It’s been seven years. I went with a group from church to Kenya and we supported a school in Kimiko, a slum village.
The kids were great, we were planning to spend the whole week at their school. The first few days we came in like normal, taught, played games, ate, loved on them. The kids every day would chase after the bus as we left. They wanted to see us as long as possible, which was amazing.
The leaders of the trip got a little nervous about the kids following us because it had been rainy season. There’s no paved roads, it’s muddy. They wanted the kids to be safe.
Talking to the principal that morning, they asked to keep the kids back for safety.
We had been there for four days then.
When we were leaving that day, everything was normal. Riding along, probably about five minutes to the main road where we were staying, there was a bar off to the side.
Two drunk men were arguing and one of them punched the other. He fell under the bus and it killed him. Some people saw the whole thing play out, but I honestly can’t remember much besides the thud of him hitting the vehicle. It was a main street, a lot of activity was happening. None of what was going on was out of the ordinary originally.
Immediately the bus was surrounded by people. Not being able to speak the language and having the community who is vastly Muslim, knowing these white Christian people were here, was intense. People were banging on the windows and we didn’t really know what was going to happen.
We sat in the bus for a good 10-15 minutes and were probably about five minutes walking distance from the school. The principal of the school came, and the school had just been let out, so families were everywhere.
The principal arrived at the bus and explained to us what was happening. They got in touch with other groups that supported the school and made a plan for us to get out. We were told to keep the windows closed on the bus. Keep the doors locked. Don’t do anything. People were banging on the bus and the windows. They didn’t know potentially what could happen either, so we ended up getting evacuated and staying with various families.
Getting off of the bus, there was yelling, still a very tense situation, but knowing we were surrounded by people who knew what was happening and wanted to help us was a giant comfort.
We went to another school and debriefed.
It was crazy to see how much it affected the students we were with. Me being there, seeing it, wasn’t easy. But looking back on the week before, we could have had students out there. I’m thankful they were asked to stay back.
We didn’t know what was going to happen to our bus driver. He ended up grabbing the guy who punched the man, and there were enough witnesses that knew it wasn’t his fault.
I’m a silver lining person. Not that the loss of a life is something to devalue, it’s horrible to have that man lose his life, but to look back on that whole situation, the kids were safe, the road has been paved, the shops moved back, the bus driver spent the night in prison, but is now free of all charges, and we were taken care of by an amazing group of people.
Being able to walk through it with the community and students, processing the pain, the questioning, the horribleness of the situation helped me to be able to listen to people and know that things aren’t always a quick fix.
We all respond very differently to trauma. Bringing it back home and how that’s changed my life here, it’s helped me to process things. For me, as horrible as the situation was, being able to see what happened – the good of the situation, the students were safe, families supported us, makes it easier for me to focus on the positive. Seeing everyone else handling it well, to hear where they are coming from, help them process through emotions and relate to them, has caused a desire to want to hear people out more fully. See their side. Take the time to be with people.
I never want to see anyone hurting or feel like they aren’t heard.
Coming back home, some of the church’s members felt like they were supposed to be over it right away and that broke my heart. Whatever I could do to help, I did.
We are so grateful for the community that took care of us despite tensions around us. Seeing the value of love and having someone put their arm around you despite not knowing their language. People in the village came to comfort us and put their arms around us for support when we didn’t know what was going to happen. That is truly loving someone.
I follow the principal of the school on Facebook and the church has gone back again and there’s been a warm welcome from their community. It’s neat to see that it’s so much more than Christian versus Muslim, it’s people and families caring about kids in the community.
The school was built in the community to help. Education helps kids leave the slum. This helps them without taking over their situation.
Talk with people, see what they need.
Having an education for these kids makes such a difference and now some of these students are going to university and getting amazing degrees then coming back to the slum and wanting to change it.
The cultural differences, the hate that could have risen up, something so traumatic actually brought people together to talk and listen and they all wanted to make things better.
I am thankful for rain, my baby niece’s smile, my nephew’s laugh, the smell of coffee, learning, walking by the river, the Oregon coast, taco Tuesday, Tahoe days, playing in the snow, walks with my mom, and runs with my dad.