A PRODIGAL RETURNS
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him … ‘Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate”
I wrote a few years ago how our dear friend and Wild Hope Artisan Penina came to me during one of our courses. Earlier that day I had jokily been talking about my new iphone and how it could tell you where things were like the nearest gas station. Now, alone, her voice lowered and her eyes pensive she asked; “Is there anyway your phone can find Matayo?” My heart broke. What I had flippantly shared had created a small flicker of light flitting on a very dark place in her heart.
Matayo was one of the brightest young Maasai boys I have ever met …and the bravest. One day on the edge of the Rift Valley near Torosei a cheetah took one of his father’s kid goats and Matayo, probably no more than 6 years old at the time ran up to the cat and took it back from between it’s paws.
We all knew he had incredible promise and that’s why we sponsored him to go to the primary boarding school up on the Trans-African Highway 2 hours away. He exceled at school and soon was top of his class. We found a dear friend of ours in the States who was glad to continue sponsoring Matayo and he sailed through primary, secondary and A levels. As he entered university in Nairobi he carried the pride of the whole community on his shoulders being one of a very few who had reached so far academically.
Then, after university things started going south with Matayo. The details are fuzzy but he seemed to have gotten in with the wrong crowd. He was involved with a ponzi scheme of some sort and owed powerful people a lot of money. At one point his family and community raised thousands of dollars by selling their precious cows to bail him out. But still he wouldn’t come home. Regular phone calls filled with shrouded truths became less frequent and finally stopped all together. Weeks turned to months and months to years. Nobody knew where he was …something so strange for a tribal people who stick together like the Maasai.
In January 2015 we hosted the Artisans here on the Wild Hope land. It was a blessed time of reconnecting with God and reconnecting with each other. Matayo’s mother Penina was overcome with grief for her son now lost for some 5 years. She laid down under the prayer tree and asked the ladies to gather around and lay hands on her belly as they interceded, in hope against hope that the child of her womb would be found. It moved our hearts.
We all got on with our lives and the months went by. Then in June something happened. Out of the blue a young man said he had seen Matayo in one of the rough neighborhoods of Nairobi. Peninia and her husband decided to sell a cow to get enough money to travel to Nairobi. They knew it was a long shot. They had followed up leads before over the last 5 years but all of them had turned out to be dead ends.
Penina, the young man, and a friend traveled into the big city leaving the dusty tracks of Maasailand behind them. When they got to the area of Nairobi that their guide indicated, they met some local street dwellers and began inquiring if they new a young Maasai man named Matayo. Finally one of them said that he didn’t know a Matayo but that their description matched one of the street sellers name Moriah. They sent for him and waited.
Then, from a long way off, Penina recognized the gait of her son coming towards her, the way only a mom can. She had to be held up as she was overwhelmed with emotion. When Matayo got close enough he cried out, “Are you my mother?!” He was unrecognizable to Penina’s companions with his beard and ratty hair. As mother and prodigal embraced he said, “Please take me home”. Like survivors of a holocaust the 3 walked, supporting each other as they meandered their way through the crowded streets on their way back to community and “home”.
Over the miles back to Kajiado, Matayo shared bits and pieces of his story …at least what he could …a story of a son crashed on the ragged edge of an abyss …jail, drugs, broken promises, life on the hard streets of Nairobi. They got him cleaned up in Kajiado before taking him the last hour down the dusty bush track to Torosei.
His homecoming celebrations lasted a week with feasting and dancing the way only Maasai can do. His age mates gave him 50 goats and about 5 cows to start his new life; his parents arranged for his marriage to a beautiful young lady and one month later they both were in Skyler and Justine’s wedding celebration …that which was lost …had been found.
I guess there’s no story in the Bible I love more than that of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. It’s a microcosm of the entire gospel story. Jesus just loves searching, finding, and bringing home what has been lost. It’s the heart beat of missions. Like our wonderful shepherd Penina left to find the one who was lost and to bring him home.
It’s why we are here. Matayo was a reminder of how sweet it is. God brought home what no iphone app could.