Robert Guidangen

Moses – my translator and Kenyan brother – turns to me and says with weighted words, “He wants to know if you could give him something to hope for.”  Money? Food? Clothes?  What could I give but the simple necessities I had brought with me?Michael.  He is a man of few words but with eyes that told of incredible suffering.  Michael is strong, healthy, and spirited.  The walker he is burdened with testifies to his broken legs, but through the damaged pride, Michael’s impassioned stubbornness blazes through his eyes in humbling brilliance.  Sitting with such peaceful stillness, he turns to bore his commanding gaze upon me, bathed in the pride and dignity of Africa, like a lion.  Here is a man.  A man who left his home at the age of 15 to provide for an ailing mother and a brother.  Rendered crippled by an accident, Michael returned with only greater determination to provide for the family who relies on his strength of mind and fearless grit.  Even as he fights everyday to take that one extra step without the nuisance of a walker, Michael tends to the needs of his mother, of his brother, of the household.  He is a man.

And here is a man, eyes set to me, asking with subdued breath if I – a young and privileged mzungu – could give him something to ease the burdens of his life.  I am not new to poverty, but this incredible responsibility he bestowed upon me was unfamiliar.  Michael waited, and Moses’ expectant stare to translate my next words did nothing to ease my shock.  The room was suddenly too crowded, too dark, too troublesome, too much of… everything.  I was helpless.

And like a divine breath of relief, Mama Kim’s words from the night before resonated with such ringing clarity, “If you can’t give anything now, the best thing to always give is prayer.”

By the will of God, I met this man, and by the grace of God, the man is alive against the odds in a land ravaged with death.  What more appropriate gift could have been offered than to pray together as we have done every day?  Prayer, the pinnacle of faith.  We prayed to express gratitude, to ask for forgiveness, and to be nourished by hope.

A simple “thank you” was what I received in return.  It was and has been the most powerful “thank you” I have ever heard.

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One can never truly expect to know the full breadth of circumstance without experience.  I came to Kenya with a research project in mind, and I knew that the process would require me to reach into a state of vulnerability to truly connect with the individuals I was interviewing.  ”Transformative” is the best word to describe the process, and although, it would seem at first that these profound stories of suffering and hope make the research appear trivial in the midst of real-world hardship, it is, in fact, these stories that enriched and provided intimate meaning to my research experience.

Robert Guidangen- Baylor ’14

Categories Our Stories | Tags: | Posted on August 5, 2012

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