Life comes and goes in strange and unexpected ways. Death still has not touched my life in very many closely personal ways, but this morning I received word on the death of someone I don't know profoundly well who has touched my life profoundly.
I've written before about my friend James Njuguna and the work he's done with a charitable organization he founded in Kenya, Fadhili Helpers, which is the group that I volunteered with while I was there. James is truly an inspiration to me, one of my role models. I didn't know him all that well while I was in Kenya, my orphanage was in a village outside of Nairobi and I didn't make it in to the Fadhili office in town very often, but the little I knew of him impressed me. In recent months, I've been collaborating with him to edit and clean up his website, and in the process, I've learned a lot about him and his dreams and drive.
James is devoutly Christian and desires more than anything to be able to raise his countrymen out of poverty, physical, mental, and spiritual. He started from scratch just a few years ago with a group of like-minded young men, believing that it was God's desire, and built a program that brings in volunteers from around the world and places them in orphanages and school. He started his own orphanage in Nairobi and has a child sponsorship program in place. He orchestrates the work of missionary groups going into the most rural parts of Kenya to preach the good news of the Gospel to the tribes that live there. All this from a man who grew up as one of the youngest children of 13, in an almost destitute house, who could only finish high school because someone donated the school fees for him.
James is funny and easygoing and happy and always looking for ways to help. And there is a big hole in my heart right now because of the news I received from Fadhili this morning.
James was on his way home last Friday- almost there, in fact- when he was accosted by a group of thugs who shot him dead and ran, apparently without even taking anything.
My friend Anena, who went to Kenya the same time I did as a volunteer, extended her stay indefinitely, and started her own NGO, knew James much better than I and wrote about her perspective and the Kenyan perspective on death on her very eloquent but not G-rated blog (Anena is one of the most fascinating people I've ever met, but some of her habits caused James to tell her sometimes that she needs Jesus- something he never felt the need to tell me. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he felt that I adhered to religion a little too much, since I'd never take chai with them). Anena knew James much better than I got the chance to, working with him very closely as she began her organization to assist women and children with AIDS. And she has exactly the same assessment of him that I do.
But, the glimmer in this tragedy is that James' work is well-enough established that Fadhili will continue to assist Kenya's orphans and streetmen and children from broken homes. Now it might be even more important, because now, on top of being a wonderful organization to help so many who cannot help themselves, it is a living monument to the life of a good, good man.
I've given thought lately to the idea that God has no hands but us- that it is critical for us to do our best to be listening for God's nudges, because often those nudges are guiding us towards someone with a need that we can help. We are the hands of the Lord when we choose to be, and we assist in blessing His children by actively serving those around us. James, you were the hands of the Lord. If your life wasn't worn out in service, it's only because you didn't live long enough to do so. You are one of my heroes, and will be forever.