Kenya is one of the most missionary-populated countries in all of Africa. There are few places in Kenya where you won’t find a missionary. Sometimes I questions why I am here knowing that there is already so much work going on here but then I am reminded that God indeed led me here for a purpose.
Somehow we have made the missionary life look glamorous. We drive around in our big range rovers or land rovers (there is quite the debate over which car is better), we live in some of the nicest houses in town, we eat our comfort food like pizza and ice cream, we only shop at the local supermarkets, we have washing machines and water coolers, we let our kids go to the best schools in the country, we fly instead of taking the bus, we get pedicures and manicures, and we never do anything for ourselves as we have maids and guards to do everything for us.
I won’t lie; I am guilty of living this lifestyle too. Some of the nicest places I have ever lived in are here in Kenya. I enjoy not having to wash my own clothes or clean my own house. I like being able to get an ice cream cone for less than $1. My life is good here.
I have been having some interesting conversations with some Kenyan friends of mine over the past few days about missionaries. Unfortunately, they have some pretty negative views about the way we live here. We often come and live comfortably while staying away from the places that need our resources and us most. Many of us tend to interact with each other more than the Kenyans. You find us at the local pizza joint rather than in the slums eating maize and beans. We come and think that we are making huge sacrifices to be here. I tried explaining to my friends how much we actually do sacrifice to come here but I did not win that argument. My friend said to me, “you come to preach the good news to the poor but I never see any missionary in the ghetto where the poorest of the poor live.” He made a good point. There are many Kenyans who are missionaries too who are supported by churches in the west. They often live better lives than top business people here in Kenya.
It really made me think of what kind of missionary I want to be. It made me think of the people I want to reach. If I want to reach these people, I need to become like them and take on their way of life. Why should I pretend like I am reaching them when in actuality I am just coming close but not too close lest I be uncomfortable? But part of me doesn’t want to give up my comfy and privileged life. I don’t want to live in the slums. And what about my safety? Or my health? I cannot drink the water here or I could get sick.
So I am challenged. What sort of missionary should I be? More than that, what kind of missionary does God want me to be? What kind of life does He want me to live in order to reach those who need to be reached? If I am His hands and His feet, whom does He want me to touch and where does He want me to walk?
After numerous conversations, my friend said to me, “Nikole, just become a real missionary…”