Friday, July 16, 2010

Expect it to be Everything

Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.-Mary Kay Ash

Apparently no one told a group of stay at home mom's/wives, students, school teachers, wine distributors, health care professionals, event planners, and children that we couldn't go and build a school. So we went and did it anyway.

Well, we got a good start on it at least. I am sure that past groups felt like they had the best mix of people possible. This year was no different. It felt like we had the perfect storm of volunteers.

Each person had their own reasons for taking on the task of helping children in a far off corner of the world. I was hoping for some perspective. I had gotten into the habit of letting circumstances, work and people determine my level of happiness. Those outside forces obviously, weren't very concerned that I stayed on the sunny side of things. So, I left for Africa with a heavy heart. Not because of any one horrible thing...just the sum of many little things. I wasn't particularly happy and wasn't particularly happy with the person that I was becoming. The thing that worried me the most was that I wasn't smiling nearly as much as I used to, and more than a few people had mentioned it. As we left the plane and transferred into the bus that would take us to the Amani Centre, I was worried. Horrified almost. There was exuberant harmonizing of both church songs and boy band songs coming from the back of the bus. I was certain, and fairly upset, that I had unwittingly signed myself up for some coked-up version of EFY-goes international.

That first day brought with it a lot of visits. Visits to schools and orphanages where World of Difference had already been in years past. One school in particular had Gordon B. Hinckley's now famous "Be's" painted throughout the hallways. It was a surreal experience to walk through the halls of an orphanage on the exact opposite side of the world and see the words of the prophets standing as a reminder of how to be just a bit better today than the day before.
The kids came out to sing and dance, as is the Kenyan way, to welcome visitors. It was sweet to see the excitement on the faces of the returning volunteers, and the children in the orphanages, as they were reunited.

But there was no getting past the reality that these sweet kids lived a reality that most of us could not even imagine. Typically each bed slept 3 kids....and they are stacked three high. The conditions of the orphanage certainly left much to be desired if measured by American standards, but the kids at this particular orphanage could not have been happier. They have learned how to play instruments and dance, so that they would have a means to make money...and were as tight as any blood related family I have ever seen.

Laura, one of the women in our group, was talking to a young boy at the orphanage. As they were talking, she wondered about what it must be like for him not to have a mother to run to when he got hurt, or any siblings to conspire and make mischief with.

No sooner had the thought crossed her mind, than the young boy looked at her with the excitement that only a child can muster and said, "Oh- do you want to meet my brother?"

Of course she went to meet his brother, and it all became clear. This boy was obviously not introducing her to his actual brother...but a fellow orphan who he loved so much, he considered a brother. That feeling seemed to permeate every place we went. They may not have the comforts, luxuries and families that we do....but they have a degree of love, peace and happiness that I can only dream of.

At our first team dinner, we debriefed what happened that day and made a plan for the coming days. Brie, who had a cousin that had been on this trip many times before had been given the advise, "Expect it to be everything." It seemed like a pretty bold statement at the time, but over the course of the next two weeks, I realized that statement was one hundred percent accurate. It was everything. It was exciting, sad, intriguing, healing, exhausting and exhilarating. In the end, I came to wonder who actually benefited more from this trip, the Kenyans who simply needed to expand their schoolhouse, or the Americans who have much more stuff than we need, but still can't manage to find the happiness we desire. I may have come to Kenya with a bit of a heavy heart, but I certainly did not leave that way.

**Being that I lost the memory card from my camera with the first week worth of pictures on it, most of these photos are lovingly stolen from Scott and Brittany


William said...

"A coked up version of EFY- international style..." i fell out of my seat laughing!!

i loved the rest of it as well. Hope there is more to come.

mintifresh said...

What an amazingly beautiful experience. Those pictures are fabulous! I always wanted to do that and I wish I had before I started this crazy chapter of my life! I hope we get to hear more about your trip and welcome back!

Jillian said...

Thanks guys- there will definitely be more stories to come. I'm shocked at how hard it actually has been to write about. I keep getting all emotional and gushy.....who the heck am I turning into?!

Rachael said...

Great post! I am so jealous of your experience that you had! I bet you felt every emotion in those few weeks I can't wait to hear more stories!!!

J&J Priest said...

loved it.