And for once I was SuperMom

Monday, July 28, 2008

We have landed.

For quite awhile I felt as if my heart was at the top of an arc, as if it were a ball tossed into the air waiting to land. For awhile I didn't feel, people kept asking me if I was excited, but I didn't know I hadn't landed yet. Before leaving I felt sad and scared, I tried to keep my expectations low, tried to sound like I knew what I was doing. That I had gathered lots of information about what we needed and that I would arrive fully prepared, like a boy scout with linens. The arc of that ball lasted awhile as we choose to take a week to arrive in Nairobi.
The first leg of our journey took us to the mystical land of Wheaton, Illinois. We spent a few days with Scott's sister, Tara, and her family. We needed to see them before we left and it was just good to be with someone who would facilitate our last little bit of shopping and just tell me where to go. We did get to go on a canoeing trip up the Fox river, which was very entertaining.
The last leg of our safari took us to England for about three days. We spent time with our Aussie friends Elizabeth and Dave; they took us to the oldest pub in England (apparently frequented by the crusaders), Sherwood Forest, and on a walk in the English countryside. And allowed us to sleep as much as we needed. We also took ourselves to see Stonehenge where we shared the experience with 200 of our closest international friends. I would have liked to actually been able to walk up and stand among the stones, but, alas, I don't think experiences like that exist anymore.
Finally we landed in Nairobi at seven am and were greeted by an eternally long visa line, where all our official invitation letters were ignored and stamped right in. Several Tanari staff greeted us with smiles, took our baggage carts away from us and whisked us into the official Tanari van and off to Marcy and Muhia's house. Muhia greeted us in traditional African hospitality with chai and food. We were then left to nap and shower. Our first few days were spent wandering around the small area of Nairobi that we were in and visiting with Muhia and Marcy and their two young sons.
I started orientation on Wednesday night with a dessert fellowship. Scott and I were warmly greeted by the Rosslyn community. As orientation has continued I have been greatly pleased by the hospitality of Rosslyn and the eagerness of all the new teachers and their spouses. I feel like it's freshmen year of college and we're all friendless and eager to not be as soon as possible. I am in a slightly different position as many of the staff live on campus and I do not, and seem to already have built in connections to the Kenyan community with Tanari.
So far our largest concern has been finding housing. We are staying with Muhia and Marcy and enjoying them completely (quite frankly we're not in a rush to get out of their house) and thankful for their insider perspective and their intelligent, insightful answers to our tireless questions. In fact during one evening conversation with Marcy I found myself breathing a sigh of relief and thinking, 'we seem to have landed on our feet.' We've found ourselves torn between being up near Rosslyn, which is surrounded by a wealthy community and being closer to the Tanari office which is in a more middle class community. We don't want to separate ourselves from the average Kenyan by living outside of the city but at the same time it is peaceful, beautiful, and quiet up near Rosslyn. But we would also benefit from the nearness of others down near Tanari. And in all of this wondering is the consideration of cultural context mixed in with our decision.....
So far my emotions have remained suspended in that arc, we have been so busy visiting with new people that I have not processed through our arrival. I have not allowed myself to sit down and fully feel what I need to feel, because I think that I am afraid of what I would feel. Some mixture of relief, finality, and anxiety. To afraid to think that I may regret some of the decisions that we have made, to afraid that I may think, 'what have I done?' Mostly I've been to caught up in the practical (needing a home, meeting new people) to really take time to dig into my heart.
(posted by Lara)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

we have lift off...tomorrow

Yesterday morning our apartment looked like it had gone on a bender and spent all morning throwing up on itself. Today it is cleaned and holds almost no signs that we once lived here. The walls are naked, the drawers are empty, and we're even using my mother-in-law's sheets and towels. Yesterday we packed our lives into five duffel bags within the weight and size limit of the major airlines that will be responsible for our journey to our new home abroad. It's strange to pare your wardrobe down to a duffle bag of clothes and then entrust it into the hands of people who notoriously lose people's belongings. It's not as if I am going away for the weekend, that's my whole wardrobe for four years. And who knows if it will arrive in Nairobi and if it does who knows that they will give it to me without charging me more than the contents of the bag.
Clearing that obstacle has cleared my mind for about two weeks I have felt that some force has been playing keep-away with my brain. My verbal processer broke for days at a time; making me forget words and reducing me to gesticulations and frustration. I have been surprised that there are very few people that I can turn to and ask, 'Am I okay, is this normal?' Thankfully Scott's parents went before us twenty years for a similiar journey. So I have been able to turn to his mother, Miriam, and ask, 'do I take my half empty bottle of shampoo to the other side of the world?' (no, it's cheap, not worth the jet fuel) Other than that it seems that very few choose to move overseas for an extended period of time. I have also been amazed at how many people have asked us for our time or made ridiculous demands on our time, like today for instance, we drove to Bailey, which is an hour and a half away from our town of Buena Vista to sell our last car. We were asked to do this by the people who wanted to purhase the car, and they then refused to buy it because the air conditioning wasn't cold enough. So our entire afternoon that could've have been spent with our friends and family was taken away by people too selfish and short sighted to drive to our town to look at the car.
On the other hand other people have been generous, kind, and giving beyond what I could have ever expected. People I hardly know giving us donations of a lot of money. Donations that I never could have guessed would appear in little envelopes from people who were the last people I would have expected. I feel blessed beyond belief that people would give to us the way that they have. I feel that God is truly using people's generousity for us and that we are doing that we are supposed to, stepping out in faith and out faith is being blessed.
I sit here tonight waiting for tomorrow morning to come, crying periodically, knowing that I won't be able to sleep. that my mind will be rolling in fear and excitement. That I will be too afraid that I will sleep through my alarm clock to actually allow myself to actually sleep. And it's only the first of three flights over the course of a week.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Being called versus being sent

In less than two weeks I will head to Kenya to become a fourth generation missionary to that country. I use the term "missionary" in the sense of someone carrying out the mission of the Church in a culture other than their own. I have taken quite a few classes related to missions over the course of my academic career at Wheaton and Trinity, but nothing makes you reflect on missions like actually going to be one.

As Lara and I prepare to go it is amazing to think about how missions has changed over the past century. My great-grandfather went to Kenya in 1907. No one in Kenya knew he was coming, let alone asked him to come. He was sent by a missions agency to do God's work. Unfortunately, at that time doing God's work was believed to include the task of educating and civilizing the ignorant savages. The Good News of God's love and offer of salvation that the missionaries at the start of the 20th century brought was inextricably linked with the "progress" of Western civilization that accompanied it. I am not really interested in analyzing the merits versus the deficiencies of early missionaries. Anyone who examines history with an open mind can see that there was both good and bad that came out of it. What is interesting to me is the idea that if my great-grandfather and those like him had not been sent to Kenya a hundred years ago, then I would not be called to Kenya now.

Let me explain a bit more. Obviously all missionaries should be called by God to their work. This was part of my initial hesitation about going to Kenya. I didn't want to go just to join in the family trade so to speak. I wanted to know I had a specific call. The leading of the Holy Spirit as a conviction that you need to go -- this is the necessary first step. From there the difference between being called and being sent relates to the missionary's relationship to the Church. My great-grandfather was sent. Mission societies in the U.S. felt that the people of Africa needed to hear the Gospel and so they sent him to preach the Good News. Lara and I are going because a Kenyan ministry organization invited us to come be a part of their work. They called us to come to Kenya. Their calling would likely not have happened without the work of previous generations of missionaries. We stand upon their shoulders. We build upon the foundation that they laid. Because of their work the Church as it is manifested in Kenya is strong enough to exist on its own, yet also know where it needs help from other parts of the Body.

Being called by the Kenyan Church allows us to have a very different relationship with those we are going to work with. We can come as learners, benefitting from the spiritual fervor of the Believers who grew out of the East African Revival. We can work alongside the Kenyans to develop a truly Kenyan ministry rather than imposing ministry ideas from above and outside their context. We can come asking where we can help rather than telling how we will help. This is not to say that the fact that we were called necessarily means we will come with this attitude. Nor does it mean that all those who were sent came with the contrasting attitude. In many cases, quite the opposite is true. However, being called by the host country starts off the relationship on a much more equal footing. It lays the groundwork for partnership. It does not insure that a healthy, mutually beneficial partnership will exist between host and missionary, but it does open the door much wider. We pray that we will walk through that door with humility. That we will learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before us. That he will use us alongside our Kenyan brothers and sisters to further his Kingdom.
Posted by Scott