Even in this marathon heat wave, I adore hot beverages, especially tea. My favorites include Scottish breakfast, chamomile, Twining’s’ Irish and ginger sweet peach. This summer I added Kenyan black tea. Tea plants grow best in higher altitudes in subtropical climates. The Kenyan Highlands north of the capital Nairobi is such a climate. A group of 28, including local folks you may know, spent time in Kenya this summer. While this was my first visit, several members of our Global Connections team have visited the beautiful country many times. However, we did not fly 16+ hours to check out the tea. For some 17 years, Global Connections has been establishing relationships and assisting local Kenyans with relief efforts. Providing clean water, feeding the hungry, educating children, and promoting health and hygiene for girls are some ways Global Connections is assisting.
My two-week schedule was lying on the dresser in my room when I arrived in Limuru in the middle of the night. Our team spent time with the Limuru Children’s Center kids who are orphaned or abandoned by parents who could not feed them. Our luggage included requested supplies for these precious kids. Other activities included accompanying Julius as he made his rounds dropping off food supplies to those who depend on this sustenance and traveling with Francis who regularly encourages and prays with the elderly. We brought supplies to girls’ schools. Misinformation and cultural bias regarding hygiene and reproduction is challenging in Kenya; we were able to teach in several schools.
While all activities were fruitful and rewarding, visiting the tea fields very near our lodging made a particular impression on me. Tea field workers live on the tea plantation in a subsistence fashion. On a glorious Thursday afternoon, our team brought sacks of meal, beans and rice along with care bags for the women. We also had clothing for men and women. We arrived during the workers’ lunch of beans and rice. Soon enough, our audience settled down to hear our very capable retired obstetrician explain family planning. Our captive audience listened with occasional gasps, nervous squirming and a few questions. Our unflappable teacher rested all concerns. Heads of families then lined up to receive one bag of food supplies. Next, we distributed the care bags for women. Finally, as the workers were still in line, we began handing out one clothing item at a time. At some point, I noticed the front of the line much closer to me as I continued reaching into the large sack handing out items. Presently, I realized there was no line and tea workers surrounded me with perhaps twelve inches to spare. Looking up from my large sack, I gazed into the frantic eyes of a mother who felt compelled to snatch an item from my hand. Her neighbor tucked an item into her shirt and jockeyed for another item, not returning to the end of the line. It dawned on me that the supplies we brought were running low. The angst on the faces so near me spoke of need and desperation. As I steadied my gaze into her eyes, the tsunami of understanding flooded me.
Grace can be defined as unearned gifts. We are all the recipients of grace. Large and small acts of kindness are grace. Our Global Connections team brought grace to the tea field. The recipients were deeply grateful. The problem was our limited grace was running out. We stepped back to defer the distribution to local Kenyans escorting us. The dwellings of the tea workers were in a small gorge; from my view, the shelters looked like hodge-podge tin. To the side of the chaos of adults, I saw tatter-clothed small children with a mixture of white rice and flies on their faces. The foreground contrasted violently with the beauty of endless rolling fields of green tea plants. We had come to bless, assist and spread hope. We brought limited grace with a short shelf life. Yet, the mother with frantic eyes gave me a far more lasting gift. She reminded me of my need for His unlimited Grace. Indeed, we are all desperados in dire need of a Gift we cannot earn. We left bags of grace in the tea fields but walked away with humbled hearts filled with the reminder of His matchless Grace.
Desiree’ Wilson lives in Lowndes County.
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