Home, but Homesick + a Lesson in Hospitality
It has been about a week and a half since we landed stateside; and I'm sitting here at my home desk sipping on a cup of Kenyan chai, somehow feeling a little "homesick."
If you read any of my updates/posts from our time in Kapsowar... you'd know that the Fisher family fell for Kenya HARD. As in my 4-year-old still asks me daily when we can go back, and if we can live there forever. (Oh, and my 1-year-old still has visible bruises/injuries because he LITERALLY fell hard in Kenya. Almost every day. With no carpet in sight. Ouch!)
Part of our love was the pace of Kenyan life (which I blogged about during our first week there). Another part stemmed from the ridiculously beautiful scenery that greeted us every morning in the mountains of the Rift Valley Province. But what really made us fall head over heels (even into the deep Kenyan mud of the rainy season) was the people. And I'm not just talking about the missionaries, though we made lifelong friendships on the mission station that felt more like family. (And they are definitely huge part of that love!)
But beyond those friendships, it was the "Karibu" (Swahili for welcome), love and hospitality of the Kenyan people that made us feel so incredibly at home in Kapsowar.
A year or two ago, I did a study through She Reads Truth called "Making Room: A Study on Biblical Hospitality." At its core, the study challenged readers to move beyond the idea of hospitality as a perfectly clean home and a crystal pitcher of sweet tea (is my Southerner showing?). ;) Instead, hospitality is about the heart... an attitude and practice of making room in our hearts and lives for others. A posture of openness, humility, and generosity... even in the most "imperfect" moments.
And never have I seen a better picture of that type of beautifully "imperfect" hospitality than in Kenya. It came through the countless handshakes and "Habari"s during every walk into the village center, through the gracious offers to teach me how to make some of Kenya's most classic food specialties (currently craving chapati and mandazi like crazy), and perhaps most of all from the many conversations shared over steaming cups of Kenyan chai.
On our last afternoon in Kapsowar, we were invited over to Emmy's house, a precious local Kenyan who works with the hospital/church as a missionary traveling throughout local communities serving and speaking about the love of Jesus. 14 of us lined the walls of Emmy's cozy little living space surrounding a small coffee table that hosted large trays of bananas, muffins, mugs and a giant thermos of chai. The room was packed to say the least, but despite the chilly drizzle outside, the atmosphere was perfectly warm. Photos of family members, including Emmy's late husband, lined the walls along with posters proclaiming the truth of Scripture. Conversation floated through the room openly, each person eager to learn from the other about their stories, and the cultures and challenges encountered here.
Once my boys' bellies were full of muffins (and the floor covered in crumbs), the conversation unfortunately was not enough to captivate their attention... so we ventured outside to chat with a few of the neighbors while the rest of the team continued to enjoy their chai. The women were outside washing dishes on an open table near the water spout, while a big pot of ugali was cooking on the stove in the communal kitchen building that the families who live there share. Rhys quickly made friends with a little boy who helped him to collect rocks and sticks, while also helping him navigate the muddy paths between the houses (which Rhys slipped on repeatedly and was covered in mud from head to toe by the time we left). Silas was doted on by all of the ladies, who eagerly helped him climb the little bench that lined the outer kitchen wall so he could walk back and forth over and over again.
We were very far from home, and all of the comforts associated with it. Yet we felt at home in all of the ways that mattered. We were welcomed, nourished, and loved.
Imperfect hospitality. An open door, a steaming cup of tea, authenticity in conversation. Never mind the muddy floors or tight space. But how often do we mind the things that don't matter in our own homes? Waiting to invite someone in until the floors are clean, the sink is empty, or the piles of laundry have been put away. Not that conquering any of these things is wrong (the good Lord knows that a clean sink is my love language)... but what if we embraced hospitality and served people where it matters at a heart level, giving ourselves grace in the unmet expectations of self that often seem to entrap us?
Maybe, just maybe... our guests would find themselves breathing a little deeper as they dip their toes in the freedom and grace that we've begun to wade in. Relationships would deepen as we came alongside each other in the depths of our imperfections, loving each other exactly as we are. No filters required. As I think back on ways to bring more of Kenya to Oklahoma... this is what I long for. Because unfiltered life in community is a gift I don't ever want to take for granted, or attempt to sanitize. Drink a cup of tea this week for me friends, and embrace your mess and imperfections. You are enough and loved just as you are.
Enjoy some photos from our final days in Kapsowar below!