Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Journey to Africa and Beyond Part 10

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6   Part 7   Part 8   Part 9

Back at the university, I continued scraping glue with Isaac. One of the funny-now-but-scary-at-the-time stories happened in the shop. I was working diligently with my turpentine (which, by the way, is flammable - you'll need that bit of information in a minute) when I heard what sounded like a giant bug getting zapped in a bug zapper, and a lot of yelling and scuffling. I looked around and I was completely alone. I looked behind me and the fuse box was on FIRE. The old adage "women and children first" definitely did not apply here. I left the shop and asked about the guy that was actually working on the fuse box. He ran out of the shop, and just kept running. We didn't see him for hours. After we were sure it was safe, we went back to work. The manager came in and was talking to us and he decided it would be a good idea next time if they turned off the electricity before working on the fuse box. Great idea.

Eventually, things got back to normal and I went back to scraping glue again. I noticed as I would finish with one piece and set it aside to begin working on the next piece, I would look back at the last one and see another spot. So I'd go back to it and scrape a little more. Then I'd go on to the next one and continue to find more spots on the ones I had thought were complete. I kept trying to get them perfect, fully knowing that I would never see the end product. I wouldn't know what the plaque would look like, or who would receive it, or what they thought of it. I began to think about the student center that was being built and how we would never see the finished product other than in photos, maybe, someday. And I kept going back to the last frame I worked on trying to finish it. Eventually, I had to just say, "It's good enough."

As soon as I surrendered that it was never going to be perfect, that I couldn't make it perfect, I knew in my spirit that God was speaking to me. Even though I gave up on perfecting those frames, God never stops refining me. He never gives up on me. He never sets me aside and says "that's good enough". He is always scraping away the glue that allows the world to stick to me. He never stops. He never gives up. He has all the time in the world to perfect me... I only had 2 weeks in Africa.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4-5
Many students will attend that university in Nairobi. Many will spend time in the student center eating, talking with friends, praying, in chapel, and whatever else they decide to do with that building. It's true that our hands didn't build it, but we were a small part of making it happen. The students that flow through there will go out into Africa, the Africa we didn't see, and they will spread the Good News. And I'm good with that.

Soon we would leave, but not before visiting a few other places. The Giraffe Sanctuary (ever kiss a giraffe? I have. One of the best quotes of the whole trip was "Sure. Don't drink the water but go ahead and swap spit with a wild animal.") We went into the city of Nairobi. If I didn't know I was in Africa, I never would have guessed. The traffic was like home, except they don't really have traffic lights or stop signs, but just about every intersection is a round-a-bout that is 3 or 4 lanes wide. You better hope you're in the right lane at the right time. That was actually the scariest part of the whole trip!

We went to the mall (yes, the mall). It was much like any shopping mall, except for the roof. This was where the market place was. It was all the same stuff we saw at the Maasai village, only in greater abundance and with a lot more bartering opportunity. Let's just say I bought some souvenirs for the church back home and some gifts for my family and got out of there!

We soon packed our things and headed back to the U.S. We had an 8 hour layover this time in London, but it was early Sunday morning and the weather wasn't great so I stayed at the airport while a few from our group went to do a little sight seeing. As I sat there, at one time I looked at my ticket and noticed it said "Karen Byrne - World Traveler". I wondered what that would mean for me for the future.

Had I really seen Africa?

I learned a lot about myself, and God did show up and speak to me, but I couldn't help wondering if I had missed out on something amazing. Every place we went was safe or run by Christians or had been thoroughly inspected before we arrived. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for that. I didn't want to sleep on the ground or dig under rocks for bugs to eat for dinner or fight off wild animals with a stick, but I know that the people of Africa are different than those we saw at the mall. While we were shopping, I wanted to walk along the road that leads to the university and talk to the people who live in shacks there and hear their stories and encourage them. Love them. Let God love them through me. But this was not my experience.

I've heard of people coming home from a mission trip and getting depressed after seeing how others in the world live. I came home and got depressed because of what I didn't see. Again, don't get me wrong, waking up in the morning and seeing a giraffe out your window is super cool. But I think God made me for more than that. What that is, I'm still trying to figure out.

Thanks for indulging me as I worked through this series. Now I feel like I can get back to some regular posts.

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