Last Day in Kima

February 22, 2009

Solomon has had the (un)fortunate privilege of hearing my speak alot this week. Today I traveled along with Solomon, a 2nd year student here at KIST, along with others (Steve & Marilyn Cook from the US, Rebecca the school Nurse/Academic Dean, and three other students) to his home town, Kakamega, to take part in his church service. Solomon was one of my companions to Obunaka Secondary School earlier in the week. Between the conversations on that walk and others during this past week, it never came up that he is married and has two young children. The lack of a wedding ring also failed to prompt questions on my end. Today I got to meet Solomon’s wife, son, and daughter. He hasn’t seen them in over a month. When we first arrived to Kakamega, we spent some time in his home. It is a typical home, not more than 20 x 20. The walls are made of mud that has been sealed with cow dung. The roof is thatched which makes the home cooler but requires regular maintenance. There’s a single, common room when you enter and then two rooms set off only by a curtain. Cuckoos (chickens) have free reign. Solomon’s wife shared tea and bread with us as we heard more about his family. His mother is the second wife of his father. His mother had five sons and he is the fourth. In order to afford the school fees at KIST, Solomon had to sell off part of the land which is his inheritance. 

After tea, we drove just a few hundred yards to his church. A very simple building made of brick and a tin roof. Inside, two rows of benches faced a make shift stage comprised of two small wooden tables in front row of plastic chairs draped with purple linens. To the left of this area was a set of a plastic chairs for the choir. Outside the church, to the right, two latrines stood with cement floors and a square hole in the floor. Past the latrines, a group of women were already at work, cooking lunch for us, their guests.

As people trickled in, I realized that the predominate demographic was young children and older women. Very few men of any age and only a handful of younger women were present. The latter was partly due to the cooking outside. Still I was quickly overwhelmed with the feeling that I ought to, on the spot, chance my message. Speaking on wisdom and what it looks like to make wise decisions seemed a little out of the sweet spot of children and older women. During the hour between the start of the service and my time to speak, I asked God for clarity and wisdom myself. I decided to go with what I was prepared to share. I tweaked it a good bit from the same topic I developed for my talk at Obunaka, and felt confident in connecting with the audience. In the car, as we were about to leave, Phyllis (a KIST student) shared a word of encouragement that was so meaningful to me. She said that my message was very clear and that the people heard it and that it should be helpful to them. In international contexts, my main goal in speaking is clarity. In that moment, I was very grateful that Phyllis chose to share her reflection with me. 

Our lunch, after the service, was a veritable Kenyan feast. I couldn’t tell you (I just don’t remember!) the names of all the foods that sat before us. Most of us ventured into each bowl out of curiosity and gratitude. We did have an opportunity to specifically thank the cooks before departing for the trek back to campus. 

Our group pulled into Kima as the Sunday afternoon chapel was beginning. We ran in and joined everyone. Afterwards, I caught up with Donald. He was insistent that he would meet us when we departed tomorrow about 7:30am. I have some notes for him from some of you that I’ll combine onto a single sheet and print off for him. I decided to give him the shirt I wore this week during our runs. (I had it washed!) It’s a yellow shirt with “running” in green and a nike swoosh and it’s dri-fit material. A great shirt for a great runner and something to remember our friendship. 

In other news, the huge fruit bats that have been attacking the tree outside the house are gone tonight. They have dominated the sensory landscape at night all week. Apparently they had their fill or, perhaps, they’re on to a new fruit tree. 

I’m packed and ready to leave for safari tomorrow. I could fly home instead and be completely content. I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that I may have trouble sleeping tonight. I love animals…almost as much as people.

Yesterday media from ABC was at Fairfax Community Church.  At FCC, we have a woman, Loretta, who was an ABC White House correspondent for more than a decade. She’s a devoted follower of Christ and also happens to be the wife of one of our Youth Pastors. She now leads this organization, Clarity Communications Group. Apparently a study is coming out which, in part, states that a majority of religious Americans believe that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. Tonight ABC World News Tonight with Charles Gibson is said to air a piece on this report as well as (to the best of my knowledge) a sampling of comments from interviews of people interviewed here at FCC yesterday following Sunday services.

Loretta called me Friday evening asking me to be one of those ABC talks to. My name came up because I’m “articulate” and “cool.” That made me laugh. Maybe that should be what I request as my epitaph. Just throw in husband and father – “Here lies Andy. He was an articulate and cool husband and father.” Yup, that’ll work! Anyways, after I got off the phone with Loretta my mind immediately began filtering through my thoughts on the subject on whether Jesus is the only path to heaven and whether I have a personal relationship with God or something more abstract. I even called up one my closest friends who I did youth ministry and seminary with in Dallas to get his thoughts.

As it turned out, I never spoke with ABC. I was ready, standing outside after our first service, chewing the fat with people arriving for the second service, waiting my turn in front of the camera. Before getting to me ABC needed to wrap up. Funny but I wasn’t bothered, upset, or disappointed, nor did I feel jipped. Of course I would have loved to share my thoughts but God reminded me while I was brushing my teeth Sunday morning that this wasn’t about me at all. What God wanted to be revealed about himself would happen regardless of my involvement. So I was at peace before ever arriving at church. Not to say I wasn’t nervous, but I was also cool with whatever would happen. And I would have shared this story here regardless of what went down yesterday morning. It just so happens this will be the only place that will be the avenue of what Andy Gingrich would have said to ABC. Tonight we’ll hear what God allowed to be known.

“I think the question of whether Jesus is the only way to heaven begins with the reality that Jesus created the world and that humanity is created in his image. We were designed by Jesus and for Jesus so the question of whether or not Jesus is the only way is not really up to any individual to decide. To have a personal relationship with Jesus is to recognize and receive the grace with which we were created to enjoy. I believe this is why so many people in so many cultures seek a god and sincerely believe their pursuit is valid. There’s a longing to know and be known by the Creator. But our confusion, pride and ultimately our sin cloud our pursuit of knowing Jesus and that he is who he said he was – the one who alone provides forgiveness for sin and the means to eternal life. It’s as if humanity is one great symphony. The question isn’t what instrument you play or what tune you want to play. The question is whether or not you are in tune. Every person is created in the undeniable image of God. To be in tune with the Creator is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus which provided forgiveness for sin and the awesome expectation of heaven. It makes total sense that people long after something greater than themselves. You are also free to play completely out of tune. But you aren’t entitled to heaven. In Jesus alone you find the tune which will allow you to be in tune, to stay in tune, forever. Jesus is eternal life and the only to find it. ”

I had thought that out before Sunday morning. But of course I wouldn’t have been that articulate or sounded that cool in front of the camera.