This summer, our church was able to experience a sort of “missions trip in reverse.” We raised some money in order to allow two pastors from the Turkana region of Kenya to spend several weeks in Los Angeles. Krissy and I had the opportunity to spend several afternoons and evenings with Joshua and Moses and it was a really incredible experience for us. We try to be fairly aware of world events, but reading books and the news about global issues can only teach us so much and truly can’t compare to having friendships with people like Joshua and Moses, who have spent their entire lives immersed in a very different culture.
It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by ‘social justice’ issues in a place like Turkana – the poverty, the effect of HIV/AIDS on the population, the orphans, etc. But, spending time with Joshua and Moses gave me a bigger perspective on life in a non-industrialized part of the world. If you look beyond the issues that most often come to mind, I realized how blessed this community is in ways that we (in the West) are severely lacking. While we may have cell phones and medicine and computers, they have rich community and deep relationships.
Spending time with Joshua and Moses helped me to understand the ways that our culture in the west (and particularly in LA) is impoverished. In order to share the gospel in Turkana, Joshua and Moses said they must first be able to meet the physical needs of those in their community. And I think it’s the same here, only the impoverishment we suffer from is not from a lack of material goods. Instead, we live in a culture that for too often suffers from a relational and communal depravity. We surround ourselves with our things and our stuff to the extent that we don’t leave room for people. When asked about his impressions of L.A. after leaving to return to Kenya, Joshua said “everyone here…is so busy.” So busy that we don’t have time for anyone other than ourselves.
So, it was really good for us to spend a few weeks with our new friends. Our church will be continuing to partner with several churches and organizations in Turkana in the hopes that we might be able to help each other overcome our respective poverty. One of the projects that was started, called Unembraced, hopes to provide the resources needed for a sustainable method of caring for the region’s orphans – rather than have a centralized orphanage where children are cared for outside of a family system, the children will be brought into families through an adoption process.
My friend Don created a website with some information on the work that is being done to care for the orphans in the region. Our friend Joshua will also be offering updates from Kenya via a blog (Joshua has access to a solar panel which provides energy for occasional use of a telephone and computer). Check it out!