soap operas, storms & stillness
When I wasn't doing projects with the staff or the students at the school for orphans in Kenya, there were two places I'd go. The first one was the cyber cafe, where I paid 1 shilling/minute to use the internet. The second was the Rusinga Guest House, a hotel in town that lets you sit in their courtyard cafe and use their electrical outlets to charge your devices, provided you buy a drink or some food from them. The guest house cafe has a T.V. that mostly showed Bollywood soap operas dubbed in English. Whenever I needed a writing break, I would take out my headphones and watch a few minutes of the show.
After my experience in Kenya over the past 2.5 weeks, I feel like I have a good script for them. During the time I was there, I lived with no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. I used the latrine out back, and took "showers" by sponging off with a bucket of rain water. I washed clothes by hand and cooked over an open fire.
I taught staff how to save the lives of the kids at the school for orphans, and I treated multiple people for malaria.
And then one of the men on staff at the school ran off with his mistress, leaving his wife and two boys without any recourse or resources, and then lied to the police when he was caught and charged with abduction.
And then I contracted malaria and typhoid and spent several feverish nights lying on a wooden bed under a mosquito net.
Finally, on Monday, I cried "uncle." I finished the health screenings on the 120 kids at the school, and I made plans to leave early. I wasn't feeling any better after several days on the medication, and I was tired of dealing with the family drama. I can pray for the family from a distance, but there's nothing I can accomplish by being physically present in the situation. The phrase, "Not my circus, not my monkeys" comes to mind.
Yesterday (Wednesday), I took the ferry to the mainland, and then took a 3-hour bus ride to Kisumu, the city I'm flying out of on Monday. I'm staying at a hotel for the next few days, hoping that sleep, hot showers and nutritious food will accelerate the healing process.
I feel like Elijah, who went through the really dramatic experience of calling down fire on the mountaintop to show the Baal-worshipers that God is present and real and strong.....only to sprint down the mountaintop and find himself hiding out in a cave, waiting for God.
This morning I read the sacred story of Elijah, in I Kings 19.
Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve been working my heart out for the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,” said Elijah. “The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.”
Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. Godwill pass by.”
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.
I feel like God found me, aching and feverish and exhausted in bed this morning. And God said, "What are you doing here?"
And I said, "I've been working my heart out for the kids in Kenya."
And now, I feel like I'm at this hotel for the next four days to wait for God. Not in the drama, not in the chaos, not in the incredibly difficult living situation of the African bush, but here in a gentle, protected, silent stillness.
There's no script to be found here here, no movie plot, no action points, no photo essays, and no humanitarian awards to be won....
But this stillness is humbling, and it is healing, and it is holy.