God or Mammon?

I had a very strange interaction with a Kenyan woman today while waiting for a doctors appointment with the 2 younger kids. It was in mall, and we were sparing the other patients by waiting (for an hours and a half) out in the hall. A woman in questionably-professional (read: skin-tight miniskirt and 5-inch heels) came out at "tea-break" and said Omara was so beautiful and clever. She asked if she could have Omara. Take her forever, she clarified. I laughed--what exactly do you say to that?

She then moved on to how young I look to be mother of 2. When I told her of the other 2 kids at school, she was really shocked and asked my age, and then proceeded to say 35 wasn't possible. "But then," she reasoned, "it's because of the money."

Excuse me?  "Because you're rich, that's why you look young." My first thought: I am NOT rich!!!! But then again, next to, I don't know, 80% of the country, I actually am rolling in the dough, and I HATE that! Our friend asked for prayer on how she would find 2,000/= for the term's school fees. That's what take-out pizza costs us. We bought a simple full-size bed and the cheapest mattress available for our spare room. When our house-helper came in to help me get it ready, she exclaimed she'd never seen such a big bed...she, her husband, and her 8-yr old daughter sleep on the bottom bunk and her brother, his wife, and their son sleep on the top bunk. No, I'm not kidding.

So back to my conversation. Trying to be a good missionary, and because I truly believe it, I tried to correct her. It's God who takes care of us, not money. Problems come with or without money. She just laughed, honestly amused at me, and said, "Yes, God...and money." And she went on to elaborate on how you can't even compare the stresses of life between someone with money and someone in poverty. I wanted to crawl into the potted plant I was standing against. Or to retort that her stilettos probably cost 4 times as much as my Goodwill capri's and she had no right to make me feel like slime. But before I could compose myself and come up with a better option, tea was over and she teetered back to her office, making one last offer to take Omara off my hands.

First, I believe she was not trying to make me feel bad--just stating the facts as she sees them. Second, I had the most overwhelming sense that we, the white, 'wealthy', missionaries, can't even begin to talk to people about trusting in God for provision. How can we talk about Jehovah Jira when we have a bank account behind our brave words? When we're talking to people who sleep 3 to a bed and 2 families to a house smaller than our living room, who literally don't know where if they will eat today? At least, how can we talk about it without suggesting a prosperity gospel--"I trust God and look at what I've got!" As if I've done ANYTHING to deserve all that comes with being an educated, healthy American!  And we can't exactly go into details of all we've given up to be on the mission field...

No answers here. Just a lingering sense of shame for all that God's blessed me with. Questions about why me and not, say, the godly woman who helps watch my kids here in Kenya. Musings about how I'm supposed to use what I have to help others without making them trust in the white missionary. Fears of what we inadvertently link Christianity to by us preaching across such gaping cultural-socio-economic gaps. And a tad bit of annoyance that I can't shake these cavernously deep issues when I'm having to try really hard to just function with any degree of grace this week while Chad is gone!


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