26 Jul “Honey” – And Other Stories
So last weekend I attended a coming-of-age party for my niece, a delightful young lass just turning eighteen.
I had never been to such an event – my own coming-of-age session having consisted of five words, sternly delivered as I entered my pre-teens:
“Do Not Play With Boys,” Mum had warned, “especially outside the gate. Otherwise, you’ll get a baby.”
I remember trying hard to understand what exactly this meant – what did our gate have to do with babies? At age eleven, I was really quite naïve, and just couldn’t figure out what she meant.
So when the invitation for this event came, I was delighted to attend. Hopefully, I’d learn a thing or two, to help me when my own daughters’ time came!
My job as an auntie was to share my life experiences, and provide nuggets of wisdom that might keep my niece from the wiles of the Enemy, that old toad.
So I get there on Friday evening and find fifteen other ladies, together with my niece and a few of her pals, already at the venue. It is a cozy country-style home nestled in breath-taking flora and cradled at the very feet of the magnificent Lukenya Hills. I’ve been here several times, but each visit always feels so inviting.
I find everyone enjoying a delicious dinner amidst animated chit-chat. So I quickly go up to my digs, a spacious bedroom on the first floor. I drop my luggage and take a peek through the curtains. It’s dark outside, but I can just imagine how dawn announces itself in these parts. I’ve never quite managed to get up that early during any of my visits. But it must be beautiful. I take a quick shower, change into warm jammies and dash back downstairs.
I discover that I’m a bit late and have missed the first part of the session. But I feel very welcome as my sister shows me to the buffet and invites me to tuck right in. Yum.
And as we come to the end of our meal, Terry, our designated hostess for the evening, invites us to begin. She’s a very striking lady, dressed in stylish black PJ’s, modestly covered with a silk gown. She’s a pastor, a good friend of the family.
To help us along, Terry sets a bottle on the table and begins to spin. I can tell we’re all a bit nervous, but willing to be a sport for the sake of my niece and her pals.
“Ladies, when the bottle points at you, it’s your turn,” she instructs with a smile.
“What was the most foolish thing you did in your younger days?” she asks, for starters.
The bottle spins and we’re off..
The bottle comes to a stop and eyes Casey, a soft-spoken lady to my left. She hesitates for a moment.
“Living at a guy’s house while in campus,” she says finally.
A quiet chuckle ripples through the room.
He was not a student at the campus, she explains, and lived across town. And when she mentions the name of the Uni, I estimate that his house was at least an hour and two mathree rides away.
“My mum paid for a hostel nearby, but I spent most of my time at his place.”
“I did all the duties of a wife,” she continues, somewhat sheepishly. “Washed his clothes, cleaned his house, cooked for him, everything!”
Barely out of her teens, Casey had assigned herself a role that was not quite hers yet. We all understand this now, with the benefit of age and maturity, but we sincerely hope the young damsels are listening.
“Did your mum know?” one of us asks.
She shakes her head. “No.”
Her mum knew of the man, she explains, but was not aware that her daughter was spending most of her time at his house. She didn’t approve of him one whit, as you might imagine.
Casey then shares how her brother had dropped her at the hostel one evening, after a wedding, but as soon as he was gone, she had promptly picked up her overnight bag, got into a mathree and left.
We can’t help but laugh at the folly of youth.
Thankfully, she left the relationship after she discovered that the “home” she was cleaning had somewhat of a revolving door. Her boyfriend, it transpired, had been seeing other girls on the sly. Yet before she met him, Casey had been saving herself for just the right person. Turns out it wasn’t him.
“I had a candid conversation with his brother’s girlfriend one day,” she later tells me. “That’s how I found out.”
On top of this, he had been very insecure. If she was not at his house, he would be suspicious and would constantly demand to know where she was and who she was with.
“His insecurity was overwhelming'” she says. But still she had stayed on, hoping the relationship would amount to something.
She now understands that she had been searching for something, but hadn’t quite realized that it was the love of God she was missing.
“So one day I sat in my room and said ‘God, I don’t know how to find you. If you don’t help me I don’t know what will happen..’ ”
Casey now serves as a pastor, together with her husband, whom she met about three years after Uni, while taking a New Believer’s course in church.
The bottle spins..
Hannah, a petite, engaging mother of two is next. She’s cradling a glass of fresh juice in her hand, as the bottle picks her out.
“The most foolish thing I ever did?” she chuckles.
We lean forward.
It was a Friday night, she tells us, and for some reason, she and her girlfriends couldn’t leave their campus to go party. So they did what simply had to be done.
“There was this guy selling weed behind the block,” she says, “so we sent one of us to buy some.”
They were seven girls, none of whom had ever smoked weed in their lives.
The seller, a fellow student, was more than happy to oblige. So when the contraband came, the girls went to one of their rooms, locked themselves in and passed it around. ‘Twas as good a time as any to try the stuff, they figured.
“What did it feel like?” we ask.
“We laughed,” she says. “And laughed and laughed. We couldn’t stop. Then one of us removed her clothes, right in front of us, and run out of the room, stark naked. Another followed and ran out in her bra and undies. Then another jumped out the window. And we were on the first floor.”
Hannah and her pals were quite – uhm – familiar with alcohol, she tells us, and were aware of which brands to steer clear of.
“But there is no brand for weed,” she says.
In the end, Hannah says, two students from the next room came, marched them all outside, and made them take several gulps of fresh air. But they were still laughing, two hours later.
Meanwhile, another group of students grabbed towels, ran after the naked girls, covered them and squirreled them away somewhere, while the effects of the drug subsided.
When they all came back to their senses, she says, the girls summoned themselves to a meeting. No more weed, they agreed. Alcohol, maybe. They were the life of the party around here, after all.
“Why did you do it?” we ask.
“Curiosity,” she says. “And peer pressure. The people you walk with tend to define you.”
Later, as I interview her for this story, I ask her how she finally came to know the Lord.
“It was in my fourth year of campus,” she says. “I finally got tired of that life.”
Plus, she confesses, her boyfriend, whom she had dated for five years, had given her an ultimatum – change your life, or it’s a wrap.
They’re now married, with two kids.
At age thirty-four, Hannah now works as an executive assistant at her church, a job she loves and is thoroughly good at. I should know – I’ve seen her at work and she’s always truly in her element.
“There’s no amount of mistakes that can change God’s love for you, or His intention for your life,” she says emphatically.
We’re now getting a little more comfortable with the spinning bottle, the damsels eyeing us keenly from their corner. I can almost read their minds – kumbe these church mamas were once ordinary earthlings..
Gemma, a smart lady in her forties, bursts into peals of laughter as the bottle lands on her.
“I tried to run away,” she laughs, “to the States!”
She was in a public Uni at the time, she explains, but was not happy at all. She desperately wanted to study abroad like her friends, but her parents wouldn’t let her.
So what was a girl to do?
“My friends had told me that if I found my way to the States, they would help me find my way around.”
“Come on over,” they had convinced her, “If you work, you’ll be able to meet your tuition fees. We’ll help you.”
So the determined lass had hatched a plan.
For two good years, she had saved as much money as she could. Every single shilling she got, she had saved. Then, when ready, she had gone to the American embassy, boldly presented her documents and thusly secured a visitor’s visa.
Then, she promptly bought a ticket to the land of the free and the home of the brave. And told no one. Well, except one of her cousins.
But now, she continues, she needed a way to get to the airport, undetected, on the Big Day.
“There was this guy I knew, a friend, who was studying in the UK but was around. He had access to a car. So I told him my plan and convinced him to get ready to come, pick me up and drop me at the airport.”
And on the D-day, she surreptitiously packed a bag, kept it out of sight and waited for him to arrive. She had warned him to come early enough, she says, so that they could load her luggage into his car without her parent’s knowledge.
“I spent the whole day at home, because I wanted to be with my family for the last time. I knew they would be angry, and may never understand.”
But she would write them a letter as soon as she got to Boston, she told herself.
So the big day comes, and her pal rolls in, in his mum’s car. He’s come in good time, as agreed. Parks at a clever spot just outside the gate, where none of their shenanigans can be seen. The two of them manage to sneak Gemma’s luggage into the boot, and the guy waits patiently, as she goes back to the house and takes time to silently say goodbye to the life she’s known.
Finally the moment arrives. Gemma takes a big breath, steps through the front door and walks briskly to the car.
But as she exits the gate – alack! There is Dad, standing by the car, waiting patiently.
“Can I see your passport?” he asks calmly.
Drat! That cousin.
“Your ID please,” Dad continues.
Gemma hands both over, unable to believe what’s happening.
Her heart skips a beat as she hands this to him too. Maybe he’ll allow her to go, once he sees she has everything in place.
“Help her take her luggage back in, young man” he orders her pal.
And our friend Gemma spends the rest of the night locked in her bedroom, sobbing her heart out, while the entire household goes through an excruciating interrogation by Mum and Dad.
We’re all laughing our lungs out by the time she’s finished this story.
And later, I ask Gemma why she did it.
“When my parents refused to let me study abroad, I felt that they didn’t love me, didn’t understand me. That’s how I interpreted it at the time.”
But of course she now understands that this was not true.
“Don’t worry Gemma,” her dad had told her later. “I’ll pay for your ticket once you finish university.”
And on their part, she says, her parents had taken her escape as rebellion. But all she was trying to do was fight for herself, she says. She’s a risk-taker, bold enough to take risks even now, as a pastor just preparing to set up a new church.
Courage and boldness are a God-given strength, we eventually conclude, powerful when used right. But as a young girl, Gemma had simply needed someone wiser to talk to, more than she had needed to take that risk.
Well, thank God for Dad’s wisdom!
It’s Pastor Terry’s turn to share her most memorable act of supreme naivety.
“I met this guy,” she begins.
We laugh. Nothing ends well that begins with “I met this guy.”
As a young girl just out of her teens, she shares, Terry was lucky enough to travel abroad for her studies. And one day, as she was working at a certain firm, this man called. He worked at another company, and needed some technical assistance.
“After we spoke for a while,” she says, “he asked for my personal number.” Though scandalized at first, she eventually gave in and gave it to him.
“He called a short while later,” she continues. ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend,’ he announced. And I thought ‘What nerve!’ ”
“But then he continued in pursuit: ‘I can tell you’re beautiful and have a good heart. Where are you? I’ll be there in one and a half hours..’ “
You better believe the man showed up at her doorstep, on the same day, in a sports car, and immediately took her out for dinner. It was an excellent date, she shares, and they talked way into the night, and had a really good time.
“You’re going to be my wife,” he told her.
“We dated for three years,“ she continues. “And then one day, he flew out of the country, bought an engagement ring – a beautiful, princess cut, solitaire diamond ring that we had seen together – and engaged someone else.”
“I was heartbroken. But then, on the day he flew back, he immediately sent me a text:”
“Honey, I’m home..”
As if nothing had happened.
We’re all riveted at this point. The young damsels, especially, are all ears. We’re thinking – how on earth does one recover from such a train-wreck?
But Pastor Terry’s story, friends, simply cannot be told in four hundred words.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
All names have been changed.
Picture courtesy of Isaac House, Lukenya, our gracious hosts,