In light of the recent tragedy, I thought I’d post a personal tribute I wrote about these two dear friends back in August.
For the past month, Jecinta and Igg [Ignatius] have been staying in our campus apartment while we were house sitting across the road. Now that Christi and the kids are gone, they have taken over my housesitting responsibilities for me (at my friend’s house about a kilometer away), so I can be five minutes closer to the library for a week. 😉 It gives them a chance to enjoy a huge house and enjoy the calmer campus from their cramped little (tin) apartment in Kawangware, where water is currently being rationed to a couple of days a week. This has all meant some great opportunities to hang out together.
We first met Jecinta
shortly after we moved here. Christi had been looking for a little help hand-washing clothes and with some of the housework – which is so much more labor intensive here. The first two helpers were fiascos (one connived and lied, and the other was lazy and not very sharp – long stories), so Christi turned to a Kenyan faculty member here who had written a book about house help and recommended using students who needed work as a stepping stone to something greater. When Jecinta came she admitted that she had only ever cleaned her own home and couldn’t cook, but she was willing to work hard to pay her tuition and save towards buying a computer, which she hoped to use to help generate further income.
She and Christi became fast friends, and we eventually decided that we’d prefer to sponsor the missions work she was doing in Kibera and find someone else to take care of our home (Njeri). We were quite amazed at all the evangelism and work with she was doing with people with AIDS. Her heart has always been for the “destitute.”
Jecinta used to stay with us when she had block courses and lived with Christi to help take care of the kids when I was gone for six weeks on a study trip to Israel. Before she got married, she was our regular babysitter; we could just walk out the door; the kids loved her. There were no family secrets with her; she’s pretty much family.
I remember the Saturday that I drove her downtown to buy her computer with savings from her first year of work. On the way home she called a friend, and we picked him up on the way to her home. I could tell immediately she was very excited about this friend, so when I got home, I told Christi that she needed to ask about a certain “Ignatius” – a worship leader at her small church and physics teacher at a Nairobi prep school. Turns out, Jecinta hadn’t told anyone about him. She is Kikuyu; he is Luhya from Western Kenya; it could be very problematic for the families.
It wasn’t easy. Even in Jecinta’s childhood, her mother had warned her about cross-cultural marriages – especially with “those” types. Jecinta and Igg had close friends fast and pray for weeks before she finally got up the guts to mention him to her mother. In response, her mother said nothing, absolutely nothing at all. Eventually, the family warmed up to him, and although there was still the a very difficult dowry negotiation, they were eventually married in November (not a moment too soon as it turns out in light of the election violence last January.) Christi and Njeri baked all the wedding cakes, and Kiara and Leila were flower girls.
It was so fun to see them as happy newlyweds – laughing and smiling all the time. Then January came. Some of the fiercest ethnic clashes happened in their neighborhood. Where could they be safe – and together? Eventually, they hid out at a prayer retreat center near her home. All we can say is that it is good they got married when they did. Can you imagine trying to talk the families into it in recent months?!? Their wedding would have been delayed at least eight months, and the arrangements would have been infinitely more difficult.
I was especially appreciating their friendship recently as I wrestled to plan the marriage and family section I had been assigned (against my protests) for the recent rural pastor’s conference. After dinner, I just asked, “What would you say to pastors about being husbands and fathers.” And they talked and talked . . . about their childhoods and parents . . . the good times and the bad . . . about their different African traditions; what they enjoyed and what they hated.
And me? I just sat and listened and laughed and asked and enjoyed . . . I savored that moment. This is what lifelong friendships are made of!!