I have some big news. And before you ask… No, I am not getting married.
I’ve been in Kenya almost a year. It will be 11 months when I head home for Christmas. This past year has been… interesting. It has been frustrating, invigorating, inspiring, stressful, joyful. There is now a place in my heart that beats to the rhythm of the Kenyan drum.
A few things I know for certain:
God called me here. There have been times I have questioned why? what is my purpose? what am I doing? But through it all, I knew without question that God is the one who opened this door, for this time. When you are faithful to answer the call of God, God is faithful to bring peace, even in the midst of questions and frustration.
I have a specific calling that will not be stifled. When I was first making plans to come to Discipleship, I questioned whether or not this was the right place for me. It was an exciting opportunity, but not what I had ever pictured myself doing. Over the last year, the passion in my heart for those children who are most at risk, especially those involved in or at risk of sexual exploitation, has only grown, even though I have not been directly involved in ministry with children. When God places a dream in your heart, no matter where you find yourself, that dream will grow unless you intentionally kill it. Even then, if it truly is from God, I doubt you can ever fully kill it.
God is the one who orders our steps and directs our paths. Scripture is clear that God will direct our paths. I’ve seen it happen over and over in my own life, as well as the lives of family and friends. Even when we don’t understand, God is at work. As I said before, I haven’t fully understood this season of life, but I have tried to be faithful even in the questions. Now, it is clear. While I was in Eldoret learning the people and the culture and growing personally and spiritually, God was preparing a new place for me. God has been faithful to order my steps so that I was exactly where I needed to be, when I needed to be there, so that I could embark on a new path. A path specifically designed for me.
Starting in January, I will be joining the work at the Kibera Kids Center in Nairobi. KKC is right on the edge of the Kibera slum, which is one of the world’s most infamous slums. Lifespan is only 30, with 50% of the population under the age of 15. Estimates say only 8% of girls have the opportunity for any education. Two out of every three girls are sexually abused or exploited by the age of 16.
2 out of every 3
Think about all the girls you know who are 16 or younger. Not just teenagers, but all the way down to the little ones, 4, 5, 6 years old. Now, imagine that 2 of every 3 of those girls has been prostituted,
for food, for shelter, because she had no way of defending herself…
This is what I’ve been preparing for over the last 8 years. Actually, the last 30 years. We haven’t worked out all the details of what I’ll be doing, but I’ll be working with high-risk kids from the slums, and I’ll be right in the middle of where God has called me. I know it will be difficult and at times probably frustrating, but I also know it will be covered in joy and peace.
I don’t say it often enough. Probably, most of us don’t. But the truth is, I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks.
My first year in Kenya is quickly coming to a close (I’ll be home in 7 Sunday Schools!). As I’ve been looking back over this year, there are so many people deserving of my gratitude.
To those who have supported me financially, whether a one time gift or a monthly commitment – Thank You! You are the ones who make sure I eat and allow me to have the internet access that let’s me communicate with my loved ones on the other side of the planet. Your financial contributions also enable me to visit churches and ministries and do things beyond the scope of my classroom responsibilities. In a very tangible way, you are the reason I’m here.
To those who have supported me in prayer – Thank You! You are probably the only reason I haven’t fallen off a motorbike or been involved in some ridiculous road accident or contracted some weird disease. You help me overcome the struggles and battles and stand strong in what God has called me to do. You are the reason I have survived this first year.
To those who have supported me emotionally, sending cards, letters, care packages, emails, Facebook notes, whatever – Thank You! You may think nothing of that note you hastily typed out before running out the door, but to me, it came on the perfect day at the perfect time to give me a boost of encouragement. You are the reason I’m still here.
Most of all, to my family – I could never say thank you enough. You made me who I am. You support me in ways I’ll never know or fully understand. And you always have. Your sacrifices now and for the past 30 years have brought me to where I am. I am so incredibly, beyond words grateful for you, grateful that God let me have you. I am a blessed girl, a blessed daughter, sister, aunt. You are the reason I am able to do what I do.
I may have come alone, but I am not blind to the countless people who make it possible for me to be here. There are so many people who have joined me on my journey, and I am so grateful to God for every single one of you.
So, let me say it again…
You mean the world to me.
I am 30. I have 2 degrees. I’ve held multiple jobs. I’ve signed leases and bought insurance and have a retirement account. I take intercontinental flights by myself. I live on my own. I have a funeral plan.
By all accounts, I am a grown up. Or should be. Some days I feel like it. I look around and the evidence of adulthood is undeniable. Other days, I feel like Kevin McCallister or the girl from 13 Going on 30. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel fully adult. If I will ever stop having those moments where the girl version of Becky overtakes the adult version.
But the other day I realized, I kind of don’t want to…
I may be 30, but I still love playing pretend. I still love imagining and wondering “what if” (as evidenced by a recent 3 day stint investigating how to become an FBI Special Agent). I still find myself looking at the sky and making shapes out of the clouds. I still lose myself whenever I fly through the sky on a swing. I’m still the little girl who believed when her daddy said “you can be anything you want to be.” I still stay up far past my bedtime reading with a flashlight under the covers because I’m so drawn into some magical faraway place – whether that place is a novel or a research article. I live in my very own make your own adventure book.
And in my mind… that’s okay.
It’s okay, because in some way, I believe our innate, childlike innocence, our capacity to imagine and pretend and see things differently from how they actually are, is a reflection of our Creator. It takes a fierce imagination to look at the splendor of creation and say,
“You know what’s missing? Duck billed platypus.“
One of my favorite quotes comes from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
I don’t want to grow up if that means I lose “the eternal appetite of infancy.” I want to be strong enough to “exult in monotony,” to see the joy and beauty and hope of an every day occurrence. I crave a spirit that is fierce and free. I hope I always maintain the capacity for pretending and imagining. I hope some part of me always believes the fairytale and follows the path of adventure.
Not naive, but innocent, trusting, exultant.
Because let’s face it, no matter how “grown up” I become, there will always be faraway worlds to conquer and dragons to slay…
A few people have contacted me about my blog lately and it got me thinking about how inconsistent I am with my writing. I suppose I should say how inconsistent I am with my posting rather than writing, seeing as I have about a million, give or take a few, unpublished blogs.
Thing is, I often feel like I don’t really have anything worthwhile to say. Or I write the worthwhile thing, get it out of my mind, but never get back to polish it up and post it. But when I looked back over my blog this afternoon, I was really disappointed that in almost 9 months of living in Kenya, I’ve only posted 18 blogs. That averages out to about 2 a month, but really, there’s so much more I want to share, so much more I want to remember.
Quite honestly, the biggest problem is my lack of discipline in my writing. So, I’ve made a decision: I’m going to assign a particular time in my schedule to writing, just like I have certain times set aside for studying and class prep and other important things. And I’m starting with an idea I’ve stolen from my friend Stephanie: a daily gratitude journal.
Here’s hoping it sticks this time!
Didn’t I just post that blog about being here 3 months last week? Maybe the week before? How is it that I’ve been in Kenya SIX MONTHS already?!?!
Well, the calendar doesn’t lie. At least I don’t think it does.
That is one quarter of the way through my initial two year commitment. I look around and try to gauge my progress… I’m not sure what to think. In some areas, there is definite evidence of growth, but mostly personal. As far as ministry goes, I’m not so sure. Things haven’t developed quite as I envisioned, but I try to keep the big picture in mind, knowing that I am working toward a larger goal. There are plenty of frustrations, but plenty of joys. Life here can be ridiculously simple, yet awfully difficult at the same time.
I hope through my writings, sporadic as they may be, that I have found a way to articulate the sheer joy and blessing of walking this journey, while being honest about the struggles. I hope I never romanticize the call to leave all behind to follow where God leads – any way you slice it, it is difficult. But I hope just as much that I never live a life marked by complaining that would indicate in any way that this difficult calling isn’t worth it, because it is absolutely worth whatever the cost.
The hope of this calling is worth every birthday party attended via FaceTime instead of in person. It is worth every kiss blown at a computer screen and every missed hug. It is worth every solo dinner spent imagining the family gathered around mama and daddy’s table.
It’s been said that a missionary is someone who leaves their family temporarily so others may spend eternity with theirs. That is my hope. It is worth it to be so far away from the family I love so much, to live life with them at a distance, to miss out on big moments and small ones… it is worth it if even one child has the opportunity to know and experience the love of Christ.