The air-conditioning blew hard on my face as I drove home from the airport. Still early in the morning, just past sunrise, the cold air felt good as the equatorial sunrays penetrated the glass of my car, quickly heating the inside. I was returning from dropping off another missionary family at the airport, as they headed up to Uganda. Feeling refreshed from the air conditioning as I inched along in heavy morning Nairobi traffic, God brought my attention to something very small. A man was carrying packs of gum, trying to sell them in the narrow passageways between the cars that followed each other, idling down the road. And he was not alone. Many grown men filled the streets trying to sell gum, newspapers, toys, sugar cane, or whatever else they could convince passing drivers to buy on that day. But that man and his packs of gum made time stand still for me on that congested highway leading into the city. It was as if God was saying to me, “Look at this man and the hard work that he toils at each day, trying to earn a few dollars to live on.” While I drove by in my air-conditioned car, he was just beginning his hard day of work on the blacktop, selling whatever he could to provide for his daily needs.
I have not completely digested all of what God was teaching me that morning, showing me that man and his small packs of gum. God seems to use the small things in our lives though, to teach us so much, if only we can take a moment to listen. Maybe it was that He was helping me understand the new country in which I live. I have only been in Kenya for a half year now, but I have learned so much in that short time. That man and his packs of gum taught me of the hard work ethic here in Kenya. In Kenya, it is very common to see that sight every day as individuals are working hard to make a living in whatever way they can. I have noticed very little begging here. Mostly when you see begging, it is usually from someone clearly disabled. People just don’t hold up signs here asking for money, expecting to be helped. From my view, most Kenyans have an incredibly hard work ethic, even if it is just selling gum all day on the hot streets of Africa to make a living.
But God teaches us so very often on multiple levels. The gum also reminds me of my own pride. I have to ask myself, would I be willing to sell gum on the streets amongst the hot, suffocating diesel fumes every day? I justify myself, though, by saying, “But what I have earned comes from my hard work, right? I have gone to college earning multiple degrees and that is why I am not out selling gum.” But this is foolish thinking that I often fall prey to. I incorrectly think that it is because of my tenacity and hard work that I provide for myself and my family. I often forget that it is by God’s grace and mercy alone that He lavishly pours blessing after blessing upon me. He is the only reason that I have anything at all!
Praise God for reminders that I desperately need. A small pack of gum, on the streets of Nairobi, reminding me that it is only by God’s grace and provision that I have anything at all.
Lord, help me to be faithful every day, with every job, with every cent, and every gift that you have showered upon me. Dan Halvorson