Hope’s Promise 2017 Connection Trip to Kenya, May 25-June 5
I invite them: come. Come, stand on the brink of devastation, human suffering as you have never seen before. Come, listen to these words:
“Give yourself to the hungry, satisfy the desire of the afflicted.” Isaiah 58:10
See their faces, look into their eyes, feel their pain. Fast the fast of God, Isaiah 58.
And they come. They slip and slide through its muddy paths, slithering in last night’s rain. They hold its hands, duck under and into yawning doors. With eyes open wide, they see. They truly see. Their hearts tremble like the strings of a harp in its terrible notes. They give themselves over, asking, “Lord where are you?”
They give themselves over to loving with His heart, allowing their own to break.
And over the course of a week, He answers, “I am here, I am here.”
We stand there, at the end of the week, looking out over it. Streets we walked, hands we touched.
We duck down an uneven dark staircase, back into its bowels: a small windowless cemented room, two heavy concrete levels hang over our heads. We settle into plastic chairs: Sunday worship beckons.
Pastor Karau speaks, a call to worship: the eagle flies alone, soars high over storms, higher and higher, effortlessly gliding while other birds hide.
Like the eagle, these have not hidden their faces from unrelenting wind. They opened their eyes and dared to look.
Pastor Karau invites us to greatness, to fly with patience and persistence, burn bridges behind, leave lower air currents empty.
Let us burn the fast of religiosity, let us enter the fast of the hungry, the afflicted. Let us soar on these winds to higher ground. Let us be eagles, locking our wings in fixed position. Let us never forget.
All around us, they appear, shining faces emerging from dark shacks just minutes before, slipping into plastic chairs around us.
They checked their grief and anxiety at the door, left behind like so many rags. We are worshiping: faces uplifted, arms raised. Come, they invite us now: immerse yourself in unparalleled joy. It sifts into the room like glitter into piles of invisible dunes. All around us golden sand, shimmering. Steve, Pastor Karau’s son, worships on stage. He is wiping tears from his eyes as I wipe wetness from mine. Let these tears be kept in the same bottle, I whisper to the Lord.
A break in the worship, and they are organizing to send food to a starving sister church. They speak in Swahili. I understand just enough to glimpse what they are doing. This isn’t about us, the visitors. They will carry out this mission because it is their answer to Isaiah 58. Gabriel, a church elder, beseeches those who left the house with no food to give to others more desperate, a sister church afflicted by drought. The women argue about what they will send, they advocate for quality, balanced nutrition.
The worship leader fingers the keyboard on stage. Notes roll over us, a time of whispered personal prayer. And then, someone is quietly humming. Another next to her softly sings. A barely perceptible spark leaps to others nearby. It is ready fuel. More and more, joining in, the words are lighting this sand like a brilliant sunset, on fire. A growing swell like the early waves of a hurricane reaching tentatively to shore, deeper waters roiling behind. I can’t see the waves crashing over those around me: my eyes are closed. My face is lifted. I feel the heat. My arms lift high, reaching out with unified cry. Stronger and insistent all around me, “How we love your name!”
Our voices roar into a shout of insatiable longing, pure unfiltered yearning. We shatter into the fast of Isaiah 58; and in the hollow of its wake, there remains no distraction. It is God alone we want. And we know He is there, invisible to human eye but fully embraced by our hungry spirits. I long for God. I cry with my brothers and sisters from two continents, lifting my hands higher. We are filling.
In full surrender we shout out, “King of Kings! We love your name! We love the fragrance of your holy name!
“You’re the beautiful One!”
Like billows washing over us, a mighty chorus: no longer singing, but shouting! Insisting! There is no other option but to love God. The waves are crashing over my head. I am kneeling to receive them, “Glory to the Righteous One.”
The Promise Keeper lifts His gentle hands tenderly over our heads. Thick and golden. the promise settles over our heads:
“Then you will call and the Lord will answer you. You will cry and He will answer.” Isaiah 58:9
“Here am I. Here am I,” He whispers as the lyrics tenderly ebb. “Here am I.”
And we will never be the same. I will never be the same.