Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Old blog post: "Why Kenya?"

"Why Kenya?"  This is the question I was recently asked by a good friend.  It's not the first time and I'm sure it won't be the last time this question is asked of me.  So, I'd like to answer that question a bit in this note. 
The other week when my friend asked me this my answer was pretty simple.  I pulled a photo out from under the sun visor in my car ans said "this is why.  I fell in love with these people".  The photo was from my trip last summer.  It was our team along with the kids of Hope Bright Future Children's Home.  The kids were all wearing brand new Phillie's hats - The only thing that could have made it better is if they were wearing Atlanta Braves hats!!! :) – (this picture is below).  It sounds like a simple answer and it kind of is.  I truly fell in love with the culture and with the people.  The kids that I met were so amazing.  They have learned to be so content with the little that they have.  These kids didn't ask us for anything other than our attention.  They didn't want to play video games or watch TV.  They didn't want the newest Power Wheels car (which I know I always wanted!).  They didn't ask for the latest Xbox game.  They didn't ask for a new laptop or a new flat screen TV.  But they did ask us to play a crazy fun game of football (soccer) with them.  One boy asked me to repeatedly carry him around on my shoulders as he pretended that he was flying.  These kids have learned a level of contentment bring joy that we should all desire. 

Before last summer’s trip I was told by Daniel, the director of Transformed International (whom we partner with), "don't come to Kenya expecting to change the entire country.  Come to Kenya expecting the country to change you".  Now, to be honest, I thought that this was crazy advice.  Ever since I was young I had dreams of "changing the world".  I was going to be the guy who, while not in politics at all, unites countries and brings world peace.  After only a few days in Kenya I began to understand that Daniel was right.  I can never change an entire country.  That’s a job reserved for God.  BUT, I can change the lives of individuals.  And I can allow the experiences of a 3rd world country to change my life.  How did it change my life?  For starters, I’m learning to be much more thankful for the things that I have.  I may complain about having to go to work in the morning, but I’m thankful that I have a job.  It may not be making 6 figures, but I’m getting by and I’m grateful for what I have been blessed with.  So many people take an experience like this and think that they need to give everything up and do without.  I do not agree with that mentality.  The simple truth is this:  We have been richly blessed in our country.  We do not need to give away all of those blessings.  Instead, we need to be content with them.  We need to be thankful for them. 

The second picture below is of a man named Daniel Juma and some of his family.  Juma, at that time, had taken in about 17 foster kids from the streets.  He received no help from the Kenyan government.  He fed, housed and loved these kids just like his own children, of which he has 7.  Since last summer I know that he has taken even more kids in.  The only other guy on our team last summer, Seth, and I helped fix up his ceiling for him.  It was far from perfect when we finished.  But it was a new ceiling and it would help keep the rain out.  Every time Seth or I mentioned that the new ceiling just didn’t look right, Juma would say the same thing:  “It’s ok.  We’ll worry about it tomorrow.”  He was just so happy that he had a new ceiling over his home.  He didn’t care if the middle sagged in a bit, or if the paint wasn’t totally even.  He was just so thankful for the work that was done.  On our last night in Kitale he walked about a quarter mile to the TI compound (which was difficult for him due to some medical complications).  He came just to say goodbye to us and to thank us one more time for helping him.  Juma is a man that I will never forget.  He has a strong passion to reach out to the orphaned children in Kenya and he is a man of high morals. 

So, in 2 weeks (Oct. 3rd) I will be getting on a plane and heading back to this land that I love so much.  I am not going as a part of a team.  I will be flying from Philly, PA to Nairobi, Kenya on my own.  Once I reach Nairobi, I will be met by Daniel from TI. I will be staying with the crew at TI for two weeks and experiencing Kenya!  I’m looking forwards to seeing people like Juma and his family again. 
Another question I have been asked a few times is “what will you be doing while you’re there?”  It’s a normal question to ask.  Here’s a not so normal answer (would you really expect a ‘normal’ answer from me???).  I don’t know.  I don’t have a plan.  I just know that I am looking to serve wherever I can.  I’ve come to really dislike the word missionary.  There seems to be this connotation that as a missionary you have to have a set plan.  You have to build a church, or build a school.  Or you have to be giving out medical care.  Please, don’t misunderstand me; those are some very good things and make great trips and are very beneficial.  However, it’s not what this trip is for me.  I desire to build relationships with people. I don’t want to go to Kenya thinking that I know what everyone needs.  I want to go, ask what they need and see where I can fit in.  Simply put, this is a trip of service.  This is a trip of love.  I deeply and passionately desire to share the love of Jesus with all that I encounter.  If that means playing soccer with some kids one day, I’ll do that.  If it means sitting and talking with a widow for an afternoon, I’ll do that.  If it means helping build mud huts, I’ll do that too.  I have no plan other than to serve. 
For those curious minds, I will be returning back to the US from this trip.  I will be in Kenya for two weeks.  I return on October 18th in the evening.  Throughout that week I will be posting pictures and updates. 

That’s a pretty watered down version of what’s in my head but it will have to do for right now.    


Daniel Juma and some of his family

Kids at HBF with our team

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