Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Just the Beginning

In the past two weeks, I hugged family members, friends, and co-workers. I went to doctors’ appointments, submitted paperwork, and sat in traffic. I wrapped gifts, wrote cards, and sang Christmas carols. Twas the season, and I was back to experience it in full swing!

Being in America causes a whole range of emotions to swell within me. Some are good and some are hard, but the undeniable truth is that I really am back on US soil!

With my homecoming date now passed, I’m left to process the year that just happened. Many question marks surround the coming year, but one thing is certain. Although this year has finished, it’s not the end of Kenya’s influence on me. Certainly I will carry the people and relationships and memories with me for the rest of life.

The young faith of many of my students encourages and challenges me in my own walk with God. Their exuberance and joy for life reminds me of the gift of life and of each day we have. Their humble attitudes and service to their families points me to Jesus’ own humility toward the many he served.

I invested the most amount of time in the 50 pupils who I had the privilege of teaching, but surely many others taught me and touched my life as well—fellow teachers, church members, young neighborhood friends, other workers, my roommates…and the list goes on.

So, yes, my year in Kenya has come to a close, but really, it’s only the beginning. The beginning of a faith enlarged from a year lived in another culture. The beginning of a hope brimming with the possibilities for a big future. The beginning of a love deep for people other than my own.

Ultimately, it’s the beginning of a life with a heart more filled. With my students. With Kenya. With the Lord.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, and may the Lord draw you closer to Himself as we all continue through this journey of life!

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Timothy 1:17]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I Wasn't Needed (and You Aren't Either)

As my homecoming nears, I admit that I am a bit tentative. I am eager to share my past year with you, my family and friends, but that same thought also elicits concern. As one author puts it, I will likely “grope for words to stuff impossible things into.”

Your patience and kindness as I try to gracefully transition back into life in America and try to relay experiences and relationships will be most appreciated. I am praying now that, with God’s help, I might be able to set aside any grumpy or judgmental feelings that may wish to creep in after a year of living in such a different environment.

But I do need to get one thing straight before I start showing pictures and speaking of life in Korr. Perhaps it’s not the best opening liner for someone who has sacrificed to support me financially or who has spent hours praying for my students or for me, but don’t let me fool you.

I wasn’t needed.

There was a “light bulb” moment, if you will, when this fact really sank to my core. I was conversing with a roommate from the summer as she was trying to grasp her role in her time there. She wondered aloud if she had made the right decision to come, if she was really needed there. And as I pondered her raw questions, the truth hit me rather matter-of-factly. Yes, she had made a good decision, but she wasn’t needed… and neither was I.

For as much as I was able to “accomplish” this year, or for all the relationships I was able to form, my students would have been just fine without me. The teachers would have pulled together to cover my classes, or perhaps the management would have looked to hire another person. The church would have continued to grow and learn, and its efforts in reaching out to the community would have still seen fruit.

Korr didn’t need me.


I can’t deny the smiles or laughter or determination my pupils had during classes. I can’t overlook the times when they invited me into their homes or introduced me to their parents. And I can’t forget the tears that were wiped away on many of their teenaged faces as they said goodbye to their Madam.

No, I wasn’t needed, but because of my time there, maybe, just maybe, I was able to make a difference.

I tried my best to be a good teacher- to help progress my students in English and Math. But honestly, at the end of the day, I just wanted them to feel loved. That through a smile, an open door at my house, or even extra help on their homework, that they would know that I cared for them individually- a tiny reflection of the immense love that God has for them. And I do believe that God allowed me to positively impact many of their lives, just as they did mine. God used us all in big ways.

All throughout the world, there is a lot of need. People are devastated by disease, starvation and disaster. Children go without homes, parents, medication. The poor may lack hope, joy, or faith.

As Christians, we cannot ignore God’s commands to look after those who want. But lest we get prideful in thinking that we are the solution, we are quickly reminded that God himself could, in a moment’s flash, wipe the earth clean of all of its problems and faithlessness. God doesn’t need us, but he desires us.

Just this past week, I learned in a new way how God doesn’t see us as tools to fix problems, but rather as children whom he loves dearly. He cares so, so much more about what He does IN us, rather than THROUGH us, because He wants our identities to be based in Him, not in our service to Him. And as we ground ourselves in Him, out of us will flow action to show the world of His great love.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” [Matthew 9:37-38]

So, may I get bold and ask my Christian friends what is stopping you from also going into a community outside of your own and sharing God’s love? None of us are meant to be the Savior for a community, but we can proclaim of the true Savior. We can joyfully share that God is complete without us, but he has pursued us and continues to pursue us with a relentless love. We CAN make a real difference as we also remember the One who makes all the difference.

I understand that it is not for everyone, but perhaps it’s for more of us than we will confess. Sure, there are real reasons to hold you back and also real excuses. But I’ve met every kind of person here in Kenya- single and married, with loans and without, with no children and with five children, working and retired, extroverted and introverted- you name it, they’re here.

What if you got bold and asked the Lord of the harvest if you are meant to be the next worker?

It can be a scary place to be in, but few things are as satisfying or fulfilling. God doesn’t need us, but oh, what a joy to be used by Him.