"And if you SPEND YOURSELVES on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday."

"The Lord will continually guide you. He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."- Isaiah 58:10-11

Monday, October 29, 2012

Being Thankful...

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail that included the following statement…

“The (name removed) said that your living in Kijabe is going to be soooooo much better for you.”

I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  I think it was directed towards the added comforts to which we have access at Kijabe - consistent running water, a washing machine, refrigeration, hot water, etc. 

It really caused me to think.  Do modern conveniences make life “better”?  They certainly make life less time consuming and allow us to live more independently, but does that make life “better”? 

When we moved to Kenya, one of our predominant observations was how content Kenyans are with the little they have.  They are consistently short on supplies, food, household items, money…They live in mud huts!  But, they are comfortable with their “little” and focus on their wealth of relationships. 

Maybe it was because everything was so new, but we fell into that right away. 

Reflecting back to living on The Hill, I realized several things.  We actually didn’t mind not having running water.  We had to borrow our friend’s donkey, purchase some 20 L containers, and seek the help of a neighbor to haul water from the creek to our house.  It was time consuming but it provided us with the opportunity to build community and dependence on our friends.

Katie and Ruth's Daughter
Living without a washing machine was fine.  Sure, our socks and underwear and cotton clothes were 2 times the normal size from scrubbing them in a bucket and faded in the sun from hanging them on a line but, we sought out some much needed help from our young married neighbor girl.  She could finish ten times faster than me!  She became a good friend of ours along with her children who would accompany her and hang out with our children.  This provided her with some shillings to buy pots, pans and serving utensils for her own house and provided us with a trusted friend.  It was worth it. 

Caleb and Ruth's Son 
Not having a refrigerator forced me to seek help from our house-worker for Kenyan recipes that could be made from scratch.   We worked together combining some of my ideas and some of hers and found some new favorites that both of our families enjoyed.  She and I strengthened our relationship because of the time spent learning together and just being together. 

Not having hot water was…sacrificial – especially for me, who likes showers that are hot and plenteous.  It was inconvenient to heat water on the stove, to shower in a bucket, and to be conservative…but we were consistently clean.  And, in light of our neighbors who daily showered in cold water, we actually felt spoiled by our short, warm bucket shower. 
Movie night in a mud hut!

Honestly, as I’ve thought about this, I think “better” is a matter of perspective.  We were quite content living in Joseph and Annah’s mud hut.  There was always someone to help us figure out how to live in Kenya. We were grateful for every little blessing God provided us with.  We didn’t even realize how time consuming and challenging these simple things were until we moved to the Guest House. 

Cleaning the Oasis Guest House to move in

Then we found a new sense of gratitude.  The day we moved into a brick home that freed our family up to live alone, we had a giant celebration.  The day we went from no electricity to solar energy was another reason to rejoice.  The afternoon water poured through our kitchen faucet from the well was a tremendous blessing to us and to our next door neighbors, who also used this water and a toilet that flushed – We felt like kings and queens on our new throne (Haha!).  We found contentment in every little added blessing.

In some ways, we feel the same today about Kijabe.  We can’t believe that we get to live in such a beautiful and relationally rich (in a different way) area where our kids can attend a Christian school, and we can continue to work to rescue and develop orphans. Looking back at the challenges we faced living in the Guest House, we now realize that things were more difficult there, but we had been content because our perspective was rooted in the circumstances from which we’d come.  

However, despite the access we have to “better” things, we’ve found that it is easier to be discontent here.  When we moved in, our bathroom sink and tub didn’t drain (and hadn’t for years).  They were coated in dirt, rust, and mold.  So we had to re-do the bathroom to make it usable.  We’d love to paint the interior of the house so it looks more appealing (something about pink and purple walls are hard for me).  People have relatively, so many things here that there’s been a rash of thievery in the community so we find ourselves concerned over safety.  There’s been a water shortage, and we’ve felt a little put out because there’s a team of experts who should be able to fix it… I could go on. 

So today, I’m thankful for the opportunity to consider these things carefully and the reminder to be thankful in every circumstance.  Life is not easy.  Living circumstance can be hard physically, socially, emotionally, and financially.  But shifting perspective can be life altering. 

I came across a Bible verse this week that responded to that e-mail perfectly…

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that you renewed your concern for me… I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:10-13

As we remind ourselves, we encourage you with this today - Despite your circumstances, find reasons to be grateful to God, who will give you strength in every moment and will give you thankfulness in all circumstances!