A Visit with Mama Emmanuel

Last year I made a home visit with a woman named Sofia, who calls herself Mama Emmanuel "Mother of Emmanuel" her firstborn son. I was impressed with how she had created an artistic interior in her tiny shanty, her grace despite losing her husband to cancer months earlier, her willingness to work 12 hour days to try to eke out a living, and her desire to provide the best for her two sons. Coming back to Kenya, I asked if I could visit with her again, since she was one of three people I highlighted in my presentations about Kenya.

Mama Emmanuel last year with social worker Robert.

Yesterday, I met Emmanuel for the first time at his tiny second grade classroom behind the Bondeni School.

I also met his preschool brother Shadrack at the Area 2 school. I learned today how excited the boys were just to have me take their photos.

We start our journey at the upper Area2 School and head out back for the journey down the crazy steps To the newer school building.

We head across the street where I met another school mom preparing food to sell.

We cross the street and head down an alleyway, turn right next to a wall, and walk past other smaller alleys on the left where tin shanties are crowded together.

Social worker Mary opens the gate to the alleyway where Sofia lives.

I had walked past her doorway and had to turn back to find her home.

Here is the entranceway to her home.

The black door opens into the coach. Only one person can enter her home at a time as you have to enter and then close the door before walking into the living space. That is social worker Jackie on the coach.

Inside it was as beautiful as I had remembered. This year she had opened the curtains and I could see her bed, but the home was smaller than a small American bedroom. The coverings on the wall and ceiling are her attempts to insulate the tin walls of her home and to try to drown out the noise outside. She said that teen-agers blast music at night and since her house is the first one past the gate, drunks sometime stumble against her wall and fall down drunk there making noises that sound like they are inside her home. She also said that kids get sticks and rattle them against the correlated walls of the shanties creating an awful racket.

This is Sofia. We sat down and talked for well over an hour through Mary, who did the interpretation. I am not a tea drinker and I have consumed more Chai this week than tea in my entire life, as I can't refuse as I am the only guest this week. Sofia served us Chai and I have to admit that it was the best chai or tea that I have ever had. I mentioned this and she said she used a lot of sugar. Jackie says she also put some spices in the Chai.

We talked for a long time as she updated me on her boys, their schooling, and her living conditions. Emmanuel was the number one rated student in his class. He felt more comfortable living at home this year as his brother now lived with them because he was now going to school so he didn't have to come home to an empty house while Sofia was working. He had also been able to deal with bullies who were fighting him and a neighbor lady who had been yelling at him. He had told his mother that he was going to work even harder at school now that an American was interested in him and took his photograph.

Sofia also talked about how she wants her boys to love education and how they came home from school and did their homework each night. She told about their struggles with missing their father.

Sofia mentioned how that even when money is hard to come by, that she is committed to paying the parent portion of the boy's school fees.

Sofia also mentioned her cousin, who lived next door and how they had made a passageway between the two homes so that they didn't have to go outside to visit.

I talked a lot about how she had made an impression on me last year and that I had shared her story with many audiences and friends. She was amazed that people halfway around the world would know and think about her. When I asked her if she had any new concerns or anything that we could pray about, she mentioned how hard it was to be a mother and a father to her boys and that she wanted them to continue to respect her as they grow up. She also wanted someone to mentor them. I told her that if her boys stay in Missions of Hope schools and go to the boarding schools that they would be in good hands.

When we were ready to leave, Sofia said that she had something else she wanted to share. She said that as she began healing from her husband's death that she had met another man for companionship. Then she said that she wanted to share that she was pregnant and the baby was due in August. She said that since she was a Christian she did not want to get an abortion and she was happy when her boyfriend also wanted the baby. She said that she was still going to be responsible for her two boys, but that the father would share responsibilities with the baby. Many men in the slums abandon their families, because they are ashamed that they cannot provide for them or for other reasons. Sofia says that when they are hungry and without food, he would provide money for them. She hopes tha he continues to be a good man and might someday be that mentor and role- model for her two boys.

It really was a wonderful visit and she is so happy that someone has taken an interest in her life and story. I told her that I have met many people in Kenya and seen thousands and thousands of people on the streets of the slum, but now I can say that I have one special friend that somehow stood out among all the others and that I will often think of her family and if I ever have the chance to come back, I will most definitely visit her and her boys.

It was time to leave and walk back to school.

Past the dog drinking sewage water and the goats eating corn cobs in the street until we could see the Area 2 School.

We passed the new school, walked up the crazy stairs, past an older boy holding a lamb, and then made our way around the "How are you?" chants of the younger children as they grab and try to hold your hand.

Finally we entered into the upper school grounds to be greeted by head teacher, Leah.

Created By
Jim Hansen
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