Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography
I was born in Kenya in 1980, the last child in a family of three siblings. When I was six years old, I woke up late in the night and was looking for my mum. I asked my dad where she was. He told me she had left, and he did not know where she went. I was confused because to me, my family was perfect. I kept asking my dad where my mum went and would she ever come back? He kept telling me he did not know. My questions bothered him and at times made him very angry, so I stopped asking. But silently, I suffered deeply inside. I kept wondering why my mum had left me?I was so young. Why did she reject me?
The next time I saw her was in court three years later. She had filed for divorce. She and I never really had a connection and, much later, I asked her why she rejected us? Why she left us? She told me that she had to leave because they were fighting a lot. She said she loved us and tried to look for us all those years, but my dad would not allow her to see us. I tried to accept her version of the story and worked very hard to establish a relationship with her, but it was so difficult. My relationship with my dad was so close. He was my hero and I loved him. I think I chose to believe his version of the story.
My dadraised my siblings and me after my mother left. Growing up was tough without a mother’s love. I think dad was pushing himself too hard. I think he was afraid he would lose us. One time he mentioned his fear that the court could take us away from him. You could see that the thought of not having his children broke his heart. He provided everything we needed. However, he was very angry, bitter, and tired. So we grew up afraid. As loving and protective as he was, he would say some mean things out of anger. We learned perfection from him. Everything had to be perfect. From elementary to middle school (known as primary School in Kenya)we topped the class, and my dad pushed us even harder. Our grades had to be perfect. We were not even allowed to date. We were very involved in church, sports, extracurricular activities such as music and drama, but he monitored all that closely. By the time I was in sixth grade I could cook and clean for the whole family, and I could comfortably stay home by myself after school. He had taught us to be independent.
During college I visited my mother. We would bake, take walks, and try to do mother-daughter bonding activities to make up for the lost years. I was really starting to connect with her, but after a few months, she fell ill and died. It broke my heart. I was very involved in church and had a group of girls that I met with to pray and that got me through. Yes, losing her still hurt but the prayers and encouragement from my small prayer group gave me courage to keep moving forward. God gave me the peace and grace to continue focusing on school. I could trust Him despite the situation. I cannot explain the strength I had going through that situation, but I know it was only with God’s help.
Both my siblings went to the US to build their careers, but I remained in Kenya and was among the first cohort in Kenya to train as a social worker. When I graduated, I got an internship at the United Nations in Nairobi. My first formal employment was in a research study for HIV prevention among high-risk women. I did not have much experience. It was a miracle that I got the job. I enrolled for a master’s degree in medical sociology.
Having gone through a broken family and trauma, I was drawn to working with the kids from similar backgrounds and those going through abuse. While I was doing well in my career and working on my master’s degree, my father became ill. My dad began getting sick around fall of 2007, which was an election year in Kenya. When the election results were announced, violence broke out. This escalated cases of abuse and violence and kept me very busy at the violence recovery center. I could not go visit my dad because of the post-election violence. Tribes were fighting against tribes and political parties against each other and it was risky to travel.
Unfortunately, my father also could not travel to see his physician for medical care in another city. Instead, he went to a local hospital in a rural town in Kenya, but he did not make it. I remember the last time I spoke with him. I had left work at around 4 p.m. I talked to him and his phone went off. I remember him telling me to take care of myself and to tell my siblings the same. I asked him what he was talking about? I told him the violence would end, and he would get out of hospital, and I would go see him. I was told that the last thing he mentioned was that he wanted to take a short nap and rest, but when he slept, he never woke up. The next morning when I heard my dad had passed; I thought my life was going to end! I did not see how I would live without my dad because I loved him so much. He was my hero, my best friend. I was truly daddy’s girl. I felt like a part of me died when he died.
I didn’t date until I was an adult and got in my first serious relationship when I was 25 years old. I wasn’t experienced in relationships and I didn’t know about normal relationships because I came from a broken home. When my dad was sick, I met the man who would become my husband. He was there with me when I got the news about my dad’s passing. He saw how crushed I was and decided he would take me to the country to attend the burial/funeral. We were both risking our lives because there was still tension, due to post-election violence. I cried all the way from the city to the country. The seven-hour drive was very scary. You could sense the tension. We knew anything could happen, and we could get killed. This really brought me and my boyfriend close.
When I returned, it was very hard to get back to work and to finish my master’s degree. I felt empty. I wanted to die and I prayed to God to take my life. I drank a bottle of wine or sometimes two, to wash away the pain. My boyfriend was there for me during this time, and I was still involved in the church, but instead of turning to God, I turned to this relationship. After a few months of dating, we decided to get married. We really didn’t know each other very well. My whole family was against it. They thought I was still going through trauma of my dad passing and thought I should wait, but I did not care. I went ahead with the wedding plans. My siblings could not make it to my wedding. Only a few of my family showed up. I smiled during my wedding ceremony, but I was breaking inside. I had no dad to walk me down the aisle, as I pictured all through my life, I was getting married to someone I didn’t know well, and my family didn’t support me.
The morning after my wedding, I looked at my ring and I remember thinking, “What have I done?” We went for our honeymoon in Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya, but I was unwell and unhappy. One night we decided to go out to one of the clubs. When we were heading back, we were stopped and surrounded by a group of about 10 men. We actually thought they were police, but they were not. It may have been an initiation into a local militia group because they didn’t steal anything. They started cutting us with machetes. A man was cutting me again and again. I faced death. I had two deep cuts in my head, and blood was flowing like tap water. I was silently whispering, while holding my blood with both my hands, “Lord Jesus, forgive me. Please remember mercy. Save me!”
I cannot believe I survived this ordeal! I had said my last prayer at the time because I knew I was going to die. Miraculously, they left us (probably for dead). People heard our cries for help and came to help us. A man offered to take us to the hospital in his car. I believe God intervened to save us. I really don’t know how I survived. From a beautiful bride a few days before, I lost all my hair. They had to cut all my hair with a razor so that they could stich my head. I almost lost my eye as well. I still have a scar. The next day we informed our family back in the city. They arranged for us to be flown back to Nairobi. That is basically how we started out marriage. With a traumatic experience and nursing wounds from our near-death experience!
My husband was drinking a lot and at times not coming home. I was also drinking my wine. I was depressed and felt stuck in the marriage. I did not know who to talk to because my family was against the marriage in the first place. I was too embarrassed to reach out for help. My siblings were far away in the US; I had no dad to talk to. My spiritual life was a mess. I felt very far from God.
We decided to go for counseling from our pastor, but we still had problems. We also went to talk to his family, and the aunts advised us to have a baby. They said having a child sometimes solidifies a marriage and makes a couple bond. I was scared and excited at the same time. I had stopped my master’s program; I did not graduate, taking a three-year break from school. I got pregnant but I had no one to take care of me emotionally. I felt alone. I spoke to my sister and explained how sad I was, and we decided it was best to go to the US. I applied for a scholarship and got accepted to pursue a master’s degree in public administration in Louisiana. My husband seemed okay with it. My plan was to go to Louisiana then transfer to Kentucky to be close to my family. I was only a few months pregnant. My husband and I agreed that we would try and apply for an F-2 visa for him as a dependent spouse. I traveled to the US and applied three times, but we were not successful. I also tried to transfer to Kentucky and was unsuccessful. I took a semester off from school and had my son. When I held my son, I felt blessed and happy. At the same time, I was scared because I did not know if I would be a good mother. I fell in love with my little boy immediately. He lit up some part of me that was broken inside. I decided that it was best to go back to Kenya, so my son could be close to his father. I did not want to go through a divorce like my parents did because I know the pain it caused me then, and I did not want my son to go through the same.
When I went back to Kenya, my husband continued with his old ways, drinking, partying, and sleeping around. There was infidelity and neglect, and we reached a point where it was best to end the marriage. We ended up separating and later divorcing. It was so hard for me to divorce despite infidelity. I thought about repeating my parent’s history. All this time I kept crying to God. I felt unworthy because my walk wasn’t always right. I wondered if God really accepted me. But I realize now God loves me unconditionally. We are the ones focused on other things — focused on the pain or the lack, but He is always there.
Habakkuk 3:17–19 is one of my favorite verses and reflects how I was feeling at this time and what I still believe today. Through it all we should give thanks and Praise the Lord. It might be difficult to do that when going through pain, when the road is all foggy, and we are unsure of where we are going. Even when it hurts, we should put our trust in the Lord and rejoice because He gives us grace and strength to go through these seasons, whether good or bad. He is there behind the scenes. He is there carrying us, even though we do not “see” Him or “feel” His presence, He is there, putting every piece of the puzzle in place, where it belongs, and ordering our steps.
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (NIV)
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.