You never know where your prayers will lead you. Or where your wife’s will take you. This is…
The Rest of the Story
One of the places Amy’s prayers took me was Africa: to Cape Town, South Africa, and to Nairobi, Kenya. Two places I never would have dreamed of going, much less wanting to return to.
While I enjoyed Cape Town and would love to go back and explore more, Nairobi became a part of me.
Come to the margins and ask those here to pray for you. You can pray for them too but don’t come with the assumption that you are the only one able to bless.
Come, but don’t come to save. Come to be alongside on a journey. Offer your hand and your own stories of your grandmother, the first college graduate in your family. Your experiences of sports training and team camaraderie, your illnesses and academic struggles. Bring your brokenness, your loneliness, your confusion and doubts.
Come to the margins with your songs and stories, painting and photographs, teaching plans, and financial portfolios. Come with all your creativity and labor and insights and experiences.
Come to the margins bringing your addiction to accumulating stuff, the idolizing of money and appearance. Bring your fear of not measuring up, your envy and greed.
Come to the margins and find joy there, creativity, hard work, companionship, forgiveness, and a great sense of humor. Come and join and see the unique strengths and gifts and, if necessary, with humble wisdom, offer a hand. Receive a hand.
Come to the margins, aware of your own poverty and of how it doesn’t define you and of how it drives you to your knees and makes you desperate for God. Come but don’t use the margins as a place to soothe your conscience.
[Excerpt from Come to the Margins, by Rachel Pieh Jones – emphasis mine]
When I read Come to the Margins, I realized how much it applied to me, and wrote this comment:
“Can I come with my misplaced expectations? Can I bring my US-main-stream-media-tainted view of the world? Can I come to the margins with my blinders on, thinking I can see, not knowing how blind I am? What if I come before I’m really ready, but Jesus brings me full of myself, sure of my gifts, confident of what I have to offer, certain that I am being His hands and feet, and believing I am His ambassador coming to spread the gifts He has given me?
“Will those in the margins see beyond my saintly mask and show me that I, too, am a three-dimensional person—yes, with gifts and dreams and skills, but also—with poverty and illusions and weaknesses? Might Jesus bring me to the margins, not so I can be Jesus to ‘the least of these,’ but so that I might learn that I am ‘the least of these,’ and need them to be Jesus to me?”
It was a rhetorical question, but I was delighted by Rachel’s response: “Yes. Yes. Yes….forever and always and mercifully yes.”
Because, that’s how I went to Nairobi. Confident, assured… and blind.
What I Learned
The folks I met in Nairobi are still with me. I think of them and pray for them often. Denis. Kelvin. Stanley. Andrew. Names and faces of brothers.
There’s an old adage: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”
I didn’t know what to expect, but I realized that I did expect that I was going to be teaching these folks how to fish.
I was wrong.
They already knew how to fish. What’s more, they knew how to fish in Nairobi. I didn’t.
I was a one-trick pony. My one trick was connecting people. Staying connected and building on what was started would be totally up to them.
I don’t know if anyone learned anything new from my session. But after SharePoint Saturday Nairobi, over beers at Mojo’s, the Nairobi SPUG was born.
Igniting a Spark
What it came down to; what I flew almost 11,000 miles for… was to introduce neighbors to one another. And invite them to be a part of a global community, as well as a local one.
Four weeks after SharePoint Saturday, the newly-formed Nairobi SPUG held its first meeting. The members created a blog and a Facebook page. They meet every month.
As soon as they started meeting, they started talking about and making plans for SPS Nairobi 2013.
This one they did on their own, other than a brief Skype conversation between Denis and me. They got their own sponsors, invited some of my friends from Cape Town to come speak, moved the event to iHub, and it was a huge success!
I was so proud of them. And I was glad that my brothers were at SharePoint Saturday when the shooting started.
It Seems So Close
It seems strange that I was in Africa when the Benghazi diplomatic mission was attacked. I was 2500 miles away in Nairobi, where everything seemed so peaceful and orderly.
I was in Austin on Sept. 11, 2001. New York and DC are over 1000 miles closer to Austin than Benghazi is to Nairobi. But to Amy, here at home, Benghazi might as well have been next door.
Funny how your perceptions change. I admit I was a bit nervous when I drove past the US Embassy in Nairobi a few days later, but it was just another beautiful sunny Sunday in Kenya. After church, my host loaded all the children into the van, grabbed a bucket of chicken from KFC, and we drove out Kiambu Road to the coffee and tea farms for a picnic.
Benghazi felt a million miles away.
But a year later, while my friends were at the second SharePoint Saturday Nairobi, gunmen began their siege of Westgate Mall starting at Artcaffe, where I had met Stanley the year before to finalize our event planning. On that day—7,500 miles way—my Nairobi seemed as close as next door.
“Nairobi seems so close to me now,” I told Amy. I wasn’t concerned for my friends whom I knew were on the other side of town. But I checked with Stanley immediately to confirm that none of his family was at the mall, because I knew how close he lived to it.
His family was all safe, he replied, but “Westgate Mall was my last stop before going to the speaker dinner last night.”
Thank you, Lord! Thank you for using me to establish SharePoint Saturday last year, so that this year most of my friends would be across town during the shooting.
This is My Nairobi
That’s why Soldiers on the Dollhouse touched me so deeply. One day, I’m enjoying fried chicken with my host and his precious children; another day, the fabric of their lives has been ripped and mended askew. As I checked on all of my friends, they were all positive and hopeful.
“People adapt. Life alters and continues. Kids playing dollhouse post armed guards outside plastic toy homes, imagining it might be a game to check for explosives. Parents return to grocery stores and kids go back to school, families eat out at restaurants, go to church, see a movie. But they are searched on the way in and they go home with a new thought undergirding the shopping list or movie thrill or the taste of red wine at the restaurant. ‘I’m alive,’ they think and the thought brings subtle relief, and a pang of terror.”
[Excerpt from Soldiers on the Dollhouse, by Rachel Pieh Jones, in Ethnotraveler, emphasis mine]
Where have your prayers taken you? Have you looked back and seen the hand of God moving you in a way for His purposes that you couldn’t see at the time? Please share your story in the comments below.