Each time I go to Kenya, I feel like I return a little different than when I left. I know, most people who go come back feeling very different, but because Kenya is so much a part of me, the changes are often subtle and usually take me a few days to detect. I’m always more conservative with water, I drive slower, and I freak out at the prices in the grocery. But, those aren’t the changes I’m talking about. It’s the inner me that seems to grow, expand and stretch while I’m in Kenya in ways I only see when I have stepped back to reflect. It’s the way I see the world after I get back-it’s the way I see God.
The world seems much more broken to me when I return from Kenya. We are such organized people here in this country-we write lists, keep day-timers, and feel lost without our electronic calendars. We multi-task our days away and fall into bed each night thinking about the growing list of obligations, tasks, and needs for the next day. We run from work to the gym, from school to work, and for the stay at home moms, from one disaster to the next putting out fires at every stop. We are task driven people. While I am not criticizing this way of life-indeed, I call it survival, each time I am in Kenya, I feel drawn to another way of life-at least to another view of life. It’s a view that stops the clock to listen to a neighbor cry for the disaster her life is in. It’s a view that refuses to plan the day in such a way that pure devastation would occur if a lonely hand interrupted the schedule and reached out for someone to stop and hold it for but a few moments. I am drawn to the concept that perhaps if we left just a little space every now and then in our world to think, to see, really see those around us, to be available, perhaps our world would be a different place. If for a few hours a week, we stopped to live not by a schedule, but by the needs of those around us, what would happen? I wonder would there still be that loneliness in our teens that drive them to give up innocence for a sense of love? Would there still be 50,000 waiting orphans in our country? Would there be suicide? Yes, the world seems much more broken to me than when I left. Because I have been forced to step back and see-forced to slow the pace for a moment, I am left feeling like a child in the middle of a playroom full of broken toys and I am overwhelmed with sadness. When one goes to Kenya, the poverty is overwhelming. It breaks every person that touches the lives of those affected by hunger and abuse. There in Kenya, we have a school full of children who are products of broken lives. Innocent children who themselves hold the cracks and scars from lives torn by poverty, abuse and neglect. And there in Kenya, every person who visits the school from America is changed by what they stop and see. Yet, I realize that this generational brokenness is not unique to Kenya-we just miss it here because we are too busy to see it. We miss the masked pain in the eyes of the waitress that just messed up our order; we miss the loneliness in our neighbor who we have labeled as a recluse. We forget that the youth who won’t quit cussing and playing vulgar music all night has cracks and scars that cause the coldness in his glare. It’s not deliberate, it’s life. But, each time I return from Kenya, I begin to see the world very differently than I did before and I am undone.
Seems kind of depressing, right? But, if you could step for a moment into the center of Provision Education Center and simply observe the children, talk with the teachers and staff, visit the surrounding shacks-you would walk away not with a sense of depression, but rather a sense of elation; because here in this small community, people have taken the time to stop. Kenyans with their own bruises and cracks have reached out a hand to the least of these in the community and loved the broken. They have applied the “glue” of Jesus through food, shelter and education. They have reached outside of their hurt and pulled others into healing. One needs but to listen to the laughter and singing, watch the play, and view the interactions to see the change that is taking place. I can’t stop smiling when I think of it! Where once were empty shells of children-sullen, sunken eyes, sadness, hunger and pain-one sees now sparkling eyes, full cheeks, and broad smiles. There is such a sense of peace and self-less ness as each reaches out to the other to provide the stability needed. I have never seen one of our students have something that another does not have without sharing-even one small piece of candy will be broken between three or four. This is a direct result of those in Kenya and you here in America taking the time to stop-even for a moment-to give of self so that another can learn to do the same. When you volunteer your time, give of your resources, and spread the word about the children, you become a part of the hand that reaches out to bring healing.
I believe that if it can happen in Kenya, it can happen here. We live in a wealthy nation, but if we could stop our busyness and look past the exterior, I think we would see a different world. The poverty of spirit here is vast. The brokenness is not less than in a third world country-we are just better at masking it-better at being too busy to see it.