November 19, 2015
This morning's post comes from guest author Jodee Hunger, a recent Impact Trip participant.
“When you get home, what will you tell your friends about this Impact Trip in 30 seconds or less?”
That was the question our new best friend, host, guide, and CARE for AIDS (CFA) African Operations Director, Ryan, asked on the last evening in Kenya’s Mara Naiboisho Conservancy. Under the stars and circled around a bonfire, our traveling group of eight Americans pondered our response and reflected on our time together.
Meanwhile, a Masai guard stood nearby with a tall spear watching for wild animals in our midst. All eighteen eyes locked on the dancing campfire flames. The short answer was, “It was amazing, thanks for asking!”
But really, how would I convey all that I have treasured up in my heart? How would I share about the people I met, what I saw, how I felt about what we experienced? Like the day we visited Jane—a precious woman in her 40s, bedridden and abandoned by her family who live just feet away.
To them, Jane is invisible because of her HIV/AIDS status. She lives in a space less than half the size of a shipping container. There is no electricity. The open door provides the only light. Further, there is no formal system of sanitation or clean water.
To reach her quarters, we walked for several minutes along a dusty slope. Her home is off the better-traveled paths and far from community, but our CFA guides, Mbugua, Bosco, and Kate, knew the way. Our mouths became chalky with dust. We passed a schoolyard where children ran to the barbed-wire fence to see the “muzungus” (white people). Yelling “muzungu, muzungu,” they waved with excitement and stood at the fence staring until we were out of sight.
When we reached Jane’s rusting, corrugated iron home, we waited while she made herself presentable. We noticed how Jane’s door had been used like a message board to greet visitors, proclaim her faith and do a little accounting, too. Barely visible, scratched on the thin sheet metal wall adjacent to her front door, were the words “As for me and my house…” The rest had faded, but we knew the ending, “…we will worship the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).
Minutes later we were face-to-face. Jane sat on her pallet and greeted us with a smile so big, it illuminated the dimness inside. Jane’s eyes were bright despite her frail and failing frame. They twinkled with delight and gratitude for our visit. Her countenance was radiant. I felt like a visiting dignitary. She couldn't stop smiling, and neither could we. We were the only visitors Jane would receive until the next CFA staff-member visits her, bringing a weekly parcel of food, counseling and care. Where does Jane’s hope come from? We knew already. From The One she worships, JESUS. It was written on the outside wall of her home, and treasured in the hidden places of her heart.
So what do I say to the friends and family who ask about our trip? I remember this—the conversation with our senior pastor before the trip. He said to my husband and me, “CARE for AIDS is THE BEST ministry model I’ve EVER seen, hands down!”
At the time, we nodded politely. Truth be told, I figured it was one of many wonderful ministry models in a long line of many wonderful ministry models. But, “THE BEST?” A little over a week after being home, I could think of little else but the trip. I went to bed thinking about it and I woke in early, pre-dawn hours thinking about it. And now, more than four weeks since, images of CARE for AIDS staff, clients, Kenyan children, people, places and experiences interrupt my thoughts.
During this time, I finally framed up an answer to Ryan’s campfire question. When people ask about our trip, my best response goes something like this:
Going on this trip was never even on my radar…but that’s a story for another day. I am amazed at what God does and this was no exception. I hope that in going some sort of difference was made. Some things we think we know, but we don’t really until we SEE. It’s a head and heart thing and the synchrony that happens with personal experience.
Now what? Some ask. I don’t know. That part is still untold. I can tell you this; I am excited to see what unfolds. This trip, this experience, was powerful. It was challenging. It was moving. Above all, it was meaningful. Sure, I can tell you about it. I can show you photos, over 3,000 of them. But more than anything, I need you to know, CARE for AIDS, fueled, powered and centered on Christ, is literally and figuratively caring and aiding with an “A-team” and an “A-game” on the ground in Kenya. I could tell you my story, but I’d like to hear yours. Maybe you should consider going.