Friday, September 16, 2011

Lessons Learned in Africa

It’s been a few weeks since my mission’s trip to Africa, and I am still processing all that I saw. I’ve been told it would be eye-opening, if not life-changing; it definitely was both.

As imagined, the needs were huge and overwhelming. America’s slums would be considered “the good end of town” for most parts of Kenya, the poverty was that extensive. There was no sanitation system which meant trash was everywhere. There were also no street lights or sidewalks. To save money, they used speed bumps instead of stop signs or traffic lights.

Some of the homes resembled our sheds or “lean-to’s”. We visited several widows, however, who lived in mud huts with thatched roofs. Many of these widows were raising young grandkid, due to their adult children being sick or having succumbed to Aids. When we inquired of their prayer needs they would often request prayer for the childrens' illness, usually malaria. For themselves, their prayers were more for their vision and their joints. Their bodies ached all over. Was it simple arthritis, or something worse – who knew? There was no money for doctors or medicine, regardless. And very few Kenyans wore glasses; too much of a luxury when food was a constant daily struggle.

We stayed at a gated compound on the edge of Lake Victoria. Our last day there about six of us missionaries went to visit more local widows and give them gifts. These were not gifts of flowers and candy; rather these were practical gifts of soap, flour, matches, sugar, salt and oil. An interpreter really wasn’t needed to relay the heartfelt appreciation of some as they dropped to the floor and repeated, “God bless you, God bless you,” in their native Swahili or Luo tongue.

As we felt led, each missionary took a turn praying for a widow and their family before exiting their home. At the last home I sensed I should pray, but the lump in my throat wouldn’t let me talk. All I could do was stare at the meager supplies we had brought…and desperately wish it had been more. To say I was convicted and humbled wouldn’t begin to cover the myriad emotions welling up inside me – emotions that I had struggled with for days. On all levels I was exhausted: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. And knowing we would be leaving the next day only made matters worse. I was certain that if I tried to speak, a flood would gush forth.

During the entire trip, the one question that I kept repeating to God was, “Why? Why does most of the world live in such poverty? Why was America so blessed?” And on a personal level, “Why did You call me here?” It was my first mission’s trip and first time out of the country. I knew for the past year that God wanted me to go and I had fought it for several months. After all, I wasn’t a spring chick. I was in my mid-fifties and had a few health issues. Also, the air was thinner in Kenya; I struggled sometimes with keeping up.

All along I thought I was going to Africa so that I could be a source of encouragement to our sponsored daughter. I thought my mission would be to speak words of faith into her heart about how God had big plans for her life; about how He wants to use her to minister to, and build up others in her village. But I never even got to meet her. I was disappointed and confused.

Now that I’m home and have had some time to reflect, though, I believe part of the answer to the question of why I went to Kenya, is to write and share with others what I saw. Through my writings, maybe they, too, will be nudged by God to give, go, or pray. It might be to go to Africa, or maybe it will be to sponsor one of the many orphans who desperately need cared for and need an education. Maybe they’ll be encouraged to just go across the street to minister to their neighbor. But one thing I’ve learned the past few weeks is, we all need each other. We all need encouragement. We all need a helping hand. We all need prayer, and… we all need Jesus.

“There is one who is free in giving, and yet he grows richer. And there is one who keeps what he should give, but he ends up needing more. The man who gives much will have much, and he who helps others will be helped himself” (Proverbs 11:24 NLV).

Blessed beyond measure,


Markettys said...

Connie, I found your book at VGF and started to read it today..I am so touched about your personal experiences you I looked you up and it lead me to your blog, I to have visited Kenya on a mission trip, it is so difficult to share in words of the blessing we have here in the USA.. I sometimes think why God am I here and they are in Africa..I just have to remember who are given much, much is expected.

Connie Cameron said...

You're so right! I heard those same words repeatedly, "To whom much is given, much is required." I think I will grow from this trip for the rest of my life - I know I am much more thankful of the USA, that's for sure.

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