I longed to be their househelp, to just clean the marble dining table, polish the wooden floor or wipe the glass coffee table. I wished to wipe the dust off their humongous TV set and fold their freshly cleaned clothes.
I wished to be like mum, timely, clean, spiritual, tough, bold, couteous and humble. I wished to raise my kids the same way she raised me. I never missed Sunday School, even when cold took the best of me, mum told me that I would get healed in church. Mum was strict with the word, she never knew how to read or write but she listened keenly on what the preacher used to say.
She banished me from entering the main house. She swore to tear me apart if I neared the window of the main house. I longed to see what was inside, I longed to mingle with Kimani, to be his friend or tell him stories mum used to narrate to me of my motherland Tanzania. I was more of a servant to them which I loved. I wanted to grow up to be their favorite maid. I always fetched Kimani’s ball should he throw it at a distance he felt lazy to fetch. My mom did everything, she did their house chores, cooked, tendered the kitchen garden and the compound. She was ever busy except on Sundays where she volunteered to work in church.
I wanted to be like her, to be Mr and Mrs Kamau’s househelp. I wanted to be that hardworking and busy. I wanted to take care of other people’s stuff just in the same way I would wash Kimani’s toys and dirty boots. I was not an average student in class. Neither was I below average, I was poor. I was dumb and other pupils jeered that it was because I was a househelp’s daughter. I never mind them. I loved the fact that they recognized my mum. I remember this day that my teacher asked me who I want to be when I grow up and I said a househelp. He then mercilessly caned all the class for roaring in laughter. I learnt one thing, that I should always respect other people for who they are and whom they want to be in life.
I was in class six when the government of Kenya was sending away Tanzanian pupils who were enjoying the free primary education. I really thanked God for Mr and Mrs Kamau who came forth and told the teachers that I was a Kenyan Citizen by birth. I was so grateful that I thought of a gift to give them. I thought of drawing them. I made a portrait of them, went to this butchery that I used to fetch Mr and Mrs Kamau’s meat every Monday and Friday and stole President’s Moi framed portrait. I put my drawing on the frame and gave mum to give it to them. Sadly, mum knew of my mischevious acts and I were seriously caned. She threw the portrait away and returned the frame to the butchery apologizing. I managed to take hold of the portrait though wrinkled and kept it safe hoping that one day I will give it to them.
I was 15 when I finished class 8. I got 256 marks out of 500. My mother was so happy that for the first time she let me inside Mr and Mrs Kamau’s house. That was her gift for me. It was the sight of heaven to me. I sat on their couch and watched Tv. It was the best thing that had happened to me. I remember that evening my mother sent me for a quarter kilo of meat. That was also the first time we cooked meat at our place. My mom told me that now that I had scored well, she got me a job. I asked why not high school? She told me that she had no money. I told her of the many girl child NGOs in the area but she told me that I was not Maasai to get those benefits. She told me that she had a friend in Arusha who owned a hotel and wanted me to work as her cook or waitress. She then gave a strange cough, one that startled me. I respected her, so I abided to what she said.
Life in Arusha was not easy, I worked in the kitchen for three months and Ma Kimario really applauded me for the good work. She told me that I deserved a higher pay and I should move to the counter. She owned a bar and a restaurant. That same evening, this old man touched my boobies and I spilled alcohol on him. Ma Kimario really barked at me and told me that I should know that am now a grown up who should know life. I went back to work and the same old man spanked my butt and told me that she was going to sleep with me that night because she had paid Ma Kimario heftily for me. I crept to my room, packed my clothes and went to the bus stage. I slept at the bench. At dawn, I left to Mr and Mrs Kamau’s home.
My mum was tending the compound when I arrived. As I opened the gate, she beckoned me and smiled. She looked weak. Her frail voice greeted me as I walked towards her. She hugged me and fell in my arms. She had fainted. I called the shamba boy and we rushed her to hospital. She needed oxygen. I was confused, I gave the doctor all I had and she was admitted. Mr and Mrs Kamau came rushing in they found me there confused. I rushed outside to pray and asked God to keep mum from dying as she was all I had. I came back and the look on Mr and Mrs Kamau suggested something. She was dead. I went to her bed crying, asking God why. It was then that I remembered my mother telling me, ‘Never ask God why, He owes no one an explanation. He does it for His own good and glory.’ I was accustomed to being a slave and so I thought I was also a slave to God and was never to question Him. But I questioned Him, asking Him why He never let my mom say her last words to me, or let me show her my 80 drawings of Arusha.
Mr and Mrs Kamau took me in and told me that it was God plan. They covered all medical and funeral expenses and hosted me in their main house. I thought of how to repay them and then I remembered of the piece I drew in class 6. One particular evening after the funeral I purposed to give them the piece. They had told me that they wanted to tell me something. They told me that they were so sorry about my mum but life has to go on. They told me that they had hired another househelp as I was still a kid underage to work. They told me that they were going to give me a little money to start a new life as things were also tight on them because Kimani was in art school. As my mother taught me not to question anyone, I walked to my bedroom packed my clothes and left that very night. Though Mrs Kamau really insisted that I sleep, I told them that I needed to spend time with God.
I went to church that day. Funny, there was some worship experience. We had guests. I was instrumental in such events, I would cook and do the dishes, I would attend to the guests so well that my local pastor called me in case they had such events.That night I told God to forgive me because I will ask Him tons of questions. I reminded Him that am only 16. I asked Him why He had let my mother die without saying a last word, I asked Him where he wanted me to go. I was glad I never asked Him one thing, why I was born of a househelp or why am not in school. I never questioned Him why I was who I was because I believed in myself and I loved myself so much to love Him.
I used to sleep in church. You will ask how, where I used to shower and what I used to eat. I bought a drawing book and stationery, a bucket and a basin from the little money Mr and Mrs Kamau gave me. I used to clean the church every day and go under a tree by the day to draw. I would wake up at 3 am to bathe in the church and clean the whole of it by 4.30am. A month passed, yes, some knew my predicament and they promised they would help but to no avail. I had the New Testament Bible with Psalms and Proverbs that I used to read. I would get to town, get a meal and go back to church. A meal a day was better enough to keep me moving. The little money got depleted and I now had to survive.
I did not know where I got this immense faith from but I knew deep in my heart that God would provide. It was then that we had a week long of Youth Camp in our church. The church would provide its stored matresses and we would eat and spend in church. After the week was over, another week of women camp was introduced. Just when I thought everything was over, a week of fasting came through where we would take a meal a day and spend in church. It was the Monday of the third week and the church was dilapidated. I slept hungry that day. I didn’t understand why I was jovial though hungry. Tuesday came and the rhythm was still the same. In the evening, a certain woman passed by and gave me Ksh. 200 because I helped her clean the church a certain day. It sustained me through to Saturday.
I had this amazing joy in my heart though my back was aching from sleeping on church benches. I decided to wear my mother’s Sunday best that Sunday and put on her favorite leso. The pastor announced that there will be visitors. He talked of missionaries from UK and my heart skipped a beat. I thought maybe God will do something through them. They said that they will be sponsoring 5 university and 5 High School students. Parents crowded to the pastor’s home for this massive opportunity. 2 of pastor’s university students and 2 of his high school students got the opportunity. He gave the other slots to other church leaders’ children. I was sad, sad that I was again unlucky, that I was unfortunate and God did not love me.
I hustled through the other week. I ate left overs from a nearby primary school. I thought of going back to Arusha to become a whore. I thought of quitting trusting on this God who never cared about me. I refused to go to church on Sunday but I had a strong motive to go. I stayed outside thinking, maybe I do not belong to this world. It was then that the shamba boy from Mr and Mrs Kamau’s home, Sammy came rushing calling me inside the church. I went inside and was surprised to find the missionaries still in church. I saw an old man, clutching on his hand a piece of paper asking loudly, “Who drew this? I couldn’t go back because I really have to find who the artist of this.” I hesitated, the Sammy pushed me forward. This feeling of gloom came into my life. In my head, I saw my mother throwing the wrinkled drawing into the dust bin and I thought that I was not good enough. The old man was clutching in his hands Mr and Mrs Kamau’s portrait that I drew back in class 6. I didn’t know exactly how I misplaced it.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. The old man looked at me and asked, “Daughter, did you draw this?” I couldn’t talk I was all in tears. He continued, “I am the most impatient man on earth, but for the first time I have waited a whole week for this. This is a piece of art drawn by a kid and this is so much potential, this is God-given talent. It may look silly to many, but maybe the one who drew this doesn’t know what he or she possesses. Daughter, did you draw this?”
“Yes.” I finally said in a weak voice.
He grabbed me and hugged me. I felt warm, consoled, it felt like am now in the arms of the father I never had. He asked me who I was and he asked the pastor if he knew me. The pastor proudly replied that I was the daughter of a late devoted servant of the church. He put a disclaimer though, that am an alien, not born on the land.
“Your pastor is treacherous,” he didn’t hesitate to say to the whole congregation, “He didn’t call this poor girl out when we asked for people to sponsor. He vividly knew that this girl was an artist based on the portrait of him that is hunged in his house drawn by the artist of this same art am holding. He brought to me seven kids deemed as owners of this art, including his own who couldn’t reproduce anything close to what am holding. It is with this that we withdraw all the sponsorship opportunities we had given and this poor girl will give us a list of who to sponsor.” The old man said.
I thought the English family will take me in as their maid. They got to know my story and they were always in tears everytime I hinted about it. I got to high school and went to art school in the UK. The old man owned a multi-million dollar art gallery that I became its heir. Guess, who runs my art gallery in Africa, yes, it is Kimani. Mr and Mrs Kamau really apologized to me but I reminded that as humans we stumble. I built the church, the pastor learnt from his acts and became a very instrumental leader.
I can get anything I want now, the world’s most expensive cars in a blink of an eye, posh mansions and any other luxuries etc. The sweet thing is that all that doesn’t matter nor mean anything. I rather sleep on a Church’s bench but know Christ. I never want to defile myself even with the millions of dollars in my account, rather give it away to charity and ministry. My question to you will be, what are you doing with the little you have? Do you really know your worth, your value or who you are in Him who owns all? What are you doing when God is not happening in your life? What are you doing when He seems to be so far away? Do you renounce your faith? Do you belittle Him and accuse Him of neglect? That was my story, if it doesn’t teach you patience then I don’t know what will.