5:30am. Kawangware, Nairobi. John is woken from his blissful sleep by the loud, repeated hooting of matatus at the nearby terminus. “Why do they make so much noise?” he wonders. “People in the area need to go to work so whether you hoot or not, they will come to take the matatu to go to town”. As he gets out of bed he begins to remember the heavy burden he has in his mind as he went to sleep. Today is a “make or break” day for him. He feels that if he doesn’t focus on God and His goodness, things are going to go really badly today. He sips anxiously on his strungi (tea without milk) and dashes out of his one room house he likes to call maskan. After walking about fifty metres, he stops and rushes back to the house hoping that he remembered to lock it. “I’d better be sure that I locked it. I don’t want people stealing my stuff”. He confirms that he had locked it and resumes his walk to work. He almost laughs at himself when he thinks of how little there is to steal from such a house and the irony of being woken up daily by vehicles he cannot afford to take to go to work.
He tries to put on a brave face though he knows that if by the end of the day he does not raise the Kshs. 500 his landlord has been demanding from him, he will find another padlock on top of his. About halfway to work his cellphone rings, he looks at it and decides he will not answer it. It’s his dad. He knows he is calling about money. His younger brother is due to start school today and he has a fee balance of Kshs. 1,500 from the previous term. The school has agreed to have him start the new term and pay the fees in installments but on condition that he clears all previous outstanding balances. No, he can’t answer it, what will he tell his dad? And who knows, maybe there are even more problems at home that need more money. “No, I can’t answer it”. After it stops ringing, he can’t help thinking about the ringtone he has on his phone, Jemimah Thiong’o singing Akisema Atakubariki (when God says He will bless you). Irony. “Where is God lately?”, he thinks to himself, just last week they demolished the ‘workshop’ he was operating near Yaya Centre to pave way for road expansion, fuel prices are going through the roof and from what he has been hearing from home, there will be a miserable harvest due to poor rains this season. This means that his parents will depend on him more heavily for their upkeep. In his mind he knows that God does amazing things for people, yet for him today, all God needs to do to prove Himself is to ensure that by the end of this day, he has raised the Kshs. 2,500 he needs. Of course the extra Kshs. 500 is to enable him to survive until his business stabilizes soon.
Frank’s life has been transformed lately. He is surely moving on up. Some of the things he is able to do these days amaze him considering how his life had been since last December when he landed the job of his dreams at one of the fastest growing mobile communications companies in the region. He has bought a new car and now lives in one of those areas of Nairobi many call the leafy suburbs. His work has also entailed considerable travel throughout the region and that has come with all the trappings of his new-found socioeconomic status. It is only a matter of time now before he acquires his own house, a wife and even begin a family. He has to think this way as he has begun to see that now more than ever, he seems to have an amazing appeal to girls who had little or no time for him when he attended church. Some these days even call him when he fails to show up in church due to his work schedule, some have even taken it upon themselves to poke him repeatedly on Facebook when he seems to delay or even fail to put up his usually witty status updates.
But deep inside, Frank knows that though his life is far better than it was only a year ago, he is not handling the pace well. Yes he has a good salary and now so many of his issues are sorted, but all this has come with heavy responsibilities and loans that sometimes overwhelm. Banks managers that only last year would laugh at his attempts to borrow money now insist that he should not queue with the other ‘regular’ customers, but instead he should sit at their office sipping tea while waiting to be served. This pampering has made him let down his guard and borrowed more money than his payslip will justify. One of the managers has even hooked him up with informal money lenders whose terms are not as complicated as the banks but the money he borrows from them attracts between 10 and 15% compound interest per month and heavy penalties on defaulting. “It is not like I borrowed all this money just to waste it”, he tells himself in an attempt to justify his choices. And it was not unreasonable to borrow as much as he did. In one instance he had been involved in a little traffic issue that threatened to go out of hand. This lady he was driving behind suddenly braked and he rammed right into her car with his Nissan xTrail. Trying to explain that his phone had started ringing while he was driving and he could not reach it as it had fallen to his feet did not seem to be a reasonable story to give the traffic policeman who had seen the whole series of events in person. So he just agreed to fix her Toyota Vitz assuming that since the car was not so expensive, repairing it would not be a big deal. A few weeks later the lady sent him a demand letter through her lawyers for what he estimated was half the value of the car. The lawyers had attached his signed agreement to meet the entire cost of repair.
The other amount he had had to borrow urgently was for some of the Cisco Certification courses he had registered for. He had failed a couple of times due to his crazy work schedule. But this did not worry him too much as he knew that he would get a promotion shortly after passing the exams and get fully reimbursed by his employer. The problem is that now the shylocks were on his case and the amount had grown to Kshs. 250,000 in a couple of months and could easily spiral out of control. God, he thought, would have to come through for him in a mighty way really soon if he is to get out of this mess.
Joseph’s car business has seen better times. A few years ago, Ngong’ Rd. was the ideal location to have a car yard. But of late, in typical Kenyan fashion, more and more people have decided to start the same business in the same location. Most potential customers these days only pass by to ask about his prices and do not seem to have any intention of purchasing. The new KRA requirement that vehicles be registered before leaving Mombasa has also had a major effect on such businesses especially the ones that have a lot of stock. “Kenyans buy registration numbers,” he explains. “A person will not buy a KBK… when now everyone wants to have a KBP…, it does not matter how I try to convince them that the KBK has not been used since it came to Nairobi, they sometimes will not believe you.”
But for Joseph, this is not even the problem. As with every business, one wrong decision can jeopardize years of hard work and a great investment. Joseph’s big mistake was to not pay as much attention to an inner voice when some two gentlemen who came and told him that they represented a major taxi cab business in Nairobi. They said that the firm had wanted to boost its fleet by more than 50 units and wanted to do so in phases in partnership with a car dealer. They said they would make him a very good deal if his price was right. They had wanted to buy 10 cars at a time. The first batch had gone amazingly well. They paid the money straight into his account. So had the second batch. For the third batch, they had paid half and promised to pay the other half within two months when they sort out their finances and they even offered to buy the cars at 10% higher than the agreed price. That was six months ago. The men seem to have vanished into thin air, lost without a trace.
Yes, the police have indicated that they have made great headway in their investigations, but until then, and nobody knows how long it will all take, if Joseph does not find at least Kshs. 2,500,000, things are going to get out of hand. He remembered how he almost broke down as he shared with his home fellowship group from his church this prayer item. That he has tried all else and that he is at the end of his tether. He is now firmly convinced that only God can get him out of this one.
Three different men, three different scenarios, One God.
These three men have needs that they feel are beyond themselves and are bringing them to God because they trust He is able to provide. John and Joseph would honestly be shocked at each other’s needs. To John and Frank, 2.5M is one heck of a lot of money. They probably cannot even picture God answering a prayer like Joseph’s. The same principles apply in all of life – we classify needs in categories; we know the category we can handle alone as individuals, we know the one we need a friend’s input and we also know the humongous ones where we need friends to come alongside us as we implore God.
God only seems to be only as big as we allow Him to be. We allow Him to be big or small depending on how we have perceived Him through our experiences of Him in our situations and adaptation in life. There are standards that we have set for Him and do not expect Him to exceed. If we were to be honest, there are many prayers we would be shocked if He answered. It was the same with the Apostles in Acts 12:15-17, the disciples could not believe that Peter had been released from jail even if they had spent many, many hours earnestly praying for the same. That is human nature that even “Zawadi 2929” beneficiaries last year would jump with a “I can’t believe it!!” answer upon being told that they had won. It kept surprising me that some of them had sent hundreds of texts but seemingly did not expect to win.
Yet God is NOT limited in any way. True fulfillment can only come as a result of relating to a limitless God Who longs for us to experience Him as such, so much so that He came to earth that may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). Therefore, the fewer limits we put on God, the better. To God, Kshs. 25, 2500, 250,000, 2.5M is all the same. If we perceived Him as such, blinding scales would fall from our eyes.
I want to put some disclaimers here. One, I am not equating success with money. Neither does a lot of money reflect a lot of blessings. The different limits that we could be putting on God could be in the area of wisdom, wellness, health, vision or even finances. Two, I believe God works according to His purposes for us. We cannot dictate how much He is to give us; we can only receive what we ask for if our requests are consistent with His will for us.
How big is God for you? Is God bigger than any of your circumstances? Or, when you are in trouble, do you feel God is in as much trouble as you are, sometimes even asking you for suggestions?