his wife and two children in the underbrush, by the Nzoia River. A mere fifteen
hundred feet away, his town—Mois Bridge—was burning. They could hear
shouting, and war chants, and screaming. They could smell smoke. Kikuyus burning the homes of Luos; Luos killing Kalenjins; Kalenjins striking back. Looters. Roving machete-gangs. Arson mobs.
The December 2007 elections had gone badly and Kenya was in flames.
Ethnic tensions, aggravated by drought and government ambivalence exploded in a conflagration of bloody anarchy. Patrick looked at his terrified young wife and tiny children. He wanted to hide his face and die, rather than see the anguish of his shivering family, and of his crying people—of his beloved Kenya.
Then his cell phone rang. Who could that be? he wondered. It turned out to be a friend from the United States who had become concerned because he hadn't heard from Patrick for more than a week. He offered prayers and encouragement, and promised to send a little money.
Patrick could not believe it. In his moment of deepest despair had come this
glimmer of hope from the most unlikely place. Now, if we can only make it until morning, he thought. Morning came and he cautiously made his way to the bank which, operating on limited, emergency hours, was only open until noon. Again, he was astonished: the money was there! For the first time in three days, his family ate a meal.
I was the guy who called in the middle of that terrifying night by the river. I had made Patrick's acquaintance three years earlier on the internet, and had occasionally sent supplies for his little orphanage.
It was surreal to sit in my cozy little cubicle at work the next day—the sun shining through the beautiful morning sky. An eerie, sinking feeling overtook me as I pondered how that the same sun was just going down in Mois Bridge, and how it would be another cold, harrowing night of danger and exposure for my African friends.
I felt helpless. I'm used to fixing things, making things happen for people, moving and shaking, and seeing things through. But now, all I could do was pray, and send encouraging emails.
Order was eventually restored in Kenya, and people started putting their shattered lives back together under the shadow of a crushing drought, and extreme paranoia. I began to raise funds and remit them to Patrick. Our friendship continued to grow closer and stronger.
One day—some years later—we were chatting online via instant messenger, and Patrick asked, "Papa, what do you have in your heart for me, today?"
I said, "Patrick, I think you probably have far more for me, than I have to offer you."
He said, "Listen to me. Do you remember when Kenya was burning, and I just wanted to hide my face and die?"
"I remember," I replied.
"My phone rang. I thought, ‘who can this be?’ And it was you! And you said you loved us, and were praying for us, and you were going to send us some money. I couldn't believe it. But when I went to the bank the next morning, hoping against hope, the money was there! You have no idea what you did for us, Papa."
He went on, "I still tell that story to people, and they cry because they remember those nights, and can't believe that someone would just call like that! You don't understand—that never happens here! It is a sign to them that God is faithful, Papa."
I suddenly felt very humble.
I mentioned in my last blog that, in general, I don't feel like I’ve ever really done much with my life—haven't served in the armed forces, haven't traveled farther abroad than Vancouver B.C., or London, Ontario, or had a successful career in some company.
Patrick was reminding me that that life is all about the little things. The little things are what we have in abundance that we can share freely, even easily. The little things are what get people by in a pinch. And the little things often have a huge impact that we will never know about.
The King will answer and say to them, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”