This word seems to be flowing throughout my life this year. This is the year I graduate college. This year I traveled to Israel, where God came alive to me for the first time in a long time. This year I took my GRE, applied to grad school, and I'm still alive (praise Jesus). This year was full of joy and so much fun. But above all else, I've been on an adventure of transfiguration with God, as He's grown me brighter every day.
This last week I had a lot of time to reflect on my time in Kenya. God used the week of solitude to clarify the many things He's taught me about His character and power over the last few months. Oddly enough, the most powerful moments of my internship didn't take place on the mission field. It was spoken by a man with a true servant's heart. The conversation was no doubt orchestrated by God to give me a divine moment of clarity. And I learned that day that one conversation can change your life forever.
Week one we attended training over various topics about wholistic community development. One of our trainers was a doctor who works for Life in Abundance. After learning I would be pursuing a career in the medical field, he began to prod me with questions about my future. For any college student, this is always a hard conversation to have. But this time it wasn't. Dr. Yered didn't care that I was going to go to school for occupational therapy. He didn't care that I was going to have my doctorate. He didn't care what school I'd go to. He cared because he recognized a follower of Jesus pursuing the passion God gave her. I'll never forget what Dr. Yered told me that day: "God placed those passions in your heart. Your soul burns for this field for a reason. Ministry isn't in a church. Ministry is where this burning passion meets Jesus. God knows the desires of your heart and this spiritual gift is your ministry."
That's a game changer. I think God speaks in many many ways...through stories, events, creation, and people. I know God placed me in Kenya for an abundance of reasons. This clarity He so graciously bestowed upon me is one of many, but this is the one moment I'll look back on for the rest of my life. During my time in Kenya I was able to look at the world through the lens of this spiritual gift—this passion I have for advocating for people with disabilities. I've learned that God has given me this purpose and these skills as a gift that will be used to glorify Him, and that will be my ministry. I have big dreams. I know God knows the desires of my heart. He's invited me on an adventure with Him to chase these dreams and I am going to. I've learned no matter how small or insignificant I mean be in this world, I can change it. I can change it with one conversation. I can change it by loving people. And I will.
Here's a couple more things God revealed to me this summer.
1. Stories are powerful—even those untold.
Most nights after dinner in Kajiado we would sit around a campfire. Underneath the stars, hyenas cackling in the background, we would listen intently to stories of Masai traditions and folk tales. The stories were captivating, often resembling our fairy tales—not the Disney ones, but the dark "Cinderella cuts her foot to fit in the slipper" ones.
Rumor has it Josiah, the man we were staying with, has killed a few lions. It's Masai tradition for a boy to kill a lion in order to become a man. One night we decided that Josiah's lion-hunting adventures were going to be the stories we'd hear. When we asked Josiah to tell us about about it he just shook his head and said "They were killing my cows so I killed them." When we probed him for further gory details he simply shrugged his shoulders and said "What more is there to tell?" This, coming from a man who loves to tell stories. I think there's a lesson to be learned here about the stories we share, the words we speak, and those things left unsaid. You know who also knew when to keep a secret? Jesus. After raising a girl from the dead, healing a blind man, and ridding a man of leprosy Jesus said, "Tell no one." He knew that sometimes a story is most powerful untold. Something extraordinary happened—healing or lion killing, but the fact is that Jesus and Josiah both wanted the spotlight to be on the miracle, not themselves. On the flip side, sometimes the power of your story being spoken can change lives. I've seen it over and over again in the slums. When people share of how Jesus has transformed their lives others take notice. From broken to healed, lost to found, sick to healthy, and dependent to empowered. These stories inspire and encourage in a contagious way. Jesus knew this as well. When He healed the demoniac He told the man to go and tell everyone he knew. When Jesus crossed to the other side again, there were 4,000 people there waiting for Him. Here He performed a miracle where He fed all of them. Why were they there? Because they'd heard and seen the no-longer-demon-possessed man. One man's story brought 4,000 people to the feet of Jesus. Stories are so powerful. I have learned these past couple months that the stories you hear and share can truly change the world.
2. God never stops wooing us. Don't stop searching for Him in everything.
I believe God knows the desires of my heart. I think God knows I love surprises and I think God loves to see me excited. One morning we stumbled across giraffes migrating in the wild. My squeal scared the whole car and I got out and half ran/half skipped towards them. I think God uses these times to woo us. He never really stops wooing us. He loves me so much He'd send some giraffes to the middle of no where just to make my day, just to show me how much He cares for me. God created this earth so that He could be in constant pursuit of His children. The vibrant flowers in the most unexpected places, the ice cream just when you needed it, and the surprise visits to see elephants (all His creations) are not simply things that make us happy. They're orchestrated by our Heavenly Father to show us He knows our hearts. What I've learned of the last few months is that these things shouldn't be overlooked or blown off. They should be praised as a gift from God. I started to thank God for the beauty of every wildflower I saw while I was in Kenya (which is a lot of flowers). The more I did this, the more I grasped the reality of a God who is pursuing me. I've become more gracious, more grateful, and I see beauty so much clearer. Most importantly, I tangibly see the love my God has for me, in every single flower.
3. Darkness is real.
The hardest part of the last 10 weeks has been realizing just how broken this world truly is. I've always believed that there is more good in this world than evil. I will always believe that, but I've come to realize that there's a lot more darkness than I'd thought. When you pray that the Father breaks your heart for what breaks His, He does just that. The last couple of months were hard. Cholera, a preventable disease, is killing people. A wonderful woman died shortly after I met her, delivering a healthy baby into this world alone. I met too many kids to count that are unable to go to school because their parents need them to watch their siblings or because they simply can't afford the $3 a month it costs. I've seen early forced marriage and female genital mutilation. I've witnessed illiteracy and AIDS prolong the poverty cycle. I loved a little boy who spent years of his life tied to a bed. I met a man left in the woods to die as a young child, simply because he had special needs. I've come face to face with inequality and injustice. I've lived surrounded by corruption, seeing the devastating effects it has on families.
Why am I sharing this?
Because I've learned the last few months that any light in this world can only come from Jesus. My God loves justice and He fights for His children. He heals, saves, redeems, and loves so big. Where this world is cruel, broken, and so dark, He loves and cares, creating beauty and forgiving pasts. He makes things right, gives purpose, and heals all that is broken. My God is here, alive, in this dark place. And the darker this world becomes, the brighter my Jesus shines.
I used to think Christianity was something complex that I had to figure out. But now I know it's as simple as following Jesus. I used to think I had to know theology and doctrine, go to bible study and church every other day just to try to tell people about Jesus. But now I know I just have to love people in a way that points them to HIM. That's it. Beauty instills awe. Light is contagious. Love multiplies. This wasn't a mission trip. Mission trip was a term coined by religious people with an agenda. The Bible never mentions the word missionary. The disciples never needed to define a mission. They all simply followed Jesus on His adventure of loving people. An adventure I say yes to every single day.