Presence in the Absence of Power

Photo by  Kari Shea  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Last week, we hosted a friendly gathering to celebrate fall (okay, it was more like a pseudo-Halloween party). Rheanna spent the previous day baking and cooking with a couple of lady friends while Rose, Shiloh, and I stayed home to clean and pick up around the house. Rheanna even stayed up a couple of hours past our bedtime finishing our costumes; bless her mama heart.

At around 3:45am, we woke to Shiloh calling for mommy and daddy. The power had gone out, which caused her night light to turn off. The dogs were also incessantly barking, as if in response to the blaring voice coming from the festival taking place half a mile away. We often joke that any event taking place at the showground eats up the power. Fortunately, we were able to fall back asleep.

We got up about three to four hours later only to find the power still out! Rheanna needed to bake a couple of pizzas and we had some party snacks, nevermind the normal food, in the refrigerator. It looked like it was going to be one of “those” days - a typical day in Kitale except we were going to be hosting some friends. We’re fairly used to the power intermittently going out in the evening for a couple of hours, but having it out on this day was particularly unfortunate.

Nevertheless, we still managed to have an incredibly fun time despite nobody else in town (and, as we later found out, no one in western Kenya) having power for most of the day; The pizzas still managed to get cooked thanks to our friends who have a gas stove at their house, and our refrigerator stayed cool thanks to the mindful investment of a quality refrigerator some months back. In retrospect, having power may not have mattered all that much considering we spent all of our time playing games and mingling in the yard. Without the power, we were actually able to enjoy each other’s company a little more intentionally and purposefully.

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It’s fascinating to think that after a year we can still succumb to a sort of slavery to technology. Quite frankly, the only reason we yearn for the warm glow of a 60W light bulb, aside from food preservation, is to watch television and ensure our gadgets are charged so we can thus be mindlessly entertained. The truth is, we don’t actually need these things in order for us to enjoy ourselves and any present company. When I (Jeremy) was talking with a friend about looking for solar-powered lanterns to use in future outages, he simply quipped “Light some candles.” Obviously.

During our first few months in Kenya, before we started subscribing to a satellite tv service and before we knew how much data to purchase for home wifi, we played cards practically every night and initiated a game with Shiloh called “Getchu” (get you) that also served to wear her out before bedtime. Other similar situations have created moments that we hope to forever trap in memory, something that we obviously don’t get if we are screen-timing. Although frequent power outages can interrupt our attempts at comfort and normalcy, there is something beautiful to enjoy when we have to re-focus our attention solely to those around us.

•••

Of course, the power turned on as soon as our guests left, and what else is there to do but laugh with God at His simple reminder of what’s really important. Trying to make normal of our lives here by attempting to keep the lights on for the sake of technology and gadgetry is almost counterproductive to the life we want to have if it keeps us from meaningful fellowship. Therefore, we can appreciate the need to light a couple of candles (or turn on our Costco night lights) once in a while.