The Unsung Souls

“When mama prayed, good things happened.
When mama prayed, lives were changed.
Not much more than 5-foot tall,
But mountains big and small,
would crumble all the way when mama prayed.”

Such was the song playing in the car as they drove along Iten-Marakwet road enroute to Kapsowar. It had been a while since his mother had last seen the old lady and she yearned to do so. She requested his company and he gladly obliged. This was the new kosgei-ready and available for any errand. However, not so long ago, obstinate, rebellious and prodigal were but a few words one would use in describing him. Yet even these could not lucidly capture the degree to which he was lost.

Young and wild with no care in the world except for self, they went from club to club, town to town, savouring every new drink in the name of “living to the fullest”. The boys meant more to kosgei than family and whenever choices had to be made on how to expend time, energy or resources, “brotherhood” came before blood. It was during such times that father and son rarely met eye to eye and frequently mother could be heard making petitions on behalf of the son. The siblings could often be caught gazing into the air, wondering what had become of their elder brother. A cloud of tension hang over the home as each wondered (aloud and silently) what trouble he would run into next. They seemed to have seen it all; locked in police cells, extreme impudence at school, dead-drunkard ness and disorderliness, selling of home stuff for a quick buck…they couldn’t take in any more drama. Scolding and spanking didn’t seem to amount to much. They seemed to have reached a dead-end in dealing with him. They didn’t know what to do… but one did.

“Yote kwa Yesu…”

She could be heard singing as she went about her morning chores. This was probably her favourite time of the day; No noise in the house or neighbourhood, birds chirping away merrily, the morn sun’s rays kissing the brown earth but most of all, the quite time where she could practise the presence of the Lord. Therein, she prayed for the family and most especially for Kosgei. She is his mother. A most gallant lady whose faith has seen her through times when throwing in the towel would have been a very logical option. As kosgei looked back over his shoulder into that dark and poignant past, his heart grew in appreciation for noble souls as she. Women who unreservedly gave their all to see the prodigals they love come back home.

The late Ruth Bell Graham, wife to legendary evangelist Billy Graham, beautifully weaved the stories of such women in her book “Prodigals and Those Who Love Them”. You may have read or heard of Saint Augustine. However, have you read or heard of Monica, his mother? The one who persisted in making petitions for his son to the good Lord even when Augustine seemed given over to heresies and immorality? How about John Newton? I bet the words “amazing grace, how sweet the sound” are playing in your mind right now. Have you read or heard of his mother? John once said of her. “My mother stored my memory, which was then very retentive, with many valuable pieces, chapters, and portions of scripture, catechisms, hymns and poems. When the Lord at length opened my eyes, I found great benefit from the recollections of them.” Let’s try John and Charles Wesley? Ruth does not mention them in her book but am sure their names ring a bell. But does Susannah Wesley? Known to a few minds, a brief description of her in “The Journal of John Wesley” deserves to be read in its entirety.

“The mother of the Wesleys was a remarkable woman, though cast in a mold not much to our minds nowadays. She had nineteen children and greatly prided herself on having taught them, one after another, by frequent chastisements to—what do you think? To cry softly. She had theories of education and strength of will, and of arm too, to carry them out. She knew Latin and Greek, and though a stern, forbidding, almost an unfeeling, parent, she was successful in winning and retaining not only the respect but the affection of such of her huge family as lived to grow up. But out of the nineteen, thirteen early succumbed. Infant mortality was one of the great facts of the eighteenth century whose Rachels had to learn to cry softly over their dead babes. The mother of the Wesleys thought more of her children’s souls than of their bodies.”

The list could go on and on but before its closure, there is one more much closer to home. One that has touched many a hearts. The late Phillip Keller was internationally known for his devotional commentaries. He traveled worldwide as a field naturalist, conservationist, wildlife photographer, author and consultant to governments and organizations. He was born in Kenya to missionary parents and is widely remembered for his efforts in conservation of the environment among the Masai people. In one of his most personal books, “Wonder O’ The Wind” he did not dwell much on the environment and the conservation cause. The relations in his life came to the fore. And the influence that his mother had on his life is sprinkled through out the pages of this gem. Later on in his prodigal years, Philip aptly reflected, “It is a fortunate person whose life and work is safeguarded by the outpouring of some unseen, unsung soul behind the scenes.” I have been and am this fortunate person. 10th of July, 2005 was the date I returned home. This would not have been possible except by the outpouring of a woman whose life may never be read in print or aired on national TV but whose influence is indelibly marked in my heart. It is such unsung souls as she that I salute not only on the second Sunday of every may, but more so after the festive season when so many prodigals have wandered farther and farther away from home.