Reflection on thankfulness - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2020 newsletter


Mike Garr, Kenya

Neighbors Zachayo, Jackson and Peter celebrating with two younger brothers at Shanzu Orphanage Home.

Traditionally during the Christmas season, I have written expressions of appreciation to my customers and loved ones. Though now confined to the other side of the world during a pandemic, I still continue to have many reasons to be thankful.

Foremost, I thank almighty God for allowing me to experience the wisdom of his safe-keeping. Being in mission, I am learning to give and trust more of my life to him, but this year in particular has unavoidably strengthened that trust. It is a gift!

I am thankful for all of you who support, encourage and believe in my presence here in Kenya. The prayers, emails, letters and financial support carry me, as together we are able to serve humankind. My belief is to encourage, walk and instruct others on a path of financial self-reliance. Of course, this year, due to the unusual circumstances, I had to bend from my principle of self-sufficiency to simply give so others can simply survive.

I am also thankful for not allowing my disciplines to determine how I share what God has entrusted to me. I am truly thankful for those validating their generosity even in the course of their personal struggles. May God bless you abundantly!

Mike and Abdalla

Just four months into my ministry as a catering instructor, I met an 18-year-old young man who wanted to become a chef. I decided to sponsor and enable him to learn a skill at the Marianist Technical Institute, where I teach. As time went on, this young man began to open up to me the events in his life, and I felt comfortable to mentor him through testimonies from my 63 years of life.

I became his guardian father, and he my son. I am blessed that once again I have been given this role, as I cherished being the father of my three children.

During the pandemic this year, Abdalla has taken it upon himself to start a small business, which enables him to earn enough to separate himself from depending on others. It was a big decision and risk for him, but we both agreed that he needs to take this step faithfully. I gleam with pride for him.

I was reminded of the time when my children left for college and I experienced the desire of wanting to hold on to their dependence. But I have to confess the joy I felt shopping for the needs of Abdalla’s new home. I am grateful that God has provided me the means and desire to do so.

Zachayo and Jackson helping Abdalla move to his first home.

I appreciate my community’s acceptance, witnessed by the multitude of welcoming greetings — Mzungu (white person), Mzee (respected elderly man), Brother Mike, Father Mike, Old Man, Papa, Sir, Kumakucha and Mr. Mike to name a few.

And I am profoundly grateful for all those within my community that God has brought forth to challenge and transform me. It has provided me with a better understanding of how we are all different, and how our cultural differences comprise our uniquenesses and beauty.

For my remaining Christmas in Kenya, I am planning two celebrations to express my gratitude for those who have blessed my mission experience. One for my Muslim friends and neighbors who continue to embrace and welcome my presence, and the other for those neighboring students struggling with poverty and those who helped navigate me through situations only a Kenyan could carry out.

As we engage ourselves in this Advent, my hope is for us to welcome Jesus deeper into our hearts and emulate his love for all. Our hope in Kenya is the continued reliance and joy-filled thankfulness to God simply for life.

Merry Christmas – Krismasi Njema,



Mike Garr
Mike Garr is a catering instructor at Marianist Technical Institute in Mombasa, Kenya.