These are my thoughts a few days before leaving Kenya, April 2013
It is 5:30 in the morning as I sit here on the edge of my bed with my children sleeping around me, listening to the bang of pots and pans downstairs, the rooster still bringing his annoying wake up call, and soft words spoken in Kiswahili outside my window as the girls wash the clothes in basins on the ground…. And I wonder, how am I going to leave this again…?
This has been one of our best trips to Kenya. I purposefully planned to have little responsibility while I was here this time. I just felt the need to be here. Oh how I have relished the hours spent just building relationships. I wish more wageni (visitors) were able/willing to put the “program” to the side and just be still. The sense of community is intoxicating.
Anyone who attends my church in the US, Grace Community, knows what value we place on small groups. For many of us, it is the time we must schedule into our busy lives to take a break and build intimacy with the body of Christ. The church here in Soweto also values small groups. They have formal cell group meetings, nearly every day. On Mondays it may be for the men, Tuesdays the ladies, Wednesdays the empowerment group….there is always the opportunity to connect. But, it is the informal “meetings” that I love most. The ones that happen between the ladies while cutting vegetables in the kitchen or the teachers while marking papers in the staff room. Those times in the late afternoons after the children have been released to go home and the staff sits together reflecting on the day-sharing life. I call these “informal small groups”, because never have I attended such a “meeting” where the name of Jesus was not lifted up. I have never left without feeling closer to my Jesus.
Last Monday, the kids had a mini celebration. They had just finished end term exams, and they came together to share poems, songs, dances, and even acrobatic antics! The students were told that they could bring one friend. Of course, over 200 children came. I was so touched by the older siblings as they cradled small babies and toted toddlers to THEIR school. The sense of pride was again so touching.
As we prepared the food, Grace and I both stopped and cried mid-serving, remembering a time when we struggled to serve just 50. We prayed over that food. Not just a prayer for more, but a prayer of awe that God loves us and these kids so much that he would provide such a meal. I left that unplanned “meeting” feeling like God was holding one of my hands and Grace the other.
Yesterday, I sat under the awning with a friend as she shared her story with me. What she has been through one would only think to read in a novel, but this woman has lived hell and stands now to praise God through it all. To me, this too is “small group.”
I could fill this page with my many memories. Times when my heart has been so full of my love for Christ that I thought it would burst. These meetings, whether planned or spontaneous, serve as conduits to a deeper relationship with our Lord and the body of believers. I like to think that they are just a small glimpse into the eternity we have waiting for us on the other side of this life. I wrap these times tightly in my heart, determined to walk away knowing more how to love and build community. Not just the community here in Kenya, but also the one back in Maryland. I tell myself that to love as He loves I must slow down and look into the eyes of those around me. I must be vulnerable enough to share my hopes, dreams, struggles, and even the lessons of my past. That I must value others as Christ values each one. That I must see the world through His eyes if I am to reflect His love.