The first Advent Sunday is only a week away. If you haven't done so already now is the time to start preparing for this special time of putting flesh on Christ. Today, in our Quaker meeting house, I shared a story I wrote about a personal experience I had with the Incarnation of Christ to help transition us into the Advent season. I'm sharing it with you all below.
By Kristen S. Sandoz
It was a dry, hot, African day. I was headed to a birthday party with my African friends in the up-country of Kenya. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing my Levis so I put on the only skirt I had and a coordinating blue T-shirt. I gave it a second thought and decided to don a necklace with a praying hands pendant, hoping I could dress up my humble outfit with one of the few pieces of jewelry I had brought. There wasn’t much improvement but I had tried.
Once we reached Nairobi we made a transportation exchange in one of the worst parts of town, from a small cramped stinky bus to an even smaller, more cramped and stinky mini-van. Out of protection for the white person, my friends insisted I enter the van first. I fumbled to the back and sat next to an open window, thankful that I would have some relief from the smell of African body odor by breathing the smell of exhaust.
The van started moving into traffic. I watched the craziness of this city’s life from the safety of my window. A businessman in his pressed, yet uncoordinated, suit walked down the street with an air of importance. As he walked, absorbed in his own world of comfort, he passed a crippled man crawling on his deformed knees.
My attention was drawn toward a row of women wearing brightly colored African kongas tied around their waists like skirts. Sayings of the wise imprinted on these kongas hugged their swaying behinds as they bent over their fruit neatly stacked on the sidewalks. Children were everywhere. Some tugged shyly on their mothers’ kongas, others ran around looking for a handout and others, coupled to their mothers’ backs with a konga, contentedly chewed on mango pits.
Among all these claimed children there were the unclaimed ones, the street boys. At this time in 1996 some 150,000 of them roamed the streets of Nairobi. They were wild boys ages 4 to 18. If you’d seen one street boy you’d seen them all. Their clothing was held together only by the crusty layers of dirt formed by roaming through garbage heaps while looking for food. Their feet were callused over as if they had one thick piece of rhinoceros hide glued to the bottom. Then there was that “look.” The eyes of a street boy revealed all, a yellow glazed disassociated look caused by sniffing gasoline and glue. This was the coping mechanism used by these boys to survive the hard, deprived life they lead. There was more though, a cruelty, a rebellion, a desperation, a wisdom of sorts. It was chilling to look in the eyes of a street boy. It was like a window into their heart and it exposed too much.
My journey through this city continued. The van entered a jammed intersection. I saw three of these mongrel street boys playing in the meridian. I was proud of myself that I had spied them before they spied me. It did not take long, however, for them to all hone in on my white face sitting in the open window. Immediately one of the older boys got up and meandered toward my van as if I wouldn’t realize he was coming. “Yeah right!” I thought. “I know you’re going to ask me for money. I am glad I don’t have anything to give you!” I crossed my arms and kept watching him with a new defiant intensity. It was mutual stand off as he came to my open window and walked along side of it just staring at me. “What is this boy doing?” I thought. “Why isn’t he saying anything?”
It was one of those moments that as you’re thinking the question it answers itself with a leap of your heart that suddenly makes everything clear. “My necklace, this boy wants my necklace!” I was surprised that I knew the answer to my question. I fought the instinctual urge to put my hand over my pendant and protect it from what could inevitably happen. I stayed calm. I wanted to see if this boy would really steal from me while I was looking him straight in the eyes. Sure he could steal from people who didn’t realize it, but was he lost enough to steal from someone who knew?
From the margin of my vision I saw his grimy teenaged hand slowly come through the window and latch onto my praying hands pendant. His oddly colored orange eyes never blinked once as he swiftly relieved me of my burden. He stopped and I continued to watch him, my hand finally losing its control and drifting to the spot that once showcased a meaningless possession. As my van eased away I wanted to yell something to him. “Jesus loves you anyway!” or “I’ll pray for you!” But nothing came. I was too mad, too awe struck by the brazen ability of this boy to steal from me! Who was he that he could do that and still sleep at night? I hoped that no one in the van had noticed what had taken place. Surely they would not understand that I was trying to teach this boy a lesson!
That night I had a dream. I dream a lot, but this dream was different. I was standing in heaven and there staring at me with the most familiar pair of oddly colored orange eyes was Jesus Christ. He was framed in a window and sitting on his throne wearing nothing but an African konga and my praying hands necklace. I was shocked, “How did Jesus get my pendant?” Noticing the confused look on my face Christ spoke to me gently, saying, “Kristen, I have given you many things. But, when I asked you for one small, little thing, you wouldn’t give it to me. I had to take it.”