I just returned from Africa. I went to Kenya. It was beautiful. The land is beautiful.
Photo by kerdowney.com
The food is beautiful.
The wildlife is beautiful.
Some of us felt this beauty more strongly than others. Ew.
And actually, when I think about it, not every member of the wildlife crew is beautiful. These guys, for example, are ugly.
And mean. And let’s just say that when the males decide it’s time for a little nooky, they don’t wait to light any candles. Poor baboon ladies. I witnessed it, and let me assure you, there is no WAY she was enjoying the moment.
My reason for going was to connect with and encourage missionary women working in Kenya. Now, hold up. Perhaps your vision of missionary women involves a severe hairstyle and a full-length denim jumper. Maybe you’re picturing a crucifix necklace that weighs roughly eighteen pounds and can double as a weapon for reluctant converts. Or perhaps the word “saint” comes to mind and you feel instantly guilty about Starbucks and IKEA and Justin Timberlake. JT can have that effect on people.
Nevertheless, you’re wrong. On all counts, including IKEA. These women are regular women.
They are teachers and physicians and nurses and mothers. They work hard and they fall into bed at night, spent and poured out. They struggle with feeling inadequate and tired and angry and burned out. They wonder if they’re doing enough and wonder how they could ever do more. They ask God to speak more loudly. They hunger for His peace and His direction and His stubborn, ferocious love. It’s that love that propels them onward. It’s that love that asks them to live deeply, love lavishly, live boldly.
I was honored to be the speaker at a retreat for these women. We had four sessions, fit in between times at the spa, time to eat, time to rest, time to chat. Because I’m as unable to remember my dignity in a foreign country as I am in my own, our time together included a moonwalking contest, an homage to shoulder pads, and far too many stories involving my own lack of boundaries (Uncle Rico, anyone?) and my dream of being an emaciated woodland nymph (best not to ask).
I went to Africa with dear, good friends from my church. We brought a lot of chocolate and dry cereal (not joking) and taco seasoning and scented candles. We brought things the women requested, including Chapstick and Ziploc bags and Honey Nut Cheerios. And we left ten days later with hearts full to the brimming, names and stories written all over us, new and renewed friendships, and reminder upon reminder of that stubborn love, of that One who crossed time and space and distance to reach us, pursue us, rescue us from ourselves.
I’m still jet lagged. I’m a little nervous to post this when I’m in a state of utter exhaustion and general weepiness. I might look at this later and have second thoughts, particularly about that section on baboon intimacy. But I’m also feeling an urgency to say thank you to the girls of Kenya. What a gift you gave to me. Thanks for letting me visit. I’m ready to come back, whenever you would have me. And I won’t forget. Not you, not your faces, your stories, the sound of your voices, the tears you indulged me, the prayers I am praying and will keep praying. You are dear to me, sisters. Press on. Take courage. You are loved, known, beautiful, never alone, and His.