I love my friend, and Really Blog Manager, Carla Foote, for many reasons. At the top of the list is how Carla teaches me about life as she shares her own learning.
Knowing More Deeply
By Carla Foote
When I got through immigration and customs at the Nairobi airport, I met up with others from my group arriving from different locations, and made my way outside where people held up signs. I was happy to see a driver holding a placard for our group. After three flights, and a nine hour time difference, I settled into the car to let the driver take us to the conference center. Then I realized the driver was getting into the "wrong" side of the car. Duh. Kenya had been a British colony (which I knew), thus they had kept that driving style, which hadn't even occurred to me. Just one more tiny bit of information that made the reality of Kenya different from knowing about Kenya.
Before I went to Kenya as a trainer for a Christian nonprofit that equips magazine publishers, I prepared the training content I would present. I also read all the pre-conference information, studied about the country, read a novel based in Kenya, and kept up my reading of news about Kenya and other African countries (we had participants from a number of countries). I even had the opportunity to visit with friends who live in neighboring Uganda just a week before my trip. Acquiring knowledge has always been important to me - I read and listen widely, always trying to expand my base of information and knowledge.
From my preparation, I knew that as we became acquainted during the conference, it was important to not refer to Africa in general, but to recognize that each person came from specific countries. Kenyans, Ugandans, Nigerians ... Just like people from North America consider themselves Canadian, American or Mexican, not North Americans. (OK - it's a little off that citizens of the USA have taken the term American from the whole continent, but I won't go into that.)
I knew about Kenya before I went. But I didn't really know Kenya. And I didn't know any Kenyans.
After sixteen days in Kenya, I still don't really know Kenya. But now when I think of Kenya, I think of people I met and stories I heard. I know real people and real situations, not just information or facts.
I think of Maggie, an editor of a magazine focused on high school students. I think of the rhythm of her days - homeschooling her three children, working on magazine articles, planning training conferences for Christian teachers. She is living out the vision that she and her husband share for equipping the next generation of Christ-followers in Kenya. I know that as part of their magazine cycle, they take several days to fast and pray over each issue, to make sure they have heard what God wants them to share with students. After a number of days together, I don't fully know Maggie, but she is more than a name on a list now - she is a person, a sister in Christ, a colleague and new friend.
I think of Esther and Florence, each editors committed to learning and growing in their areas of expertise and as followers of Jesus. Names on a list before I met them, now real people I hold in my memory.
I think of William, working as a guide in the tourism industry. (My husband and I took a holiday after the conference.) William works a good job, but is separated from his family for extended periods of time due to his work. William was just a name on our itinerary before I met him, now, after spending a week together, he's a real person - a dad and husband.
One reflection of my time in Kenya is some insight into the relational aspect of our beings. Knowing about someone isn't really knowing. God created us for relationship. To know and be known. Knowing about isn't enough to satisfy our souls - not in terms of relationship with other people or with God. I will still be someone who collects knowledge, because that is my bent, but I have a deeper realization that knowing about isn't fully knowing.
I still don't presume to know Kenya in my short time there, but I do have the beginnings of relationships with a few Kenyans. Real people. Image-bearers of God. Who came in the form of a man - to our homeland - so we could know and be known.
Carla Foote is a freelance editor and writer through Fine Print Editorial. She serves on the board and is a trainer for Magazine Training International, a Christian nonprofit equipping publishers around the world. Carla is also the blog manager for the Really blog. She lives with her husband in Denver and enjoys long walks and gardening. She marveled seeing poinsettias blooming in Kenya! Here she is (left) pictured with some of her new friends.