Hot tea and conversation.
Not much can beat that…well, maybe hot tea and conversation with Grace Mbuthia.
Grace was born and raised in Kenya and in her adult years, won the lottery (yes, the lottery…visa lottery to be exact), to come to America to join her mother and brother who had already made the trek across the Atlantic. And now after lots of life lived, she’s excitedly heading back to Kenya to rejoin her family and make a fresh start. Grace’s gentle and quiet spirit, her open heart and kind smile create an ease that makes you melt in her presence.
We talked new seasons, old seasons and laughed. A lot.
[Interview by Clearpath.Life Editor, Andrea Sutton]
AS: Tell me about your upbringing, a story that shaped your growing up.
GM: My dad is a pastor so I grew up in Kenya in a village called Kiambu. I grew up in the church, I loved to sing, I was always the best at Sunday school and memorizing verses in all languages.
I first found God in 1994 at age 5. My parents didn’t lead me to the Lord…it was my aunt, also named Grace. She came over for a holiday called Mashujaa Day, Oct 20. We sat down and she started to tell us about God. I remember I looked up at the white puffy clouds and thought it was so beautiful…it must be God.
I moved to the US in 2011 at the age of 22. Before that, my parents had moved here in 2005 when I was 16 and attending boarding school in Kenya. My mom got a work permit and my dad would travel back and forth from America to Kenya.
And the reason I moved to the US was that I won the lottery. I think it’s pretty unique to mention. My brother even won it a few years before me.
AS: How did your upbringing shape the struggles and victories in your life?
GM: I think for me it’s one major thing that happened that shows struggle and victory in one. One year after I arrived in America, my mom passed away. She had hypertensive cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure. I’m thankful that I had God to fall back on.
AS: Tell me about that experience for you.
GM: She had just gotten her green card and was so happy. Her blood pressure had started going down. The last weekend I saw my mom, I drove her to the test for her green card and drove her back home. We were looking at houses for her. It felt like a beginning. And then when she passed, I wondered why?
It was on Valentine’s Day. My brother and I were at church and one of her friends asked us to drive him home. I thought it was weird, a little bit of an inconvenience. He asked us inside the house, and I remember looking at a sad lady, thinking, who died? No one told us until we sat down in the house.
The pastor of our church let us know, and I cried and cried and cried. I was so upset and so was my brother. We eventually reached family in Kenya – it was the middle of the night there. I remember I had to go to the hospital to see her body, and I was so scared. But when I got there, I didn’t even cry. I smiled actually. God was just there.
In my mind, I was like, “Ok, she’s gone. There’s nothing here.” We went back to Kenya for her funeral, and I remember the feelings of peace and rejoicing.
I miss her every day. And even still, I have dreams about her and cry on the hard days. I like the dreams though.
AS: How did you process her passing?
GM: Grief is a difficult thing. There are so many processes in it. A lot of the processes I didn’t have to go through, and I contribute that to God. The truth that I would see her one day was deeply rooted in my heart and comforted me. I remember just after she died, I was driving and remember feeling/knowing that God was sitting next to me in the car. Overall, I’ve had brief moments of weakness, but God has given me overwhelming strength.
It reminds me of when we’re kids and we fall, our dads tell us to get up, but moms hold us and comfort us. So a lot of times in grief, we see God as a dad. He sees the big picture and realizes it’s just a bump in the road. But I think He’s also like a mom. He sees your pain, cares deeply and will sit there with you through the pain and bring comfort. That’s what He did for me and what He did for my family.
AS: You’re at the beginning of a new start, moving back home to Kenya. What are some of your fears?
GM: I know that God is calling me to the next step in my ministry – I don’t know what it is yet, but I know it will be in Kenya, for Kenyans and through writing. I’m fairly certain I haven’t seen anything like it either. It’s something that doesn’t exist yet. One of my biggest fears is that I’m not hardworking or driven enough to pull it off. Because I haven’t been in the past.
I never finished homework, I was always in trouble and barely got by in school. Generally, in life, I’ve felt pretty average. And this is such a big thing for me – I can’t get away with being average. It’s a fear I face every day. But I guess that’s where God’s strength comes in – in my weakness.
AS: Even though you don’t know the details of your place in ministry yet, what is the message on your heart?
GM: What I’ve learned is there are many things I need to unlearn that have come with traditions and what people have told me in the past. Sometimes people are wrong. I want people to ask why and start to question some of their traditions and beliefs because some of them are based outside of truth.
I also believe in keeping things simple.
AS: What are some of your hopes in this new chapter of life?
GM: My hope is to show that first of all, coming to America is not winning the lottery.
I love America. Being here for the past 6 years, I’ve grown the most in my life and I’ve drawn closer to God. I’ve been able to open my mind and encounter more. Christians here actually seek God, not just follow pastors and leaders, but it’s still not what people think it is. There are opportunities and money to be made, luxuries to be had. But that’s not my goal. And I hope people can see that.
My goal is something bigger. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 says: “…lead a quiet life…work with your hands…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders…” This is what I want my life to be about.
Going back to Kenya this time, I don’t fear going without things anymore. I want to get the blessing that’s more than money. God does provide what we need. And it’s not about being poor, but having a content mindset. I’m ready to go back home, to a quiet life where I can show God to others in a life lived simply…that’s me winning the lottery.
Grace is an aspiring writer and blogger. Check her out here.