"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in with loving-kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt...and go out to dance with the joyful." - Jeremiah 31: 3-4

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Malindi #4 - The Final Installment.

Malindi is filled with poverty, prostitution and brokenness. You would think that in a place so dark, organizations and missionaries would be jumping at the chance to work there... but there is no one. It is a tourist town, seemingly well-off and established but if you dig just a little deeper than the high-class restaurants and night clubs, you will find devastation unlike anything else in Kenya. Malindi is home to a community of forgotten people.

As I was walking through Majenga, I felt the heaviness of empty lives. It brought me back to something I had written in my journal during my sophomore year in college. I don’t have my journal right next to me, it’s in America and I’m sitting in a Java House in the Nairobi airport, so I don’t know exactly what I wrote but it was something along the lines of “I feel so empty yet so heavy.” Heaviness and emptiness are not two things that are usually put together. If something is heavy, it means it is filled with something. If something it empty, it is light and easy to carry. But a life of sin is exactly that – heavy and empty. Sin was surrounding us that night as we walked through the alleys and roads lined with boarding houses occupied by prostitutes and the men who had purchased them. At one point, we walked over to a few women who were sitting on the steps outside of their house chewing on mirra and drinking tea. They were laughing and joking around and seemed to be enjoying themselves. We asked them what they were doing and they replied that they were getting ready for work. I was silent. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth I would start screaming. These women were getting ready to sell their bodies and they didn’t seem to care at all.

We walked around Majenga for about half an hour. Martin pointed out all the boarding houses to me and after a while I just told him to stop; there was a boarding house every ten steps. We exited the area of Majenga and not two minutes later, Daniel called Nate’s phone. He told us that he had been feeling really heavy for us in the last half hour and wanted to check and see that we were okay. Obviously, Satan isn’t messing around if Daniel could feel what we were feeling all the way across the country.

We sat on the major strip in New Town Malindi for a little while after leaving Majenga. New Town is where all the touristy things are, the nice hotels, restaurants and night clubs. It is where we spent most of our time when we went to Malindi during the internship program. Going back to it that night was a whole different experience. I saw things that I didn’t see before, felt things that I didn’t feel before and realized how blind I must have been back in November when I was first here. I watched the prostitutes walk by in their short skirts and barely there tank tops. They were all smiles, eager to get paid a few thousand shillings that night. I wondered how they felt the next morning, waking up at 4pm, showering, getting something to eat and getting ready for another night. Were there depressed? Angry? Did they ever say to themselves “I can’t do this anymore”? Or had they become so hardened and shut off from their emotions that they just went through their cycle of life like it was any other. Like you would get up and get ready to go to classes, or pick up your kids from little league, or go out with your boyfriend or girlfriend for dinner and a movie… this was their life. It reminds me of a Proverb in chapter 5 about the adulteress.

“She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.”

I remember when I first read that, I didn’t think of the girls I had met earlier, Mercy, Neema, Leena… I thought of these women, smiling and laughing. Mercy knew she was wrong, Neema didn’t want to be a prostitute, Leena prayed for a better life. But these women knew nothing of their sin. It seemed as though no one had ever told them that they had other options. These women were described exactly in Proverbs. “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” – Proverbs 5: 3-5. “She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.” – Proverbs 7:11. These women were prostitutes through and through.

It was a long night and we went home earlier than expected. Exhaustion was taking over, both physically and spiritually and we all just wanted to rest.

The next day we went to the woman we first visited after arriving in Malindi. She had prepared us lunch and it was delicious. After eating, I got a chance to ask her some questions about herself and about prostitution in general. She told me that she had been in a relationship when she was still in her home town of Nakuru. She had been engaged to be married to him when she became pregnant and he left her. She had owned a shop that sold shoes and when he left her, he took everything with him. She came to Malindi to find work to support her baby. I asked her more about her ex-fiancĂ©. She was open with me when I asked personal questions. It felt like I was talking to a friend and she seemed to feel the same. She told me that she thought she loved him but was now unsure if love was even real. I was beginning to see a theme here. Kenyans don’t want to believe in love. “Why don’t you believe that love exists?” “It just doesn’t seem possible for someone to love you forever. People always leave.” I asked her if I could share some of my story with her and she said yes. I told her how I had thought I was in love before but the boy left me just like her fiancĂ© left her. She looked at me as if to say “see, I told you love isn’t real.” “But I still believe in love, he was just the wrong person,” I continued. She looked surprised. I tried to explain to her that just because our hearts get broken by one man, doesn’t mean that they have to stay broken. We can heal and we can find real love. She looked away from me and looked to the sky. I imagine that she was either thinking I was crazy or that I might be on to something. After some more girl talk, we all said goodbye and I headed back to Maweni.

The rest of that third day in Malindi was occupied by a fairly substantial event. But it is not my story to tell. It might be blogged about by Nate ( eventually, but if not then let me just say that Kenya is a country of corruption, deception and lies and it is hard to trust the people here. Unfortunately, we had to experience that first hand.

On our last night in Malindi, Sarah expressed to me several times that she would miss me. I was surprised to feel that I would miss her too. I had begun to feel at home in Maweni. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to live there and not just visit. I pushed the thought away. I was getting ahead of God and rushing to conclusions. Just because I felt at home in Malindi, didn’t mean that Malindi would someday be my home.

That night Sarah announced to me and Nate that she didn’t want to go to sleep because then she would be waking up and we would have to leave. So Nate, Sarah and I stayed up and talked until around 3 in the morning. She asked us questions, told us stories and shared her opinions on some pretty serious issues. That night and early morning is one of the best memories I have from all of my trips to Kenya.

We left Malindi early on the morning of Friday the 26th and spent over twelve hours on a bus heading back to Nairobi. Obviously, I had a lot of time to think and talk to God. The only conclusion I came to on that bus ride was that God wanted me in Malindi that week. He wanted me to meet those girls and hear their stories. I don’t know exactly why. I don’t know if He wants me to go back to Malindi someday. I don’t know when or if He’ll bring me back to Kenya. I don’t know if I have a ministry there. What I do know is that right now God is calling me back to America to finish school, so that is what I am going to do.

This has been the most incredible year of my life. From last March until now, my life has not slowed down even for a moment. I have been on a whirlwind of adventure, transformation, restoration and rebirth. I have spent more time in Africa than in America over the past eight months and I forget what it is like to spend more than two months at home. I haven’t truly lived in the United States in a long time. I’ve simply been visiting between trips to Kenya but now, it is time to go home. I look forward to seeing what is in store for me and what God will have me do next. I’m excited to begin a whole new adventure.


1 comment:

  1. Stephanie. There are many time in the world when one person says to another... "you should write a book.", but I am going to say it to you here and now because people need to hear these stories, it's imperative for our culture to be shocked by the evil in the world, and you can do it.

    Thank you for the blogs.