Langa Langa – Africa, Part One

The church at Langa-LangaWhen I first thought about starting a series reflecting on the time I have spent in Africa, I thought I would kick it off talking about how I decided to go, my first few days on my first trip, but after looking through some scrapbooks and old journals, I’ve decided to just jump right into the middle of a trip. First, let me apologize for the quality of these photos. I took this trip before I had a digital camera, and have no scanner to scan them either. So these are photos I took of the original photos with my digital camera.

My first trip to Africa took me to Kenya, where our group was based in a small village about 50 miles from Nairobi called Gil-Gil. We visited a lot of other small, outlying villages as well as few other, larger, towns. For me, the most memorable moment of the trip came as we journeyed to another small village called Langa-Langa.

Towards the end of our trip, we were sent out in teams of two to talk to and worship with various village churches. I was paired with a man from the church I didn’t know very well, Ron. I was quite worried about this particular part of the trip because I had never spoken to a large(ish) group of people, preached, or really talked in depth about why I believed what I did and what it personally meant to me. Plus, I’d never had to speak using an interpreter before! Even though I didn’t know Ron well, I was glad he was going because I knew he would be good at this particular aspect of our visit. As it turns out, talking through an interpreter was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and actually nicer than just having to talk on your own. I had long, justified pauses, where I could really think about what I wanted to say next (in fact, I should probably consider talking through an interpreter on a daily basis — I would think much more about what came out of my mouth, and Lord knows I often need to do that!).

Ron ended up sharing his testimony, and I decided to talk briefly about Psalm 18. I honestly can’t remember anything I said about it, but I expect I talked a little about what it meant to me. Psalm 18 has been one of my favorite Psalms since I first read it not long after I was saved. For me, it has really embodied what Christ means to me, and what He has saved me from.

And although these things helped me feel stronger about going on mission and about sharing my faith, they didn’t make me feel connected to the people of Kenya. And yet Langa-Langa single handedly gave me a heart for those people — one that I will never, ever forget. I know that a very small part of me will be in Langa-Langa forever. It just so happened the deacon’s wife was named Mary, just like me (Mary is to my right in the very last photo). Because of this, the church declared me to be her namesake. I’m not really sure what happened after this, due to translation problems mostly, but I’m pretty sure the couple “adopted” me. I was sooo touched that they wanted me to be a part of their lives in such a way, and that they would always be happy to see me and to have me stay with them, even though we didn’t speak the same language. Then, Mary challenged me, on behalf of the church to never forget them and to take Africa back to America.

The Langa-Langa church membersTheir love and acceptance of me touched me so profoundly I know it one of the primary reasons I was inspired to return to Africa a year later. Until my trip to Langa-Langa, I felt out of place, like my trip had been a mistake. Somehow, I felt like I just didn’t belong there. The welcome of this small church family made me realize that these people halfway around the world cared for me, and if they cared so much for me to want to make me a permanent part of their lives, should I care just as much about them? Shouldn’t I find a way to better understand them, to identify with them and become an even great part of their lives? What stood out me most though, was that they listened to me. I had, and still have not, experience what their lives are like, what kinds of hardships they endure, and yet they listened to me talk about how Jesus saved me and sustains me though the trouble and pain in my life. They listend and respected me when I had no idea what their lives were really like.

The women of Langa-Langa. I\'m the white girl in purple (duh), and Mary is to my right.Now, four years later, I feel like I have some small idea of what they live on a daily basis, and my respect for them has grown tremendously. I’d like those ladies would be proud of how I’ve brought Africa back to America with me, of how I have carried it in my heart. I wish I could tell them what they have done in my life. They have inspired me to return on a journey that would impact the lives of children, and make an even bigger and longer lasting impact on my heart. I wish they knew how they have changed me. I can only rest in the knowledge that one day, they will…

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