He was 6 years old when we found him, on the streets of Nakuru with his ailing grandmother. She had brought him to stay with his uncle. Maybe she did not know that the Uncle was severely addicted to alcohol, glue and any other substance he could find. His addiction disabled him completely. The young boy was being hazed by the other street children and sent to beg. He was brought to our children’s home. He so often spoke of a mother and a sister. Attempts to enlist the Uncle in a search for the mother and sister were fruitless.
As I write this Imam is doing his morning chores – with a smile on his face and a song “Good Morning Jesus”. When he doesn’t sing, I worry. I love hearing that young voice, piping his joy of living.
Once there was a journey to his home town, it returned fruitless. But never did he give up. Each holiday when some of the children went off to auntie, or grandma, one would not hear the morning singing. Imam’s heart was heavy wanting to see his mother and sister again.
“Imam, you were so young when we took you, do you truly think you would remember where you lived?” His response a hearty “YES” So I determined to give it one more try.
Armed with only Imam’s young memory, his mother’s first name, and a few scattered notes from his file, we started off early taking 3 children, the social worker, manager and myself. If nothing else we will have a good outing The drive is about 1 ½ hours on what has been called one of the 10 most dangerous roads in the world. There is no sleeping, drifting, gawking or otherwise allowing distractions. Speed, reckless passing, enormous overloaded trucks in poor condition puffing up the hills tempting a follower to take chances passing on the two lane road to avoid being choked by the oily black fumes spewing from the puffing behemoth.
We arrive at the turn off. Imam remembers lions and a Supermarket. Turn left, turn around, go right, go left, along this narrow dirt pathway barely wide enough for the van, people staring, moving out of the way. HERE! I stopped in the middle of the road and Imam, Mary, the social worker, and Chege the manager left the van. Another vehicle was attempting to pass along the road so moving out of the way to park in a church yard, we waited. Soon they were back. He indeed did remember where he lived. Another woman was there now who also remembered his mother. I sent them back to see if she knew anyone who might know where we can find the sister or the mother. Any relatives, Any friends,
Chege returned with a young man. He led us down the road through a pathway to the home of a woman who was a good friend of Imam’s mother. She told us the entire sad story. In brief, the mother had been arrested for child abuse and was in prison in a relatively close by town. The sister had been taken to a children’s home. Oh sweet information.
So off to the children’s home. The first stop was almost fruitless until someone remembered. Yes, she had been there but was shifted to another children’s home.
SUCCESS! There she was! Looking so similar to her brother! The two were silent. No noisy hugging and greeting session in Kenya. Their upbringing holds emotions in check but the tears were brimming. Off to a small restaurant to get away alone for a little while. A favorite treat in Kenya “chips and soda” (French fries and coke). Soon, too soon, we had to say goodbye to the long lost sister with the promises to return. Now off to find his mother. By this time we had learned that she was in prison for the child abuse of the sister. Imam had learned his mother was in prison but the reason was to follow.
A young man of 11 facing the armed guards at the gate, the search of the vehicle,, the end of a long search. We had the blessing of a kind and sensitive guard to ease his tension. The guard had worked in the children’s remand. A long wait allowed him time to look around the compound of the prison outside the walls; prisoners working, guards questioning, visitors entering and returning. Finally, the door opened and we were called. The mandatory search and we were ushered, not into the visiting room, but into a small office. All the prison employees were polite, understanding and kind. They would hear the story of a boy searching for his mother, only to find her in prison. And their hearts were touched and wanted this reunion to be the best possible.
Soon a beautiful woman in prison stripes, carried chairs for each of us. After we are all settled we learn this is Rebecca, Imam’s Mom. Her eyes soon filled with tears but again in the controlled Kenyan culture she dabbed her eyes and sat straight, tall and quiet. Imam was moved to sit next to his mother. Both of them holding their emotions close. Eventually they spoke. Eventually his mother told him why she was there. She has two more years to serve.
A reunion that was not what any of us would have hoped, not what any of us imagined, but a reunion of mother and son. A flow of well contained emotions. The beginning of a trail of forgiveness.