November 9, 2016 brought forth a new chapter in our family’s life. On this day, our first grandchild was born. I was awaiting the good news, and when the phone rang, my daughter, Irina, told us that our other daughter, Anna, had been in active labor all morning. I asked her how far apart the contractions were at that time, and she replied, “I think about a minute or so.” I knew that she would soon give birth. Shortly thereafter, a friend from church stopped in, and I told her our daughter was about to give birth. So we prayed together that she would have a safe delivery, and as we prayed in Casey County, Kentucky, our first grandchild, Annalyn Joy, was born at 1:02 p.m. in a large hospital in Kansas City, Missouri to join our family.
Five days later, we were all packed up for the eleven hour drive to see this precious gift. What gladness we felt to at last hold this bundle of joy! We enjoyed seven days rocking her, exclaiming constantly of how wonderful she is, and thanking the Lord for gracing our lives with this beautiful little girl.
I wanted time to slow down, but the week came to an end like every week does, and once again we were packed up for the long drive back to our Kentucky farm. I tried to be cheerful on the outside, but inside I was so sad to have to leave this young, happy family. Irina, who had been invited to her birth, couldn’t hold in the tears as I did, and we all departed with heavy hearts, some showing and others keeping it under the surface.
A similar experience occurred when we had to leave our beloved East African family at the Nyakato airport on November 30, 2015. On that day, we had gathered for the last meal at our neighbor’s home. After the meal, we all gathered in a circle for a final prayer together, and then we got into the van which would take us to the airport. Several of our African family piled in with us. We were all sad, so the van was quiet except for Lilian, our newfound daughter, singing to cheer herself.
Over the year, I had so many good times with these new family members from another continent. Most of the memories center around the African ladies sharing their ordinary day with me.
One memory I savor is when Neema, my English student and Swahili teacher, who became a daughter to us, invited me to live with her family for a week so I could learn Swahili better. We had the agreement that while I was with their family, everyone would only speak Swahili with me. I carried an English-Swahili dictionary, and when I couldn't catch a word, I would have her write it down, and then I would look it up. I needed longer than a week to pick up spoken Swahili, but this week is particularly memorable because I was immersed in their family’s daily life.
Neema let me join in all the regular daily chores, which included cooking ugali on their charcoal stove. Neema got the charcoals red hot, boiled a pot of water on the stove, and then handed me a bowl of corn flour. While I was stirring the stiff mixture and adding more flour, I remember hearing her exclaiming that I was able cook ugali. It got so stiff that she took over and gave it a final stir before turning it upside down onto a plate. Then we all sat down to eat ugail and dagaa, (small fish), around their dining table. After supper, I got up and we washed the dishes together as I practiced conversing in Swahili.
Three of her sister’s children were also visiting that week, so together with Neema’s three children, there were six children in their home while I was there. One day the two youngest children were squabbling outside over a used tire which they were rolling around. So I took turns rolling the tire to each of them, and their sad faces turned to smiles. Soon the big kids came to join us, and they began jumping over the rolling tire. Later one of them rolled up inside the tire while the others rolled it all over the yard. What fun to hear their laughter and see their imaginations creating all sorts of games to play with that old tire!
I also remember many warm afternoons, sitting on a low stool in Neema’s backyard with a bucket of soapy water, scrubbing dirty laundry with Neema. She was sitting on another low stool, scrubbing clothes also. Often I offered to rinse the clothes in several buckets of water, moving them from the first rinse bucket, which had some soap mixed in from former rinses, to a second bucket, and then to a third bucket. Then the garments were ready to be wrung and hung on the lines that were strung all over her back yard. Every day, Neema had a large pile of clothes thrown on the grass to wash by hand. Usually she was too busy to wash all of it, so she would bundle up what was left and tell me she would do it the next day.
What is the value of pleasant memories to our present day? How can these good memories benefit us? When we are faced with painful separations – whether it is a death, a move far away, or an end to a visit, those pleasant memories can remind us of how much we have to be thankful for. Our heavenly Father has graced us with these good times in our lives, and we are given the extra gift of remembering them. Besides that, we are creating new memories as we continue on our journey to our true home.
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Mama Anna with Brother Nathan
Rejoicing over the arrival of Annalyn
Cooking with Neema at a wedding feast
Turning tears into smiles
Adding to the fun
Making memories to savor later