As I sit here at a little cafe in town called Laughing Buddha, I am overwhelmed that in around three weeks I will be leaving this country and heading back to the USA. In these very short 6 months, the town of Kisumu has become home to me. My life consists of wearing chaco sandals, having curly hair, and riding in tuk tuk taxi’s daily where I am greeted on the road to Obunga by tons of little kids shouting “Mzungu, Mzungu, Mzungu!!! How are you!?!?”
My driver is one of my best friends I’ve ever had in life, and I’m actually used to the bumps and bounces on the roads now. I was in Nairobi for thanksgiving, riding in a car on a smooth road and I actually found it quite strange. This is my first time to make a life for myself apart from my family except for those brief 4 years of college. There is a sense of maturity and “grown up-ness” that I feel when I think about it. I’ve figured out in a lot of ways how to get along here in Kisumu without so many things that I’m used to and while there are times where I greatly miss things in the US and even more so, people in the US…the life I’m living here is nice. It’s simple, yet so complicated sometimes.
Now, I don’t say this to mean that I don’t like the states and I don’t want to come home at all. It’s just a very strange dichotomy. I love this place, and I love home too. How do you straddle two continents when there is one ginormous ocean separating them? How do you experience sadness at leaving and happiness at arriving home all at the same time? The emotions are completely contrasting and don’t go together at all…but somehow I am going to be forced to deal with them simultaneously. For right now, I’m just avoiding it at all cost. I simply am enjoying every moment and enjoying christmas decorations in kenya for the time being.
This time separated from all that I’ve known my whole life has really caused me to evaluate what I value and who I value in my life. It’s funny the things you think you love so much but in the end, half way around the world, you realize that they are seriously not valuable. Then there are other things that you don’t even realize you enjoy until you’re gone. Same with people. It’s interesting the friends that I have stayed in great contact with and the ones that have significantly dropped off the face of the earth in my life. Not saying that as one who is angry…it’s really just quite interesting to me! I think it’s good for everyone to take that time away from what they know as normal, and evaluate who and what is really important in life. Not only do I have a new profound love for certain people that I may have under valued before, but I have re-prioritized my relationships in such a good way. When you’re in a place like this, you are forced to rely on Jesus in ways that you never knew you needed before. And what I have learned is that when Jesus is the biggest and first priority, he brings into place everything else and puts them into the right place. I know that’s a simple spiritual truth but it has taken on a new profound meaning in my life. I won’t take this place or these people for granted and I also have such a great appreciation for some folks back home that I didn’t even realize were so wonderful in my life.
I’ve also seen and known God in such precious ways that I have never experienced before. I don’t even know where to begin explaining those things, but when you’re in a foreign land away from everything, God takes on a new closeness. I think He’s probably always that close, but we have so many things in the way. He has become all things to me. He’s my friend, my family, the lover of my soul, healer, sanctifier, companion, guider, listener, he speaks, he rejoices with me…I almost feel him wrap his arms around me in times of deep sadness and struggle. The closeness of my God who is living, in this place, is something I am desperate to hold on to. I don’t ever want to go backwards with Him. It’s like any other relationship…the deeper and more sweet it grows, you don’t ever want it to be shallow or distant again.
I am hoping and praying that God in his mercy will give me the strength and grace I need to experience and handle the strange combinations of emotions that I am starting to feel. I am also praying that He will never again be removed from first priority in my life and most valued. When he’s not there, nothing else makes good sense. What I know to be true is that Jesus rules and reigns and while I am nervous and anxious about the emotions and the leaving and my future and what I will do next, I know that He is the one who provides, protects and prepares my heart for all that will come my way. Thank you Lord Jesus, for you are good and your lovingkindness endures forever! Amen!