inhabiting the kingdom of God: our return to Kenya

Originally published Tuesday, 09 July 2019.

We never thought we would return to Kenya. Back to the school of Achungo, where six hundred orphans in two schools are nurtured by teachers and administrators who love them and worship God. But we had seen Jesus there, felt Him walking with us on our trip there two years ago. And when Oliver and Abby, the two youngest of our family, said that their impossible prayers were to go back to Rodi Kopany and spend another week at the school with children living halfway around the world–children who are loved and known and point us to the face of God–Justin and I sought God’s wisdom and felt His whisper: Yes, I have more for your children, more for you, here. It is time to go. And His words felt both crazy and good at the same time.

We would go.

Camp family photo in Kenya. On Safari and mission trip.

The first two days of the trip, we, and the small team we joined on this adventure, safaried on the Maasai Mara. Again, for the second time, God’s landscape of beauty astounded me–His love was all around–in colors, in sunlight, in shadows, in trees, in birds that flew and animals that jumped and thundered and prowled. The Maasai Mara helped prepare me for the love of God we would experience at the school. 

Menlo Church mission trip to Achungo School in Kenya on Maasai Mara safari.

For on these lush desert plains in Africa, with their wide sweeps of blue sky, green-leaved trees, and golden fields, God’s love and creativity overwhelm. The black-striped zebras, funny warthogs, awkward hyenas, noble elephants, burly hippos, elegant cheetahs, svelte giraffes, and dancing topis all living together in a mysterious and majestic place of wildness and beauty. The shape of acacia trees, the quietness of the landscape when the safari vans stopped and we parked, in the middle of the vastness, hearing only the call of birds in the branches, the burping of hippos in the mud, and the rumble of elephants as they pulled branches from the dirt. God’s glory all around. We were in the middle of what was, surely, a miracle.

Elephants in the Maasai Mara, Kenya.

Lions on the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

Giraffe on Maasai Mara in Kenya.

And there was more to come. The next day we arrived at the school.

The Achungo Educational Center is the dream of Kenyan Michael Nyangi, an orphan himself who wanted to build a school for children, like him, who had no place to go and no means to get an education. People who visit Achungo are welcomed into an environment that is more than one of learning academics. It is a place where visitors become family and learn, firsthand, how inhabiting God’s glory requires, first, the inhabiting of God’s love. 

Group of children at Achungo school in Kenya.

This love, which occurs in the heart, not just in the head, is freedom. It is kindness. It is abandonment of duty and requirements and expectations. It is running like the child you are, playing hide and seek and giggling with glee, knowing that you will be found. It is standing in front of a classroom of kids and imagining snow falling around, in the Kenyan summer sun, and bending low to build a stack of snowballs we throw at each other, dodging and running as we pick them up from the pile and throw them one after another. It is working together, palm touching palm, to push and mold the bottom of a snowman and roll the torso, and then the smaller head, up on top and cheering at a job well done. It is holding tiny hands and letting them lead. It is smiling so much your face aches. It is knowing there is no difference between you and the child with no home, no parents, no clothes, no food looking for a place to sleep, a meal to eat, a family to claim as your own. It is letting God father you, grab your hand, laugh with you, dance with you, jump up and down and say, over and over, I love you, I love you, I love you.

Jennifer J. Camp surrounded by students in Achungo School in Kenya.

Sometimes we have to leave home to find our way back to God’s heart. Routines can insulate us from God’s playfulness. Work and responsibilities, worries and demands, make us forget we are children. We are cared for. We are delighted in. The family to whom we belong is more than an idea. It is the beating of our hearts. It the inheritance we are made to claim. 

Colorful clothes hanging out on the line in Kenya.

It is miracle–this invitation to remember who we really are. And all worth it, every messy bit of it, as we risk in our ache for true connection. The family of God is something both so easily forgotten and so easily discovered when we do one thing: let God synch our heart with our mind. It is here, when we let all other things go, that we live fully present in His kingdom. Let us say yes to God inhabiting us fully. Let us remember we are, above all things, His child.

Read about our first trip to Achungo here.

When have you let yourself be a child with God? What happened? How did it affect your heart?

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