At church recently, one of our pastors, Chris Rathbone, shared a message on perspective. I will do my best to paraphrase the part of the sermon that, for obvious reasons, has fastened itself to my thoughts this week. He said that when God sets each of us in our exact places, circumstances, and time, it gives each individual a unique perspective on the world. No one else can view the world, or God himself, exactly the way I do. The places and culture in which I live, the events that occur in my life, and the point in history in which I exist all contribute to my worldview, and thus color my lenses. A little bit differently than yours. Or maybe our lenses have vastly different colors, and without shared experience, it is really difficult for us to understand one another.
And then sometimes, God will haul your rear-end to another continent and give you the privilege of peeking into those vastly different things. It might just change the color of your comfortable, self-assured lenses.
I learned about and experienced a whole new version of the world when I visited Kenya. People who don’t look like me. Foods that I have never tasted. New smells. Roads that I have never traveled. God got bigger and the world became smaller.
I also decided that samosas and chai are great reasons to visit Kenya.
In Kenya, relationships come first. Quality wins over quantity every time. If a Kenyan is on their way to work, and they see an old friend, they will likely stop and spend time catching up with the old friend, whether or not it will make them late to work. If something doesn’t get done today, it will still be there tomorrow. I cannot tell you how peaceful and relaxed I felt while staying at Naomi’s Village. Time and to-do lists are major stressors for me back at home. In Kenya, I could breathe. I realized how much my American way of life wears me down. (I will add, a lot of American visitors feel a bit, um, exasperated by Kenyan time. Admittedly, when it becomes vital to be somewhere on time, such as the airport, and you need your driver to be prompt, you may decide you are ready to return to routine expectations.)
I was informed that indirect communication is the way to go in Kenya. For example, rather than saying, ‘Can you help me wash the dishes?’ someone might say, ‘There are a lot of dishes here that need to be washed.’ Coming from a culture that perceives this as passivity, rather than good manners, this indirectness takes some intentional awareness on the part of the visitor.
It is more important to spend time with a person, get to know them and hear them, than it is to accomplish a task.
Here’s how this has impacted me: I am a dreamer, a doer, a visionary, big-picture-minded, and a tiny bit of a thrill seeker. Being told that I need to slow down and really see others, sit with them and hear their story, and attempt to see through someone’s lenses besides my own? That’s not on my agenda. But it is from God.