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Sunday, July 03, 2011


Sitting in the front yard, wrapped in Julia's purple Maasai blanket as clouds pass over, Star at my feet the perfect company. Caleb's guitar strums from the house, it is Sunday afternoon and I hear an occasional voice as everyone putters around for a while doing their own things. Ibis squawk, poinsettias flame, a breeze moves leaves in the muted cool daylight of the southern hemisphere "winter" (60-70 degree days feel positively arctic after acclimatizing to a Bundibugyo life, and when it rains and dips to the 50's we shiver). We're back from an outdoor service at RVA where 18 young people were baptized, most of them missionary kids who have been challenged to own their own faith as teenagers apart from their parents. Eighteen stories, each a unique variation. Someone found her life was not her own but God's while she was held hostage after a carjacking. Another sensed God's love when peers sought him and pulled him out of a protective isolation. Another had to confront her emptiness when her family's move to Africa landed her at RVA without access to drugs and alcohol. Another realized even "nice" kids can be obnoxious. Another confronted his cruelty in the way his peers were damaged by his abuse. They mentioned loneliness, neglect, bitterness, bulimia, cutting, deaths of friends, feeling ugly, feeling on the outside. They also mentioned peace, scripture, caring friends, involved adults, and the compelling presence of the Lord. All took the opportunity to make public their commitment to Jesus and their desire to follow Him. And all were pulled up out of that water with spontaneous smiles.

It's good, it's faith-pushing, to remember that we're in the middle of the story. Even inside the RVA fence, protected from much that is evil, kids are in process, and many are facing life-pivotal-moments. Depression stalks, pressures abound, and yet love breaks through. When Scott and I see these kids in clinic, we want to honor their journey, remember that they will reach graduation more fully themselves than they were in the years before. When I see obnoxious attention-getting behaviour, I don't want to label that kid, but see through it to the person who might be giving next year's testimony. I am convicted today of how easily I label and box, and how crucial it is to see beyond to the glory that will be revealed.

And reminded that the current US Ambassador to Kenya attended RVA, as did his wife.

Several calls from "kids" in Uganda this week, people we care about . . . who have their own stories. Parents separating, destructive effects of alcoholism, gossip, jealousy, anxiety, and the struggle for getting needs met. Frustrating to be powerless, for them and for me. I am convicted again of the importance of believing, taking the longer view of glory.

So, how to pour into these stories in a way that peels away the crust of the Fall and reveals the wonder? Sometimes just by being present, and bearing witness.

Yesterday the rugby teams, Varsity and JV, traveled to a school near Thika, to play a match that had been delayed and rescheduled and confused all term, and so it felt like a last-minute addition. It was the last game of the season, coming just before exam week, and against the number one school in the league, a large well-known Kenyan institution that emphasizes rugby and trains year round, with a professionally qualified coach who works internationally. It was a school that beats us, and pretty much everyone else, decisively and repeatedly. Some of the varsity seniors chose to quit the team rather than play that last game. Plus it was over two hours away, in road-contruction-mass-confusion Nairobi outskirts traffic, to a dusty acacia-studded field, where about 500 opposing students chanted and massed on the sidelines, laughing loudly at our mistakes, taunting. At that distance, on second-to-last weekend of the school year, the supportive crowd was thin. Me and three other parents and two young siblings, to be precise. It wasn't our teams' best games, by far. JV lost 36-10, and Varsity something like 26-0. I did get to see Caleb kick a penalty for 3 points, which was a significant percentage of the total points RVA scored, but he also was frustrated with himself for a few errors, not his most heroic game. But the boys walked away satisfied, declaring that they had had fun, they had supported each other as teams, they had stuck it out to the end. The lone parent-car that went had errands to do on the way back, so I ended up on the bus packed with sweaty, scraped, dusty, thirsty kids. And I didn't hear one word of complaint. They recalled plays and tackles, they joked. (There was one kid that gave me a scare on that ride by falling into a deep sleep and slumping onto the floor, which made me worry that he'd had a head injury in the game and was now progressing to coma, but when I pried his eyes open he answered questions appropriately, and in spite of my nerves walked off the bus smiling when we got back, saying he's a solid car-sleeper . . ). They demonstrated sportsmanship and resilience.

The stories that will be told of these kids, including my own, will be long and often harrowing and intermittently hysterical, and involved scattered hard-to-reach-hard-to-love spots all over this world. Perhaps if we could see where they are heading, we'd be more willing to invest in them now.

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