It was indeed a mission. I went to Kenya with a group of people to visit a lay missionary in Nairobi to learn more about her missionary work in 2011. Prior to our visit, we all needed to attend a year’s programme to learn about the work of the disciples including St. Paul. The priest was very knowledgeable. He focused on not only the work that the disciples did, but also how the disciples handled conflicts and what strategies they used to spread the good news without causing too much disruption or discontentment in the local communities. It was hard work. I can definitely relate to that especially now that I had been to Cambodia and I wasn’t even a missionary there. I was just a volunteer teacher.
Anyway, the lay missionary we were about to visit had been in Kenya for seven years. Wait, really? Seven years? Did I get it right? Let me check. Gosh! It was! Hats off to her. Before our visit, she prepared for everything for us including arranging accommodation, meals, sightseeing in the city, additional tours to Masai Mara and Nakuru National Parks while working as a lay missionary and doing her Master’s thesis. That was sooooo kind of her. We got the itinerary, took with us some clothes for donation and off we went.
We met her at a centre in Nairobi where she lived. After we settled at the same centre, she took us out to familiarize ourselves with the neighbourhood while she explained her work and daily life to us. Most of the people in Kenya walk, so we followed this practice. She told us, the girls working in the office usually wore sport shoes to work and when they arrived at the office, they changed their shoes to the high heeled ones. I think that applies in many other countries too. It’s so hard to be a woman.
The lay missionary worked in different churches so she took us to all the churches that she often went to and of course a bit of sightseeing in the city too.
Did we really experience the life of the lay missionary? I think it was just the tip of an iceberg especially on these first few days. Mind you, we were still getting to know the place just like what she did when she first came. We had sharing sessions almost every night to recap what we did that day and how we felt. On the first few days, I saw the interaction between the lay missionary and the locals working in the church and the kids. The kids, especially, respected her. The locals seemed to appreciate her efforts too. They seemed to work quite harmoniously. Likewise, the lay missionary also respected the locals. I think that was why she took us to the museum, cultural village, etc. to learn about the culture of the country. But after I came back from Cambodia being a volunteer, I have to say, being a lay missionary is hard work and tough. It’s true that I once wrote it was like working in another country but on the other hand, you have to bear in mind that you are also a missionary. People see you as a role model. You need to have very high EQ even though you can get very frustrated sometimes. As for me, being a volunteer in Cambodia was different. I didn’t have that ‘missionary’ hat to wear. One less burden. But still, I was a foreigner. They’d probably think, ‘oh, foreign people are like this. All the people from that part of the world are like this.’ It’s really hard to please everybody. Looking back now on how this lay missionary handled all the things by herself alone and being so far away from home, the only thing I can say is, I am in awe.
On the following day, we’d go to Masai Mara. Stay tuned.
5 – 7 August 2011
P.S. It was my second time to visit lay missionaries. The first time was to Thailand. You can find that blog here.
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