There is a term that people in Kenya use: This is Kenya. It is used whenever something doesn’t quite go according to plan. When the traffic is so bad that you are late for your meeting. This is Kenya. When the electricity goes out and you are unable to have access to the Internet to send important emails. This is Kenya. When the paint arrives to your worksite and it is two shades darker than what you ordered. This is Kenya. When the hotel decides at the last minute to change your room reservation from singles to doubles. This is Kenya. When five of your group’s checked bags do not arrive at the airport and you have to wait 3 days and drive to the airport 4 times before you finally get them. This is Kenya. When a freak small fire turns into a devastating blaze that completely destroys the International terminal of the airport. This is Kenya.
There were many of these This is Kenya moments throughout the duration of our trip. Our incredible group of 16 was tested on more than one occasion while we spent time across the world. These moments could have been trip ruiners. They could have been moments that one or all of us chose to dwell in. However, that is the exact opposite of what happened. These moments became nothing but mere hiccups, barely noticeable, in the midst of a life-altering and heart-changing trip. In fact, for me, these moments were consistently overshadowed by moments of pure magic and miracle. To me, This is Kenya should be a term used to describe the moments where God makes himself known through the people of this beautiful country.
When Carese and Gibson stand up and talk about coming from a life on the street to Tumaini and how it has shaped their lives. This is Kenya. When Samuel spends every moment he can talking with Kate and Camilla about music and sharing his love of dance. This is Kenya. When Charles, the manager of Tumaini, bounces around from one working group to another making sure they have all the supplies and help they need. This is Kenya. When Kioko talks about how making new friends and getting to know us has helped him change how he thinks about mission and relationships. This is Kenya. When all the boys from the home stand around a bonfire and sing wonderful praise music to God during reflection time.This is Kenya. When all the older boys take us into the streets of Nairobi so that we can feed the children living on the streets. This is Kenya. When Carese looks at one of the street boys in rags and says, “I can’t believe that used to be me,” with tears in his eyes. This is Kenya. When Tumaini opens its arms and has us take 7 boys from the street that night back to the home so that they may have a better life. This is Kenya. When Gibson, holding back sobs, stands up on the last night we are there and tells us that we are all family now. And when all the boys stand at the bonfire that last night and sing a song of thanksgiving to God for us and then lead us in an epic dance party. This is Kenya.
Telling the story of this trip and how it has changed everything in terms of the way we as a group look at mission and how we see our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world will not be easy. But we know how important it is to tell it. For the 16 of us who were blessed with the chance to make a new family with the boys and mentors of Tumaini, our lives will never be the same. The way we see Christ in the other will never be the same. The way we build partnerships and do mission will never be the same.
Mission is not about us having all the answers and going in and giving it to people who seem less fortunate than us. We have learned and now know better. We don’t have any of the answers and the boys of Tumaini are more fortunate in the love of God and the support of their community than many here in the US. It is not about one side giving while the other takes. It is not about money or resources or which way of life is better. It is about love, family, and knowing that though our lives and homes look different on the surface, we are all the same beautiful children of God. It is only by truly seeing and understanding this that we are able to walk side by side as partners in mission and in the Kingdom of God.
Our journey with the boys of Tumaini and with Kenya is just beginning and we hope that as we continue the to build on the relationships we have made, that the rest of our communities will join us.