of oneself is critical. Taking stock of your past, present and preferred future. It is reviewing the masks and the make ups that gives a false impressiom of who you are, determining to drop them off in as much as it is risky. Starting to be the original and not true copy of the original. The purpose is to listen and learn from oneself. The psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24.

Fatherhood, curved or archived?

Recently, we had the opportunity to celebrate the fathers during a day called “Father’s Day”. Am not sure what to take of it but grateful of the opportunities to be celebrated, honored and cherished. 

I take this time to remember perspectives, perceptions and pertinent issues that arise out of fatherhood. Fathers as I have said before are the poorest defenders of their performance and deliverables. This is because we are generally not wired to count, complain or complemented. Fathers are also not to expect kudos on their backs as they are mere stewards of their roles. Most if not all of what fathers do are considered obligatory in nature.

Several years ago a friend of mine and I were reflecting on losing a parent. He had lost his mother while I had lost my father. We had a very long conversation which concluded that there is more stability when a father dies than when a mother dies first. Recently, while conversing over our future, a high school mate friend of mine indicated that we must work hard to ensure that when we go, our wives can still remain strong and live long to take care of our families. 

However, with all the issues that every father has to go through the society seems to have less trumpeters and far inadequate trumpets to blow the father’s role. The urban and rural father are experiencing tough economic times. Cost of basic goods and services have gone up. The pressure on the fathers to deliver is very high. With urbanization growth rate going higher and higher,the man has basically taken over a number of many roles that traditionally were considered roles of the woman. Urbanization has resulted in monetization of all activities and requirements. This has added pressure on the man to deliver since traditionally man is considered as the provider. Traditionally, women would fetch water, firewood, go to the market among others. 

These are no longer their roles alone because we have gas cookers, taps within fifty meter radius and motorcycle riders who can be sent to do some of these assignments. However, because these activities require money,the pressure on the father to really supply constantly and with generous proportions enough money to meet the basic needs and other new basic needs is so high. It is high time we review the 24 hour cycle tool in gender analysis and programming.

This does not mean that am negating the gains made concerning the female gender. My concern is that we need to also see how much effort the male gender is putting into all these. It is a good thing to be a responsible father. Responsible fathers enable societies to prosper as they work with the mothers to build a family where there is peace, harmony and love among all the occupants. On the other hand responsible fathers may not enjoy any fruit save for a good name of your children for good performance or good job. Mothers have learnt subtle ways to take credit as the father lies there.

While the world of today one needs to make a lot of noise to be noticed and appreciated, fathers are unable to. Example, check around locally, nationally and globally to verify the number of songs or poems done for either mother or father, the results will shock you. Needless to say that even in old age many fathers suffer loneliness and have to practice solitude to survive. 

My call is to every mother and woman to amplify the voice of responsible fathers and husbands. They must celebrate them both in public and in private. We must show that the fathers deserve a pat on the back, they deserve trumpets and songs of cheer for the good work they are doing to ensure society is stable, successful and sentimental. 

The reality is that the burden on responsible fathers is overwhelming. It ranges from carrying the family vision to delivering on every promise whether spoken or not. It is a burden to learn and decipher meaning out of every word, signs and wonders.

However, even with this level of responsibility and commitment, fathers still have blind spots that naturally puts them in a disadvantaged position when compared to mothers. First, most fathers are outward looking. They have to spend many hours away from home thus denying them opportunity for the quantity and quality time to spend with their children. In the olden days, sons would join their fathers for hunting expeditions. Secondly, is the disadvantage of how men are created. Our instincts are not very strong hence we do not easily detect certain things especially emotional in our children. As a result, we are weak when it comes to understanding the needs of our children. Many fathers know not the shoe or cloth  size for their children unlike the mothers. As a result, naturally, mothers end up buying more of these items to the children more than the fathers. To make matters, I once observed that mothers really delivers their message with some finesse emotional touch. While hiving the cloth and the pair of shoe, a mother is able to emotionally connect with the child by describing how the child is smart. Fathers, it seems, merely buy to cover nakedness as they fail to deliver emotional thunder while giving the clothes. All these internal differences while should be complimentary are usually the points that make fathers not be felt. 

Even with all these odds, fathers must not give up or feel inadequate in delivery of this God given mandate. Fatherhood, is the very root of identity for every child. It gives every child, irrespective of the gender, their personhood,potential and paternity. I had not known how this is critically important until when I got interested in watching some programme which my wife is a fan of. The Paternity court is a place where you see men and women cry or experience overwhelming joy due to the DNA test results and the testimony of the father. Even in old age some continue to pursue leads of knowing their fathers. 

Lessons from my father

There were important lessons I learnt from my father. Some negative others positive. The negative ones helped me to firm my stand on certain issues. However, for today I will mention just the positive.

For a very long time which is like two thirds of my life with him, he lived as a peasant with very little income if any. The struggles were real from basic needs to school fee payments. His determination encouraged us to press on though unsure of the future. However, whenever he got windfall (I even don’t know where he was getting them), we always had some treat.

Disciplined life: From an early age he instilled in us (the first three of his children. The rest came later and may have not learnt much as he died when they were very young) serious discipline. The discipline to respect others. The discipline to work hard at home and in school. He would always reward us with gifts for sterling performance. Other times, he would just take us to Kisumu and see the biggest town. He also taught us to pray and serve God. From this we shied away from the wild teenage life.

Courage and confidence: When in 1984, his church began to have leadership wrangles, he took his stand. As one who had one of the largest pastorates with 8 local churches, he was very powerful. I saw him have disagreements. His courage was in the fact that the law needed to be followed rather than people’s desires. In 1988, he was one of the unhappy fellows with mlolongo system. He stood against the system to support Joab Omino against the Dr John Robert Ouko. This ability to stand for the right thing and the rights of others was also common when he followed up school performance and management. The collision was real and at time we would bear the brunt. Thank God we had the brains.

Chief executioner. He was always on top of things by making them happen. My dad would take certain risks unexpected. In 1990, his nephew lost the wife. A telegram was sent and I delivered it from school to him. For a while no one knew how the body would come from Mombasa to Kisumu. The story was very long when he shared during the burial that took place almost three months after the death. He flew the body to Nrb as a parcel. Convinced a “Wepesi” (then a Peugeot 506 carrying 8 passenger I guess from Nairobi to Kisumu) driver that he has a parcel at the airport. Passengers boarded the wepesi then they went to JKIA to pick the parcel. Those days, bodies were received with a lot of dirges and fan fare so the driver realized that this parcel was actually the remains of someone after reaching home.

Community service. This man walked on foot together with the late Boniface Achieng Nyambega from kisumu to Kakamega then to Eldoret and Nakuru to raise funds for Bar Mathonye Primary school. Later, when he got employed at Hayer Bishan Singh, he ensured many young people from the neighboring sub locations are given first opportunity for employment. 

I could go on and on but I celebrate this man. It is now twenty two and a half years since he passed on. He died before he could enjoy the fruit of his labour. Having analyzed society, it looks like more mothers enjoy the fruit of their wombs than fathers enjoying the fruit of their labour!

    Happy Father’s Day to all fathers. 

****************

Mothers whether single or double leave us alone do not claim even an hour of the Father’s Day! 

Is God an introvert?

  

The greatest disease in the world today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. Mother Teresa.

Recently, we had a fellowship and the need to be open to each other came up especially to expand our horizons of knowledge of each other and also just to build strong relationships. However, how do we build this in view of the different personalities? 

The idea of different personalities is no longer a question of theory or hypothesis but one that has been proven to be true and factual. It is not a new thing as reknowned Greek thinkers like Hippocrates and Galen brought it to the fore. Hippocrates is credited with coming up with the idea that people can be categorized into four different groupings. 

However, before we delve further into personality types, it is important to underscore the value of building relationships.  John Donne, the famous British poet once wrote, “No man is an island,  entire of itself, every man is a part of the main..”. It is a fact that no one can survive alone without the help of others. However,  the biggest challenge is usually in forming formidable positive relationships that that not only survive the different circumstances we may encounter in a relationship but also outlive us. A relationship that barely exists because we are put together but cannot weather the storms of jealousy, envy, mistrust, gossip among others will most likely not get anywhere. It is apparent that in every relationship, people will differ and most likely the desire to break it off becomes bigger. 

In many instances our relationships flourish or flounder based on what we imagine, see and hear about us from others. Funnily, many build relationships around this shaky and sinking sand. Understanding oneself is the most critical and successful path in building strong relationships.  Soren Kierkegaard says, “The thing is to understand myself,  to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die.”

Many people, while they get to discover their personality type, remain at the point of the labeling and do not move to serious application of this knowledge for building relationships at home, work and other places where there are opportunities for connecting. 

We all behave differently and is just in order to accept and move on. Our recent discussion were to look at the pros and cons of these  personality types and how they influence our relationship with each other especially when it comes to grief. 

The extroverts feel that people should be open one hundred percent and as much as is possible. On the other hand, the introvert tend to think that each person should mind their own business. Even during grief you should only be part of it if invited. It means that if an introvert friend told you what they are going through, s/he should consent to sharing the information further. 

This led me to really think who God is or His preference? This is a human question and as I write it I would not want to put it to a theological test. 

Firstly, I think these personality  types should not and cannot be limiting, delineating and becomes our point of captivity. We fear and ultimately fail to explore impossibilities and make them possible. We begin to create boundaries that make us not build up our personality potential out of these profiles. Each personality type has its unique way to exploit God given potential, opportunities and possibilities. Today’s competitive and highly dynamic and fluid society requires us to break the egg shells and move out to live. We may stumble as a chick but we must ultimately make it. 

On one hand we exploit the potential but on the other hand we build a plan on how to improve on areas of weaknesses that one’s personality type exhibits for example being bossy and abbrassive for the choleric. 

Relationship building

A key facet of our christian walk and growth that every believer is required to foster is a strong connection with others by creating an inviting and contagious atmosphere of love and joy that penetrates the brotherhood or organization. It involves practising hospitality, showing love, exuberating joy, care and concern for people among others.

Looking at how Christianity spread very fast it is evident that the remarkable growth was as a result of selfless love to the people particularly during tough times and of course all the times. Living as a Christian full of love is one distinctive feature in relation to other groups.

Should a believer then say they are not able to build relationships with most if not all others in the fellowship simply because of a personality type? To what extent should one use their personality as an excuse for this? Will God understand that one had weak relationships with others because of his/ her personality? What is the Christian response to personality challenges that hinder one from walking according to the Scripture?

Intentionality

One has to make a choice to be more open, and have open arms. Open in the sense of willingness to share your personal life. Apostle Paul makes the following statements:

Ephesians 6:21 “Tychicus the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing.”

Unlike being open, open arms is about being hospitable and a willingness to receive people. It is about creating an aura where people are willing and feels easy not only around you but also to reach out to you with their needs not gossips.

Both of these require personal authenticity. It demands willingness to be vulnerable to let people read and do whatever they want to with your life. It is that type of life that Jesus lived exposing His vulnerability as a human being. That God was willing and actually became a baby wetting his nappies and depending on a novice mother.

Borrowed Kindness

My story

I lived with my parents for some ten years before my mother left to look for green pasture. Tilling an unproductive land, consuming boiled cassava with wild vegetables and the subsequent poor health had taken a toll on her. Three of us had been born within a period of 5 years. I may as well say she was the “cassava winner” for that was the common bread. It was drought resistant and could be boiled, dried and milled. The flour was good for porridge and ugali. The various forms of this product could be translated into a meal depending on the time of day. My mum leaving this life meant that my step mother would take care of us. The best lesson we learnt here was how to live well with your step mother. Not many even knew that was our step mother. 

Learning from Abraham and Lot in Genesis, I would like to draw a few thoughts on the impact of borrowed kindness and how one in this state must conduct him/herself to be successful and catapult self to another level. Any contrary way of living will result into unnecessary frictions with life long consequences.  

In my language there is a proverb that the bad eye that you treat is the one that pursues you. It means that when you have helped someone most times they are the ones who betray you. They develop matchless rivalry and competition against you. 

Abraham is called by God and given an opportunity to walk in the way God wants him to. Obediently, he makes that commitment. He begins the journey of being a faithful follower and servant of God. 

The Lord calls him to go to a land that He will show him. This intrigues me because I usually wonder how Abraham got to know the exact direction to take. From scripture we learn that this was Canaan. His father Terah had set out but unfortunately settled at Haran before reaching Canaan. 

Abraham therefore sets on this journey where he has to leave his people and go to a new land. This is not an easy assignment. If God told me to do that today most likely I may not do it. Reason? Am used to my people a lot. My brothers, sisters and cousins. I enjoy our get togethers especially when I visit. Secondly, the value of land has gone up, my village will soon be a part of kisumu city. When the Lord asks, “Who shall go for us?”. I will be categorical, “Not me Lord, try elsewhere.” 

Abraham is better than me in this sense of obedience. I learn another thing that is the subject of my writing today. Abraham took Lot with him. When Terah had left Ur of the Chaldeans, he had also taken with him Abraham and his grandson Lot. Terah then died and Abraham took over his nephew. 

It is easy to feel that that was obviously his responsibility. However, reality is that it had not to be that way. While growing up I saw many abandoned orphans. Without care and concern from.their fathers, step mothers, village members and school at large. I do not know what happens but some men (fathers and husbands are easily influenced by the ladies they marry or personal decision till they burn bridges). 

I remember in my village, two families who were orphaned at a very tender age ( lost both parents or the mother). These orphans ( now in their fourties) struggled cooking by themselves, looking for water and fetching firewood. They were late for school though their home was less than a kilometer away from school. A joke had it that the school timekeeper was always dreaming calling their names at the assembly because they were in every list of latecomers. 

Taking care of orphans is not an easy venture. It takes a deep heart full of compassion, care and concern. Some of them are very rebellious and unpleasant to stay with. As a result many people shy away from direct living with an orphan but supporting from afar. Others completely neglect them. In the modern times, the would rather pay for you rent than host you.

The real test of a man is not when he plays the role that he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him. Bob Buford

Abraham took after his father and made Lot his own. He was the only relative he carried along. Looking at his life, it is clear that God’s blessings upon Abraham fell on Lot too. With time he also got to have great flock and herd of livestock. 

At this point in time Lot’s servants grow horns and begin to demand for space. They wanted lush pasture land. They felt Abraham was taking too much. They began to organize for those “pastoralist raids” and “take over” of land, pasture and water sources. 

Ooh my….this is what Swahili people say, “Asante ya punda ni mateke”. Lot rather than rebuke his servants, it seems, he was also after demanding for a mile having been offered a step. 

It is so unfortunate how at times people who are supported miss the opportune moment to be a blessing. For those who have had the chance to live or support relatives, at times this act of kindness merely get vengeance in return. 

Learning to know how to live with others is such an important life skill as it shapes one’s destiny. 

Living with others

Have you experienced kindness from someone? Every act of kindness is undeserved. It is an act of mercy meted not because you are good but because the person showing kindness has a burden to do so. Kindness, though obligatory to the one giving, is never a right. 

Abraham’s act of kindness  to Lot was neither  a requirement nor a request. He did it from his heart. David’s kindness to Mephibosheth was out of a desire to fulfill his covenant with Jonathan. On the contrary Mephibosheth, though dining at the king’s table, still nursed ambitions of having the throne back to Saul’s household. Joash Judah’s king though rescued and brought up by Jehoiada the chief priest, would later kill Zedekiah, the son of Jehoiada. 

Jealousy is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.

                           Robin Sharma

These unfortunate incidences reminds us about how we should live on borrowed kindness:

  1. Tap fully the anointing. Lot missed on this as he wanted his own. 
  2. Never grumble or grapple with your host. It is most unfortunate when one feels they deserve even better. They are being misused and such like. Humility expects that one cools and calms even when you feel mistreated. It is the only way to grow. Everyone leaving on borrowed kindness will feel mistreated but how one reacts is more critical for future progress than the mistreatment itself.
  3. Show kindness to others
  4. An act of kindness is just kindness, do not imagine foul play or assume certain acts as indicating you are unwanted. 
  5. Failure to honour and return kindness may result in disinheritance. 
  6. A mere servant may inherit what was yours as the closest relative. 

The Gendercide Agenda

Blindness separates people from things; Deafness separates people from people.” Helen Keller

Every Monday morning I would wake up at 2am, prepare and take a public service vehicle at 3am for Nairobi town then take the next one for a 440 km journey to some parts of rural Kenya.   In the vehicle, we would be just an average of two to three men ( the conductor, driver and I) while the rest are women. They are dressed warmly and each of them has some luggage which the conductor has to help her in (off) loading. Not a single day did I see a man escorting a woman at this hour. May be they are single (mothers). May be they are widowed or their husbands are engaged somewhere or just not concerned. 

I would later travel to my workplace out of the city into the rural arid areas to serve the most vulnerable children and their families. Here again I would be met by another stark reality: women being at the fore front in doing not just household chores but serious economic activities. 

The lesson was clear: women are the drivers of economic transformation at the household level. While in many rural households the man disappear after breakfast and reappear towards dinner time, the woman together with her children will literally undertake assignments to drive household economic activities. However, the struggles and challenges that they have to go through in order to bring this  transformation is real. 

Women bear the main responsibility for meeting the basic needs of their families in most parts of the world.  Yet, they are often denied access to the resources necessary to provide for the basic health, nutrition and education of their children.” Elizabeth Gerhardt (The Cross and Gendercide). 

She milks the animals, takes care of the family garden, fetches water for middle income families in the village and gets some cash. The cash received is used to buy food or pay chama. Her plan is that after 5 months,the chama will give her a loan to pay school fee for her first born daughter currently in class eight second term. 

The story is not different even in the urban set ups. Here we have many single mothers, widowed mothers or some whose husbands are just lazy or careless. They work so hard with the little they earn or receive.

In my work in matters livelihoods, food security and household economic strengthening,  especially  in urban and rural areas, my commitment is to  women in general but with a clear targeted focus on special groups: single mothers, widowed mothers and mothers with children of special abilities. Their stories are heart rending. One would cry as you listen to these stories of resilient mothers who beats all odds not just to put food on the table but also inspire hope in their child(ren) for a better tomorrow. These stories are not restricted to rural and urban Kenya alone or by extension Africa. Calcutta, Indonesia, Arabian peninsula are also as affected as many other areas. 

Probably,  the inspiration to focus on women is from my experience with my mother. She literally woke up at 5am to be at the farm. With no breakfast, she would till her land till 12pm then go to look for wild vegetables for lunch. She would go to fetch water from the river 3km away and has to do two trips in the heat of the sun. My schooling is attributed to her change of direction when she abandoned tilling infertile rocky lands of kisumo kadongo to venture into business. Through that mitumba (second hand clothes) business our family got transformed from putting on torn shorts and T shirts to camera (fairly new second hand clothes). She paid my Form one fees and this put pressure on my dad to behave and also look for income to sustain me in school. I owe my mother the future am enjoying today. 

Statistics 

According to World Bank Group, the global extreme poverty is expected to rise as a result of covid 19 in 2020. In 2017, 689 million people lived on less than $ 1.9 a day.  The world’s majority poor are women. Two thirds of the illiterate globally happen to be women too. It is important to realize that the prevalence rate of poverty in rural Kenya stands at 49.1%  with women having a higher burden in providing for their families, compared with men, yet still the women are greatly disadvantaged. Recently, Kenya Revenue Authority shared some information about Kenyan taxpayers. The parastatal revealed that only around 84,000 Kenyans earn above Kshs 100,000 an equivalent of USD 1000 per month. Women take 36% of this while the rest are men. 

Prices of basic items like food impact more on women than men. A man always gives the same amount of money for food year in year out and it is the lady to budget and ensure everyone is full. In one of the groups I worked with, I remember how a mother narrated her experience while appreciating the transport reimbursement she would receive at the end of a three or five day training.

Kila asubuhi mzee wangu hutoka bila kuniachia chochote lakini akishatoka ananitumia shilingi mia moja kwa mpesa. Nikitoa nabaki na shilingi tisini ambazo ndizo nitatumia kwa kiamsha kinywa, mlo wa mchana na jioni.” Korir narrated . [Everyday my husband leaves home without giving me money. However, just after leaving he wires one hundred Kenya shillings to my phone. After withdrawing this cash I only get ninety Kenya shillings which I have to use for breakfast, lunch and supper for the whole family of six.]

If we are to make a turn around on families economic strengthening then women must be at the core of targeting and selection process. That targeting should also bear in mind the deep needs and challenges that they experience. Yet still for enhanced productivity, men in the lives of these women should not be left behind in order to create a balanced ecosystem. 

Household economic strengthening would therefore be effective when women are the primary targets while men become part of the stakeholder matrix for maximum gain. Capacity building should not be limited to business and employment opportunities for exploitation but also on living in harmony, making decisions as a family, developing and building a family vision among others. 

However, there is also a very large constituency of women who are single mothers, widowed mothers, mothers living with disability or mothers of children with special needs and women with suffering from diseases like HIV. It is possible to be clouded by the fact that we are targeting women. However, critically important is to also assess whether women selected are the most vulnerable.  The reality is that the category stated have serious social and economic challenges. 

The impact of poverty on women is compounded by these conditions and using them as selection criteria really helps in uplifting them emotionally, socially and economically. Faith groups like Christians, Muslims, Hindus among others, corporations, civil society organizations and governments must work hard to ensure that these marginalised groups are properly included in social safety net programmes. Further, they must regularly and robustly review their systems and structures are receptive to these groups.

We must ask ourselves retrospectively whether our systems, structures and resources are making the disadvantaged thrive or survive. Are they causing strifes or successes? Putting these to paper as a policy, objective or strategic imperative is not enough. We must all check that they are working. 

The challenge with governments is that mostly they focus more on economic development and economic growth at the expense of economic empowerment. If we are to achieve economic transformation at household level, then. Key reforms and innovations are needed to initiate and sustain pro poor economic empowerment strategies especially for our Kenyan economy. The government must walk the talk. For example, there is need to relook at Nairobi County Bylaws on small business and adjust them accordingly.  The number of women and people living with disability or caregivers of people living with disability has been on the rise. Most of these groups are the ones trying to eke a living from our streets by selling handkerchiefs,  sweets, and other consumables like boiled green maize, ground nuts. Arresting such a mother and taunting them is akin to injustice of the highest level.  

This is the first part of a series on pro poor economic empowerment strategies for vulnerable groups in our society.

Dear son,

Happy new year! I know with a new year comes the desire to fulfill some of your hopes, ambitions and plans. One of them is to settle down with a God fearing woman who can make a good mother to your children and whose favour will multiply your life. A lady comes with unprecedented favour and turns around the stagnating life of a man 180 degrees. Therefore, my son, your choice is as important as well as the process of discovering and conquering.

Today seduction has changed face. It is easy as people are easy. Abraham’s way shows a deeply ingrained thought involving who to look for, where to look for, why to look for that person and how to look for. It was a meticulously planned process. The instructions were clear on what was to be done.

Recently, I had a long discussion with a great friend of mine who is in her youthful age. She was disappointed that there are many men along the streets who just carelessly call a girl by whistling or sending funny signals. No respect, concern or care about the feelings, state of mind of the girl or need to know the person. What is wrong with the boy child that obvious things are eluding them? It seems that while common sense is becoming a stronger instinct in girls, it is the reverse for the boy child.

Critically speaking, the boy child may lose it if not watched, guided and taken back to the beaten path of skillful seduction of a girl. No wonder today we have a generation whose solution to marital problems is gender based violence.

O Lord God of my master Abraham give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham.” This is Abraham’s servant praying for victory for Isaac. Seduction is spiritual and involves spiritual preparations. It involves seeking God’s direction about it. Whatever is started by God is of God and will overcome. Remember, “He who is born of faith, even faith in Christ, overcomes the world.”

In the instructions given there were a “not to do”, ” can do” and “must do” ones. These are rules which one must know. Majority of them are common sense or natural principles which you learn from the environment. Failure to observe them is disastrous. It is very clear that one must take note of the following:

Who Am I?

A very critical question that determines the type of person you are looking for. This is actually the purpose and destiny defining questions which drives our agendas. If unanswered or answered poorly then it merely creates a fault line for future disaster in marriage. When you know who you are, your purpose and the ultimate destiny then you look for the one among the daughters of men who can help you realise them.

Dear son you cannot just look for any woman. You must know what you want. It is a jig saw puzzle and must be sure that what you are pursuing will fit it. A woman is a helper coming to help you so if you have not defined what on earth you are here for you will easily not get the best.

What do I want?

Today because of the availability of many choices we struggle in describing and determining what we really want. Even in the supermarket majority waste time there not because they have less or no money but because they are spoilt for choices. Unlike in the olden days when we had only one type of item, today every single product has several brands. This makes many waste unnecessary time. One needs to take time and think through this and determine then have the capacity and ultimately the audacity to describe it. This game cannot be won with a blank or empty mind which does not have or know what they are looking for.

In the old days parents and elders were actually involved very actively in this process. However, this has changed drastically which is both positive and negative. I think that seeking the counsel or having their affirmation is critical for assurance and support. I always give a story of how at the verge of a proposal I changed my mind. It hit me that afternoon that what I thought was what I need was not what God wanted for me.

Developing a clear check list backed by God’s word and a clear understanding of issues is important. I have realized not two can meet your check list so be thorough in your analysis otherwise you will settle for less.

Who is she?

One of the most unfortunate things today is to meet two people in a relationship and they do not know one another thoroughly well including the basics. Background checks including physical, spiritual, social, academic, economic aspects should be established during dating period and some even before making a proposal. Take time to ask questions intelligently and do one’s own wise verification to avoid being seen as an investigator or an intruder. This is a game of hunting so stop being obvious and predictable when trying to gather important details about the prospective candidate.

Dear son take time to learn your woman. Know her inside out so that when you are given that book with limitless page about how to understand your woman you do not give up. Boy child today gives up very fast. Hold on there because you are getting into a furnace where you will be smelted and come out very refined.

Do not rush in for sex, it will kill the urge to know her and allow boredom to stealthily creep in. Remember, both of you are virile and fertile and the consequences of starting an unplanned parenthood are unimaginable.

My son I wish you well in this tough journey. A journey where search for a marriage partner is like mining gold. You dig so deep yet get very little. Persistence, perseverance and patience are the hall marks of getting the best. It is a journey where I know you may be interested in A but B is the one interested in you while your A seems either indifferent or disinterested but seems to prefer C. In this confusion, seek God, understand yourself and walk with the wise counsel. Ultimately, God’s best for you is there. Neither despair nor panic yours is on the way. Majority of those married today went through this difficult season of choosing and made it.

Check list

1. Am I sure of myself? Who am I? What do I want?

2. How does this lady fit into my purpose, ambition and background?

3. Does she meet the criteria of the written Word of God?

4. What are her ambitions, plans and desires for life and marriage? Do they fit into what I am searching for? Does she talk hopefully of a better and brighter future or just concerned with the moments (receiving gifts and money now, going out, surprises among others)?

5. Have I reached a point where I am convinced this is the best or am still struggling with options?

6. When cross referencing, is there breakthrough or words of affirmation?

7. Is she having stamina to withstand challenges in terms of spiritual, social and emotional fortitude?

Dear son am praying for and with you. May God’s grace be sufficient as you walk through this journey.