So Hard to Say Goodbye, to Nyumbani

Nairobi, Kenya

I left the village exactly a week ago. It is somewhat of a surreal feeling sitting here in a Nairobi hotel waiting for my airport shuttle to begin my journey to London, then Atlanta, then Peru. For the last week, I have traded prayer visits for class discussions and blogging for paper writing as we had a week of wrap up classes at St. Paul’s University outside of Nairobi in Limuru. A fun fact about Limuru is that it is one of the coldest places in Kenya. As it is winter here now, I had to buy a sweater and basically lived in it the whole week. The place where we were staying gave us a hot water bottles every night to help keep us warm. Despite the frigid, okay sub-50 degree, weather, it was good to see everyone again, get back in the habit of taking a warm shower everyday, and generally wash the dust off. It was nice to have running water and electricity again, but there is definitely a large part of me that misses the village.

The last few days there were truly something special. At my last Sunday Mass, all the departing volunteers were asked to go up and say a few words. After I said my piece, there was applause and cheering. The whole congregation then sang us a song of blessing (video above). On my last Tuesday, I finished setting up the main computer lab at the Polytechnic. On my very last workday, with the assistance of a chemistry PhD from Spain named No-No, we got all the computers in the facility lab working in what felt like 5 miracle hours. I had never made so much progress in a day.

The night before, at Bible study, one of the Polytechic teachers, Godfrey, asked if I was free any time on Friday. I told him that I had my final teen club, but that I was free from 2pm-3pm. He said that I should come up to the Polytechnic to “meet with a group.” I had no idea what this meant, but I was willing to do whatever. When I got there, it turned out that they had planned an entire going away celebration for me thanking me for the work that I had done on the lab. Every member of the facility, the head boy, and the principal all gave speeches. All of the students were in attendance. The schools traditional dancing troop gave a performance, and I was presented with a certificate of appreciation. It was so much more than I was expecting, and I was deeply touched. I was asked to give a speech also, and I talk to them about how there are many ways to build the Kingdom of God. Normally, as a preacher, I am expected to do this through my word. However, in working in that lab, I had a chance to build the Kingdom with my hands. This is the same opportunity that they have as future builders, carpenters, tailors, metalworkers, and farmers. It was even a chance to use the phrase “Jesus was a carpenter,” and have it not come off as cheesy.

Besides saying goodbye to my cats and my friends, by far the hardest part of leaving was saying goodbye to the 8th graders of Nyumbani Teen Club. During the club, on the last day, we mostly just played games, but I worked my schedule so that I was preaching in their class that morning. There was definitely emotion on both sides as I reminded them that I left the next morning. Instead of my usual stump speech about how concentrating on education is a way of worshipping God, I shifted gears and told them my call story and the lessons that I learned on the Camino. I told that I only had 3 pieces of advice that I could give them. One, the love of God is all around and supports you through your community (even if you don’t see all the time). Two, listen when you pray to know what path God wants you to take, and three, left every action you do be an act of worship.  

I closed out my last full day in the village with a final round of prayer visits with Pat. Our professors, John and Mimi, came to pick us up at 10:00am the next morning. As I rode down the dusty roads of the village, dressed more like my normal self in jeans, and white t-shirt, and my green track jacket, I felt a lot of emotions well up in me as the familiar buildings flashed by. I will miss Nyumbani Village. I will miss those people, and the work that I got do to with them. I will certainly miss my 8th graders, praying with the families, and leading worship services with those for HIV and AIDS. However, in a way, I know that it is not goodbye. I may never return to Nyumbani Village, though I hope to. The point is though that this summer confirmed for me what I have thought for a long time. This kind of work is my calling. It is what God wants me to do, so I will always find myself down more dusty roads building the Kingdom of God in partnership with communities.

This may be the end of my time in Kenya, but the summer, and so the blog, continues. Expect a post in the next couple days from the 2012 Summer Olympics and from Peru a week for today. Thank you so much for your comments, thoughts, and prayers for this leg of the journey. I hope that you stay continued as we continue on together.

As always check out my photos at 

Mungu Akubariki,