“On belay?” “Belay on.” “Ready to climb.” “Climb away!” One of my favorite parts of being a camp counselor last summer at Judson was the weeks I got to teach rock climbing. Learning all the gear and techniques for the rock wall, working with Dave or Jess, getting to climb some myself, definitely a great perk of that job! This opener will make sense in a few paragraphs. As I reach the half-way point of being in Kenya, I’ve been thinking a lot, about why I am here, about expectations, about life, about God, about myself. I’ve realized that I’m not in love with Kenya like I thought I would be. I don’t think Kenya is one of my heart-places. There’s others in my group who have fallen in love with this place, and even see a future here. I thought maybe, potentially, I would find the same feelings. But I haven’t, and though I’m struggling through that, I’m realizing that’s ok.
Coming here was my dream for so long. I wished, hoped, prayed, and dreamed about having this adventure for a full year before officially being able to commit to coming. I’ve dreamed of travel for as long as I can remember. Everyone kept telling me this is the chance of a lifetime, which is true. I don’t take for granted how God provided for me and gave me the spot to come here, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be here. I’m getting to do something a good majority of people will never get to do, getting to see things many will never see. Kenya is beautiful, and you can’t beat the weather, getting out of those Grand Rapid snow storms;) I’ve gotten to meet some really neat and beautiful people. I get to experience more diversity than ever before (Side story: on Sunday, the church I went to was a prime example. The head pastor was Korean. He preached in Korean, followed by a Korean to English translator, and then an English to Swahili translator! To top it off, there was a sign language interpreter on screen. Talk about diversity! Unfortunately, between all the translations, I didn’t get too much out of the sermon, but a unique experience indeed!) I see my faith being affirmed, and how following Christ bring purpose and hope to my life. God is teaching me about Himself and about myself daily. He’s teaching me to rely on Him, showing me how weak I really am and how strong He is. He’s showing me how much I need Him. He reminds me of His love for me daily, with a conversation with a new person, an encouragement note or word from someone at home, through the beauty of this place, through a quiet moment stolen in the midst of so many people. God is being so good to me, and I often need reminded of that.
See on the other hand, though I know God is at work, and teaching me and stretching me, are the doubts. The doubt that coming here was a mistake. That I’m not doing anything worthwhile. That I left Jared and Cornerstone and dumped my bank account into this trip to not have the time of my life. I get tired of Nairobi, so many people, traffic, pollution. I get tired of USIU, so many people, classes I don’t care too much for, little details. I get tired of being in Kenya, and feel the want to come home often. I get tired of how our group has become fractured. I cry, complain, argue with God even, begging Him to make it clearer why I am here. Why I thought this was a good idea. Because when you want something so bad and dream about it so much, and it turns out like this has, you feel like a failure. Like you did it all wrong, like made the wrong choice.
But then I’m reminded of truth. Maybe I’m not here for some glorious, glamorous purpose. Maybe I’m here for little things that seem insignificant. For meeting random people in class, in the cafeteria, sitting at a table and starting a conversation. Maybe I’m here to learn about the world, about the hurt and brokenness, even if it seems like I can’t do anything about it. Maybe I’m here for a few hours a week at First Love, playing with some adorable, beautiful little girls. They don’t really speak English, I don’t speak Swahili, but we swing, we laugh, we cuddle, I hold them, hold their hands, they do my hair (sort of). Maybe I’m here to learn from other cultures. Maybe I’m here just to teach a class here and there at Karen C Primary School and have some good conversations with the teachers. Maybe I’m here to learn that no place in the world will bring me the satisfaction that only God can give. Maybe I’m here to learn the same things about friendships and relationships. Maybe I’m here to strengthen my prayer life as I’m forced to talk to God constantly as I struggle through this. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe I’ll never know all the little reasons God brought me here. Maybe I’m simply supposed to trust Him every day, see the people around me with open eyes, and act on the love of God where He directs me. Faith and trust are easier said than done.
Now here’s the tie in to my opening. As I lay awake the other night, thinking about everything, ready to go home, I was trying to think of an analogy for what I’m feeling. And I thought of rock climbing. When I would teach, I had a lot of kids who were scared of the wall. I would get all harnessed up and clipped in, and tell them to climb just a few feet up the wall. Then I would tell them to trust me, and lean back and let go so they could see that the rope and I would catch them if they slipped and fell. On many kids this technique worked, and helped comfort their fears and doubts. I remember several campers, like Chloe and Thwee, who climbed all the way to the top by the end of the week after fear at the beginning. I thought of what’s happening in my life right now like that. I’m on the wall, and God is the belayer. I have doubts, worries, and fears of being a failure at my dream. And then God tells me to let go of the wall and lean back, He’ll catch me. Once I know He’ll catch me, I can keep climbing. Once I trust Him and have faith, I can keep moving. To be blunt with you, I am not in love with Kenya; I’m not having the time of my life. I don’t really know why I’m here often. But God is good, and His plan is good. Even when I don’t see it, when I doubt, He’s got me, He tells me to lean back and let go and trust Him. And He’ll catch me every time.
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.