We had just picked up the mail from the post office and were overjoyed with the fat package from our main supporting church in Kansas in the stack with the usual bills. We eagerly opened it and found a stack of letters from a 3rd grade Sunday School class and a cover letter from the teacher, explaining they were learning about missions and had chosen us as their missionary to write to. The children were encouraged to ask us questions about life in Africa and on the mission field. We knew we were in for some great entertainment!

We gathered with our 3 kids, our youngest roughly about the age of these Sunday school children and read the letters out loud. We knew this would provide great evening entertainment because people back ‘home’ are generally vastly uninformed about Africa, and children being naturally uninhibited, can ask the most honest and also outrageous questions. There were the usual we often heard on furloughs (we still use the outdated term as opposed to the now preferred home assignment. But wait, Kenya is my home…or is it the U.S.? That’s another blog I wrote some time back) – questions such as “Do you live in a mud hut?”; “What kind of food do you eat?”; “Have you seen lions up close?”; “Can people ride zebras?”; “Do owners bring their dogs to church?” Wait a minute…bring dogs to church? We all laughed out loud as we imagined this kid begging his parents to allow him to bring his dog to church and the parents flatly refusing as this was inappropriate. So, perhaps he thought to bring his case to a ‘higher authority’…let’s ask the missionary! That reminds me of a dog that did literally come to church with his owners…and also of a goat that wandered into church one Sunday…but those are another story, perhaps Animals I’ve Met in Church. But I digress…

Furloughs could be a bit trying sometimes, especially for our kids. We all were always peppered with questions that would cause the inward eyeball roll (you don’t dare actually do the eyeball roll), and as I’ve already pointed out, children are uninhibited in their questions, therefore our own children got the brunt of the inquisitions. They, therefore, took to inventing outlandish stories with which they would regale their curious listeners, their eyes getting bigger by the minute. Chip and I found out later that we owned a pet lion; that we did indeed live in a mud hut, that we had a dog that did back flips off a diving board into pools (that contribution was Amanda’s, as she preferred the more outlandish stories). I hate to hear what they may have told the poor kids what we ate! Our kids would come home from Sunday school giggling uproariously about the naivete of their classmates and we would have yet another talk about how it is not nice to lead these little people on in such fantasies, then poke fun of them behind their backs because they believed these stories.

Naivete, of course, goes both ways. We have heard from plenty of Kenyans stories of their own gullibility about life and practices in the West and the sometimes hilarious and other times uncomfortable occasions when they have come face to face with their naivete and become wiser. We all have had times when we have had to face our own ignorance of other cultures, customs, and taboos. I think the key is, are we judging others by our own standards, or are we open to learning? The learning position is a humble position to be in. It says “I do not know…I do not understand…Will you teach me?” I think God values humility very much. He treasured it so much that in order to bring reconciliation between Himself and His fallen creation (human beings), the creator and sustainer of the universe was willing to humble Himself to become a man in order to bring about that reconciliation. That really gets to me.

What about us? Are we willing to be humble? Are we willing to learn from others who come from another culture and who practice other customs? I hope to grow in this area of humility in order to be more like the One who treasures it vastly. And by the way, for those who are interested…as a general rule, dogs do not accompany their owners to church here in Kenya!

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