Rock, Paper, Scissors: Love Letter from Kenya
By Mary Dyer
When I was young, I played “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” We would count to three, then our hand would open as a fist for rock, flat for paper, two fingers to mimic the scissor blades. Rock would win over scissors, paper over rock, scissors over paper. Easy, indisputable. Yet the game was “fixed,” because if water had been one of the choices, water would ALWAYS win. This is a story about how water wore away centuries of oppression, colonialism, tribal customs, misogyny.
Several years ago, I found an entry from a Kenyan woman, a lesbian mother of two daughters, trying to follow her vocation of writing about womanist theology and postcolonialism. We were friends for several months, getting to know each other and our wildly different worlds, when she asked me for $25 for food for her and her children. My spouse and I are not rich, but after seeing glimpses of her life I knew we had to help, not knowing where this would lead us.
Njoki was enrolled at a university in a small town near Nairobi. She had already been denied a path to ordination by the Kenyan Presbyterian Church because of her lesbianism, but she persisted and kept studying, and taking care of her two daughters.
As our friendship grew and COVID, floods, and famine devastated eastern Kenya, it became imperative for us to send her a monthly stipend to cover her housing and food and occasional extra for a water tank, a replaced computer after hers was stolen….
Soon after our first meeting she asked to call me Mum, and, as she shared our growing friendship with her daughters, they began to call me “Cucu,” “Grandmother.”
We have come a long way together, as she has continued to grow in grace and confidence. Her mother had trouble accepting all of her, which was devastating for her, but, last week she found her voice:
“I called my mother this morning. I told her how her behavior was damaging. She said that she feared what people thought about me saying that I am always writing on issues affecting women. I told her that it was selfish to impress others at the expense of hurting me. I told her that this was my vocation, and I needed her blessings and I am proud of what I do. She ended up apologizing…. I felt such relief.”
Then, later in the week she confronted her uncle in public:
“I met my uncle who abused me when I was a young girl. I was speaking in a thanksgiving event …. I mentioned female genital mutilation and how bad it is. I felt so empowered as he and everyone who helped him to cover up listened. At that moment I felt all the bitterness evaporate as I named it as violence. For the first time since 2001. I closed that door. You have given me courage that I didn’t know I possessed. I look up to you.”
We expanded our circle this week when a group of women went to Kenya to visit a girls’ school they support. My close friend Carol and her spouse met Njoki. They bonded immediately and Carol told her that she was now her aunt. Their group is now funding all their educational expenses.
Njoki’s baccalaureate thesis is “Dehumanized Imago Dei Of Women in Kenyan Politics: Towards a Feminist Public Theology.” Her hope is to come to the U.S. to teach womanist theology, postcolonialism.
Sheryl and I, and now Carol and her community, are committed to making this dream come true, as her seedling is growing into a strong tree.
This story has no ending. The rock is still being broken open, the growing tree supplied with water from a growing community. Join hearts and hands with us to help her grow. The ending is up to all of us.
Mary Dyer has always been an advocate for social justice. She did a master’s at Mount Angel Seminary, but when the church denied her the opportunity to use her gifts, she moved on to work with survivors of domestic violence, rape, and incest. After she became deaf, she engaged in advocacy for people with hearing loss.