White Cliffs Of Dover
Parliament & Big Ben
One thing that I have come to realize after returning from Africa is how small my problems are.
I have a home to live in. I have heating and air conditioning. My pantry and refrigerator are full of food. Clean drinking water can be found flowing from 7 different taps at my house. I have a wife who loves me. I have a full time job with insurance. I have access to a vehicle that can get me to my job or the grocery store. Every need I have is provided for. What problem could I possibly have that is important?
When I listen to people talk about their problems (like how their new iPhone isn’t as cool as they thought it would be) I just have to laugh. Tiny problems, everywhere I look. My biggest problem is a tiny problem. Your biggest problem is a tiny problem.
No food to eat.
No house to live in.
Dying from easily preventable disease.
No hope of a job.
The daily threat of being raped.
Only transportation is your feet.
These are real problems.
I need to stop and remind myself every day to give thanks. I need to live in a constant state of grace and humbleness. I need to thank God every minute of every day for the abundance that has been poured out on my life.
And then I need to figure out a way to help those in need with their real problems.
The kind of problems that aren’t fixed with a quick trip to the ATM or the local drive-thru food chain.
So, it’s the day after returning from Kenya. Besides being a little tired and foggy headed I feel ok. A little out of sorts, but trying to adjust to being back in my house in Nashville. I have to pick up my wife at the airport at 3pm, so I’ve had a little time to process, unpack, decompress, etc. before she arrives which is probably a good thing.
I am sad that it took me 41 years of my life to finally get to Africa. I think about how it has changed me. I think about how it’s changed the others from our team and how it’s already changing people around us.
On one of the last nights on our trip, our group leader Tiffany challenged us with a question. It was about how we want to be known and what we were going to do about it. And I shared that I wanted to be somebody that inspires people to do good in the world.
I got an e-mail this morning from a friend who contributed to my trip. It was incredible. I don’t want to break any confidences. But the gist of it was that my trip has somehow changed his life and he wants to be a different person and do what he can for Africa. Wow, what a blessing! God’s work just keeps on multiplying – even while we sleep.
There’s really no words or amount of pictures and videos that can explain to any of you what Africa is like. You have to see it with your eyes. You have to hear it with your ears. You have to smell it with your nose. You have to taste it, breathe it, live it and feel it in your heart.
Life in America is a privilege. I have never felt more rich than I do now. And I’m not even close to rich by U.S. standards. It’s not good enough to just write a check anymore, for me. I did that for a lot of years. It’s not bad or wrong if that’s all you can do. They need the money. And if you give it to the right people then a lot of good can come from it. But it’s just not the same. I’m going to continue to give, for sure. And it will be that much more meaningful when I can attach faces and places to the money. But I’m going to need to do a lot more.
We need to also pray for Africa. Pray for the people. Pray for the Churches and schools. Pray for the future generations and for strong leaders that can unite a people who are deeply divided by tribalism. There are some crucial moments in Kenya regarding their constitution and government coming up. Pray for peace and reconciliation. If you like to be specific, then pray for the people of Kitui and the orphan center there led by Michael and his wife Jemima. Pray for Rafael and Naomi and the work they are doing at Emmanuel School. Pray for Mercy Clinic and the people they treat for free. Pray for Irene and the staff and students at New Dawn. Pray for Pastor Benson and his Church. Pray for Kenya – but for all of Africa as well.
I know a lot of people don’t like Bono from the rock group U2. They don’t like his preaching about Africa and the poor. They think he should just sing and shut up about everything else. They find him annoying. I wonder if they will find me offensive now too? Bono went to Africa and it changed his life. And to his credit, he went and did something about it. His story is one of many stories like it. And now it’s my story too.
“I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me.” That’s what it says on a t-shirt that Mocha Club (sponsor of our trip) sells. I wore mine on the trip as did several others. I never thought that this shirt would be true of me. After all, I have cared about Africa and causes related to it for years. But it is so true now of me. We need to be shaken. We need to get our of our comfort zones. We need to have our hearts broken and our minds stirred. It’s not enough to just let life move on day after day without considering the needs of others.
I love the people who were on my team. They are like a family to me. And we experienced things together that have bonded us together. I hope that we can all stay in touch and be an encouragement. I pray that we will all make a difference and inspire others to do the same. I hope we can hold each other accountable. I know it’s possible and that God will find a way.
What is 10 days in a lifetime of days, really? It’s not much. Raising some money, getting on some planes, staying at a hotel or with a host family – is that really that huge of an investment? No, it’s not. But I think that a lot of good can come from experience and seeing things first hand. As my main man Henry Rollins likes to say “knowledge without mileage is bulls@%t.” I put in a lot of mileage in during the last two weeks and it’s definitely put things into perspective for me.
Jesus loves the little children of the world. It’s true. And the way he is going to love them is through you and me.
It’s time for you to go to Africa. It’s time for us all to get our hands dirty and to eliminate extreme poverty in our lifetime. I’m not the first person to make this call by any stretch, that’s for sure. I hope I’m not the last.
Things are already better.
We arrived at London Heathrow Airport bright and early in the morning. I had some breakfast of veggie omelette croissant and orange juice. I also had non-bottled water for the first time in many days.
Went to the bathroom to brush teeth, baby wipe bathe, put on deoderant, etc. Charged my phone and then attempted to take a nap under some seats near our gate.
It was time to board another plane. I love these British Airways planes, though. They are big and have larger seats and movies and good food. Well, at least good food for airplanes.
This was going to be about another 8 hours of flying to I finished watching Invictus and From Paris With Love. I had an elderly couple getting loaded next to me. They were funny and then they both passed out. I also napped for a bit between food services and drinks.
Arrived safely in DC. We went through customs and then picked up our bags. And it was now time to say goodbye to everybody. I told Mike I felt like I gained 16 little sisters on this trip (now realizing the correct number is 13 – and 3 little brothers!) And that’s true. This group is like a new extended family to me. I hope they feel the same. It was hard to say goodbye.
So now it was down to Tiffany, Mike, Ian and myself. We had to travel to the United counter which was at the complete opposite end. The electronic check-in took forever. Then I got my bag singled out for x-ray screening so I had to take it even further down (saw Madison, Christine, Stephanie, Cole and Blake in line and said goodbye again). Next, wee found ourselves in a long line / holding area (pre-security line) where we ran back into Christi The Canadian. Then we took forever to get through the most crowded security check ever. And then we had to board a shuttle tram to our terminal. Ran into Cameron and Lauren and had time to give them one more group hug. Our line ended and we had to get off and re-board another one. FINALLY we arrived at our gate (so much for a 3-4 hour layover!) in time to get a fruit smoothie (gave myself throat freeze) and a bottle of water. Ran into Cassidi again and one last goodbye to her and Christi.
Boarded our last plane to Nashville. Just a short last flight and then we were home. Shocked back to southern weather of heat and humidity. Who knew it was going to be hotter here than in Africa!
And so ends 24+ hours of traveling and almost 48 hours in the same clothes. It was time to pick up my car, drive home, take a long shower and do some laundry, then pass out.
And that’s exactly what I did.
We woke up really early today (around 5:30am) because we were going to Nairobi National Park for a safari! I know a lot of people get excited about animals. But I was mostly looking forward to enjoying some downtime with people from our team. This was one of the last things we’d be doing together and I was going to soak it all in. We saw some monkeys, a couple of giraffes, birds, buffalo, etc. But what struck me was the beautiful trees and rolling hills. It was really amazing to look at. It felt like what I imagined Africa to be.
After the Safari we checked out of our hotel, loading up our bags and headed to lunch at Java House. I had a veggie burger and fries for what I’m pretty sure was the 3rd day in a row. More quality time and conversation.
Then we loaded up the vans to head to the Kazuri marketplace. This is a business that was started in 1975 and employs over 400 women who are mostly single mothers. They produce over 5 million beads a year! We had some time to purchase jewelry and take a tour of the factory. This business is to Kenya what New Dawn school is – a place of hope and opportunity. Very cool to be there and support what they are doing by purchasing some of their products.
It was finally time for dinner and we had some chinese food at a local mall. I think when I get back to the states it’s going to be a long time before I am going to want rice again. Rice, rice, rice, rice, rice. Rice and meat. Rice and meat. We attempted to do our daily de-briefing and talk before the meal but only managed to get about half way through. It was too noisy. So after our meal we stood in a circle in the parking lot and we finished. Mike went around the entire circle and said nice things about everybody in our group. It was really emotional because of what he said and because Mike can be a real ass. Don’t worry, he knows.
Then it was time to head to the Nairobi Airport.
We unloaded all our stuff and said goodbye to our drivers. It was time to say goodbye also to Jill and Sam (from Hawaii) as they were flying to Amsterdam instead of London like the rest of us.
We went through security immediately and then checked our bags. Next stop was customs. Passport stamped and off to the next security check. Made it through and did a little last minute shopping. Then Mike and I shared our last African beers and a toast to Africa. One last security check (really?!) to get to our gate and it was time to board the plane.
9 hours to London. Spent mostly sleeping as we left around 11pm.