Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bygone Places… Bygone Days: Kenya

Although I didn't officially "dedicate" the last Bygone Places entry, in many ways it was tied to a particular group of friends. This one is not. I've sadly lost touch with almost everyone from this experience, and it is something I now regret. These posts were intended to allow me to share places and times that changed me, but looking back now, this episode may be a record of regrets. How I should have changed, what I should and could have taken from this experience. Do not mistake me, I was changed and did grow from my time in Kenya, but I think I allowed much of that growth to slip away.

I am unsettled as I write this, because I know the kind of experience this was, I know at least a little of how it could and should have shaped me, and I know that where I now stand is not really where I should be. This is an introspective of a deeper more personal nature than that of Space Camp. This post is directly tied to the purpose for my time in Kenya, my Christian faith. Someday, I hope to write a more normal experiential blog about what happened in Kenya, and some of the more mundane things I learned, but truly, I feel that this needs to be written, and it is what I have to say tonight.

I truly say this with all my heart: My God, what have I done? I have wasted such a precious gift. I've lost so much of what you taught me in that beautiful place. I have willingly given up the treasure you offered me in the African sun, for the dust and day to day cares of the here and now.

For my readers' sake, I really should go back and explain a few things. I am a Christian, and have on one level, always believed in Christ. On another level though, I believed, but I hadn't really done anything with that belief. It is very much like the difference of claiming to be a Cubs fan though you never actually watch them, and actually attending every game, standing up for them in bars, and shunning all of their foes as your own, though of course on a much deeper, more personal level. There is of course no comparison between faith and baseball, but it was the only thing I could say to at least offer an explanation of what I mean when I say that I was, and yet, was not truly a believer all my life. I truly was changed by Him one June evening, (more accurately, extremely early morning) in 1997. It shaped many of my decisions as a late adolescent, including the college I later chose to attend, and the major I eventually chose. To make a long story short, (though I fully intend to later make a short story long on this point) I willingly offered my life and being to Christ, as Savior and Lord. He challenged me, pushed me to grow, and after many, many other adventures, led me to Kenya.

The country was semi-arid and mountainous, much like Colorado actually. The people were friendly and enjoyed our company. We taught in villages, and churches about Christianity and AIDS. We were taught about trusting in God for everything, because we couldn't trust ourselves. That lesson was much more real in a country where we didn't know the language of many of the inhabitants, vehicles and other equipment were so patched and ragged that it was truly a gift from Him to have them function, and where every place we went, we could see His glory in landscape and beast, alike.

I knew that our work could never succeed without His hand and blessing upon it. It was as much a fact as that the sun came up in the east, or that our Maasai hosts would invite us to drink Chai with them, or occasionally, sour milk. It was a new place of submission and trust. One I have never really allowed myself while I lived here. There have been fleeting moments of it, like when I know He has a task for me, and I truly see how unable I am to complete it without His wisdom and aid. I knew while I was in Kenya that I belonged utterly to God, and I was His beloved child. I knew that with His approval and help, I could change the world in which I lived. I might even, glory of glories, be used to help another come to know Him as their Savior and Lord. I had never known such peace, and such wonder. I haven't known them since either.

This is where the whole thing seems to fall apart to be honest. I came back, and for a time, wanted to continue to serve Christ here, until He again called me to share His love with others... elsewhere. I was eager, and I was willing to follow where I believed that He called, but slowly those feelings began to fade. Each day has been more about the things of here and now: paying bills, getting a degree, getting a job, getting a different degree so I can get a better job, so I can pay bills… For a time, I was attending a good church last year, and He began again, to remind me of all that it means to follow Him. (If you are in the Omaha area, I would highly recommend that you visit Coram Deo, by the way.) I was there long enough to long to return to the days where I tried to fully submit to Him, though I was still very bad about actually doing so. Then I moved, and honestly I am afraid to go back. It's hard to follow Him. I will say with all of my being that it is the best and fullest life I could lead, but it is not easy, and there are times that it will hurt, terribly, and I have allowed myself to be afraid, and not follow where He leads, and not listen to His call. I need to find a church where I can actively serve. I have to go to Him, and submit. It's the only way I will truly feel complete.

Will I do it? I don't know, I doubt that I ever fully will. I think it is human nature to wrestle with God, and the world for control, but I hope, and I pray… and perhaps this is the first step… that I will not forget all that I learned while I walked with God in Kenya. I know I don't want to forget any more, perhaps with His mercy, and help, I will have the strength to again say, I am weak, Father, and I know that my only strength lies in You. Take me and shape me so that I may do the most good possible in Your world. Rule me and teach me to love and trust only You.

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