By Mommy Emily

Pastor Samson is waiting for us when we emerge from Immigration. He’s wearing an oversized leather jacket and a huge smile, a mask straddling his thin chin. 

We hug shyly, because this is the first time we’ve met, but Enock he knows, and the hug is strong with a resounding, “My brother!” Shaban and Daniel are there too, the Uganda team in Kenya. 

Spring of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, we fasted and prayed for 40 days for Kenya. Then we prayerfully sent three men — Enock from Uganda, Baptist from Uganda, and Francis from South Sudan. They went confident that God had prepared a man who was gentler than any man we’d partnered with yet, who was in a very humble village surrounded by hills and trees, and who had a heart for children and for the church. God had shown us this already. And He led them straight to Pastor Samson in Funyula, Kenya.

Even as we drive now, I look out the window and see the same lush, rolling hills and winding red roads God had shown us after fasting and praying. We stop along the way to visit four different churches Pastor Samson oversees and where he has started microloan programs. When we finally get to Pastor Samson’s home, children spill from every corner, including seven orphans he cares for in addition to his own seven children. 

His slight wife, Lucy, is in the outdoor kitchen, bent over a cooking fire, but she straightens up with a quiet laugh and comes to greet us with timid joy. Pastor Samson calls her his “lollipop” and she smiles up at him. Lucy is actually the pastor of one of the four churches he took us to earlier. She’s also taking the Harvestime curriculum, as are their older children. 

After greeting the children, Pastor Samson leads me to the maize farm which is in walking distance from his home. Birds call from every direction, and bright purple and yellow flowers dot bushes and trees. The maize is growing high. He planted this farm and another one, along with five other pastors, to help sustain their families and ministries. 

We gather in their small mud home to eat. Chickens share this space with us. One of the children comes in with a basin and pitcher to wash our hands. They serve us posho — a bread-type substance made from flour, water and salt. We peel off pieces with our hands and use them to scoop up the fish and sauce. They also serve us greens, rice, and beans. At other times we will eat chicken and matoke (a banana-type squash) with sweet potatoes. For breakfast, Mama Lucy will make us crisp chapatis (fried bread) with boiled eggs, slices of watermelon, and steaming cups of African milk tea. 

That night, however, we are served two suppers in a row, because an elder in the church has arrived, informing Pastor Samson that his wife, too, spent the entire day preparing a meal for us. So we pile into the car — along with the elder — to travel over an hour on twisted sunken roads to his home, begging God all the while to make us hungry enough to eat again.

They serve us a feast, and we manage to eat a little, and then they bring in a young girl who’s demon possessed. Her body is rigid, her eyes unclosing, as if in a trance. She just stands all day, staring at the wall. She was cursed, her mother says, by a cult pastor whose church she used to attend. This pastor was known to curse members if they tried to leave, and she tried to leave. 

We spend the next hour praying over her, and finally the demons (it would seem there are more than one) begin to leave. At the end, one of the pastors helps her into a chair, but her legs are still refusing to bend. Her eyes are now blinking. God moves me towards her, and He speaks through me: “Rest,” I tell her, putting my hand on her arm, and her knees move. “Rest,” I say again, and she sinks into the chair. “Rest, dear daughter,” and tears fill her eyes even as I kiss the top of her head and hug her. 

Oh, the deep, deep, love of Jesus. Oh, the grace that invites us to share it to the ends of the earth.

We are silent on the winding roads home. Our stomachs are very full. Our hearts are even more so. 

It’s been two long years since my last visit to Africa, but God has been here all along, and already He is placing His seal on this journey. I open my heart to whatever He has in store in the days ahead as humble gratitude rises to mingle with a million stars watching over the rolling hills of Funyula, Kenya.

This is the first in a series of posts about Mommy Emily’s trip to Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan, October 2021