Mara, the Maasai word for spotted. The Maasai use this term to refer to a vast terrain sporadically embellished with trees and shrubs. In a way, it also adequately describes my second month on the ground in Kenya: a sporadic time of reflection, surrender, confusion, questioning and adventure.
Things slowed down considerably once the team departed. The first day back on campus following their departure was eerily quiet. No humming from the hand saw. No scraping of trowel against brick. No drumming from the cement mixer. No screaming above the drumming of the cement mixer. No Southern accents attempting to master Swahili. No bellowing laughter. Those seventeen had become part of the EABC family their brief time on campus. But they had to return to their lives and missions back in the US, just has I had to return to mine there in Eldoret. However, following the re-construction I underwent my first month, a pile of rubble was left to sort through. What should remain? What should I release? I found myself having to remember my crucial resolution to remain fully present.
Thankfully the Lord had provided another companion during my second month, Mara East. Mara graduated from my alma mater two years prior to me and we were both students in the School of Christian Ministries. I was thrilled whenever I heard she would be accompanying a visiting professor as a teaching assistant. Mara and I became close during her time in Kenya as we were roommates most of the time. The more and more we talked, the more we realized we had in common. As a matter of fact we were asked on numerous occasions whether or not we were sisters. Mara is extremely wise and incredibly loving. Throughout her time at Emmanuel I looked up to her, her time in Kenya proved no different. I was grateful to have Mara as a companion to help sort through the rubble with me.
Mara helped me maintain my resolution to remain fully present in addition to providing a buffer zone to at last discuss the confusion, excitement, questions, and desires the reconstruction caused to rise to the surface. She helped me find joy in the things that were before me while helping me bear the weight of all that was stirring within me. She was truly Christ to me.
Mara and I kept each other sane during the period of uncertainty both of us were facing. We reminded each other of the fact we were in the middle of an incredible adventure, so we better live it to the fullest. We are only promised today, so we better not miss it. We were supposed to be adults but inside we were still two little kids, so why not embrace it. So we tried new things like strong Ethiopian coffee and goat meat. We applauded the purchases of flamboyant poofy pants and matching mzungu shirts to humor the Kenyans. We watched Frozen, sang countless Disney songs, turned Maasai blankets into capes, and ate chocolate chip cookies. We even embarked on another safari together.
Our safari brought us to the absolutely stunning Maasai Mara, one of the largest and most spectacular game parks in all of Africa. We spent three days in the park with our ever gracious host, Gailya List. This woman has served the continent of Africa for the majority of her life and was wonderful enough to open the opportunity for Mara and I to safari with her. During our time in the park, we resided in a tent. Tent is like the understatement of the century. It was a tent, but with wooden floors, hot water, indoor plumbing, real beds, and a roof over top. By far one of, if not the, nicest places I stayed my entire internship. Don’t even get me started on the food. It. Was. Amazing.
We traversed across some of the most exquisite landscape I have ever seen and encountered the greats of the African wildlife. There were ostriches, hippopotamuses, lions and lionesses, cheetahs, baboons, hyenas, jackals, billions of birds, and my favorite ELEPHANTS! Lots and lots of elephants! Our incredible guide, James, knew the territory well, informing us not only of the residents of the Animal Kingdom, but also the inhabitants of the Plant Kingdom. The farther up and the deeper in we went, the more in love I fell. The majesty of the intricacy, enormity, extravagancy of Creation romanced me to the Creator. As I looked across the expanse of the Mara eclipsed by the sunrise, I remembered how small I was. The mountain I had made that pile of rubble into was put into perspective. If my God was ingeniutive, creative, and powerful enough to breathe into existence volcanic mountains, valiant lions, and towering elephants, yet gentle enough to paint every detail on the wing of a butterfly and place the melody in the mouth of every song bird, then surely I could entrust Him with my worries and questions. He has a plan for my life, and I can trust that plan. I can trust Him.
My time in the Mara and with Mara empowered me to surrender once more. Yes, the pile of rubble from reconstruction was still there. I could either spend hours on end sorting through it all trying to determine and understand it. Or I could surrender my attempts to understand to the One who already knows what lies ahead and who has promised to walk with me each step of the way. My pile of rubble became the altar on which I offered up all the unknown, embraced it, and journeyed into it with the Creator beside me each step of the way.
Upon returning from the Mara things began to pick up pace once again. The remainder of my second month seemed to zoom by. The Saturday following the Mara I accompanied my supervisor to a training day for Girls’ Ministries Leaders. As she trained the leaders, I ministered to the girls. I told them the story of the beautiful, orphan girl Hadassah who by the sovereignty of God later became brave Queen Esther who saved her people. This lesson reminded me that no matter how bleak our current situations seem, God is on the throne and he can make even the most impossible of situations into realities.
After the lesson, I taught the girls several dances they could share with their respective churches. It was like a scene from my deepest of dreams as I watched these beautiful girls dance in the beauty of their innocence and purity as they poured out their hearts in worship. They were truly radiant. I was entirely humbled.
The following weekend was Easter. My supervisors and I journeyed back to Nakuru. We would be meeting up with the EABC students for a weekend long outreach to the community. As we made the journey, I found myself reminiscing of the last time I was here with the team and reflecting upon the reconstruction. I once again had to surrender my pile of rubble and uncertainty and ask the Lord for help to be fully present.
Saturday we spent the morning at the Children’s Home. The female students shared their testimonies and poured out their love to the young ladies at Nakuru CMD. Near the end, I taught the girls a few dances specifically themed for Easter. I still feel chills when I think about the victory cries released from these valiant warriors as we declared in dance that our King had overcome the grave!
That evening we dined with Mama Gladys Wakesa once again. Once more my heart was humbled by her generous hospitality. Near the end of the meal, Bishop Wakesa joined us for a time of prayer. That evening he and Mama Gladys were presented with $1,000 toward furthering the ministry of the CMD and the church. Bishop Wakesa and Mama Gladys were beyond grateful and deeply encouraged by the gift they received. It was a beautifully sacred time yet again. Little did I know this would be my last time with Bishop Wakesa. I received news three weeks later that Bishop Wakesa passed away. To this day, I am eternally grateful for the immense lessons he taught me in the brief time that I knew him. I will never forget him. I cherish the fact that I was able to share this moment of joy with him.
Easter Sunday was spent rejoicing and worshiping at Nakuru Worship Center. I had the incredible opportunity to preach that morning. I was extremely nervous, but excited.“Afraid, yet Filled with Joy” was the message. I told the story of a young woman named Emily Eisenman who earlier that week had her world entirely rocked as her boyfriend, Bart, was among the missing of the Brussels attacks. Despite her fear, she had joy because she knew both she and Bart believed in Christ. I recollected how the women who were the first to witness the Resurrection were still in fear from the events of the Crucifixion, but maintained a glimmer of hope due to the fact Christ could actually be alive. Their fear did not disappear, however, until they encountered the Resurrected Lord for themselves. So too is it with us. Despite the terror and fear that looms around us, we can have joy because Christ is alive and He is victorious! We can truly only know this victory when we encounter Him for ourselves. Emily found out that Bart was in fact among the fallen of the attacks, but she shared with the world that despite her grave loss, she had peace. She knew where Bart would spend his eternity and that she would in fact see him again someday. I extended the invitation for those in the service to have that same assurance. The Lord proved Himself victorious as we celebrated the power of His Resurrection.
My second month ended by spending the day with my friends at Huruma Children’s Home. There was no set agenda. I just wanted to play. There was laughter and screaming and running and tagging and jumping and smiling. Duck-Duck-Goose was converted to Punda Milia-Punda Milia-Simba (Zebra-Zebra-Lion). Selfies were taken as my young friends giggled with delight upon seeing themselves in the camera for the first time. My face was contorted time and time again into various funny faces resulting in outcries of laughter. There weren’t many words spoken audibly. Love and laughter transcended the language barrier resulting in a very successful afternoon.
My second month in Africa was, in a word, sporadic. The reconstruction left a pile of rubble, which became an altar. The changes I was undergoing were immense, but necessary. I had no control, but when had I really possessed any before? Amidst the randomness of it all, I fell to my knees and surrendered the chaos. Only then did I find peace. Only then was I fully present. Only then did I relish the adventure I was living. And still am…
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yout ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:9