“And what is it you love to do, Katie?” the woman from Scotland asked her
Katie didn’t have an answer “Just about anything. I’m here to help.”
“Yes, every young woman I have met from the West has come to help They want to do something important and useful so they can go home knowing that they helped changed Africa… The surprise you will discover is that you will not change Africa, my dear. No, Africa will change you… The key is for you to discover what you love to do, what you were created to do, and then do it for the people around you with love. That is the abundant life, dear girl, no matter where in the world you live.”
I intended to write a profound, long, inspiring wrap up post, but nothing I’ve been trying to write sounds genuine, so I’ll keep it short. I’m back in the US. The flights home were exhausting and long. I’ve been home just over a week now. I’ve been reunited with my family and Jared. I went to visit Cornerstone and had a really nice visit with my college friends. I started working again. I’ve been cold ever since I got back. In a lot of ways it feels like nothing changed here. It all seems so familiar.
I really like the above quote, which is from one of my favorite authors. I can’t deny I subconsciously thought I could go to Kenya and invest my heart in something and make a difference and feel good about myself. But that’s not what God had for me on this trip. I certainly didn’t change Kenya, but God certainly changed me through Kenya. This was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I do not regret going.
God revealed so much of His character to me. He taught me about myself and who He made me.
I didn’t find my “thing” in Kenya. And that’s ok. It’s ok to not fall in love with Africa just because you are a white American who loves Jesus. As much as I love the story of Katie Davis, I am not her like I thought I could be.
God reveals Himself everywhere in this world. I found God in Nairobi, in the mountains, in the deserts and starry nights of Korr, in the sunrises of Zanzibar, in the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, in the wild of Maasai Mara, in the beauty of the Rift Valley, in the joy and hope of Kibera Slum, in the happiness of First Love Children’s Home, in the frustration of Karen C Primary School, and even in the chaos of USIU. God was constantly reminding me of who He is and that He owns this great big world, no matter where I go.
“Stuff” is over rated. Kenya (and Africa in general) makes the realities of essentials of life so much more real: food, water, health, life, death. I want to live with less stuff and use what God has given me wiser and with better stewardship. I think stuff gets in the way of us being amazed daily by God and what He does every day in His creation.
My God is real. He is active in my life and in His world. He is my hope and my freedom. This world is bigger than I knew, there are countless ideas, worldviews, cultures, religions and ways of life. Every person is searching for something, and I know I have found the answer to this crazy life we’re thrown into: Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. He loves me, and you, and every other person, and wants a personal relationship with each one of us. All we have to do is believe He is the Son of God, believe He can forgive everything you’ve done wrong, and His love and grace saves you, forever.
While all cultures and peoples are unique and distinct, we all are all children, parents, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. We all eat, drink, sleep, work, play, live and die. No matter the color of our skin and the language we speak. We all believe in something and we all want something to fulfill our lives and make us feel like we have a purpose.
So what’s next for me? I’m back at Gerber’s Garden Center, my summer job, for a fifth summer. I get to spend a week in Washington state helping get a camp ready for summer with my church’s college group. I will be working for Lorain County Metro Parks in June and July as a “seasonal naturalist intern”, meaning I help plan and run nature/adventure day camps for kids. I am working as much as I can to save money for this next school year, and my soon need for a car. Jared and I get to be in the same place for the first summer since we’ve been dating, and we have quite the to-do list of summer activities. I’m so happy with how easily we fell back into our friendship and being able to talk about everything and anything and enjoy doing whatever we find together. In the fall I’ll start my junior year at Cornerstone, which will be quite full. I will be living in the apartments with 3 new roommates. In a lot of ways, although I am back in what is familiar, it seems like I’m starting again, or even on the outside. This is home, but is it? I find myself already wondering what comes next after college, where I’ll end up, what I’ll end up doing. I still have a strong desire to travel, I have a feeling it won’t be long before restlessness and the travel bug sets in. I still seek adventures. It’s pretty great to know that my God has a plan, and that it’s better than anything I could come up with!
Father God, thank you for this semester. Thank you for never leaving me, for being my constant comfort and strength. I failed a lot this semester, but You are a loving God, full of grace. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for carrying me through, for drawing me closer to You, and for using this difficult time to challenge me and grow me. I pray that I would remember what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, and that I would move forward with a changed heart and a changed view on life. I pray that I would follow You, that I would know You better every day, and that I would live like You. I love You Lord. Amen.
Finally, dear readers, thank you. Thank you for following me on this journey, for your encouragement, and for the support of simply reading what I’ve been up to. I think I’ll hold on to this blog for now, and see what other adventures come my way. I encourage all of you to trust God and step out of your comfort zone sometime. I think wandering is good for you, as long as you’re wandering with God and not away from Him. God has made a pretty amazing world, and I encourage you to get out there and explore some corners of His creation! I’ll leave you with another quote from another favorite author of mine. God bless.
“And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?
It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.
I want to repeat one word for you:
Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”