On my first trip to Kenya, we delivered a cow to a family in the Suswa area. One of our team members, Kaci, went above and beyond with her fundraising for lady named Elizabeth. We brought the cow to the local pastor’s house. We call him “Pastor Ben.” He helped us find Elizabeth though our boots-on-the-ground guys, Moses and David. Pastor Ben lives in the same area as Elizabeth, so we thought we’d bring the cow to his house and walk it to Elizabeth’s place.
Elizabeth lives roughly a mile away from Pastor Ben. To the best of my recollection, there was maybe one other house between the pastor and her house. The path we took led us down bumpy dirt roads, recently harvested fields, and ditches. It couldn’t have been a nicer day. Perfect temperature, perfect cloud coverage (very little–blue skies, white puffy clouds dotting the sky) … but that all paled in comparison to the experience itself.
As we walked the cow to Elizabeth’s place, we talked, we laughed, we stumbled, we laughed again, and we had a blast. Here we were, a modge-podge group of crazy Americans and one guy from India, and merrily walked down this dusty dirt path. I’d guess we were maybe the equivalent of roughly 2 blocks from her house when we started hearing something not us. We all kind of stopped in our tracks, wondering what the sound was.
In the distance, we could see a group of people walking toward us. I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I found myself stepping up my pace to find out who these people were. As we got closer, David and Moses told us that the group coming toward us were the villagers and friends of Elizabeth. See, over there, in Kenya, when there’s cause for a family to celebrate, the whole village celebrates. As we got closer and closer, the noise became much more distinct–so much so that David and Moses identified the song that they were singing FOR US. It was a song of gratitude, prayer, and praise to God for bringing Elizabeth this cow.
The whole point of this cow is to help empower Elizabeth to become more financially independent. No, she’s not going to build herself a mansion on the funds this cow brings in, but she can do a lot of things with this cow: use and/or sell milk, churn butter and possibly sell some, have calves that she can, in turn, sell or use for meat … this cow becomes a source of empowerment for her and her family. It will help put her children through school and possibly on to college!
I don’t care how big or burly you are. I don’t care what your testosterone level is. If that kind of scene does not move you to tears, you have no soul. As one of the photographers, I found it nearly impossible to capture a good shot because my eyes were so blurred from tears cascading down my cheeks and soaking the dry, dusty road. My voice caught in my throat, a lump the size of lower Manhatten prevented me from breathing properly for a good few minutes as I drank in the entire scene.
It was in that moment that I realized that we weren’t really the ones changing lives; it was Kenya changing us–molding us to be better people, to show us a better way of living through giving thanks for all that we have had, currently have, and will ever have. It was so inspiring to walk with these people to their village, deliver the cow to Elizabeth, and drink chai tea with them.
Come with us. Your experiences will vary, but the emotions are the same.
Towards the end of my first experience in Kenya with 100 Humanitarians, I was taught a lesson I will never forget in a moment that might have seemed so small and insignificant to the outside observer, but it has pierced my heart.
We were at Joyce’s home installing a water tank and learning to make chapati. She lives on that Mara–a land dedicated to the Maasai culture. Joyce is the mother of Muneria (John)–one of our wonderful Maasai warrior guides and a true friend to all. We needed more water for the cement that the tank would sit on. To achieve this, we needed to walk down to the river to gather it. In their culture, this this women’s work. I believe that, in a “perfect” world, we all work together to get things done.
I asked Muneria if he was going to come help us and he told me “No, its not a mans work in our culture.”
He mentioned that they were trying to change Maasai culture. I responded by mentioning he could change it TODAY with a lot of love and a bit of sarcasm in my voice. With the same love and sarcasm, he told me back with maybe tomorrow.
I responded with, “Will you at least walk us down so we know where to go?” since we were a bunch of American women going for water.
He said that he would, and we walked down to the river. While we walked, we talked about our cultures, and I made sure that this wasn’t something he would get punished for doing because I didn’t want to push for change in an area that would cause damage. My only goal was and is to do good. I told him that, in my house, my husband and I share responsibilities. We definitely have our strengths and things that one of us is better at or more able to do, but if it needs to be done, we do it even if its not “our job”. I told him about how my wonderful husband stayed home with our children so that I could travel to Kenya following my heart.
We had a nice chat about it and went to the water. The kids that came with us helped us fill the water jugs. The women hiked back with the water jugs. Now, this was not a long walk, but a walk nonetheless. Water jugs are heavy! None of us were accustomed to this particular task, but we were all willing to give it a go to have an experience in the name of culture.
We all struggled just a bit figuring out the best way to carry the weight. Pretty soon, 3 young men ages 17-25 grabbed our water jugs from us and easily carried them back to the house. These men included two from our group and Muneria. In that moment I sobbed with emotion, much like right now as tears flow down my cheeks as I recall this moment.
Some might have just seen men helping out, but I saw CHANGE! I saw a small choice that at the same time was a choice that had a potential to change history–the start of a culture shift. Muneria chose TODAY to be an an example for the young boys watching. He chose TODAY to influence his culture for good.
I hope I never forget that lesson. That change for good and change for the future start TODAY with one small choice at a time.
Melodee Bullock is a supporter of love. Through her journey of healing from depression, anxiety, ptsd, low/no self esteem, trust issues, financial , and relationship things. She has learned the power of Love. She has since learned and created her Dream life through intimacy and abundance. She is a wife, mother, foot zone therapist, International Energy Mentor and Presenter. She runs and operates events, retreats, programs, and group and personal training. She has helped many people in their journey of overcoming and healing through many of the same struggles she went through but her passion lies in marriages. She has devoted her time and energy to creating powerful programs to support people in bettering their marriages and relationships so that they too can create their dream life through intimacy and abundance.
This is Frances. I think. To be honest, I can’t remember. It seems like there were two guys named Frances though, and I think he’s one of them. At least, that’s his anglicized name. I think …
ANYway … whatever his name is, this guy is awesome. He is a Maasai warrior. I met him on my first trip to Kenya with 100 Humanitarians. Once we got to the Maasai village that we visited, he took me out in the brush to show me how the Maasai people clean their teeth. Tooth brushes and toothpaste aren’t available anywhere within less than a few hours’ drive, so they do what they can. There’s a particular kind of tree from which they slice off a green twig with their razor-sharp machete, then they simply chew on it. They also kind of rub it around on the front surface of their teeth.
It isn’t terribly effective, but hey–it’s what they have to work with, so they make it work for them.
After that little demonstration, Frances showed me his machete. According to him, it was worth about $100 American dollars. I winced, but I really wanted one. In the end, he wanted me to buy the machete, his rungu (a dancing/battle stick… they’re awesome!), and a necklace for about $350. Now … I knew they weren’t worth that, but I didn’t know exactly what each was worth. I knew I couldn’t get all three at that cost. If I remember right, I ended up with the necklace for $45.
Funny story … my last name has become a verb for those who went on that trip and have gone on subsequent trips. If you got “McCabed,” you got ripped off. Hard. Like … laughably hard. I’m okay with that. It really is kind of funny.
Here’s the thing though: yah, I got taken. Is that Frances’ fault? No. Is it my fault? It certainly is, but in all honesty, I know what that money does for their tribe, their village, their families … and in that moment, I simply didn’t mind.
You have to remember that, in that area of the Mara, the villagers see “mzungus” literally every day. A mzungu is basically an outsider who’s easily duped. No, a simple soapstone carving of some elephant is not worth $50. It’s worth *maybe* $10 if it’s intricately painted.
I haven’t seen Frances in well over a year. I have a lot of love in my heart for him, his village, his family, his people … And I have his rungu tucked away in my box of Kenyan artifacts that I’ve picked up on my trips. When I pull out that stuff and look at it, I remember him. I remember Kenya. I remember the incredible experiences I had over there–the feelings of unfettered love for a people who I had never met, and knowing that that love was and is reciprocated on their end. In the interest of fairness, Frances’ job is to sell me stuff. He did that. The common villagers, though … their job is to simply *live*. Survive. When we come to their village and help them set up a garden box, or provide them a goat or cow, their joy and gratitude is ELECTRIC. I’ll talk about that in another blog post down the road.
I really miss Kenya. I can’t wait to get back over there and see my friends. I hope that you’ll come with me on one of our expeditions. I can tell you these stories and experiences all I want, and you can read them and think, “Oh. Well, that’s awesome!”, but I promise you … there is no way to adequately do justice to the experience using mere words. You *have* to be there. Literally.
Come play with us in Kenya. Join 100 Humanitarians. Change your life. Only then will any of this make sense in any kind of meaningful way. 🙂
I Had a Dream…
Okay, I know that kind of sounds MLK-esque, which isn’t by design … it’s just the fact. I did, indeed, have a dream. At the beginning of the dream, I found myself in my parents’ house, but it wasn’t *really* their house, you know? I mean, I intuitively knew it was supposed to be their house, but it wasn’t any house that I had ever been in. In this house, there were some pretty well-vaulted ceilings–very, very high. My mom was … I dunno. Floating? Hanging? She was suspended in the air well above the floor, and she was doing something really important. I couldn’t tell if she was spackling, painting, or what it was she was doing, but it was clear that she was super-focused on whatever it was she was doing.
All of a sudden, I was standing in a mall, watching all these different backgrounds of people walk around.There were kids; there were adults. There were tall and short people. There were people from all kinds of backgrounds and nationalities. They all seemed genuinely happy, but they were just wandering around aimlessly because none of the shops were selling anything. They were all open and displaying merchandise, but there wasn’t a single sales person to help you get what you needed.
As I wandered around the mall, I found a set of stairs that looked like the descended into a basement. Out of curiosity, I wandered down these stairs and stumbled across a room full of people who looked hurt and angry. I have no idea why they were burdened such, but I felt like their troubles became my troubles. I *wanted* them to be happy! I NEEDED them to be happy! In my dream, I found myself becoming incredibly anxious and scared for them. And then I woke myself up …
I literally woke up my wife from semi-screaming this.
And that was my night. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning, and I could not go back to sleep. I was relieved to learn that that entire basement full of sad people weren’t real. I was kind of startled by my solution to their moribund melancholy, yet I wasn’t.
See, Kenya is just that kind of place. You really can’t be unhappy while you’re over there. Not truly, anyway. Even if you’re in the deepest throes of despair before going over, the service you perform and the service you receive (and indeed, you will know what I mean when you come on an expedition) leave you without choice BUT to be happy. You interact with a whole new culture. You gain a perspective on life that is simply impossible to achieve over here. You witness first-hand how our projects and work transform not only the lives of those who are within our focus, but (and, arguably, more importantly) you witness a transformation within yourself.
There is a peace in Kenya that simply cannot be replicated here. There is joy in service. I hope you’ll all accept our invitation to come on an expedition and see what changes take place in your life and the lives of those you serve.