The Most Valuable Things Are Often The Most Protected

12 10 2007

On the way to Kenya, I watched “Ocean’s 13” during one of the flights. If you’ve seen any of the “Ocean’s” movies, then you can guess the plot. Danny Ocean was at it again trying to break into a casino with his team to steal millions of dollars. The added bonus in this sequel was that they were also trying to steal very precious and extremely valuable diamonds. But getting those jewels was no easy task. The entire two-hour plot of the movie is centered around the dilemma of breaking through the impossible, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art security system to access the really valuable stuff.

As I arrived in the village, ready for my game of hide-and-seek with God, I soon found that movie plot to be an adequate metaphor for my first five days in Kenya. While everyone else was singing Africa’s praises (how could you not, really? Have you EVER met anyone who hated Africa?), I was trying to stand still and see straight. Somehow, when we landed, I started feeling dizzy. I mean really dizzy. Non-stop dizzy. Can’t focus on anyone-or-anything dizzy. For five days straight, Kenya was the spinning place. By the third day, the dizziness had stepped it up a notch and included nausea, a pounding headache, and vomiting. I was so weak on Sunday that I literally had to hold onto the table to avoid falling down while I was presenting in Sunday School. But by 9:30 am I had a break down and went to sleep. I didn’t wake up until 6:00 pm that night.

I’m still not sure if it was the altitude (we were above 7,000 feet), dehydration, a bug, or my malaria medicine. All I know if that I switched my malaria meds Sunday and my Tuesday I was feeling back to my normal self.

What I am sure about is that my sickness made my first five days in Kenya miserable and, well, to be honest, I hated Africa. I was separated from the team, unable to really see where we were or meet any of the wonderful people. I was unable to participate or give in any way. Had I really traveled across the world for God to lock me in my room for a few days and humble me? Beyond this, I was literally exhausting myself with paranoia about mosquitos, and frustration with the toilets and showers, or lack thereof (see the picture I’ve posted). Being sick is hard enough….imagine having to throw up in THAT toilet! As you can imagine, I opted for a trashcan. But I’ll spare you that picture. 🙂

Still, in the midst of my misery, God was with me. I still sensed his presence even in my bed under my mosquito net. But I struggled with him. I had come ready to seek him and find him, and there I was lying in bed, exhausted and dizzy, and a little confused as to how to seek him like that. I felt more like I needed him to seek me out…to find me lying there and encourage my spirit and heal me.

But he brought to mind Ocean’s 13 (see, God likes the movies!). In a weird, and admittedly cheesy, way, I was having to push past the obstacles to God’s precious presence like Ocean’s men had to push past the casino’s security system. God was indeed hiding among the people of Kipkaren, but to access him took a little perseverance. I had to push past the sickness and the bathrooms, and the little mosquito guards to get to him.

God truly humbled me in my first few days in Kenya. I couldn’t give. I couldn’t feel valuable by what I did. I couldn’t even feel secure in God’s love by how well I was “seeking” him. All I could do was lie in bed, the room spinning around me, and call out to the God who promised to hear me, to guide me, and to be found. I often heard the praises of the others, in loud and vibrant African song, ringing through the training center like a soundtrack to my sickness. I wanted more than anything to be among the crowds, singing his praises with energy and joy. But in the midst of my isolation, God reminded me that he is the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to seek out the lost one. Before I could seek for God afresh, I needed him to come find me first. In my weakness, dizziness, inadequacies, confusion, and lonliness I needed not only to find where God was hiding…I needed to be found by Him too.


Hide and Seek With God

10 10 2007

This will be the first of many brief stories to come about my recent trip to Kenya. it is my hope to share a few memorable people, experiences, lessons, etc. even though the trip has already ended. So, here we go!

The past few years have been packed full of wonderful things, but they have also been challenging with God. I have struggled to hear his voice clearly and to sense his presence in my life in the same ways i have done this in the past. Needless to say, my prayer as I left for Africa was for God to meet me with his presence in a fresh way, and that he would not be silent anymore.

On one of the many flights we took to get to Kipkaren, I remember waking up and feeling the need to journal. As I prayed, a certain passage in Jeremiah came to mind: Jeremiah 29. Now, there’s a verse in this passage that gets misused all the time, the part in verse 11 that says God has plans for you…to prosper you and not to harm you. (This is a bit off topic, but I plead with you to please go back and read that verse in context so that we can put an end to its miserable misuse – God is talking to the city of Jerusalem, his people whom he had just sent into exile. it’s a beautiful passage and message from God, just not in the way everyone thinks it is. Ok, sorry, i had to say that. Now back to my story…) The part of the passage right after that verse is what God put on my heart:

“‘In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 29:12-14a.

I have often felt, in recent years, that God has not heard my prayers. But there I was, crammed on a plane high above the Atlantic ocean and God was reminding me that he will hear me when I call and he will allow me to find him.

A little while later, and on yet another plane, I was journaling again and God spoke to me through another passage. He led me to Isaiah 58, a passage I have read many times. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but the section that moved me afresh was this:

(If you share your food with the hungry and provide shelter to the poor wanderer)…”then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help and he will say, ‘Here am I.’ If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” – Isaiah 58:9-11.

I got an image of when I used to play hide-and-seek as a kid, and suddenly I saw myself in a similar situation with God. God was not hiding in a malicious way, no….He was hiding among the poor and wanted to be found by me there. As we landed in Kenya I was ready to seek for Him afresh and to listen for his voice. He had showed me he would hear my prayers, and that if I came seeking, I would surely find him there, hiding among the wonderful people of Kipkaren.

I’ve posted a picture of one of the views from the village. It was still rainy season when we were there, so everything was incredibly lush and green. Notice the abundance of corn on the hillside. It gives me a picture of what Isaiah was talking about and what I want my life to continually be: a well-watered garden, a spring whose waters never fail.

Kenya Pictures!

10 10 2007

Rather than trying to get my hundreds of pictures into Flickr…I’m going to try to post a link to my photo gallery online.  It should take you to my Kodak slideshow.  I’ve posted captions on most pictures to explain what they are of.  Let me know if it doesn’t work!

Also, I am just posting a link to the pictures I took, but there are literally hundreds of other pictures from my teammates that are in the same gallery.  If you have lots of time on your hands and want to look at those pics too (It is neat to see our trip through the eyes of others), then let me know and I’ll send you another link!

Kenya Pictures