Apologies is this is Africa / GAFCON overload for you. But, I was asked to write up my thoughts on my experience at GAFCON for the Ministry Wives Newsletter (be checking your letterboxes ladies), and almost at the same time, I was asked to share those thoughts at the Ladies' Guild Christmas Luncheon at our church. Here is the first part of what I wrote / said. If you've already read this, you might like to skip over to part two...
As you may know, I was nervous about going to Nairobi for GAFCON. Exhaustingly nervous. Stomach in knots nervous. Up at night, fretful, worried, nervous. I made moves to cancel my trip. Twice. I thought, I should stay at home with the kids. If anything were to happen… It was those ellipses that got me. What came after the dot dot dot was an invitation for my imagination to dream up any number of worst-case scenarios. It accepted that invitation.
People’s reactions to the news that I was going didn’t help. If my imagination wasn’t enough to plague me, I became obsessed by watching people’s eyebrows when I told them I was going to Nairobi. More often than not, the eyebrows of the person listening would shoot up, well past the eyebrow raise suitable for Europe, or America. Past Scandinavia or even Antarctica, in my opinion. Far past casual interest and into the territory of latent terror, a type of eyebrow raise that I myself would have reserved only for Egypt or Syria now, or say, Chechnya in the late 90s.
People came up to me more than I could count and told me what I needed to remember. That God is sovereign. That he is trustworthy. But it is so hard to actually know he’s sovereign and trust him when I’m the one who’s really in charge. I am the one organizing the transport and the travel doctor, the kids’ schedules and their suitcases. Which would mean that I am the one who ensures my safety and everyone else’s, right? It says so on my to-do list, just here. Be safe. Tick. Make everyone else safe. Tick. I was exhausted even before leaving, trying to ensure that I didn’t let down my guard, or fail on my watch.
We were told that Chaos would meet us as soon as we arrived. Nairobi still reeled from the airport burning down earlier in the year, and the four-day siege in Westgate Mall in September. It’s Africa, don’t expect anything to run smoothly or on time, people said, again and again. It’s funny how there is an almost instinctual need to create order out of chaos, and expecting chaos seems to be the most logical way of creating order out of it. As if when we swing round, point, and say, “I knew you were there!” to Chaos before he can get to us, it will steal all his thunder and he’ll just slink away disappointed, hands in his pocket with his thumbs sticking out, kicking rocks with the toe of his shoe.
I braced myself on the aeroplane’s descent into Nairobi. I ran through the list of don’ts that I was given. Don’t walk alone. Don’t go out at night. Don’t get out of the car. Don’t roll the window down. Don’t walk on the side of the road. Don’t. Don’t. Oh, and I almost forgot. Don’t. Our descent was turbulent, the aircraft registering my unease. The plane descended into Nairobi jerkily, haphazardly, fretfully, anxiously. Just like me.
It’ll smooth out any minute, I kept thinking. Any second now and the wings will level off, and I’ll see that horizon line. It’ll be fine… I’ll be fine. But it wasn’t. And I wasn’t. Our descent continued, the turbulence worsened. It was as if some almighty hand shook the plane in the sky, and shook me along with it. And after more long-haul flights than I care to count, for the first time in my life, I was horribly, violently ill. But in the middle of it all, with every bump and jolt, a child’s voice laughed and sang out, in praise, in thanks, ‘Allelujah! Allelujah! Allelujah!’
We had arrived.