Kenya changed my life. Sounds fairly cliché, but it is one of the facts that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is true. Contained within those 6 months that I spent traveling from one side of the country to the other are some of the best experiences as well as some of the most challenging situations I’ve ever been through. I learned much from my time there, and I was smart enough to write almost all of it down in this beautiful leather-bound journal. After re-reading it, I’ve decided to start a little mini-series recounting some of my stories.
A little introductory background info:
Ever since I was a little girl, Africa has had a special place in my heart. This greatly baffled my mother, but being religious, she figured it was my gift from God – a missionary’s heart. Thus, I knew that I was destined to visit that “mystical” land. In 2011, I decided to make that dream a reality. Firstly, I got involved with an organization called Youth With a Mission (YWAM), and found that they had bases all over the world that supported young adults who were looking to do some good. I knew that I wanted…no, needed to be somewhere in Africa, and I specially wanted to work with kids. One program in particular fit my two criterion: the Discipleship Training School at the Athi River Base in Kenya (roughly 40 miles outside of Nairobi). It was 3 months of schooling and preparation at the base and then 3 months of traveling and humanitarian work. I was pumped! So I raised the money through a series of letters and garage sales, packed my bags, and prepared for the craziest adventure of my entire life.
One of the greatest lessons I learned happened before I even left Southern California, though. In the days leading up to my departure, my mother started to become extremely nervous and hesitant about the whole situation. I was her baby girl…her ONLY baby girl, and she was about to let me fly some 3000 miles to a foreign country for 6 months. Without deliberately trying to stomp on my dreams, she kept questioning if I was really ready to be on my own in such a way. Seeing my mom, my rock, start to waver actually put a little anxiety blip on my radar that was normally honed in on excitement and possibilities. Should I really be doing this? Was my heart wrong about everything?
But I had already spent money on the plane ticket, and on the day of departure, I figured there was no turning back now. So I went! I cried like a baby on my flight from Los Angeles to Amsterdam (where I would be meeting fellow travelers before continuing on the Kenya), but the minute I stepped out onto African soil, I felt like I was home. All of the doubt simply evaporated, and all that I could think of was: “I can’t believe I’m finally here”.
So lesson #1 for me is to never let fear in your mind stop you from what the conviction of your heart is telling you to do. If I had listened to my mother, to my worries and my fears, I would never have gotten on that plane. I would never have met my best friend. I would never have gotten to see the beauty of Kenya. And I honestly wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today.
I am grateful for my relentless heart. Maybe it’s time to trust yours.