HOME IS A CASTLE OF STORIES. WHEN WORDS SEEMED NEVER TO LEAVE OUR LIPS.

LION HEART




A week ago, I rode shotgun in a matatu. I was headed to Kenyenya. The last time there, I was two years old, at the threshold of three. I have no memory of my stay; my parents tell me this. They were starting out, right at the bottom of the barrel.

Before I left, I asked Siri if she knew where Kenyenya is? We all know the traitor that Siri is. She acted up, behaved as if I was harassing her. Why would I ask her about a place that isn’t on the map? If Apple cares about its African customers, it should introduce ‘African Siri’. A helper we can relate to.  Not this phoney who replies as if she is in Silicon Valley.

In the matatu, I sat next to this smiling guy then the driver on the far end. The smiling fella was making a delivery to some pharmacy. He had a tattoo on his left arm and wore a suit. He looked sharp, but I found him odd. Why wear a suit and you’re making a delivery? Will you be making a presentation afterward? Or he had a date? We will never know?

The driver was a calm man. Dark skinned. Had a five o’clock beard which was darker. His eyes betrayed nothing. They were blank, ghost towns. His arms clutched easily to the steering wheel. He was the king of the road. He knew the bends, the secrets, where traffic police hide.

At Ogembo, he bought an energy drink and groundnuts. He said that he’d had a ‘long weekend’. We laughed at that. He proceeded to share the groundnuts, and said that he wanted us to be ‘steady men’. That when we are ‘up there’, we are to be ‘ruthless’ and ‘powerful’. We laughed and munched the groundnuts as the vehicle sped on. In that sharing of njugu, I released a brotherhood in Kisii men. It was a pact of sorts. That no matter what, it’s good to help your brother perform when it’s his time to rise to the occasion. And men should always share their groundnuts.

We chatted and laughed all the way to Kenyenya. The usual topics, women, football, alcohol, and politics. I wanted to ride with that driver forever.

I was headed to U-turn for Christ Kenya. A rehabilitation centre, coupling up as an egg project. I had heard about it and brushed it off, but then, as always, curiosity killed the cat. I had to see what was going on at this rehab in the heart of Kisii territory.

I met Denis Wafula. The priest who runs the place. I had talked with him over the phone and he kept referring to me as ‘Sir.’ Which I found odd. Talk of humility. We shook hands, his hand huge and bony and strong. He was at the threshold of fatherhood. And he smiled a lot. A man who loves his work.

Mt Elgon is where he hails from. Right under the noses of Sabaot land defence forces. What happened to those folks by the way? He was forced to repeat class seven and eight twice. Then his father, a man he doesn’t understand up to now, married another wife. She was the classical stepmom and hated him to death. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he moved in with his aunt who lived in Bungoma at the time. She took care of him like she would her own son, he says. Clothe him, fed him and enrolled him back to school.

Life was jolly, but there’s always a chink. It was time for him to be circumcised. He would have to head back to the village. His foreskin had to be cut in his homeland, as the spirits of his forefathers watched on. He journeyed back to his village. After the ceremony, he stayed for three years. They were lost years, walking around in a complete fog. Nothing was going, no school, nothing.

In the maddest twist of fate, a woman ‘with a reputation’ and infamous for her immorality approached him. She wasn’t interested in him, all she said that God would change his fortunes and help was on its way. He found it absurd, here was a woman lost in sin talking to him about God and help. He brushed her off.

His uncles and aunts sought him out soon after and sent him to high school. The four years went by in a blitz. His confidence stirred to life. He chased girls, in between books. He wasn’t interested in God, or anything religion. He termed CU folks as hypocrites. He avoided CRE. At times he wished to find the CRE teacher in a corner and beat the shit out of him. (I added that.)

On the eve of finishing high school, his uncle shows up in school. What could have happened, he thought. The uncle brandished a letter from KWS. Our hero had a job. All he had to do was finish his last paper and report to work in Manyani. One little problem, our hero did not want to work, at least not for his material well-being.

The last years of high school had been a roller coaster for him. At the tail end, questions of serving God had started poking holes at him. That’s what he wanted to head out to the world and seek religion and understand it. He did not want to be a KWS ranger. He did not care about poachers or conserving wildlife. Lions did not tickle his fancy. He found their manes to be ugly and silly. Monkeys were jockers of the animal kingdom.

As he finished on his physics, the KWS letter lay unperturbed in his bag. But even in the elation of finishing high school, serving as a KWS was the last thing on his mind. But to appease his mom and uncles who’d found the job for him, he reported to Manyani. He did not last long. After long walks of watching wildlife mating and chasing poachers away, he quit and headed home. The fire to seek God was burning in his soul. His mother was almighty pissed. I Imagine the discussion went this way.

“Why do this, my son? Which demon has infested you?”

“There’s no demon mum. All I have is a calling.”

“What calling? Huh! You want to be like those Conmen who call themselves pastors?”

Months went by in a complete white-out. Everybody was against him. He felt confused. He wasn’t making money and at times contemplated asking for forgiveness and rolling back to his old job. Even though it would kill his soul and dream. He was a man out of options. He was walking a knife’s edge. God would surely understand. Taking one last shot at seeking religion, he left for Uganda, where he did not stay long, then Kisii.

In Kisii, he attended a seminar where he ran into American missionaries who would later become his in-laws. He learnt how to preach and started ministering in the church. People dozed off as he talked about Christ and peter. He was still learning the ropes.

In the mists of 2012, he started seeking out a wife. Before, he’d said ‘No to women and Yes to Jesus.’ His exact words.  He wasn’t keen on having a good time with women. All he wanted was to get married and start a family. He avoided being in closed spaces with women. He did not want women who looked at him with those hungry bedroom eyes and wanted to strip off his clothes. He also wanted a woman steady in the lord. A companion at home and in worship. A baby out of wedlock was out of the question, thus he completely avoided inviting women to his place and vice versa.

As 2015, curled into a close, he was a man in a conundrum. Seven girlfriends were breathing down his neck. All of them wanted to marry him. Two problems. He wasn’t keen on a polygamous setup. He wanted them to be his ‘spiritual children.’ Furthermore, the women had demands he couldn’t work with. Their directions in life, what they expected out of marriage was starkly different. They were ships passing each other in the dark.
Here are some of the demands of the girlfriends. Demands he wouldn’t cede to, no matter the situation.


“We can get married, but if you come with your church folk. Count me out.”
“I’ll listen to secular music in the house. Please listen to gospel in the church, not here.”
“If you have visitors, you will cook for them. I can’t do it.” This is bullshit, women should cook for their men, and their visitors.

“I’ll have to go on trips with my friends. You can go to church and pray when I am away.”

 (I added the last part. But gentlemen let's get this clear, never allow your woman to go on trips you’re not part of. It means only one thing, there’s some other guy playing on your tuff. You’ve heard the saying, ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.’ Of course, she won’t tell you. The idea of road trips with her little girlfriends should be off the table unless you’re coming with her.)

“I’ll be drinking but supporting in you with your church affairs.” How would you that? Providing altar wine?

He vetted the women and slashed them off the list. In 2016, he found a nice girl he wanted to settle down with. A small problem, her mum wanted her to be married to a catholic guy only. Our hero might be religious but he wasn’t catholic, it was his turn to be rejected.

In between all this, one girl stayed in his head. She was the daughter to the missionaries in whose church he was ministering. They talked frequently on the phone and he’d grown to like her but approaching her was out of the question. She was his boss’s daughter, American, white. And he was Luhya, dark as night, a boy from the other side of the tracks. One wrong word and he would be fired.

Most evenings, he would lay in his bed and think of her. What if she said no. The rejection would tear his Luhya heart apart. She was the girl he wanted. But worse, if she told her parents of his ‘advances’, he would certainly lose his job. I think of the missionary calling him to his office.

“Good morning Denis.”

“Good morning sir.”

“I hear you’re trying to mess with my daughter? Huh! What is wrong with you? Can’t you be satisfied with serving the Lord? You had a couple of girlfriends’ way back in 2012, are they not enough? Do you want my daughter on that list? Is that what will make you happy? Is this your idea of serving God?”

“I am sorry sir. I love your daughter so much.”

“Love, no, no, get that dream out of your head.”

“But sir…”

“Go and preach, and forget about her please.”

None of the above happened. The American chick jetted into the country without the knowledge of her parents. They met and Denis, made his intentions clear, he wanted to marry her and build a family, he wasn’t keen on beating about the bush. She said yes and they hugged, they were in church. Not in a chopper, or on a beach, or a candlelit dinner. It was a love stoked in church. Watched over by the lord. An American girl and a Kenyan boy, isn’t that romantic? 

As we talked with Denis fatherhood was around the corner. The next day, he would be traveling to witness the birth of their child. His smile had the flecks of fatherhood in it. A man embarking on another phase of his life. Of fatherhood, he said.
“The child belongs to God; we are just care takers.”

I felt that.

Dennis is a man of many hearts. He is the director of U-turn for Christ Kenya in Kisii and also Kebabe egg project. This is a Christian based rehabilitation centre which brings hope to drug addicts all around the world and helps them return to their normal lives.

I was there collecting human stories and will share them in the coming weeks. Thank you, Denis, for your impeccable welcome. God bless you and your family. Happy fatherhood.

3 comments:

  1. Lion hearted beings strive to their best to garner the best fortunes fate can offer.

    ReplyDelete