On July 13th, 2010, Jen and I embarked on a trip to Kenya with Shalom Christian Missions. I never anticipated how the trip would affect me, or what I would encounter when I got there.
The trip was life changing. How, you might ask? Well, if you asked, I'm glad you did. If you didn't, then why don't you take a few moments and do so now?
Done? Let's continue.
Our first night at the children's center, I went to sleep fretting over why I had come. I didn't know any of these people, or the children. I don't have kids of my own, I don't know how the parental mind works. I'd never taught children before, or preached a sermon. Evangelism? Yeah, right; maybe when I was 16. As I drifted to sleep, I was almost in tears for worry and shame. When would everyone figure out I had no clue what I was doing, or what Ishouldbe doing?
I didn't know where to turn, and I awoke the next day dreading what would come. We ate breakfast, and discussed the day's itinerary. We were going into town (Magunga) to teach the children in the current classrooms. I was assisting Lynnea at teaching a lesson on the armor of the Holy Spirit, while the craft team made heart-shaped name tags, and the games team played, well, games. Lynnea's class went well; the kids warmed up to us immediately, and I had fun trying to throw nerf footballs at them.
After VBS, we ate lunch at Mama Simon's house, and toured the town. I was feeling a little better, but still very much out of place. Gaye had us walk back to the children's center from town, so that we could experience the hike the kids have every day. Everyone along the way greeted us, shook our hands, and asked how we were doing. After we got back to the center we ate dinner (Alice, the center's cook, is terrific) and then we had "immersion." This was the tipping point for me, and the point at which the trip's purpose became clear to me.
The immersion was a time for us to reflect on why we were there, why God had chosen us, and on what we needed to seek His help with so that we would get the most out of the trip. I thought long and hard about this - what was my issue? I was supposed to be a paragon of virtue in Kenya, shining God's light on everyone I met. How could I do this when I couldn't do it at home? And that's when God clobbered me over the head:stop being afraid. Stop being afraid of being a Christian, stop being afraid of doing what's right, and stop being afraid of showing God's love to others.
And when you get home,stop being afraid there too!
I prayed that God would help me be more forthright, clearer, and give me the courage to live out my faith. John M. prayed with me, and I went to bed exhausted yet refreshed. The next day was my day to teach, and it went so much better than I expected. The kids had fun with the lesson, and I learned that I can teach if I have faith that God will show me how.
On my group's day to preach, God gave us the right words and the right message. When we ministered to the widows in the hill country, God made our steps sure. When we went out to treat a family with chigger infections, we were effective. When I had to cut and saw wood, I was given the strength to do it (I haven't cut wood since I was kid!).
I learned to rely on God, and to be unafraid about saying so. Now that I'm home, I know I have to work at it, especially after what Bonnie said: "When we get home, it'll be like another mission trip." So pray for me that I can always remain strong in God, and I'll pray the same for you.