Sunday, August 30, 2009

"So, would you go back?"

In the whole process of coming home, people have asked me a lot of questions. I love answering them! But if there is one question that turns my brain into a big gelatinous pile of goo, it's this one.

So, Hillary, would you go back? Uuuhmmmm, aaaah, buuuuh, errrr..... Pretty intelligent and articulate answer, hey?

Would I do it again? Well, what does that mean? Did I enjoy the experience and would I hypothetically make the choice to repeat it? Yes, absolutely. Are there things I would do differently? Sure. But am I glad I went? ABSOLUTELY YES.

Would I actually, literally go back again to work as a missionary in Africa?

Well... I don't know. I really have NO idea.

I would LOVE to go back and see all the people I have grown to love again. It often makes me tear up when I think that it's possible that I may never see these people again. So, would I go back to visit? If the opportunity afforded itself, Absolutely yes, in a heartbeat.

Would I go back to do another short term experience? Well, maybe. It would be amazing to go back to Korr and live there for a longer +time. To continue to build the relationships I began there. To keep learning the language and the culture. To perhaps set up and run a "gap year" type remedial program where I could take kids out of the Kenyan cirriculum and help them catch up on their skills in math and English. To take struggling kids and give them confidence. To maybe run a Bible and discipleship class. There is so much I would LOVE to do with more time there.

But another short term experience would be a year at the most, according to AIM rules, and I wonder, would it be the most effective thing to go only for a year? If I went to Korr again, I'd at least have a LITTLE bit of a head start with language learning, figuring out 'how things are done,' getting to know people...

If I went somewhere else, it would absolutely not be enough time. I feel like I've HAD the short term experience "for me" now. The lessons I've learned, the things I've seen, the taste of missions. I mean, yes, I did what I could to contribute while I was there, but let's face it, I'm sure that I took away a heck of a lot more than I gave. That's just kind of the nature of short term missions, and that's ok. If I ever DID go back, though, I would want to really focus on and be effective in ministry. And that doesn't happen overnight. You have to learn language, build relationships, get a feel for what is really needed in the area where you're serving, and SO much more. And that takes TIME. I was only MAYBE beginning to lightly scratch the surface of that after seven months in Korr. If I went to a new place, it would almost seem selfish to go for just a year. It's not NEARLY enough time to get anything really effective started. (Yes, I realize that God can do anything with willing people who go for any amount of time, I'm not limiting Him here, but just looking at practicalities!)

So, then, would I go for longer than a year? Again, I don't know. Anything after a year, and fundraising gets to be much more of a bigger deal. There are set-up funds to raise - a house, materials, potentially a vehicle, all that stuff. Then there are month-to-month living expenses. And a ministry doesn't run for free. I'd have to also raise money for whatever I was planning to do. A "Gap year" remedial program? I'd need books, money for salaries, money for materials... a PLACE to run it... It's a lot for just two years. So would I go back for a full term (about four years) and become a career missionary?

All I'm saying is that for anything longer than a short term experience, things get a lot more complicated. There is a TON more fund raising to do and a whole lot more logistics to work out. Now, money is only money. Logistics are only logistics. Support has to be raised. Logistics have to be worked out. But if God wants me back in Africa, He'll work all that stuff out.

And so THERE is the REAL question: Do I feel that God is calling me back to Africa?

Some people come home from short term experiences and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are only home for enough time to get that support raised and get those logistics worked out, and they will be back. They know it.

Others come back from a short term experience and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God simply is not calling them into cross-cultural missions. Maybe they didn't have a good experience. Maybe there are health issues that require them to stay in their home country. Maybe it's just not their gifting. God definitely has a call on their life, but cross-cultural missions isn't it.

I guess I'm somewhere in between. I don't feel a huge pull to go back immediately (yet?), but I also wouldn't ever rule it out. I think there's a lot I would I really love about living and working as a missionary in Africa, should I sense God calling me back there. But I feel like I have to live HERE for a while now and just wait and see. It's not super clear right now, and I'm ok with that. And in the meantime, there's a heck of a lot I can think of to do HERE to support what's going on THERE.

Who knows what God will have in store for me down the road...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Mitumba kids

Two posts today! Look at me go!

Loading video in Kenya wasn't possible. But oh hooray, I'm back to the land of high speed, and hoo-boy do I have some fun stuff to show you! So welcome to the first installment of "Watch It Weekends!" I'll post a video (or two?) each weekend so you can get a better taste of the sights and sounds of my trip. Here's the first one!

This is class four in Mitumba, the slum I spent a few days in in January. It was my first introduction to the fabulous world of African kids singing. I love it! I also love the kids dancing around for hte camera in the back row! Silly monkeys! :)

Hakuna Mungu kama wewe = There's no God but you

Monday, August 24, 2009

The seed and the harvest

I saw this quote at the bottom of Andrea's blog tonight:

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Reading that, it hit me – a “boom, bang crash, open-your-eyes, ah-ha moment” kind of hit me.

I wasn't a harvester.

So much of my trip to Korr was wonderful. Incredible. Amazing. Words can not describe. But there were some things that were really hard. Disappointing at times. Frustrating. Things that caused me to doubt my role, to doubt myself.

- Helping to clarify rules and expectations for teachers based on the needs I saw.
- Revamping (and sticking to) a much needed student discipline program.
- Living in the shadow of two previous short termers who made a HUGE influence and connected in a big way with these kids relationally – the kids talked abut them non-stop throughout my stay (good work, girls! You made SUCH an impact on these kids!).
- Meaning what I say and following though with discipline. It doesn’t always make for warm fuzzies in the classroom. Um, understatement of the century.
- Trying to teach by example what following through on discipline actually means, but often ending up looking like the strictest, most meanie-pants teacher in the school.
- Forever trying to correct a warped view of forgiveness that leaves no room for taking responsibility for behaviour. “Madam, why can’t you just forgive him? God tells us we should forgive others!” Argh! Yes! But God also tells us that our actions have consequences!
- Wanting so much to develop good relationships with the kids but having some kids so angry at me they wouldn’t speak to me for a week, and others who just don’t understand why I have to rock the boat and call kids out on misbehaviour. And then wondering how that all reconciles with the African high view of relationship – doing everything you can to NOT break the relationship.
- Feeling at times like a failure in relationships because of such a gap in what I was expecting and what actually God had for me to do.

And perhaps the hardest thing of all – DEFINITELY the most important - was trying to re-shape the kids’ view of what it takes to be saved. Over and over and over the kids would tell me that to be accepted by God they had to do lots and lots of good things. Noooo! Salvation is FREE! Grace costs US nothing because it cost Christ EVERYTHING! We are loved more than we could ever imagine simply because of who we ARE , not for what we do or don’t do! How I longed for that burden of "good works" to fall of their slumped and sagging shoulders!

I didn't see the harvest of so much of my work there. I may never see it. But I realized tonight that the harvest isn't really mine, anyway. The harvest is God's. He may use someone else to bring it in; He may bring it in Himself. But if I want everything I do to be ultimately for His glory, then I don't have to see the harvest. I just have to plant the seeds.

My eyes were opened to a new way of seeing some of those frustrations tonight.

Seeds of excellence in teaching. Seeds of responsibility for behaviour. Seeds of understanding when it comes to forgiveness and salvation. Seeds of faith. Seeds of truth.

Yeah. Sometimes planting those seeds was hard. It hurt. It wasn't always what I thought my job would be. But it was the job God had for me to do, and He sustained me. He gave me wisdom, He gave me strength. He gave me grace. And tonight He reminded me to trust. To trust Him that He gave me the work that needed to be done. To trust Him that he can take the broken work I did and make it good. To trust Him that He was working before I got there, while I was there, and will continue to keep working now that I'm gone. And to trust Him that one day there will be a harvest.

Thank you, Father, that your vision is so much bigger than mine, and that you are faithful, even when we don't get to see the result of our work. Thank you that You are the God of the harvest.

And thank you for the privilege of planting the seeds.


Wow. I stopped writing just before I hit publish to take a phone call, and when I did, I thought my post was finished. Before making it back to my computer, though, I got distracted by some cards my fabulously thoughtful and wonderful friend Sarah sent me for my trip. They didn't get to me in time to take them with me when I left, so I have the cards now at my house. I pulled one out of the pile to open. Here is what I read. Gee... you think God maybe knew I needed to read this tonight?????
Do It Anyway
By Roy Lessin

Others may not notice your efforts or give you recognition for something you've done. The credit may even go to someone else.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am pleased by your service and will honor your obedience.

There may be times when a job you've done will be rejected. Something you have prepared may be canceled or delayed.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I see all things and will bless the work of your hands.

You may do your very best, and yet fail. You may sacrifice time and money to help someone and receive no word of thanks.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am your reward and will repay you.

There may be times when you go out of your way to include others and later have them ignore you. You may be loyal on your job, and yet someone else is promoted ahead of you.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I will not fail you or make you be ashamed.

You may forgive others, only to have them hurt you again. You may reach out in kindness, only to have someone use you.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I know your heart and will comfort you.

You may speak the truth but be considered wrong by others. You may do something with good intentions and be completely misunderstood.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I understand and will not disappoint you.

There may be times when keeping your word means giving up something you want to do. There may be times when commitment means sacrificing personal pleasure.
Do it anyway, as unto Me,
for I am your Friend, and will bless you with My Presence.

Indeed, He will. Indeed, He has.

The story continues

Yes, it's true! I'm home! Back in Vancouver - back marveling at the huge green leafy trees and the vast expanses of water... was there really that much water before? Were the trees really that big? I'm loving being back in my city, with my family, my friends. But of course a huge part of my heart is still in Korr. I'm not done with the stories just because I'm home. There's still so much I want to get down - for my own memories, my own processing, my own records. I have at least four posts in process right now. (Anyone want to hold back the start of school so I can finish blogging????)

But eventually my stories will come to an end (of Korr, anyway... we all know I will NEVER stop talking! Ha!). Those of you who have followed my blog from before Africa, thank you! And those who have started reading since the beginning of my trip, thank you to you, as well! I've been so amazed at the stories of those who I've heard have been reading. I'm so happy to have been able to share. Please feel free to keep reading as I continue and find my way!

There's so much to say about the process of leaving and coming home, but for now, I want to point you elsewhere, to three blogs that have captured my heart and will hold me there closely.

First is Andrea Wolfe. She and her husband Trevor are AIM short term missionaries in Nairobi. He works as a mechanic for AIM and she works in Mitumba, the slum I spent a few short days in in early January. God has stolen this couple's heart for the kids in Mitumba, and her blog tells about life in the slum as it really is... make-you-cry heart-breaking... but always, always, there is beauty there because of what God is doing. There is hope among the mud, among the corrugated metal, among the hurt. There is hope. There is new life. There is light. There is Jesus. And so often Jesus is there in the life of Andrea and Trevor. I would so encourage you to click on these words and go read her blog.

Here is just a clip from a recent post. I would encourage you to go read the whole thing.
...I wipe my tears and reach for her. She comes willingly and lets me hold her. I repeated my earlier words.

“I love you my girl.”
“I love you too.”

And she calls me “Mommy”.

We walk down the steps of the clinic, and to the field where we run around and act silly and twirl like little girls. Her walls have come back up and she has pushed the vulnerability back inside. And it’s okay. Because she knows that I know. And she knows that I care.

Another story. Another child. Another life lived in fear and pain. Another reason to pray and plead with our Father in Heaven to help these dear ones. Another opportunity to trust in His goodness...

The other two blogs are the blogs of Jamie and Alicia, two young women from Texas. They left TODAY to begin a brienf orientation in New York, and then will be headed to Kenya. To Korr. To stay with Nick and Lynne, and sleep in "my" bedroom. To teach in the secondary school in the place I love to the people I already miss SO much. They found my blog a few months back and have been reading a little about where they will be going, and I fully intend to hang on their every word (sorry girls, you've officially got a blog stalker! :) ) Jamie's blog is here: He Who Promises Is Faithful. Alicia's blog is here: A Year Far From Home. If Korr, Tirrim, and the Rendille have at all captured a little corner of your hearts, go check them out! Say hello. Pray for them.

I am so beyond excited to have this connection to the places I hold so dear in my heart! I hope that in eve na little way you will be blessed by them, too!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Safari Diaries

Three parks, six days, and LOTS and LOTS of animals. Here are but a few of the highlights.

Saturday, 3pm: Why on earth is the road to the Masai Mara - the most visited place in Kenya – worse than the roads on the way up to Korr? Bump, bump, rattle, rattle, I sure hope this car stays in one piece!

Saturday, 5pm: Giraffe! A whole herd! It’s our first big sighting and we’re not even in the park yet!

Saturday, 10pm: I’m FREEZING – have been cold all day, but now I’m REALLY cold. Desert girl returns to the real world. I’m grateful for two really have blankets in our tented camp, even if the mattress on the floor is pretty much useless.

Sunday, 9am: We've entered the Mara and are driving past herds and herds and herds of impala, zebra, buffalo, and wildebeest.

Sunday, 11:45am: Our fist big sighting of the day – four lionesses enjoying a fresh zebra!

Sunday, 2pm: Watching hippos fighting in the Mara river, and was just told by armed escort to move back from the edge of the river – you never know where the crocodiles are.

Sunday, 2:45pm: I’m surrounded by cheeky monkeys who are trying their best to steal my lunch. One just dropped from the tree above me and landed a foot away from my sandwich!

Monday, 7:15am: We just found a pregnant hyena in her den, and watched her chase off the jackal who was trying to steal her meat.

Monday, 7:45am: We were following a lone bull elephant who apparently wanted to stay lonely – we were just ahead of him when he trumpeted and started charging our car. Good thing our driver’s quick on the acceleration pedal!

Monday, 10am: We’re back on that horrible road from the Mara and are heading to Nakuru.

Monday, 5:30pm: Our safari group was wandering around Nakuru looking for ice cream, only to find an ice cream cart had been following us for the last few blocks! Yummy treats for everyone! I might have had two, but I’m not sure!

Tuesday, 9:15am: I've never seen so many pink flamingoes in my life! The whole of Lake Nakuru is surrounded by a ribbon of pink.

Tuesday, 10am: We’re watching a big troupe of baboons playing in the forest. The babies are so funny looking! One sits on the road beside our car and screeches at us.

Tuesday, 10:20am: We’ve just spotted a rare tree-climbing lion. We watch her amble through the grass and up a tree, settling in for a morning nap.

Tuesday, 12:30pm: We’re now nose-to-nose with a white rhino. It reminds us all of some kind of prehistoric monster!

Tuesday, 3:15pm: I just left the safari group and am on my own now. I’m in a rural matatu (14 person bus) and finally on the way to Nyeri after waiting nearly an hour and a half for it to fill up (could be worse!). They don’t leave unless they’re full, so I got to spend my time warding off hawkers trying to sell me everything under the sun through the window. Wallets? Power adapters? Soda and sweets? Hair clips? An escort to Nyeri? No live chickens in the matutu, though… I’m kinda disappointed!

Wednesday, 9am: I’m sitting in a deck chair on the patio at the beautiful Aberdare Country Club, sipping complimentary coffee, listening to music, watching warthogs graze on the slopes below me, and very much enjoying my 24 hours of luxury!

Wednesday, 10:30am: I hear a familiar cry and think back to walks through Stanley Park – peacocks!

Wednesday, 11:00am: On a guided safari walk, I’ve just spotted an eland, the largest and one of the shyest antelopes, and am now walking through a herd of ten giraffes!

Wednesday, 3:30pm: I’m now boarding the Ark, a hotel deep in the Aberdare forest that’s built to resemble Noah’s Ark. It overlooks a waterhole and salt lick, and the staff ring a buzzer to wake you up throughout the night when interesting things come to the water hole.

Wednesday, 4:00pm: Just in time for our arrival, a whole family of elephants arrived at the waterhole, joining the few buffalo.

Wednesday, all evening long: I’m riveted by the elephants – blowing dust over their bodies, playing with each other, baby elephants bullying the buffalo… I take a quick break to watch the birds being fed on the “gangplank” but am glued to the waterhole most of the night.

Wednesday, 10:15pm: Two bull elephants have been fighting off and on since we got here. One just charged the other with a loud trumpet and knocked the other down. And I’m watching from about fourty feet away!

Thursday, 12:15am: Four hyenas are trying to take down a buffalo on the far side of the water hole. A giant forest hog is grazing just below me, and I can hear him munching away.

Thursday, 12:25am: The hyenas seem to have given up. Lucky buffalo. He’s meandered over to the window and seems content to just stare at us.

Thursday, 1:45am: I’m heading to bed. I’m sure they’ll ring if anything else happens.

Thursday, 7am: Breakfast time! Nothing else through the night. Morning in the Aberdares is misty and cool. Just a few antelopes linger in the mist by the waterhole as the morning sun begins to burn away the fog.

Thusday, 9am: We’re back at the country club and on our way to Nairobi. We saw a few more elephants on the way out, but the leopard has managed to elude me again. It’s the only thing I think I haven’t seen. I’ve been adopted by a group of 15 British Scouts who I think felt sorry for me when they saw I was on my own. They’ve offered me a free ride back to Nairobi with them on their bus. Score!

Thursday, 12:30pm: I’ve arrived back at Mayfield. The only wildlife I’ll see now are the matatu drivers!

For more photos, go to my flickr page or to my album on facebook (coming soon)!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Goobi waakh ka icho arga...

The “dark nights” in Korr are just that. For about half the month, the moon rises so late (or rather, so early in the morning) that none of its light illuminates the darkness. It is DARK - so much more than many of us have ever experienced. Your torch barely pierces a hole in the night big enough for you to see your next three steps. It is so incredibly pitch black, but for the millions of stars visible above you.

The “light nights,” in contrast, are so welcome, where there are no street lamps or even light from people’s houses after dark. During the light nights, you see your own shadow almost as clearly as you would on a blazing desert afternoon.

I watched the full moon rise tonight. It was huge and nearly orange as it rose over the hill – a beautiful sight for my last night in the desert.

What’s that? My LAST NIGHT?!?!

My departure came rather suddenly – in one sense because I can’t believe that time has gone so fast, but also in another, more tangible way. My flight bookings have been all over the place, and as I got mentally ready to leave on August 7th, it then, due to a plane crash with AIM Air and all AIM planes being grounded, it got extended to the 11th. For about a day, I really felt desperate to go down to Nairobi – I’d said my goodbyes, there wasn’t a lot left to do. But then I had accepted that and had started to make a few plans, grateful for a few extra days. Then today at lunchtime, I got an email saying that a plane coming from elsewhere in the north is able to make a diversion to pick me up, so, indeed, I would be leaving tomorrow. And just like that, my time remaining in Korr went from five days to less than twenty-four hours.

I’ve felt all day long like I’ve been punched in the gut. I feel totally unprepared to leave again, and I don’t even know how to process everything that is happening so fast. I still feel like in a week or two, I’ll be boarding another plane to come back here.

Except that I won’t. I’ll be boarding a plane, yes, but that plane will be taking me back to Canada – to my family, to my friends, to my own culture, my own language, my own culture. I’m happy to go, yes, but I’m leaving behind people and a place I may never see again, and that makes the departure bittersweet.

Anihi soonokhdi magardi, lakini chirri an Korr ka ‘doo‘d Rendille iargin, Goobi Waakh ka icho arga. (I don’t know if I will return, but if I don’t see the Rendille in Korr, I will see them in heaven.)

Until then, when I see the full moon rise, I will think about the “light nights” in Korr, and continue to pray for the Rendille, and for Nick and Lynne, Jim and Laura, Grant and Loki, and all the Rendille believers. It is they who, even on the darkest of nights, carry a light capable of piercing the darkness.