After rounds last Sunday, I climbed the mountain behind the hospital again, this time with two new friends -- Zoe, a medical student from New Zealand, and Leah, a university student from Mercy Home, the orphanage where Zoe volunteers. We scrambled up rocks, enjoyed a sunny view of Lake Victoria, explored the fish farm cooperative, rested at the oldest Anglican church in Maseno, and were accompanied by animated children all along the path. We reached our destination after half an hour, only to learn that our friend Alex had been unexpectedly called away by the bishop to serve in a distant parish.
True to Kenya's Karibuni (welcoming) tradition, however, Alex's elderly parents promptly invited us into their house next door -- with broad smiles, cold sodas and tasty biscuits served by assorted grandchildren. Proclaiming our visit as a gift from God, the patriarch and his family told us tales of his children, asked about our families, and shared our delight in the gala Christmas balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling of their immaculate home. "God has blessed me today... all of us, from all over His world, are right here in this room!" Baba Alex marveled.
I couldn't help but wonder how our experience might have played out in any other place: three hot, sweaty foreigners arriving at 5 PM on one's doorstep, unbidden and unannounced? What a perfect example of "welcoming the stranger as the Christ." After a lovely visit, amidst hugs all 'round, we exchanged asantes (thanks) and kwaheris (goodbyes) and were urged to return.
Twice now I have been asked by well-intentioned Americans "what demons are driving" me to live and work in East Africa. How can I explain that I don't believe demons are driving any of us -- that, instead, I believe God is calling all of us "wherever we may be" dancing. I'm a very poor rock climber and an even worse dancer, but I am grateful to be around for the new year, to hope and to celebrate with new friends, and to very much cherish the "g/old."
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "I, therefore, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the Spirit in that bond of peace." We have seven more new friends visiting Maseno Missions right now, student nurses from Wisconsin, who are also making every effort in the bond of peace.
My heart is overflowing with love from and for you all as we dance, sing and pray together, wherever we may be. Asante, Mungu/ Heri za Mwaka Mpya! (Thanks be to God/ Happy New Year!)