Home » Our Blog » Returning to my roots – Mizizi yangu

It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon in Mombasa.  The birds are chirping and all seems to be at peace.  I’m savoring the moment.  The challenges are still there, but I am grateful for a day of rest and the shift within that feels more calm.
Yesterday I ventured out with a ECHO volunteer who’s here for 5 months to help the HIV+ people I work with to use better agricultural practices to improve their nutrition, their environment, & their income.  All things which I’m excited about and which take me back to my roots in Iowa.  I’m trying to soak up everything I can and feeling like a 4-H’er again.  She’s come over a few times to help me in my little garden, but yesterday I went to help with the clinic shamba (field).  The sun was hot but the work both interesting and cathartic – throwing the jembe (hoe) over my head and back down to pull up the grasses and soften the soil in new raised beds.
The garden project was started a few months ago and has been successful in producing the greens from cow peas several times over – which have been sold locally – other leafy greens, onions, tomatoes and the carrot tops are now looking good.  A cow is providing milk daily and her young calf grazes and fertilizes the soil.  It will be an interesting project to watch grow and one I hope to contribute to as time allows.  I’ve been composting in my own little garden for 2 years now and have patches of good earth.  My addition to their training this week was samples of fresh compost vs the rocky stuff I started with – and a photo documentary of how to compost with kitchen scraps.
From the shamba, I went to my office (with a quick costume change and rinsing the dirt off my hands and feet – waa-la! – new person) to be with my students for an afternoon of tutoring.  I hadn’t told many that I was coming so I was surprised and delighted that 10 students came.  We did quadratic equations, statistics, logarithms and indices – including things I don’t remember from my own high school experience.  Working with some students is a delight, helping them to make a connection they didn’t see before or watching a light bulb go on.  With others, I see how far behind they are and realize that academic success may be out of reach.
In trying to help these students, I struggle with my own ambition, wanting change that might not be realistic and realizing so much is out of my control.  It is at this moment when I am reminded my work is not just mine, but of many and hopefully, the work of the God I try to serve.  My faith is challenged and stretched and helps me to return to my roots.
A prayer I will be praying with my co-missioner, Judy, later today, starts with the words,

Firmly rooted in the center of my being,


and opening to the touch of your Spirit …

Grateful for my roots deep in the soil of Iowa and in my faith in a God of love,

Erik Cambier
Erik Cambier served as Maryknoll lay missioner for 25 years, in Tanzania, the United States, Venezuela and El Salvador.