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Saying a Prayer for our Relatives Abroad

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I’m going through today’s newspapers and I’ve just come across an article that has made me smile with gratitude. It’s generated a deep warmth in me, from the deepermost part of my heart.

Sometime late last year, I read an article about this bright boy from Baringo called Edwin Chebon who had won a university scholarship to the Philippines.  Good news that was. But his stay at the Philippines turned out to be a nightmare.

A nightmare because his sponsors did not fulfill their pledge of ensuring that he completed his university studies there –and Chebon ended up being thrown out of campus. In no time, the 21 year old was homeless and kept moving from place to place, at the mercy of well wishers who would offer him food and accommodation. Imagine that experience of a rural boy straight from Kenya and into a foreign country where he knew no one.

The writer of the article described how Chebon’s dad broke down in tears as he spoke about his son. You can only imagine the kind of pain that would drive a grown man to tears, especially infront of other people. Chebon’s mother was crying uncontrollably. And so was his grandmother. Thank God I’m not the one who covered this story because I’m sure I would have been struggling to control my emotions.

So because I know the agony of having a relative in a far away land, and not knowing whether they are well or not. Not knowing how they are fairing. Not knowing whether they will ever come back home. Not knowing whether they will come back dead or alive. Always jumping up when the phone rings, hoping it’s them, longing to hear their voice and they reassuring you that they are well. Always cringing in fear when the phone rings and it’s a non-Kenyan number, dreading that it might bear bad news about them. Praying for them each day for God’s protection in their lives. Watching family members not talk about the issue, but yet badly wanting to talk about it. Drying their tears when they decide to talk about it, as you contain your tears too. Talking about this person during family gatherings and looking at family albums, cherished memories and having a good time. Calling them up at such times and passing the phone round for all family members to have a chance to speak to them ‘for just a minute’. Longing for their status updates on facebook. Savoring the pictures they post on their profiles, or the albums they create on facebook. Staring at these photos all day and remembering the good old days. Talking to them on chat or skype. Remembering the days of yore.

Many of us have family members abroad. Sadly though, the recent cases of people (especially women) being killed by their spouses have been on the rise, and these have been most chilling. Cases of parents killing their children. What is happening to our brothers and sisters abroad, we keep asking each other. All sorts of theories about this have been forthcoming. But what remains a constant is that we need to pray for our family members and friends who are abroad.

It’s not all gloomy though, for there are our brothers and sisters abroad who are bringing pride to their families and to our country with their achievements. We celebrate them all.

Anyway back to the Edwin Chebon story, I have smiled with delight when I read that the boy is back home. Back home to the warmth of his parents. I can only imagine the agony that his parents have gone through for the last 10 months or so. And even though Edwin says he regrets the time he wasted in Philippines, regretting that he has returned without the coveted degree he had hoped he would get, I wish I could tell him that his safe return home is more important than anything else in the world. Nothing can ever compare to having your child back home with you, especially having undergone such a traumatic experience in a foreign land. Just ask his parents.

And I wish all those people abroad who keep struggling with the decision of whether to come back home or not, ashamed that they have nothing to show for all the years spent abroad, scared of what people will say, regretful that they haven’t accomplished much in the years they have been away – I wish they knew that all that doesn’t really matter. Coming back home is more important than people’s opinions, or material achievements. So just come back home. It will be alright.

Edwin Chebon’s story is in today’s edition of The Standard Newspaper, page 18, where he talks about his experiences in the Philippines and what exactly happened to his dreams of higher education. You can read it here http://bit.ly/sR8XDM

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