The day after our first walk into Kibera dawned cloudy and slow - almost taunting my own emotions. One of the hardest parts of this trip were the mornings. The dogs start first - barking incessantly as traffic picks up outside the gate of our guesthouse. Then comes the roosters - urging those around them to wake up and begin the day. But perhaps the most difficult sound, the most haunting - was the call to prayer. Every morning, before the sun even had a chance to streak across the night sky, you could hear the prayer echo off the walls. It permeates everything. The morning after the first walk, with the sounds of dogs and roosters and prayers spoken city-wide, I threw my blankets over my head and wept. I didn't want this life. I forgot - for a split second - about my plea for God to give me stories to share. I forgot - for a split second - my prayer for Him to use me and break me. I forgot. And for those few minutes where I basked in absolute self-pity and tried to hide from the scenes flashing through my mind from the previous day, I was done.
It was our second full day in Nairobi and I was already wanting to come home. Again, I was fighting my flesh against what I knew my heart needed. I wrote in my journal that morning:
yesterday was tough...emotional...overwhelming. this morning? i'm done. when i woke up, i didn't want to be here anymore. the eyes of the children haunt me and i just want to get away. this happened all before the sun rose, and all i could do was cry about my lost comforts, and then cry about my selfishness. i finally got up to face the day, but my Spirit is still so heavy. these faces cloud my vision, the weight of suffering leans heavy on my chest. oh how i want to run away from this emotion! to not be responsible for what i see & touch & feel & love (because yes - I'm falling in love with these people...this country) it's so much easier to close my eyes and look away. it's so much less pain to push away these thoughts - to deal with them later.
the pictures of dirty, calloused feet running through the fields (and later the slums) fill my senses. my heart turns away from these images - almost out of a defense mechanism. "please. don't make me see this. don't make me dwell in extreme poverty. don't make me feel this weight - because if you do, i'll have to react." Father, make me sensitive to Your leadings. Make my heart soft to Your touch.
Later that day, I felt the caress of my Savior.
We got to Langata (the high school New Hope feeds into) and began working with the kids. I saw Russ walk off to the side with David and wondered what they were talking about. Both were leaning close together, their heads almost touching. About fifteen minutes later, Russ came up to me with tears in his eyes.
"David brought me bread."
"He brought you bread?"
"Yeah. He brought me bread. He wanted to make sure I had breakfast."
My mind reverted back to the conversation Russ & I had the day before about this boy - this boy who received 10 shillings and didn't know whether to save it (because he never knew when he would go without food) or spend it (because he knew it would probably get stolen). Finally, he decided to give it away to his younger brother because, "Christ takes care of my every need." And now this same kid was bringing breakfast for my husband - it was almost too much to comprehend. Russ and I stared at each other, unable to find words.
I still haven't.
Throughout my stay in Kibera, I fought the push and pull of my flesh. I'd wake up hesitant to go through the emotions, to look into the eyes of those living in these desolate conditions. I'd crinkle my nose at the breakfast offered - or silently wish for ice water instead of the lukewarm bottles so graciously given to us. And then moments like the one with David would happen - moments where God would open my eyes to the richness of these people. Children fifteen years younger than me holding tight to a faith stronger than I've ever claimed.
Looking into their eyes, hearing their stories, this is where I felt truly alive. This is where I realized the dichotomy of comfort is more than just battling your flesh - more than just taking one step in front of another on a dusty path filled with trash and sewage. It's allowing yourself to be broken all over again. And that is where the beauty comes - that is where my heart found rest.