Homecoming: My Journey Back to Kenya

Tomorrow we leave for Texas. Monday, we leave for Kenya. It is hard to express what emotions those words invoke in me. I almost feel a sense of disbelief.

I left Kenya 18 years ago one day after I graduated from high school. I had to fly straight from my boarding school to America. That last day in Kenya was a whirlwind. So many changes. So many hasty goodbyes. In one swoop—in just 24 hours—my whole world changed. Everything that I knew and loved slowly grew smaller and eventually vanished through a tiny airplane window.

Even though my heart said Kenya was home, my passport said otherwise. I was grown now, and when you grow up it is time to leave. I had not processed how lasting those quick goodbyes would be. Ever since leaving Kenya I’ve longed to go home one more time: to see my room, my house, my yard, my church, my city, my brother, my friends, and my world. But, alas, the time had come for me to go, and those missed goodbyes became wishes and dreams that one day I would return.

Now eighteen years have passed. In eighteen years my world has changed. I have now been away from Kenya for as many years as I lived there. My life has a new familiar. I learned to make new friends, to create new memories, and to love deeply. It took a while, but slowly America started to feel like home. Even though I gained a new normal, Kenya has left its footprint on me. I have always had a longing to return, to see how things have changed, to share with my family where I grew up, and allow them to see, smell, taste, and experience the world that formed me.

This dream seemed so impossible. There is a vast ocean separating me from my childhood home. Airplane tickets have always been too expensive, and the timing of life never seemed to line up. As the years passed the hope of returning had been overshadowed by the realities of life. I tried to convince myself that this dream would never come true. I would never make it back to Kenya. My family would never see where I grew up. I would not get to see those who I left behind again in this lifetime. I’d never truly say goodbye.

But my husband, Brandon, never gave up hope. Whenever I expressed my doubt, he would counter with confidence. At times this was extremely annoying to me. Our kids could tell you that Dad says, “always and never are not helpful words.”

A few years ago, Brandon started a plan to try to make this dream come true. He reached out to our friends and family and invited them to contribute to our Kenya fund. He started a savings account, and no matter what happened with our bills that money was set aside for Kenya. He refused to spend it any other way. But even after a few years of saving, we only had about third of what we had priced to take our family of five to Kenya. My hope continued to fade, but his stood strong. He believed with all his heart that God would give us this desire.

This February he began to look at tickets again because our window to visit Kenya was closing. We are transitioning to Brazil, and my parents who are now in their 40th year of missionary service are not guaranteed to be in Kenya for years to come. As he looked he saw that in August the ticket prices dropped lower than we had ever seen them before. The total price for five tickets to Kenya was the exact amount that we had saved. I was in shock as he pushed the final purchase button, and the tickets were booked.

Now, just a few days stand between me and Kenya. Tuesday night we will land in Nairobi, and on Wednesday we will be driven to Eldoret to my childhood home. Even though I know much has changed in the past 18 years, I am so thankful that my family will finally see the land I love, experience the foods and culture that shaped me, and meet the people who invested in me. We will worship with the church that baptized me, see the school I graduated from, and the kids will see where their grandparents go when they leave America for years at a time.

It is easy to live in an “always and never” mindset. But, our heavenly father is not bound by our doubts and fears. He is our always and forever. Today I sing praise to God for being so good to us. I thank him for the people that he has put in our lives that allowed this dream to become a reality. I am thankful for my husband, who always believed that all our family would one day step foot onto Kenyan soil.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And so, I rejoice! God has heard my prayers and has been gracious to me. He has granted me this desire of my heart, and for that I sing, “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good he’s so good to me. Mungu U mwema, Mungu U mwema, Mungu U mwema U mwema Kwangu.”