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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 10 comments

I hate this. 
I hate this.
I hate this!  

Much to my chagrin, these were the only words bouncing around my mind as I sat in the back seat of the car with who knows who, going who knows where, over unfamiliar roads in a country where I can't speak much more than a greeting. This day was not remotely what I had envisioned, and it had only just begun. 

Why does God put me into these predicaments? 

Have you ever been there, feeling as though you're in waaaay over your head?

Two days earlier our team arrived in Kenya after about 36 hours of travel. With just under a day to get our bearings we were again on the move, this time making the 6 hour drive from Nairobi to Kawiti Village, which is located just outside the city limits of Kisii. The next day was Sunday, and though I was hoping to worship in the village, instead we made the 45 minute drive back into Kisii - over the worst roads imaginable - to worship at Mustard Christian Centre (MCC) the home church of our host. (I asked Pastor Elisha if he purposely chose to do ministry along the most inferior routes and he replied that his ministry was to the neglected, and that included the the roads.)

Even though I've attended this church many times, my prior visits were to a building the church rented from the government. Now they had their own building in a part of town unfamiliar to me. 

My backpack, which can be seen propped up against the post on the left side of the photo above, marks just how close I made it to the entrance of MCC before I was whisked away to a mystery location. My traveling companion Loise, dressed in blue and standing behind the gentleman who may or may not have been our driver (it's all a blur), assured me I knew her and her unnamed pastor husband, but honestly I didn't know her from Adam (Eve?)

I should've known something was up when she greeted me as "Pastor Lisa," but I was so stunned by the fact that I was separated from our group and taken to parts unknown that it really didn't register. Despite how it sounds, I never felt I was in any danger. I know our host well enough to be certain he would never (purposely) compromise my safety, but my comfort and sense of well-being? That's a different story. Entirely.

So, with my equanimity shattered, I found myself bouncing around in a back seat with the chant "I hate this!" coursing through my brain:

I hated not knowing who I was with.

I hated not knowing where I was going.

I really hated not knowing what was going to happen once I got there. 

You see, I like to know the plan and I get very uncomfortable when I don't have a clue as to what's going on.

My little mental tirade in the back seat was interrupted by God who said, "Oh, so you still don't trust me..."

Have you ever noticed how many of our fears are rooted in a lack of trust in God?

"But I want to do my best for You," I countered in the discussion going on in my head, "and I can't do that if I can't prepare because I don't know what's going on!" That part of the truth (emphasis on part) sounds good, doesn't it? The rest of the truth is not so flattering: I don't like looking stupid, especially in front of people.

Can you relate?

God was right, of course. If I trusted Him - as opposed to relying on myself - I wouldn't be stressing out over all the unknowns. We all love a great testimony of God at work; we just don't want to be in a situation where He can give us one.

I was a bit more at ease when we arrived at what turned out to be a satellite church of MCC and I discovered I actually did know the pastor. It was Joe, who was an elder at MCC during our first visit in 2008. He was the one who taught me my first Kiswahili - "Bwana Asifiwe" or "Praise God." I can tell you that knowing just that one phrase can get you pretty far in a Kenyan church service. It's pretty much the correct response to just about anything said to you.

It made sense that I didn't recognize his wife because meal preparation, crucial to fellowship, is very labor-intensive, so oftentimes it was the men we interacted with while the women were busy in the kitchen. 

It wasn't until I was being introduced that I realized I was the one who would be giving the sermon that morning. So despite the fact that I make it a point to always have notes with me, I didn't have time to pull any out. Of course, God did not leave me hanging; He showed up. On the drive over He brought to mind part of a lesson on James 4:5 and to my great pleasure at this moment, I remembered it in its entirety. (A miracle in and of itself!)

Of course, God did say, "do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." ~ Matthew 10:19-20

My message wasn't very long, perhaps 10-15 minutes, but Joe had mentioned there would be child dedication later in the service. With that in mind I thought a brief message would be fitting (not that anyone in Africa is concerned with time.) Joe was my interpreter (or interrupter as Pastor Elisha would say), and in addition to the pauses giving me time to collect my thoughts, it also gave him the opportunity to restate anything the congregation may not understand.

Sitting down after finishing my sermon, I looked forward to the dedication. Coming from churches that baptize I don't think I've ever attended a dedication and was looking forward to comparing the two. It wasn't until I was asked to stand again that I realized I would be the one doing the dedicating! (Did I mention I've never even been to one before? Or how much I hate being put on the spot?)

Unbeknownst to me, the dedication service was planned in advance so they had certificates already printed out for each child. (Certificates plural, as in not just one.") The parents came up with their 5 children, and the certificates allowed me call each by name as I laid hands on them and dedicated them to the Lord. 

My dedications were basically a baptism without water since that's all I knew. I must have done ok because the next thing I knew I was handed more certificates and another family came up. Followed by another. And another. In all, I dedicated 18 children to the Lord that morning! I felt I stumbled a bit as I struggled to find a unique Bible promise to give to each child, but afterwards Pastor Joe said it was beautiful. (And being basically the only one who understood English, only he would know!) Much to my relief, God showed up again. (Why does that still surprise me?)

Kenyans not only have fellowship, but "swallowship" as well, so I wasn't surprised to be led away - after a photo with the families of the children I dedicated - to a nearby home for a meal. I was surprised, however, when just after I finished eating, the driver who had deposited me there that morning reappeared in the doorway of the home and informed me we were now headed somewhere else - for lunch, of course!

Will the surprises never end?

I was taken to another undisclosed location, but was pleased to find myself at the apartment of one of the members of MCC where the ladies were having a luncheon. At last, I was among familiar people! Two of those familiar people asked me to step outside just after I arrived, and it was there they asked me if I would teach a lesson to the women after we'd eaten. By this time I was no longer taken by surprise and actually appreciated the "advanced" notice, giving me time to pull out some of my ever-present notes.

One final surprise was the arrival of a Mzungu friend from the U.S. that I'd never met in person. She came while I was teaching and was able to identify the correct apartment by the pile of women's shoes outside the door!

It was an exhausting day - both emotionally and physically - but a day full of blessings, the magnitude of which has been increasing with time. I have to admit, God definitely knows me well! If I had received the advanced notice I so desired I'm sure

      a) It wouldn't have been that advanced.

      b) I would have been stressed out, not knowing what I was supposed to do.

It is my prayer that the next time I'm feeling in over my head, I wouldn't panic, I wouldn't look around to figure out what to do, but that I would look up, to my Father who loves me and will NEVER leave me in a lurch. 


10 Responses so far.

  1. Jerralea says:

    What an awesome day! I'm sure I would have been just like you - hating not knowing what was going on next. You are right, the root of those feelings is not trusting. It's so funny, isn't it? Why can't we trust the One who gave His all for us?

  2. Sounds like a wonderful day and an even better lesson! Let go and let God (p.s. I would have felt the same way, but yep, in the end, it would be worth it!)

  3. What in incredible adventure! I love how God never abandons us especially when we are feeling in over our heads- I think it is where He shines the brightest in our own weakness :) Really enjoyed your story!
    -S.L. Payne, uncommongrace.net

  4. Kim says:

    I can imagine your initial fears and reservations! So glad this story showed you a powerful and faithful Lord.

  5. Love it when God takes me on a journey that pushes me to trust Him all the more. Just wish I'd get better at trusting right from the beginning instead of looking back and saying that wasn't so bad. :)

  6. KatBouska says:

    I definitely get uncomfortable when I'm pushed a little out of my comfort zone...and I can't even begin to imagine what I would have felt like in your shoes. It sounds like you handled it with trust and grace. Very beautiful!

  7. Faith says:

    wow!! thank you for sharing this and isn't it amazing how, if we are all honest, we just don't like being out of our comfort zone...yet look at how God used you!! Baby dedications in our church (an evangelical, inter-denominational church) are done the same way Hannah in the OT brought Samuel.....we believe baptism is done after a person is born again/saved from sins. Both of my girls were dedicated as babies (in our former church)....it's basically showing the congregation that you recognize they really belong to God and that you will bring them up in the Word, etc. Neither of my daughters have been baptized yet although both have accepted Christ. How awesome that you got to preach the Word AND participate in such a momentous event in these childrens' lives!! God is good!!

  8. Michelle says:

    Isn't it amazing how God brings us out of our comfort zone.
    Doing things only He can do.

    Last year I gave my testimony, for the first time.
    I was so totally nervous and afraid.
    I felt I had flubbed up several times.
    However, many people came to me and said how it touched them.

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog.

  9. Unknown says:

    Dear Lisa
    What a beautiful story so like "us" and so like our Kenyan brother's and sister's.
    I am sure you blessed many in your "unknown" state with the KNOWN message of the Savior. To God be the glory, great things He has done! May the Lord bless you and keep you may His face shine down upon you.

  10. Unknown says:

    Amen! Lisa - I could not WAIT to start reading of your Kenya adventures!! And this message is so timely for me - launching this book -- I feel so unprepared and at a loss for what I really need to do. I just need to look up. He won't leave me in the lurch.

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