Hello (or should I say, Jambo!!!) my friends! I have officially been in the states for a good 3 days and boy have the past 3 weeks been a ride. People have been asking me how Kenya was, and every time I get asked the question… I just don’t really know what to say. I can tell you somethin though, this blog post will be coming straight from the heart. #nofilter
The first week of the trip was spent in Nairobi doing a bunch of fair trade, which is something the non profit Take Heart is all about. I would love to tell you all the ins and outs of it one day if you would like to know. However, one particular day of that week stood out to me. It was the day we got to go to the Candlelight School in a penny slum. You picture a typical African country’s poverty and bam, that was the penny slum. Except it wasn’t just a picture. The picture came to life. The entire village was filled with trash, dead animals, feces, rotten food, dirt, and flies. Everywhere. And in the heart of it all was this Candlelight School, giving so much hope to over 400 precious Kenyan kids. Lord, bless the founders Alice and Fred for their hearts for these children. I remember hearing story after story of terrible, terrible things that had happened to these kids. Kids would go home from school seeing that their moms hung themselves because the burdens of life were just too much. Kids would go home to abusive parents, criminals lurking every corner, and disease affecting every family member. The burdens of that day were so much. I remember when one young girl asked for prayer as she was concerned about her mom dying of disease at home while she was at school. I remember the tears that just kept strolling down my face. Every time I tried to escape the sadness, I would just turn around and see another sight of complete brokenness that would shatter me even more. I cried out to the Lord at that moment to just please end this suffering in Kenya. I’ll never forget the way God burdened my heart for His glory that day. Although physical healing occurred and the kids were all filled with joy from us giving them oranges, I believe God brought me to that particular slum on that particular day to see the things I needed to see in order to accomplish His will for my life.
The next week and half was spent in the good ole village of Oyuma. We visited widows and tended to their needs, loved on the orphaned children, and gave many, many talks to young girls about women empowerment. Here is one word that just kept sticking out to me in the village- injustice. Women and young girls being taken advantage of by older men. HIV/AIDS overtaking the life of many. Malaria being prevalent in almost every home. Children not being able to go to school because of poverty. Families not having access to food or clean water. Orphans with stories too heart breaking to even fathom. Everything, everything about that village just screamed injustice. Especially when it came to the way those young girls were treated. People would tell me it’s part of their culture, but Jesus triumphs culture. No young girl should be taken advantage of by an older man in any country, culture, or religion. Looking back on it, I am so honored God chose me to be used as a vessel for empowerment in those girls. To just have a moment to tell them how loved, treasured, and adored they were by God was so honoring. The fact that God chooses us because He trusts us to deliver the good news to His people is so honoring. Being called a servant of Jesus, is so honoring.
Now as eye-opening as it was to see and taste the brokenness of Kenya that week, I must be honest with you too. Spiritual warfare is a real thing. I have never experienced such hurt, emptiness, and confusion for the brokenness going on at home with my family. This summer I came home to find out my close aunt was diagnosed with cancer. It was a tough toll on my family, but we prayed and hoped for a miracle. While I was in Kenya, I learned that my aunt was in critical condition, and that she could go to Heaven any day. My whole family was together in that moment, sharing their last moments together. I remember hearing my mom on the phone with my aunt, saying how much she missed me and wished I was there. To be very honest with you, I never felt so hurt, so confused, and so betrayed by God. He knew how much I loved my aunt, and I was confused on why He had to take me all the way across the world the one week I needed to be home. It was killing me knowing I would not be able to say goodbye to her. I just felt so abandoned by Jesus. But, boy…is that what the devil wants you to think. I’m not typing my issue out for pity. In fact, that’s the last thing I would want you to take from this situation. I am telling you this because sometimes in life, we go through valleys. Deep valleys. But not for one moment will God ever leave you, or ever forsake you. I have never felt His love more than in this valley.
This past year at college was my mountain top. This summer has been the valley. Here is something we have to accept sometimes in life- there are seasons of valleys. But here is another thing we have to accept about that- we WILL find joy in those valleys. That week where I felt so lost on my purpose in Kenya, God used those sweet orphaned children to bring me so much joy. Their laughter, smiles, and stories comforted me in a time I truly needed it. At that moment I realized the true meaning to the phrase “The Joy of the Lord will be my strength.” He brought me all the way to Kenya to hear such heart breaking news to finally realize that He is my everything. That His love will never leave or forsake me. I am guilty of trying to find joy in relationships, circumstances, or other things of this world, instead of finding it in the simple fact that I am so dearly loved by an amazing Creator. I am thankful for that perfect love that drives out any fear in me. We all go through valleys, and sometimes they seem never ending. It seems like bad news just keeps coming. But take heart, our Savior has overcome the world, and you will find joy in your valley. God promises to restore everything that was lost, and I believe He restored my joy in Kenya. Funny how you go to these countries expecting to serve and pour out, but sometimes God is needing you to be served in the process as well. I am thankful I serve such a caring, and thoughtful Father.
I left Kenya with a burdened heart for sure. But a burdened heart that will be forever changed. My prayer for this generation is to just run straight into the mess of this world. Straight into the poverty, the neglect, the injustice, the danger, the brokenness. Why do we so cautiously try to live our lives away from the mess? This focus of being safe is prohibiting us from living a life that is filled with adventure and honor serving God. Since when did a blessed life become about living in a suburban home ,with a white picket fence and perfect family? Let’s change the definition of blessed to a more dangerous one. One where you travel being the hands and feet of Jesus, loving on His people, and run straight into the mess. I promise you, He will meet you in that mess and change your life forever. It may not be in the way you were hoping for, but He will restore your joy in the process. Till next time, Kenya.