Today is known as Juneteenth and a day of celebration in our country for the remembrance of the very last state of our union to declare the abolition of slavery. It is also a day when we have to realize that setting all the slaves free and making them equal citizens are two very different things. While there has been some progress made, recent events into our country have left us with a stark reminder that there is disparity that cannot be ignored.
How any person ever thought that it was okay to land a boat on a foreign shore and grab the residents of another country and haul them across the ocean in chains to live as property is a disgrace and a sin. We have only to look at the words of the song Amazing Grace, penned by a former slave trader who became a priest in the Anglican Church and wrote of the forgiveness only God could give him for what he participated in and profited from to see that God turned his heart around and he was humbled by the forgiveness and mercy given to him.
All of this has led to a legacy of continued sin in many because as we know, sin defiles many. And I don’t have the answers or the direction to give you to be a change agent as I am also listening and learning and growing.
But I do have a story that keeps coming to my mind and it is a reminder to me of an attitude that is important for me to take as I navigate the tension and hurt and discomfort that has been present but largely unnoticed or ignored until recent events has brought it to the attention of the entire world.
Several years ago I made my second trip to Kenya with a ministry team from our church. The first trip I made was as part of a vision team, the second was a medical trip that grew out of our desire to support building projects and better health care in the area of the Maasai outside Nairobi.
I have no medical training, and basically faint at the sight of blood so what I had to offer I was unsure of, but I knew I was called to go and go I went. It turns out I do have a skill that could be utilized and it involved the ability to facilitate communication. I worked with a translator, but I could ask the medical question in a way he could understand and then interpret the answers back to the medical staff in a way that gave them then information they needed. Because Maasai love a good story too and often their answers were filled with details that were not pertinent to diagnosis. I might be part Maasai in my soul.
For this trip we did traveling clinics and the news of our coming was spread far and wide so that when we would arrive early in the day to set up, the lines were already formed under the hot sun. We would work steadily until the onset of sun down and then we would have to simply stop where we were and begin the packing up process for the trek back to our home base. The time between daylight and night is about the only fast thing that happens in that part of the world. As the sun sinks to the horizon it is there and then it is gone and because we had medical supplies, it was important to hit the road and head home in a timely manner.
The village leaders would shut the doors of the clinic and we would be packing suitcases and loading vans, but the line of mama’s and children and babies and the elderly who had sat all day under the scorching sun was seemingly unchanged in length though we had worn ourselves thin tending one after another. It was heart wrenching and one of the most helpless feelings to see them as they lingered…or began gathering up their things to begin the long walk through the night to where the next day’s clinic would be held. I said then and I say it now, it was like putting a Spider Man bandage on a gushing artery. We could have stayed for days and not been finished.
So it was the last day of our clinics and I knew there was no where for these unseen and untreated hopefuls to go tomorrow that I realized I needed to visit the cho ….which if you have never been to Kenya is kind of like an outhouse…only not as fancy.
I realized I would have to walk past that long, disappointed line of people and so in my weary state I thought I would take my lab coat off so that I wouldn’t be noticeable.
I am sharing that thought with you in all of its ridiculousness.
As I slipped the coat off and started towards the steps leading off the facility, that Holy Spirit voice that speaks so frankly to me said quietly…oh yes, Laura…now you blend. Without the lab coat everyone will think you are part of the tribe.
Suddenly my blonde hair and fair skin, my long skirt and Talbot’s t-shirt…my comfortable shoendals that protected my feet from the hot rocky ground all screamed who I am and all that I have.
I made my way past the women and men and children of this land who didn’t know I couldn’t have helped them even if I had been given a fully stocked hospital and every medical supply known to man. I couldn’t have healed them of the worms that eat them up, or the HIV that came from an unclean knife or a partner who had also partnered elsewhere. I couldn’t make their backs better after years of carrying water for miles every day and I couldn’t remove the cataracts that were slowly stealing their vision.
I walked under their gaze realizing how much I have and how much I have taken for granted.
I walked with my head down and a wondering in me that has never since my return gone away.
I don’t deserve the ease of life that I have been given.
Oh sure. We work hard and our parents worked hard and we do our best to tend our blessings and bless others with them, but why are others not given these things too?
Sure I have stuff that I have to deal with and I have heartaches and losses. I have been wrongfully judged and made fun of and I have been passed over. But I can understand that there are forces working against others that have not worked against me.
I know that when others see me they might only see the advantages I have been given and the resources that are mine. Whether I really do have all that is assumed is mine, or not, I have to acknowledge that by appearance I do and I can make a choice to either try and explain or defend myself or I can drop down before the God who made us all and offer everything I have back to Him and ask Him to use it all for His Kingdom.
Right now in my daily walking about the town and settings of my life, I am being made very aware of the color of my skin. I am conscious of much anger and racial tension that I had been unaware of. I am learning more about the uglier parts of the country that I call home and I realize that just because everything seemed to be going well for us all, it really wasn’t and like that walk to the cho…I am looking deep into the resources and talents I have been given and finding very little that will bring about change.
So I bow my blonde, fair skinned head down instead of rising up to try and defend my innocence or proclaim my take on the situation.
I am humbled before God.
He has two great commandments according to Jesus and these are for me to follow. First is to love Him with all my heart and mind and soul and strength and then He says the second is like it; to love others as myself.
If you are finding yourself feeling uncomfortable these days, perhaps like me this is a place where God is bringing us to refine us some more. Perhaps the chafing is the further removal of selfish thoughts and attitudes that have no place in a Kingdom whose doors are open to all who would enter in.
May God bless you to be thankful for who you are and how He made you – whoever you are and however He made you…and may you give all that you are to all that He is for His glory and for the blessing of others around you <3