What We Are Learning

If we were asked to summarize in just a few minutes what the first 8 months of life overseas has looked like, it would be quite difficult to offer a coherent, descriptive, and vulnerable answer because so much has changed and we are constantly learning about ourselves, the world, and, most importantly, our Triune God. This blog will be an attempt at concisely describing what we have learned over these first 8 months. Our hope is that it gives you a small glimpse into our lives and what has changed since leaving the states on September 1st.

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1)    God is doing mighty and great works across the globe.

God is doing mighty and great works across the globe through many different people. In our organization, there are more than 140 Kenyans and Tanzanians investing every week of their lives into local churches and people living with a wretched disease. They are helping to restore families and transform lives. Most importantly, they are being faithful to God’s call to make disciples and see people come to trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We have made friends here who work on staff in local churches, create videos in order to tell stories of lives being changed and the Bible being translated into other languages, counsel others through traumatic events, lead youth ministries, volunteer with organizations including CFA to help impact people, work “secular” jobs with the goal of discipling men and women and seeing the church equipped in a different culture, evangelize to Muslims, reach out to street children, and mobilize young people to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Some people are here for 2 years; some are here for 30 years. Some live here for a season and then move to another country for the sake of continuing to make God’s name known. We are in awe and humbled by all that God is doing. He is doing way more through the global church than one individual could ever hope to accomplish. We are grateful to be able to worship and glorify our God with the work He is doing in and through so many people.

2)    Jesus is our only hope in any situation.

Because of sin, brokenness fills this world. Whether it is poverty or disease or relational strife or any other similar thing, we have come to a greater understanding that Jesus is the hope of the world for all people in all kinds of situations. [Go check out Casey’s blog post about some of our clients to see how Jesus is truly the only One we can put our hope in.] Poverty is terrible. It is hard to live not knowing how rent and school fees for your children are going to be paid or where food will come from that day. Our organization gets to play a major part in helping with these struggles while aiming to equip the person in a holistic manner to see them provide for themselves but more importantly have an eternal and lasting hope in Christ and a relationship with their Creator.

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3)    We must be dependent upon the Lord.

This is a nice phrase. It sounds very Christian. But it is hard to learn unless our pride, comfort, and self-reliance are torn down. We do not pretend to be any kind of experts on dependence on the Lord but we are learning and growing in this area! What does this actually look like? We find ourselves praying more often for daily things that feel completely out of our control. In the US, we often felt in control. Obviously there were many times we did not feel in control but as a whole, we understood life and the culture around us. Away from the US and in a new culture, we are seeing that we cannot be as self-reliant and we lean on our abilities to "control" our circumstances and to think our way through issues we face. We must humbly ask God to move and work. We are grateful to learn more about dependence on God rather than continuing to try to be self-reliant.

4)    We have to be thoughtful in our communication.

We knew there would be some language barriers here in Kenya. English is one of two national languages but it is often the third language someone learns. Typically, Kenyans learn their tribal tongue first, Swahili second, and English third. For younger people, tribal languages are not being as emphasized so English is sometimes the second language. However, we did not realize how hard we would need to work in order to humbly and clearly communicate across the cultural differences even if we are speaking English with someone. We are grateful that our Kenyan coworkers and friends have been patient and instructive as we have learned how to use our words in a way that is understandable and well received.

5)    We need to grow in patience.

In the states, efficiency and speed are usually of the highest priority. It does not matter if it is going to the grocery store or not going 1 minute over the allotted church service time or needing the best and fastest Internet. However, things move slower here. This happens both because of infrastructure and culture. In terms of infrastructure, this is a city of 4+ million people and the city is not very spread out. Most roads are two lanes and driving takes a long time. Tomorrow morning, I will drive around 75 minutes to go 15 miles. Now that may be familiar to some of you in larger cities, but there will also be buses that make their own lanes in ditches and hundreds of motorcycles that weave their way through traffic. It gets a little crazy. We seem to be doing pretty good to have only been hit lightly twice (once by a 40 person bus and once by a motorcycle in the passenger door). We have had water and plumbing issues for weeks on end. We are waiting on the final parts of our visa after having applied almost 5 months ago. The culture here also moves slower in terms of valuing relationships more than personal time, which is a positive. We are grateful to be able to learn from our Kenyan brothers and sisters about the importance of people and the ability to be patient and flexible.

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6)    Moving overseas is hard.

We think moving anywhere new is probably hard. It takes time to build friendships, find a church home, and feel comfortable and knowledgeable in a new work environment. This seems to be intensified moving overseas. We have left everything we have ever known (we’ve only ever lived in South Carolina and North Carolina) and gone somewhere that is completely different. We have had times of loneliness, doubt, and confusion over what we are doing. I am most grateful to God that He has given me a loving and faithful spouse to share all of this with. We get to struggle through the hard things and enjoy the wonder and amazement of Kenya together. We get to proclaim the gospel, share God’s love, and do ministry together. It may be hard, but it is also a privilege!

We hope this offers a small taste of all that God is teaching us. Thank you for caring about and praying for us!

- Aaron