Monday, August 15, 2011

Returning From Kenya

I’m back! It feels like I’ve been gone a year and 24 hours all at the same time. Coming home from a trip like this you’re always asked, “How was it?” All of a sudden a feeling of panic washes over you. How in the world could you possibly answer such a question? I’ve found in instances like these it’s important to have a stock response, two sentences or less. Last year mine was, “It was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done.” If people ask more questions and seem genuinely interested then you can begin to open up the well of overwhelming emotions, heartbreaking stories and inspiring children. I haven’t come up with my two sentence response for this year. I’m having a little more trouble containing my 3 weeks in a nutshell.

My trip was definitely more challenging this go around. I came back to Kenya with a year full of intense experiences, most notably the illness and loss of my father, which definitely colored my time in Kenya. Seeing the tremendous suffering of the people of Kibera and experiencing my own form of suffering really challenged my view of who God is. It is hard to see God as good amidst heartbreak, abuse, starvation, abandonment and disease. The stories shared, information learned and images seen brought me to my breaking point and beyond. What kept me going is the tremendous and beautiful joy that the people of Kibera have, despite their circumstances. I have been told that happiness is fleeting and dependent on good things happening in your life, while joy is state of being that you can maintain even amidst the most difficult of times. What Kenya gave me this year was a detailed picture of true joy. I wish I could tell you I have now learned how to emulate this joy within my own life, regardless of any heartache but I am still learning. Now I have an image to strive for.

What I was also challenged by both last year and this year is how to respond. When you see a need this great what do you do? When you look at the whole picture it is completely overwhelming. I continue to go back time and time again to a piece of advice my Dad used to give me. “Paige, you can only do what you can do.” If we get overwhelmed by the severity and vastness of the need we will sometimes check out, telling ourselves, there is nothing I can do to fix this, the problem is too great. My theory on combating the overwhelmingness of it all is: START SMALL. Start with one child. One family. One school. One church. One neighborhood. Build from one relationship. My hope is that by changing the life of one child we can influence the change of a generation. Showing a child that they are loved and valued, by meeting their needs not out of obligation but out of love, will encourage and empower them to do the same. I have seen this happening within Kibera on a small scale already.

I guess my nutshell is I HAVE HOPE. Despite the tragedy, loss and hurt, I have hope. Hope for myself and my purpose. Hope for the people of Kibera. I see the possibility of change and steps being taken towards that change.

Thank you all for your tremendous support both leading up to this trip and during my time away. I can’t tell you what a comfort your encouraging words and prayers were to me. I can’t wait to fill you in on more of the details of my experience. I think the best way to that is story by story. So look forward to photos and story-telling galore. And if you still want to donate, we are keeping the fund open through the end of September!