Shattering The Expectations I Didn’t Know I Had

 

If you have been following us and our move to Kenya, you will know by now that our transition back here has been rougher than we expected. We realized that we had a slew of expectations of what our life would look like here, mostly on the basis of what our life looked like when we used to live here. But alas, it’s been four years since and things have changed.

Let me just say that this is not a bad thing. It just has meant that we have had to take time and effort to readjust our mindsets.

It has been some bigger things like how we were excited to head back to the church we used to go to but, after much prayer and some tears, we have settled into another great church.

It’s been smaller things too like the fact that I didn’t think we needed a microwave because we did just fine without one in 2012. Fast forward to 2017 and I tried to live without one for a week and I just couldn’t do it. I caved and bought one. Now it’s probably the most used appliance in the house.

Again, most of these things have just needed some minor readjustment from our end but it has all worked out for the best.

But, there has been one expectation that I have wrestled with for months. I debated writing a post about it because I wanted to hash it out with God and get it all sorted before I decided to write about it. But I am not there yet and I am now at peace with not totally understanding it. It is an expectation that I didn’t even know I had until it started slapping me in the face.

It’s the expectation that my kids were going to grow up like I did.

 This hit me in the gut on Mother’s Day. I headed to Mercy’s school where they had prepared a special presentation for Mothers. I arrived and was ushered into the cafeteria for some snacks before the performance. As I sat down at the table (alone), I looked around at the rest of the mothers and realized how different Mercy’s childhood is going to be from mine. I grew up in a small, white, Canadian town where religion wasn’t evident and everything was clean and most of the people were all middle class who looked fairly similar. And here I was in the cafeteria surrounded by women of several different faiths, from a myriad of backgrounds (Arab, Turkish, Somali, Kenyan, British), a handful of different cultures and languages, and quite the mixture of exotic perfumes.

I tried to convince myself that this was so cool. My daughter was going to have such a rich and interesting childhood. But deep down, that was a hard truth to grapple with because it was so very different to what I know is ‘normal’ for childhood.

I started to see some really large differences that my daughters were going to experience and I couldn’t (and still can’t) quite decide if they are better or not. Education is one of them. The Kenyan education system is admittedly not the best. There are a handful of private, international schools in the area but as I have researched them I have realized that they are either way too expensive or the education is still not that great. I’ve dabbled with the thought of homeschool but my Mercy thrives around other kids and it would drive all of us insane having her home all the time. This is may be my biased opinion, but none of them can compare to the great, FREE education we can get in Canada.

And here is the part that stings: we can actually have that great education. We can pick up and get on a plane tomorrow and my daughters can have a great education along with great healthcare, water parks and playgrounds, clean and safe environments, governments that take care of them well, the comfort of blending in and not being the minority, and all sorts of amazing opportunities Canada has to offer.

But they are here because their parents have been called to serve God in this place. It is because of our choice to follow God’s leading in our lives that our children won’t experience the ‘best’ that they have access to. Because I have chosen to lay down my life, my kids may not get the ‘best’ childhood like I got.

Whoa. That’s hard to digest as a Mama. Cause don’t all us Mama’s want the best for our kids?

Enter in the Mom guilt. It’s so real, isn’t it Mommies?

You might be reading this and think I am way too overdramatic or that I am being selfish for not giving my kids the best. Maybe you can totally relate or you may have some answers for me. Trust me, I am feeling all the same feels. I have had so many mixed emotions over this.

But here are a few truths that I have come to realize:

  1. Yes, my childhood was awesome. I was safe and secure and well taken care of. I had a great education and loads of opportunities. But the biggest reason my childhood was the ‘best’ was because of my parents. Their parenting was on point – something I am realizing more and more as I am now a parent and find myself reverting back to things my parents did to us when we were little.
    Not to toot my own horn, but one thing Kelvin and I are kind of awesome at is parenting. By all means, we definitely don’t have it all figured out but some of the basics like security, boundaries, discipline, choices and consequences, quality time, teaching them Jesus, and unconditional love we are getting a good handle of. I was chatting about this issue with my friend the other day and she said to me, “You know you can have kids grow up in Canada like you did but they have terrible parents and turn out to be messed up kids.” That was like a light bulb for me. So my kids can also grow up in a community that is a little more dysfunctional than I did but with an awesome family life they can still thrive.
  2.  I need to let some things go and just flow it. Like Mercy’s new accent…..oh Lord have mercy on us! This accent is something I have never heard before. This poor 3 year old is all mixed up with everything we have exposed her to that she is trying to make sense of it and it comes out in some crazy accent that is a mix of Kenyan/English/British/Indian and Peppa Pig. I was determined to force it out of her by speaking only the most Canadian of English at home but I have conceded to just let her have her own special accent. She’ll just have to get used to us mocking her about it.
  3. God loves my kids way more than I do. He has amazing plans for them. He has given them their own lives and their own stories and their own childhood that may be different than mine but that doesn’t mean it will be worse. I need to trust that He knew that their parents would follow Him and that fact will be apart of my daughters’ own lives and stories and testimonies. He’s got them in His hand. And that is probably the BEST place for them to be.
  4. My kids will have an AWESOME childhood. Did I mention that Mercy rode a camel yesterday? Or that we had the most delicious, fresh, local mango for lunch? Or that the kids can swim at the beach all year round? Or that they have sleepovers with their big cousin every weekend? Or that they get to go with Daddy to the nicest soccer field and run around whenever they want? Or that they have an amazing community who love them like their own? Or that Mercy takes a tuktuk (rickshaw) to school and back everyday? Or that they often see monkeys on our balcony?

I think they are going to be just fine.

Mercy gets to play with the funkiest tuktuk parked at the field one day.

 

Don’t know many kids in Canada who trudge through back alley slums to get to the soccer field.
Their usual: playing on the sidelines at a soccer game. This time they got out of the city and into the village for a day.

 

The Evolution of Rehma Soccer

I have been thinking a lot about where we started and where we are now. It kind of baffles me because I feel like I have done so little and yet God has grown it so much.

I thought I would just give a small timeline of how we have grown.

In 2010, Kelvin was asked to coach a team in Kongowea. Now, in Kongowea, there are certain long standing teams that have been in the community for years. They are from certain sub areas of the community. He was asked to coach a particular one that he knew well and had played for years ago. At the time, he wasn’t working so he decided to dedicate his time to it.

It became really clear really fast that this was more than just a simple coach gig. It was something so much bigger. He could sense it. Even I could sense it. At the time I was working with a youth ministry in another part of the city but would spend many of my weekends with Kelvin and this team.

We just knew that God had bigger plans for this than we did. I remember we decided to do a beach day (which you can read about here). We sat in the sand and watched these boys goof around. I think both our hearts were BURSTING with love. We just knew that this was where God wanted us to be.

The day we knew this was something bigger than just a soccer team

So we did it faithfully for a few years. Kelvin spent every evening coaching and much of his spare time hanging out, mentoring, and disciplining them. We started identifying needs and put a few of them into school or gave them a loan to start businesses. We did different life skill trainings with them and helped them pay hospital bills or rent when they were utterly desperate. I think more than anything we were FOR them and they were very aware. We were on their side. We wanted nothing but for them to succeed.

One of many games played with these boys
With their new REHMA jerseys from Canada

In 2012 I started a girls group. Same idea as the boys team but instead of soccer, we had fun meetings every Saturday where we would eat, hang out, play games, and then have a discussion. During the week we would meet, do bible studies, and just hang out. We did the same things with them as with the boys. They were our ‘kids’. We had about 35 boys and 20 girls who were in our groups. 55 youth in total. If you want to read more about our times with them, please click any of the months on the right hand side between 2010-2013 to find out all we did with them.

The girls and I at our last meeting before we moved to Canada

Then we left in 2013. We moved to Canada with the conviction that we were there for a season to get educated, start a family, and gain support to eventually return and keep working here. We visited Kenya in 2014 and decided to do a big tournament in Kongowea with kids. Kelvin reached out to some other coaches in the area and asked them to put it together. The first tournament brought in about 12 teams.

Mercy handing out soccer balls at our first tournament in 2014

Then we came again in 2016 and did yet another tournament. This time the tournament brought in almost 28 teams. Think about this: 28 teams with roughly 12 players per team is 336 kids.

Now, because these tournaments were such a huge success and the coaches of these teams saw the impact they were making on the kids, the coaches decided to create an association called the Nyali Youth Football Association(NYFA). In 2016, the made Kelvin and I honorary members of the association. There are about 15 coaches in the association each one coaching multiple teams.

NYFA Logo designed in Kenya
We were made honourary members of the association

In 2017, we moved back to Kenya. The first thing we did was have yet another tournament. We had about the same amount of kids but more officials and people watching. We got more exposure with some of our representatives talking about it on the radio and the newspapers. Kelvin was made a patron or leader of the Nyali Youth Football Association (NYFA) overseeing all coaches and kids.

Kelvin speaking to the crowds at our tournament in 2017
The stellar coaches of NYFA

Now, the new field has launched in Kongowea and kids are streaming in from everywhere!! The NYFA is now the go-to body that runs and organizes all soccer played on that pitch. Government officials are investing in the programs. Coaches are being recognized. Kids are playing! Kids are out of the streets! Kids have mentors! Kids are getting opportunities to go to school!

Kelvin hanging with the kids at the new stadium last week
Two teams ready to play at the launch of the field

 

Girls are also getting a chance to play! There are girl teams!

One of the coaches with his team of girls last week!

Oh and those youth we worked with before we move the Canada, we still love them and hang with them on a regular basis.

Lolo, former captain for our first team, comes to most of our events and is a local radio presenter
Munira and I hanging out like old times

Kelvin and I sat the other day and really thought about it. We cannot say WE did it. In our conscience, we know that we have been opened to be used to by God but ultimately, HE is growing it. He is building leaders. He is changing lives.

More than anything, we feel humbled that he would allow us to be a part of something so darn awesome.

If you want to invest in the lives of these awesome young people, please click the link on the right hand side to be apart of our support team. Make sure to donate to “Kelvin and Nikole The Rehma Project”.

Oh…did we mention that Kelvin was approached to help build a basketball court in Kongowea? Let’s see where God can take this one….

Finding your tribe in the graveyard

 

I married into a large, tight-nit, Christian community here in Kenya.

It is a true gift.

It is this group of people who have known each other for a long time. Most of them worked in a Christian ministry of some sort together for a period of time. They are all in the same demographic as us: young, married (or soon to be married), young kids (or soon to have kids), middle class, strong Christians, mostly kenyan (besides the few that have married in like me). A lot of them are still doing work in ministry as pastors, missionaries, bible teachers, worship leaders, bible study and life group leaders, etc. Many of them have other professions as accountants, radio presenters, business owners, retail workers, uber drivers, event planners, bakers, etc.

We meet them everywhere, every day. We do life with them. They are people who always have your back. They are literally brothers and sisters from otha’ motha’s. They make your business their business. They drop everything for you. They encourage you and keep you accountable. They propel you towards Jesus. They realize that we are stronger in numbers; we need each other. We lean on each other. We are better together than apart.

For the sake of being trendy, they are our tribe.

A week and a half ago, one of our tribe members got married. We rallied and gave him and his bride the best send off into marriage as we could. We worked long hours, volunteered our time, gave of our money and blessed them. It is just what we do and we do it so well. Oh, and did I mention it was an absolute blast? How can it not be fun when your tribe is all together in one place celebrating?

A few days later, we lost one of our own. A wife, 34 years old died from complications while giving birth to their 2nd son. The pain and sadness we have felt in the last week has been too intense. But you can bet your bottom that we rallied together for her husband and family. Some were literally holding the husband up when he was buckled over in grief.

While Kelvin and I were in Canada, a few other people in this tribe passed away. We mourned from a distance. We gave our money to support the funerals. We made phone calls to give condolences. We anxiously awaited photos and updates on facebook to see what was going on with our tribe back home.

So when we went to the cemetery on Saturday to lay our sister to rest, I took it upon myself to find our other friends who we lost while in Canada. I am not entirely sure what I was expecting. It almost felt like a cruel game of “find your friend in the graveyard”. Kelvin and I were walking around, heads down, looking for the names on the tombstones. When we would find one, we would call each other over and break down and mourn.

But then we would look up and there is our tribe, scattered throughout the graveyard, rallied together once again for each other.

And I would be pretty confident to say that most of them will be apart of us for eternity.

As a new week starts, I am purposing to hold my loves so close to me, especially my babies and my hubby. I am purposed to love hard to the point where your pain is my pain and your joy is my joy. It is so worth it. People are so worth it. You are so worth it.