Hope to hold on to
To have hope is to have a fervent desire and expectation for a situation to change for the better. It is very much part of the fabric of our everyday lives, perhaps its presence only appreciated or noted by its absence.
Living and working in a small village community in a remote part of northern Kenya can generate a plethora of un-hopeful emotions, necessitating us to look beyond the specific envisioning of the present or the confident planning and determination to improve the future. Many times, we fall back on the simple yet transformative truth of these words,
‘Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful’ Hebrews 10:23
When circumstances confuse and commitment wavers the hope to whom we return is Jesus, living in us and amazingly through us. We see his complete dedication to us and those around us, the change he is bringing about often woven through decades and generations.
Watching hope mature
S_ _ _ is probably in his forties. That is scary! We knew him when he was a young teenager. His face, fresh and familiar, peers out of dusty pre-digital photographs, one of many young boys enjoying a game of football yet pausing to push and shove their friends out of centre frame. Like so many other school leavers, he attended YWAM discipleship training school near Nairobi. I clearly remember his testimony of how God miraculously touched him during his outreach placement. His wedding, a God-honouring event, was attended by all in the community. Behind the scenes and an office desk he is growing in leadership. He is constant and reliable, prepared to take his stand quietly, but firmly, against the cultural and religious practices with which he disagrees. His hope is anchored firmly in all he has learned from God’s word and his ongoing walk of obedience.
Hope in spite of hardship
L_ _ _, a Samburu elder and long-time friend, began his journey kneeling alone in repentance at the front of an ordinary church service in an extraordinary moment. On his first sighting of Lake Turkana, as he gazed over the vast expanse of jade coloured shimmering water he quietly exclaimed, “God is amazing”. Several wives and children later his life is complicated and costly. He openly shared with me his heartache when his young daughter was badly treated by her new husband, and more recently, when his son was killed in a cattle raid. Hope is harder to discern in this story, but it exists because it began. It doesn’t fit our neatly packaged product, possibly it never will. Its strength is in God’s faithfulness.
Hope put to work
As I work in my office, I hear the muffled sound of a blender pulsing in the makeshift kitchen next door. T_ _ _ is attempting to diversify her small yogurt making business by preparing and adding pure mango juice to her menu. Her commitment is constant and consistent. Morning and evening see her boiling fresh milk, adding culture and allowing the yoghurt to set before sale. We are all pleasantly surprised by the daily demand for the sour creamy product. A few days ago, after much laughter, learning and effort, the mango juice that she had decided to make out of an abundance of fruit was deemed correct and a price calculated. It sold out immediately! The responsibility and care of her little boy falls solely on her. She is hoping this business will generate sufficient finance to provide for both their lives while learning more of God’s plan for her life, to prosper and not to harm, to give a hope and a future as she calls out to him.
Hope on mission
The full range of emotions play on their faces as the Transformed team tumble out of the arriving vehicles, exhausted and excited. For four weeks the 20-30 school leavers will practise something of what they have learnt in their discipleship-training programme in Nairobi. They will lead youth camps, be involved in gardening, conservation and travel to the surrounding villages, their stamina inspired by hope in Jesus.
Working alongside them are university graduate volunteers who remain for a year, building up trust and gaining platforms to discuss quietly and respectfully the reason for their hope in Christ. These students and young adults are the generation of the present and leaders of the future, believing and living out a better way in Jesus, the hope for their nation.
M_ _ _’s small home is a 30 minute motorbike taxi ride from her village and two hours land rover journey from Tuum. Only illness prevents her from attending the monthly Bible teaching seminar. Her limbs are stick-like. Her grey, almost shaven head kept warm with a woolly hat pulled unevenly down to protect her empty eye socket. Years after her ‘cataract’ operation the cavity still weeps. Her other eyeball grows increasingly milky, but her spiritual sight is clear. She looks beyond the difficult present to an eternal hope, which God who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. We chat and catch up over a cup of sweet tea. Her face is crinkled and wrinkled with life and laughter lines. She delights in ‘seeing’ the latest pictures of family on my phone before ‘tapping’ her way back to the next teaching session.
In 1991 on one of our first visits to Tuum, some members of a small fellowship in Baragoi accompanied Stephen and me as we prayer-walked around the boundaries of the newly designated plot. Since then, numerous teams, tourists and travellers have stayed and shared in the sparse desert beauty. Many comment on a sense of something beyond what can be put into words. Recently a young tourist guide asked for a prayer of blessing over his life. He had been touched by the respect and care extended to him and his group. He had experienced something of the indescribable, uncontainable hope of Christ.
This Eastertime, ‘may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Romans 15:13
Angelina Cowan is a PCI global mission worker working in Tuum, Kenya with her husband, Stephen. You can read more about their work here.
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