The ladies aren't wearing pastels and floral prints, the men aren't humoring their ladies with matching pastel and floral print ties, the kids aren't gorging themselves on chocolate eggs and Peeps, the cousins and I aren't crawling around blind-folded on our back lawn in an "advanced" version of the Easter Egg Hunt.. .But it's been another beautiful Easter all the same. Just against a different backdrop.
But if there's one tradition I'm not willing to give up, no matter the country, it's Tsourekia. Greek Easter Bread is a staple at the Sunday brunch at home, so I woke up early to bake it for my family here. We dyed the eggs yesterday, so all I had to do was hide the 10 shilling coin in the middle of the loaf and let that baby rise! It was a hit, if I do say so myself, and even little Khoboso from next door wanted a second piece.
Church today was not as action packed as the Christmas service, a couple of choirs and Communion, but in no way did we miss out on a fabulous sermon. However, that sermon didn't come from church, rather the life and testimony of one of my Form 2 students.
John (Baicha - his Rendille name) Amiyo is an awesome young man. He studies hard, doesn't complain about having to sit in the closet of the classroom (don't worry, he still has a desk), and is just generally an extremely loving and honorable young man. He loves knowledge, his classmates, his family, God, serving others... His honor is impeccable as seen in his respect for us teachers, how he approaches his relationships with people, his faith, and how he cares for his family.
What is particularly striking about this young man is how much of a modern-day Job he is. Job, in the Bible, is a man who is attacked with every painful thing humans could have to suffer. His whole family dies, he loses his wealth, he feels abandoned, he becomes physically ill, he's told to reject everything he has ever held as truth...
Like Job, John lost much of his family within a week of each other. First his father died of cholera on the 5th of June, 2009. His mother died that following Sunday of the same disease and his niece just days later. Not only this but his sister and her daughter caught cerebral malaria around the same time and are now mentally handicapped, although still alive. When John received word of these deaths he was understandably heartbroken not only because of the tragedy but also because of his absence at the time of their passing. He returned home immediately to find his living relatives scattered and severely mourning as well as many of their animals (goats, sheep, and camels) dead. It was suggested that he return to school after a few weeks, and he did; only to return in the middle of exams, which, for a Kenyan secondary school student is considered to be the most important time of one's life, quite literally.
And so, John had little to nothing; a desperately missed family, an education he couldn't focus on, no animals for income, and a sick sister and niece he had to care for as the one of the eldest sons. It is written that Job cursed the day he was born, and John did as well. He wondered how he could go on especially without a father to make proud. How was anything in his life worth the pain of feeling alone and homesick for a time when you had a home?
Job rejected even the society of his best friends for 7 days and nights, and so too did John leave his Marsabit school in the middle of the night and return to Korr to be near the last remaining bit of familiarity and comfort in his life. What to do next was not particularly one of his thoughts, however, he was encouraged to join Tirrim Secondary School at the beginning of the September term, at which point he was assigned to his desk in the closet.
And this is where the sermon comes in. Throughout this entire story, which I heard sitting in our living room this afternoon, not once did John blame God. He didn't once say this was all unfair, unreasonable, or proof that the pain in the world disproves the existence of a good God. The phrase he kept repeating was, "God has a plan." While Job had questions and desperately mourned his losses, he never blamed God, but rather defended His holiness, omnipotence, and justice. So too has John wept upon being shoved to the ground and having gravel rubbed in his mouth, and yet he unfailingly recognizes it as part of the greater - and good - picture of his life. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?" is question he cannot and will not answer, as he knows he could never judge the the ultimate Judge of good and evil.
An unswerving faith like John's and Job's doesn't go unrecognized. Job was returned to health and prosperity to twice the level he had been before, and John seems to be healing as well. He's now thriving at Tirrim Secondary, he loves football, writes extra compositions to practice, takes hilarious "warrior" photos, he's going out to watch his animals this holiday, and clearly he is going strong in his faith. Young Mr. Amiyo's sermon today was better than any Easter message I've heard before: death, pain, and incomprehensibility are factors in human life, but the glory after all that, if your eyes are fixed in the right direction, is well worth it