We had a break-in at our house. Before anyone gets worried let me say we were not home and it was almost undetectable until Jason asked me why on earth I had opened one of his few and precious Mountain Dew cans and left it half drunk on the counter to which I quickly replied I had done no such thing! Then we looked closer and saw a video game controller was out, a CD carelessly thrown on a table, 2,000 shillings (about a buck) was missing, and banana muffin crumbs were scattered about the kitchen. Yep, someone had been in the house.
Nothing of real value was taken and a closer examination at the kitchen screen revealed that someone had ripped the already slightly torn screen even more and unlatched the door that was left unbolted (lesson learned). Both of us really did not want to deal with this but we knew letting it go was not a possibility. Bracing for an all night affair we went out. We immediately knew it had to be kids (I mean really who else would drink half a Mountain Dew but leave a laptop?) and started a search party for the culprits. It took about 3 minutes for a crowd of interested neighbors to show up at our house and another 2 minutes for shule kids to turn in the guilty parties who gave them selves away by eating the stolen goods…aforementioned banana muffins in front of all the other kids. Yeah, not the smartest thieves! What makes that crazy is that any person living in a 10 miles vicinity of us knows if you want a banana muffin all you have to do is stop over and 9 times out of 10 you will be offered one (or in true Waswahili fashion you can just ask for one). Turned out that the two boys that broke in were bored and wanted to play video games and having been in our homes many times thought we might have the goods. It took a while for the full story to come out but after their Mamas’ were asked to join us the tears followed and the confessions came along with the verbal beat downs. Seriously! in a shame culture these kids got the wrath of their mothers in front of the whole neighborhood. It was amazing to me that we had to say very little while everyone else dealt with this situation. Another example of how communal parenting is here. They talked to all the kids about the importance of respecting us and that we are a part of this neighborhood. Some of what was said was so similar to what we would say in our home culture but some was completely different! It was a learning opportunity for sure! We shared about how the “stuff” does not bother us since we cannot take it with us anyway but that we trust and live together and we want the kids to learn that they need to respect everyone. About an hour into the ordeal the power went out and we all sat and continued the discussion in the darkness. I was so glad it was completely dark except for the occasional cell phone flicker so no one could see my giggling when one of the mothers yelled something along the lines of “why do you have to drink the soda at Mama Annikah’s house…is it better tasting then the soda anywhere else?” Yep, Mama Annikah soda rules! You heard it here first!
After an hour or so of the kids being reprimanded in front of everyone (even some other kids were crying because they were afraid and sad for them) the adults made them come and bow before us and ask forgiveness. It seemed so much for such a little thing but we wanted to respect their way of dealing with everything. I really felt that at that moment God gave me words to speak. Honestly so often I feel like I fail to say what I wanted or I miss opportunities but in that moment I was fully honest and said “we can easily forgive because we have been forgiven. We know God forgives us and so we can forgive freely.” I really sensed His goodness in those moments. That in sometimes difficult or uncomfortable circumstances He can make a way for His love to shine. The mothers asked for forgiveness and said it will not happen again and asked that I still continue teaching the kids. The starry sky was the still our only light when everyone slowly said good night and headed home. We were exhausted but so thankful we had a little break-in and an opportunity to share love and forgiveness and learn more about real community with our neighbors.