Son Shines a Light Into His Father’s Life

Story and photos by Donna Atola, Kenya Field Communications Specialist

A little boy in Turkana, Kenya, eager to learn how to play the piano, worries his father. But his musical gift ultimately leads his father to faith.

Leon stands with his father Reuben at their home.

Most kids get into trouble when they pursue something that is questioned by their parents.

Leon, 8, got into trouble with his father when he began taking the time to learn to play the piano at church, which interfered with doing his chores at home.

Leon lives with his seven siblings and parents in a poor community in Lokwamosing Village, east of Turkana County. Turkana, which is in the northwest of Kenya, is a semiarid place with high temperatures.

His family’s homestead, like most of the other homes in the community, has a traditional semipermanent Manyatta house, with the walls and roof made of poles and branches.

They have no electricity or running water at home, but the community has a well by the church.

Residents regularly fetch water there for home use and to water their animals.

In 2022 Leon joined the new Hope Center opened at a church in his village just a year earlier.

He loves doing arts and crafts at the center and at school. He hopes to become a doctor when he grows up.

Leon’s Newfound Love

Leon attends Hope Center activities on Saturdays. The rest of the week is left for the kids to attend school. At the Hope Center, apart from playing with other kids, singing, and dancing, Leon discovered something else that intrigued him: the piano.

On a normal day, the program at the Hope Center ends at 3 p.m. and kids are allowed to play until 4 p.m. when they leave for home. After the kids leave, the church’s worship team comes in to practice songs in preparation for the following day’s service. During practice, the melodious sounds from the church often attract people who come to listen in.

Leon receives instruction from the church pianist.

On Leon’s first day at the center, he heard the music from church, so instead of going home, he decided to peep through the door to see what was happening.

Losing track of time, Leon listened for over an hour and didn’t get home until 5 p.m.

Leon eventually developed a routine of waiting for the worship team to arrive for practice on Saturdays. He also moved from peeping through the door to sitting inside the church during practice, after the worship leader allowed him to.

“I looked forward to Saturdays because I loved listening and watching them sing,” Leon says with a cheerful grin on his face.

He was particularly drawn to the piano. He marveled at the sound and wondered how it could be produced from pressing keys. To satisfy his curiosity, Leon moved from sitting on the chairs to standing next to the pianist.

Leon gradually learned how to play the piano.

After watching the pianist play, he began hitting the keys slowly whenever the team took a short break during rehearsals. Despite being off key, Leon loved playing.

When the pianist saw Leon’s interest, he began teaching him how to play, and eventually Leon got a chance to play the piano during practice.

As he put in effort to learn the piano, Leon gradually improved his skills and even began playing it in church on Sundays.

Father Curious About Son’s Tardiness

Little did Leon know that his newfound love was worrying his father at home.

Because he stayed at the center later to watch the worship team practice, Leon wasn’t getting home until 6 p.m. At home, his parents expected him to help out with house chores like fetching water and caring for the baby goats after he finished at the Hope Center.

Trouble kicked in when his father, Reuben, started returning home from the market where he sells charcoal, before Leon came home. Reuben realized that of his eight children, Leon was the only one completing his tasks late, and it worried him.

“I was wondering why he came back home so late, yet all the other kids left the Hope Center at 4 p.m.,” Reuben recalls. When asked by his father, Leon told him that he was staying behind to practice the piano.

“I was not sure about what he said, so I decided to investigate. I would show up at the center without telling him just to confirm that what he said was true,” Reuben says.

In addition to playing the piano, Leon enjoys arts and crafts.

True to Leon’s word, Reuben found him practicing with the worship team. But even then, Reuben wondered whether he was serious about playing the piano or was just goofing off.

Drawn to Christ

In Leon’s family, everyone attended church except Reuben.

One Sunday, Reuben decided to follow his family to church to confirm if his son was indeed playing the piano during service.

While at church, Reuben was astonished at how well his little boy played. The music in church moved him, but he was especially inspired by his son.

“My little boy was playing the piano for the whole church, even with the adults inside,” he recalls.

This was the very first time he saw a child — his child — play instruments in front of adults.

Leon with his best friend, Elvis.

During the service, when the time for testimonies came, Reuben stood up.

He talked about how amazed he was by the worship in church.

But before sitting down, he told the pastor that he wanted to give his life to Christ and wanted to start attending church.

As the congregation broke into claps and cheers to welcome Reuben to church, he felt a little confused by the decision he had made.

“I was not sure what I was doing, but I knew that I wanted to join my son in serving God,” Reuben says. “So, I decided that I will join church.”

Leon’s father is proud of the transformation he has observed in his boy.

“My own child made me see who God is,” he says. “His gift is from God because through it, he shone a light into my life.”

Reuben’s hope for all his children is that they may live to know their gifts in life and use them to bring change to their community.

Wilson, the pastor at church, is also happy about the transformation that the Hope Center has brought into the community a year after it was established.

“Charity begins at home, and this is what Leon unknowingly did,” Wilson says. “What would happen in the next 10 years if all kids intentionally decided to change the community for the good?

“This is a great motivation to us to help kids realize their gifts because they are the agents of change that the poor communities need.”

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