Stolen Heart in Kenya

SH The Kimani Family & Friends

Dear Diary,

The last time I wrote you, I’d just set my feet on Ethiopian soil—okay, maybe it was Ethiopian cement. I had no idea what my trip to Kenya would bring me, but there was one thing that I knew: I was thrilled to be in Africa again. I only spent about two hours at the Addis Ababa airport, but it was enough time to get asked the question I’ve been getting asked since college, “Are you Ethiopian?” I always politely reply, “Maybe!” Sad to say, but I’m still unsure of my African heritage. The more I travel, the more I get asked these three questions:

Where are you from?

Where are your ancestors from?

Are you Ethiopian?

SH Meeting at the Airport

I always take it as a gracious compliment when I’m asked if I’m Ethiopian. I mean, have you seen pictures of Ethiopian women? They’re absolutely gorgeous! However, it is my goal to do the meaningful research to trace my history. I realize that there are a number of interracial relationships in my bloodline, so I’m interesting in tracking it all, but discovering my various African nationalities is my number one priority.

Two years ago, I made my first voyage to Africa. I visited Egypt, which felt more like an introduction to the Middle-East than actually experiencing Sub-Saharan Africa. This visit, however, gave me the true sense of being home.

SH Joy & Karissa

I zipped through the Kenyatta airport in Nairobi, peered out the window, and saw some familiar faces. My friends, who I knew from my church in China, and their families were waiting outside with big smiles on their faces shouting, “Welcome home!” Those two words and their bright faces brought tears to my eyes. I was overjoyed to be with family again. All seven of us piled into the station wagon and went on our merry little way. We drove to the market to get some fruit, veggies, and meat for dinner. The colors all around me were so rich and vibrant. The fragrances were bold and mysterious. There was so much that was new to me and so much that was oh so familiar. I loved it.

SH Dr. Kimani and Joy in Front of Their Home

My friend, Dr. Joseph Kimani had two lovely daughters accompanying me for my trip to the corner store. I was a bit parched from my trip and needed a drink. Dr. Kimani’s daughter, Joy, stole my heart. From her electrifying dance moves, to her high-pitched voice, to her witty charm, she captivated me. She grabbed my hand and walked me to the corner store, urging me to watch my things at all times. I chuckled at how this young one was full of such awareness, wisdom, and instruction.  Even in the car ride there, she taught me a few words in Swahili—correcting every error and slur. I was beyond impressed. Once we got into the store, I picked out my items and brought them up to the front. Little Miss Joy was dancing to the music. I listened deeper and asked, “Is this Christian music?” She said, “Yes. Most of the stores play Christian music here.” I was pleasantly surprised. I joined her with a few of my moves and then she taught me some more of hers. We boogied right out of the store, with onlookers fully entertained.

SH Which Tree is This, Joy

Our ride to the Kimani residence was a bumpy one. The roads that I rode on in Nairobi were full of holes, humps, and hills. Although I was tired, the jerky ride kept me awake. Finally, we pulled up to the Kimani home. The lush, green countryside was magnificent. I can’t wait until I can see the hands of our Creator because His handiwork is just too great.

Joy took me by the hand and gave me a tour of their garden and farm. She squealed about all of the vegetation they gazed upon daily. What a blessing! I was escorted inside and was able to take a nice rest while dinner was being prepared. Now that is something I’ll have to tell you about tomorrow!

SH Your Family is My Family

Much Love,

Karissa from La Vista

Karissa Johnson is a licensed evangelist, certified educator, and a daring explorer. In the last three years she taught English at two universities in Saudi Arabia and at one English language school in China. When she’s home in Nebraska, this military brat and preacher’s kid loves singing with her three sisters, mentoring youth, and prison ministry. Karissa is a graduate of Oral Roberts University where she received her BA in International Community Development. This stroke survivor started traveling abroad in 2011 and has since traveled to over 20 countries on all seven continents. She accomplished her goal of seeing all seven continents by 30. Karissa is currently writing a book about her adventures around the globe. Visit to connect with Karissa through social media.