It was the fourth night in four days that we had guests in our home. Our children literally beg to have guests, and I love being part of God’s work by practicing hospitality. But it was a little much to have so many guests so many nights in a row. On top of the guests and keeping our living room tidy, I was packing…we were leaving for furlough in three short weeks.
On this particular night, I sat down to dinner with the family and felt exhaustion taking over. It was the first time I had really sat down all day, and I was tired. After dinner, a dozen students were coming over for cookies and chai, and I still had a family to feed, a kitchen to clear, and two kids to get to bed before they arrived.
Fast-forward an hour and I am reading to the kids, who are bathed, brushed, and ready for bed. I hear some of the students of our Kenyan Bible college filing into the living room, and I rush through bedtime prayers and point the kids toward their rooms. The children did not even want to greet the students tonight, unusual for my kids who love guests so much. But even they were ‘guested-out’ this night. So I tucked them in, quickly greeted the students already seated, and excused myself to the kitchen to carry out the chai and cookies.
The sugar bowl was low, so instead of getting out a large spoon to fill it, I begin to pour sugar from the canister into the bowl. Haste made waste—sugar came out in an avalanche, and I found myself standing in a snowy mountain of sweetness. Sugar under the microwave, sugar all over the counter, sugar on the floor. And this was the time of day the sugar ants invade my kitchen! I walked away from the sugar.
The soup from dinner was still out. I grabbed a plastic container and began to pour the soup from the pot into the container. There must have been an invisible hole in the bottom of the pot, because the soup was dribbling onto the counter, the floor, and into the silverware drawer. I sighed heavily, finished pouring what was left, and put the soup into the fridge. I grabbed the sugar bowl and plate of cookies to leave my mess behind and join our guests.
My husband walked in right then. He began to whisper, “Can you come out now, please?”
I whispered right back, furiously, “I’M COMING! I’VE BEEN TRYING TO COME, BUT I JUST SPILLED THE SUGAR ON THE FLOOR. THEN I SPILLED THE SOUP ON THE FLOOR AND IN THE SILVERWARE DRAWER. I’M COMING. I’M BRINGING THE COOKIES AND I’M COMING! DON’T WORRY, I’M COMING. I’M GOING TO COME OUT AND SIT DOWN WITH YOU. I’M COMING!”
He turned and walked out ahead of me, tiptoeing away from my frustration. I put on a pleasant look, delivered the cookies and sugar to the table, greeted the rest of the students who had come in my absence, and sat down.
As the students went around the circle giving us words of thanks and appreciation for our two years at the college, I forgot about the mess in the kitchen. I even forgot about my complete exhaustion. Instead, I was sobered. Sobered by the words that they “wish they could turn us into Africans and give us land so we would always stay.” Sobered with the thought that what my husband and I were doing here was making a difference. Sobered with the thought that we were where God wanted us, where God was using us, where God was teaching us to obey him. Sobered with the thought that this may be where God wanted us for some time yet. Sobered with the thought that, after another two years here, God may ask us to obey by spending more time in Africa, far from our families. Sobered with the thought that I knew I could not but obey.
If there is one thing I have learned in Kenya, it is about obedience. Not that I always do obey, or that it is getting easier to obey, but I have learned what obedience really means. It means being far from family. It means dealing with messes in a house with no dishwasher and no Dust Buster. It means putting my feet where my faith is, especially as my kids are watching me teach them about obedience. It means putting aside what I think is best (in this case, sleep) and sitting down to hear what God has to say through twelve East-African young people who want to spend their lives leading the Church. And it means God will give me the courage to obey, and the strength to live my life out in obedience.
It ended up being a good night. And my husband forgave me and cleaned up the sugar while I cleaned up the soup.