Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Point taken (and hopefully remembered)

Since we returned from Kenya so many people have asked, "How was the trip?"  I know they're expecting to hear, "It was great!"  And parts of it were great.  But for me, it was often more difficult than enjoyable.  And here's why:

My sweet family at the equator.
For weeks before our trip to Kenya I told the kids, “We’ll have to be patient; I’m sure we’ll have to wait a lot for various things.  It will be nothing like America.  It will not be like home.”  If I said it once I said it a hundred times, and each time the kids nodded in agreement.  They listened.  I, apparently, did not, because before we were even admitted into the country I’d lost my mind.

We applied for our visas ahead of time so we could cut down on the time we spent in line waiting at Immigration.  That plan, in theory, was golden.  In fact, however, it meant nothing.  Because when we got to Immigration there were no distinguishable lines.  There was a mob of people, including a group of at least 30 teenagers, and only two desks for non-Kenyan residents.  And to make matters worse, there was only one desk for people with visas and the immigration folks were using that desk to funnel people without visas through as well.  So it didn’t matter that we’d paid FedEx to get our visas to us.  We were forced to wait behind all the people who didn’t get theirs in advance, and we waited and waited and waited.  For over two hours.

And in those two hours I completely lost it.  I swore (silently) and complained (out loud).  “For Pete’s sake, haven’t these people ever been anywhere to see an actual line form?”  “Surely there’s a reason for only two workers for all these people.”  “Why are those workers just wandering around?  Don’t they see this mass of humanity trying to enter their country?!”

Before I’d even officially set foot on Kenyan soil I’d done exactly what I told the kids not to do.  And I did it right in front of them.  Not one of my better moments.

I wish my lack of patience had ended there, but it followed me the first week.  I was frustrated I didn’t have water for a shower.  I was frustrated the toilet didn’t always flush (when we had actual toilets).  I was frustrated that I had to wear a skirt. In short, I was one big mess.

My frustration surprised me.  I'd actually been to Kenya before! And after that I'd spent time in Rwanda and Congo and Burundi.  I knew what it was going to be like, didn't I?  Why was I so shocked?  What was going on with me?!

One thing I’d prayed would happen on our trip was that Lord would speak to my kids as loudly as he did to me when I first visited Kenya 23 years ago.  I wasn’t bargaining on him talking to me again.  But oh, honey, did he ever.  After another complaining rant the thought hit me: “I am absolutely wretched.” I may have hid my negative attitude from the rest of the team but there was no hiding it from God (or from my dear husband - sorry, honey).  In that moment of clarity my selfishness and arrogance weighed like a ton of bricks.  

It was like God said, "Hello, Christy.  I'm here.  Why are you trying to do this on your own?"  I'd been relying on, well, myself and that hadn't exactly worked out.  It was crystal clear I wasn’t going to get by on my own strength – which was true for my time in Kenya and my life at home.

It was not an enjoyable moment.  But it was a good one.

I wish I could say that after my epiphany the rest of the trip was hunky dory; it wasn’t.  We still had toilets that didn’t flush and pipes with no water and I had to wear that blasted ankle-length skirt.  But my attitude towards those irritants changed, and I was beyond thankful that God was still talking to me.

So, was the trip fun?  Absolutely.  Was it difficult?  Absolutely.  Was it good?  Absolutely.  But more importantly, I was reminded that so is God.  And that was the best part.