I'm not one for a picture-less blog post but I thought it was fitting in this case. Sometimes I've found living here in Kenya amongst a different culture and people one of the best things I can do is leave my camera behind and just have a really genuine experience without coming across as a touristy, gawking mzungu who is more interested in getting good shots than actually meeting the people I encounter. This was one of those days hence no pictures on the ole blog . . . bear with me.
A couple of weeks ago I went with a group of women from Kijabe to a place called Amani Ya Juu. You can read more about it on their website. The short definition of it is a "sewing and reconciliation project for marginalized women in Africa". The name means "peace from above". It really is a remarkable place. First of all there is a beautiful garden area home to a cafe and a huge playground area for the kiddos. Give me a place where I can eat a lovely lunch outside in a garden while my children happily play on a playground any day! It may sound really hokey but this place IS incredibly peaceful and beautiful just as the name implies.
Women come here from all over Africa and learn to be a part of their sewing project. The items they make are not tourist quality stuff that is going to end up in a yard sale. They make beautiful, classy things that you would welcome as a gift or adornment in your home. As the women work together they build faith in God who can overcome their circumstances and reconcile their differences. As I looked around I saw women from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan among others. On a continent that is rocked by division among ethnic differences this is quite amazing that all these women are working together and loving each other.
After our delightful lunch we shopped in the gift shop and then arranged to have a quick tour of the workshop. The incredibly friendly woman who welcomed us in the gift shop held Gus and had an absolute fit over him while I shopped. As I joined the (largish) group of women I was with for our tour of the workshop I realized that I couldn't hear much of the tour and Claire was fairly uninterested so I just headed back out in the courtyard. And this is my favorite part. All of the women were gathering in the courtyard to have their lunch as I walked up with Claire and Gus (Ford drew the short straw and stayed at home that day due to space in the car) and something amazing happened. These looked at me with my kids and we were in a somewhat instant bond of motherhood together. They asked me about the kids and loved hearing that I had 3 (and want more!) - since many of them have several children. When one woman heard Claire's name she ran off and brought back another woman who had a daughter named Claire (not an uncommon name in Kenya!). We were both "Mama Claire" (since often mother's are referred to as Mama - oldest child's name) and we had an instant connection. They asked me if my children liked ugali which is a staple of the Kenyan diet. It is a sweetish gritty cake of maize - kind of the texture of really thick grits. I told them they kids hadn't really had ugali before and they couldn't believe it! They told me to sit down on the grass and they went to get me a plate of ugali and cabbage. All of the women were eating with their fingers but when they brought my plate it had a big spoon on it. I teased them and asked if they thought I couldn't eat with my fingers too. We laughed and watched as Claire spit out her ugali and Gus downed several bites worth. We talked about where they were from and about their children. Several of them had their babies with them since they carry them around on their back all day as they work. It was just delightful. I was so thankful for that short time I spent sitting in the grass with a group of women who each had a story that I might find unimaginable that had led them to this place but somehow found common ground with too. It was one of my favorite moments in Kenya so far. It also made me so grateful to have my children with me. I would not have connected with those women if it were not for my kids. Time and again I see my kids opening doors with people on so many different levels. Ministry with kids can be difficult (because life with kids can be difficult!) but it is REAL and if you want to have a relationship with people you have to be real. So it is a great place to start.