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The Beautiful Stories

This week we had our 4th annual International Festival at New City Fellowship.  Most of you who actually read this know that our church here in Nairobi is comprised of people from all over the world and several tribes here in Kenya.  It is messy and hard a lot of the time, but so beautiful when we all work at it together.  The international festival is one way that we celebrate the unique ways God made each of us.  As we have said before, we can come together under one roof and worship the One True God together because we were first reconciled with him through the blood of Jesus, and that reconciliation and peace overflows from us because of the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  It's a glimpse of heaven when it's done right. 


Our church loves to party - one thing we do really well is celebrate!  This year was the fourth year of the festival, and though Shawn and I started it, we found that we weren't all that necessary this year.  It was such a wonderful surprise to see people really own it and do it out of their own desire to see it happen.  We even had to tell people that there was not a budget in place for it this year, so all of that yummy food and those decorations came from the people here.  While I worried this might make it harder for people to do, no one batted an eye when we told them, and instead they got together in their groups and prayed, planned, practiced, and cooked!



Before we moved to Nairobi I would have said I had a pretty good sense of the world.  I am so fascinated by cultures and languages, and I study them as much as possible.  Having lived in a very multicultural part of Malawi as well as places in New York, I thought I was pretty wise to what it meant to adjust to and learn from other cultures.  However I l still learn something new here every day. 

Each year as we put this festival on I am in wonder of the amazing, beautiful ways that God created us. 

When I was younger I would say that I didn't see different colors or cultures, that we were all the same inside.  I said that with a very naive heart, and it was done in innocence and a desire to love people from all over well.  I thought that saying I didn't see a color or hear a different sound was a way of saying that I didn't think any different of them than I do myself.  However, I have learned as I have matured and made (a lot of) mistakes, that saying that is being ignorant of the fact that we ARE different - purposefully by our Father.  He celebrates these things! Different isn't a status - it's not saying one person is better or less than another.  It's just what it sounds like - different, not the same, unique!

Yes, it is true that our hearts are all broken and turn to self naturally.  In that way we are the same.  But we don't have to have different skin tones or dialects to see how truly unique each of us are.  My kids - though they come from the same two parents and surely Shawn cannot deny them in looks - each react differently to things.  They think differently.  They receive and give love differently.  Each of their unique experiences have shaped them and continue to do so.  Anyone who is parent of more than one child knows this to be true. 


After we moved here and I started to see the beauty in each person and culture, I wanted to truly celebrate the fact that each of us are created in the image of God.  Yet each of us - somehow - are also our very own, specially made, unique and wonderfully individual self.  I am not sure how that all happens!  The creativity of our Lord is astounding and breathtaking!

So I keep asking God to reveal himself to me in others.  As broken as I am, I know he is working in me.  But I want to remember that he is at work and living in and represented by others as well.  I want him to keep opening my eyes and heart to his beautiful masterpieces all around me.  I want to do this remembering that every person has a story - a story with hurt, love, frustration, hope, desperation, fear, and victories.  I want to really hear the meaning when they share their lives with me and know how to love them better because God is opening my heart to that. 

As I do this I will try to listen well.  I will dance and laugh.  I will celebrate. I will cry with those whose stories are stuck in brokenness and have not yet come to the healing part.  I will pray. 

Not perfectly.  But wholeheartedly.

"Once you are in communion with God, you have the eyes to seer and the ears to hear other people in whom God has also found a resting place."
Henri Nouwen

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