Sharing a bit of encouragement and/or inspiration outside of our regular Sunday Services.
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My Experience in Kenya
by Kyle Veer, Pastor of Worship Ministries
We often don’t realize how much our own culture and surroundings shape our view of the world. I happen to have the viewpoint of a Canadian Christian who, compared to many people in the world, has had it pretty easy in life. I thought about this when I was graduating from high school and thinking of going into ministry. I knew my understanding of life’s challenges and Christian suffering was limited, and my life experience was not very extensive compared to others in the world who might suffer daily. That’s why in 2005 I decided to go on a 4 month missions trip to Kenya.
I signed up as a short term missionary, traveled to Kenya on my own, and joined a team of missionaries who were doing construction all over the country. They took me on 4 long work trips (safaris) over my time there. We put huge sheet metal roofs with metal trusses over-top of church buildings that had been standing unfinished for years, we finished school buildings, and repaired missionary homes. We took local Kenyans on as workers with us, and tried to get to know them. We met many Africans who had become Christians and were so excited about Jesus and the Church we were helping build.
On one trip we were out in the middle of the desert in a central hub for a nomadic tribe, where some missionaries had started a church. We met 2 men who took us to their home in the desert. It was full-on “National Geographic” - straw huts, camels, and African tribes-people with spears. wearing beads with braided hair and painted skin - something I’ll never forget (see photo gallery below).
These people, poor as they were, were incredibly friendly. They were genuinely more interested in relationship than they were about improving their situation. They didn’t complain about their lives. They did want to go to Nairobi to learn English and get an education so they could get a job to provide for their family and support their community. But they also knew they didn’t want to have the distractions that people in first world countries have because of money and affluence - greed, oppression, life dominated by work, etc. Their ultimate goal was to return to their nomadic tribe, not to stay in the city. It was so good for me to appreciate the life experience and viewpoint of people with such an opposite life experience from my own. I went there to be a missionary to them, but I was learning from them, and I wanted to take on their attitude towards life.
During missionary training I was told if you were to picture the “average Christian person” 30 years ago, from a global statistics point of view, that person was statistically most likely a North American or European man. However, if you were to do the same exercise now, that person is statistically most likely an African woman. The point is, the global landscape of Christianity is often different than our local experience. We may be tempted to think Christianity is in decline because of what we see in our culture, but we can be encouraged by what’s happening around the world for Christ through global missions. I can tell you for a fact, in those towns I visited in Kenya Christianity is on the rise!
Too easily I forget about my Kenya experience and fall back into my North American ways. But when I’m able to view my situation with a wider perspective, it improves my outlook on life, and reminds me that God has a lot more exciting stuff going on around the world than just what’s happening to me. That gives me hope and endurance in this life.