I have been overwhelmed in these last 6 days of re-entry back home. Overwhelmed not only with jet lag and the daily demands of life and ministry, but also with where to start (and what should I say) about my short time in Mombasa, Kenya. Here is my first attempt.
Everything is the Same. Everything is Different.
Everything is the same. Most of my trip was spent with 10 or 12 young men whom are learning what it means to follow Jesus, on the journey from kids of the street to saints in a family. Their new home, with their new Mama, and their new Lord are all refining these guys by fire. Wayne, Tammy, Willow, and Haven (gosendjoin.us) continue to join other faithful followers of Jesus in making disciples of these truly exceptional
boys men. I was able to be a small part.
This is the same. Growing through repentance and reflection, learning what it means to die to self and live for others, for the glory of God, through the power of resurrection of Jesus Christ, by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit; all of this is the same. From a missing/stolen phone with tempers flared and a knife drawn one night, to study of 1 Peter and talking through the altercation the next night, and finally to repentance and humility in full confession on the third day, the trajectory towards being faithful Christ-followers in Kenya was a beautiful sight to behold. Indeed, this three day fiasco, from death on the first day to resurrection life on the third, is what it means to follow Jesus through all kinds of relational conflict.
This is the same. Not running from our interpersonal conflicts but bringing them into the light of confession, repentance, and reconciliation is the glorious display of Jesus in every country in every time. All of us, Americans or Kenyans, avoid conflict like the plague, running from the shame of our sin, running to the perceived “greener grass” elsewhere, thinking that we can simply avoid the effects of brokenness and sin by going it alone, sweeping it under the table, or joining another church. This was the undercurrent of my time in Kenya and it is still pushing me forward in my life and ministry at home.
Everything is different. One common feeling I have associated with third-world missions for decades is guilt. Guilt for having so much. Guilt for not doing much with what I have. Guilt for the color of my skin, the cleanliness of my drinking water, and the “safe” world I live in. Guilt, shame, more guilt, more shame, with an extra measure of guilt and shame on top. Sometimes shaming Westerners is the explicit motivational tool of missionaries and sometimes it is implicit. In many ways, this disparity and our feelings toward it are unavoidable. But I don’t want to shame you. Guilt is not good news. The kindness of God leads us to faithfulness.
This is different. The challenges of Mombasa, Kenya in 2015 reflect many of the same challenges of the 1st century Greco-Roman world; clear and unavoidable economic disparity (this is true in the USA but we’ve perfected the art of avoidance) and continual fear for safety from theft, attack, or unjust authority (again, the same here in part). All is not right in America concerning the poor and injustice, but our Western issues are worlds apart from the Kenyan reality.
The Need is the Same: God at home
Whether you call Nyali, Kenya your home or Po Dunk, Texas, the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is on display in brotherly love, in restoring us to one another and to God through obedience, repentance, and in being faithful to our Father who judges impartially. If my trip to Kenya has taught me anything it is this: the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is displayed most clearly when prideful men and women repent, when they humble themselves before God and their neighbor, and are known for being tenderhearted and unifying.
Doing long-term or short-term mission work will not assuage your guilt. You might be able to convince yourself that you’re a good person by spending a boatload of money to fly to the other side of the world and to love your neighbor. But I’m convinced that loving your neighbor whom you see is the hardest mission of all. Thankfully God is still at work, both near and afar.
Final aside: 1 Peter was a central letter on our trip and much of my language in this post is from meditation on this wonderful letter. Take 15 minutes and read it today.