Kimberly Ngugi spent three years as a missionary in Kenya, all the while secretly writing children’s stories inspired by the life all around her.
Ngugi, who lives in Nanaimo, said she kept her stories to herself because she was “a little too shy to get them out there.” It wasn’t until three years after returning to Canada in 2017 that she finally decided to present her work to publishers and they all said “yes.”
“I’ve always enjoyed writing ever since I was very young and so just to get such a great response from all of the different publishers that I submitted my manuscript to just really confirmed that writing is what I’m supposed to do and it’s something that I enjoy, something that I’m gifted in and something that I can share with others to enjoy as well,” she said.
Ngugi’s series, Grace upon Grace, follows a troublesome young Kenyan girl named Miriam who in each book learns a new biblical concept. The first book, Miriam and her Rumbly Tummy, focuses on forgiveness. In it, Miriam helps her mother prepare lunch, but she ends up surreptitiously sampling the fixings and by the time lunch is served she’s no longer hungry.
“She finally admits to her mom that she’s been snacking here and snacking there and eating a lot of the ingredients that were used for the meal but her mother forgives her again and again,” Ngugi said. “And so by the end of the story, the mother takes her into scripture, into the Bible, and shows how God forgives her as well.”
Ngugi said her stories depict what daily life is like for children in Kenya and they also teach a few words of Swahili. She said Miriam is a composite of the youths she interacted with during her time living in a small town outside the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
“I worked with vulnerable children, at-risk, living on the streets and in orphanages. So the character of the book was inspired by not one child but just by the spirits of all the children that I met throughout my work there,” Ngugi said. “And I just wanted to also use it as an opportunity to share some of the beautiful things that I love about Kenya with the readers of the book.”
Ngugi enjoyed her time in Kenya so much that she and her family are planning to move back permanently in the fall to continue doing missionary work.
“I’m sure I will get much more inspiration while I’m there to continue the series,” she said.
Miriam and her Rumbly Tummy is available here.