Guest blog and photography by World Concern Staffer- and my dear friend- Kelly Ranck. To support Kelly and the work World Concern is doing in Africa, please click here!
An aunt of mine quoted Abraham Heschel in one of her recent letters:
“Just to be is a blessing.”
She could not have been more timely.
I’ll admit it, first half of March I was a bit anxious. I was ready to be back in the field, meeting beneficiaries, learning about our projects, and taking tons of photos. I was ready to be ‘working’ again. And then God, pleasantly, reminded me that I can always be working. I was reminded of the importance of being present.
Three years ago I participated in a semester study program in Mukono, Uganda. I spent five months studying at a Ugandan university, living in the dorms, staying with Ugandan families, and traveling around the country. Though this semester completely rocked my world, the overwhelming lesson was the value of being present.
As an alien to the culture and language, the semester consisted of many moments where I was unable to communicate with my colleagues, my host families, or my friends. I had to learn to just be. And, most importantly, I had to learn that merely being present with others in their lives is just as valuable as actively contributing to the conversation.
I learned that doing is not always better than being.
(Because I pride myself on my ability to be proactive and multi-task, this was no easy lesson.)
This past weekend I was able to travel back to Uganda (on a 12-hour long overnight bus) to stay with my host family for the Easter holidays. The reunion was sweet.
Neither of my Ugandan host parents speak a lick of English, thus a lot of our time together is spent just being. Sometimes we point and laugh, we cook, we walk, we milk the cows, we visit our neighbors, we sip tea, we watch the news on their fuzzy black and white television, but mostly—we just sit. “Just to be is a blessing.”
One of my most treasured moments during the weekend (besides being nominated as the honorary family member to slaughter a turkey and a chicken. Sorry y’all…), happened on my final night in Mukono. It was 11pm (we still hadn’t taken dinner) and Jaja (Grandma) was sitting on the couch watching television. I plopped down next to her and for a good hour we sat there holding hands while watching the screen in silence. No words were necessary. I knew that it meant a lot to her that I would just sit, and it meant so much to me to hold her hand. (I adore this woman.)
As anxious as I find myself to get to the field and see our beneficiaries, I am reminded to stop, look, and listen (no reference to ‘Safety Town’). Being present while I am in Nairobi is equally as important as working in the field.
In fact, God is not just ‘in the field.’
He is in my quiet office. In my simple, sunlit bedroom. On my dusty, sweaty walk to the market. In my daily 10am chai break.
And when I choose to be present, I choose to be His—to be used for His purpose in every moment.
-Kelly Ranck You can follow Kelly's journey as a World Concern Communications Liason (bridging the gaps between people at home and the people of Kenya, Chad, South Sudan and Somalia) at her blog: http://kelly.worldconcern.org/
@kellyinkenya (personal World Concern account) @wcinafrica (World Concern Africa account)