Investing My Talents
This post is an excerpt from Dan King's new book, The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew-Warmer to Poverty-Fighter.
“I’m not qualified for this.”
That was the prevailing thought running through my mind as I settled into my room for the night in Thika, Kenya. I couldn’t be more excited to teach the next day, but somehow I couldn’t shake the feeling of being unworthy of teaching these beautiful people anything.
I saw the way they looked at me. Like I was something special. Maybe I was. I have knowledge that they don’t have. I have enough money not to worry about my next meal. Heck, I had enough money to fly half way around the world to be in a class with them.
But our presence gave them hope.
You could see it in the way they looked at us. They believed in us. They believed in me—that I had something to give them that would change their lives.
And having someone believe in me like that has the power to change my life.
This was most apparent to me in the eyes of Bishop Renison Mbogo of Embu, Kenya. Renison was subscribed to the email feed on my blog when I announced that I’d be coming to Thika. He sent me an email telling me how excited he was that I’d be coming to Kenya, and that he desired to meet me there.
Apparently I had a lot to learn about the cultural differences between our two worlds. It seems that me saying, “I would love to meet you in person, please come to our classes that we’ll be teaching,” meant that I was now financially responsible for him during his visit.
One morning at breakfast time, he and his associate had a humble breakfast of toast and tea at the table next to our team. When everyone got up to get ready to go, I asked him if he was okay (financially) to cover the cost of his breakfast. Looking me dead in the eye he said to me, “No, I am not okay.” So I bought his breakfast, and made sure that they had enough to eat before we left for our classes.
Embu, where Renison lived, is approximately an hour and a half drive under normal American travel circumstances. But for a poor preacher in Kenya it’s about a six- to eight-hour trek, hitching rides where you can.
Part of me, that is a BIG part of me, was quite impressed that someone would go through such trouble to come hear me teach.
It was only about $20-30 or so out of my pocket, and I was happy to help cover some of his cost for lodging and meals while he was in town.
I could tell that Renison was hungry. He wanted desperately to pull himself and his congregation out of the poverty that weighed heavily on them every day of their lives. And I felt responsible to help him in any way that I could. But I felt limited in what I could do.
That’s a feeling I wrestled with throughout the trip.
I wanted to fix everyone’s problems, but these problems are so big. One man on one trip couldn’t possibly make that much of an impact. I tried to remember that this trip was about planting seeds and preparing the soil, not fixing everything. If the people were going to break the cycle, then they’d have to do it themselves. I could only help make sure that they had the best start possible.
I think of Renison often. I can still see the look in his eyes. I can still hear him saying, “No, I am not okay” like he just said it to me.
It weighed heavily on me as I taught my sessions. This wasn’t one of those trips that would make me feel good about myself. There are real people out there who are “not okay,” and they are looking to the rest of us to give them a hand.
They’re not interested in handouts. You don’t hitch hike for seven hours because a man you’ve never met might buy you a meal. No. Renison was hungry for something much deeper.
No pressure, Dan.