Thursday we headed to the airport for the fourth consecutive day in a row. This was a short flight from Kisumu to Nairobi. After the intensity of the schedule of the previous day, and our remaining jet lag – it was nice to have a less demanding day.
On the flight I sat next to my friend Kess, while Di visited with the conference director, Ruth Okore. Kess moved to Wisconsin two years ago so it was nice to have a chance to catch up on family, life, and ministry. Time away from friends sometimes helps us see how much they’ve grown. I could see in Kess a boldness, a devotion to Christ, and a knowledge of the Scriptures that had matured and developed. She told me about the Bible study she leads and the things God is doing in her life, and how she too is learning to live for an audience of One – caring less and less what others think. She is initiating prayer and reaching out to others without worrying about perceptions and more about serving God with a whole heart.
As we got our bags, I wondered if we’d take a cab to our hotel. The day before, Ruth’s son Mandela had been our driver. He is a 22 year old young man with a heart for evangelism and the patience of a saint driving a car full of Mrs. Daisies around all day never once complaining. Now at the airport, Emma’s son greeted us as he picked up his momma to drive her for some errands in Nairobi. Ruth’s other son Silas picked up the rest of us – Ruth, Di, Kess, and I. He is a pastor in Nairobi who also served his mother with sweet devotion as opposed to obligation.
He became our driver for the duration of our stay. This busy pastor with a young family drove the other two speakers as well – early in the morning or 1am – depending on the need. These boys loyalty to their mom, lack of complaint, and genuine joy in serving really struck me. I told Ruth she needed to teach us how to raise such great kids. She said there was no magic formula other than prayer – lots of it – and trusting God.
We were now in Kasarani settled in a hotel near the women’s conference being held at the Kasarani AIC church. 800 women stayed in tents and unfinished buildings in rustic conditions that would deter most American women I know. Even women in their 70s and 80s slept on thin mattresses crammed as closely together as possible.
They looked forward to this conference every year and couldn’t wait to worship God and hear His Word. I must admit I was intimidated. Their sacrifice to come – many from distant places from all over Kenya – humbled me. For the rest of the day we prayed, slept, and prepared knowing the next day would begin very early and be full of activity until late. We had no idea what was in store for us…..
The next day Silas drove us to the conference down a very bumpy, dirty road where we passed a car wash like none I’ve ever seen and people walking about carrying on their day’s activities. We noticed the big buses of women entering the compound going through a security check of their bags one at a time. After tea (yep – they make it with milk – so good!) and snacks, we crammed into the AIC Kasarani church with overflow tents and people sitting outside all three doors.
The conference began with some amazing worship and squeals we tried to emulate with our tongues to no avail. I wasn’t speaking this night but got to enjoy and take in new cultural expressions of worship. Let’s just say there was a lot of dancing, moving, and sound effects these three white girls couldn’t begin to keep up with. We tried – but I’d love to be a fly on the wall hearing some of the conversations those African ladies probably had regarding our lack of rhythm.
While talking with one of the speakers, Lyn, who is also a singer, we found that she wondered why we and other white people sometimes clapped off beat. She thought maybe we had a different method – we revealed that we just had trouble keeping in time with the music. She found this hilarious as she thought we did it on purpose.
The music, colorful outfits, and the energy in the room was overwhelming. We learned that night that they usually go later – way later – than what the schedule says. The speaker for the evening was Esther Letting. Here teaching was dynamic, loud, and contained a lot of free movement. I gotta admit it scared me a little. Maybe you’ve heard me teach – I’m not funny, I’m not loud. I don’t have any good body moves for emphasis. In fact, I’m kinda serious. Esther used one phrase from Scripture – our theme for the weekend – Break Camp and Advance – for her entire message.
I planned to share lots of passages and history and worried I would bore these women to tears… We arrived home very late knowing we had an early morning. I wrestled with God while trying to fall asleep. Would I be able to connect with these amazing ladies? How would teaching with a translator affect the flow? I surrendered to God my doubts and fears and then grabbed them back again. I’d lay them down and then pick them up again. Mercifully, I finally drifted in to sleep with a little help from Jesus and my new friend Melatonin. Tomorrow was going to be quite a day….