Sunday, April 28, 2019

Kwaheri Kenya

It's my last night calling Africa home.

I feel like the last several weeks I have been on auto pilot - doing the things I needed to do to wrap up work well and get things in place.  This week we had a lot of goodbyes, however my eyes stayed dry and my emotions in check.

But today...

What a hard, beautiful, honoring, loving, joy and sorrow filled day.

I was standing and looking out the window tonight and feeling like this chapter has come to a close.  I don't just mean Kenya - though that is the immediate, in-your-face thing.  But this dream of living in Africa.  Ever since we spent the year in Malawi I have longed to come back and live.  We lived in the most rural you possibly could in South Sudan to the crazy chaos of Nairobi in Kenya, as well as the in-between in Blantyre.  I've seen poverty I could never have imagined, and money that I never knew existed.  I've lived on the brink of war and through insane elections.  And I've shown off this life I've loved to anyone I could.  When people say, "What is it like to live in Africa" I want to tell them to come visit, because my Arica is very different from our cousin's Africa on the West side of the continent.  My Malawi is different from my South Sudan and from my Kenya.  The number of cultures, languages, tribes, landscapes, and climates would take your breath away if you truly thought about it.  And the people...

Well, here's what I have learned about people.  As they say in Malawi, "Munthu ndi munthu."  Man is man.  We may grow up in vastly different surroundings.  We tell our new teammates, "Expect difference as a starting point."  However our hearts and our desires all come from the same deep longing to experience love and acceptance - to be a part of something greater than us.  We want to know that we belong somewhere and that in this gigantic, crazy world there are people that are "ours."

We've found that here.  Our church family has been amazing.  Being in an international church is not always easy - in fact, that is rarely the word I would use to describe it.  All those cultures and languages and ways of doing things "correctly" clash often.  We reach points where we get frustrated and default into "my way or the highway" mode.  We hold grudges over misunderstandings and break relationships because it feels like too much work.  We are human that way.

But we also push into the absolute, breathtaking beauty of seeing the image of God in so many people and faces that looks nothing like us.  When we stand in a circle and take communion and I see people from all backgrounds, religions, cast systems, and cultures breaking bread and celebrating what Christ did for us - it truly is a glimpse of heaven.

As we leave Kenya tomorrow I will miss my church and many of the idiosyncrasies of "Africa."
And I will say goodbye to that dream of living here.  I am ready.  I am excited for what is next and we will jump whole heartedly into it.  But I will still need time to grieve many things as they pop up in the next several months.  It means I have loved well and been loved well - and that is a good thing.

As we look at the possibility of this new international church next weekend we are so excited to see what God has planned.  We dream about friendships and putting down some roots and all the possibilities that this new life could bring.  But we will also be working through the goodbyes as I suddenly realize one morning that I won't be singing in Hindi, or that I can't meet my bestie at Java for lunch, or that driving through a national park no longer means looking for giraffes and lions.  There will be other beautiful things and God will bring new relationships and life to us again  - I know this from experience.

But for tonight I am just sitting in gratefulness for His love for me and the life that he has given to me.

Kwaheri Kenya.  Tuonane Tena.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Eating Crow

I hate eating crow.

For those not familiar with this expression because you are not a native English speaker (or simply because I am old and you are not) this means having to apologize for something after taking a strong stance.  Presumably eating crow would leave a bad taste in your mouth.  So does apologizing after you have been so stubborn.

I am a hothead. I am also a verbal processor.  These two things can be explosive together when I reach a point of frustration where I just let it out.  I can't tell you the number of times I have had to swallow my pride and reach out and apologize. It is an almost painful, and certainly humbling - sometimes humiliating- experience.

Over the years as I have grown up and matured (hopefully hah) I have learned better how to hold my tongue and can usually wait until the proper moment to approach a situation in a way that is more calm and reasonable.  However there are still times of stress and feeling overwhelmed when I don't do this in the right way.  This week I had one of those times and I had to reach out to my poor victim (who truly was nothing but the messenger) and ask forgiveness.  Of course my platform to talk about the things that really are a problem is gone because no one takes it seriously anymore.  It's an unfortunate side effect of this particular sin.

One of the things that we continually talk about in our mission is the fact that we, as humans, are capable of so much more evil that we want to admit.  We often surprise ourselves when we fall back into a pattern where we thought we had victory.  We are taken aback my the toxicity of the words that flow from our mouth - or at least the thoughts that come from our hearts, even if we don't verbalize them.  I find myself thinking this often when a thought comes into my head about a brother or sister that I am with.  I expect tons of grace given to me because I know what God is doing in me, but I am quick to forget that he is working in others as well.

However, we follow up that idea with the fact that God loves us more than we can possibly know or imagine.

I have been working with interns and apprentices on this team for the last few years.  They come excited and ready to change the world in a few short months.  They come with a romanticized idea of Kenya, and fall hard when the reality of how hard it is to live cross-culturally hits them between the eyes.  It is one of my privileges and joys to help them walk through the tension of how ugly they feel when the "I'm right and you are wrong" thought permeates through them and the fact that this is not who they are anymore battles for their hearts.  Their sinfulness startles them, but I can see that it is nothing that has not been there all along.  Our flesh is ugly and messy and very, very selfish.

But then I remind them of the good news - the news that they are loved more than than they can even imagine.  The news that the old is gone and the new is here.  The news that we don't fight against each other but rather against spiritual forces of evil.  The news that there is no condemnation for those in Christ.  Often their (and my) first reaction to being confronted with our sin is justifying their actions by whatever means necessary. How crazy our flesh and our need for reputation is!   But slowly I  see a lightbulb come on (again and again) and they confess and repent, they reconcile things between them and whomever they hurt, and they let go of that weight and move on.

It's so easy to remind others of this.  I love mentoring and discipling. Both because I enjoy seeing these revelations happen in the people I am talking to, but also because it is a constant reminder to me of who I was without Christ and who I now am with him.  As I study and teach each of these lessons, I am given a new revelation of the depth of these truths each time. 

I am sure I will be eating crow many more times in life, though hopefully it won't be served as often as when I was younger.  However I am so so thankful for the grace and new life that comes as the next course of that meal.

Another in the fire

Maybe you don't know what the process to move overseas is like, but there was a lot of what we thought of as jumping through hoops ...