Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Year Ago

One year ago today, I got on a plane and flew across the world. When I returned, a piece of my heart did not. On September 7th, 2007 I left for Kenya, Africa. It is an experience that in no way is expressible in words. But I will do my best to give you some small idea of what my experience was there. Rather than tell you everything I did, I want to tell you everything Iwitnessed, felt, learned and will remember forever. Get in your "comfy chair" folks. It's going to be a long one. I went on a mission trip with my church and was in Kenya for 9 days. We were gone for 11, because two of those days were spent entirely in airplanes and airports. That's a whole different story for another time. 

When we pulled up to a tiny church in a slum called Kawangware the first morning we were there, I was overwhelmed. We had just driven through the worst conditions I have ever seen, but that wasn't what got me. What overwhelmed me was the sound coming from inside the church. It was the most joyous noise my ears have ever heard. I liken it to what Heaven will sound like someday. Every person packed inside the tiny church was singing, loudly. All of their voices together in harmony....absolutely overwhelming. I truly felt like I was having an out of body experience and I just wept. If you know me at all, you know this is huge. I wouldn't have been able to hold in the tears if I had tried with all of my being. It was the only response. Like my spirit was so alive inside me, but there was no way for my body to express it except through tears. This was my response to almost everything I encountered there. 

I have never experienced worship like I did that day in the tiny church in Kenya. I have never felt closer to God. The people of Kenya are so close to Him that you can't help but be drawn up with them. I hunger for that feeling again. I don't know that I will ever achieve it to that extent here. There was a part of me when we left, that wanted to pack up my family and move there....truly. My children would never know a life like we could have there, as long as they live in the United States. Having that knowledge is brutal. I know they would grow up with a burning passion to know God and worship Him. I know they would appreciate every single thing they ever got. I know they would love others until it hurt. I know they would have a heart filled with compassion. Of course, I strive that they will have all of those things here. And just knowing what I now know equips me in teaching them these things. But it's not the same as being there and knowing it for yourself. It's not the same. Part of me again, as I write this, is thinking..."maybe we could just go there. what's stopping us?" Now, the reality of me packing up my family and moving across the world is slim. But I would never say it's not a possibility. I won't close a door if God wants to open it. 

Now what on earth are people who are starving and sleeping on cardboard in a hut made out of dirt and sticks, doing saying things like this, you ask. They just are. You see, because they have nothing, (I use this word by our standards, because frankly they have more than we will ever have...more on that later) they are thankful for every single thing they have. They thank God for everything. Even for their circumstances, which most would find appalling, disgusting, horrible, and unlivable. They thank God. While we would complain about sleeping in mud, they thank God. While we would feel sick to have to eat what they eat, they thank God. While we would be exhausted from walking miles to get anywhere, they thank God. While we would never want to wear what they wear daily, they thank God. While we would be asking God why, they thank Him. What a concept. 

Our pastor always has a great saying about happiness versus joy. He says, the difference is Happiness depends upon our Happenings. Joy, however, comes from within us. It does not hinge upon our circumstances. Thank God for joy and for joy He gives us. I have joy because I know this is not it. I know my existence here on this Earth is not all I have. I have something so much greater to look forward to. And if I never get the opportunity to go back to Kenya and see my friends there, I look forward to the day when we will all meet in Heaven and be singing God's praises together again. The reason part of my heart was left behind in Kenya, was because my heart longs to feel the way it did there. It longs to feel completely filled with compassion, love, and joy. Part of my heart now belongs to the Kenyan people. It's like when you have children, a piece of your heart is taken and it is carried with them always. When they are apart from you, a piece of your heart goes with them. But it's ok, because that vulnerability enables you to love completely. Kenya will always have a piece of my heart.