Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Learning through Uncertainty

The end of October, November and the beginning of December were possibly my busiest times so far with Kids Alive Kenya. For about 7 weeks, I was kept on my toes hosting back to back teams from the US, UK and Taiwan. Each team brought its own small challenges, but each team also brought huge blessing, encouragement and new partnerships for Kids Alive Kenya and for me personally. It’s exciting to watch the direction in which the Lord is taking this organization, and the hearts He is touching and bringing together around the world to help make the vision of KAK a reality.

Two days after the last team left the country, I flew to Michigan to spend Christmas with my family. My time in the States was greatly needed, and it was wonderful to be able to spend time with my family and a few friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for several years.

Upon my arrival back in Kenya last week, as I drove from the airport to the Nairobi guesthouse where I was to spend the night, a strange feeling came over me. It was one I’ve only ever felt in my life when I’ve been travelling to a very familiar place like my childhood home or my family’s Lake house. A feeling of comfort, peace and belonging. I was a little surprised by this feeling, as my life in Kenya has never really felt particularly certain or comfortable. Being the only American in a town of people who mostly have never interacted with someone outside their tribe (let alone their country) has often caused me to feel foreign and out of place. While I should be used to it by now, I still feel a little uncomfortable when every time I walk through town I’m met with open mouthed stares, whispers as I walk past, marriage proposals from drunk men  and shouts of “hey white person!”. So I was confused by this “belonging” feeling that came over me, but after I slept off my jetlag and had time to analyze it, I realized that it was a gift from the Lord for a moment that could have been filled with anxiety and stress, and a reminder that as long as I continue to follow closely after Him, I will always be exactly where He wants me – which is exactly where I belong.

 I applied for a Kenyan work permit over a year ago, but because of a lot of complicated, extenuating circumstances, I still haven’t been approved (despite the fact that all I want to do is to work as an unpaid volunteer for an organization that cares for Kenyan orphans). What this means is that every time I leave the country, it gets harder for me to obtain another visitor’s visa to get back in. This time the immigration officer I met at the border issued me a visa for only one month instead of the usual three, and said that if my permit isn’t approved by the first week of February, I’ll have to leave the country and possibly never be allowed back in again.

It’s been a week since my return, and very little progress has been made toward my approval, which has left me in a state of extreme uncertainty. Will I be leaving Kenya in 3 weeks?  Should I start packing and looking for flights? If I have to leave, will I ever be allowed back in? God, why is this happening – don’t you want me here anymore? If not, then where do you want me?

And yet, as I've been churning these questions over and over in my mind, that peaceful "belonging" feeling hasn't quite left me. And through all of this, a twofold theme has been surfacing in my devotions, conversations and prayer life: the importance of gratitude and being present. The immediate future may be very uncertain, but into my worry-filled thoughts this week, God has been gently whispering that while I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, He does. He does. So I shouldn’t waste today with worrying about tomorrow, but rather focus on and be grateful for the gifts and tasks He’s given to me for today. Easier said than done, I know, but if He is teaching it to me, then I have full confidence that He’ll give me what I need to put it into practice.