David Lee, Professional VolunteerMarch 31, 2014 by Diana Coombs
How do you explain something that you haven’t quite comprehended yet? How do you put into words something you can’t describe? How do you reflect on a place you’ve been to that is difficult to think about because you miss it?
A year in Kenya sounded like a long time before I left, but now that I’m back, it sure didn’t feel very long. How often do you say to yourself, “Wow, where did the year go?” when New Year’s comes around? How often are you scrambling at the close of a year to think of some key moments that define the last 12 months that just flew by? Tell me, how easy is it for you? Well, that’s how I feel, and that’s the truth.
This sums up my time in Kenya – It was something indescribable. Something I am at a loss for words on. In one way, it was like every other year…it felt like home.Living in another country, I learned that American culture is not better than Kenyan culture. I also learned that Kenyan culture is not better than American culture. I learned that the same struggles found in our culture, could be found there as well, although it might look a little different.
The root causes are all the same. So that’s why I felt like I was home; among people who didn’t look like me, or talk like me, or think like me. Because I felt that even though we grew up thousands of miles away from each other, we could understand that we had experienced similar feelings. Even though language proved to be a barrier at times, I learned that showing Christ’s love didn’t require words. That went both ways. Words weren’t necessary for people who knew no English to show me that they cared for me. That is beautiful in and of itself. It is in those moments where the connection goes beyond words, where you can’t help but believe that God created us ALL in His image. Those are the types of moments that sum up my year more than a few bullet points could ever do.
During the past year, I have met, befriended, and come to love many people who are now a part of my family, whether they like it or not. Just like any family we shared laughs. Even though we sometimes had struggles, we always cared for each other. We definitely learned things about each other that surprised us at times, but always helped to open our eyes just a little wider than they were before.
Surprisingly enough, it was at the most difficult of moments that I found myself most grateful for being where I was. That is what staying somewhere longer than a quick vacation can do. It allows you to see more of the full picture. Yes, I saw our differences. But more importantly, I saw our similarities. Everything I saw that I thought could be considered weaknesses or flaws eventually proved to be just a mirror that revealed my personal and cultural shortcomings. Never was I more aware of the fact that we were all the same. All sinful people are in desperate need of a Savior.
In the end, that really is the most important thing that I learned. Or maybe I should say the most important thing that I needed to be reminded of. People need Jesus. Plain and simple. Yes, people need food. Yes, they need water. Yes, they need education. Yes, I want to help people get out of poverty. But without the Gospel does any of that stuff really matter? Food, water, education, and a life without poverty is not and will never be our savior. If I don’t live a life that shows how much I need Jesus, so much more than I need anything else, then I am failing to be a witness for Christ. In the end, I learned that it starts with me, that I can never help anyone else until I first come to the realization of how much I can’t even help myself. So yes, people need Jesus. I too, so desperately, need Jesus.
David Lee served as a Professional Volunteer with ELI for one year in 2013. Based in Kipkaren David taught young adults at the Kipkaren training center’s Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Programme (SACDP), also discipling children at the Kipkaren Children’s Home.