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11 September, 2014

Struggles, Weapons and Choices to Make . . .

It was spring of 2002 (we think) when Jeff’s rheumatoid arthritis seemed to reach a peak higher than he had experienced before. His physician in Kenya recommended he make a personal visit to his usual rheumatologist…in Oregon. So off Jeff flew.

Meanwhile, Lizz was in junior high at Rift Valley Academy and Chris and I were keeping the proverbial home fires burning. Chris got a bit bored with fire tending, though willingly carrying the weight of “being the man of the house while Dad is gone,”  and along with some friends hatched the brilliant idea of making weapons and tools to sell so they could make money.

Off they went a stick-gathering. Once they came back to our patio with their woody bounty out came the pocket knives. Diligent whittling kept the young boys occupied for many an hour over that afternoon and the next day, in between homeschool studies. Hearing their great plans of entrepreneurship was highly motivating and almost equally entertaining, to say the least.

The second afternoon the friends decided they had prepared an adequate inventory so they opened their “shop.” The small table they carried up to the sidewalk where the majority of staff from Tenwek Hospital would pass by on their way home from work proudly displayed their assortment of “spears,” “knives” and “swords.” Each boy thoughtfully ascribed a choice price to his work and did his best to hawk their wares as the staff filed by.

I observed the enthusiasm of the shopkeepers wane after many encouraging comments from the passers-by but no sales. The boys began to look a bit downcast. I saw the mom of one go and loudly exclaim over their good efforts. She commented that maybe their prices were a bit more than the Kenyan employees wanted to spend that day. She offered to get a cold drink for the boys.

A bit later I went up to see the weapon and tool manufacturers to see if they had anything to offer someone that needed a tool to use in the yard or to help scare birds off the sukuma wiki (collard greens) growing in the garden. Immediately Chris stood right up and offered a very long “spear” he had spent hours whittling to a point. The long stick was somewhat pointed and I gladly paid the few shillings requested. That “spear” was long enough I would not have to step into the muddy garden to wave it over the sukuma plants and scare off the birds. What a great deal! That “spear” proudly stood watch over the garden from its prominent placement on the patio.

The next morning as I was preparing breakfast I surprisingly encountered a small furry rodent that had chewed its way into a baggie in my cupboard. Ugh! I wondered how to get the thing outside. I decided to use the broom and dustpan, but couldn’t figure out how to keep the door open while I rushed it outside.
Chris with his "goodies" Jeff brought
from America (2002)

Ah, the young man of the house could assist! I stood at the bottom of the stairs and called upstairs to Chris that I urgently needed his help in the kitchen.“Son, there is a rat in the kitchen cupboard and I need your help to get it outside.” Chris ran to the top of the stairs and dramatically commanded, “Mom! Get the spear! This is exactly why you have that spear! Get the spear!”

I nearly started laughing, well actually, loud guffaws were choked back as I answered, “Well, Son, it is a great “spear” but it won’t fit in the space of the kitchen to get the rat that is in the cupboard. Come on down and we will figure out another way.”

And so we did and the rat was successfully evacuated from our kitchen. I was so grateful for the thoughtful preparation of the appropriate weapon by my man-of-the-house and thanked him for his bravery in helping with this problem, being flexible enough to go with Plan B and all.

Fast forward to summer of 2014. Furry rodents are a problem on our Kampala compound from time to time. The day I discovered one had gnawed on a piece of our carefully guarded chocolate was the day Jeff bought traps. They are STRONG traps and it took all four of our hands to get them baited and set. Jeff carefully, gently, cautiously carried a trap into the small pantry off our kitchen.

I watched Jeff make it safely into the pantry and then I turned to place something on the kitchen counter beside the stove. As I did so, I was astounded to see the furry rodent calmly sitting just behind the stove. Ugh! That brazen little thing, sitting so proudly in the kitchen while we are erroneously setting a trap in the pantry. Ugh!

I got Jeff’s attention right away and we wondered how in the world would we get that rat in that location. We had to do something. We were not about to let this candy-stealing thief just run away! And then it came to me, “Jeff! Get the spear! Seriously, it is the only thing that is long enough and you can just spear the thing from above. It will never know what hit it!”

Jeff's "trophy"
It took a few minutes to convince him, but would you believe it, Jeff went to the living room where his spear (a real African warrior one, not the one lovingly made by Chris so long ago) is on display and actually thought about using it. But then, he chose the second best thing…our Pokot “coat rack” that has a more slender point.

Jeff skillfully wielded his weapon of choice. It found its mark and the rodent was successfully evacuated from our kitchen. I was so grateful for the thoughtful weapon selection by my man-of-the-house and thanked him for his bravery in finishing off the pest.

We know “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) But sometimes God uses my struggles over furry rodents and the dilemma of weapon choosing to remind me to be diligent in learning ever better how to wield His weapon of choice, “which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:17c)