Volume 11

~ News From "Your Birthing Family" ~

Issue 3

Charis Around the World

Childbirth in Kenya
by Jannekah Guya, Charis midwifery student

Sunset in Kenya

Next month I celebrate 13 years since I first set foot in Kenya, which incidentally was the same moment Kenya captured my heart. I remember wondering if God had brought me to Kenya because He knew I’d love it so much, or if I loved Kenya so much because it was a love God had wired in me from the very start. I remember struggling to understand my roommate from Finland, who was the only other western foreigner in training with me. She was so homesick, and while I missed my family very much, I was so enamored with Kenya from the moment I arrived, I couldn’t fathom wasting a single moment pining away for a place that was beginning to feel less and less like home all the time.

Kenya is my true home now and I have spent so many years learning to fit in, and more and more often feeling like I really do. Sometimes I literally even forget that on the outside I stand out so contrastingly much and for hours I can be in a community of beautiful dark brown faces, genuinely forgetting I do not blend right in with everyone else. Of course I never ever have and I never ever will, and eventually something always wakes me up out of my lovely illusion. Maybe it’s a baby crying because they’ve never seen a white person, maybe it’s a fascinated child coming to rub my skin to see if the color (or lack of it) will rub off. Or maybe it’s something more traumatic like someone grabbing me and dragging me down a back alley at knife point, or when I know I’m literally risking my life to walk through the slum alone in the middle of the night to attend a birth. Maybe, it’s something like what happened this week, when dear friends of ours had their home invaded and were robbed at gunpoint and threatened with death in front of their two small daughters. This happened because they are foreigners and were consequently targeted because of the perception that they are rich (which comparatively speaking is typically true of foreigners living in Kenya). Knowing that they were being watched and plotted against for a long time has been a big reality check for me. Not one I feel I need to dwell on or become fearful over, but maybe to serve as a reminder that we are not always as safe as we wish we were, but that doesn’t change Who God is.

I know that people get assaulted and robbed at gunpoint all over the world for all varieties of reasons. But there are differences here that make it a little more scary. The most obvious and most dangerous difference being…..me. When I have visitors from other parts of the world come and walk with me here in Kenya, without exception they comment on how strange and unnerving it is the way they feel they stand out and how awkward they feel being stared at constantly wherever we go, with no way to blend in or go unnoticed. I remember my early days here, when one of the things I looked forward to most on visits back to the states was being able to be invisible – to walk down the street without anyone noticing or caring in the least. Over the years I have trained myself to become blind to the gawking and very unwanted attention and can pretty easily move around and forget that everyone has stopped what they are doing to watch my every move.

So I suppose I feel especially jolted when I am reminded that I AM being watched constantly and that it might result in danger for me and my family – that my kids are a real target for kidnapping for ransom, and that my home is a lot less safe because I live there. I don’t like having to face the fact that I will NEVER fully fit in in Kenya. Even if I live here 100 years, even if my husband and children are Kenyan, even if I speak the language fluently, and even if I can cook the best chapatti this side of the equator, I will always be seen as an outsider on some level.

Other differences include things like police corruption. If I call the police for help here, they probably won’t come unless I pay them to, and even then, if they happen to be in partnership with the assailants, which is likely, I will end up being sorry I paid them to come in the first place. Knowing this, my friends paid a watchman at their gate and had a private security firm install a panic button in their home in case of emergency. And when the emergency came, the armed robbers had come and gone and done all their damage long before the expensive security firm arrived. If my family is hurt during an attack, it could take hours to get to a hospital that will able to help them, and then they probably won’t be helped before the hospital is paid, which makes things tricky when you’ve just been robbed. Many hospitals here don’t have ambulances, and in some areas you can try to privately hire a Red Cross ambulance, but there’s always a chance they’ll all be in use and none will be available for you at the time of your emergency.

It makes me look at the big stone wall around our house and our big metal doors with big padlocks and think, really, it’s all just for show. And not for those who would mean us harm; it’s show for ourselves. It’s all an attempt to comfort ourselves with the idea that we have made ourselves safe, when the reality is, if someone wanted to get in and harm us, they could and they would. The reality is “Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” – Psalm 127:1 The reality is, even if we serve the Lord with all that we are and with all that we have, even if we pray for peace and protection and our often misunderstood ideas of blessing every day – that doesn’t mean we won’t face danger or opposition….or death.

I was in Kenya and pregnant with our first surviving child during the post-election tribal war in 2008. My husband and I got separated and he was stuck on the other side of the conflict in an area where his tribe was the number one target. I truly didn’t know if I would ever see him again. During that time the Nicole Nordeman song “Gratitude” became real in my life and I have thought of it many times over the years when things like this happen.

She sings:
“Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time

Grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight

Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that's the case

We'll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need

And if You never grant us peace
But, Jesus, would You please”

When we encounter suffering and injustice, so often our first questions are,

“What did I do wrong? Why is the Lord punishing me?”

Or “Why did God allow this to happen?” In other words, “Is He REALLY loving and good?”

And that’s the most important question of all. It’s important because the answer is YES! No matter what happens, no circumstance can ever change what God says or Who He is. Bad, unjust things happen to people who love Him but it doesn’t change that He IS good. He IS loving. He IS faithful. He IS mighty. He IS holy.

He said, “I have told you these things, so that in ME you may have PEACE.” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!” – John 16:33 (my emphasis) What did He tell us so that we would have peace in Him no matter the trouble we face in this world? – “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” – John 16:21-22



Martin and Jannekah Guya and their babies,
Amariah (7), Ezriel (5), Adali (2), Shiloah (4 months)


Our International Charis Family
Your stories from around the world touch us and we pray for your safety.
Thanks, Love and Blessings to every one of you!

'Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them from the ends of the earth,
 Among  them the blind and the lame, The woman with child and The one who labors with child,  together,
 A great throng shall return there...And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.'
 Jeremiah 31:8, 14~~~
©2016 Charis Childbirth Services, All Rights Reserved
Feel free to forward this newsletter to friends in its entirety, leaving all attribution intact.
March 2016