Short Working Stint, Opportunity for Further Studies and Life Abroad
Introduction to Part 3:
One of the things that the reader may have realised in part two is the fact that God is not in a hurry to do His things. I think the reason is that He has all the time He needs. While I was being attacked left and right with temptations, God must have counted it a time for preparation and training. I learnt to wait upon God. This was because regardless of how much I wanted move, any time I realised that I may be a step ahead of the One whom I wanted to lead me, I would apply brakes and wait.
In part 3 I will tell how things continued to be unclear for concerning a spouse-to-be. Meanwhile, I got myself busy doing what I believed God wanted me to do as He continued training me in the school of patience.
TAUGHT FOR THREE YEARS
If you are a leader, you shouldn’t push people. You should instead pull them. If you push them, you are sending them to where you haven’t been; if you pull them, you are taking them along with you to where you have been
Preaching Instead of Teaching Is Cheating!
After finishing with a bachelor’s degree in education, I was posted to teach history and geography. I had fallen in love with St. Mary’s School Yala where I did my A-Levels. I applied to be posted to teach there. Choosing schools to be posted to was more of a wish than a certainty. Reason: if every body was to be posted to schools of their choice, good schools would be overstaffed at the expense of small and unknown schools.
Though we made our choices we knew that one could virtually be posted to any part of the country. I was not surprised therefore when I got the posting letter. I had never even heard of the school—Agoro Oyombe. At first I thought they meant to Agoro Sare, another well-known School. I wasn’t alone; most of my classmates were posted to small unknown schools, some of which were agonisingly remote. The important thing for me was that I had told God that I will serve Him wherever I would be posted to.
Because of lack of enough teachers, I was asked by the headmaster to help teach biology, English and CRE (Christian Religious Education). I declined to teach the latter. I told the headmaster that, it was going to be extremely difficult for me to draw the boundary between preaching and teaching. If you gave me a religion class, where I have a Bible as one of the references, I would most assuredly preach and even ask those who wanted to get saved to step forward. I knew that preaching instead of teaching would be cheating—if one looked at it from an academic point of view. For me, the spiritual need and the subsequent eternal destiny are far much more important than the academic need but as they say, everything has its time.
It was going to be heavy burden for the CRE teacher to take all the CRE lessons but it was also enough load for me after accepting to teach English and biology in addition to the official subjects I was posted to teach.
Leading Is Pulling Not Pushing
After two years’ teaching stint I was appointed acting deputy headmaster. At one time our school had fundraising where the local people and some invited guests from far and wide were to come to school to raise the money. The school had wanted to construct a laboratory and one more stream.
As deputy head master, I was tasked to oversee that the school was cleaned up. I assigned students to do various tasks. Some would pick litters in the school compound; others would trim the fence and yet others would slash the grass, etc. The final group would wash the pit latrines.
I had assigned students randomly. I knew that washing the latrines would be a problem, not because the students would refuse but because of the attitude. There are some tasks that people look adown upon. For me washing the toilets was not a sign of being despised. The point was that toilets had to be washed and somebody had to do it. I instructed the students to get water in buckets and get some brooms and then follow me. I led them to the toilets. Once there, I took a bucket and a broom and started scrubbing the toilet floor. As I was doing this, I told them that what I was doing was called “Instructor’s Demonstration”—that is, I was showing them what I wanted them to do and how to do it. The students couldn’t believe their eyes. Regardless of what I called it, their impression was that the deputy headmaster was washing toilet as they watched. This was too much for them. They protested almost in unison, “Teacher, you don’t have to show us how to do it, we know how to do it, just step aside and let us do the work!” When I was not in a hurry to give them the broom, they literally wrestled it out of my hand. And they did a good job.
I believe that it would have been a different case if instead of identifying with them in this humbling task, I just ordered them to go and wash the toilets—they would have had been less motivated. It is easier “pulling people along” than “pushing them ahead.”
For me, anyone who despises those who clean toilets the same has no business going to the toilet.
I Have Been There
At one time the headmaster was going to be away for more than a week. He left me in charge and one of the things he asked me to do was that if by a specified time the students who had fees arrears had not paid up, I was to send them home to go get the money. This was the most difficult assignment in my three years teaching stint.
I knew that among the students, there were some who were going through what I went through as far as school fees was concerned. When the day came, of course I had to send home those who had not finished paying.
I was happy that this was a temporary assignment, otherwise, I understood the problem so well that I had problems sending students away for fees. On this occasion, I told them to go talk to the parents/guardians and get whatever little they could lay their hands on. I told them not to stay away from school but to come back to school even if they got but part of the money.
If you gave me a religion class, where I have a Bible as one of the references, I would most assuredly preach and even ask those who wanted to get saved to step forward.
Right from the beginning of my teaching job, I was surrounded by relatives who wanted me to pay their fees. otherwise, I would have loved to help some of the students.
In one case, a boy, an orphan, was being cared for by his grandparents. The grandmother had to brew an illicit liquor locally known as chang’aa. She used the proceeds from the sale of this liquor to pay fees for the boy. Sometimes the grandmother would be arrested and harassed by administration police. The boy was extremely bright. He was initially admitted in a well recognised school but because of school fees, he couldn’t continue there. He joined our school which accepted day scholars. The fees for day scholars were lower than for boarders.
But even this low fees was still too much for some. I felt so sorry for the boy that I had to find a way of helping him. I wrote to Mr. Ogwan’g, a Ugandan former staff mate and a brother in the Lord who had relocated to South Africa. I requested him to help if he could. He gladly accepted and the boy was able to finish his studies, did well and went to the university.
Patron of Christian Union
Apart from acting deputy headmaster, I was also the patron of the school’s CU (Christian Union). This was a responsibility I took up immediately I set foot in the school.
From Monday to Wednesday, students used to have games after classes. Thursdays were for debate. On Fridays, we used to have a Christian meeting. All students were expected to gather in one big room for a service. Many students got saved some of whom had been problematic as far as behaviour was concerned. I remember a particular girl, Opondo Mary, who was so difficult that we had on a couple of occasions contemplated suspending her from school. When Opondo got saved, she became such a good girl that we unanimously selected her to be the head girl.
Despite of the good work we were doing with the CU, I was accused by a section of staff mates, especially the two games masters of forcing students into CU meetings and consequently indoctrinating them with religion. They accused me of forcing salvation on the students.
That was a hard accusation but I knew that the devil was reacting to the fact that many students were getting saved. In the staff meeting where we took up the issue, I made it clear that it was the school that had decided to set aside Friday afternoons for the service. For the second, I was amazed that the good results of what we were doing were not being appreciated. Third, it was wrong to maintain that I was forcing salvation on the students. If I was doing this, every student could have been ‘saved’. They were aware that not every student was saved. As far as I knew all the students that had gotten saved did so at their own volition. What I did was that I let them hear the Gospel, they could then choose to ignore it or accept it.
The fourth case that I presented was that there was no student that had complained of being forced or indoctrinated. The way the people I used to invite to preach and the way I personally presented the Gospel to the students and some of the staff mates who chose to join us, was not by any judgement indoctrination or “forcing”.
Lastly, I asked that if I was being accused of forcing students into the Friday meetings, what about my accusers who were forcing every student to participate in games—why couldn’t they leave games only for those interested?
With that I rested my case. It was passed that CU would continue and that it would be considered as school activity where all students were expected to participate just like in games and debate.
I took a bucket and a broom and started scrubbing the toilet floor. As I was doing this, I told them that what I was doing was called “Instructor’s Demonstration”—that is, I was showing them what I wanted them to do and how to do it.
At one time, we had Christian Union rally where students from different schools converged. I felt strongly to take the students who had expressed the desire to attend the rally. There was, however, a problem with transport. Going might not be a problem but after the end of the meeting in the late afternoon, there wasn’t going to be any means from the rally. I was specifically concerned about the girls. I had to be sure that they would get back without incidences. I was of course equally concerned about the boys but girls seemed to have been more sensitive.
Without any plan, I felt that wee would just go and see what will happen. It was a daring thing to do, perhaps unwise but the urge to take the students was so great I couldn’t resist.
Things went well and the students were blessed. Towards the end of the meeting, my mind started reasoning: Get real now! It is late and there is no means, how on earth will you get the students back—what were you thinking when you brought them out here?
I was labouring in my mind with this reality, almost not following on the last parts of the meeting. Lumumba, a brother in Christ, drove into the compound where we had the rally. He had been working in the field in the neighbourhood. The rally's venue was however not on his way back to town. He had to detour to get to the rally. Though he knew that there was not much of the meeting left that he could come and attend, and although he felt tired and wanted to drive home and rest, he felt led to come to the meeting.
As he approached, he forgot about going to the hall where the meeting was winding up. I had come out of the meeting after my mind was screaming with the reality of the challenge of getting students back. My coming out coincided with his arrival. He stopped the car and walked straight to me and said: “I perceive that you need transport back—I can give you a lift”.
Excited, and because it was somebody I could joke with, I told him: “You are missing the point! It is not me but the students!”
I explained to him that I had come with the students but didn’t know how to get them back. I had a bicycle. It would take me about two and a half hours to cycle back. To cut the long story short, the students got transport back. We truly saw the hand of God.
Though it is alright to plan, some times our plans may stand in the way of seeing God at work. God moves with people on the move. This is like the story of Abraham who started on a blind journey. He didn’t know where he was going yet he started off and things fell into place as he went along (Gen. 12:1-4).
While teaching at Agoro Oyombe, I joined SET (Siaya Evangelistic Team), an affiliate of FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian Unions). This body was basically involved in students’ evangelism.
In SET, we had a preaching arrangement where members would be programmed to preach in secondary schools in the district mostly on Sundays.
On one such occasion, I went to preach in a school that was sponsored by Anglican Church. I met an old man who was responsible to oversee the CU affairs in this school. The man asked me which denomination I belonged to. I found it difficult to answer the question because I wasn’t sent there by a denomination but by a body that was interdenominational. Because he insisted, I reluctantly told him where I used to fellowship when I was not having a preaching assignment in one of the schools in the district.
When he heard that I was not an Anglican, he categorically disqualified me. He told me: “This school is sponsored by Anglican. I can’t allow you to preach here unless you are Anglican.”
I told him that I was not representing a denomination but Christ. I would preach and go away without telling the students my affiliations, except that I was mandated by SET to preach there. All the same I told him that it was alright with me. I will sit and listen to whoever was going to preach.
In this school, students rarely came to the meetings except when there was an external preacher. On this day, almost the whole school attended. The man knew that students were in attendance because they knew there would be an external preacher. They would definitely be disappointed if the preacher wasn’t allowed to preach.
The students sung a number of choruses. When the time for preaching came, the man came and whispered to me that I could preach but that I must be done under twenty minutes.
As I was speaking the man gestured that I continue. When I was done, the man came to me and apologised the way he handled me at the beginning. He was now calling me “My son”. He told me that he had learnt something important and that if he didn’t allow me to preach, he could have stood in the way of God.
My Third Encounter With an Angel—Or Was it a Man?
Can a stone be dropped from a tree and fail to fall? This is the question I was left with when a stranger I encountered on the road told me things that were certainly unthinkable.
Where I was teaching and my native home was about 50 km. During holidays, I used to cycle home. On one such occasion as I was cycling, I came to a hill. Although the bicycle didn’t have gear system, the hill was not so steep and I used to cycle up it all the way. On this day however, I found myself rolling the bicycle up this hill. I was not even tired after having done about 25 kilometres.
I can’t remember how a man caught up with me—or whether it was me who caught up with him. What I remember is that the man was walking beside me. He was almost as old as the story-telling old man I talked about in chapter 6. He initiated a talk which was basically about spiritual matters. He told me the importance of living a holy life and as a young man not allowing women to distract me. He then told me something that I never believed.
Initially, there was nothing spectacular that could have caught my attention. In fact I never took to heart what he was talking about until almost ten years later when I remotely recollected the encounter. I remembered some of the things he talked about because they had come to be fulfilled in my life—strange as they were.
It is easier “pulling people along” than “pushing them ahead.”
I will not say what he told me. It is the only secret that I will deliberately keep. It turned out to be the worst that can ever happen to a man. He was preparing me for this eventuality. In retrospect, I can see why he warned me about it. I never believed him because what he was saying was so obviously unnatural. It was like telling somebody that he could drop a stone from a tree and the same will not fall. It is a secret I am not permitted to tell publicly.
Why Do I think the man was an angel?
May be he was not! But as the other case, I have already mentioned, there were strange things about this encounter. I don’t recollect how he happened to join me on the road and how we parted—one minute he was there with me and another minute he was not. I never remembered to follow his movements to see him disappear. Whether he walked away in a normal pace; or disappeared, I can’t tell.
I always used to cycle up this hill—I don’t understand why I decided to roll the bicycle on this occasion even though. I wasn’t tired.
The man seemed to have known that I was saved. He started on a spiritual note pointing me to challenges that I would go through. And how did he know I used to have problem with women? He categorically advised me not to allow women to distract me from remaining pure.
On this part of the country there were only religions and cults. The real Gospel had not penetrated this place. How could this old man be so versed with the essence of salvation?
Ten years later, I came to remember what he told me and this was because it had happened the way he had said. How could he know this?
OPPORTUNITY FOR FURTHER STUDIES ABROAD
God uses man to chart the course of one’s life. Be careful how you treat the people that He brings to cross your path. They may have been sent to take you places.
Remember Me When You Get There
I first met Mark Owino Makochien’g at Moi University. He was a classmate and a brother in Christ. When I got saved Mark and Elisha were instrumental in feeding me with good gospel music. Elisha doubled it with grounding me in the Word of God. He had excellent insights. He is the same brother who joked about sausage which almost made me backslide. Thank God that He made me realise the tricks of the devil. The very person turned out to be instrumental in giving me good grounding in the Word.
After finishing our studies, as destiny would have it, we were posted in the same district with Mark. He, naturally, also joined SET. We used to meet occasionally in the rallies and sometimes during SET members meetings.
In one of those meetings, Mark told me that he got a chance for further studies abroad. I had been pursuing opportunities for masters in our former university. Despite this, getting an opportunity abroad would be a preference. I told Mark, “Remember me when you get there.”
He indeed remembered me. He sent me application forms; I applied and got a chance. When I received the admission letter, I was given one month to report. This was extremely short considering the fact that raising the air ticket wouldn’t be easy. Apart from the air ticket, I would also need US$1000 to use as I waited for my scholarship to be processed. I had been informed that it would take time to process it.
Another challenge was going to be the passport. On paper, one could get a passport within two weeks. In reality this was extremely rare. One had to bribe heavily to get this done in time. I wasn’t going to bribe anybody—some people told me that I could as well forget about getting any passport especially within a month.
Before I applied for the passport, I had to acquire birth certificate. This was another important document that I never had. It was also another document that one had to bribe to get. God was on my side. I asked for permission from school and travelled to my home district. I lodged my application and got the birth certificate the same day. A lady had thought that she would corner me to “thank her” for a speedy job. She rushed the process and handed me the birth certificate. As I left the office I saw her following behind me at a good pace. When I saw her, I literally ran away. I wouldn’t bribe anybody—I had a right for birth certificate and she was being paid to do the job. My conscience was clear because I never cheated in any way.
With birth certificate in the pocket, I had then two mountains to focus on and face simultaneously: passport and money.
I had been saving some money with Mwalimu Co-operative Society. Another source I would look at was the shares I had bought with HFCK (Housing Finance Company of Kenya).
Advised to Take a Loan
The idea with Mwalimu Co-operative Society, like any other cooperative society, was to advance loans to its members. One could get up to four times the amount of money one had at the Cooperative. I consulted with fellow teachers both staff mates and in neighbouring schools. They advised me to take a loan from the Cooperative. Apart from the staff mates I also had many brethren in SET who were teachers and members of Mwalimu Co-operative.
They accepted to stand as my guarantors so that I could get the loan. The idea with guarantors was that should the one they guaranteed abscond, their salaries would be attached and the loan recovered from their salaries.
Initially, I applied for a two year study leave. This meant that I would do the masters after which I would go back to Kenya and resume my duties. Because of this, it wasn’t advisable cancelling my membership with the Cooperative. I would continue servicing my loan and the membership from abroad.
I had more than enough people who were queuing to be my guarantors. They trusted me and knew that I would not default.
I applied for the loan and the application went through. The normal procedure was that a loan such as the amount I was due to receive must be given as a crossed cheque. A crossed cheque could not be paid over the counter; instead, it had to be deposited in a bank account. It would then mature after two weeks. The problem was that by this time, I had less than two weeks to fly.
This meant that I had to go to the Manager to “open” the cheque by signing on it so that I could get the money over the counter. The manager asked me why I had to take the money over the counter and not have it deposited in an account. There could have been enough catalogue of white lies to use to get the money but it wasn’t right for me to lie however white the lie was supposed to be. I told the manager that I was travelling abroad fro further studies. When he heard that, it was like I had just insulted him. He took it personally. He accused me of trying to steal from the Co-operative. Even as I was trying to explain, he cancelled the loan altogether. I told him that I was saved and I wasn’t planning to “steal” from the Co-operative.
When I mentioned that I was saved, it was like I had insulted him a second time in a row. “Don’t ever come here and tell me about your salvation—it is your private matter!” he warned.
Although he had had the cheque cancelled, I took the opportunity to explain to him that salvation is personal but not a private matter. My salvation affects the way I relate with people. If it wasn’t for that, I made it clear that finding a lie to get the cheque opened couldn’t have been a problem.
The idea that I was going to steal from the Cooperative was misinformed because I had provided guarantors. If he doubted, he could have found out with them if they knew that the person they were guaranteeing was at the verge of leaving the country. My guarantors were even willing to travel to Nairobi and present themselves to the manager of Co-operative. He rejected all these.
There was only one thing to do: withdraw my membership and take the money I had saved so far. I would start the process of withdrawing my membership from a scratch. Time was catching up with me.
She told me that many people go there claiming they were saved but when they are cornered, they give in.
I was to go back to the Mwalimu Cooperative offices to start this process the following day. When I went, I found that my file that had all along been available had mysteriously disappeared. They told me to go back the following day. When I went the file was still missing. They had realised that I had time pressure and was desperate to get things moving fast. I knew that someone had hidden it expecting to be bribed. I went to one of the secretaries who had handled my case the first time and announced:
“Let it be known that I will not give even 50 cents to bribe anybody in this office. I repeat: I will not bribe anybody to get my money. If I lose this opportunity, I will go back to Agoro Oyombe and teach History and Geography!”
With that, I left without anyone telling to come back later. I decided myself to go back in the afternoon. When I went the file was there. I had talked loud enough that people in the neighbouring sections of the office heard me declare my stand. One of the secretaries stretched her hand to shake my hands in recognition of my stand. She told me that many people go there claiming that they were saved but when they are cornered, they give in.
The total money I received from the Co-operative and the sale of shares amounted to Kshs. 35 000. This was about half the money I needed for air ticket. I resorted to fundraising. I was in such a need that I considered people who gave me as “little” as five shillings to have given me such a big help.
About one week to go and the money was still way less than what I needed. At one time, after having returned from Nairobi, I reclined on my bed, feeling exhausted and lonely. I felt like I wasn’t making it anywhere. The mountains were just too high for me.
I had booked Swissair but was yet to pay. The day I was to travel was the day I got a breakthrough. I got the passport on the same day I got the last penny to pay for the ticket. I got the residence permit also on that same day after having applied for it only a week earlier. There had been some confusion, otherwise I ought to have applied for it immediately I got the admission letter.
When I went to pay for the air ticket, the air line insisted that I had to pay in dollars. I went to the bank to change the money. At the bank they told me that they couldn’t give me foreign currency without an air ticket. I went back to the airline. They were not budging. The lady at the booking office was such a nice lady. She accepted to receive part of payment in Kenya shillings and the other part in US dollars. At the bank, I remember being one of the last to be served before the bank closed.
I barely raised the air ticket. The US$ 1000 was a pipe dream. I left the country placing everything into the hands of God. What I wanted was to get into the plane. The rest will sort itself out as I reach Norway.
What I learnt is that when you are in need, some of the closest people that one could count on are the very people that wouldn’t lift a finger. There were a number of people that I had put on top of the list of people I was sure would help. I was in for a surprise. There is no need going into details regarding this.
The day I was travelling was my first day at the Airport. As I was checking in, I never knew that I was moving towards a point of no return. I had told the people who had escorted me that I would come back to bid them farewell. This was never to be. When I tried to go back, I was told that I couldn’t go back. I felt bad. When I reached Norway I wrote back to Kenya and explained to the people who escorted me what happened.
FINALLY IN NORWAY
If Christ has looked it for you, you can safely leap without looking. It is not a blind step which is taken trusting God.
Things Falling into Place
On the last week as I was moving from office to office in Nairobi, I met Mable, former college mate (she was a year behind me). She was a member of a Bible study group I was leading. It was a sweet surprise meeting her and realising that she was also travelling to Norway.
On closer interaction I came to know that she had been betrothed to Mark. She was not only admitted to the same university but was also going to take the same course—we would be classmates.
When we met we started doing things together. We booked the flight together and travelled in the same plane. She told me that Mark had moved from where he was initially and was now at the same university we were going to. That was good news. It didn’t end there. We were going to stay at the same students hostels.
In the plane we were served fish and some ‘leaves’ of some strange plants. To add to my amazement, the leaves looked like they were raw; the fish also looked raw. I had to check aside to see what fellow passengers were doing with them.
When we arrived, things got even better. Mark met us at the airport, paid the fair for us and we were headed to Fantoft Students’ Hostels. He had already made arrangements so that he and I would share a room. Considering the fact that I had no money to use for food and other necessities, this was an answered prayer. Whatever the case, I would not starve. God was replaying what He did once when I took students to a rally without knowing how I would take them back. Once more God proved to me that we only need to take the first step then He prepares the next for us.
We had identified ourselves as believers and joined Fantoft Christian Fellowship. The same week, brother Akuma, a Nigerian student, called Mable and I and told us that he believed God spoke to him to ask the Fellowship to lend us some money because, he felt we didn’t have money for transport, rent and food—the three most basic. The fellowship loaned us enough money. We shifted our weight from Mark. It could have been too much for him for the two of us. God had proved faithful, establishing that He leads one step at a time.
I was lucky to be guided around by Mark and other friends. Otherwise it was not easy knowing the names of foodstuffs one wanted, especially if they were wrapped in a way that one couldn’t see them. I was told of someone who was in the country. He had bought and prepared pet-food. He was at the verge of eating when luckily someone dropped into his room. As they were talking, the visitor inquired what his friend had prepared. Because he didn’t know what it was, he showed his friend the wrapper. “But that is cat food!” The man exclaimed.
Learning a language when one is an adult and where it doesn’t come from personal interest but because one has to learn it, is one of the most challenging things. The learning is frustrating because one would essentially think in one’s operative language and then translate it to the new language. More often, the translated version is direct ending up breaching grammatical and semantic rules.
When we were admitted at the university, one of the conditions was that we would learn the Norwegian language for one academic year before we could proceed to take the courses we were admitted to take.
In my mind, the budgeting currency was Kenya shilling but the purchasing currency was Norwegian Krone. It was like budgeting in Kenya and purchasing in Norway.
The problem with Norwegian is that there are many dialects. Another problem is most Norwegians don’t articulate the words properly. For them, it is natural to speak the way they do and be understood, for a learner it was frustrating. For us we had to hear the word not just the sound.
Trying to learn a new language that one had never had contact with is like picking any word and associating it with an act or object, etc. One doesn’t feel that the word and the act/object are related whatsoever. I used to have special problem with two words: å lese (to read) and å spise (to eat). It took me time to relate the right word with the right act. The problem I had with the two words is like the problem I have even today between Rwanda and Burundi. If I met you and you told me that you are from Rwanda if I am tested on this a few minutes later I would say that you come from either Rwanda or Burundi. About the two words, if you asked me which word meant “to eat”, I would say it is either “å lese” or “å spise”. I would give the same answer if you asked me the word that meant “to read”.
Apart from words that don’t initially seem to relate to what they represent, other problems were that some letters in the Norwegian alphabet were difficult to pronounce as others were difficult to tell the difference, phonetically speaking.
I guess this may be a problem with each foreign language one has to learn. For some of the letters, like Ø, Æ, O, U and Y and words that contain them, one has to position the mouth in some special contortion to get the right sound. Either you contort the mouth in the right way or else distort the sound thereof. It was not natural to first get the mouth in to the right shape before one could speak. But even after trying to do all this, one would still not get it right.
My learning the Norwegian was also impeded by the fact that I would be in Norway for a short period and then go back to my home country where nobody was using Norwegian. We had needed the language because the language of instruction in the courses were taking would be Norwegian. A number of books in the syllabus were also written in Norwegian. Reading Norwegian books was frustrating indeed. One obvious reason was that I had not acquired enough vocabulary. This was made worse by the fact that the words could be compounded, that is, two or more words being joined together as one word. When one checked these words in the dictionary, most of them didn’t exist as one word. One would think that the word was not in the dictionary when actually they existed but in their discrete forms.
Four Things that Don’t Go Together
Until the time I went to Norway (I was 30), I had lived in Kenya. I had never travelled to any foreign country, leave alone a temperate place.
I was a geography teacher and had taught about winter and snow. This was however only theoretic. I had no practical orientation of what winter was. The way the ground could get frozen, icy and slippery was something I would have appreciated if someone warned me about.
I was out one morning cycling to the university, some 6 km away. The lecture was soon beginning. If I cycled as fast as I used to, I wouldn’t be late for the lecture.
It was cold but that was all I had known that far about winter. I had taken care of that by putting on warm clothes. For me, that was all I needed to do against the cold weather. I never noticed that the road was icy and that I need to move carefully.
It was just a question of time before I would hit the ground—ignorance, as they say, is no defence. I was approaching a bend. I checked the watch and assured myself, “I have made it”. But had I? The university was hardly 300 metres away and I still had about 7 minutes on my side.
What happened next was so fast it took me time to figure out whether I was having a bad dream or it was real. The bicycle was going right, the direction I had attempted to turn towards, as I was skiing first on my knees before rolling over and doing it on my back, straight on the road. And there could have been vehicles on the road.
Trying to learn a new language that one had never had contact with is like picking any word and ‘forcing’ it to associate with an act or object.
What happened? I had no idea! I later learnt that I had ignorantly mixed four incompatibles: high speed; icy ground; braking and a bend. Because of the high speed, I needed to brake a bit before I could take the bend. I fell so hard and it happened so fast that I had no chance.
If only I knew how fearful it was cycling at high speed while taking a bend on an icy road, I would have rather missed the lecture than risk the kind of falling I experienced. This must be the reason some people say, Experience is a bad teacher—it gives you a test for a lesson.
What I experienced can be likened to life on a highway—both literally and figuratively. When things are going our way, we are wont to move at high pace without respecting the surrounding. Whether this is due to ignorance of the dangers around us or not, like we have said above, ignorance doesn’t insure us from getting hurt. A time comes when we have to take a bend in life. For many people this comes with the reality that they have accelerated themselves to a pace where there is nothing they can do to be in control.
For me, I have come to appreciate that the knowledge and the recognition of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, has checked my speed in good times before I lose control. Here is a word of caution to my reader: Don’t allow indifference and ignorance be your downfall. Don’t think that the warmth provided by “religious clothes” is all you need to take care of the coldness of sin.
A Frightening Invasion by Insects
I woke up one morning and everywhere were insects—white insects. My apartment was on the 8th floor. When I looked out the window, it was not the ground I saw first.
The atmosphere was white with insects. I wondered: “What manner of insects are these?” It was dangerous going out because, the way the insects were ubiquitous, one would definitely inhale them in hundreds.
Soon I discovered that these were actually not insects. It was snowing. That was the first time I came to terms with the practical meaning of “white as snow!” That far, the only thing I knew to be the standard measure of whiteness was cotton.
What I learnt from this experience is that our perception of a new environment is limited by our background. In this way, we are wont to substitute the unknown with the known thereby building a wrong perspective.
It Takes Time to Be Accustomed
One thing I quickly realised when I came to Norway was the disorientation as far as currencies were concerned. In my mind, the budgeting currency was Kenya Shilling but the purchasing currency was Norwegian Krones. It was like budgeting in Kenya and purchasing in Norway. This created problems. First, it was not at first sight determinable what things cost without first finding out what the Kenya shilling equivalent was. This was necessary because when one is dealing with an unfamiliar currency, one may not know its value unless one translated it into a familiar currency. I would have always taken a calculator with me had it not been for the simplicity of computing 1 to 10 exchange rates at the time between Kenya Shillings and Norwegian Krones.
The second problem resulted from the high cost of living in Norway. It became extremely difficult buying certain stuffs. Because of this, I remember that I never bought meat for more than a year. A kilo of meat went at about Nkr. 60. This was ten times what it was costing in Kenya at the time. This was damn expensive. I remember one time my Norwegian classmates decided that we go and do a discussion in a restaurant over a glass of soda. I was served a Sprite in a glass that was hardly half a litter. I paid 30 Krones for it. That was 300 Kshs. I felt like I had just been cheated on my money.
Another strange thing that I took time to familiarise with was the seasons, especially the difference between summer and winter. It was very strange indeed that darkness began to set in by 4 pm. in winter and it would still be bright at ten in the night in summer.
My understanding of time was reorganised. In Africa we would approximate time with the sun. Sun rose at around 7 and set around 7. The 1800 between sunrise and sunset were divided in ways that would always make us approximate time. This was not possible anymore.
Using the position of the sun to approximate time meant that we could miss the actual time by up to 2 hours. This is the origin of the idea of “African time”. Because I kept close to a watch, lateness was never a problem with me. I couldn’t make the mistake of approximating time by the position of the sun.
In Kenya, it was normal to pay a visit without necessarily making an appointment. In the country side where I grew up and where I had lived the most part of my life, when someone knocked at the door, whether it was a stranger or an acquaintance, one would open the door and expect the person to go into the house. If the person never meant to get in, it was him to say that he was not entering. In Norway however, if you knocked at the door one would open the door and stand at the door, blocking the way. He would then ask you if you wanted to get in.
I never knew that with some people, knocking at their door intrudingly was an extremely offensive thing to do. The sacredness of territoriality was guarded with zeal.
For some of the letters and words that contain them, one had to position the mouth in some special contortion to get the right sound. Either one contorts the mouth in the right way or else distort the sound thereof.
At one time, Fantoft Christian Fellowship organised a door-to-door evangelism within the students’ hostels. This was an international fellowship and everyone was welcome, but it turned out that we were almost exclusively African foreign students.
In this door-to-door witnessing, we were to go two-by-two. A sister (in the Lord) and I went together. We knocked at our first door. A young man, a Norwegian, opened the door, with a knife in his hand. We thought he had been preparing food or cutting bread. He was reluctant to allow us in. After he found us naive foreigners and harmless, he allowed us in.
After we had a very good conversation and sharing, he confessed that he took the knife when he heard the knock. He explained that because he didn’t have an appointment with anyone to visit him, he had to be prepared to ward off the intruder(s). In other words, the knife was meant for us—to fight us away. This might have been an extreme case but it probably captures how intrusion can be offensive in the West.
At one time, sister Mable and I were from a lecture. We came to the students’ hostels and because our rooms were at the 8th, floor we would take an elevator. We entered the elevator but before it could close and begin the upward lift, a lady and a man joined us. We moved to one side to create room for them.
Being an international environment, it was not easy telling their nationalities—they could have been Norwegians or from another country. As soon as they entered the elevator they started passionately kissing one another. They were lost into each other as if we didn’t even exist. We didn’t expect them to recognise us though, but we felt that the manner one does some things should pay attention to the social environment. In Kenya, that kind of intimacy was preserved for a bedroom or a strictly private environment somewhere.
We were so embarrassed we tried behaving as if nothing was happening but the continuous smacking lips made it impossible to ignore what was going on. We couldn’t face each other, we had just to “hide”. The fact that we were both saved made things even worse—we wouldn’t be comfortable in sexually suggestive environment.
When we walked out of that lift, we couldn’t as yet face each other, each one of us went her/his way into our rooms.
When I arrived in Norway for the first time, it was towards the end of August, summer had ended. It was now autumn season. I didn’t know what was in the waiting when summer would come the following year.
In the country side where I grew up, it was unthinkable seeing a woman in a bikini in the open. Even though wearing mini skirts and revealing clothes was interpreted that a woman was “approachable”, it was generally reproachable thing for a woman to reveal her body in the open.
In my country I had never been to the coastal beaches where tourists would come and spread themselves out in bikinis at the beach. So when I saw women basking in the summer sun in bikinis, it was like the heavens were falling down. It was extremely difficult for me. How would I walk with closed eyes? How would I look without imaginations beginning to form in my mind? Well, I decided not to look, but some would be basking just by the road and you’d see them even if you are not looking.
Finally Got Married
When I left the country, I kind of lost Laura’s contact. But I still hoped against all odds. It reached a point where I realised that I couldn’t wait “forever”. I started entertaining the idea of making moves elsewhere. The earlier problem popped up again. There were so many ladies in the picture: Norwegians, Nigerians, Ghanaians, and of course Kenyans. In Kenya the problem was national, now it had even become international.
I wrote a letter to my pastor friend, Amollo, asking him about a lady who I wanted to pursue. He responded that the lady was mixed up and there were evidences that she had compromised her spiritual life and was no longer morally upright especially sexually.
I wrote another letter inquiring about another lady that I knew was a committed Christian. The letter got lost. The pastor never received it.
Around that time, God was moving things in His own way. Without asking him to connect me with Laura, my friend Elisha who had been instrumental in grounding me in the Word, met and gave Laura my contact. He was teaching in the same district as Laura and they used to meet often. One day, he asked Laura: “Do you remember Dan?” When she answered in the affirmative, Elisha continued. “Do you mind if I give you his contact?” She never minded. She thought that I was the one who had asked Elisha to give her my contact.
One day, as Laura later told me, she was in a church. The preacher who never knew anything about what she was sitting on preached that there was somebody in the congregation whom God had chosen to be a blessing in someone’s life but that person was dilly-dallying; that God was at the verge of picking on someone else.
This was of course a general way of preaching. It could have applied to anybody in different circumstances for whatever reason. But for Laura, it was not general, it was very specific. How could this kind of preaching coincide with Elisha giving her my contact? Who doesn’t want to walk in the will of God when it is about a life partner?
Our perception of a new environment is limited by our background. In this way, we are wont to substitute the unknown with the known thereby building a wrong perspective.
Finally, the “end of eternity” came when she wrote. She told me that she was willing to marry me—that is if I was still available. You have never seen an excited man. Holding Laura’s yes letter in my hand was one of the best things that have ever happened to me on this side of life.
I read the letter over and over again. For the next couple of months, a day wouldn’t pass without reading the letter of my dream. I placed it in my school bag during the day—I’d read it during breaks; and at night, I’d place it next to my bed—I’d read it before dozing off. It was amongst the sweetest things I have ever read, second only to the Bible.
I started making arrangements for her to come over to Norway. God was on our side. She applied for masters and got an admission. She then came as a student. She couldn’t have come as a spouse because we were not yet married.
On 23rd April, 1995, two days to my 32nd birthday, by then Pastor Noralv Askeland of Kristent Fellesskap, Bergen, presided over the ceremony where we exchanged our wedding vows. This was in the new church’s premises—Møllendalsbakken 6, Bergen. The rest is history.
The period between the experience in which I believed God assured me that He had answered my prayer and the time I finally got married tells me how patience is a key factor and tool in the workings of God.
Proceed to Chapters 19-20