Out Of Africa Part 10: What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

A year ago my dear friend Barbara asked me to join her doing mission work in Kenya, naturally, I scoffed and promised to “support and pray for her from the United States.”

FabBab, as I call her on this blog, is stylish, brilliant, and an absolute joy to know, I’ve been lucky enough to be her friend for almost 20 years. In those years, she’s always held strong to her love of Jesus, and FabBab’s Husband Robert AKA The Maestro has shared her steadfastness.

2 years ago, they decided to start a charity to provide much needed school supplies and uniforms for children in need, last July was to be the charity’s inaugural mission. Mace AKA Lover Fo’ Life and I have supported their charity since its inception. Naturally, when they found themselves short on people for the trip, she asked me to consider. Being the first class selfish lout that I am, I thumbsdowned that idea faster than FabBab rejects polyester as a legitimate fabric.

Because God’s plan is not one to be dismissed lightly, she silently resolved to ask me about attending once more. 2 weeks later, she had her moment and asked again; only this time, L4L who is an Eagle Scout and do-gooder was with us. When I soundly rejected the offer once more, he offered a “why not?”
“Um, because it’s halfway across the world and that’s a whole lotta nope for yours truly.”

FabBab instantly registered L4L’s openness to the idea, and began the hard sell, even though he was already on board. I assumed he would be on team “no thanks” with me. Needless to say, it caught me off guard when he looked at me with his reassuring blue-gray eyes and softly said, “Come on, Muffin. Let’s go to Africa together and have a real adventure.” Very rarely can I resist L4L’s sincere loving eye mind trick, “Uh um, well, I don’t know…”
FabBab went in for the kill, “Why don’t you pray on it, and see where God leads you.”
Wouldn’t you know it the Old Man Upstairs was putting out some very pro-mission trip vibes, dang it.
A year and 2 weeks ago, I said yes to the trip, and God’s power, quite literally.

Hakuna Mattatu

In the six months since L4L and I got home from our Kenyan adventure for the Lord, I have shared everything I felt during that magical journey, today’s post marks the end of those accounts. While there’s no real way to neatly tie up a life-altering experience like our time in Kenya, I do have some takeaways to share.

The first and foremost is that, you don’t have to be a super goody goody to do missionary work.

Before this trip, I just assumed missionaries were these superheroes of faith. Not one to ever consider myself anything but a Bush league Christian who undoubtedly has earned her fair share of eye-rolls from Jesus, I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a missionary.  Sure, the majority of these selfless saints are incredible examples of their faith, but I am not one of them.Doing missionary work simply means saying yes to God’s will. By saying yes to my friend I surrendered myself to be a vessel for the Lord.

Am I a righteous and stellar example of goodness? That’s a hard no. So, if  I can do this helping fellow man business, you dear reader can too.

The next big takeaway is an eye-opening one. Poverty is a relative concept.

What you and I would consider poor, for example: living in a rusted shack with a dirt floor and no running water with limited or no power, here is middle class. After all, they have a safe place to live with extended family,and a simple garden that provides all the food that you need and can trade for other goods.

For those of us who live in the states, our standard of everyday living is considerably different. Poverty in America has many faces, yet the poorest of our people still have access to shelters, various programs, outreach centers and many other causes devoted to filling the needs of the most needy. In other parts of the planet, there are no such institutions and programs. In Kenya, children roam the streets when orphaned, and often they are responsible for making a life for themselves at an incredibly young age. Yes, there are rescue centers, and the government is doing what they can, but the needs are overwhelming , that is where humanitarian and religious missionaries come in.

By partnering with the resourceful and hard working Kenyans, the ability to make a difference is amplified. Often in Western culture, we are trained to think of developing countries as these places of sorrow filled with people who have nothing. In reality, the joy here in Kenya is overwhelming , the poorest often are those who are the most grateful for what they have. Therefore, they possess a wealth that many of us will never understand.

As my wise sister from another mister, Elizabeth told me, “often the poorest are the closest to God, for they rely on his grace and blessings to continue.” Hope is not lost, it flourishes. We as Americans are blessed beyond measure, even if we’re too caught up in the minutiae of our “first world problems.” Please do not read that I am admonishing you, my dear reader, I don’t think that the way we live is wrong, it’s just vastly different.
Finally, my third and most personal lesson in all of this is, doing good changes you fundamentally.

As I type these words, I am sitting in my most favorite place on earth, I have returned to Haven on The Hill Children’s Home. The Kenyan mountains are resplendent and the soft breeze rustling the leaves in the shamba, is a symphony of beauty that cannot compare. The rooster from across the mountainside just gave a healthy crow, because he’s a jerk and never shuts up, but I am still smiling at my good fortune to be here assaulted by his silly calls.
When this “Ugly American,” first began her journey, I was sure it would be a one-time anomaly. Six months later, I’m back setting the groundwork for our Summer mission trip. My tearful goodbyes of last time, have been replaced with the calm assurance that I will not only be back, but I will make it my life’s work to continue serving wherever I am needed here.I may have departed for America when last here, but I left my heart firmly planted in the vibrant red dirt of Kenya.

I can’t finish this whole business without giving a sincere thanks to Mace the case from outer space, my true lover for life, who slowly but surely, has opened my heart to depths of gratitude and love that I previously thought unimaginable. He guided me here to begin with, and is the one who made this next trip entirely possible. I know he’s reading this right now, so embarrassed at my gushing, but he’s just going to have to deal with it, FREEDOM OF SPEECH! He’s a magnificent father to our sweet Valor who, not only is kind enough to share me with the children in Kenya, she’s counting down the days until she is old enough to travel her and serve with us.

So as I close this chapter on my first foray into the world of do-goodery, I want to thank each and every one of you who have read and enjoyed my series of posts. Out of Africa, isn’t going anywhere, Meryl Cribsy will be filling you in on everything as I see fit. The overwhelmingly positive response I’ve gotten from y’all has been humbling. Which coming from me, is practically impossible.
You don’t have to be perfect, heck I’ve proven you don’t even have to be that nice of a person to say yes to the Lord (or your inborn human desire to help your fellow man.) All you need to do is put one foot in front of the other and do something. Thankfully, Janice and Phil Wagner’s expansive sanctuary Haven on the Hill is always in need of support. There’s constantly a well to fix, a child with medical bills, and a variety of other problems that arise on a daily basis and require money. They have done wonders with what they have, but many of the children are not fully sponsored. For very little, YOU can be part of the magical transformation that Haven provides. Haven’s website can be found at www.throughthestormministries.org

In closing, I ask that you consider donating to our cause. Maestro and FabBab’s Plans HE Has For You Ministries website can be found at www.planshehasforyou.blogspot.com

You would be shocked how little it takes to make such a huge impact. A measly 10 bucks guarantees a uniform so a child is able to attend school. A miniscule 15 bucks insures a child can have a sturdy and durable pair of shoes for years to come. I have witnessed the direct ability to make an incredible difference in the everyday lives of VERY deserving kids. It’s easier than you think.

Open up your heart and let the sun shine in!

Stay tuned kiddies, 4 days into this second Kenyan trip, and I’m already compiling a list of stuff to post about. Even though it was supposed to be a simple business trip assisting the Maestro, the two of us, “Muffin and The Maestro,” are a situational comedy in the making, we are polar opposites. As for our differences, let’s just say that there are two kinds of people in this world, those that eat bananas with a knife and fork, and those that don’t. Maestro is of the former variety, NERD ALERT!

I promise not to drag this next series out for 6 months, as the dramatic flair of closing one chapter whilst starting another has now already been done.
Your Pal,
Meryl Cribsy

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