Late September I went with a team to help with eye clinics in Kenya. I also wanted to check out the little orphanage that my church helps support. Half of my luggage was filled with clothes and supplies to bring to the little buggers.
We had seven days of clinics and saw between 150 – 200 people per day. Tired and exhausted had a whole new meaning after my first day. I worked the second station of the clinic with the autorefractor. I didn’t know what that was or what it did and it definitely took me a minute to figure out how to use it correctly. The autorefractor I used was a handheld machine that measured how light is changed as it enters a person’s eye and calculated refractive error. I would print off the report for the doctor and he would write a prescription for glasses. At the last station they were fitted for and left with a pair of glasses.
Good solid work, right? This was something that one could be proud of. This was something that would be life changing.
Well, I wasn’t feeling like a super hero.
I started a journal and only wrote in it for two days. The last sentence I wrote was, “Not sure if mission work is my thing.”.
Although the truth, it made me feel bad that these were my thoughts.
I had good people supporting me on this trip. I had people telling me it was going to be the most amazing experience. That I would be planning my next trip back before I even left. People told me they were excited to see me come back a new person.
Great expectations were haunting me.
While I knew the work I was doing at the eye clinics was needed and appreciated it didn’t feel like enough. We were working in villages where there were no flushing toilets. The kids had skin diseases from little bugs. People were living in tin shacks and cooked over an open flame. And for some, a pair of shoes was a luxury.
What bothered me was my inability to relate.
Because even if I completely failed here in the States and hit rock bottom, my life would still be better than what the villagers could ever imagine. I looked around and saw so many things that I thought needed to be improved in order to help and I was consumed with overwhelm.
Who was I to try and help?
At the start of the second leg of the trip the good doctor pulled me aside and asked how I was doing. He knew this was my first mission trip and I think he could sense my uneasiness. I told the truth and said it was difficult and I was feeling ineffective in the grand scheme of things.
I will never forget what he told me.
He said we must trust that God never makes mistakes and in that trust we understand people are where they are by His design. And it’s ok to not understand why.
He also said we are called to be the hands and feet of the Lord’s work but that it isn’t beneficial to help someone do something they can do for themselves.
I finished the clinic that day with a new perspective.
The next day was Sunday and we attended church service with the people from the village. And the message was on being content with what God has provided.
By the end of the trip I was definitely missing all the American men and the great republic of the United States. Although I’ll never know how much of an impact I had over in those small villages of Kenya, I do know my heart was changed. And I learned that sometimes the most loving thing you can do is just show up.
If you are interested in helping to support the Shikunga Children’s Home of Kenya please click here for more information.