Father to the Fatherless
“It’s such an honor,” we are told, “for wazugu (white people) to be invited do the final layer of the house.” We are preparing for “mudding” a house. Traditional houses here are fashioned from simple scaffolding made of sticks which are then filled in with several layers of mud. A local women’s ministry (Tabitha Ministry) works with village churches to help provide money for roofing supplies (rafters and a corrugated metal sheet) so that these simple houses can be built for widows and orphans who often find themselves without a home.
My nephews, Ryan and Eli, raised money for a house. Motivated by their upcoming trip to Kenya and wanting to contribute to our community here, they worked extra jobs around their school helping teachers clean and pack up their classrooms for summer break. They were able to earn almost $250, the amount needed to complete a house with roofing. Now, during their visit, we are going to help finish Betty’s house.
Betty, a 21-year-old orphan, has never had a house of her own. Her mother, Anna, spent much of her adult life doing anything she could to provide for her seven children…selling illegal brew and even her body. She rented rooms for her and her children in an area of town called “Satan’s Den.” In her last years of struggling with HIV/AIDS, Anna came to know Jesus. She grew in her faith through the Tabitha ministry’s Bible studies. She spread news of Jesus’ love throughout Satan’s Den, and began sharing Him with her children. Anna lost her battle with HIV/AIDS in 2010. Betty turned from God for a time in the aftermath of her mother’s death. Now, Betty is striving to follow Jesus and trying to create a home for her younger siblings.
“The final layer is special,” we are told, “because it is a mixture of clay and animal dung, which provides a protective layer to the walls.” (Yes, animal dung…a nicer way of saying “cow poop”). So we scooped up large, dripping, smelling handfuls of the thick liquid and “painted” the walls with our hands. The ladies show us the proper technique…both hands, large sweeping motions, smoothing it into all the cracks. There’s no halfway effort to this. Doing it right means that the warm liquid runs down your arms, dripping onto your legs and toes. Throughout the day, as our “paint” mixture gets low, the ladies disappear and return with large buckets filled with fresh dung to replenish our supply. Nature’s supply shop…
A thicker gloppy mud is also made to fill in the space between the roof and the upper edge of the wall. This mixture is made by digging up dirt in a hole, adding water, then stomping on the mud until it is just the right consistency. Our kids all love this part!
After finishing the inside and outside walls of the house, we wash up (in buckets because there is no running water) and share a meal in the new home with Betty and her family. Neighbors and friends keep squeezing into the freshly mudded room, unhindered by the flies or the odor. Scriptures were read and songs were sung…giving thanks to God for His provision and praying His blessings on the home. What a beautiful picture surrounded us of God providing through the body of Christ not just for Betty’s practical needs, but restoring hope and joy and family.
Yesterday, while celebrating the admirable earthly fathers in my own life, I couldn’t help but think of Betty. I pray that she knows more strongly each day the love and security of our Heavenly Father who adopts us all as His own into His eternal family.
Rejoice before him – His name is the LORD.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing!