A Writing Expedition to Africa
Home. After an hour-forty-five minute drive to the Nairobi airport in rush hour traffic, after more than (?) 8 security checks in 3 airports, 20 hours in planes never built to transport bodies than need to move, 3 hours of sleep over 24 hours, nothing meant home more than that first embrace from my husband. At that moment, this sleepless, brain-dead, zombie found her center. If home were a place you only loved to be, then Kenya would meet that criteria. If it were where you connected to skill sets in an affirming way, I would have stayed. If it were where you could do good and make a difference, I would have a new address. But home is deeper and broader and less geographical than that.
It is where you are known well enough so that the imbalances of new experiences and sensory overload and the clash between exhilaration and confusion can be sorted with wisdom and time.
Kenya was a gathering assignment. Home is a sorting time. I conducted eleven formal interviews and more than that in informal settings. Home is where I will write through them, find the story line, share the lessons, and examine my initial perspectives. Home is where I can leave the adrenaline rush and find the truths that I can live and hopefully will help others do the same.
While my Kenyan experiences were simple, I would not call them so Spartan that I am overwhelmed by the familiarity of home and its conveniences. Though I fear the overcrowded grocery shelves may send me to my knees my first visit back. However, it is the unexamined way I use what I have that I think I am rethinking. Home is where I can test my lessons and keep the ones that make me who God wants me to be, for this time, for this generation, and for the culture I find myself in.
It is that gift that will be my best souvenir. My ebony elephant will join a small collection. I will frame my watercolor notecards. I will wear my Masai sandals and learn how to make my new favorite drink. But the true gifts of this trip are the ones I use for my transformation. What began at Africa Nazarene University must transform me or I cannot be used for transformation anywhere else. That is the gift my heart yearns to open. And I must open it here, at home.
Wednesday Morning Reflection
The sky clabbers,
hiding the sun for a few brief, cool moments.
It is an immense canopy this sky
that covers this far-reaching land.
I sit on the balcony looking toward the bouldered rift
Where baboons live.
I see two Kenyans begin their long walk to somewhere
Stick figures at the edge of this now-green land.
With hopes and fears I do not know.
Birds I do not recognize
flit and tweet and whistle
And human voices come from across the rfit
But I do not understand the words.
Perhaps that is what I feel the most
on this last day before leaving.
I have seen so much
And understand so little.
Two baboons, brown bobs
behind the green bushes
Is it breakfast the seek?
They plod and gallop and move
beyond my sight quickly.
There is a stillness here in this morning time
Broken only by bird complaint
Or maybe joy?
It is surround sound for my pondering soul.
It stills me,
These are my last day thoughts
And so I pray
Gather me close, O Lord
As you did disciples
at your last supper.
Lift the cup of Thanksgiving
That I may drink
Share the bread of Heaven
That I may eat til I want no more
Of any unblessed gift
From your hand of plenty.
Help me know the full satisfaction
Of this sacrament called life
And bring others to
this bountiful buffet.
Saturday Real Safari
Saturday was our real safari. We visited Nairobi National Park. In a land rover with a pop-up top we explored the wild and saw amazing animals in their habitat.
One sight we will never forget. A pride of lions, two mothers and their playful cups.
Then, the mothers spotted breakfast. What I saw prompted a piece about life and death.
Bellies graze the ground
Each step calculated, focused, driven.
Oblivious to eminent death.
They are mothers on a mission
In tandem pursuit
They angle toward their prey
An African antelope, a hartebeest
Out for a morning graze.
The she-hunters move
When the moment is ripe.
Swift as air;
Deft as dawn;
And the hartebeest is is down
But not dead.
Death will come slowly.
The mothers call their babies to feed
For the one it is ecstasy;
For the other it is agony.
The gift of life robs.
It is the contrast of life on earth
And we always live in between
If not on the edges of this drama.
Wednesday City Chapel
I was privileged to attend chapel for the city campus, a 45-minute, sometimes crazy drive into Nairobi. During chapel, the political protests were happening 8 floors down on the street. Here's my reaction:
The Kenyan political demonstrations pick up their cry
with horns, voices, whistles
outside our window.
But on the 8th floor
At the ANU city campus
In honors chapel.
the gift of learning,
the hope of knowledge
and the potential of education.
And we protest anything or anyone who stands in our way!
Sunday - Tuesday
After a 34 hour day-night-day travel marathon from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to Frankfurt to Nairobi, I arrived. We became our own human conveyor belt to stuff all our luggage on the ANU bus and somehow found room for the people, too! Sleep was our welcomed reward.
Though still jet-lagged today, I think I am more in sensory overload. The stories, the passion, the new--all are the purest adrenaline rush I've ever had.
I am only collecting right now. I can't process. But what I know is that the story of Africa Nazarene University, its history, its students, its vision; is a story that convicts me with questions I don't know how to answer right now.
So the Safari begins!
By definition, a safari is “a journey or expedition, for hunting, exploration, or investigation.” While most people combine hunting wild animals with safari, this definition says nothing about that.
On October 7 I will leave to accomplish my own version of safari. I will join a Work and Witness team from Portland First Nazarene Church and others to Africa Nazarene University in Nairobi, Kenya. Most of the participants are a technical team going to upgrade the security system for the university. But I have a different focus and it will be a “journey” and an “exploration” that will definitely involve “investigation.” I am going to interview students, faculty, staff, and anyone who has been impacted by the reach and influence of Africa Nazarene University. I will collect their stories and write them for various uses.
This is an especially timely visit because Africa Nazarene University will celebrate her 25th year.
I plan to chronicle my safari right here on my website. Come back often to see my updates. I’ll post as often as I can.
I will appreciate your prayers for our journey:
That we may accomplish our goals,
Encourage those we meet,
Experience fully what God wants to use in our lives,
And come back more strongly committed to God's mission in the world.
Until my feet find African soil . . .