Joseph was the oldest of 10 children in his mother’s house. His father had two houses with two wives. The other wife had 12 children.
Because of the number of children his father had to support, they were very poor. Education was a big challenge. Joseph stayed in school and finished high school when he was 18 years old. These were not easy times for him. To earn a little money he would go out at night with his friends, chop trees down and make charcoal. While the government is against charcoal manufacturing in this way, it is a common practice and many of the poorest of the poor make the little money they have in this way.
While here in Maasai land, we have cooked our meals, boiled water for hot drinks and dishwater, on top of pots filled with smouldering charcoal. It is the primary way to create an indoor heat source for cooking.
One night as Joseph was chopping a tree down he fainted. When we woke up, he was in hospital. “They told me,” Joseph said, “I need to eat more to work so hard. They said, Joseph you are starving.”
When Joseph finished high school, his father told him there was no money for college. His father told him to go into the military. The military provides a regular pay check, prestige and a lifetime plan of wealth and job security. “I refused.” Joseph said, “I wanted to do something to change the lives of people. If I go to the military I will fight and become rich but whose life will I change.” Joseph paused and looked up at me. “Helping people,” he said, “This is my calling.”
“Since I was young, I always liked helping people.” Joseph said, “I have always wanted to see justice for others. Poverty is a challenge. I knew I wanted to help those without family, those who are destitute like the widow and orphan.”
After struggling for a couple years after high school, Joseph decided to go to Nairobi to help people. A politician he had met in town one day had told him, “You come to Nairobi with 1000 shillings and I will give you a job.” Joseph was hoping that once he was in the city he would be able to help destitute people.
When he got to Nairobi, the politician took the thousand shillings and said, “Sit here in the hotel until I return. I will go get you a job.”
“I sat there all day.” Joseph said, “He never came back.” As it began to get dark, the hotel manager told Joseph he could not sit there anymore. “I told them I was waiting for the politician,” Joseph said, “I refused to leave. They called the security guard in from the street to make me leave.”
“It is a disgrace for a Maasai man to be grabbed and moved.” Joseph said, “I told the soldier, Don’t touch me, I will come.” As Joseph follower the security guard (which the people call a soldier) out of the hotel he was so angry and frustrated. “I started to pray out loud to God, in Maasai language.” Joseph said, “I was asking God why this happened to me.”
When they got outside, the guard turned to Joseph and said, “I understand Maasai. Tell me what has happened to you.” Joseph told him the entire story and the guard said, “Stay by the door until 10pm then I will be back for you.”
During the night a street patrol of two police came past and through Joseph was a loitering homeless person. They did not believe his story and handcuffed him. They were going to take him to jail for the night. Joseph begged them and told his story with such passion they believed him, unruffled him and let him stay.
At 10pm the security guard returned. He fed Joseph and led him to an empty room in the hotel. “Brother,” he said, “You sleep here until 4am. Then I will come and fix the room to look like you have not been here. If we get caught, I will have to pay for your stay. I cannot afford this.”
“This was my first time ever in a nice hotel.” Joseph said, “It was so nice!” At 4am Joseph rose. The guard who was also the night manager came and removed the sheets and prepared the room.
As Joseph walked down to the lobby, the morning desk person assumed he was a guest of the hotel and told him breakfast was ready. “They fed me until I was very full!”
That day Joseph looked for a job. He knew that Indian men ran the biggest shops, so he went looking for Indian run shops and asked for a job. In the fifth shop, a lady was running the shop. She wanted to hire him but when the husband return, he tried to scare Joseph away by telling him it was very hard work. They decided to employ him as an industrial worker.
Although Joseph had a job, he had no place to sleep, no money and no pay for one month. They fed the workers one meal a day of beans and maise.
“Life was a real challenge.” Joseph said, “I have no friend, no money. I started living like a street child even though I knew I was not a street child. I slept on the back of parked trucks. It was so cold, some mornings I would push ice off my clothes. I was was promised 6000 shillings a month, but each month I was given just 300 shillings ($3 US).”
To make enough money to survive, he and other factory workers would use their time off to sit in a “Matatu” - a bus with 14 seats - and make it look half full. This would get other people to believe the bus would leave soon. As the bus would fill, Joseph and his friends would get out one by one to make room. The Matatu driver would slyly give them 10 shillings as they exited. In this way, once he had 30 shillings he would buy soap, roasted maise (corn cob) or Irish potatoes to eat. Then he would go to the river, wash himself and his clothes with the soap. Then go back to work.
“During this year,” Joseph said, “I was crying to God to get me out poverty. I had come to change people’s lives in the city and now I was a street child.”
“Some nights while sleeping with the other street children on the trucks or in hidden areas,” Joseph said, “police would wake us and force them to leave or take us to jail. Sometimes other boys would mistreat you. Abuse you. The life was so tough.”
After one year, the Indian man said he trusted Joseph. He made him his agent. As the agent, Joseph did 3 things:
1. Go to the bank and get in the queue. When the time came to sign, he used the man’s mobile to call him and say, “Come sign.”
2. Go to tax department and get in the queue. When time came to sign, he would call the boss.
3. Go to the post office or airport and collect the mail or post things that needed to be sent.
Joseph was also given a storeroom in the man’s factory in which to sleep.
After doing these three things each day for a number of weeks, He met a Maasai man in the tax department. The man asked Joseph why he was in the line every day. He explained he was an agent waiting in line. The other Maasai man said not to wait in line. “From now on,” he said, “come straight to me and I will do the papers.” The Maasai man was one of the primary tax agents.
It didn’t take the Indian man to notice that Joseph had a direct line at the tax department. He told other Indian business owners and they started using Joseph as well. “I was paid 200 shillings per queue.” Joseph said, “I was making 600 shillings a day, visiting the tax department for three Indian men.”
Joseph could now afford his own small bedroom in which to live.
One day, on an airport run, Joseph saw a Muzungu woman crying. He asked her what was wrong. She said, “I’m absolutely finished.” The husband came over and explained they had come to Africa as missionaries to drill bore holes to provide water for tribes. They had been waiting for two weeks for the expensive drilling machine to pass customs. They had decided the machines had stolen. It is not unusual for imports to be stollen and sold when they come into the country.
Joseph said, “Don’t leave. Let me see what I can do.”
“The immigration minister was a Maasai Seventh-day Adventist from my region.” Joseph said, “I knew this, but I did not know him. I knew his family were friends with my pastor. I called the pastor and asked him to convince the minister to help these people do God’s work in Africa. The water from these wells will come to our people.”
20 minutes later Joseph's phone rang. It was the immigration minister. “I am send a vehicle for the three of you. Get in and it will bring you to me.”
“I told the Muzungu man we were going to see the minister of immigration.” Joseph said, “He did not believe me but his wife convinced him. She said, ‘We have no alternative. We must trust this boy’.”
When they reached the minister, he asked Joseph to come in alone, with the customs papers. Once Joseph had explained the situation to the minister, things happened quickly. He picked up his phone and called the principal immigration officer to come to his office immediately.
When the man arrived, the minister asked him two questions:
1. “Who is the minster of immigration? If you think you are the minister, I will resign right now!” The other man was terrified and sweating.
“2. If I am the minister, I need these things right now.” Then he handed the officer the import papers.
“Give me three hours,” the imigration officer said, “after that you can fire me or do whatever you wish.”
“You’re request is well granted!”
The officer left quickly.
The immigration minister said, “Go wait with the Muzungus.”
They paid for Joseph to stay the night in the same lodge as them. The next morning, the minister called and said, “I am sending you a car. Take it to the airport and see if the package has arrived.”
As they drove toward the airport, the driver took them to the VIP section of the airport. When they got to the desk, everything was there. The immigration officer had also pulled out all the stops to ensure he kept his job.
1. No custom duty was charged.
2. No Value Added Tax for further purchases. This meant anything these missionaries purchased, during their entire stay there would be no government tax charged.
3. Governmental transportation for both the missionaries and the bore drill was given to any location they wished to go.
At the hotel, the Mzungu missionaries asked Joseph what they could do for him in return.
“I want you to do two things.” Joseph said, “I want you to give thanks to God. He made all this happen. I want you to give thanks to the minister. If you will do those two things for me, I will be blessed.”
They insisted to do something for Joseph. For three days they called him every afternoon and asked to meet him. They would buy lunch and ask again, “What can we do for you.”
“I stood by my principals,” Joseph said.
They asked, “We will decide what to give to God. But we do not know what to give the minister in thanks. Please tell us what to give him.”
“Give the minister textbooks for school children and he will give them to the children of Kenya.” Joseph said, “You will have helped the children and made the minister look very good.”
We went together to macmillion publishing in Nairobi. They explained they were missionaries from America and wanted to buy school books for children in Kenya.
That couple purchased 700,000 shillings worth of books and delivered them to the minister in seven Nissan minibuses filled with books.
The minister was so happy. He wanted to give them a present. They explained he had already given them back their ministry in Kenya.
“This Adventist couple have become friends to me.” Joseph said, “My focus is to help children. Theirs was to give water to the people. They have put water access many places, even here in Kapune. They also helped me form a constitution for my organisation from Isaiah 1:17 to help children.
1. Seek justice
2. Plead for orphans
3. Defend the oppressed
4. Plead for widows
This is now the constitution I use in helping the children I rescue.”
A few months later, another American Adventist couple had there imports stolen. They were missionary evangelists coming to install satellite dishes. They told the first couple about it and were told, “Call Joseph!”
This time, Joseph called the minster directly and he acted quickly sorting everything out in less than an hour.
They asked, “What can we do in thanks, Joseph?”
“First, Thank God!” Joseph said, “Then build a church in my village. They built a church 300 metres from my Grandfather’s house. They also installed a satellite and projector and screen for the church.”
Three years later, a satellite evangelism program (being broadcast from South Africa) was held at the church. 37 Maasai were baptised as a result of the two week program.
Joseph continued working in Nairobi for another year, until he had earned enough money to come home, buy land and start his his work as a rescuer of children.
"Your story matters! Tell it well. Tell it often."
- Dave Edgren, Storyteller
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Monday, January 02, 2017
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