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Holding My Breath

Living in a developing country often has things to it that get me wondering what in the world I am doing.  I’ve noticed a common phrase coming out of my mouth as I am driving is, “I just don’t understand” meaning, “What in the world do you think you’re doing?!?”  Literally every time I am driving this phrase or some variation is said (ahem, yelled) at least once.  A little head shaking and maybe a glare if they look in their mirror (rarely) and then we move on.  (I’m such a good missionary…)

Insane driving aside, I do love Kenya.  But there’s a certain feel here that I don’t experience in my home culture.  I am in the last minutes of getting things ready for our apprentices to come.  I will be teaching orientation for them for the first week.  We will talk about specific things in Kenya, how to not just survive, but to thrive and excel here.  We will talk about medical things, drinking water, cultural adjustments, what to do when the honeymoon phase wears off, etc.  I feel pretty prepared for much of this, and am excited about picking them up at the airport and starting the program.
However this week something happened.
Most of you reading this probably know a terrorist attack happened in the Westlands area of Nairobi, just a couple miles from our old house and not far from where we are now.  It started with a suicide bomber and ended with at least 21 people dead and many more wounded.  It last through the night and there were hostages.  Being just a few miles away from Westgate Mall, where a few years ago a the same group attacked, it brought back many feelings for people who live here.  It happened right next door to a place I frequent and love  – and where I should have been having lunch with friends, but I cancelled due to jet lag and preparing for this week. Everyone there was safe, and I probably would have missed the bomb even if I had gone to lunch, but I have to admit that it shook me.
As I talk to these apprentices tomorrow I will touch on the fact that terrorism is a fact of life here.  Kenya is at war with Somalia, and the group that sent these people have sent some before and will send more again.
Today I had a lot of errands to run to get ready for teaching and the easiest way to do that was to go to a local mall that has every store I needed.  I took the boys with me to get them out of the house after we finished school, but on my way there I felt myself start to hold my breath.  Not panic, really, but a catching of my heart in the thought of where we were going.
This terrorist group has targeted places where wealthy Kenyans and ex-pats go, and this mall was the ultimate place for that.  The boys didn’t want to shop, of course, so I ordered them lunch and prepared to go to the stores I needed to go.  I have left them at a table eating before there, and even had a passing thought of what to do if something happened.  But today I went back to the table and sat down.
Living in Kenya (and South Sudan before) we’ve had all the talks about safety and evacuation, etc.  But today I had to review with them to be consciously aware of the situation around them.  What a world we live in – talking to our children about evil things that we hope will never happen, but understand still could.  Preparing them to stick together, find a safe place, hide, and do not come out for anyone unless you are positive it is the military. We had packed our go bags in Sudan and ended up using them.  Now today I was reviewing what to do in a hostage situation.
So I shopped, and checked in after each store.  They laughed and ate delicious kabobs and didn’t think about things again.  But I held my breath just a little longer than usual.
I acknowledge that evil happens everywhere – even in the places that we deem safest.  But I had forgotten about that need to be just a little bit more aware each day here.  As I teach the apprentices about this amazing country and how to live and love here, I will also have to tell them to make sure their eyes are open just a little more.
So we pray for Kenya, and for all of this world.  We know and live in the hope that evil will ultimately be defeated.  But for now we live, we love, we pray, and we trust that God, who is always with us, has a plan that is good.
(Side note, those of you who know RJ and his anxiety may be questioning all these things, but he has not shown any real anxiety in this time and for that I am so grateful.  He seems to be doing well in the adjustment back!)


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