The fog settled in on the mountains thick and wet reminding us of the season we entered in Nairobi, Kenya. The intricate British-inspired landscaping welcomed the drizzling mornings and sunlit afternoons. International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries serving throughout Africa gathered for a week-long conference. Brakenhurst, a training and conference center located in Tigoni, was the backdrop for the reunion, respite and refueling those in the field so desperately needed.
As families reunited and became reacquainted, our team prepared to welcome their children for a camp none of us expected.
Had we prepared? Yes.
Did God do what He often does by going far and beyond above our expectations? Absolutely.
About 60 kids were checked in on that misty Monday morning. All Americans. So collectively we thought, “they’re just like our kids.” Collectively, we were wrong. The majority of these kids have been in various parts of the continent for less than two years. They walked away from everyone and everything that was familiar because they were born into a calling they don’t yet understand. They shared their newly-learned language, favorite local snacks, names and ages of siblings, and school experiences. More saddening, they shared all the things they miss about being in America: Target, Chick-fil-A, Goldfish, warm mall pretzels and Slushies from a gas station. When we gifted American snacks, they cheered, clapped their hands, jumped up and down, and high fived each other. They traded Oreos for Cheez-Its, and chose carefully between Nutter Butter cookies and Scooby snacks. They celebrated the ordinary . . . they celebrated a taste of home.
Voices singing super loud could be heard from a distance twice a day. The “Church Clap” has never been done with such enthusiasm. Later we found out that these kids haven’t worshipped in English or with peers for months or years. They showed us the joy of worshipping the Lord. We rallied behind the theme “Come Follow Me,” and taught parables of the prodigal son, the sower, the Good Samaritan, the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus’ baptism. We taught them the Gospel cross, a tool IMB leaders asked that they learn so they can share the Gospel with their friends. We prayed with them and played with them.
Mostly, we just loved them. We heard about how they missed their grandparents back in the states, but Chai tea “is better here.” We thanked them for their sacrifice and commitment to Jesus. Some looked puzzled when thanked. Others smiled silently. All understood. Following Jesus is sometimes joyfully hard.
As for our team, we fell a little bit more in love with Jesus, His mission and the people He’s called to take the Good News to the nations. Grateful cannot begin to describe the missionaries’ responses to our service. Their gratitude was humbling. Many will return to living conditions we can’t imagine. Our team returned to our comfortable American middle-class lives with a different perspective of what it means to Live Sent. We returned to clean running water, paved sidewalks, washers and dryers, and family members who we missed. We returned with tender hearts for the people of Kenya and the laborers sharing our Lord. We returned to memories that evoke pain from tearful farewells, and a longing to return to new friends. We returned praying God will continue to use us, Shandon, and the big “C” church to share Jesus’ message of eternal hope.
Ultimately, our team of acquaintances soon-turned family returned longing for the coming of John’s vision recorded in Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,
Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!
Thank you, Shandon, for sending us.
-2019 Kenya Team