Evil and suffering has been a theme that has baffled as well as afflicted many. All of us have experienced some form of suffering and have been at the receiving end of evil at one time or the other. However, for some, the knife of suffering seems to cut deeper and evil stalks them more often than not. Akeno was one of these. News of flash floods covered the Kenyan media and scenes of destruction were captured on print and aired on national TV. Many watched these from the comfort of their living rooms but Akeno with her two months old baby, Becky, bore it’s brunt out in the cold streets. Some nights security guards chased her from the verandahs into the chilling rain and then lean back on rickety old chairs, snoring heavily. Going back meant selling the only asset she possessed- her body. Her faith could not allow her to do so even though the thought was never far away. Over time, she learnt to protect Becky from the extreme weather using rags and carton boxes. Becky would cry endlessly after a rude awakening by the thunderous rain. This frequently wrought tears in Akeno’s eyes. Absentmindedly, she would thrust her left nipple into Becky’s mouth and ponder what the future held. Hopelessness always crouching at her door, her mind wandered near and far in search of elusive peace of heart and mind. The future seemed grim and the recent past was ghastly. However, there was a time when things were different.
She once had a roof over her head and friends and family to savour life with. The dinner table was always a hive of activity. Dishes were passed across as another politely asked for the salt. Ribs were tickled as stories of how the day was spent unfolded. Family gatherings were cherished as glee abounded much. It was a joy to see Akeno’s parents gleaming over her and her two brothers. She was sure they loved them-they did not lift a finger in trying to hide it. This love was once tested when Akeno erred and got pregnant. The young Casanova denied his own child. Her parents hung their head low in shame but they did not chase her away as many of the relatives advised-Akeno was still their daughter and they made sure all knew that. A generous lot they were too. Numerous times, they shared the dinner table with friends and family and occasionally, with a stranger lost in travel. Of course, this cost them a few times, but it was never an excuse to drop the noble habit. Their home was welcome to all- friend or foe. All was well until they came-fellow human beings with hearts of stone. Loud screams from the boys’ quarters jolted Akeno’s father to his feet. He reached for his spear and even though his palms grew sweaty with fear, love for his family fueled him on. Bullets rang through the still air of the night. He engaged the “beasts” in combat but his efforts came in a little bit too late. The bodies of the boys laid in between the sheets, riddled with bullets. A hoarse loud groan sent Akeno’s mother out of the house screaming, only to catch a glimpse of her husband fall at the end of his own spear. In seething rage, she lashed out at the attacker. Scarring him on the right cheek, she cried out to Akeno, “Run! Akeno! Ru…” Her words were cut short by a bullet through her head. Akeno ran as fast as her little feet could enable her. However, with a growing child in her womb, her speed was no match for the experienced cattle rustlers. Tripping her with a soldier’s boot, one rustler ripped her skirt into two while beating the living daylights out of her. Another opened his fly in readiness. However, just before this inhuman act was executed, a shot in the air brought the goons to their senses. Their leader, a seemingly spiritual man, reminded them of an age-old custom that prohibited the harming of a pregnant woman. The rustlers left Akeno to live another day but sometimes she wished they hadn’t. The pangs of suffering had only just begun. Greedy relatives took over the home and chased her away. She was a disgrace to the community and banishment was a most justifiable punishment. The many friends that her father had entertained rejected her diplomatically. Their petty excuse being a pregnant orphan would strain their already overburdened budget. She was left to fend for herself and the streets that she once walked hand in hand with her father window-shopping, became her humble abode.
In trying times there is always something that reminds us of God’s love;the beautiful blue ocean, the sizzling African sunset, enchanting woods, a friend’s loving pat, the holy writ, a scene from a movie … for Akeno, it was the charming chuckle of Becky. It rang with an angelic tone. It reminded her of the times she used to chuckle to herself. Her father thought she was going senile but to her, it was probably the beginning of a sane life. A missionary couple had visited her family. It was during the same period word had gotten round that she was pregnant. They talked of the son of God that left the heavens and entered the world through a virgin birth. Akeno stooped in shame. This son dwelled with His earthly parents until the age of thirty after which He wandered across the country for three years doing good and telling the masses of His home on high. He was then killed on a tree by the very same people He loved. Akeno’s father seethed with anger-he hated betrayal. However, all of this was God’s plan to save the mortals from the wages of sin-death. Hence, the guilt and shame of sin was paid once and for all and everyone who believed in Him would be saved. Akeno’s heart tingled as it dawned on her that she didn’t have to live with guilt anymore. All of these sounded new and interesting until Becky, the white Lady, prompted them to accept and serve this God-Man exclusively. At this, Becky lost Akeno’s father. A responsible man who did all to ensure his family was taken care of, it seemed odd that accepting and serving was all that was required of him. It was too simple. He kindly rejected the offer to follow Jesus Christ. The boys followed suit. However, Akeno and her mother hung on to every word the couple spoke that day and accepted to be Christians. They didn’t have much time to go to church but the little time they got, they read the scriptures and sung hymns together.
Yes. She knew what it felt like chuckling to self. However, pain and suffering have a way of clouding one’s view of the joy set before them. She recalled of God’s promise that one day He shall wipe away every tear from her eyes and she will know suffering no more. How she longed for that day. She wondered if God was present in her suffering. A hymn her mother used sing with her quietly slipped into her mind. It reminded her that God would never leave her nor forsake her. She smiled. Becky now slept soundly in her arms. As she gazed at her, a strange tingly warmth swept over her body and for a moment, she knew she had experienced the embrace of a loving God. Like a bulb had been lit in her head, she knew where to go for help. The sun was rising up yonder and a cross on a steeple could be seen from afar. She arose from the cold verandah, tied Becky onto her back with the little clothing she had and with short, firm and sure steps she “followed the cross”. The sight of the church building grew larger and larger with every step. Embers of hope were kindled in her heart and the sight of a young woman sweeping the entrance fanned them into flames. She could no longer help it. She ran towards her with all her might while clutching at Becky. Momentarily, she forgot her empty stomach, her foul body odour and the tatters she wore. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she slowed down, nearing the now astonished lady in blue. She approached Akeno and held out her arms to hold her. Akeno fell into them and sobbed her heart out. She held on tightly as if her life depended on the woman’s embrace. Finally, she pulled herself away in embarrassment. “My name is Sister Rebecca,” the woman introduced herself with a lump rising in her throat. At this, Akeno leaned on her shoulder as she was led inside the church. Though it all-Akeno knew, that God had been with her through it all.