God has really been transforming my view of "missions" since my return from Kenya. I know I went to Kenya thinking I was going there to serve, but throughout the experience, I learned it was really me who was changed. It was really God allowing me and giving me the opportunity to come alongside and experience what He was already doing at IAA. The gospel was already present in Kenya - it wasn't me taking it there. I was blessed with the chance to experience Jesus in each and every kid there, every staff member, every single person I met.

I have come to my own opinion that missions aren't about a two week trip somewhere. People desire relationships and to feel loved and valued - they don't just want a hand out of money or clothes. To me... ministry is loving until it hurts. This means a CONSISTENT presence - taking the time to build relationships and always offering unconditional love and placing the other person above yourself. To us, poverty usually means a lack of material things... but to them, it can mean feelings of loneliness, abandonment, or shame. Taking the time to truly get to know them means so much more than giving them an outfit to wear. It is a lot easier for us to just donate money or some old clothes without having any emotional attachment to the person than to take the time to get to know them. If we take the time to get to know the faces behind the issues we're dealing with - it changes us. I don't know how you could hear these children's stories and get to know them on a personal level and not be moved.  

I learned in Kenya that we are all raised differently and I can't assume that my ways of living or seeing things are the "right" way. A good example of this was when we visited Kibera. Fred told us how the government was building government housing right outside the slums and were having people move into them. These apartments had electricity, plumbing, etc. You would think this would be a blessing - but it turns out the people didn't like the new way of living and couldn't adjust to it. So they chose to go back and live in the slums. They didn't see anything wrong with their way of life - they have grown up that way. To them, it is normal to not have electricity or toilets. This really got me thinking. I need to not assume that my lifestyle is the "right" one or that everyone desires it. Sure, my first instinct is to want to help pick up trash off the roads in the slums... but what they really desire is for me to reach out and be their friend. Beatrice told us how us taking the time to visit the projects would mean so much to the kids. She told us to make sure to have conversations with each kid, to ask them what their name is, etc. 

I also don't believe missions are a two week trip somewhere because I don't think it is enough time to truly impact a life. I'm not saying that these missions are wrong - I just think if you really, truly want to show love to a child you need to be there for longer. The kids at IAA all ask "how long are you staying?" when you first get there. I didn't recognize the importance of this question until I talked to another volunteer, Sara. She said the kids ask this because if you aren't staying very long they know not to get too attached to you. These kids are used to people coming and going... I can't imagine the feelings they experience. It took a while for the kids to open up to me and trust me. Even after staying for a month, I can't say I got to know each and every child and their story. I can't imagine just going there for two weeks. The first week at church, the village kids wouldn't even talk to me. It takes time to earn peoples trust and to build relationships. That is why I want to go back to Kenya next summer for a few months. 

Some great quotes by Mother Teresa:

"Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go."

"Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead."

1 Corinthians 13:1-3:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."

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