America is weird. I freaked out because I could drink tap water and driving was strange after 2 months of reversed roads. My bed is way too soft and my house looks like a mansion now. As I’ve began to process, explain to my parents, and talk to friends about my time in Kenya I decided to share what I wrote on the plane ride home. My hope is that this will help begin to explain my feelings regarding Kenya, America, and the transition between those two wonderful countries…
“In 42 minutes I’ll be stateside and I’m currently all types of emotional. I’m terrified to step onto American soil but beyond excited to run into my parents’ arms. I’m scared to be anywhere except Kenya but I’m excited for some Chick-fil-A. I’m scared to walk into my house but excited to hug my dog. I’m scared to see my old friends again but I’m excited for a hot shower and soft bed. I’m fearful of not having my Kenya community but excited to hang out with my sisters.
It’s been almost two months since I’ve been here. And it’s hard to describe what I’m feeling. I don’t feel like I have a life in America anymore. I can’t picture myself driving to the movies or eating out with my friends. My life has drastically changed, I’m a completely different creation now. My life has looked like running from monkeys and washing clothes in the sink with shampoo. It’s looked like eating lamb ribs and making chapati and living with people 24/7. It’s looked like practicing healing and stepping into His presence and loving on kids. It’s looked like immersing myself fully in a culture, stepping into a country that now feels like home. It’s looked like seeing the juxtaposition of pain and poverty with joy and beauty. It’s been seeing the corrupt police system and crime that comes out of it. It’s looked like chicken pox in my 5×5 room and taking care of kids whose parents wouldn’t. It’s looked like going to Hannah’s house and walking kids home from school. It’s looked like the Maasai Mara and the mountains and the Mombasa beach. It’s looked like skirts and cold showers and worship nights that always wrecked me. It’s looked like teaching 100+ kids with absolutely no qualifications except love and willingness. It’s looked like countless braids in my hair and duka runs and fun laughs with friends. It’s looked like community and vulnerability and freedom. It’s looked like blood diarrhea and a horrible cold and some stomach viruses. It’s looked like being attacked my misquotes on the beach. It’s looked like cliff diving into the Indian Ocean and snorkeling and underwater tunnels. It’s looked like riding camels on the beach and being kissed by a giraffe and touching elephants. It’s looked like feeding monkeys and going on safari. It’s looked like hiking a massive volcano and adventuring down into it to find a steam vent of activity. It’s looked like running down a volcano and living in a high altitude and eating unprocessed food. It’s looked like good ministry and hard ministry. It’s looked like sooo much chai and instant coffee and never ending songs. It’s looked like foreign churches and African dances and a constant layer of dust on your skin. It’s looked like Kenya. It’s looked like Africa. It’s looked like Jesus. It’s looked like home.
I have no clue how to convince myself to get off this plane. 2 months has flown by but at the same time felt like forever. I’m most scared that home will be the same but I’ll be completely different. Or that we will both be different and I just won’t fit anymore. I’m terrified to adjust back to the wealth and see the ignorance so many people have here. I’m scared to drive again and I’m not excited for my stomach to adjust back to processed food (RIP). I’m actually going to miss the squeaky door in my room and the daily jelly sandwiches. I’m going to miss leadership and having them by my side everyday. I’m going to miss the bumpy paths called roads and the friends I’ve made on the 3 different teams. I already miss Hannah. I’m going to miss Kenyan food and what Church looks like there. I’m going to miss it all…
As I prepare for this plane to land in the USA I keep reminding myself that it was WORTH IT. That God needed me in Kenya for 7 weeks but right now he needs me in America more. I’m trying to trust in his timing, to press into his love. I’m trying to realize the reason behind all this pain in my breaking heart. When people ask me about my summer overseas the best way I can describe it is WORTH IT. Every day, every minute, every ministry, every challenge, every sickness, every relationship, every struggle, every break down, every adventure, every break through- all worth it.
Jesus you and Kenya have both been beyond worth it.
Thank you for these 7 weeks. It is well with my soul.”
Bravery and vulnerability, independence and community… I’m learning that they all go hand in hand.
To be quite honest I feel that it would be more brave to blog that I am A-OK and adjusting back to America with flying colors. But I now know that it is so much more courageous to whisper that I am struggling to see any light at all.
So instead of throwing up another wall I’d like to show you part of my heart that is currently quite hurt…
I am a big fan of stories, with the exception of my own.
I could sit and listen to a friend talk about their life over coffee for hours, but I’d fall silent the second they ask about mine.
Sometimes I feel that I write in vain, that the thoughts running through my veins just bounce off the walls of other’s ears into nothingness.
I feel that I’m shouting into a void of silence, I just want people to hear what I could never say.
There must be a way to introduce ourselves with names other than our insecurities.
There must be a way to smile that is not merely a distraction from the pain in our eyes.
There must be a way to enter the room wearing nothing but your personality.
There must be a way to hold each other gently, careful not to break the fragile identities we meet.
I’m still learning how to show up to life without a weapon or costume or joke to protect me.
I’ve always been one to isolate myself as a means of safety, but the more you push others away the lonelier you will become.
Ever think that we’re all just friends with each other’s masks?
You’ve only ever seen the parts of me I’ve approved for display, my presence has always been a rehearsed recital.
Terrified that we’ll count to 3 and I’ll be the only one lowering my mask.
I’m still learning how to wear my personality that is about 5 sizes too big.
I’m still learning how to love without hiding it in fear of rejection.
I’m still learning how to hold myself in this world that constantly tells me to shrink.
I’m teaching my hands how to hold again, knowing that roses are beautiful despite the thorns.
I’m stumbling over the words rolling off my tongue, my becoming is not a graceful thing to watch.
But I am coming to the realization that we’re all just a bunch of vulnerable hearts.
We’re all in a beautifully broken becoming…
How blessed we are to get to live in his presence. How blessed I have been to see both the beauty and brokenness of so many countries at this age. How blessed I am to have loved a country so much that the goodbye hurt that much. How blessed I am to know that even though I am now in a different country he is still the same God.
-Sarah Parris (Kenya 2016, Monther Kenya 2017)