Susan Wanjiru Mbuthia, 35, is strong-willed and quite guarded. She doesn’t easily say the first word that comes to mind; she kept posing and calculating her words during this interview. Susan’s life was turned upside down after she shared a bed with a stranger and the results were an unexpected pregnancy. Her strong Christian faith has kept her focused as she raises her daughter single handedly.
Susan Wanjiru Mbuthia got saved in August 1994 when she was a form three student at Moi Girls Mirithu in Limuru. Her day often started and ended with prayers in church, a practice that made her schoolmates label her a religious fanatic.
After graduating from high school and later getting a job, Susan’s prayer routine continued. She would walk for her morning prayers at 6.00 am to a church at Shan Cinema in Nairobi, which was near her parent’s home at Ngara Railways Quarters. She would leave her place of work at Nairobi’s Sarit Centre at the end of day and return to the church for more prayers until 9.00 p.m.
Noticing that she often left church late, the church administration assigned one of the church leaders to be escorting her home. So spiritual was Susan that she often moved the congregation with her preaching and earned the nickname: Angel. She hoped to one day get into full time ministry but unfortunate events in her life cut short this dream.
The first of her misfortunes was a road accident that almost took her life. “One morning in 1998, I was on my way to work when a matatu knocked me down. I was taken to Guru Nanak Hospital on Murang’a Road with various injuries. I remained at home for a while recuperating and when I reported back to work I found my contract had been terminated,” Susan explains.
Susan landed another job as an administrator cum secretary at a Christian organisation. At 21, she not only held a full time job but also preached in addition to being a senior church leader supervising older and more experienced people. “It was not easy but somehow I managed,” she says.
FALLING INTO A TRAP
“My routine was very predictable – early morning prayers, work throughout the day and back to church for prayers after work. One evening, my assigned church escort was absent and so I walked home alone. There was a power blackout before I reached home and a gentleman who was also walking in the same direction volunteered to see me safely home. When I told him I was coming from church he told me he was a Muslim and I took the opportunity to explain to him the Christian faith,” Susan recalls.
“The gentleman was courteous and when he got me home, I invited him to our church. I was delighted to see him in church the following Sunday. I looked forward to converting a Muslim brother into my faith. I lost touch with the gentleman thereafter because I moved from my parents’ home to my own rental place in Wangige in Kikuyu. My move was instigated by my desire to have some independence, and also the fact that my mother and I seemed to be at loggerheads most of the time. My father supported my decision,” says Susan.
“I had gone to visit my parents a month after I moved out when I bumped onto the Muslim gentleman who lived in the same area. He was excited to see me and when I told him I had moved, he said he would visit me. I gave him directions to my new place and left it at that,” she says.
Soon enough, the man turned up at Susan’s door and she welcomed him wholeheartedly. The man volunteered to prepare dinner for Susan, which she, of course, welcomed thinking he was a ‘real’ gentleman. As they prepared dinner and ate, their discussions mainly centered on the word of God, with Susan determined to convert him into a Christian.
With dinner over and evening getting late, it was time for the gentleman to leave and he asked Susan to escort him to the bus stage. She was not willing to walk out in the night and the man was apprehensive about walking alone in a strange area. They came to a compromise that the man spends the night in Susan’s house and leaves in the morning.
Susan hadn’t bought a bed for her new place and she spread a borrowed mattress on the floor as was her practice. Naive and believing everything they had shared that evening pointed to a godly well-intentioned man, Susan did not suspect any ill motive. She felt particularly tired that evening and went off to sleep as soon as she hit the sheets.
She recalls waking up in the morning with the man’s arms wrapped around her. She didn’t recall anything happening at night, least of all having sex, but she remembers feeling a sharp pain running from her groin to the spinal cord. As the man left and Susan was left to her daily routines, there was nothing to make her suspect something untoward may have happened that night. She had never had sex with any man before and other than the back pain, there were no telltale signs.
DISGRACED AND SHUNNED
Susan was in shock when she found out a few months later that she was pregnant. She suspected the man laced her food or drink and then went on to rape her at night without her knowledge. She approached the man to ask him if anything had happened that night and he was categorical that they never had sex. When she told him she was pregnant, he asked her how it could be his baby when he didn’t have sex with her. As if to mock her Christian faith, he told her to carry her own cross. Susan was devastated. She was sure this man was the father of her baby as she had never slept with another man before, but how was she going to prove it now that he had denied?
Her other dilemma was what she was going to tell her parents, her friends and fellow worshippers in her church. Who would believe she was pregnant without having sex, or recalling having sex? She had two choices – to keep quiet and let things ride or disclose her predicament to her friends and family. She chose the latter, and discussed the matter, first, with her close friends. She was expecting understanding and support from them and not the condemnation she got. She also shared the news with her employer and was instantly sacked for embarrassing the Christian fraternity by sleeping with a Muslim man. Obviously, nobody believed her. They all thought she was in a sexual relationship with this man and was only coming out with ‘a story’ because she was pregnant. This broke her heart. She couldn’t even face her parents, fearing their reaction would be the same.
Jobless and alienated by her friends, church and employer, she went into depression, withdrawing from the rest of the world by locking herself in her house for close to a month. A concerned neighbour begged her to come out and threatened to break down the door if she didn’t.
“I was so ashamed and scared of facing the world in my situation. I lived on prayer asking God to forgive and not forsake me. My prayer, repeated over and over again many times a day, went like this: ‘God don’t cast me from your presence, restore to me the joy of salvation and renew your will in me,’” says Susan.
God must have answered her prayer because in time she was able to face reality and accept that she had sinned by inviting a stranger to her bed. But she was still embarrassed to walk out in public or even go to church.
She used to worship alone in her house as she waited upon the Lord to show her what next. Many thoughts flashed through her mind including abortion. As a Christian she could not bring herself to commit murder, so abortion was out of the question and she resolved to carry the pregnancy to term, promising to dedicate the child to God.
LIVING FROM HAND TO MOUTH
As the pregnancy grew, it dawned on her the responsibility ahead of her. She could not continue living in seclusion while nursing her pain, without an income. She started making samosas and hawking them in her neighbourhood, as she did not feel like going out to look for a job in her current status. She argued nobody would employ a pregnant woman.
With the little money she made, she paid for her rent and food and saved the rest for the coming baby’s needs. All this time she had not told her parents about the pregnancy and she was determined not to ask for help from them. Susan talks about her cravings in pregnancy: “ I really craved for meat, which I could not afford to buy with my meager earnings and was only too happy to join my male neighbours in the joints where they ate meat and drunk beer. I only ate the meat and did not join in drinking beer but this didn’t stop people from talking about me, saying I had backslid and instead of going to church went to bars,” says Susan.
Looking back, Susan Marvels at God’s grace. She experienced no pregnancy discomforts or problems. She did not attend antenatal clinic until the last month of the pregnancy yet she safely delivered a beautiful healthy baby girl on December 17, 2002 at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital. Joy, Susan’s baby, restored joy into her life. Susan found solace in one couple from her church who remained faithful to her when others condemned her. This couple paid her hospital bill and took Joy and her to their home where they cared for them for two months before she returned to her house in Wangige. She took her baby to church for dedication though she avoided mixing with the congregation who were still not accepting of her.
LESSON LEARNT AND MOVING ON
Susan struggled to raise her baby doing various businesses and was lucky to get a secretarial job when Joy was four years old. Joy is now in class four and very active in church. She is a member of the church choir and ministers to sick children in hospitals as part of the church community service.
“I have repented my sins and I know God has forgiven me. I am a happy single mother and I continue to serve God with all my heart. I am currently undergoing training in preparation for full ministry work as that is where my heart still is,” says Susan.
She advises women who get pregnant through rape and give birth to love the children, as every child is a gift from God, no matter the circumstances. She says she has forgiven the man who made her pregnant and holds no bitterness. She also asks people not to condemn others, especially when they don’t fully understand their circumstances.
“They should leave everything to God as He has the final say in every person’s walk in life and only He can judge,” says Susan. Susan took her baby to her parents after seven months and she was officially named Wanjiku, after her mother, and she is happy she and her mother are now reconciled.
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2013