We arrived in Kenya earlier than I usually get out of bed. Now, I’m a night owl who resists the morning like a champ, so that’s not saying much. But it was first thing in the morning when we began our first day in Africa, which means we hit the ground running in an attempt to stick to our itinerary and beat jet lag.
My first reaction when we walked off the plane (in addition to appreciating the cool air and being thankful our trip was taking place in the African winter) was to think, “I’m here! What? Am I here? How did this even happen? WHAT IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW? I’m here! (I’M HERE!?!}”
And then, of course, I immediately felt the tears start. No surprise, given my tendency to cry about every single thing, every single day, but I couldn’t bear to let my new friends see me break down — even in wonder — quite so early in the trip. I should’ve known better. Because they’ve now seen me cry about twelve thousand times in the two days since.
Before we left Houston we spent some time with Kristen (founder of Mercy House), and she said something that has stuck with me. She said that we should be patient with ourselves on this trip. Of course, that could be true for any number of situations, including jet lag that won’t let go or feeling overwhelmed by all the things we’re seeing and learning.
I realized this evening, though, that I need to be patient with myself as I process everything. I’ve been staring at this blank post, at the blinking cursor, at the photos I’ve taken, at the notes I wrote last night when we got back to our cottage. I have lots of thoughts and feelings and memories and impressions. And questions, so many questions. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed, I’ve been uncomfortable and I’ve been overwhelmed. And I don’t know which part to tell you about.
What do I say? How do I describe what I’ve seen here? I can’t even form words, really, except to say that I think there’s something wrong with me.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel or do or think on this trip, but I am certain that I’m doing it wrong. (And yeah, yeah, go ahead and remind me of my blog’s title [yes, I love it when people do that!], but sometimes you just can’t take the perfectionist out of the girl.)
Can I tell you something? My heart didn’t feel moved one tiny bit when we first saw the adorable babies at the Mercy House home. I’m not blind; I am well aware that they are cute and sweet and wonderful gifts from God. But I’m not really a “baby person,” no matter what continent I’m on, so I was the only one in our group not oohing and aahing over these precious babies. I tried faking it, because who wants to be the awkward weirdo in the group, but that didn’t feel right either.
I thought, for a tiny split second, that “perhaps this just isn’t my thing.” Maybe, I thought, poor pregnant girls in Kenya isn’t the thing for me, it’s not my passion. (Because it makes total sense that God would make the way for me to come on this trip just for me to cross something off my list of possible causes to care about, right?) Like I said, this line of thought was short-lived.
Partly because it doesn’t ring true with anything I know about myself or God, but also because the next thing I knew, I was the awkward weirdo in the group BECAUSE I was crying. Over something that either nobody else noticed or that moved nobody else’s heart the way it did mine. At least I’m comfortable with this end of the Incongruent Mission Trip Response spectrum. I’m well-known as a crybaby, and mostly just accept that about myself.
As a matter of fact, I just sat and cried and Devil’s advocated with three of my new friends about everything we’ve seen so far and about WHAT IT ALL MEANS — even though I know their explanations are true and believe all the same things they shared. Processing and understanding and responding are, apparently, not going to happen tonight. And as I shared with my friends, no, I do not want to be patient with myself because I hate uncertainty and the in-between and the figuring it out stage of things. It’s how God made me.
Or maybe not all of that was God’s intention. I don’t even know anymore. It’s easier not to think about all of this, but I know that if I don’t think about this now, day by day, it will be too much for my heart to hold when I get home. And I know how fast and hard I can run from hard heart work, so the temptation is already there, to get to the end of this trip and remain the same.
It’s late in Africa, and I need to go to bed. Don’t tell the others, but I’m totally using the mosquito net in my room EVEN THOUGH I HAVE YET TO SEE A SINGLE MOSQUITO HERE. It’s just that, it seems like something I should do and so I’m doing it.
Later I will have funny stories and [hopefully] moving lessons I’ve learned. But tonight I’m not sure how to tell you anything. So, stream of consciousness it was! I hope you’ll keep tuning in for more coherent reports from Kenya. Remind me to tell you later about the missed flight and the goats and the braids and the potholes and the singing, okay? Until then, I’m signing off and brushing my teeth with some bottled water.
Photos (other than the three at the top from my Instagram feed) are courtesy of Darren Pedroza, my new friend, fellow traveler and incredible photographer.
Thanks for sharing all your inner thoughts and feelings. Yes, this is the way God made you. Embrace it and seek the change in your environment.
Thanks for sharing about your trip so far. It sounds amazing and hard and confusing and good. I am looking forward to reading more! And I’m praying for you and the Mercy House team!
Thank you so much for your prayers, Rachel!!
Looking forward to reading more! And the one good thing I can tell you about the jet lag is that everyone says it is worse going West to East, so when you return to the US it actually shouldn’t be bad.
Oh, that is good to hear, Sara! Hopefully it is true and I get caught up on rest easily. :)
Dear sweet Mary, it will all work out & God does have a reason you are there! And I don’t mean a bit of that in the cliche way it is often said! I’m currently on the road moving from CA to CT & I am amazed everyday at the emotional roller coaster of it all. I’m sure your trip must be far more so! Sometimes we don’t “feel” because we are in a bit of shock and have too much to feel…. Given I am a highly sensitive person & “crybaby” (though I really hate that term) too, I can only imagine what is happening to your senses there. Perhaps your role is that of crier. Only time will tell. So, be patient with yourself and let the consciousness flow! I’ll be praying for you and watching for more updates. Best, Lina
Thank you for the kind words, Lina! And I can’t wait to hear all that God has in store for you with this move!!
You have already accomplished something today just by making me aware of my ignorant American prejudice that it’s always hot in Africa! Of course I’m aware that it’s a big continent and mostly in the southern hemisphere, but I still felt surprised to see people in Africa in winter coats ever, let alone in July. DUH!!!
I am praying that this experience will touch you in the best possible way and shape something wonderful and unique from you.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Becca! And YES, it was surprising to us, too, how bundled up Kenyans were. The temperature was AWESOME to us, between 65 and 75 degrees, but as I learned so well on this trip, it’s all a matter of perspective! :)