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Shedding the comforts of America, husband & wife plan return to Kenya

IRONDALE, Ala. (BP)–Sitting back on a comfortable couch, Tiema Muhando recalled the blessings God has given him since leaving his homeland of Kenya more than 10 years ago.
Not only has he escaped the poverty and daily hardships of life in the rural village of Kakamega where he was born and raised, he now has a family and an education -­ finding both in the United States.
Tiema met his wife Ruth, who grew up in the neighboring Kenyan village of Viliga (about 20 miles from Kakamega), at Anderson University in Indiana. Like Tiema, Ruth’s community had raised the funds for her to leave the east African nation and attend school in the United States. And although the couple had mutual friends and even family in Kenya, they had “never even heard of each other” before coming to America.
“God sent us 10,000 miles away to bring us together,” said Tiema, of Irondale, Ala. And now that they no longer have to worry about poverty, starvation or the possibility of dying from the common cold -­ God is sending them back to Kenya. In December, Tiema will return to his homeland to begin preparation for a medical center in Kakamega and surrounding areas.
“When I left Kenya to come to the United States, I promised the Lord that if he would bless me with an education I would return to my country and be a blessing to my people,” said Tiema, who earned bachelor’s degree majors in accounting, economics and management at Anderson. “[Kenya] needs Christians who are willing to sacrifice for their country.”
The Muhandos, who have been members of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham for five years, said it was three years ago that God called them to establish a clinic to provide the only health care available in the Kakamega district. Their clinic will not refer patients to another clinic or hospital (the nearest is 150 miles away), because many Kenyans walk for days to seek treatment.
They hope to break ground on the Mikal Christian Health Center (named after Ruth’s mother) soon after Tiema returns to Kenya. Ruth will join her husband in about two years, once she completes her coursework at Samford University and becomes a registered nurse.
With her degree, Ruth may be the only medical professional thousands of Kenyans have access to in the Kakamega district. She hopes to alleviate some of the suffering that occurs in Kenya as a result of problems that could be easily prevented or treated in the United States.
Ruth has felt firsthand the loss caused by inadequate health care. “I lost my father in December,” she related. “He went to the hospital for a simple surgery and bled too much. There were no antibiotics to stop it. That is what we are trying to fight.” Ruth has also lost her mother and a brother.
The Muhandos are fully aware that going back to their homeland will mean returning to a life without many modern conveniences.
“I’ll miss the smooth roads and the easy access to a bank and grocery store,” said Tiema. He added that transportation in Kenya means walking, often up to 10-15 miles a day. He is also teaching his children, Hellen 10, Miriam, 8, and Grace, 10 months, the importance of finishing every meal, because hunger is a reality in Kenya.
“There is a chance we will be looking at poverty,” Tiema explained. “I don’t know if we will be able to live comfortably.”
But comfort is a small price to pay for helping others, Ruth said. Whereas they “may never eat so much that they feel full,” they know that ample nourishment will come from God’s grace.
“I will be so satisfied,” Ruth said.
She added “making a difference” in the lives of their countrymen will be their reward for leaving the comfort of America.
“It’s a calling,” Ruth said, speaking about the decision to establish the health center.
The Muhandos also pointed out the clinic will help bring spiritual as well as physical healing to its patients.
“We are using the clinic to build the eternal kingdom,” Tiema said. Of the 8.3 acres already purchased for the medical clinic, he plans to use at least an acre to build a church.
And he hopes that by giving medical treatment to his fellow Kenyan countrymen, many of whom are Muslims, it will open the door to their hearts.
“If we do something for them, they will begin to ask, ‘Why are you so nice to me?'” And then he can share the gospel.
Ruth realizes while the clinic will do what it can for its patients, lives will still be lost. “Some will die, but we want them to die with Christ.” Helping the Muhandos realize their dream are many leaders in the Birmingham community, including physicians, nurses, business leaders, attorneys and ministers who have formed a nonprofit organization, Christians in Partnership for Development in Africa (CIDA), that raises funds and supplies for the center.
The couple said they have especially felt warmed by the support and kindness shown by the members of Mountain Brook Baptist and its pastor, James Moebes, who is on CIDA’s board of directors.
“We appreciate his willingness to help us and his interest in what we are doing,” Tiema said. He shared a quote from one of Moebes’ recent sermons that helped solidify his burden to return to Kenya.
“He was preaching a message called, ‘Do You Really Care?’ and he said, ‘You will find as you look back upon your life the moments that will stand out are the times that you have done things for others.’ That really touched my heart.”
Chris Black, an internal medicine physician at Inverness Family Medicine and a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood, is another member of CIDA’s board.
He voiced how tremendous a task the Muhandos have accepted and the strength it will take to achieve it.
“It will be very difficult, quite an undertaking,” noted Black, who has been to Kenya twice on medical missions. “I could not imagine taking my kids over there with no electricity, no running water … but they are a very devoted, caring Christian couple.”
To the many who have told the Muhandos “they should just stay in America and be comfortable,” they reiterate their conviction to improve the quality of life -­ both physically and spiritually — back home. They have lived the American dream, and it has awakened them to their country’s plight. “When we were young, we wished so bad that someone would come help us,” Tiema recalled.
Like the many Baptist missionaries he remembers working in his village when he was just a boy, Tiema wants to share the love of Christ with those who may have never experienced it. “God has laid this burden on our hearts.”

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  • Jason Skinner