Reflections on Relationships | Kenya with a Middle Schooler

For the next several weeks our Monday blogs will be reflections on some of the most important relationships in our lives: our children, grandchildren, spouses, parents, colleagues, spiritual leaders, and friends.

A few weeks ago my daughter and I traveled together to Kenya. Hannah is 12 years old, and this was her first significant international trip (she’d been to Mexico a few times). It was so fun how seriously she took her preparation for the trip and the maturity she displayed in Africa. We had four preparation meetings, where we studied the Bible to give a biblical and theological framework for our trip; we learned about Kenyan culture, history and customs; we prayed, and we learned all about the ministry partnership between our foundation and By Grace Children’s Home and School. 

In another post, I’ll share more about By Grace and our partnership, but in this post, I want to consider what we gained together in sharing an experience like this as father and daughter. I remember when we first set out and even arrived in Africa, I had anxiety because I wasn’t sure how we’d fare together for ten days on this trip. We have never had this kind of focused time without others in the family around. Not only that, but there was no one her age on the trip; it was just the two of us. She did not even realize that she hadn’t seen another American until the end of the trip on the safari, we spent our time with Kenyans, and they were so amazing to us. The college students who graduated from ByGrace and now live with Stephen and Rosemary Mbogo at the university hosted us every day. Hannah was more responsible than I’d ever seen her. She engaged in conversations with adults, she dressed appropriately for every occasion (church, hiking, safari, ministry with kids), she prayed, she journaled – it was like her opportunity to sort of step into some grownup shoes. And what I loved about it was her total embrace of the faith throughout the trip. She got a lot of time with more mature Christian college students, most of whom had experienced some of the horrors of life and found real redemption in Christ. They loved her, embraced her, and shared their lives with her. She made friendships that will continue; I pray.

The depth of the bond that was created between the two of us is hard to know at this point. What I do know is that we shared this experience together and we hold it in our memories, which keeps it alive in a sense. I hold the memory of her hiking the Ngong Hills with Elvis (one of the students who reached out to her), and taking a picture of a lion, and visiting the elephant orphanage with Peris and Chris and James, and getting kissed by a giraffe. She will forever remember this experience, and she will remember it as the trip her dad took her on when she was 12. What I hope and pray more than anything else is that this investment was an investment in helping her to know that she is deeply loved, a child of God and that God’s world is both super big and very small, and that love is the way to the best life possible. Now it’s time to nurture what she gained there. 


A few images from Kenya


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