I can hear the fireworks around me. The kids are excited, their faces covered with chocolate smears and marshmallow stickiness from their home-made backyard smores. In the backyard our humble fireworks display set in the garden,- I am hopeful the rhubarb survives the magnesium showers, the smoke seems to do little to redirect the mosquitoes who are taking full advantage of warm blooded excited children with eyes eager for the next sparkle in the sky. Jesse sits on his radio flyer tricycle and takes it all in, echoing the shouts and praises of the older three. “Wow, cool” The “dragon flyer’ wins praises that “Dad is better than Gandalf”.
It has been many weeks now since we have landed ‘home’. A month since we boarded a plane in Nairobi. The 20 minute commute to the airport taking nearly 2 hours (thankfully our driver Mzee George, had accounted for this). I was taking it all in, the last minutes of Kenya, watching people walk home from work in the dark, a school girl walking home in uniform, the lights from the cars shining in the rain, wipers rhythmically moving. Jay buys a hat from a vendor walking up and down the highway. The humid and sultry night soaked by rainfall, mud puddles, diesel engines of LandRovers and potholes. I sit thinking, happy in my silence, drinking in the sights that will not be mine again for a while.
The instantaneous nature of moving from one place to another so fast has one grappling to catch up. The plane ride, a mere 16 hours, seems such a small expanse of time to transform reality. And yet it does. Distant and heart sinking thoughts of the events of our departure. Of friends left facing difficulty and conflict. We feel relief, perhaps. And guilty to feel it. Joy seems almost like betrayal. And yet we keep moving onward, into the next moment, into the hugs and the arms and lives of others who are “our” people. Friends, family. 3 years melts into mere minutes of absence. Funny how time is like that.
It is hard to explain the relief and the joy at seeing the familiar ‘sterile’ hallways of Pearson. Airport pick up from dear friends, dragging 14 suitcases off the luggage conveyer, ensuring all children are accounted for and then the anticipation, seeing people whom you haven’t seen for so long. New and first introductions of children to grandparents… the first “tim horton’s” run (soon after the airport I must admit!) and the sense that although we have returned, feeling like we never did really leave Canada.
Home- that word, the collection of letters has so many meanings, so many images some which co-exist and some which are opposing. A few days ago, Jay and I reflected that we have lived in 9 different places since being married. Jesse still asks everyday when we are going home to Kurungu, where his bed is, Lucy the dog and Mzee Abaya. Kurungu, where the day begins with waking and sun streaming over mountains and acacia wood cut for mid-morning smoky chai with friends. Home is where your family is,- is a statement I often make. And yet we realize that we have family here in Canada, but also ‘family’ spread in an assortment of places. Family who are of English and Scottish and Kenyan and American descent. For family seems to be defined for us as those who stand with us and by us and support us and love us in the far away places as well as when we return to Canada.
Many have asked how we are doing, how we are settling. We keep moving forward. We have a wonderful place and a van to drive thanks to the Providence of God and generosity of others. We feel blessed. We feel loved by Him who provided little details like a beautiful garden in our backyard. After so many months of missing the ‘art of gardening’, I am surrounded now with far more flowers that I can count and my heart is happy looking out into the display of red poppies, pink mallow, blackberries and roses. The kids are enjoying their new space with park across the road and a walkable distance to “the gummy store”, where they can buy 25 cent sweets. They participated in Central Soccer which is a bit different than the airstrip barefoot football matches with Samburu that they became accustomed to. We have come across some bikes and I enjoy catching flashes of wheels and hair flying as pedals are pushed across to the park down the green grassy hill, hearing bike brakes and kids declaration of the game that will take form from imagination.
There are contrasts to be sure,- we sit in church, on time (mostly) orderly, quiet. I drink it in,- the last years affording little in the way of sermons in my own language. I watch the workings of the service,- finely tuned, in order, the piano organ or worship team following an order of service. And I smile, as I miss the way that worship happened where we were, chaos and all, the spontaneous combustion of praise and words and action to honour Jesus. I miss the camels peering in from the open windows, the stray dogs following the little lone shepherd who has come to the service, the multiple (endless) choirs, boys dancing and jumping, ladies with their beads, posturing their necks in the traditional Samburu fashion, the red paint of celebration. And there are these moments of huge contrast, where the world seems to collide and I can not find the place or comfort of ‘fit’. There have been moments of I guess, just silence. Where there are no words. The thought or feeling hardly able to be labelled or contained and I sit with this unsettled notion that life is changing around me and I am not sure how or if can embrace it. I was mentioning to someone the other day that I fear to forget what I know (the desperate need of so many, the plight of the widows, the fatherless, the poor and the orphans, the largeness of life(forced to more than choosing to) living totally dependant on God’s goodness and mercy) and yet in order to live here, I have to forget, because it is too difficult to live in the dichotomy of two worlds which feel so opposed. Transition they say,- I will get there. (Although, I am not sure where ‘there’ is or if that is where I am headed.)
I wear Mama Lareno’s silver bracelet, and it grounds me, attaching me to a world, and whispering to me not to forget what is truly important, not to lose time or worry or energy over what is merely ego or trivial or fading. It is good that I am busy, my mind overflows and I can’t contain too many thoughts beyond the ‘to do’ list and the things that are directly in front of me. One foot in front of the other.
One image that I have, is simply to be open to what He has for me, for us. I picture myself sitting, with my arms open, palms upward. Ready to embrace and invite Him, who He is, what He has to come, what He has for me now. This is unusual for me, although I may be able to convince myself I am always “open”, in deep honesty there is usually a lot of negotiation and bargaining, stating my case, my cause, convincing myself, and hoping that He is in earshot of what the best, possible future holds and how it should transpire. I am a planner, organizer. I want to be one step ahead, even if it means ahead of Him who goes before, and even if it means that in the moment I live for the future I am planning. It is a rather hard way to live, given that God never falls for my failsafe plans and usually for the benefit of my pride and ego, plans an alternative route to life, to living.
I realize that in every moment, I can choose to live out the best possible future by embracing the present. for what it is before me, for who is before me, for what brings joy, and also that which brings sadness and takes me to my knees. for those kids who crack me up and for Jay who is my steady.
And what comes, comes. Whether mission world risk or the steady, at times too persistent pace of the days and weeks which come tumbling forth.
We continue to stay connected with some aspects of Kurungu. The TB project continues with Amin moving onto the next stage of the program which focuses on encouraging, supporting and visiting those TB positive patients during the course of their treatment. Over the next few months I hope to introduce you to these individuals. I see their faces, gaunt, stoic, smiling, aged, young, despairing, hopeful, whose stories I wonder at. We hope to bring so much more than healthcare to these ones,- the Hope of the Saviour, the “life” that is only available in Jesus.