As we were driving through the Kenyan countryside a few weeks ago, one of the young women traveling with us asked how old I was when I first came to Kenya. I thought for a moment and said, “I turned 22 in Kenya.”
She said, “So, you were my age.”
In that instant I felt two things: old and in awe.
I honestly didn’t realize how young I was when I set off to live on the other side of the world all by myself.
Looking at the two young women with us I couldn’t imagine them in Kenya on their own. Oh, I know they could handle it, but I can understand a bit better now why my mom wasn’t too sure about it at the time.
Then? It never occurred to me that I was young because I was called. I knew that Kenya was where I was supposed to be at that time in my life. You might wonder how, and I don’t know if I could even explain it to you. It was “a million tiny, little things that, when you added them all up, they meant” I was supposed to be there, “and I knew it. I knew it the very first time” I got off the plane. “It was like coming home.” (Sleepless in Seattle, anyone? It’s fitting these lines came to me because we were talking about my age, weren’t we?)
Kenya’s been like home ever since.
But here’s the thing: Just because I love Kenya doesn’t always mean I should always go there.
I tried to explain this to a group of kids I taught last Sunday night, hoping they would come to understand that the essence of being a disciple is obedience. It takes obedience to go as well as to stay.
Sometimes, staying is harder.
It has been for me.
When I came home from Kenya in 2001, the world had changed for me. Not long after, the world changed for everyone.
Traveling got a bit harder; the world seemed much scarier.
And, for whatever reason, after my husband and I returned from our honeymoon in Kenya, I didn’t feel led to go back for what seemed like a really long time.
I had every opportunity. The missions pastor at our church even asked if I might lead a team on a trip or two.
The answer was “no.”
I knew it just like I had known I needed to go in the first place.
In fact, I was beginning to think I might never go to Kenya again.
Until 2007, when God laid it on my heart to take a group to work with friends there.
So, we went, taking our 2-year-old daughter with us.
We arrived at the end of December, 2007, which might mean nothing to you, but to anyone who is familiar with Kenya, that time is unforgettable because it marks the beginning of the worst political violence Kenya has experienced since independence. We arrived the day it started.
My husband and I and our daughter and about 10 people who had never before left the United States.
Yes, you read that right.
The funny thing is that people still ask to go with me to Kenya from time to time. You’d think that trip would have scared them away.
My daughter didn’t want to return at all until this year when she asked if she could go with me. She just knew the time was right, too. So she was with me when the opposition leader (the same one who was on the ballot in 2007) called for country-wide demonstrations to protest this year’s presidential elections.
Thankfully, nothing came of it, but that’s not always the case.
Tomorrow, Kenyans go to the polls to vote again because the supreme court threw out the results of the presidential election that was held earlier this year.
I can tell you things are tense.
I won’t be arrogant enough to think I understand enough of Kenyan politics or tribal relations to explain why, but I will ask you to pray for peace.
Pray for the people of Kenya. They are precious and some of the most generous, kind and loving people on the planet. Mississippi might be the “Hospitality State,” but Kenyan culture takes hospitality to another level, one based not on showing what you have but on sharing it. Pray that they will show love to one another, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election. Pray that they will choose to “live in peace with each other.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13)
Pray for the leaders of Kenya. Pray that they will have integrity and compassion for their people. Pray that God will raise up godly men and women to lead their country.
Pray for the churches of Kenya. Pray that they will “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19) Pray that they will be able to minister to the hearts of people and to their physical needs as well.
Pray for my friends and ministry partners. Pray that God will protect them and keep them safe and well, that he will provide for their needs in case of food shortages or other issues.
Above all, pray for peace.
Pray that the people will know and follow the Prince of Peace, “for he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14)
Pray that HE will do so in Kenya today.
Thank you for joining me in praying for Kenya. I’d love to read your encouraging posts this week! Be sure and join the linkup below. All you have to do is leave a link or two then visit a fellow blogger and leave an encouraging word in the comments.