The Rest of the Story

I’ve fallen off the blogging map lately…  I could tell you its because my server malfunctioned and didn’t work for a week and by the time it got fixed, I was off my mo-jo.  Or I could tell you about summer vacation driving teens back and forth to work, or our long drive to visit family in Texas.  In reality, I find blogging a lot like many other disciplines in my life – I struggle to stay consistent.  Especially in my prayer life I wrestle to spend time listening in God’s presence and talking to Him about all the details in my life.  He delights in them according to the Psalm 37:23.

So tonight I’m sitting next to my favorite son (I only have one…) and while he is working on summer school work, I finished the blog about my Africa Adventures.  Its long overdue!  I left off talking about my preparations and insecurities, so today I’m taking up with the “rest of the story.”  Its too much to do in one post so I’ll spread it out over the next few days…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMamba Mamba – the 2nd day of the conference started with the Swahili theme song.  Most of the women spoke English, Swahili, and usually another tribal language as well.  I found their English cloaked in a heavy accent as they perceived ours to be as well – so understanding wasn’t always a given.  They speak a British English – Silas called my friend Di “cheeky” and I was reminded of my days in Canada when they referred to napkins as “serviettes.”

Di, Kess and I sometimes found it difficult to track with them when a person spoke quickly and we also found they easily switch from Swahili to English within the same thought or sentence. The third speaker, Lyn Ondiko, had the crowd roaring with laughter.  She often reverted from English to Swahili in her storytelling.  We would plead with the women sitting next to us to explain her statements because we wanted to know what she was saying from the overwhelming reaction of the crowd.  If I was intimidated the night before, this speaker only intensified those feelings.

I asked God to give me His confidence to teach the messages He had given me.  With the theme of “break the camp” and 3 messages to teach, I taught the first from Deuteronomy chapter 1. The women seemed to enjoy the giant and grasshopper glasses I brought to talk about what kept Israel from breaking camp and advancing like God instructed.  The Israelites eyes were fixed on the problems (giants) or their weaknesses (grasshoppers) rather than God’s power to help them accomplish what He had instructed them to do – advance into the land.

I found teaching with a translator much more difficult than I anticipated.  The gal wasn’t trained as an translator so she was learning along with me, and at one point they changed my translator three times to try to find the right one.  They were all amazing, wonderful women… but I feared things got lost in flow of the message.   One translator named Grace was really skilled in both English and Swahili but if I went too fast or used words that she wasn’t familiar with – I would notice she would just say – “Hallelujah” when she didn’t understand what I said.  It was my cue to slow down and restate.

In my flustered state of learning to teach with a break in my thoughts and flow with translations – I didn’t watch the time well.  They had allotted 1 and a half hours for my message and I definitely ended way early.  I got to my seat and heart another speaker mutter, “Is that all?”  I felt small and disappointed.  Had God brought me all the way here only to humble me and remind me that He chooses to use me – He doesn’t need me? Could I teach African women or was my style and ability limited to women from my own culture?

I sat and struggled.  God told me to listen to my own words from the lesson I had just taught. I had shared not to focus on weakness, but to surrender it.  Power is perfected in weakness.  Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” God uses weakness when we give it up to Him.

I told God I loved Him, and I would give Him my weakness.  My audience was Him alone.  I had prayed, prepared, and listened to His voice regarding these messages.  I needed to rest in His ability to use the words in the hearts of women.  Even if they thought I was a bad or mediocre teacher, even if they regretted inviting a gal from the U.S. to be their keynote speaker, even if I didn’t find a groove working with a translator – I needed to rest that God was pleased with my obedience to follow Him alone.

Peace came and just in time because I hit the platform again that afternoon.  The women were sleepy.  Before the day ended they sat through 6 speakers for a total of 8 sessions of teaching.  Most of them were over an hour of teaching (maybe my shorter session was in God’s plan after all….).  This time I taught the armor of God.  I let go of worry about how they would receive it and shared the message God gave me.  I could sense God’s Holy Spirit.  He gave me ideas to get them up and moving in putting each piece of armor on.  The props helped with connection, and I found truth, peace and the need to study God’s Word universal principles.

They listened intently to personal stories and prayed the armor over a person next to them with such intensity I wanted to cry.  There was no doubting I was different. I was quieter, more teachy than preachy, and certainly less dynamic than the other amazing ladies teaching that day.  But maybe God had brought me here for a reason.  The schedule went so far over that at 9pm the women were just being released to eat dinner.  The sessions went until after midnight that evening.

We snuck out a little early at 10:30pm knowing that the next day I was to speak for the final session which ended up with a crowd of over 1000.  I begged the Lord to get me out of the way so He could work.  I wrestled again at night with my thoughts.  It had been mentioned to me more than once that the honored Bishop over all the AIC churches in Kenya would be in attendance as well as many regional bishops and pastors… They would be coming to observe what was being presented to the women of the AIC churches of Kenya…  No pressure….

Sunday  

106bI woke up Sunday feeling lighter… with a sense of anticipation that God was going to show up and that in a few short hours – the pressure would be off.  Worship began around 9:30 and the place was overflowing inside and out.  We sat through over 2 and a half hours of worship, special music, introductions, and short speeches from people – much of it was in Swahili.

I was clutching my Bible, notes, and big pink plastic glasses I had used in my first message that people at been referring to throughout the conference from the stage.  My sweet gals – Di and Kess took me outside to pray over me.  One of the songs we learned over the weekend went like this – “My God is good – oh double double” and we would point two fingers in the air.  I realized when I asked God for someone to travel with me to Kenya, He had blessed me – “Double Double.”  He gave me two incredible women to stand with on the journey.

Finally, I was introduced and made my way up to the podium to move speaking props, a potted tree and stunted shrub (made from a ping pong paddle and green construction paper) into place to teach from Jeremiah 17:5-8.  From there I remember little else.  God took over with a message many of you have heard.  I found hope is universal – we are all longing for a safe place.  Christ alone provides that safe place and reminds us not to trust in human strength.

I almost forgot the translator was there. I heard very few “Hallelujahs”! When the last word was spoken, I stepped down from the podium, sat down in my chair and wept – I had  finished my commitment to the Lord.  I know God used it – not from the people who affirmed me afterward or anything but God’s voice saying, “this is what I called you to do.”

I couldn’t believe it was time to say goodbye.  The conference was over, and it had changed me much more than I contributed to it.  I learned so much about prayer, flexibility, unity, and enthusiasm from these beautiful Kenyan women.  They had such incredible joy in the face of much adversity. The day is only half over, but I’ll stop here.  We hugged so many kindred spirits as we left for the hotel –

  • Eunice – a pastor from Kisumu we all felt a special bond to (AIC churches have male elders but shepherding and teaching pastors can be men or women)
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  • Millicent – a sweet spirit whose face said there was a deep story beneath the surface.
  • Lydia – a very funny lady from Ahero who taught Saturday on gender based violence and that woman had some hysterical facial expressions as well as witty comments
  • Pamela – Bernard’s wife whose story I had read before I came – a woman who knew what it meant to trust Christ
  • Ruth – we would say goodbye later that day – this conference director slept little and worked hard to the glory of God. We exchanged emails, took pictures, and walked away with full hearts, spent emotions, and exhausted bodies… yet the day had much more in store for us…

In tomorrow’s post I’ll finish up with the final details from the trip… I pray you’re having some summer adventures as God writes the “rest of your story” one day at a time!

 

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