I began my life as a missionary kid. I was born in South Africa while my parents were serving a 10-year term there. We left when I was five years old. We returned to South Africa when I was in 6th grade for 18 months. When we returned to USA, I always knew in my heart that I would return to Africa some day. My now husband Bill and I met at Oral Roberts University when he was invited to travel to Kenya as part of a crusade that Oral Roberts was going to do in Kenya. Bill was asked to join that team and then remain in Kenya for a year, working with missionaries. A friend introduced me to Bill so he could ask me questions about Africa. He decided to accept the invitation to go to Africa. So I like to say that Africa brought us together and Africa kept us together. That was in 1969.
Every missionary begins their career itinerating. Wow, what a job! You travel and travel and travel some more. We did crazy things like going out with the pastor after a service and then driving back to our home base in Tulsa and arriving in the wee hours of the morning. I would then get up early to go and teach school. We met so many wonderful pastors and their wives as we traveled across Oklahoma!
Bill and I arrived in Kenya as a couple in November of 1978. We began language study in January of 1979. We were determined to learn Kiswahili. I remember one Sunday we were at church. We always carried our dictionaries with us. The choir was singing and we were trying to recognize words that they were singing. We both had puzzled looks on our faces. Bill leaned over and whispered, “I don’t understand even one word! I’m failing in learning this language!” He was discouraged. We battled on. Suddenly we both came alert as we realized the choir was singing in English! We had a good laugh at ourselves over that one.
God called us here over 40 years ago. That calling still leads us today.
One of the major adjustments that I had to make was in cooking. Everything had to basically be cooked from scratch — very few canned goods, no frozen foods and definitely nothing from a box except maybe a $10 box of cereal. Thank God for other missionary wives who shared recipes and tricks of what to use in place of. Shopping was a real chore — you went to the butcher, the green grocer, the grocer, the bakery and so on. No one-stop-shopping in those days. (Things have dramatically changed in Kenya.) There were plenty of failures but I don’t think we ever had to throw a meal away. And oh the joy when some new recipe turned out even better than expected!
Our first pregnancy was a miscarriage in the USA so I was not sure what to expect when we became pregnant in Kenya. I worried a lot to begin with but God was with us and our oldest son Stephen arrived safely in 1979. Very few disposable diapers were available at a great cost. So, they were saved for traveling or special occasions. Cloth diapers were quite an ordeal but I soon got the hang of them. I don’t remember which child was so fussy one day and I kept checking the diaper, feeding, rocking. Finally he did need to be changed and I discovered that I had put the diaper pin right through his skin!
We lived far from the other missionaries and so when Bill went off to teach each day, I was left home alone with Stephen. There was a Bible study that I wanted to attend once a week. But what a chore. I had to get up early and leave with Bill. I would drop him at the Bible school which was across town and then drive to wherever the study was being held. Then go get him in the afternoon. It was exhausting! One of the missionary wives suggested that the Bible study come to me. What a joy for many months to follow as the ladies came to our house each week. They would take turns holding Stephen and ignored the mess I might have. That was probably the greatest show of love I experienced in that first term in Kenya.
Once our apartment was finished at the Bible school, we moved over to the school and life became less complicated. We had both African and American faculty that lived at the school. I made lifelong friends living at the school. I was constantly in a learning mode--how to live together when you are from different cultures and speak different languages. The lessons I learned then are still helping me today as I work in Kenya.
Today Kenya has become more westernized. There are many malls with large one-stop grocery stores. Many more products are available from outside the country.
Kenya has become my home. God called us here over 40 years ago. That calling still leads us today. We’ve had invitations to go elsewhere but when we would pray, God never released us to move. There were times when I wanted to get my passport and leave over frustrations I was experiencing. But there was always that small still voice, calling me to be patient and to keep going.
After 40 years of serving in Kenya, I can honestly say I am thankful that God called us to Kenya and that God has kept us in Kenya. Yes, we had difficult experiences, disappointments, failures — many reasons that we could have left. But God said to hold steady. Now when I look back, all those rough times fade compared to all that God has done in and through us. Ladies, I’m a woman just like you! When I cut myself, I bleed, just like you! I cry when I’m upset, just like you! God is faithful! He will keep you where He wants you. Hold steady. His ways are higher than our ways! His plans for us are amazing.
My Life in Kenya is Entry Four in Sanctuary's February blog series, A Journey of His Faithfulness. Are you a missionary wife? What types of struggles have you seen God's faithfulness carry you through? Share in the comments below.
Barbara Kuert and her husband have been married and in the ministry for 49 years as of July 2020. Barbara's focus in ministry was influenced by her parents and their ministry in South Africa, their ministry with Oral Roberts, and her four years of education at Oral Roberts University. "As a young child I felt called to Africa and knew someday I would return." In her spare time, Barbara enjoys reading and doing jigsaw puzzles. While she and her husband are semi-retired, they can still frequently found in Kenya, pouring their lives into Kenyan pastors and the area's churches for several months each year. "My passion is women and ministry wives here in Kenya."