When The Rocky Road Is More Than Worth It

It was late last night when Patricia gave us an overview of what we’d be doing today in Kenya.

“So tomorrow we’ll be riding in safari vehicles,” she said. “We have to travel down a dirt road that can be a bit bumpy, and it’s safer for us to be in the bigger vehicles in case the road washes out.”

I didn’t think too much about the details Patricia mentioned; maybe the emotions of the day had clouded my reason, or maybe I’ve just come to expect some outside-of-my-ordinary travel conditions when I’m with Compassion. So instead of thinking through what Patricia said, I kind of mentally acknowledged Safari vehicles, dirt road, check before I continued working on my blog post.

Let me tell you something: hindsight is a killer, y’all. Because knowing what I know now, MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE ASKED MORE QUESTIONS.

On top of that, maybe I shouldn’t have jumped on the very back row of the truck with Alex this morning because “Oh I’ll be so fine – I never get car sick.” Or maybe I should have heeded the warning when my knees felt a little quivery as we were riding along the edge of the road that overlooks the (stunningly beautiful) Rift Valley.

(True story: It’s a view that will make you ponder the value of some guardrails.)

I can say without hesitation, though, that I definitely should have gathered a little more info on what exactly riding on that dirt road would entail. We needed to travel it so that we could spend the day with a Maasai tribe that lives in the Rift Valley. The church in their community is also a Compassion partner, so we were super excited about getting to meet and worship with some of the families that Compassion serves. The only thing standing between us and them, really, was that dirt road that leads to their village. So after we wound around the Rift Valley overlook and turned off the highway, that dirt road officially made itself known to our group.

I will say that for the first fifteen-ish minutes, traveling down the dirt road was kind of fun in that same way amusement park rides can be. It was bumpy, and it was curvy, and the ride was super bouncy, but the kids were enjoying it, and there were lots of laughs. I was feeling pretty good about my off-road adaptability.

You may be thinking that the road looks relatively harmless, but DO NOT BE FOOLED, MY FRIENDS. There was so much bouncing – more bouncing than any woman in her 40s could be expected to handle with any degree of dignity. So around the twenty-minute mark, I tried to make my voice super cheerful when I said, “So! How much longer?”

When our driver, Maurice, responded with, “Well, we do have a good bit farther to travel,” I knew I was in trouble. Because our four-wheel drive Tilt-A-Wheel was, in my estimation, quickly losing its adventurous charm. By the 40-minute mark, I had abandoned all pretense of pleasantries and had stopped talking. By the 60-minute mark, I was holding on to the seat in front of me for what felt like dear life, and by the 80-minute mark, I was wiping tears off my cheeks and telling the Lord that I would clearly have to spend the rest of my days in the Rift Valley because there was no way I would be repeating that dirt road ride ever again. Not to mention that I had reached a whole new level of understanding about what happens to paint cans when they spend some time in the paint shaker machine at the hardware store.

Finally, though – and I’d even go so far as to say mercifully – we reached the village. And as soon as I stepped onto more solid ground, I felt so much better. Sure, my legs and arms were a little shaky, but I felt adequately removed from being the person who had been considering all the variables that might be involved while throwing up inside a moving vehicle.

And no kidding: when the Maasai people greeted us, I knew that the rocky road had been worth it. They were gracious, hospitable, beautiful…so welcoming, so warm.

And here’s what I can’t stop thinking about.

It’s no secret this past year hasn’t been my favorite. I miss my mama. I miss her presence in our family, I miss her wisdom, I miss her pound cake, I miss the sound of her voice, I miss her cornbread dressing, and more than anything, I think, I miss being known the way a mama knows her child. No matter what was going on in her children’s or grandchildren’s lives, Mama intuitively knew how to take care of us. She always seemed to know exactly what to do or say.

And I know it sounds crazy or maybe even out of context, but this morning when I stepped out of the truck, I knew way deep down that I was among family. I felt it in my bones. We’d never met, but they were my people. They even offered us hot tea and delicious, slightly sweet biscuits – the perfect thing to settle my rebellious stomach. They adorned us with their jewelry. They led us into their place of worship.

In a political climate where we hear so much about who gets in and who needs to leave and where we draw the line and where we build walls, it’s easy to lose sight of such a simple truth: we belong to each other. And today, as we left the church where we had been welcomed and loved so lavishly and unconditionally, we felt such a sense of belonging with the Maasai. We walked to a neighboring building for what my family would call “dinner on the grounds,” and it was a Sunday meal that would have made my mama smile: rice, homemade stew (with the most delicious, comforting broth), homemade bread, and cabbage. The food and the company felt like home – so much so that when one of the women from the church told everyone to please go back for seconds, Alex Hudson was one of the first people out of his chair. We were an ocean away from our physical address, but we were at home.

We were with family.

And don’t miss this.

For the most part the Maasai live in poverty. They’re people who struggle to find work and support their families, but today they shared what they had with us. And as someone who has been walking in a little bit of sadness this last year – not to mention as someone who had spent the morning reaching exciting new heights of queasy – their physical and spiritual generosity ministered to me like crazy.

Honestly, it felt like a glimpse of what heaven will be.

And I think today, for me at least, begs a few questions: if an impoverished tribe of Maasai people in the Rift Valley can offer up such sacrificial care for strangers, then what’s stopping us? Why are we so content to hold tightly to our abundance? What makes us reluctant to share? When is our “enough” actually enough?

After lunch Shaun, Alex, and I traveled a couple of miles down the road to visit the home of a six year-old boy, Tirike, who was recently sponsored through Compassion. The photo of the folks that sponsored him was ever-present in his hand; he showed it to us and passed it around to his neighbors. His mother beamed when she talked about his sponsors, people who are committed to helping and loving her son, who are empowering him to prosper and make a difference in his country.

Tirike’s sponsors are over 8,000 miles away, but they’re committed to sharing $38 with him and his family every single month so that he can go to school, he can attend the Compassion center at the church we visited, and Lord willing, he can continue to grow “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Because of Compassion’s one-to-one model, the people in that photograph won’t just be symbolic sponsors; they’ll be invested in relationship with Tirike. They may never meet in person, but they’ll be family.

In so many ways, today reminded me what a gift it is to find unexpected family in unexpected places.

I’m confident that Tirike would agree.

Be someone’s unexpected family today by sponsoring a child through Compassion. By sharing $38 a month, you can make a dramatic difference in a child’s life – and you’ll be empowering the local church in the process. Release a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Also, be sure to read the latest Kenya posts from Jamie, Shaun, and Bri.

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  1. Lisa B says:

    Thank you so much for enduring the travel to bring us this story and photos! I was praying for you today, and now I see why! May God bless you Sophie for bringing us along on your journey!

  2. Stephen Jones says:

    Beautiful!! I felt like I was there again. Oh the lessons the Maasai can teach!

  3. Sophie, I was looking through Mike’s photos from today, and I have to say, I just love the photo of you smiling at your son! There is nothing like experiencing a Compassion trip with your children.

  4. Thank you Sophie and I hope this journey brings an uplifting closure to to what has been a challenging year for you. I hope you are able to truly appreciate thi s gift you are sharing with your son! I also hope that that you are able to keep you dignity in tact while riding the washer board roads ( I would be constantly wondering about a bathroom stop😳) also I had never heard of Compassion until this journey of yours, now that I have, I have sponsored a child and have commitments form others to sponser at least 5 more. God Bless you all.

  5. Liz Polk says:

    This is beautiful – love the pictures and your total honesty re: the bumpy ride – I laughed so hard!! But seriously – what an awesome opportunity for those of us at home to take a peek into this part of the world and really SEE what it’s like – Wow – thank you soooooooo much for sharing!!

  6. This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Amazing.
    And while I was watching (from behind the cushions) our Dawgs slug it out yesterday and was thinking about how badly I needed to nervous clean, I thought about you. About how you and Alex are out there seeing some amazing things and doing some great work. And it made me think that (although I LOVE baseball and our Dawgs) baseball isn’t everything. The stress I was feeling was so trivial compared to those poverty stricken folks were you are. So thank you for putting it in perspective for me.
    Although, I’m sure I’ll be stress eating again today come 1:00 today.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip. So awesome that you and Jamie get to share this with your kids!

  7. Thank you for sharing. My husband and I just returned from 8 days with our family in Honduras. Thank you for putting into words what my heart has felt and I have tried to explain to our friends here at home. There first words are “aren’t y’all glad to be home?” and I have tried to explain that we were home there too! What an adventure He has blessed us with, right?

  8. love! beautiful post, sophie. “we belong to each other” — amen!

  9. keely scott says:

    “unexpected family in unexpected places”…. beautiful!! love this and you!

  10. I love this. And I am sorry I did not give more detail to the road. i have vivid memories of my daughter throwing up out the window as we drove down that road years ago. But I remembered that church so well, being worth it. Sometimes the hardest journeys end up being the best of life. And your mama sounded amazing!

  11. Sandy Binotto says:

    I loved your story and knew exactly what you meant and felt
    I have been leading teams there for the past 4 years working in Bungoma at Living Hope High School. A school for the most vulnerable high school youth who have lost all hope. They are the smartest and many are orphangs loving on the streets. Marilyn a Is lady was called by God to go their and start the school. It is now 6 years old and has 83 students. Mostly sponsored by Americans. That school and the students have changed my life. God Bless

  12. Becci Michalski says:

    “Why are we so content to hold tightly to our abundance? What makes us reluctant to share? When is our “enough” actually enough?” Sophie — like you, these are questions I ask myself several times a day. May your spirit be led to the knowledge and answers you seek. Safe travels.

  13. Oh Sophie. Your posts bring me so much JOY! I know the ride was crazy rough, but I’m beyond thrilled to read your heart through your words – and hear all that God is speaking to you (and to us).

  14. And those green shoes – I love!!! :)

  15. Jeannette says:

    I would really like to hear Alex’ and Jamie’s son view point about this adventure. It looks like they are gaining college credit hours in communicating in a different country. Alex looks like a natural holding that baby. And Jamie’s son is definitely admired by the children over there.
    And you can tell Alex has not forgotten his southern manners over there.

  16. What a lovely start to a day that is sure to be full of “bumps” for us all. Glad you survived the ride, and thanks for the wonderful thoughts.


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