This is my last day in Kenya as a resident. I leave Kenya this afternoon and will return at the end of February. But when I return, I will return as a guest.
I have lived in Africa since 2005 and this is the first time since then that I am adjusting myself to become a resident of Michigan again. The times that I have been home since 2005 were either for transition time to a new country or to work from the US while my kids were home in the summer.
So there is some identity shifting that is happening again and most of it is good. It is right that this happen at this time. If Church-based Business as Mission is to become a global ministry, the work must be developed in a way that is more global than African. And at the rate of demand that we are seeing from multiple countries, it is no longer efficient for me to live in a country for two-three years to implement.
But change is always stressful and usually a bit painful. It is bittersweet. While I am looking forward to living with my husband and being closer to my children, it means I need to say goodbye to life here. While I am excited about starting this work in Egypt and Ghana in 2015, I feel like I was just getting to know Kenya. Relationships are beginning to blossom and that growth will be interrupted. And the work feels like it is exploding now, with calls and emails from people wanting to know more and have us come to their area.
And so leaving is a bit painful.
But I am sure that leaving is the right thing to do at this time. It has helped that I have left twice before and have seen the work continue even stronger in my absence, in both Liberia and Ghana. It helps to know that there are very strong Kenyan men and women who can take this work and carry it further with greater vision and passion than what I bring. In fact, I had a most amazing meeting on Friday with the Advocacy sub-committee as they argued with passion about keeping this work Church-based, and not focused on growth and numbers. I actually teared up to hear them make arguments about something I am so passionate about, and to hear them argue with more wisdom than I have!
Two weeks ago we began to do the final surveys for the pilot project, which will be in progress until the end of March. I also posted two new positions to start April 1st as we transition from a pilot project to a permanent department of the Africa Theological Seminary. I pray for good leaders to come forward and apply. And I have to trust that He who began this work before I even conceived of it will be faithful to complete it and carry it on. I have no doubt that He is in this and will do this.
But I have to admit as well that I leave with some sense of fear. Africa keeps me grounded and keeps me real. When I live in the US, I tend to forget about real life struggles. My vision starts to narrow. For example, this past week I witnessed three accidents. That alone keeps me praying for traveling mercies every day for myself and loved ones. And I am so aware of God's protection over me in nine years to not have had an accident (other than bumping a person in Liberia with my side-view mirror which nearly resulted in a riot). Another example: This past week, the car I used was being used for surveys, and so I had to go by motorcycle taxi in the rain to a meeting. As I rode and grumbled in my heart because I was cold and wet, that grumble lasted just an instant before I realized that many more people were walking in the rain because they couldn't afford the motorcycle taxi. Additionally, daily here we hear news about people being killed because of their faith
or dying due to medical issues in which "it becomes too expensive to
save" the person (as a pastor wrote me this week about one of our
business members who died at a young age). The US news seems obsessive
in what I would call trite stories of celebrities or stories of
I will miss that immediate, in-your-face, perspective.
I live so simply here and I fear entering a consumerist society and falling into the trap of what I "need." For example, for the past couple of months I have only had a toaster oven in my room on which to cook. I could have gone to buy a hot plate and propane tank but I decided to be content with it and figure out how to cook with a toaster oven (it's actually quite a useful appliance!). I would never had made that decision if I lived in the US.
And so I worry and fear. And I feel sadness and grief. I love Africa. I love the people, the culture, the roads (yes, the roads! I love driving in the mud and dodging potholes and donkeys and cows and people and motorcycles!), the animals, the environment. I will miss monkeys trying to break into the office or my room and the sound of their feet running on the roof. [I will NOT miss noisy banded crows that
I would love to take out with a slingshot.] I will miss the beautiful
nature of this country. I will miss worship in Swahili. I will miss how open and accessible life is here. I love so much and have learned so much. Africa has truly changed me and I know that I will always be a "third culture" person, not really fitting in either Africa or the US.
But I trust God's leading and guiding. He has not failed me yet (even though I have disagreed with Him about some paths and have been surprised by Him on other paths) and I believe He has a plan going forward that will not only be good for Discipling Marketplace Leaders, but also good for Renita Reed-Thomson, His American-Kenyan-Ghanaian-Liberian-Canadian daughter.