Sunday, May 27, 2012

I didn't ask for this...or did I?

It's been a crazy week.  Really crazy.  I had some really good meetings with people and was able to share some stories of Kenya and catch up with dear friends.  I was able to encourage others through conversations as well as be encouraged.  It was great.  Then, a few things happened all at once that forced me to sit back and really question.

Without going into too much details, the end of this week wrecked me a bit.  I heard some updates about a dear friend that just plain hurt.  Someone that I love dearly had some some things that weren't in the character that I had come to know.  That's really all I'm going to say.  It was hard to hear some things, and I know there is much more that I probably do not know and honestly do not need to know.  The experience of it all left me questioning is there really hope?  Where is it?

Since I've been back in the US a few relationships have drastically changed (they started to change before I got home).  I may not have been 100% at fault, but I know that I was partially to blame.  I've been really making an effort to mend lately but feel as though I've been met with nothing but utter failure.  By the end of the week I was left again questioning.  Is there hope for it?  Should there even be?  It is simply time to be thankful for what once was and move on, accepting that several (not just one) relationships are far from what they once were and maybe that's not a bad thing?

Friday was a really hard day.  For several weeks I've been trying to meet up with one of the pastors at church to catch up.  We've seen each other for a bit of time at church but we both wanted a time to sit and talk over a coffee.  As I was sipping a coffee at Wegman's, he walked in and said that he had just gotten en emergency phone call and asked if I'd go with him to help out and pray over the situation.  Again, I'm not going to go into details, but it became a difficult day.  Nothing can even begin to prepare you for a day sitting in the ER waiting room with a mom who has been through a tragedy like this.  I began to share with her and offer what comfort I could.  The morning came and went as afternoon set in.  I thought that she was starting to grasp what was begin said.  Maybe in some way she was.  Then, as I was preparing o leave, she went right back to where she was hours ago.  The same things we had discussed and she was seeing answers to were back on the table with the two other pastors who came out.  I left questioning.  Did anything that came out of my mouth all day matter?

By Friday night I got home and asked the big question:  When did ask for any of this?  I meant it too.  When did I ask to become the one that people could come to.  When did I ask to be the one that has to offer encouragement to others?  When did I ask for conflicts in relationships.  Hard times.  Betrayals.  When did I ask for any of this?  I was convinced that I hadn't.  Truth is, I did ask for much of it.  Maybe not in those words, but I did.

After my first trip to Kenya I was hit with some hard truths about my own heart and where it was.  I made a choice when I got home to address issues in my life that need addressing.  I made a choice to allow my heart to be healed.  I made that choice because I knew that there was something more for me.  I wanted to be used in new ways.  I wanted to be made whole to walk others through the same.  So, when did I ask for this?  When I chose to walk a new path of true relationships with others.

My good friend Chris sent me a passage from 2 Chronicles last night that really nailed the point home for me.  In chapter 27 David lists people of importance in Israel.  It talks about those in the treasury, those who work fields, suppliers of wine, those in charge of the flocks, etc.  Then it lists something important.  Verse 32 lists the king's advisors and counselors.  But 33 calls out King David's close friend.  When Chris sent me this he also sent me back for some more of the story.  It's found in 2 Samuel.  The counselors and advisors betrayed David.  But the one listed as his friend - Hushai - remains loyal.  The parallel that Chris drew was that "being a true friend is a hairy deal.  It can be super awesome, it can be super emotional, it can be super terrible, it can be super inexplainable, it can be super overwhelming."  

When we chose to be a real friend, it can get hard.  Being a friend to King David wasn't easy.  But Hushai remained true and did as David asked him.  Being in relationship with someone isn't always going to be easy.  There will often be times where it's downright hard.  Conflicts arise.  Situations come up that test the fabric that holds friendships together.  Sometimes maintaining a relationship is a fight.  Sometimes it means speaking truth to someone in the ER who is afraid to hear it.  It means speaking the truth even though the truth sucks and is hard to hear.  And maybe it's not about it getting through.  Maybe it's more about stepping out in boldness and being real.  Maybe what people need isn't someone to tell them the "Christianese BS" that "everything will be totally okay after this" but the truth that people make choices.  Things may get worse before getting better.  It's not about things being okay right away.  Life is a journey; it's a process.  We're all on it.  Maybe being in a true honest, vulnerable relationship with someone is telling them this.  But not leaving it there - still offering hope.  Offering hope that even though it may get worse first, that we can still rejoice in the hope that we have.  After all, 1 Thessalonians tells us that we do not grieve as men with no hope.  Rather, we grieve with a hope.  We still grieve.  We still walk through the process.  We still journey.  

Maybe I'm totally off base here.  I don't know.  Long blog for a long week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kenya: from 2009 until 2012

I've seriously condensed everything I own to just a few bags worth of things.  My dad has been kind enough to store a few sedimental things for me in a closet at his house.  A few weeks ago I stopped by his place to pick them up and condense a bit more.  In one of the boxes I came across a journal from the first trip to Kenya in 2009.  Here's a few excerpts from when we got back:

Aug. 6, 2009:  
We've been back for 9 days now. I feel empty.  People are ignorant, stupid and hard to love.  I so badly want to share with them but they don't want to's funny to them that street kids walk around huffing glue - as one man said, "now that's the life!".  I feel discouraged and lonely...I want to go back.  

Sept. 4, 2009:
We've been back for a while now.  People are still just as ignorant.  It still bothers me how insensitive people can be.  But I've found that I can't waste time and efforts on them.  Instead, I choose to focus on those who want to hear...My heart still longs to be in Kenya.  I miss it so much.  I left weeks ago, but part of my heart is still there.  I long for my feet to touch Kenyan soil again.  I long for the embrace and friends I left behind.  Simply put, I long.  I am certain that an even larger Kenyan adventure awaiting.

It was interesting reading those two pages this afternoon.  I definitely remember struggling each time I've come home.  I seemed to be very quick to judge others.  The truth is that I had an experience that most people in the US never get.  Many of the people that I am surrounded by daily haven't been outside of the comforts of the US.  Coming back to the US this time was even harder.  I no longer viewed people as "ignorant, stupid and hard to love" (well, I tried not to).  But I did find it difficult to not judge others.  I still felt a great deal of discouragement.  I still felt lonely.  Very lonely.  I came back to welcoming friends and family, but was still lonely and longed for my home in Kenya.  Moving towards the second entry was even more interesting.  I can still relate in a way.  I have learned that not everyone wants to hear everything.  Some people really do just want to know how the weather is and what kinds of food I ate.  And that's fine.  I can tell them that.  But I really come alive when I get to tell stories about Peter.  Or the glue dealer that I spent time talking to.  I'd much rather share stories about Alex-Juma and the other street boys that became my friends.  And I love that I have a community that allowed me to share those stories.  I have a community that allowed me to cry as I shared many of the stories.

I really loved the very end of that entry.  Even three years ago I knew that there was something more to Kenya for me.  Before that trip I had an irrational fear of flying over the ocean.  I say irrational because my fear was not the plane crashing.  My fear was the plane crashing in the ocean and me surviving and getting eaten by a shark.  Yeah, I know - it was dumb!  Three years ago I didn't know that I would be able to go back to Kenya.  A good friend in Kenya saw some wounds in my heart that he called me out on.  Some wounds that needed healing before I could do anything longterm in Kenya.  Now, three years later I am planning my 4th trip to Kenya.  A trip that will truly be a long term.  Three years later and I am certain that life in the US is not where I belong right now.  I love the USA and my family and friends here, but my heart really is in Kenya.  Three years ago I penned that I longed for the embrace of friends left behind.  Today I still long for those embraces, but they are from friends who have become family.

A lot has changed since I wrote these two entries.  While I still struggle with coming back to the US, I've learned to be more content.  I've learned to love better.  As much as has changed, the underlying theme of longing to be back in Kenya has remained the same.

See you in a few months Kenya!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A car in flames, yet people laughed

I haven't blogged in a few weeks; I try to only blog about big events or updates.  Today, something happened.

I'm in Salisbury, MD doing a book buyback for work.  A little while ago I was starting to doze off (been a long week).  It's a bit too early to go to sleep so I went outside of my hotel to walk around and enjoy the last bit of sunshine.  As I was walking (barefoot) I saw some smoke from a little ways off in another parking lot.  As I walked closer I could hear bangs and saw flames.  I ran.  Towards the flames.  I didn't yet hear sirens to signify help.  As I closed in on the flames I saw a pickup truck engulfed in flames.  My thought was that I have emergency first aid and CPR training.  But more importantly, I felt a draw to make sure no one was in that truck.  Training aside, I knew that I had a responsibility to help.

I met a man, Anthony, and his toddler son near the truck.  Anthony informed me that no one was in the truck and it was in fact his pop pops truck.  Apparently, the AC wasn't working and all of a sudden the truck caught on fire.  I'm don't have a mechanical mind, so I have no idea why.  By this time a firetruck had arrived and began putting out the flames as more loud bangs came from it.

What struck me, as with so many experiences, was the crowd.  There must have been over a dozen people around snapping photos while watching.  Others driving by with camera phones out the window.  Then there was Anthony and his family.  Forcing back the tears.  I started talking to him and encouraging him.  I even got to pray for him and his family.  As Anthony shared with me he said that this was his pop pops only vehicle and didn't know how he'd be able to get another one.  Of all the people around, only one other woman took the time to talk with the family.  It seemed like everyone else was just focused on watching the fire burn.  A few were even laughing about it while this family watched their truck burn beyond repair.

I guess this just makes me ask one simple question:  will you stop?  I mean it.  Will you stop?  Will you put aside the Facebook picture opportunity and talk to someone?  Will you put aside fears and run in to see if someone needs help?  Why is it that our culture is so focused on self preservation and self-centeredness that the majority of us can't even offer some comfort to a hurting family?

Maybe this is a little of a judgmental side of me coming out here.  But it truly breaks my heart to see this over and over again.  I remember it happening once while I was in TN after seeing a bad car accident; no one stopped...It happened with Peter in Kenya; the crowds simply mocked him...It seems to be a common occurrence.  What would life look like if we started putting others first?  What would life look like if we took the time to see hurting people and show them compassion?  I am by no means saying that I'm perfect at this.  But it's something that I want to make an effort to practice more every day.  So, what will it look like to you?  Believe me, if you make a commitment to live ONE WEEK putting others first, you'll have an experience like this too.  Will you do it?  Or will you be the one sitting by watching?