*Author’s note: I started writing this on May 8, 2010. It has taken me 9 days to write it, because these women in my life were so incredible, so powerful, and so amazing, that emotion kept taking over and I had to pause to honor each one.
It’s May the 8th. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the day I touched down on US soil to make it “home”. I’d said goodbye to the place that held my heart. I’d packed up what I wanted to bring with me – given away the rest. I walked out of my little pink and white bedroom, drove away from my sweet house and dogs, tears poured down my face as I drove away from all my heart had known and loved for all the memories of my life.
There is a longing in my heart for that place. It never really goes away. The curse of being a Third Culture Kid. Where you love is most often a continent or an ocean away from where you are.
In Africa they say it takes a village to raise a child – I definitely had an amazing village. So today, on this 15th anniversary – and the day before Mother’s day – I’d like to honor the mom’s of the “village” of Eldoret.
My own mom, Pam Workman, it was the sensitivity to the Lord’s calling on your heart at the tender age of 7 that put us in Africa in the first place. Thank you for your obedience to that calling. Thank you for loving me, for homeschooling me, for showing me the world through your eyes. Thank you for passionately loving Jesus, and for loving my dad. You are an example I can only hope to live up to; you are my hero. (there is a blog I wrote about her a few years ago – here – it all still applies.)
The rest of these women listed are not listed in a particular order – just as they come to mind today.
The mom’s of the Church of Christ team.
Beth Cox, you are my first memory of this team. You loved me, and patiently taught me so much. I was so young and you were so loving. I remember our first furlough home, I was asked who my friends were, I told them my “best friend” was a CofC missionary lady – that went over well with our Baptist family I assure you. It taught me that differences didn’t matter as long as we loved Christ. You taught me how to bake brownies from scratch, how to love children well, you let me love yours…the day you left Eldoret it broke my heart. So thankful that God moved in such a way that I still get to know who you are. Your children are beautiful and marvelous and I know they rise up and call you blessed.
Holly Conway, one of the sweetest women I have ever known. You, too, spent hours of time with me for no reason other than to pour into my life. You helped me plan my mom’s surprise party for her 40th birthday. I remember we all went to tea at your house and you said “Today is a day of thanksgiving, and today we are thankful for Pam.” You then lead everyone in going around and saying why they were thankful. Such a beautiful example – I’ve remembered that example for years and use it to honor friends in my own life. I love your boys…am happy to have Andrew as my friend and am so proud of him and his time at ACU…he is a reflection of your heart and love for Jesus.
Claudia Greek, you patiently and lovingly taught me how to sew and how to sign. I still do both occasionally. Your tender heart towards the world was such a loving example of how to see people. You saw the potential in everyone and I loved that about you. Your girls are beautiful…I am grateful that they are still in my life!
Donna Meeks, you always laughed with me. You saw joy in everything and you taught me how to do so as well. The sweet ways you loved Africans was so beautiful to me. Even now that is a memory I hold in my heart. Your children are incredible! What stunning young men and women they have and are growing up to be.
The other women of the Church of Christ team – you trusted me to babysit your children at such a young age….I adore each of them and am so thankful for the pouring of your lives into mine.
Deborah Williams – you ever so patiently taught me to “tickle the ivories.” I cannot imagine the crowns of jewels that you earned while trying to teach me. Thank you! My heart and love of music is heavily influenced by you.
Trisha Nygaard, I still think of you every time I say the word “Bizarre”. You taught me to laugh and love and that life was an adventure to be had. I remember when Brent was born, it was the first time I remember bursting into awestruck tears at the sight of a newborn. You laughed and cried with me and told me that was how it felt when babies were born. You loved me enough to let me experience that and make sure I knew it was okay to cry. Memories of you bring me so much joy.
Patty Bogart, you are some of my earliest memories. You always encouraged every imagination that Kim and I had. You taught me at a very young age to dream big dreams because of that encouragement. Thank you…that influences my life today.
Phyllis Stirewalt – you also are many of my earliest memories of Eldoret! I have experienced so much laughter with your sweet girls! I adore all of them, and am so glad we are still friends to this day!! I still randomly say “Well, floozy I guess!” It still makes me laugh out loud even if no one else gets it or thinks it is funny! Thank you for raising wonderful children.
Ms. Linda – You moved to town and brought me the friendship of your daughters. Your carefree and easy going manner always made me feel welcome and a part of your home. You laughed with us and quietly guided us away from the dangerous routes teenagers can take without us even knowing it till we looked back. You always listened and never judged. Thank you for loving us enough to do that. Your daughters are tremendous and I am so glad to call them friends.
Mama Rhoda – my mother’s sweet friend – and my sweet African grandma. Your sweet spirit and easy laughter made my life one absolutely full of joy and light! Your love for Jesus in spite of all of your hardships was my first examples of living out the suffering spoken of in the gospel. Your “nothing can stand against me,” go getter attitude taught me that nothing can stand in the way of my dreams.
Mama Jela – you are in the sweet presence of the Jesus tonight and I know you are so happy. You taught me how to love. I miss you. Thank you for investing your love for Him into my life. Your children are beautiful, they reflect the spirit of who you are – and the Jesus you loved. Alice Cheshire – in your home, I was one of your own. You gave me my Kalenjin name, Chepkimboi. I have some crazy memories of that house on the corner. I was not some mzungu child that was catered too…I was just as African as your kids. I was taught how to serve my elders, to be in presence of dignitaries, to serve those less fortunate than I was, to laugh, to love Jesus and to have fun. I still want to get married at Mokongi on the terrace that overlooks the hills one day. So much of my life is wrapped up in memories of you and yours. I love your children – so blessed to call them friends.
Sue Fort – how you must have wondered about this crazy American girl that brought noise and chaos to your world! I adored every moment in your presence whether it was playing tennis, working at the library, keeping golf scores, singing carols at Christmas or simply sitting with a drink and few stories on the porch. I loved your laughter, I can still hear it if I listen hard enough! Your children were my friends and I so enjoyed their sharing their holidays with me. You loved me and took me in as a lovely English auntie…I love you and am so thankful to God for you in my life.
Flick VanKaufmann – every memory of you makes my heart sing with joy. You were so patient with me and always had an ear for my stories and a kind word for my day. You are beautiful. There is a bit of quiet English calm in my tea loving soul – that is your influence in my life.
Ruth Fernandez, again, I have no idea how in the world you put up with me. You let me just pop in and out of your house whenever my heart desired. You shared your life with me and I love you.
Billu Gil – I love you so much more than you will ever know. My heart LONGS for your home….even now. I want tea made by you, Dad sitting next to me with tea bisquets. In your eyes and in your home I could do no wrong – that is because all I wanted was to please you. I can hear you calling my name from time to time – making me promise not to be “naughty”. You taught me to cook yummy morsels and made me the daughter in your home. There are so many influential and admirable ways that you influenced me – till today – that words are not enough. I love your children like brothers and I promise to always take care of them.
Jindi – I was 7 – you came to my house – the first Indian woman I had ever met. I remember that day like it was yesterday. You were so beautiful – I wanted to be just like you. You had a son and you let us be friends. You had a daughter and you let us laugh together. You taught me how to cook….and then taught me how Pali liked it cooked just in case I ever needed to cook for him. You always cooked a special dish for me “without so many chilis” because you knew my poor little mouth couldn’t take the hot…ha ha ha. Your sweet friendship to my mother and your wonderful ways you cared for your family influenced has my life for all of those years. I am who I am because of you.
Aunt Carol Koetz – You were and are one of the greatest influences in my life. I loved that you lived next door. You taught me how to have a servant’s heart (one I can only dream of living up to one day)…..that there was always room for more around the table….that faith was simple and strong….that Christ was enough. In so many ways I feel your spirit in my life…in the way I cook, the way I worship, the way I love others. My life is completely changed because you were in it.
As I write this my mind can see clearly the homes that are represented. The homes, the faces, the streets of that sweet place & these incredible women. I am sure that in my fuzzy memories I have forgotten someone. There were so many that loved this little crazy white girl in this little African town. I had African, Indian, British and American mama’s & aunties. They loved me, they prayed for me, they laughed with me and they patiently helped form the person I am today. They came from all walks of life, religions and cultural differences and made up the people that I call family.
My heart longs for you today, sweet ladies….it prays for you daily…that you will know an experience the love of Christ. I long to sit and have a cup of tea, to help you in the kitchen, to play with your children, to go back and relive each moment of love that I experienced at the mercy of your hands.
On this month of honor to mothers – I honor you. There are not adequate enough words to describe who you are to me…this is my humble attempt.
Thank you for being my “village”. I promise to do my best make you proud.