How Kenya built and broke my heart // guest post: reflection on summer missions

With the school year getting back in swing, now is the time to reflect on Summer 2017. From camps, to travel, from pool parties, to mission trips this summer proved to be epic for many of you. I’m excited to share some of your summer stories here on Still Waters Blog. I was delighted to see so many ladies serving the Lord this summer. One of these beautiful ladies, Nicole Trotman, has volunteered to share her experience with all of you. Thank you to my friend for writing these lovely, heartfelt words. Enjoy!

 

For years, I had wanted to go on a mission trip. With a heart for serving others in combination with a background in psychology and counseling, it only seemed fitting. The timing never seemed right and fund raising was intimidating, until this past year. As I’m finishing grad school, my thoughts were ‘this may be my last chance before REAL life begins.’ Before my career is in full swing. Before I finally move out of my parent’s house. Now there were no more excuses left.

 

July rolled around, and I hopped on a series of 22 hours of flights headed to Nairobi with a group of eleven people I barely knew.

 

In all honesty, I could write an entire book sharing details of what happened each day during our time in Kenya. So much of what we experienced built me up and filled my heart. Even the little moments in each encounter with our drivers and random people we met along the way… The formality of Kenyan culture, the respect in how they greet and say goodbye to each person in a group, the frequency of the use of “Praise God,” the amount of prayer that openly takes place. The lack of urgency, the lack of set times for things and the lack of cell phone usage. The frequent breaks for tea, mandazi (fried dough, who’s complaining?), and genuine, uninterrupted conversation. The simplicity of a “Kenyan toilet.” Being grateful for a cold, trickling shower when there was enough water to take one. The singing and dancing. The stars… Seriously guys, you haven’t experienced stars until you’ve been off the grid in a third world country. The days spent working with kids when my face would hurt from smiling so hard and for so long. The nights spent discussing the group’s different viewpoints and experiences from each day and the unnecessarily competitive games of ‘spoons’ that followed. The friendships that were made in a situation that stripped us of all of life’s comforts. All these things filled me up along the way.

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With everything that built me up during the trip, there were many things that broke my heart. Watching unattended children running around the Mathare Valley slums playing amongst garbage and sewage. The many children that overtly showed signs of malnourishment – their bodies were begging for life giving foods and clean drinking water. Seeing those same signs in the livestock in which these people rely on for meals. Hearing teenage girls share their big goals and dreams, only to be weighed down with pressures of societal norms of being married off young for a dowry for their families. The abundant health problems combined with the lack of supplies. The eagerness of elementary school students to receive a travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste, something considered to them to be a luxury. The commonality of households being run by children due to parent deaths. The clinic that’s filing system was entirely done with paper and pencil. The 18-year-old boys in 5th grade who could barely keep their eyes open during lessons because they have to shepherd the family’s animals all night, to then come to school the next day. Not being able to reach for my phone to call my mom or my best friend to talk through everything that was happening around me. Humbling and absolutely heartbreaking.

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In each school, in each church, and throughout the slums, what gave me a sense of peace and hope in the midst of heartbreak was the ability to so obviously see God’s hand in each place. Each organization we worked with were led by amazing Christ-filled Kenyans who are dedicating their lives to create lasting change throughout their communities. Educating children; not just reading, writing, and arithmetic – but teaching them the importance of proper nutrition as well as essential life skills to work towards ending the cycle of poverty. Teaching the importance of living lives rooted in Christ and that no matter how hard their circumstances, nothing can stop them from achieving their dreams when walking with Jesus. Each leader shared unique stories of feeling called to go against the grain and do something BIG, and they are succeeding. Boats have been rocked in communities; these leaders are being bold in following Christ to create lasting life altering changes.

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When I hopped on a series of 22 hours of flights headed to Nairobi with a group of eleven people I barely knew, I had no idea what I had gotten myself in to.

 

Those sweet little children playing among the garbage and sewage will forever be burnt into my memory. Experiencing Kenya ripped my heart wide open, but Jesus often allows our hearts to be broken so He can repair us in ways we didn’t know we needed. I arrived back on American soil with very dusty luggage and an inspired heart that’s ready to encourage others. Throughout Kenya, He showed me what it looks like to bring hope to the hopeless. He showed me what it looks like to truly find joy in the midst of extreme circumstances. He showed me how He shows up in the human experience; just how big He is in comparison to life’s struggles. He showed me the purest examples of what it looks like to be bold in Christ.

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I was reminded that as Christians, “when the promises of God intersect the realities of life, we have to choose faith every time. We have to choose God every time instead of letting our minds trick us into believing otherwise… Jesus walks us out of our desserts and gives us place, purpose, and meaning. He rolls our shame away; He restores our dignity, worth, and value. We are no longer dead in sin but alive in Christ, and we are called to step up and LEAD.”

 

My journey to Kenya encouraged and challenged me in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’m praying that after reading this, you will be encouraged and challenged in some of those same ways.

 

xoxo Nicole

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