So You Want to be a Missionary?
After spending my entire summer at the Imara House in Nanyuki, Kenya, I can say with full confidence that it was the best two months of my life. This is something that I believe that everyone should try to do in their life at least once. That being said, A LOT goes into making it happen and you are probably asking yourself a million questions. I am only one man, but I think my experience has allowed me to try and encapsulate what goes into a mission trip.
In all honesty, the most difficult part of the whole journey is just getting there. Vaccinations, visas, passports, flights, and financial arrangements are enough to send even the sanest of people into a frenzy. My advice? You don’t have to do it alone, nor should you. I spent hours on the phone with people at Imara and they made the logistics of the process a near care-free process. Give yourself ample time to make arrangements, but Imara has all of the resources available to make what will surely be a life-changing experience a reality.
Being a younger college-kid, the financial side of things posed more of a challenge than it does for some people. However, with some saving, praying, and the generosity of some really special people in my life, I made it. We all have roots, and we all have support systems, and when it comes to God’s work: he has a plan for us all and by forces beyond our knowledge, will always help you if you ask.
Once you get on the ground, one can expect at least a few days of acclamation to what is truly a whole new world. Africa is a place that is very passionate, vibrant, and extreme. Everything is colorful and filled with energy so your eyes will have no problem finding something amazing to gaze on. For me, the hardest part was being in a country where although English is spoken, it is not the primary language. There were many conversations I was present for that I simply understood none of. The best way to calm myself down, as funny as it may be, was to simply think that if they were speaking in a language that I did not understand, it was not my business. Do not be alarmed however, everyone at Imara is fluent in English and they did an amazing job of always involving me and making me feel included in their lives.
My experience was also unique because of the duration of my trip. I was there for over two months compared to the usual two weeks. The beauty of mission work is that you can choose how long works best for you, and what term of stay you are most comfortable with. I do think however, that a longer stay at Imara will pay many dividends. Due to my extended stay, I was able to get to know the moms, kids, and staff on a more personal level. In two weeks, some of these more personal relationships can be more difficult to forge. Those at Imara know many things about my personal life, as I do theirs, because of the immense amount of time that we spent together. I was so fortunate to be able to stay for so long because it also allowed the girls to get comfortable with me, and really be themselves. Whether it be for two weeks, or two months, Imara will no doubt make an impact on your life that will transform you forever.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone that wants to take the leap and go to Kenya, it would be this: “Do not walk in with any expectations”. The reason for this, is that no matter what you expect, what you get is probably going to be so much more than anything you could have imagined. From the day I arrived, I did everything in my power to fully immerse myself in Kenya and its culture, and by giving myself away in a sense to what the experience and God had in store for me, my open attitude gave me the full experience. Take the taxi with the staff to work, try that new food, let the babies climb all over you, laugh with the staff, play soccer with the moms. Do your best to put yourself in their shoes and truly be one of them because if you do, they will change your life. I get emotional just thinking about the thousands of memories that I made this summer and every day that I have been home I only miss it more. Imara is a special place but that does not do it justice. You really should see it for yourself, and if there is even an ounce of you thinking about it, do it because life is too short and the beauty of Imara and God’s work is that it's never too late.