Monday, January 27, 2014

Coming Home

Our time in Kenya is quickly coming to an end. The group is currently sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting to board a red-eye flight to Brussels before arriving in the states Monday night.

After our few days in Nairobi touring the city center and visiting the Kibera slum, we loaded up the vans and headed towards Lake Naivasha. On our way, we stopped at a tea plantation in the Kenyan highlands. While enjoying a cup of tea, we learned about the tea industry in Kenya. We learned about the different types of tea, the economic and environmental impact of tea, and the production process from field to cup.

We soon arrived at our destination and were warmly greeted by our hosts,  Jason and Lisa Hovingh, with a cup of chai. After settling in the group enjoyed a night of praise and worship under the multitudes of stars next to the fire.

The next morning we toured a flower farm. Horticulture is Kenya's number three export. While walking up and down the greenhouses, we learned about the economic and environmental impact of the flower business. More specifically, we discussed the importance and issues regarding water for the flower businesses and surrounding community.  After lunch, the group enjoyed relaxing at the Hovingh's, touring the property and learning more about their ministry in Naivasha. We also visited the river for a quick swim.

Some of the group experienced an early wake up call the next morning as the opportunity came to run in a half marathon in Naivasha. A few ambitious members of the group decided they couldn't pass up the opportunity to run a half marathon with Kenyan runners (despite the altitude and lack of training). After a two and a half hour delay, the race finally started. While we could not keep up with many of the native runners, we all put forth a solid effort. Some of us finished, some did not, but I think we all agree it was an experience we will not soon forget.  Some of the other students came out to support the runners offering encouragement and even running alongside for portions of the race. Finally, other members stayed back at the Hovingh's to play with the kids that came to the community center. In the afternoon, the group again split up and experienced different sights Naivasha had to offer. One group went to Hell's Gate National Park.  We witnessed some different animals, hiked though a gorge, learned about the geothermal power efforts taking place in the region, and visited some of the sights that inspired movies like "Lion King". Another group headed into town to experience the different culture and finish up some last minute shopping. Finally, one last group (comprised mainly of the runners) stayed back at the Hovingh's and relaxed after the long run earlier in the day.  Later that night, the group gathered around the campfire for our last night in Kenya. Many of us shared observations we had throughout the trip or lessons we learned. We couldn't help but recognize God's presence with us on the trip. It was a powerful time as a group reflecting on our experiences the past 3 weeks.

Some of the group at Hell's Gate National Park

On our last day in Kenya, we were able to sleep in a little bit before packing up, loading the vans and heading to a local church service. Some of the students helped lead worship for the small, yet diverse congregation. After church, we left for Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha to walk among the animals. Since there are no predators on the island, people are allowed to freely walk around the island getting closer to animals than perhaps possible on a typical safari. We then loaded up the vans and headed back to Nairobi to prepare for our travel back to the states.

In Swahili, the word safari means long journey. As we prepare to board the airplane, our safari is coming to a close. While many of us are excited to return home to friends, family, and a toilet that flushes, there is no doubt a sense of sadness as we prepare to leave a land and people we have grown to admire.  Throughout our safari, we experienced different encounters and interactions that are now a part of who we are.  Some experiences were tough to swallow, while others were filled with joy. We met people along the way and developed relationships with them. In forming we relationships, we learned about the different cultures of Kenya and even more about the culture in which we live. Some relationships are strong and will not be broken, while others remain fragile.

As we conclude our safari, we are left to process our time in Kenya, both as a group and as individuals.  There is no doubt that it will take some time to process and account for our time in Kenya. We filled our days learning about and engaging in the culture, building relationships, and experiencing everything Kenya has to offer. But as we work to sort through all our experiences, one question remains at the forefront, "How do we respond?" How do we respond physically, mentally and spiritually? We experienced things that not many people have the chance to experience. We wrestled with some difficult questions and encountered difficult situations. How do we respond the the cultural expectations and norms presented to us? How do we respond to the lack of water and everything that follows in Sedai? How do we respond to our experience walking the streets of Kibera? These are all serious questions we will be asking ourselves as we return to everyday life in the states.

As for me, I know that the notion of hope will be a pivotal theme in my response. It is easy to look at the lack of water in Sedai, or the streets of Kibera as a lost cause, or with no hope. Yet through all my experiences, there are glimpses of hope that shine through the darkness. We met people that work to shine a light our dark world, one action at a time.

Throughout our safari, we have witnessed God's presence and providence in unexpected ways. We have felt his hand guide us through our safari, keeping us safe and healthy. We are sad to leave Kenya, but we know that God will continue to work through the people of Kenya, from Sedai to Naivasha and everywhere in between. To God be the Glory!

Please pray for us as we wrap up our trip and travel home. Pray for safe flights and smooth connections as well as continued health and strength during our travel.


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