Recently I was talking to someone who was telling me about his time in Tanzania for 8 months working at a children’s home, among other things. This had me remembering and retelling my own stories from Kenya from 10 years ago when I was a student at Daystar University. In my closet this morning I found my box of Kenya memorabilia (including letters from home), along with my journal from that time. That was the one time in my life that I actually journaled just about every single day. I’ve been reading the way that God took me on a journey he had in mind for me as he continued to shape me into the person he wanted me to be. I’ve been reading about the people who were on that journey with me, the friends that were made, the trials that were experienced, the blessings that were given. No internet, cold showers, strange education system, the severest drought in 40 years, some weird food, washing clothes by hand, strange sicknesses. It was AWESOME. In one entry of my journal it reads: “There was no water again today, but I found myself just shrugging my shoulders and saying, ‘okay, whatever’ and actually found myself not only thanking God for the cold showers, but also looking forward to the next one.”
A friend of mine from the States sent a letter that semester that said, “Become a woman who isn’t a slave to her culture or habits or likes and dislikes, or anything else. No amount of dusty roads or showerless evenings or even irrational logic of foreigners can tear you away from the joy that is yours unless you let it When you miss your life at home as it used to be, focus on your life at home as it is now.” Wise words.
It was on the plains of Africa that I found God again. At the time my family was going through some hard times and I felt utterly lost. It was there in Africa that I found myself relearning all the lessons I learned when I was 15 (a time when I had to decide to trust Him as Lord of my life when all else was so uncertain). I began to listen to the Africans’ stories. Stories of war, famine…really horrible things. These were my friends. If anybody had the right to complain they did. But, instead do you know what they were doing? They were praising Jesus. “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” was a favorite song sung again and again that semester in chapel. By listening to these African’s story I began to understand my own story, and ultimately God’s story for me. At the end of that semester, after giving my life again to God (who in turn provided a way for my family), I gave my testimony in chapel there in Kenya. I had no idea the impact that my story would have on these precious people. God got the glory that day.
In my box this morning I also found the letter that I wrote to myself during our debriefing time that was to be mailed to me 1 year later. It puts perspective on things when I am reading it again after a decade. Here’s a small excerpt from my letter, written when I was 20 years old:
Stepping out of my comfort zone is frightening wherever I go, but once I take the initiative to just get past the discomfort I will be amazed by the things I will discover about myself, my God, and my world. My goal is to coninue srtiving to try to identify with the way other people see the world. I want to remember the importance to just tell my story and take time to listen to other people’s stories. I want to read beyond the statistics and see the face of the people behind the statistics. I want to understand the privilege of my citizenship in a world where corruption and lack of freedom or even a lack of education is the norm rather than the exception to the rule. Help me, Lord, to listen to your silence, to listen to your voice, to listen to your people. Pretty soon my time in Kenya will only exist in souvenirs, memories, and photos. Lord, help me keep it as more than that.
Ten years later I remember.
Come over to my flickr photo site to walk down that memory lane with me.