I was struggling.
My birthday had been the day before. To celebrate, I spent the day in Sotik—a 45 minute car-ride from Tenwek—taking care of some business at the Kenyan Social Security office. Business took longer than anticipated. I discovered that bureaucratic efficiency in Kenya is comparable to that of the US—but with chai breaks.
That night my heart began to feel heavy.
It wasn’t frustration with Kenyan paperwork-I’d had a lovely day practicing Swahili while exploring Sotik.
It wasn’t regret in leaving my 20s behind-I’m grateful the Lord has brought me through another decade.
It wasn’t disappointment over a lack of birthday festivities-I’d actively discouraged these.
I missed home.
I missed my mother-in-law’s home-made bread and sister-in-law Emma’s funfetti cake.
I missed my mom. I missed my sisters. I missed the hand-sewn birthday gifts and nephew-filled get-togethers.
I was especially missing my younger sister April after her visit to Tenwek in early March
The next morning my heart was heavy. I had anticipated this week would be difficult—my first birthday after mom’s death and my first in Kenya. Unfortunately, this anticipation had done nothing to mitigate the severity of my emotions.
That evening I strongly encouraged Clark to go watch a movie with friends. After he left, I put on my PJs and made a huge bowl of kettle-corn. I was less than a page into my book when I heard a knock on our door.
There three friends stood with cake, presents, and appropriately themed napkins. There I stood in a sweat-suit with greasy, popcorn fingers.
Immediately this came to mind: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
The Lord provided. He provided love and encouragement and fellowship. He provided a heart of gratitude to replace my heart of bitterness.
God promises He will provide our needs. Since this impromptu birthday party, I’ve been amazed to see how God has continued to meet our needs—and often our wants as well.
He provided our friend and colleague from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Iocono came to care for patients while many of Tenwek’s long-term surgeons were at a conference.
The day he arrived he came to our door and spoke to Clark the sweetest words a physician will ever hear: “May I take your pager?”
Prior to leaving Kenya, Dr. Iocono came and showered us with presents. It was as if he’d bugged our apartment; his gifts of power cords, flash lights, pens, potato chips, and cheese had all been wants repeatedly uttered the weeks leading up to his visit.
Daily we are aware of the provision that has brought us to Kenya. The Lord has mobilized friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers to join in the work He’s doing here.
This week we shared dinner with the Jacksons, an endocrinologist and speech pathologist who served at Tenwek in the early 80s. Their support of us began before ever meeting us.
And His provision continued. As I was preparing that meal, I realized that we had no vegetables and the small shops where I usually purchase produce were not open because of the Easter weekend. But then, in ample time to accompany our chicken and rice, our language tutor Carol showed up with surplus sukuma (a delicious kale-like green) from her garden.
Since that birthday reminder of God’s provision, I’ve been daily overwhelmed by God’s goodness to us—whether through gifts of shelter or friendship or comfort or cheese. And I’ve found that when my heart is full of gratitude, there is no room for apathy or bitterness or self-pity, but only peace.
In your life, what want is He answering? What need is He providing? Take a moment to rejoice and rest in His provision.
“Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Ps 136:26
[Written by Val Sleeth]