Failure and Friends

I knew I had failed.

This past Sunday 15 minutes into the church service Hannah squirmed, she fussed, then she screamed. Every churchgoing parent has experienced this struggle: when pew-sitting replaces nap time.


Once outside Hannah was content. She quickly became the unofficial church greeter, shouting “Hi!” and running up to shake hands with each late comer.

I, however, lacked her enthusiasm. I was tired. I was frustrated that Hannah couldn’t sit through more of the service. I was embarrassed by the painfully slow exchanges with the other mamas that my novice Swahili allows.

So…I left.

At home, after putting Hannah down for an over-due nap, I opened a book a friend recently lent me. As I read about glorifying God by serving excellently wherever He’s placed you, my heart twisted.

I had failed to love Clark. I had failed to love Hannah. I had failed to love our church. I had failed to love our neighbors. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet.

And now I was holed up alone in our house having a pity party.

Then, a knock on the door reminded me I had invited my friend Jaqueline over that afternoon.

Her arrival was God’s gift to me.


Jaqueline with her neighbors and children

After sharing some chai she invited me to come visit her home. She proposed I come now. Clark was at our church’s men’s fellowship meeting, so Hannah and I departed.

About two-thirds of the way up the mountain we stopped to chat with some older ladies. Suddenly, I had the overwhelming sensation that I was going to pass out. Or throw up. Or both.

I’m not sure if it was the hour long uphill climb at a rate that put my mother-in-law’s greyhound-like “walking” pace to shame, the 30 pound toddler on my back, the baby carrier strapped very securely around my waist, or the lunch I had skipped, but something was not right.


The path appears deceptively flat in this picture…

As we walked, Jaqueline had suggested several times we get a bodaboda (motorcycle) driver to give us a ride. I had kept repeating, “Niko sawa. Napenda sana kutembea!” (“I’m fine. I love walking!”).

The latter is true. The former was becoming less so.

Fortunately, we arrived at her home with my consciousness and dignity intact.

Jaqueline lives in a lovely, neat home composed of three very small rooms without running water or electricity, which she shares with her husband and four children. As her family ate a dinner of margarine sandwiches, Hannah and I feasted on rice, goat stew, and fruit salad. As always in Kenya, our meal concluded with mugs full of sweet, milky chai.


Hannah enjoys some chai while we finish our meal

As Hannah and I walked home—blessedly downhill while a light, cool rain fell—I was overwhelmed by Jaqueline’s graciousness.


My view on the walk home

That morning, I had been unable to muster the energy to sit outside church in the shade and watch Hannah play. Jaqueline had walked hours, given me the best seat in the house, fed me her family’s meat and rice, thanking me all the while.

Our call is to glorify God by being faithful to the things He’s given us. My work is to love and serve my family and neighbors. I’m called to read “Moo, Baa, Lalala” 6 times in a row to Hannah. To make Clark’s favorite toast with avocado and tomato for breakfast. To spend an hour drinking liters of chai with our neighbors struggling through conversations in fledgling Swahili.

Jaqueline’s example is a challenge to me to love God by serving others well. How will you serve today?

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.

I Samuel 12:24


11 thoughts on “Failure and Friends

  1. Wow! Another GREAT Sleeth writer! And what a MARVELOUS, MEANINGFUL MESSAGE!!! Thank you for taking me along! Love and prayers!


  2. Thank you, Val, for being so transparent. The call to love those around us, including and most of all, our families who often exasperate, is often needed as a reminder. I needed your message today. Continue to pray for you and your little family’s ministry.


  3. Val, What a beautiful post–it may be your best ever. You are a gifted writer–vulnerable yet without over-sharing, and filled with word pictures that reveal your Kingdom-centered heart. Thank you for sharing a slice of Kenya with us, and a snapshot of your life in the mission field.

    Hope you and Clark are starting to feel better! Thanks for sending all of the videos and photos. We treasure them, and they are the highlights of our days. Dad and I prayed this morning about the HIV clinic decision you are wrestling with. Here’s my prayer now:

    *Heavenly Father, Thank you for the good work you have given to Clark and Val in Kenya. Thank you for the relationships that you have planted and nourished. And thank you for education, deep faith, and desire to serve that you have instilled in both of them. *

    *We confess that we do not always know what is most pleasing to you, so we ask for your guidance and wisdom regarding this invitation to lead the HIV Clinic. Please make it clear if this is a door they should walk through, or close the door if it is not. Offer them good counselors and counsel, including insights from your living Word.*

    *We are grateful that it is not so much what we do but who we are as faithful sons and daughters of Christ that most pleases you! And y**ou know that Clark and Val’s greatest desire is to serve you with all of their heart, mind, soul, and strength. So help them discern your will in this decision, and grant them comfort and peace once that choice is made.*

    *Lord, please keep Hannah, Clark, and Val safe, and send angels ahead to guard and protect them. Thank you for each and every opportunity for them to share your love. *

    *We love You and trust You. Most of all we are eternally grateful for Your Son, in whose strong and precious name we pray. Amen!*

    Love, Mom

    On Sat, Mar 3, 2018 at 8:46 AM, For here we have no lasting city… wrote:

    > kenyasleeth posted: “I knew I had failed. This past Sunday 15 minutes into > the church service Hannah squirmed, she fussed, then she screamed. Every > churchgoing parent has experienced this struggle: when pew-sitting replaces > nap time. Once outside Hannah was content. She q” >


  4. Thank you for sharing the above with us. It is so easy to ‘forget’ what true love means and we lack the skill and ability at the times we need to truly be aware of where our heart may be. In the moment, we center our thoughts around ourselves before we quickly remember it is not all about us . but is about those around us. May God continue to give us ‘grace’ towards ourselves and towards others as we learn and ‘re-learn’ this gift of love. Continuing to pray for all of you that God’s love and protection will continue to cover your dear family and that His wisdom will abound. Love, Auntie Donna


  5. That is a beautiful post, I agree. I can so relate…to the humbling lessons and the “5 minute” walks with Kenyan friends to their homes in the hills 🙂 Looking very forward to meeting you, hopefully not too far in the future. Praying for you and your family!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s