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.  

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