Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Aren't you glad you're not there anymore?"

I've been asked this question so many times in the past year that I've long since lost count. Even more so lately with the Ebola scare. Let me clear that up. There has not been a single reported case of Ebola in Kenya that I am aware of. Quick geography lesson (because I was never good at geography): the 5 countries affected with Ebola are in West Africa; Kenya is in East Africa. Africa is a very large continent (actually, larger than all of North America). The countries affected are further from Kenya than the US is coast to coast. So, even with the small number of cases in the US, We're all closer to it here than I was in Kenya.

Still, my answer to the question is yes, I am glad that I'm back in the US. I've made no secret that the past year has often been difficult. I still feel the loss of the life, purpose and relationships that I once had in Kenya. There are times that I read old blog posts or look at photos and wonder what ever happened to that man. Will he ever be that man again?

Some ask if I'm happy because of the Ebola scare; see first paragraph. Some think that I'm happy because it was "dangerous". I won't deny that I often put myself in situations that were not what we consider "safe". But it was always with a  purpose, often standing up for those that could not stand up for themselves. I never had a "death wish" or anything, but I had a desire to make a difference in others' lives. And I saw it pay off. I saw it when the conmen that threatened my life were finally arrested as the locals on that street started to also stand up to them. I saw it when the kids were less afraid to walk down certain streets because of certain security guards. I saw it over and over again.

Some ask if I'm happy because I'm "running away from relationships". This could not be further from the truth. I often think of those that I left behind in Kenya. I greatly miss the closeness that I once had with so many. Of all that I feel I lost last August, this is amongst the hardest.

Others ask if I'm glad to be home because of fears over immigration. No. Not one bit. I never wanted to go to jail in Kenya. But when that immigration officer threatened it unless I paid a bribe, I calmly put my hands out and told him to "arrest me. We'll fight it out in court".

Is it because I'm "just happier here in America"? I don't think so, but I am happy. I enjoy my job. I enjoy serving with my local church. I enjoy the relationships I have here. I'm happy I'm "not being there anymore" because this is where I belong right now. In December I started realizing that I might not go back to Kenya. By January, after much prayer, counsel, and several denied entry permits, that decision was finalized. Like I said, I still feel that sting. Choosing to stay in the US was a much harder decision than it was when I quit my job in 2011 to move there.

In January, when I made my decision public, I took an intentional year to rest. I wanted to be out of the spotlight. I wanted to blend back into the background again. I didn't want to be up on stage speaking, or raising support, hosting fundraisers, publicly sharing stories or being the voice of a ministry. I didn't want everyone to know who I was anymore. I needed to have a year to rest. A year to not feel pressure to make any big decisions. Believe it or not, burnout is HUGE for missionaries. There are things that you can do to prevent burnout. Unfortunately, I started to ignore those things and I felt it big time in such a relatively short period of time. By the time I came home I had lost sight of what was important. This year of rest has shown me what truly matters. I've learned to say no to things I really don't want to do. And the passion that I once had is being reignited again. Those are passions that probably will not have me moving several thousand miles away to another continent. But they are passions that I'm excited to watch blossom.

I'm happy because I am finally starting to feel that fullness of life and purpose again. It doesn't mean that I don't feel loss. It means that I am happy and content right here now. When I left for Kenya in 2011 I knew that it was the right decision. That made it a bit easier to sell everything and go. I know the same is true about moving back. Over the past year I've come to see that it was definitely time to move on. My hand may have been forced initially, but I firmly believe that it has worked out for good.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

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