Wednesday, May 14, 2014

play time

I went on a conference last week called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. On the second day as we walked in there were a few boxes full of chess pieces with a sign asking everyone to take one.

By the time I got to the box there were only pawns (mostly pawns, actually), a few knights and this queen left. I chose the queen in the above photo. As I chose my piece I wondered what kind of workshop we would have about the chess piece. I wondered if this would be some kind of personality thing. I chose, arguably the most powerful piece on the board. I found it sort of interesting that there were so many pawns left on the board. The pawn. A piece that can only move one square straight ahead at a time. One of the only benefits to the pawn is that if it reaches the other side of the board it can be traded in for a more powerful piece.

Here we were at a  conference full of church and ministry leaders and most of the powerful pieces had been taken.

A couple of hours into the day we were asked to bring out our chess piece. Turns out that I was way overthinking the object here. This was nothing about personality or leadership style. What it was, was a reminder for us to play more.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I can so easily fall into the trap of "work, work, work and always be busy". I actually enjoy being busy, to be honest. So much so that I can tend to forget to do fun things too.

In the past week I've been making more of an effort to enjoy things more. It has been a busy week but I keep reminding myself to find joy in the small things. I play a game on the iPad. I watched 24. I caught up with old friends. Spent a few hours sitting on a bench next to a river. I made a list of things to do before turning 30 in August. Most of the things on that list are fun. Go to the beach. Read two new books for fun. Go cliff jumping, etc.

I'm not sure why this deserved an entire blog. Yet I wonder how many others there are like me that can so easily forget to play. Maybe I'm writing this more for myself. To remind myself even more to take pleasure every day.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I should not have to defend myself for it

This has been on my heart for a while now. Probably for a few years actually. I've shied away from writing about it but here it goes. Sorry if it offends...

Too many times over the past few years I've felt the need to defend myself for moving to Kenya. I want to be very clear on this. I am not sorry for doing it. I did something that I felt I was meant to do when I did it. Leaving family and friends behind sucked. Being away from those I care deepest for on holidays sucked. It was very far from easy. I watched as most of my closet friends and family got married and had children while I saved and planned a move around the world. But I do not regret one second of any of it.

Since my very first trip to Kenya - a couple years before I left my job of nine years and moved there - I've heard so many negative reactions. I've heard "You're stupid for doing that.". "You'll never make any difference". "You're doing more harm than good". "What about people here, don't you care about them?" " I can't believe you just left everything here." "Won't you miss ...[fill in the blank]". "You missed...[fill in the blank] while you were away". And so many more.

I had a desire to do something amazing and I did it. I should not have to defend that. Nor will I. Not to anyone. Not now. Not ever. I understand that not everyone will agree with my decision. That's okay. You can disagree. But please, do not insult my decision.

The lessons that I've learned in Kenya as irreplaceable. I learned to stop looking at the world in black and white; right and wrong. That is a luxury that not everyone has. Most people in the world are looking at life and death. You cannot tell someone that something that they are doing is bad when it is the only way that they see to stay alive. You must first show them a new way that leads to life. You want to get a teenage girl to give up being a prostitute? Show her a new way. Teach her a skill so that she can earn money and support herself without selling her body. You want to make that boy stop huffing glue in the streets? Live one night in his position and you will see why he does it. It is not because he wants to get high. He does it because he wants to get warm at night. He wants to stop the pain in his stomach from lack of food. He wants to numb his heart to the rejection from nearly every single person he encounters day to day. Show him a new way to cope. Show him life.

I learned that it's not my job to fix every bad situation. It's not my job to save people. My single role was, and still is today, to simply love people where they are. To build relationships with them. I could talk for hours on the social, economic and political lessons I've learned while in Kenya but I will spare you all of those long winded stories.

Perhaps most importantly is what I learned about myself. I've always been (still can be) a very shy person. I was never the overly outgoing type. And I was almost always the one to back away from things if they seemed dangerous. Kenya showed me that I have what it takes to stand up to injustices. Get a few guys threading to kill you and it really tests you. Standing up to those men that threatened to cut my head off nearly every single day for 4 straight months showed me that I am bolder than I ever gave myself credit for.

The lessons are endless. Never will I forget my experiences in Kenya. From short trips to TI to the time with In Step. The fun times of shooting darts, late night games, bad movies, pranks and a trip to the Coast will always be with me. The hard lessons to learn will also forever be with me. The death of Peter. The feeling like I was the one that killed him. Seeing what horrendous things parents did to their children. Experiencing corruption as I was threatened with prison. Yet those lessons have, in their own ways, also given me strength.

I can never forget the stories of God's moving. Little Martin that was on his death bed in July of 2009 when I first went to Kenya. The same little Martin that is not so little anymore. But he is alive and well today. Stories of how God provided finances, both personally and in ministry, at just the right times. Kids that have been given a chance to succeed at life though they had once been abandoned, some left for dead.

Still, after all of these things that Kenya has shown me I still get mocked and ridiculed for spending so much time there. And I'm more than tired of it. In fact, I'm really pissed off about it. I understand that not everyone will agree with what I did. That's fine. But, please, do not belittle what I did. You don't have to support it or like it. But please, accept it. And if you want, it's even okay to ask about it from time to time rather than changing the subject every time it comes up.  

Okay, my rant is over.