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A Fuller Picture of The Divine in Kenya

“If you get the chance, Derek, you need to go to Africa.” The encouragement came from my senior pastor who had just returned from Tanzania herself. I’ll admit, it was something I had felt God nudging me toward for over a year, although I didn’t have a clear vision for why exactly. Well, little did I know I was soon to find out.

Not even 24 hours later, I was talking to my seminary friend Nathan and he said, “Hey, do you want to go to Kenya with me in February and check out ZOE?” I kid you not. This is the way God works. I went in to my colleague the next day and told her, “You’re not even going to believe this.” So the trip was set, I was on my way to Kenya ready to see what God wanted to reveal.

While in Kenya I was blown away by ZOE. The model of empowerment. The stories of the children. The dreams for a future with hope. The supportive staff. The business savvy of teenagers. The visible transformation from year one to graduation.

But what stood out to me most was the deep faith of the people I encountered. The faith of the orphans in spite of such loss and heartache. Their faith when it would have been so easy to give up or wallow in despair. Their faith in the face of adversity, oppression, betrayal, and abuse.

Their faith manifested itself with such profound joy. The faith I saw embodied was tangible and communal. It spilled forth from them in ardent and passionate worship. It was clearly evident in their determined eyes, and their contagious smiles. It was unmistakable in the confident way they spoke and carried themselves. It was this faith that I needed to see and learn from.

Well into my time in Kenya, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s book Run with the Horses when this passage jumped off the page at me: “Reaching out is an act of wholeness, not only for others but for us: ‘It takes a whole world to understand a whole Christ.’ Crossing the boundaries and exploring the horizons demonstrates God’s universal love, but it also develops our own deepest health. For we cannot be whole enclosed in our own habits, even if they are pious habits. We cannot grow to maturity confined within our own coterie, even if it is a very orthodox coterie. We cannot grow an oak tree in a barrel; it needs acres of earth under it and oceans of sky above it. Neither can we grow a human being in a narrow sect, a ghettoized religion. The larger the world we live in, the larger our lives develop in response” (pp. 185-186).

God called me to Africa so that I could see a fuller picture of The Divine in and around me. In the Zoe Empowers children I saw Christ; a Christ much bigger and more marvelous than my impoverished prior understanding. “It takes a whole world to understand a whole Christ.” I need that Christ. We all need that Christ.

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Derek Rogers is the pastor of the Oswego Campus of Wheatland Salem Church, based in Naperville, IL. He traveled to Kenya on a Zoe Empowers Trip in February 2018.

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