I never actually wanted to go to Africa. Few Christians do. The conversation usually goes something like this, “God, I’ll do anything for You, just please don’t send me to Africa.” I wasn’t bold enough to tell God I would do anything for Him and then immediately follow it with what I wouldn’t do for Him. I was much more subtle than that – we simply didn’t talk about it. Then, eight years ago, after reading Radical by David Platt, I came under strong conviction that as a Christian for thirty plus years and a youth Pastor for about ten years, I had never taken a mission trip to the poorest of the poor. Somehow, I had conveniently managed to avoid all those millions of people. Oh, my youth group did plenty of trips – mostly the ones stateside where you are involved in flood relief or fixing up houses for those unable to do so otherwise. These, by the way, are good things to do, but this feeling, this prompting, was different. I knew God was calling me to go out of the country, out of my comfort zone, and into a place that would stretch me in ways I had never before been stretched. I slowly gave in to the Lord’s prompting but I had a condition that I wanted to put before Him. I would go wherever He wanted me to go, but I didn’t want to go to a place just once and then move on. My condition was that I wanted to build deeply into another community in such a way that solid relationships could be formed.
It was only a few weeks later that a missionary from Kenya came to our church to speak about providing clean water through the distribution of filters that would last a family many years and could be taken with them if, or when, they relocated. I was intrigued and had breakfast with the missionary the next day. In my meeting with Bill Coble, from Start With One Kenya, I quickly sensed a kindred spirit and as Bill shared the story of his journey to the mission field we found we had much in common. Bill had been a youth pastor as well. He had gone to Kenya and believed strongly that he would never go back. God apparently had other plans as Bill and his wife Chat, now live there and have seen the goodness of God rest upon their work, giving people access to clean water which in turn helps them remain healthy, increases their productivity and saves them money formerly spent at the doctor’s office. So that was it – Kenya – 8,500 miles away – that’s where I would find my new friends.
You can’t visit, much less live in a place like Kenya without becoming almost overwhelmed at the extent of the needs there. My church group went to help provide clean water for folks and it turned out that most of our work would take place in what are called IDP Camps. This stands for Internally Displaced Persons. These are people who, at the height of rioting as a result of the presidential elections in 2008, fled from their homes leaving most or all of their belongings behind. Eventually the government helped to round these refugees up and situate them, each on 2 acre plots of ground. They were given the rough framing materials for a small house and that was that. No centralized facilities, no plumbing, no sanitation, no nothing. These tracts of land could be quite large, sometimes involving a hundred families. With each family being given 2 acres of land, you can imagine that these camps were situated a distance from any cities or services – basically in the middle of nowhere.
On my first trip to Kenya I traveled without a group so that I could bring back a first-hand report of what the country was like. Bill, a few others, and I traveled to a couple of these camps. We were scouting them out to see if we would be able to do water filter distributions there. Eventually the decision was made to work with an IDP camp called Gituamba. My church team, and other teams from other churches, eventually supplied families with filters until the entire camp had access to clean water. We were quickly made aware of other urgent needs within the camp and so began the answer to my prayer. God would allow us to befriend an IDP Camp known as Gituamba.
Tomorrow 16 of us are leaving for Kenya - This will be my eighth trip and for many of the others, it will be their seventh. There is an old African proverb that says, “you can’t wash the dust of Africa off your feet.” Yeah, we get it. There is something about the land - something the people.
Kenya is a beautiful country and the Rift Valley contains some of the most fertile ground on earth. It is home to extinct volcanoes, lush green vegetation, animals wild and rare, and driving styles that will age you by the mile. You are drawn to return.
It is a land of contradiction and contrast. You can spend the morning in a slum playing with small children in conditions I had never imagined before much less walked through. It was wet, slippery, smelly, but not rainy. Nonetheless, this is home to the hundreds who live and work there. Intermingled with often powerful, offending odors would come, here and there, the smell of amazing foods being prepared. An overall assault on your senses – ready or not. Then, by afternoon, we found ourselves in the garden-like compound of an amazing women’s empowerment center, eating lunch in a setting surrounded by lush vegetation, brilliantly colored flowers and exotic birds. How do you reconcile this? Such contrast – such contradiction. Welcome to Kenya.
It is my desire to keep an account of our trip this year. I don’t know how regular my posts will be but I will do my best. I would encourage you to check in regularly with the blog of one of the long time team members, Jim Hall, as he always does an excellent job and has over a thousand followers, I believe. You can read it here - www.2019kenyateam.blogspot.com Hopefully between us, you can get a sense of this amazing country called Kenya and a sense of what God wants to do in and through His people when they respond simply, “Here am I Lord, send me.”
Be sure to also check out Jim's team blog here.