It is the 4th of July today. I did not even realize it was the 4th until about half way through the day when someone mentioned it (time is a very different construct here as we have already experienced). It does not feel like the 4th at all. No perfectly charred burgers and brats, no fireworks, no swimming, no flags waving. We spent the day with two amazing Kenyans who shared their hearts about their country and continent and offered more questions than answers and raised many important challenges and considerations in our ministry here. We discussed the cultural and world view differences between Africa and the West and I was thoroughly overwhelmed with how much I do not know and how much I have to learn. I am praying God would grant me an open and receptive heart as I navigate the vastness of unknown. Today I walked into town with a couple other people to buy some juice for Anni and try to find ice cream for another woman’s birthday. To be different is hard, to be Mzunga in Africa is difficult for me. In many ways I feel like a child, like I am starting over in learning how to communicate, how to understand what I see around me, to make friends, how to live. I am in desperate need of humility and grace, of wisdom and willingness. I felt encouraged after talking with the younger woman who does the laundry here. I went out to stretch between sessions and she was ringing out the laundry and laying it all carefully on the grass to dry in the sun. Her name is Yenopher and she educated me about her home, her job, and the family wedding she is attending tomorrow. I was struck with the differences that exist in our two lives but comforted by her kindness, openness, and her laughing at my questions. After talking with her my lack of understanding seemed smaller not because I know more but because she was so gracious to put up with all of my inquiries and to help me know more about this place. When I think about everything I do not know I am overwhelmed but when I think about Africa as people that I pray I can learn from and get to know I am excited.
In other news we have really enjoyed getting to know the other 25 people here from around the world that will soon be serving in various places throughout Africa. I am learning more about this continent than I think I have learned in almost 20 years of schooling in the U.S. (a rather sad commentary). The internet connection here is terribly weak and the server goes down for many hours each day yet no one seems to protest or complain (I have some great pics but cannot upload them here). Jason, Anni, and I had a tough few days after arriving here at training. Annikah refused to eat anything for almost 2 days. She did drink some water and we managed to convince her to eat a banana. The weird part was that the food we were offering was not that terribly different from what she eats in the states (beans, potatoes, rice, fruit, etc). I think she was just stressed and feeling the anxiety of so much change in our lives all at once. We also think her malaria meds are making her sick so we stopped them (as this is a low malaria area) until we head out to the island. It was very challenging as thoughts “did we do the right thing in dragging her here?” creep in. We spent the first day worrying and freaking out but soon we came to our end and to our reliance on God and prayed. We were reminded of God’s goodness and that she is part of this calling to serve, He will take care of her. Thankfully she slowly started trying the food and after I ran to town to get some juice and yogurt so she would have more familiar foods she seemed better. She has finally started eating again and her favorite are the local bananas and rice and beans (no shocker there), she still does not care for Ugali (a maize flour that is mixed with boiling water until it hardens- basically a cheap stomach filler that we get at almost every meal). She is enjoying her time more and more as the days go by. Annikah has LOVED spending the mornings (while we are in training) with the other kids and a local Kenyan woman named Redemptor. This woman is so sweet to her and tells me everyday “she is so good” which is a blessing to me as of course I worry about her. It has been difficult to explain to Anni why she cannot pet the dogs that roam everywhere but in some ways it seems like she is adjusting better than us, she even likes her malaria net at night and constantly wants to kiss us through it. Miss Anni even played a little football with some local kids and kids from the families in our group today. She also has loved taking baths in this little dish washing pan in the dorm but because there is a water shortage here we are only bathing her every few days. Overall, we are good or mzuri!
As I type I am sitting out on a rock on the campus because the wireless does not reach far, my dusty and dirty feet evidence that I am not at home. I look up and I am in awe of the profound darkness of the sky and the amazing quietness that surrounds me. It is something that tonight I am grateful for as it quiets my overwhelmed spirit. It is also something that reminds me I am far away from my comfort zone.