Wednesday, November 16, 2011


               So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about expectations and how they shape our experiences and attitudes in life, partly because of my training at MTI, partly because of my recent reading of Sue Eenigenburg's Expectations and Burnout, and partly because of some experiences I’ve had or witnessed others have since coming to Kenya only one month ago.

                It seems that for anyone moving into an area of newness (cross cultural workers especially but by no means exclusively), having realistic expectations of one’s life and work within the new context is key. Although I haven’t done any formal research on the subject, from what I’ve observed recently, it seems that Christians working or living within a new faith-based context tend especially to struggle with unrealistic expectations. These expectations, I believe, subsequently contribute to a struggle with disillusionment, cynicism and burnout that many believers might be reluctant to admit to.

Here are some of the expectations I think many believers living or working in a faith-based environment might have:

·         The expectation of having fulfilling, encouraging relationships with other believers in the new context

·         The expectation of having similar values as the believers in the new context

·         The expectation of feeling a sense of fulfillment, progress or accomplishment in one’s work, and of seeing the fruit of one’s labor within a “reasonable” time-frame

·         The expectation of harmony and camaraderie among co-workers and fellow believers

·         The expectation that at least some of the people being served will acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifice and hard work of the one serving

·         The expectation of experiencing personal spiritual growth and a feeling of increased closeness with God

These seem like reasonable expectations to have, but I’ve realized recently that God doesn’t really guarantee any of these things to His children. Yes, He in His graciousness grants many of these things to those who follow Him (plus many more unimaginable blessings), but they’re not givens, so perhaps we should stop expecting them. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have hopes or goals. On the contrary, I think it’s good to dream big and not be timid in what we ask of the Lord. The problem comes when we forget that being a Christian is hard, that this world is broken, that the church is full of fallen people and that God’s redemptive work in the world, according to His good plan, often takes time.  

As I said earlier, I think that having the right expectations, realistic ones, is the key to living and working in a new context and of avoiding the disillusionment, cynicism and burnout that can result from unrealistic expectations. One way to guard against unrealistic expectations is to make sure to have good, honest communication beforehand with those whose context one is preparing to enter, doing a lot of research etc. There are many resources out there for shaping and managing expectations that I will not reference here.  For me though, I've found that the best way to guard against unhealthy and unrealistic expectations is to make sure to have healthy, realistic expectations of God  and  to understand what He expects of His children.
So what can believers expect? What sorts of expectations are realistic? Believers can expect life and work to be hard, but they can also expect God to be faithful, and to give them what they need for each day. They can expect Him to always be listening and to always care, even if no one else is willing to do so. They can expect that He will not give them more than they can handle. They can expect Him to never leave or forsake them. They can expect Him to accomplish in them more than they could ever ask (or expect) or imagine.
And what does God expect of His children that He has brought into areas of newness? Faithfulness. That’s it.  Not success, not progress or accomplishment or results. Just faithfulness. And faithfulness is not easy, but what’s so great about God is that He promises to give His children what they need in order to be faithful. For anyone in a season of newness, isn’t this great news? Doesn’t it take so much pressure off? God doesn’t expect results from us. The results are not our problem. What He expects is for us to be faithful, with His help, and trust Him with all the rest of it.
 I will write a more "newsy" post soon, I promise (because a lot is happening!), but this is what has been on my mind lately, so I thought I'd share it. This nugget of truth has been absolutely invaluable to me as I have been settling in to my new life here in Kenya, and I hope it can be of some encouragement to anyone else experiencing 'newness' in their lives. I must be honest, I've never been a huge fan of blogs, but I've realized the importance of Christian testimony recently, and since I'm not with most of you to share mine in person, this will have to do :) Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who is keeping me and the work of Kids Alive Kenya in their prayers - know that you are in mine as well!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Some Snapshots

A Typical Day?
The night before: "Tomorrow we want to leave for the market at 10am sharp"
9am the next day: The plumber shows up to fix the leaky sink and to figure out why we haven't had water if 4 days. Praise God! Now we don't have to worry about the bucket under there anymore, and maybe I can take a shower tonight!
10am: "Pastor needs the car for a quick errand, but he will be back in an hour"
1pm: Pastor still isn't back
5pm: Pastor finally returns. We can depart for town
5:30pm: We should be in town by now, but the rain and mud and oncoming traffic that refuse to turn off their brights make the going a little slow
6:15pm: We finally make it to the supermarket in town, pack the car with seven carts full of food and supplies for the upcoming conference, get some take-away cheeseburgers to eat when we get home, and get back on the road
10pm: Arrive at home to find 3 inches of water covering the kitchen floor, the leaky pipe spraying even more than it was before the plumber came. Water must be turned off until the plumber can come again. So much for that shower.
10:45pm: finish mopping the floor, heat up cold cheeseburger and fries, eat them while listening to the rain on the roof
11:30pm: Head for bed, thanking God for windshield wipers, microwaves and baby wipes.

It's the simple things.

Fun times in Church:
Last Sunday, I'd been warned that since it was my first time, I would probably be asked to get up and say something, so I was prepared and not at all surprised when I was brought up to the front to greet the congregation. After my short introduction and greeting, just as I was about to take my seat, the woman who was translating turned to the church and said in English: "And now our new friend will sing a song for us". uh, ok. think think think, a song? I wasn't prepared to sing a song. Lord, what should I sing? Oh dear, everyone is staring at me, just sing something! Somehow, praise the Lord, I thought of a song, it was over as quickly as I could manage and I finally made it back to my plastic lawn chair.

This week, I was surprised to be again introduced to the church. I found out later that it was because last week I was wearing my glasses, and this week I was not, so I was not recognized to be the same person. Thankfully, I didn't have to sing this week.

 I think next week I'll wear my hair differently and see if I can  throw anyone else off...

During a visit with the kids on Monday:
"Maredeeth, is it your birthday?"
"It is! It is! Now we will throw water on you. You need to come with a cake so we can celebrate your birthday"
"Oh? I didn't make a cake"
"But why not? Ruth brought us a cake for her birthday, and we had a celebration"
 "Ok, I'll make you a deal: You promise not to throw water on me, and I will bring you a cake on Saturday"
" Ok, but if you don't bring us a cake on Saturday, we will throw water on you"

Clever ones, these kids.

A Few Prayer Requests:
  • Because of the upcoming conference, my orientation and training has been put on hold. Please pray that the Lord will help me to manage my time well while I'm in this ambiguous stage.
  • Please continue to pray that I will be able to form positive, meanigful relationships with the kids and staff here
  • Everything is new. Please pray for strength, discernment and grace as I adjust to all the newness.
  • Praise God for his faithfulness to me over the past few weeks! Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, I can do everything He asks of me.