These weeks in Tanzania and Kenya, my eyes and ears have been overwhelmed by many things:
Children who walk miles to school without shoes.
Children without access to clean water in their community.
Children who grow up without parents.
Leaders who take advantage of their people, ignoring the needs of their children.
Knowing that God's heart aches for justice.
It's so easy in experiences like this to become angry, to blame, and to disengage.
It's not that there isn't a time a place for righteous anger, a time to stand up for what is evil . . . even Jesus modeled this for us when he turned over the tables in the temple, when the rebuked the overly righteous and welcomed the untouchable.
But so often we stay in this place. We exchange hate for hate. Hurt for hurt. Rejection for rejection.
This has often been me.
But, this week through lessons from a dear teacher, I've learned again that love is the only way.
We move forward in love because as Christians it is the life that God has called us to, and nothing else.
This is not to say that love doesn't have boundaries.
This is not to say that love doesn't have cost.
And most certainly it doesn't mean that love doesn't hurt.
But we love anyway.
We love those who see the world in hues different from us.
We love those whose actions we deem disgraceful.
We love those whose belief systems clash against our values.
We just love.
Why? Because it is how Christ shines through us.
And though we feel vulnerable and though we may feel crazy (I mean, who really loves their enemies?), we just love.
I've been challenged by the words of Brene Brown recently who writes in her book, Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love . . . If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
Vulnerability is the open door in which love has the ability to walk through.
And in vulnerability, we walk with others just as we are, even if loving is difficult for us.
We walk with others with an open heart, ready to receive whatever gifts come our way.
We walk with others not taking ourselves too seriously, remembering the One is in control most of all.
Not to sound overly clique but my word for this week is love is the only way. If you want to know the way forward in your life, start here.
Jambo (hello) from Kenya.
For the past two weeks, I've found myself traveling in East Africa to participate in the work of Feed the Children.
I've taken early morning flights. I've brushed my teeth with bottled water. I've visited primary schools. I've watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean. I've taken lots of pictures for FEED's social media. I've helped to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 50 kids. I've sorted Christmas presents. I've eaten more chips (french fries) than I should. I've held babies, lots of them.
In all of these things, I'm learning.
I'm learning about the importance of traveling with lots of vitamin C, good shoes and your own plane blanket.
I'm learning about having throw-up cloths near by at all times when holding babies, and never to underestimate the power of showing a child a picture of his or her face (what joy!).
I'm learning that slowing down is the way of life in Tanzania and good tea is everything you dream it to be and more in Kenya.
It's my 6th trip to the region since 1999. My East African country list includes Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda as well as having flown through Ethiopia on multiple occasions. This region feels more and more part of my life every time I visit. In fact, the Feed the Children staff now greet me when I arrive, "Welcome home!"
I'm learning that when an African says, karibu (welcome) they really do mean it and want you to feel a part of their lives and space.
I'm learning the sweetness of friendship is so very possible here, even if there were so many reasons to be disconnected.
But even more than this, this preacher on the plaza is learning about my faith, the faith that I want to have in Jesus.
Coming to Africa reminds me that the Jesus I think I know isn't wrapped up in my American citizenship. Jesus always crosses racial and language divides. Jesus always leads us to the stories of the most vulnerable and ignored. And then asks us do something about what we hear!
Most of all I am learning to not be surprised when Africa opens my heart, like no other place on earth can.
To new friends.
To eyes that tell stories.
To shocking possibilities.
One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott says this: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”
There's so much I'm hoping for here.
For more children to be well-fed.
For nations and their leaders to be at peace.
For my own heart to live into what has eternal value.
Africa: what a classroom!
I'm so glad I'm here.