Guest Post by Allison Little
It’s the polite thing to ask someone after they get back from a mission trip. It’s just the thing to do, you know? Just like we say “how are you?” after a Hello. Or “How was your weekend?” or “Did you have a good day?” The response is usually a simple “Fine!” or
“Great!” as a reply. Short and sweet. Happy and easy. Just enough to answer the question but safe enough to keep conversation moving right along without revealing too many emotions. Because heaven forbid!
But how do I respond to the question above with a satisfying answer for the one who asked and a justified answer for the ways the Lord moved? How do you condense two weeks spent in a third world country meeting life-changing people and experiencing miracle moments that will never be erased from your memory in just a one word answer?
So, how much time do you have? Grab some tissues if you are prone to shedding a tear or two. Pull up a chair real close. Get comfortable. Because I can guarantee you the real and full response will be something worth hearing.
I came to Kenya with weak believing muscles. I came with a heart that was tired from the day-to-day and trying to convince myself that there had to be more to life than this. I came with dreams of what I thought Kenya would be like and how this trip could breathe some fresh air of life into my almost lifeless soul. But then doubt was not far behind trying to tag along and pack itself into my oversized suitcase with a mission to sabotage all that
the Lord had planned. I came carrying with me past hurts, current fears, questions without answers, but not without this tiny piece of hope that wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet because that is just what happens when you read Ephesians 3:20 on repeat leading up to May 27th, the day you step foot on a plane that takes you to a country that you have never seen.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more that we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 (NLT).
No, there wasn’t this magical Holy Spirit moment that knocked me to my knees that reminded me of God’s provision or faithfulness or bigness. No, it wasn’t a world-stopping experience that brought me back to life. It was gradual. It was slow. It was gentle. It was almost unrecognizable. It happened through the simple things. Through holding hands with an orphan. Through dancing at church under a tent in Kitale. Through eating guacamole at the Karibuni with our team in the (slight) coolness of the Kenyan night. Through listening to miracle stories told by Richard and Hellen and hearing of the dreams to come. Through playing hide-and-seek in a field at an orphanage in Kakamega. Through washing precious jigger-filled feet on a mountain called Mt. Elgon and seeing children walk out the door with a new pair of shoes and socks. Through watching the sunset behind acacia trees. Through feeding a giraffe and noticing the patterns of its skin. Through listening to the testimony of Madame Rebecca, the bold believing prayers of Miriam. Through eating a home-cooked Kenyan meal in the company of believers under Hellen and Richard’s roof. Through every “how are you!” and “welcome visitors!”. Through every handwritten note of love from the Seeds kids, every dance party, every coloring page, every smile, every song. This is how the Lord brought me back to life.
These people worshipped Jesus, talked about Jesus, prayed to Jesus, and believed Jesus in
ways I had forgotten were possible. In fullness of joy and in complete confidence of who He is. Jesus was not an accessory to their lives. He wasn’t a burden, or a check off the to-do list either. He was not a means to an end. He wasn’t seen as a God who is distant or forceful or similar to a controlling boss. No one was afraid of him. Hesitancy was not present in their prayers. These people deeply enjoyed God. And oh how fun it was to watch! Because these people knew Him as their sole Provider and Rescuer and Sustainer, He made them want to dance. He made them want to play and laugh and sing and cry and be free in His care.
What freedom it must bring to fully release everything that concerns me into the hands of the One who made me by hand.
Can I love him like that in the U.S.? Can I rejoice and freely live like this in Alabama? In my work place? In my graduate program? These were the questions that I had while I was waiting in the Nairobi airport to board the plane to take me back to the Western world of privilege, air conditioning, wi-fi, and DVR.
To be honest, I did not want to go back to it all. I really did not want the comfort. I didn’t want the hurry, the demands, the expectations, and the usual. I did not want the routine back. I almost considered pitching a big fat whiney baby crying fit including a pouted lip and refuse to leave the place that allowed me to feel alive again.
I feared I wouldn’t feel this again.
It was almost as if that red African dirt that covered every road and pathway was magical. As if the dirt actually carried the hospitality, the love, the joy, the freedom that was exhibited in every person I met. The past two weeks was like rolling around in that dirt and I didn’t want it to wash off. I wanted whatever was in the red dirt to make its way into my skin, into my heart, and to never come off of me.
But I knew what was coming.
I knew that the excitement and passion would start to wash away with every alarm clock to set, commute to work, answering of emails, box to check off on the to-do list, etc.
It was like I was preparing myself to be sucked in by an under tow, a force I could try with all of my might to resist but would eventually get swept away by the strength of the water in the daily stream of life. I wish I could be immune from its pulling. I wish I could be stronger than the world’s draw to forget what I had learned and live like it never happened.
But I did not trust the Lord to provide the money for me to go on the trip just to give into it all? I did not fly halfway across the globe to come back and say I had a fun time and that is the end. I did not see, and feel, and experience, and touch, and live what I did just to tie it up in a little bow at the end of my time and put it away in a safe place.
So I’m going to put up pictures of the Seeds kids in my apartment. I am going to replay the videos of singing voices as often as I can. I am going to read the handwritten notes from Selvine and Miriam over and over. I am going to share a story, whether funny or serious, when it comes to mind. I want to remember and be active in my remembering. I am going to fight against the temptation to fall in line with the pulling of mindless routine by staying close to the Word and asking God to infuse the lessons I learned in Kenya with the life I live in America.
But can I tell you what I am carrying from Kenya the most? PERSPECTIVE.
And the people of Kitale are making an A+ on this subject while I am scraping by with a D. Jesus is their prize every morning, every moment, in every conversation, in every activity. And I wanted to live like He was mine, too.
I find myself asking these questions: So what is truly worth my focus? What is important and isn’t? What am I fixing my eyes on? Who am I fixing my eyes on? What can I do today that will outlast my time here on earth? Am I living like it is a joy to know Jesus or do people even notice that I know Him? Am I resting in His faithfulness and His ability to
provide ALL things for me that I would ever need? Am I locked in, loaded and focused on just Him, not looking to the right or to the left? Do I see others and situations like He does? Am I set and determined every morning to find Him just like I was each morning I woke up in Kenya?
So what if my life is not exactly what I pictured it looking like at age 27? So what if I don’t have the cutest outfit on today or if I don’t have plans to do something every night of the week? So what if I still feel the effects of this transition stage of life and it is not the most fun thing I have ever been a part of? So what if I am not the skinniest, the tannest, the most put together, with a packed social schedule, married with two kids in living in a picture perfect house, and still unsure of what I am supposed to do with my life?
Because it really is all so simple and we love making it hard on ourselves.
It’s all about Him. It’s knowing Him, loving Him, choosing Him, being like Him, believing Him, pursuing Him, pointing to Him, looking for Him, etc.
And He is my God who can do immeasurably more that I could ever dream or think right here in Birmingham, Alabama just like He did in Kenya. And I am not going to take the chance on missing out on a deal like that.