We had a robbery last week in our Kabarak apartment.
The day had started out normally enough with us returning from Nairobi a day later than originally planned, due to a “truckers’ strike” that was scheduled to block the main A-104 highway about half-way between Nairobi and Nakuru (normally a 2 ½-3 hour trip from point to point, depending upon the traffic).
Taking an alternative route around this almost assuredly riotous, rock-throwing event would have added about 5 hours’ additional driving time to get home.
The strike was advertised in the Daily Nation (the country’s main newspaper), complete with a map pinpointing the places where angry truck drivers were going to gather. So we stayed an extra day in “town” (Nairobi).
But, unbeknownst to us as to the reasons why, the trucker’s strike actually never happened at all.
However, we have learned over the years living in Kenya that it’s wise/prudent to pay attention to the potential for unrest in areas that we might find ourselves in or be traveling through. After almost 25 years of comings and goings, we are not “newbies”; we have learned that it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
At least, I thought I had learned this…
Arriving home to Kabarak a day later without incident, we unpacked the car as usual. In addition to our many things, we were also carrying extra luggage of Kabarak friends and their family (just arrived from the U.S.) who were on their way to climb Mt. Kenya over the next five days.
Leaving the family’s suitcases in the car (providentially), we only took the backpack (containing their two computers and quite a substantial amount of U.S. dollars) of our Kabarak friends up to our apartment for “safe keeping” (big mistake).
Later that afternoon (with Bruce gone to his office), I noticed 4-year-old Jonah (who still prefers to call me “Uncle Kate”) and his 1 ½ year old brother Peter outside, blowing bubbles. Feeling the need for an “Uncle-Auntie moment” before making dinner, I stepped outside for a quick hug/giggle with them…
…not bothering to lock the door to my upstairs apartment behind me. After all, I was only going to be outside for five minutes. Right there in the side yard between our two apartment blocks.
Five minutes….which proceeded to turn into ten with the arrival of a neighbor walking by, the one who has been house-bound with a severe back injury for months (after a road-traffic accident). Here she was, walking across the lawn on her own! Of course I had to greet her, too….
…in addition to Mama Jonah, who stepped outside five minutes after that with new baby Boaz in her arms. We all got to “ooh” and “ahhh” over him as well….
Five….ten….fifteen….perhaps twenty minutes before I returned to my cute little (unlocked) apartment up the stairs and around the corner.
I actually prepared and got dinner into the oven before looking for my iPhone to check the time….and couldn’t find it. That’s when I realized, increduously, that my computer was also nowhere to be seen.
Thinking I had mislaid both of them (because that’s not uncommon for me), I continued checking around the rooms until I noticed that my old iPad, too, was gone, missing from the nightstand. With growing dismay, I checked my purse: no wallet. Panicking now, I raced into the guest room/office, only to see empty space between bed and cabinet, the spot where we had just placed our friends’ backpack a few hours before.
Shock. Horror. Punch-to-the-gut–sick-feeling.
The slowly-dawning realization penetrating through the fog of “this can’t be happening to me; not here!”….the awful truth crystallizing into my conscious brain: they are all gone. Stolen.
And then, this chilling thought….
Who has been watching me? Because, for this to have happened so quickly, someone must have been watching, waiting, perhaps longer than just today, for the opportunity to pounce. I was right there, outside, not far, just around the corner. But, unfortunately for me, out of sight of the main entry stairs up to my apartment.
Whoever it was would have had to be quick, up the stairs, all the way into the back bedroom where my computer, phone, and IPad were, into the closet for my wallet, into the office for the backpack…and back down again.
I had been doing so well here, settling in. I had just started to relax and feel normal, to feel at home, safe. Falsely so….?
Kabarak, out in the country, so peaceful, so pastoral. Hadn’t Bruce and I just taken a walk recently around the campus perimeter road (1+ mile) without locking the door? How often do I dash over to Mama Jonah’s for just a minute, to get from or bring something over to her?
We always lock the apartment when going to class, heading to the office or to town….and were perhaps starting to get a bit too comfortable, a bit too complacent with the supposed safety and security of this place.
Police came to take statements, write down serial numbers, and ask questions (“Why didn’t you lock your apartment?” Well yes. Why didn’t I, indeed?)
There are, at this point in time, few leads.
A neighbor remembered seeing a young man “with a backpack over his shoulder, on the phone”, walking away from our building. She didn’t know who he was…perhaps a Kabarak student, or someone looking for someone…
And then there were the tree guys, who had been here for a week, cutting dead branches off the huge eucalyptus tree in front of the main entrance, right outside my kitchen window. Had they heard my computer music playing (loudly, with abandon; just the way I like it; so careless) as I cooked dinner each night?
I do remember them watching me as I walked to and fro from class that week…
(Because I don’t suspect any of my neighbors in my own (or other) apartment block(s). Not for a second. Most were not even home.)
Feelings of remorse, violation, anxiousness (fear) over how to break the news to our friends who were at that moment on Mt. Kenya, oblivious to this hard news and unreachable for the next few days.
But also…the tiny but growing feelings such as these:
- Gratefulness that I had not gone up to the apartment sooner, where I might have surprised “him” or “them” (would they have bashed me over the head…or worse?)
- Deep appreciation for my Bible study ladies who asked to come and pray with me that night
- Sheer relief that I had had the foresight (a real God prompting, actually) to back up my computer earlier that same day
- Gratitude that Bruce still had his old, android smart-phone and an even older Samsung computer that I am now able to use, even as I pain-stakingly learn how to do “Windows 2007” (I’m a Mac girl)
- Thankful that I was able to get my same phone number back from Safaricom (please do give me a call or text if you’re in Kenya, so I can get you back into my phone)
And…incredibly humbled and amazed at the grace with which our friends received this hard news when they returned to Kabarak three days later.
Hold things lightly. Hadn’t I written a blog about this very thing last year as we began our journey to Kenya? At that time, I was writing about leaving Grand Marais and all our “earthly treasures” behind….
This incident has been a hard reminder for me of this very truth once again. Obviously, I am humbly continuing to learn how to hold things lightly. This is a good thing, because they are not really mine anyway, not for keeps. Even in the best of circumstances, all of my material things are temporary. Even as I am learning how to be a better steward of those things, a bit “older and wiser” (i.e., someone will now be fanatical about locking the door…).
When things are taken away from me prematurely, unexpectedly, or especially due to my own carelessness or complacency, I also need to learn how to forgive myself and let go. Because, most importantly, the reality is that I am not ever, completely or ultimately, in control of my own life or what happens to me.
God is. He knew what would happen here a week ago. He also knew how to infuse this very hard, extremely unpleasant and most unforeseen and unwelcome event with flashes of His grace and redemption. He always does.
I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. Which means that I must also continuously learn to surrender and trust the One to whom I belong. Especially when times are hard.
A Kenyan friend posted this interesting version of Ephesians 3:20 on Facebook the other day. It is a verse to declare and proclam over my life once again, always and forever:
“God will do exceedingly abundantly above all that I ask or think. Because I honor Him, His blessings will chase me down and overtake me. I will be in the right place at the right time…I am surrounded by God’s favor“.
Who has been watching me? He has. His eye is on this little sparrow; and I’m so grateful to know that He’s always there, watching over me.
Good, bad, or ugali.