Grace in a Single Set of Clothes
Stephen is senior pastor of Trinity Worship Tabernacle, a non-denominational church in Nakuru, Kenya. His story is full of examples of trials giving way to triumph. Here, Stephen narrates his upbringing in which he was separated from his family because of his father’s illness and brought up in the home of an alcoholic and abusive uncle in Nyeri, Kenya. Looking back, he sees God’s grace even there.
My bedroom was the sheep-pen—a little hut where the sheep stayed away from predators. The hut also served as the place where in cold and rainy seasons like June/July, the sheep would warm themselves. . . .
I slept on a makeshift bed with a cow hide overlaying the wooden planks. There was no mattress. An old tattered blanket served as my sheet as well. Underneath my makeshift bed, the sheep would rub their backs against the wooden planks waking me up several times in the night.
Oftentimes I awoke following this disturbance and the sheep would shake off the water from their wool following the warmth generated by the fire. They would also sneeze and sometimes the mucus landed on me. Yak! Many of you have no idea what that looks like. I would go to school and kids would be dying in laughter because of the mucus—sometimes on my shirt or somewhere on my head but unnoticed by me. . . .
An amazing thing I experienced while in Nyeri was wearing one set of clothing for over four years. How that happened, I do not know. What I do know is that even though I kept growing, I did not change clothes.
The very oversized khaki shirt and the one pair of short pants I wore when I set foot at my uncle’s were the very ones I kept wearing until my mother brought me a new set four years later. That was her first visit since she took me there and it was at the same time she disclosed to me that my father had died a year after I left Kaptumo.
Were my clothes worn out? Of course yes! Were they small on me? Definitely, but somehow I wore them. How a nine-year-old set of clothes could fit a twelve year old remains a mystery to me.
I believe God did to me what He did to the Israelites as they sojourned in the desert for forty years. Scripture tells us that they did not outgrow their sandals or clothing.
I gathered after my mom’s visit that she used to send money through telegraph (Kenya Post Office’s money delivery system those days) for clothes once every year but I suspect my uncle, who was the recipient, spent it all on drinking.
Lack of change of clothes, coupled with poor living conditions like sleeping in the sheep-pen and scarcity of water—which meant we took a bath once in a blue moon, led to bed bugs and lice-infestation. You did not want to look at my hair. It had white glitters. I learned they were the eggs from the lice.
My clothes were worse.
The seams and waist bands were heavily infested causing untold misery especially when it got hot. For some reason, lice became very active during hot weather. I recall how on Sunday afternoons when I took the sheep and cattle to the river for a drink, I undressed and declared war on the lice. I literally chewed them running my teeth through the seams. I then washed them—basically soaking them in water and rubbing them because I had no soap, and then let them dry. All the while, I stayed like the first couple before the fall—hoping no one showed up.
On several occasions, I thought about my parents—hundreds of miles away from me. I thought of my sister and brothers—they were not there to play with me and ease the pain. I would look up to the skies and with tears flowing freely, wonder, “Where will my help come from?” Do you remember someone voicing the same cry? It was David—Psalm 121.
Conditions in Nyeri were deplorable and life-threatening. Ranging from poor living conditions, hard labor, cold mornings without adequate clothing, long walks through dark alleys and rugged paths without a flashlight, to a poor diet—mostly one meal per day which slipped away at times if my uncle came home before we had supper, but I never got sick.
I do not recall putting even one pill in my mouth. If that is not amazing, then we might have to redefine the word.
The environment I was exposed to was conducive enough for diseases stemming from malnourishment and cold weather. I believe with all my heart that the God of the poor and the fatherless was protecting me. He was watching over me every step of the way even though I was very unconscious of it. He was indeed my salvation. . . .
The Korathites sang: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
Yahweh himself, speaking through Prophet Isaiah said, “But now this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you go through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
(Excerpted from Stephen Muhota, Trials into Triumph, 2017, p. 3-6. Used with Permission.)