When I was in 11th grade, my high school sent us to Johnson O'Connor for aptitude testing. I don't remember much of my results, other than that my two greatest strengths were ideaphoria and learning new languages. The language thing is funny now...I love how God equips us for every good work before we even know we need His equipping! And as for 'ideaphoria', it is just a fancy word to describe a constant onslaught of new ideas flowing through my head at all times--some good, MANY (many... trust me) bad. :)
I have been frustrated at times for my lack of 'vision'/structure for ministry in Kenya. But more than anything, I have seen other people's frustration of my inability to produce a sound answer to the questions about "what I actually do here." Teams come and I get to listen to their ideas and visions and dreams and strategies for doing ministry here and I am oftentimes jealous that they have a 'game plan.' They ask me what I am doing here and I am unable to say much more than "loving the people I meet." Usually I don't know what I am doing here, or foresee myself doing here, besides that. As much as He created my mind to fill with thoughts/ideas/dreams about everything under the sun, I have very few for ministry here.
The ones I do have are beautiful in my mind, but nothing that will sell as a pitch to anyone looking to invest in a solid, strategic and transformational plan to bring change in a community. My dreams are about living in a community where I am no longer recognized for my skin-color and financial status [I usually get angry when people assume I am rich because I'm American... but I am. We are. When you make more than a dollar a day, you are rich (if we're considering the whole world and not just the comparison to your next door neighbor), like it or not] but as a neighbor, friend, and fellow community member. I dream of having a huge kitchen table where anyone is welcome, always (and someone to cook large amounts of amazing food, haha). I dream of praying for the people in my community and the problems they're faced with as often as they are praying for me and the difficulties I have. I pray that we would mutually know, that anything "good" is a gift from Him... by way of sponsors or donors or well-wishers or friends, but still directly from His generous hand. I pray that we would, together, rise up to care for our community... that the orphans would not just find a home in my house, but in other homes as well (and joyfully)--that the elderly would be cared for with the respect they deserve and that the most scandalous of all community members know, if nothing else, they are loved and accepted. I pray that we would take care of each other in this way because it is how God takes care of us. I dream that through all of this (God's grace), we would continually ask the question how we can better serve and love and adore Him--and then walk boldly together with the answers we receive in Scripture. I dream that those of us who are sick celebrate Jesus all the more as we get closer to meeting Him face to face. I pray that this is just life, not a mission project.
Today, unlike most all days previous, I am thankful that He has kept my calling so simple and defined and seemingly modest. He has told me to love them and forever, that will be my ambition--to love. He has told me to remain in the forced humility of having NO grand schemes and answers for how to "fix" "change" "transform" "impact"... just the simple instructions to love them and do life with them instead of doing life above them. This is what the Gospel speaks to me, again and again. I know I am simple-minded and have trouble taking things much deeper than they appear on surface level, but I have to believe that is how Jesus meant it to be... that is what His life was about, as I can see it.
I was able to go to a conference this past weekend (Global Leadership Summit put on by Willow Creek) with thousands of Kenyan leaders. I felt inspired just by their presence and desire to see God use them for His glory in Kenya. One of the speakers went through Acts 1 and equated Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria to our own places of ministry. Samaria was described as the place we are most uncomfortable... it intimidates you and you try to avoid it. She suggested this is where we are called to serve and though I've heard this time and time again, I realized my answer was not so easily "Kenya" anymore. I was beginning to think "oh crap. are You telling me i have to go to Corporate America??" because that scares me more than anything... I have utmost respect for those of you serving there. I am comfortable here in Kenya...in villages and in orphanages and in slums. I feel like I've lived here forever and though I never stop learning, what used to stretch me (eating the food, pooping in a hole, showers few and far between, being covered in sewage, etc) are no longer as challenging.
I thought a little bit harder and realized He has made it perfectly clear where I am to go next--it scares the crap out of me because I have to depend of Him completely. I think I have learned my place among most people here... they are starting to laugh at my jokes (finally!) and I think we both feel comfortable together after a short time of introduction. Many of my greatest friendships are with the people I've met here in Kenya. And then there is the group that doesn't respond when I greet them, assumes before I even speak that I pity them, believes they can count the millions of problems I see in them, and really intimidates me, if I'm being honest. Some of their cultural customs make my head spin (leaving their babies to be eaten by lions if they have any sort of disfiguration or problem, aborting babies by jumping on stomachs, lots and lots of polygamy (making their HIV rate off the charts), not educating their women, young and arranged marriages (imagine your 7th grade daughter getting married to your husbands friend), female genital mutilation, apathy and avoidance of any sort of medical care, sedentary lifestyle and unwillingness to work... i could go on), but none of these are what He is asking me to focus on. Maybe I'm not even supposed to see those issues. He is asking me to see Him faithful... that's all. If I see Him faithful, the personal intimidation factor does not lower, but it is inundated with PEACE because I know what He is capable of. In fact, someone said at the summit this week that if our vision is not intimidating us, then it is most likely insulting God. Ouch.
That being said, I feel Him telling me we are getting closer to a time for planting my feet a bit. Planting myself in a community, asking for them to accept me as their neighbor, and then watching God move. I want them to know Him... before I want them to stop killing their handicapped babies and have faithful marriages and take the medicines available to prevent passing HIV to their children and cease to circumcise their girls and work hard to take care of their families. I am praying everyday that He makes my heart beat for them, because it is not all there yet.
As usual, I know no defined future steps besides a new willingness to stay still long enough to let some roots sink in somewhere. Thankful for the bits of revelation and expectant that they will keep coming...