Thursday, 9 January 2014

Her Name is Nancy...

[From the archives... I wrote this journal entry in mid 2007]

I've seen her countless times but have never looked at her face. Actually, I am more familiar with her tall figure as she usually stands silhouetted by the soft glow of a lone street lamp in the early evening hours of most days just outside the Mika restaurant opposite the Nairobi Women's Hospital. 

The first few days I saw her there I thought she was waiting for the bus. But later, it occurred to me that she was not making her way home from work; she was beginning her workday. Her body being what she had come to offer to any passer-by who sought to ease the pain of loneliness in this big, unfriendly city...

Katindi and I often hang out at Mika after work. It is usually quiet and their tea is reasonably priced. The waiters have come to know us to the point of one of them recently asking us if we could help find his niece a job. And so it is that whenever we drive out of the compound, it is difficult not to notice her lonely, sad figure as she watches the evening passing by. But there is something intriguing about her. She looks decent; not dressed like goods on display; not at all like our sisters on K-Street or even further along the road near Chaka Place. She looks out of place in the oldest profession. I've often wondered what her story is.

But more importantly, I've longed to tell her The Story. Of the Man who cast seven demons out of another lone, elegant, sad figure who often stood silhouetted against the street lamps of First Century Palestine in a small seaside town called Magdalla. Of the Man who dared anyone who had his act together to cast the first stone and found no takers. Of the Man who graciously accepted to have his feet washed with tears and dried with hair that had been ruffled by many a lusty hand. And yet he did not feel defiled because he knew that He had already washed away all the filth that had hitherto found abode in the woman who broke the alabaster jar and gladly wasted her expensive perfume on Him.

But I never got the chance. Not until last evening. 

It's interesting how God orchestrates things to achieve His purpose and all we have to do is be alert and follow His prompting. I had risen up in the morning and had a wonderful quiet time. This week I've been going through Luke's Gospel and really enjoying it. Anyway just as I was leaving home, I had picked up a tract of 'The Four Spiritual Laws', just in case I got a chance to share the gospel with someone at the office, but it turned out that I was too busy to do so during the day.

In the evening a group of guys I normally meet with suggested that we meet at Mika for tea. As twilight gave way to early evening, the skies opened and there was a downpour just as we were winding up our meeting. The rain forced her to take shelter in the restaurant and as we were leaving, she sat quietly at a table drinking some warm water and browsing absentmindedly through the day's paper, doubtless wondering when the rain would subside so that she could go back to work.

I had half an hour to spare before the time I was supposed to pick up Katindi from her office. As the guys were leaving, for accountability's sake, I told Ian that I was remaining behind to talk to her. I then went to the car to drop my Bible and say a quick prayer. I came back and tentatively approached her table.

"Do you mind if I join you?" I asked. She appeared a little confused at first, then a bit defensive as she tried to read my face. I am certain that she is not used to being approached so boldly in a public place. I introduced myself and offered to buy her a cup of tea. I asked her if we could move to a more private part of the restaurant and she obliged.

"My name is Nancy*," she offered as we sat at our new table. When I made to go and call the waiter, she said she had already asked him to come. And so I sat facing her. For the purposes of this evening, I had never seen her before. I was taking my cue from the Carpenter and I was not here to condemn her for her past.

I asked her about her family and she told me of a nine-year old daughter, Grace*, whom she sometimes wishes was a son because ‘girls are ruder to their mothers.’ She told me she came from Bondo and had had her daughter just after completing High School. She then came to Nairobi and lives in Eastleigh. I did not ask what she does for a living.

"If someone told you that your daughter was top of her class at the end of term, would you be able to keep it to yourself?" I asked wanting to get on with the purpose of my asking to speak to her.

"No, I wouldn't," she answered, "You can't keep such good news to yourself."

"That is why I asked to speak to you." I said. "You see I have such good news that it is difficult for me to keep it to myself; would you like to hear it?" I asked reaching out for the tract. She was enthusiastic and over the next fifteen minutes, I shared with her the fundamentals of the Good News: that God loves her and has a wonderful plan for her life; that man is sinful and separated from God and is therefore incapable of experiencing God's love and wonderful plan; that man tries a variety of ways to reach God in his own efforts but fails every time; that Jesus is God's provision to bridge the gulf between a Holy God and sinful man; that it is not enough just to know all this, but we must accept the free gift of life given by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This we do by inviting Jesus into our lives by faith.

She was so receptive and she enthusiastically took in all that I was sharing with her and asked questions for clarification as we went along. When it came to the critical question - Which circle represents your life right now? - she said that she had Christ in her life because she was catholic. I was tempted to challenge her assertion, based on what I knew to be her lifestyle, but Wisdom prevailed and I held my counsel, for I had purposed to know nothing about her past. I was here to share the Good News and I had done my part. As I struggled with disappointment, the still, small voice whispered in my heart the comforting words of Bill Bright: "Evangelism is sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the result to God."

By now the rain had subsided and I needed to go and pick Katindi up. I couldn't wait to share with her the good news of sharing the good news. As I prepared to leave, I apologised that the waiter had not come to serve us and so I had not bought her the cup of tea that I'd promised at the outset of our conversation. "Oh, don't worry," she said with a smile. "Man shall not live by bread alone." We prayed together and I left...

I went away rejoicing. Without giving in to self-righteous pride, I couldn't help wondering when the last time was when a man had genuinely engaged this precious daughter of Abraham on the basis of equality. I thanked God for giving me the opportunity.

This morning, I was reading Luke again, this time hanging out with Jesus as he sent out the 72, and an interesting truth came to my attention. Luke records how the Lord sent them "ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." It is not for me to judge how true her assertion was that she had Christ in her heart. But even if she did not and she did not immediately give her life to Jesus at the restaurant, I felt contented by the fact that I may have been the person Jesus had sent ahead of Him to prepare her to receive Him.

And so the next time Katindi and I go on our date, I know that we shall not just contemplate a solitary figure silhouetted by the soft glow of the lone street lamp, but if she will still be standing there, we shall behold her in a different light, knowing that she is a human being cherished by God who sent His Son to die for her. She is not a faceless figure any more but a person who is in the process of being wooed by the Man from Galilee.  And her name is Nancy...

[*Not her real name]