Burdened

Posted Aug 02, 2011 by 3 Comments

(For the protection of those involved, the names and images connected with this story are merely representative of the individuals described)

I’d run out of stories. Or at least, stories that ended with hope. I was discouraged, feeling helpless in the face of the needs that I saw every day. I was so tired of being unable to fix things. But then unexpectedly, all of that changed.

I met a victim that didn’t act like a victim. I found a story finally worth telling. And I heard a request I couldn’t ignore.

The Question

She caught up with me one day as I hiked up the hill from lunch. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t hear her until I felt a soft touch on my arm.

“Are you walking awhile?” she asked, as her strides matched mine.

When I met Anne, I instantly loved her gentle smile and admired her patience. We laughed and talked easily whenever we met.

Still, I could tell our conversation would be an unusual one.

She asked me about all the everyday things like work and family. I answered hesitantly, unsure of what was coming. When she ran out of questions, Anne paused and took a deep breath.

How humbling it must have been for a mother to ask for help.

“I need to ask you something,” she finally said. We slowed to a stop as I braced myself for the plea for money or the tears I assumed were coming. “My daughter Leah is bright.” Anne said. “She’s turning 13 and going to class one next year.”

He voice was even as she said it, but I saw a flicker of emotion in her eyes.

“My husband left a few months ago,” Anne continued. “There are four of us and it’s hard. God will take care of us, but I’m worried about Leah. She must continue in school and I have no way to pay… I need your help to find her a sponsor.”

The Pause

She dropped her head as she finished, refusing to meet my eyes. I could see how much it pained her ask for help. But she didn’t beg or complain, she just asked.

And she did it in such a humble and honest way that I had no idea how to respond.

Anne told me she had been praying about her situation and felt God was leading her to talk to me. She’d avoided initiating the conversation, but knew I was leaving Kenya in just a few weeks.

“I’ve met so many other white people,” she said. “But you’re different. I knew I had to talk to you about it.”

The only thing that bars so many young women from a meaningful future is the funding for school fees.

I realized her request wasn’t the same as the others I’d heard. It wasn’t like the small children on the street who endlessly begged for coins or like the grandfather who’d tried to sell me his grandson our first week in Nairobi.

It was selfless and vulnerable. The plea of an everyday mother who loved her child so much she would ask a virtual stranger to help, to intrude into their lives.

I found myself asking when I could meet Leah.

The Answer

The following Saturday Anne and I arranged to meet at a gas station and then walk to her home.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d been nervous the entire morning, questioning whether I should go at all. What if I couldn’t help? What if the situation was hopeless?

But I went. And my throat grew tight when we met and I saw her face light up.

Anne had the most precious little boy clinging to her back. “My youngest, Alex,” she explained, as he peered at me, curious. At the gate to her compound a face peeked through the bars and then disappeared, giggling. “And that’s John, he’s 6,” she said.

She pulled back the curtain that hung in her doorway and welcomed me in. I squinted in the sudden darkness to find a single room divided into two with a sheet.

Leah can’t wait to work toward becoming a doctor.

I smiled as I saw the Mickey Mouse stickers that covered the television set and the notebooks filled with children’s drawings. Anne and I sat and sipped tea for awhile, until I heard rustling behind the curtain divider. I looked to Anne for an explanation. “Leah, can you come here please?” she said.

A young girl peeked around the divider, hesitant. Leah’s dark eyes looked at me uncertainly. She nervously smoothed bright purple skirt, scattered with sparkles. Something about her was so adorably thirteen.

The Reason

“You’re beautiful!” I blurted out, provoking a timid smile.

I asked Leah what she’d been so busy doing behind the curtain. “It’s Saturday, so of course you aren’t studying!” I said with a smile. “I am,” she replied. “But it’s nice outside!” I exclaimed. She simply nodded.

Anne told me someday Leah wants to be a doctor. She’s one of the best students at her school and next year, she wants to go to an all girls academy with challenging programs.

Leah left to finish her work while my conversation Anne turned to the idea of sponsorship. I told Anne that in all honesty, I couldn’t afford to personally sponsor Leah. Not on a college student’s salary.

I was nervous for Anne’s reaction, but she simply nodded. “I know,” she said. “I just think you can help. You can tell someone about her.”

That’s when the reason I was there clicked. Leah needed someone to tell her story, someone who could communicate all the joy and curiosity that spilled out from her eyes. Someone who could explain just why Leah needed to succeed.

In the fall, Leah hopes to join young women like these at a private academy.

And that’s when I found my story with hope.

I didn’t promise Anne that I would find a sponsor, only that I would try to.

Still, I think I did make that promise to myself.

Somehow, it’s going to happen. Whether that means I get a third job this year, I become independently wealthy (hah), or one of you, dear readers, connects with this story.

And that’s not a sales pitch. It’s a statement of God’s faithfulness to those he loves.

Those like Anne, who humble themselves for their families, for those like Leah, who spend their sunny Saturdays inside with dreams and textbooks …

And those like me, who still long for hope in a broken world.

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Next Steps
    • Pray for Beacon of Hope’s brave caregivers as they continue to work, live, and serve in their communities for people just like Judy.
    • Pray for Anne, Leah, John, and Alex today. In the midst of their optimism and hope, life is devastatingly difficult.
    • If you feel led to be Leah’s sponsor, send me an email (molly@worldnextdoor.org). I’d be thrilled to talk more with you about it!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Molly Meyer was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2011. She currently attends Indiana Wesleyan University where she’s studying Journalism and International Relations. She loves discovering how God can work his grace through every story, no matter the circumstances.

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Comments

  1. Bonny Yegon said... 

    Reply

    August 2nd, 2011 at 4:59 am  

    it is truelly touching story, i am humbled beyond words by the mum who knew about your situation but simply could not let the dream of her child die, she wanted to use you as a loud speaker to tell the world of the young determined genius in her house, like you i am praying to God to be rich enough to help her and millions like her in kibera. they are not asking for handouts, they are simply begging for an opportunity to prove themselves, a chance to read under a light bulb not a candle. like someone said, i am just a small part of the universe, maybe my contributions will not make a noticeable change but i am a big part to make a difference in someones life. what about you?

  2. Laura Edwards said... 

    Reply

    August 2nd, 2011 at 6:56 am  

    So, how does helping her work? I read your article, am challenged to pray how I might get involved, yet I have no clue how that would work. Please advise.

  3. ceri said... 

    Reply

    August 12th, 2011 at 2:37 pm  

    The needs & people in need here are so vast and numerous. But as a christian, what can you do but help? Sometimes your help bears fruit; sometimes it just seems to sink into a bottomless black hole. Sometimes you get a glowing thanks; sometimes you get stung. But still you help. Thanks for helping & inviting to help. ceri

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