After many years of wishing, hoping, thinking, praying, planning, and dreaming, I am finally married and living in Africa.
I first came to know the Lord in 1989 because of a prayer miracle. Even as a four year old I was boy crazy, and the target of my affection was the Italian crooner Carmen. Every lyric was committed to memory, every song had an original skit or dance, and every wall in my bedroom had his face on it. One day I told my mom that I wanted to pray for Carmen to come to Salina, KS to do a concert. My mom didn't laugh in my face often, but even she couldn't keep from doing the ole' spit take at this request. Nevertheless, no matter how ridiculous the request, my mom would never pass up an opportunity to pray, so she indulged me and let me pray for the impossible. Every night I made the same request, praying as fervently as a four year old can, until the day came that I got word of a Carmen concert happening at the bi-centennial center in Salina. Apparently the Lord was not too busy to hear the prayers of a child praying in earnest, because He definitely made the impossible happen. I gave my life to Him once and for all at that concert. God not only heard me pray, but He was moved to action by my prayers. I'm finding that since that moment in time He has never ceased to listen and respond to me. At times the answers come years after I expect them, but He has always proven Himself to be faithful to keep His promises to me. So no matter the length of time or the hairiness of the situation, I can hold on to hope.
Ray and I have now been in Kenya as a married couple for just a few weeks, but we're already finding that the reverberations of the initial culture shock I've experienced continue to rock the fledgling foundation of our marriage. The biggest tremor we feel rumbling beneath every heated discussion is the uncertainty of plans within this culture. Each morning I opened my eyes in the States, whether I realized it or not, I had a mental to-do list. Though I'm not the most organized person, I would still manage to get everything on my list done, for the most part. To be successful in America, in the most basic sense, it's pretty imperative that you have some degree of structure and organization happening in your life. People who don't have a plan come off as being "loose cannons", too unpredictable.
"This Is Africa"
Unfortunately for me, "unpredictable" is the definition of life here in Kenya. When I came for the youth conference last year, I was introduced to the saying, "This is Africa" (T.I.A.). I had initially come as the musical guest for the conference, but because the main speakers weren't able to make it, I became the main speaker and the musical guest. Oh, and I was to speak once or twice a day for two hours at a time! T.I.A. Now that I'm married and trying to adjust to the culture, this phrase has become a whole new beast. When Ray says he'll be home in two hours and Nairobi traffic plus various other delays cause him to come home after twelve hours... T.I.A. When we try to budget for traveling expenses and our main source of transportation is the matatu, which is never the same price depending on the traffic, weather, or the attitude of the tout handling money... T.I.A. When I'm writing this blog in a cyber cafe and the power goes off twice (true story)... T.I.A. Basically I'm learning that it's very difficult to make plans here whether they be short-term or long-term. All you can do is put your plans in God's hands and know that something will work out to your benefit in the end.
A God-given Coach
Like most Americans, I could try to be rigid and make everyone follow the structure I'm used to (i.e. start/show up to events on time), but I will find myself without friends in a minute. The key to surviving here is flexibility. Likewise, the key to the survival of our marriage is flexibility... what a coincidence! Currently, when things don't go the way I plan, I either pout, go mute, or cry... for hours at a time. My muscles clearly need to be trained to stretch a lot more! I praise God for my husband though. I can't imagine trying to acclimate to this culture without him. As I'm striving to become more flexible, he has been an extremely gentle, patient coach. He's really teaching me that patience is a virtue, and because he believes me to be a virtuous woman, that trait should be more evident in my life.
So many issues we face here are completely out of our control, and for those of you that know me, that is not something I prefer... actually, I'd say that's probably true for most American women; yet life goes on and we have to decide if we're going to jump into the raging waters and trust that the One who once calmed the sea will help us navigate the current or if we're going to wait until the waters still before we jump in.
Here's my reality check: the current will never settle and I'll never feel "ready" to jump, but just as I did at the age of 4 when faced with an impossible situation, I'm going to choose to jump into the unknown holding on to Ray's hand and to hope that God didn't bring me this far to leave me.