2017 will go down as the year we spent figuring things out.
Profound, right? (You can now book me for my motivational speeches;))
There was a lot of things to figure out from school to church to cheese and curtains and so much more.
But one of the biggest things we had to figure out was where we ‘fit’ or ‘belong’ when it comes to community and friends.
This was supposed to be easy. Kelvin grew up in Mombasa and already has a built-in community not to mention his entire family lives here. I moved to Mombasa just over nine years ago so I have a solid set of friends that I call community. But after four years of living in Canada, things changed. Our good friends and family were definitely still here, but we all had moved on and grown. As Kelvin put it, we needed to almost ‘re-friend our friends’. This was actually a lot harder than we anticipated.
At some point, I said to God, “Can you please build my community? Can you bring people into my life that you want me to be around? People who you know are good for me and my family and that we can also be good for them. People who we can call family and do life with genuinely.”
Then I had to lay down all my expectations and let God work. This is an exciting and dangerous thing to do because knowing God the way I do, He will find something for us that is so different that what we imagine and yet exactly what we need.
I can tell you for sure one place that we fit that wasn’t even on my radar….
Uwanja wa Mbuzi (directly translated as ‘field of goats’)
I have imagined my kids getting older and being asked, “So tell me about your childhood? Where did you grow up?” and their answer will involve this soccer stadium in the middle of a vibrant, ghetto community on the coast of East Africa with a community of middle-aged men who adore the living pants off them.
Weird, right? Yet, it fits so well for us.
My kids walk into that stadium like they own the place. They know every nook and cranny of the field. They know where to find the bathrooms and where the sewage holes that Amina threw her shoes in a few weeks ago are. They know when they are allowed to run on the turf and how many stairs there are to the top. They know not to step on the tiles that move and not to climb on the fence.
They adore the people who hang out and work there. And I am pretty sure they are equally adored by the people. You need to understand that most of the people who hang out there on a regular basis are younger to middle aged men. Only a handful of kids play there. My girls have these men wrapped around their man-fingers. Mercy bounces into the stadium and makes an effort to go hug and say hi to all the men she knows. They call for her from the other side of the bleachers and she races to give them a high five. The referee brings them on to the field at half time and chases them up and down. They join into the team huddles at the end of the game and look up at all the exhausted, sweaty men making the guys giggle at their cuteness. They know the men who chew miraa (a local drug) who always have a pack of gum ready to give them.
They are two small, Kenyan-Canadian girls who belong at a stadium filled with middle-aged men in a ghetto on the coast of Africa.
On Sunday, I took the girls to the field to go pick up their Daddy after his game. Like usual, they left me alone and frolicked around greeting everyone. After a few minutes, they race back to me with gum in their mouths (from their miraa chewing buddies) and Mercy declared, “MOM! I just have SO many friends!”
This is so not the community I anticipated for my family. However, it’s completely the community that I believe God is so fond of. A community where total opposites love and are loved. A community where we are free to be who we were created to be and still be accepted. A community of misfits. A community where a tiny, half white, half black Christian girl, jumps on the back of a big, rough and tough, Muslim man and the two of them laugh in delight.