GREEN PASTURE: BED OR BREAD?
If the Lord leads me into a green pasture but instead of letting me graze He gives me the grace to lie down and rest, I would take it that He is training me to grasp the ultimate essence of embracing contentment in the face of tantalising and beckoning opportunities.
Poor in Europe?
It wasn’t enough that the business never picked up for us; it was equally not enough that we had to contend with health challenges. To make things even more frustrating, we went through a long period of joblessness. In all this, we may have been poor materially but we became rich spiritually. Personally, God made me rich in peace, joy and insight into the things of the spirit.
Throughout my life, I have been active, working to provide for my needs. Being jobless was one of the difficult experiences to go through. It could easily have led to depression. When the devil thought that he had given me enough recipes for gloom and doom, God used the opportunity to bloom and groom me so that I may experience and manage a boom of a divine favour. While I was applying for jobs, I also sat myself down and wrote extensively. If I had the money to publish the manuscripts I have so far written, or if I had a traditional publisher getting interested in my works, I would have had not less than ten published books by now.
Norway is one of the richest countries in the world. If I had a job, I would have been able to support my people and put some groundwork for some business, attempting another shot. It reached a point where if I was the complaining type, I would have considered my years in Norway wasted, but God whom I worship knew why we had to go through the desert of joblessness. What I decided was that we would take as little time as possible in the desert if no complain was something to influence the pace at which we would go through the said desert.
One of the manuscripts I have written is entitled “Faith, Mountain and the Seven Options”. It was during climbing the mountain of joblessness that God brought me to the top of the mountain so that I could see things that I couldn’t have seen if I never climbed a mountain. In that book, I reasoned from the Scripture why sometimes God allows us to face and climb a mountain instead of sending it packing. If I wasn’t the one who wrote the book, I would have recommended it, but now I can’t do that because it makes little difference for one to blow his own trumpet.
Again it was during this time that God opened my eyes to understand the meaning of Psalm 23. I had always misread this Psalm. When David says: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”, I took it to mean that since the Lord is my Shepherd, He will not allow me to be in want. In other words, He would make sure that all my needs are readily met so that wanting is rendered irrelevant. But this is not what this scripture says. David continues: “He makes me lie down in green pastures”. Here the sheep is lying down on the pasture—resting—instead of standing and grazing.
For us to appreciate the true meaning of this scripture, we need to picture ourselves making a bed out of bread. In other words, instead of being crazy with eating, we become passionate with resting. The importance of resting cannot be gainsaid. With God’s grace, the sheep may not graze yet she will have a rest. There is no need reproducing here what I have already expounded on in the above mentioned book. What I wanted to note here is that, for me, being in Europe, in a country that is arguably the richest in the world, yet poor materially, was like a sheep lying down on a pasture she ought to have been eating.
It would be insincere to pretend that we never came to moments when our human nature caught up with us. These moments came when we kept on losing loved ones and not being able to travel. My wife lost her elder brother. A year later she lost her sister, the second born after the brother. On both occasions, we couldn’t afford a ticket for her to travel. I felt bad! I really wanted her to travel. The little money that we had been struggling to save, we had been sending over for school fess and medical bills. At one time, we had to send an equivalent of Kshs 150000 (US$ equiv. 2400) for an operation. Cases of sicknesses come abruptly and urgently that one cannot budget for them. That is why any time they came up we would be thrown off-balance. At the same time, we had up to 14 people, some in colleges and others in secondary schools who were looking at us to pay their fees. That we managed is a miracle—literally.
One of the reasons why I can’t be an illegal immigrant in any country is because of freedom of movement—especially due to the kind of attachment I have with some people. Back at home I have people who mean so much to me that I would have loved to be with them at their last moments, or at least pay my last respect to them before they are buried.
My moment of agony came when Mama Nora signalled that she was on her way out of this life. If only we were doing well, I would have travelled to see her before she passed on. When she signalled that she had completed her walk on this earth, I begged her to stay alive as if she had the power to achieve this. I had rung home when I got an sms that she was sick. As we talked, her voice was frail I struggled to hear what she was saying. Her talking was more of a farewell than anything else. She told me to send money so that people who would come to her funeral would be catered for. I begged her not to give up; to hold on to life; that God willing, we would make arrangements and take home the little girl—the miracle daughter—God had given us whom we named after her. It was important for me that she sees and touches the girl.
With God’s grace, the sheep may not graze yet she will have a rest.
If I had the money, I would have caught the next plane to Kenya and just be with her at her last moments. After talking with her and hearing her farewell-talk I cried. I pleaded and begged God that He is the One who gave me my second mother; that it was no point explaining to Him how this old lady was important to me and how I wanted to be with her in her last moments on earth. She was old, I accepted that and thanked God for having given her long life, but keeping her for a little while longer just that I may be with her was not asking for too much—or was I? (I am, taking a break to cry a bit before I continue writing……..).
My prayers were not granted. Mama Nora died in August 2007, a few weeks after I had talked with her. I felt like borrowing money even if it would take me the next ten years to pay it back. This, however, was technically untenable—how could I borrow money and travel home when my wife had lost her siblings and never travelled home to be with her people at such trying moments? I cried bitterly and for the first time accepted the fact that I was POOR in Europe—literally.
My foster mother: Mama Nora.—a true mother. I owe so much to her; more than I can ever express.
Lost a Job
My wife and I were through with our studies in 1999. At this time, we were still waiting for the reply to our application to stay in Norway. Nevertheless, we had a permit to work but there was no job for us. Jobs like cleaning and going with newspapers were no longer viable. Such jobs were alright when they were supplementary to the educational loan and stipend we used to get from the government. The idea with the funding we received for our education from the Norwegian government was that if we went back to our country the loan would be written off but if we stayed in Norway, we would be expected to pay it back. This meant that one had to break his back cleaning and distributing papers to make ends meet, especially when one had to start paying back the loan.
My wife got a job as a vernacular teacher where she was helping foreign children whose parents either stay in Norway or were students but their kids were yet to pick Norwegian. This was only applicable to Swahili speaking children. This job was part-time and temporary. We had to supplement this income with social welfare support.
In 2003, God miraculously gave me a teaching job in an upper secondary school. Though the job was part-time, it was permanent. It was just a question of time before it could translate into full-time job. I faced two challenges.
First, the language of instruction was (is) Norwegian—I have already noted why Norwegian could be challenging for foreigners. In fact the language was used as an opportune excuse to have me dismissed after teaching for a year. By the time I was dismissed, even the administration that was dismissing me concurred that my Norwegian had greatly improved. But as I said, the language was an excuse.
Second, the place where I got a job was about 8 hours by car from where we were living. It was not workable to take my family with me. I left them in Bergen as I went to Skien.
Because my job was not fulltime, my earnings would not be enough to sustain us. The problem was that I had to rent a house in the process we were paying rent for two houses. Again we had to hire someone to help with picking our son from the kindergarten. This was because my wife couldn’t finish her work and get to the kindergarten before they closed. My family joined me at the same time I was getting dismissed. We entered into a period of financial challenges. But God proved faithful.
God had impressed in my heart that it was His will to move from Bergen. This meant that even after losing the job, there was no talk of going back to Bergen.
Started at the Base Afresh
I mentioned earlier that one of the jobs that was readily available for foreigners was distributing newspapers. It was one of the lowest paying jobs. After having been jobless for almost fours years and having lost a right to social welfare support, I felt that God led me to go back to the base and start afresh. I had been applying for jobs left and right—some of which I was fitly and uniquely qualified for but after hundreds of applications, I got only three interviews in a span of four years and no job offer.
During these difficult years God allowed favours to trickle down to us. One day, my friend Fredrick Makosir surprised me. He had bought a new car and decided to give me the car he had been having. He was paying insurance and the yearly road licence—some substantial amount of money while I only bought fuel and little service here and there. This was almost unbelievable. Hardly a year after he gave us the car, another friend, Steinar Huseby, surprised me. He came to the church office one day where I used to sit and write. After we shared for a while he asked me a question that I found difficult to answer: “Do you want my car?” He asked.
Well he confessed that he was not very good in formulating ideas and expressing them in a good way. He was explaining this because I found it difficult to answer his question. In my heart I knew that I hadn’t coveted anyone’s car. How could I answer yes or no? I took it that it was a rhetoric question which he used to introduce the idea that he wanted to give me a car. He had two cars, one was far much better than the other. When he said that he would give me a car, I knew for sure that he was going to give me the older one.
He proceeded with the arrangements and gave me a Ford Mondeo station wagon 1994 model—the better of the two. It was much more spacious than the one we already had. All of a sudden I had two cars. Many people found it unbelievable that Steiner gave me such a nice car. They maintained that he was rich and that was why he gave me the car. This was not true! Steiner never gave me the car out of riches—there were many people richer than him in the church but the thought of giving me a car never crossed their mind. I was not expecting anybody to give me a car, the only thing I didn’t agree with was the kind of problematic talks some people put up to explain why Steiner gave me the car. Ironically in fact, Steiner was jobless. He had been having waist pains and couldn’t continue in the job he was doing. He gave me the car because God spoke to him to do so—and he obeyed.
Unlike in Bergen where I first used a bicycle and the moped, in Skien I had to use a car to distribute the papers and advertisements. I applied for the job of distribution and got it within the same week. It was extremely low paying but it was of course better than nothing. It was like starting at the base all over again.
Finally Got a Job in an Industry
I started distributing papers at the end of May 2007. After distributing papers for six months, the labour office registered me for a course that if I finished successfully I would get a job in an industry. The course and the job needed people with engineering background. I was not qualified by any means. My background is teaching (History and Geography) and then Mass Communication and Media Studies. God, however, granted me a favour and I got a chance at the course which took six months.
Combining the course and the newspapers’ work was tricky. I would wake up at 3:15 am, distribute the papers up to around 7 am then go home bathe and then rush to the course which used to start at 9 am and ends 2 pm. In winter, it was extremely challenging.
Towards the end of the course, I applied for the job in the industry and got short listed for an interview. The devil never liked the new turn of events. The day I was scheduled for an interview there were many strange “coincidences”.
When the devil thought that he had given me enough recipe for gloom and doom, God used the opportunity to bloom and groom me so that I may experience and manage a boom of a divine favour.
Where I was distributing the papers was a difficult place. It was hilly at some points and narrow at others. It was very tricky in winter when it was slippery. I crushed the vehicle five times, each time spending an average of Kr. 6000 (US$ 1200) to fix the car.
When winter eased out I thought I had experienced the last crushing. I was wrong; the worst was yet to come.
On the day of my interview, I woke up at the usual time. I wouldn’t allow anything to come between me and the interview. But the devil had other plans. He was bent on spoiling for me. Everything was odd on this day. Could all these have been mere coincidences?
• It was raining:
Distribution is slow under rainy weather. I had to make sure that the rain didn’t spoil the newspapers.
• Many irregular magazines:
I had done the job for almost a year yet I had never had more than 15 of the irregular magazines on the same day. This day I got 39 of them. This meant that every now and again I had to check the electronic gadget which showed the addressees of who will get what. This further slowed the pace remarkably.
• Advertisement brochures:
I had three different types of advertisements—each type having 310 copies. In total I had 930 advertisements to distribute. This further slowed my pace.
If things were really difficult I used to finish at 8 am or thereabouts. On this day however, it was taking me to beyond 9.am. My interview was at 9 am. In order to reach the place of interview, I needed to have hit the road by latest 8:30 and pray that there wouldn’t be any traffic jam. There I was; it was some minutes past 8 and there were all the signs that I wasn’t going to be through soon. Anxiety caught up with me.
One thing that was stressed to us at the course which prepared us for the job for which I was due for an interview was punctuality. If there was something that was non-negotiable about the job in the industry was timekeeping. Any small sign of not keeping time would be a technical disqualification.
• A woman was visiting her daughter
A woman was visiting her daughter. She had packed her car at the very sport where I used to reverse in order to turn the car. Due to the rainy weather, there was a lot of moisture on the rear window a result of which I couldn’t see the back well. Because of the hurry in which I was, I reversed the car at a fairly high speed. What happened next was a deafening bang. I crushed on the packed car.
I came out of the car, crying to God and pleading with Him not to leave me by myself. I told God that I was tired of telling of the things the devil has pulled in my life; it was time to tell of what He is doing. I knew He had done much but it was time the devil stopped pulling big time feats on me. So far, almost half of what I was earning was going back to repair the car. It was almost feeling like working for free.
What was I going to do? Every minute was precious at this moment. There were a number of houses and I couldn’t tell in which house the owner of the car was. Looking for a pen to write a note would take so much time. My head was spinning. I tried my car and realised that it could still move. That was the most important thing. It was badly dented at the back though but all that mattered for me was to be able to drive it to the place of my interview.
I decided to continue with the distribution. I would come back in the course of the day and try to get the owner of the car. Hardly 200 metres away, a lady drove after me and stopped me. She put it to me that I had just crushed a car and I was escaping without notifying the owner of the car. I explained to her that I wasn’t escaping as she could see that I was distributing the papers in the area. I explained everything: about the interview, etc.; that I would come back in the course of the day, but she would hear none of it. She told me that it was ill-advised to crush a car and run away. She asked me to come with her. She drove as I run back her. There was no point driving back there. Where I had stopped the car was narrow and it would take me time to turn. At this moment, every second was literally counting.
She called the mother and reported: “The man who crushed your car is here!” The mother was more understanding. I wrote my name and telephone number and literally ran out of that house.
I decided to postpone distribution of anything other than the newspapers. I would distribute the remaining ads and the magazines on the following day. I finished around nine; drove home; didn’t even take a bath; breakfast was a luxury that I couldn’t even think about; I changed from the wet clothes and hit the road. I called the lady who would interview me and informed her that I would be late. I prayed that this would not give me a technical knockout. I desperately needed the job.
Another intrigue was in the waiting. The previous day, I had driven to where I would take the interview to familiarise myself with the place so that I don’t waste time looking for it on the material day. I had asked somebody who pointed me to a certain building. I drove back satisfied that I knew where I would take the interview the following day. This was not to be. The person had pointed me to a wrong building. The place of my interview was still about 2 km away. Everything was odd.
On this day, when I went ton the building I was shown on the previous day, I was shocked when I was told that the building I was talking about was still some distance away. Walking back to the parking lot and driving out of a congested area meant that I wasted a lot of time. Everything had worked against me.
To cut the long story short, it was a perfect opportunity for the worst anxiety. I was pretty late.
To cut the long story short, it was a perfect opportunity for the worst anxiety. I was pretty late. I had been anxious when I was distributing the papers especially when I realised that time was catching up with me. But when I reached the place of interview God gave me a rare composure so that even as I arrived my heartbeat was normal. If I was sweating, the rain covered that for me so that my interviewer wouldn’t mistake any wetness for being nervous.
My interviewer was a nice and understanding lady. I thought it wise to be open with her—I explained everything. She understood. The atmosphere was friendly and we had more of a conversation than an interview.
One week later, she called to inform me that she had offered me the job. Praise God!! That was close, but as believers usually pose: When God has opened a door who can close it?
Crushing the car plunged me into financial swamp the details of which I may not go into here. My greatest joy was that I got the job.
At the beginning of the year 2007, three people, one of them sent me an sms from Kenya, had prophesied that God had opened a door for me; that the waiting period was over. I believed it because the Bible says: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established (2 Cor. 13:1).
If the doors were opened in 2007, 2008 was the year when God would show me the open doors so that I could walk into them.
Proceed to Chapters 23-24