God doesn't Take You Halfway Around the World to Return Home the Same

It's a common saying amongst short term Mission trippers, "God doesn't take you halfway around the world to return home the same."  Something I pondered on the flight from the U.S. to Kenya.

"Why am I going to Kenya?"

Sure, I knew the practical reasons. Iam going to experience God, I am going to learn things from Mavuno Church, I am going to experience our church partners... But, as I took off on that plane, I was unprepared to experience God the way I did in Africa.

I wish I had time to sit down over coffee with everyone who wanted to hear about it, but I'm not sure I have time nor do I believe that people are actually that interested, so here are the highlights of how I experienced God through pictures.

I experienced a profound sense of community. We went to a place called Jikaze, an IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp that 50+ kids and families called home.  These people were forced from their homes and villages when an election in 2007 turned people toward tribal war.  Different people from different tribes now come together in community.  A people profoundly representing God's love and the purpose of community...

I experienced the beauty of church partnership. Day 2-5 were spent at the Fearless Summit at Mavuno Church in Nairobi, Kenya.  A church that shocked me first by it's size, and second by its vision.  At t Mariners, the church I work at, we have a mission and vision and we have programs that make that vision happen.  Believe it or not, our vision is highly influenced by Mavuno church. Mission and church partnerships have historically been "from the west to the rest" where this trip showed me this partnership in quite the opposite way: from everyone to everywhere. We learn from Mavuno, and Mavuno learns from us, we support Mavuno, and Mavuno supports us.  Mavuno has a grand vision, one that they are actually making a reality.  Through Mavuno, Kenya and the whole of Africa is being reached.  It truly was beautiful to see.

I experienced a harsh reality. One of the days we went to a place called Kibera. Kibera is the second largest slum in the world.  It packs about 2 million people into a space about the size of Central Park.  People live in close quarters, extreme heat, extreme rain, walk in a through trash, raise families, and live in what might have been the saddest place I have been to.  This place touched me deeply and I believe I got a glimpse of humanity through the eyes of Jesus.  I was reminded of the human soul and the dignity thereof and was reminded how beautiful people are. People living joyfully amidst difficult circumstance, people within Kibera starting schools, creating jobs, and changing it from the inside out.  People in the west often believe that they earned where they are, they worked hard and are the way they are because they willed it to be.  I did not choose to be born where I was born... It was a gift for me. A humble gift reminding me that I am where I am today by the grace of God. Kibera was an eye opener, one that calls me to joy, one that calls me to a sobering perspective, and one I hope to never forget. My prayer after that experience is that I might possibly raise my family with the awareness of what the "real world" actually is, an awareness of the global world, and a joy that comes from that understanding.

I experienced God. One of the most beautiful things about a trip like this is that it forced me to be me.  10 days away in Kenya allowed me to look internally a bit and stretch myself to simply be myself.  It is myself that Jesus died for.  Through my team, through what I experienced, through nature...I experienced God.

I experienced a profound message for High School Students in Orange County. One of the most profound questions I pondered was presented from our first speaker at the Fearless Conference, he said "what if we cared less about presentation, and more about transformation." I don't think this speaker had high school students from Orange County in mind, but as a High School Pastor, it is clear that this message is provoking and prodding at our Orange County High School students. What if students cared profoundly about their friends rather than their looks or Instagram likes or Twitter followers? How might our students then begin to change their schools, friends, and neighborhoods? I had students on my mind on this trip, and God is calling High School Students to take hold of their faith in a new with during this next season.

This post by no means encompasses all that I experienced. 10 days in Africa meant lots of conversation, lots of prayer, lots of relationship, lots of down time, lots of scripture, lots of thinking about my family, lots of thinking about my future, and lots of other things... I wish I could somehow help you, and those that were interested, experience what I experienced.  So, not matter who you are, if you are a cynic of short term trips, if you are not a christian, if you are questioning your own faith, if you are my friend or family, I want to challenge you to step into Jesus in a new way this season.  I challenge you to step out in faith in bold ways, and for some of you that might mean going to Africa for 10 days, while for others of you it might mean talking to your barista about coming to church with you, or giving ten bucks to the average joe trying to raise support to go on a mission trip.  Jesus is on the move, Africa reminded me of that... You can either catch the wave, or sit on the beach and watch.

Thank you those that supported me financially and prayed for me. You are deeply loved by me.  I hope to get around to thanking you all personally.

Lastly, I went on a Safari where I got to look back and look ahead towards my future.  It was awesome! So, to end, here are some of my favorite pics of that and others sprinkled in.