One of the challenges of living in rural Kenya is food. I tend to think about food a lot here because we have to plan ahead more. In the first few weeks of living here, I wanted to make the effort to have familiar treats and meals for the kids to help them settle in, but I was thwarted by the rains which cause havoc with the electricity, so I did not have the use of my oven most days for about four weeks. I was scrambling each day to come up with meals and snacks, trying to find things my kids would eat, without the luxury of a nearby grocery store!

Familiar food and it’s ready availability is such a comfort. Of course, diabetes is always a challenge in a new country while traveling and trying out new foods. My brain felt a bit bruised by the end of our first month.

One day sitting at the lunch table, one of my kids began to cry. I thought it was some deep problem, and I was preparing myself. But this child was simply wishing grilled cheese and a glass of milk would taste the same in Kenya as at home! It’s the small things in life that often grate the most, the big issues are often easier to bear, and we can face them with a philosophical bent. However, missionary life sure brings home the earthiness and grit of being a disciple of Jesus. Obedience to Christ may not always feel fabulous and thrilling; sometimes it involves the mundane acquiescence to weird cheese and strange milk.

It’s taken us a while to figure out what supplies and foods we can get locally or get from Nairobi, what we can do without, and what we need.

We have weeks where we have fruit abundantly because one of us went to the market (which is 20 minutes away on a dirt road), and weeks where we do without. My pantry can be very full sometimes because we just made a trip to Nairobi, and sometimes I have to get creative or be content with what we can get at the local general store here in Kithumula.

I am learning to be flexible, and to be grateful for our daily bread, whether it’s simple fare or a tantalizing feast. I’m more grateful now when the gardener sends up some fresh papaya or a bunch of cilantro, or green bell peppers from the Shamba, or a couple of buckets of tomatoes from the market.

In terms of what is new and exotic here, we enjoy mangoes and avocados often, they are cheap and plentiful. We eat fresh chapati several times a week, and goat stew once a week, cooked in the kitchens here at the FAME orphanage. We have two goats and for a while had some goats milk (James just loved that job). The cows now provide plenty of milk, and the kids deliver us a litre of fresh milk every evening.

The thing we miss the most is cheese, you can only get it in Nairobi. Butter we can get in Mwingi (45 minutes away) but it is twice the price as at home. Bethan is our resident chicken whisperer (she knows them all by name) with fifteen hens and chicks, and when they are not sitting on eggs we get to eat them!

I love food; I love variety and texture, spice and sweetness. My husband and five kids love to eat, in ever-increasing quantities too! Being in a remote area with no large grocery store nearby has forced me to learn a lot in the kitchen. I’ve learned how to bake my own flatbreads, make my own tomato sauce weekly, bake donuts, just to mention a few things. There were shouts of joy the day I produced a dozen vanilla glazed yeast donuts! No more Tim Hortons necessary.

Aaron has planted a garden (shamba) and an orchard of mango, orange, lemon, papaya, pineapple, and banana. Also in the vegetable garden, he’s planted bell peppers, cabbage, beetroot, eggplant, radish, leeks, and lettuce. The day he brought me the first shimmering purple eggplant was a good one!

The happy job of watering has fallen to James; every day, (in the dry season)  he goes out at 3:30 to lug pails of water to each tree and plant. It costs him time and sweat and muscle, and we are all learning about the way in which we are dependent on each other and our community to produce and procure food.

We are learning as a family much about conservation, creativity, hard work, investing time and energy into a future legacy of productivity for ourselves and those who will be here after us. I once read that if we teach our children to be consistent producers rather than prolific consumers as a general principle in life, they will do well. I’m glad they have a chance to learn these invaluable lessons here.

However, I will be the first to admit that while it’s been an adventure, at times it has not been easy for me. I resist change and have left pieces of my heart in British Columbia and Ontario. It has taken me a full eight months to begin to relax my emotional grip, to take delight in what I see and taste around me, and begin to comprehend how the Lord has provided for and preserved us, this past year.  

Last year, while planning for Kenya and packing our worldly goods, two particular passages of scripture constantly filled my mind and heart.

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalms 81:10)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10)

I am learning to stay focused on today…God’s provision for today is always bountiful and it proves satisfying if we can accept it with gratitude. This, of course, is easier said than done, but is this not how Jesus Christ calls us to live? “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I believe in all situations there is a good provision from our Lord; it may not be what we expected or asked for, but it is what we need, and it is good for us. Last year the Lord was challenging me to open my mouth wide, to taste and see that He is good, not just his gifts, but Himself.

Sometimes in the midst of trials and upheavals, it can be hard to look ahead and expect good. For families who deal with long-term health issues, this is a real and daily struggle…the disease is always there, crisis always looms, therapies never go away; in some cases, as time passes, life gets harder.

Christianity is not a religion of mere survival, of eating the leftover crusts from someone else’s feast!  It’s a living, vital relationship with a personal God, who wills for us to thrive. He wants us to fill up from His table, to experience His rich and varied provision!

It is easier to taste Him when he has hidden Himself from us behind hard things, so that when we are able (in His timing) to finally realize the delights he has prepared, we relish them all the more. Hardships are used to whet the believer’s appetite for Christ.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.