The sun rises over the horizon of the nearby trees to reveal the vast skies above, which are both inspiring and imposing. However, Mama Jane pays no attention to the beauty of this scene right outside the doors of her home. Just a few minutes before the sunrise, I woke up to the endless crowing of a rooster. I got out of bed and walked outside through the kitchen with brief thoughts of frying some chicken when I was taken stopped in my tracks, first by the brisk morning air, and then by the grandeur of the morning sky. I took in a few breaths before turning around to head back inside the home. This was my routine every morning during my recent trip to the Beloved Rehoboth home in Kenya in March 2012.
After turning back to the house to return to cozy confines of my warm bed, I notice a silhouette of a woman just beyond the open kitchen door, hunched over an open fireplace to prepare a morning meal for her husband and her sixteen children. (The current family has expanded to eighteen children after the recent adoption of two young girls.) Mama Jane paid no mind to the brisk morning air, the rising morning sun, or the vast skies slowly revealing themselves just above her. Mama Jane’s attention was solely fixed on the fireplace before her—on her responsibilities to her children. Therefore, even as I tried to make conversation with her to draw her gaze outside, she responded with a polite “Good morning” and returned to her motherly duties.
Mama Jane woke up every morning nearly an hour before the sun rose in order to prepare a fire for the kitchen, tea to warm the children in the cold morning, bread to fill their stomachs, and hard-boiled eggs to provide them with protein. Aside from the fire in the fireplace, her only additional source of light in the mornings was a small candle, which she used while hunched over to prepare her ingredients over a cutting board on a stool barely a foot off the ground. After the children ate and went off to school, Mama Jane ate a few quick bites for herself before she went outside to wash all the cups and plates used to feed the hungry morning mouths. Then, Mama Jane immediately returned to the kitchen to prepare lunch. After a break from the kitchen to wash her children’s clothing, Mama Jane returned to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Often, Mama Jane did not finish washing the dishes from dinner until late into the night.
Watching Mama Jane’s interactions with the children brought back memories of my own mother. The long hours of tireless work to feed and clothe her children reminded me of how much I owed to my own mother. However much of a terror I was growing up, I was an only child. Many of you may have grown up in houses with three or four children, but no one stood out to me as an embodiment of “mother” more than Mama Jane if for no other reason than the sheer volume of her responsibilities in caring for eighteen children. And no matter how much of a terror you or I may have been to our mothers—and I am sure many of you, if you are like me, have stories to tell—very few mothers have had to deal with the depth of emotional, physical and spiritual issues that come with adopting fourteen children who have been scarred by abuse, neglect and abandonment. She has done all of this in conditions far more difficult and inconvenient than any of us or our mothers have had to face.
Proverbs 31 is a passage that identifies for us some of the marks of godly mother and a righteous wife—a woman who “fears the Lord” and “is to be praised.” Among these marks are a woman whose husband “trusts in her,” a woman who “opens her hand to the poor,” a woman clothed in “strength and dignity,” and a woman who “opens her mouth with wisdom.” However, after visiting the Beloved Rehoboth home and observing Mama Jane, there are two verses that stands out to me like never before:
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maiden. (Proverbs 31:15)
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. (Proverbs 31:26)
Mama Jane works hard and long to provide for the basic needs of her household—to put food in the mouths of her children. The sight of her working in the mornings both warmed my heart and broke it. My heart was warmed at the sight of a mother willing to put in the necessary hours and the necessary labor to care for her family. But my heart was broken because of just how hard she worked as a result of her living conditions. Mama Jane prepares all her meals in a smoky and stuffy kitchen smaller than some of our walk-in closets. She prepares her meals hunched over a stool that barely stands above ground level. And she has never complained—not once.
All that she does, Mama Jane does with one goal in mind similar to the foundational goal of many of our mothers. Mama Jane serves her family and provides for them in order that her children may one day realize that their mother has been adopted by a spiritual Father, and this same spiritual adoption is offered to them through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Undergirding Mama Jane’s work in the kitchen is her spiritual work to raise her children up to learn that her sacrificial heart was given to her by Jesus Christ. And in addition to feeding her children and clothing them, Mama Jane counsels them and prays for them.
For these reasons, Beloved International is starting a campaign this holiday season called the Candlelight Kitchen Campaign. We are raising funds to build an expanded kitchen with waist-level counter space and added ventilation. Additionally, we are adding a dining hall since most of the children currently eat outside due to the lack of space in the common rooms. The Candlelight Kitchen Campaign will be raising funds until Christmas Eve to provide a well-deserved Christmas present to Pastor Stephen and Mama Jane of the Beloved Rehoboth home.
We ask you to join us in this campaign care for a mother who spends all of her waking hours caring for her children. From now until Christmas Eve, we will advertise numerous events—from a food truck event to a candlelit charity dinner to many other things in between. You can be aware of our upcoming events by visiting us at www.belovedinternational.org andwww.facebook.com/belovedinternational. Additionally, you can financially partner with Beloved in the Candlelight Kitchen Campaign by donating at http://www.razoo.com/story/Candlelight-Kitchen.