You see, I thought I was going to Kenya to use my gifts as an entrepreneur, my knowledge of start-ups... I thought I was going because I have helped establish economic empowerment programs like this before.... I thought I was going because I know a lot about social businesses, because I am strong in this area, because I have a unique and valuable career history leading a company that is similar to the one we were trying to create. I thought I was going to help lead...
I was wrong!
After the second day on the ground in Kenya I cried my self to sleep. I sobbed silently into my pillow with a huge ache in my heart.
I had flown across the globe to help these women & it seemed like everything I was doing was causing friction. All of my economic empowerment suggestions seemed to be unhelpful. All of my entrepreneurial wisdom seemed to be poorly timed. All of my social business skills seemed to make things worse... Wasn't this why God chose me to go on this trip? Wasn't it BECAUSE I had this valuable & unique knowledge that I was here?
"What the heck, why did I even go on this trip??"
My mind was swirling with thoughts of failure, pain, and powerlessness.
" God, why did you bring me here? Why ME? I'm obviously the wrong person for this and now I've wasted all this time away from home, all of this passion & vision, all of this momentum AND I"M NOT EVEN HELPING ANYONE."
I was getting to the end of myself.
Such sweet and heart-broken tears I cried. Until finally I collapsed into the sadness...
" God please just use me... any part of me... OR ALL OF ME... just use me. Don't let this time be a waste! Don't let this sacrifice be for nothing. Whatever you want of me I will do it,"
Has God ever let you get to the end of yourself? Has he ever let you get to the end of your expectations so he could give you something better than you imagined?
The next day I woke up with open hands. I was going to do whatever needed to be done. Not just the social business stuff.... the quiet stuff, the behind the scenes stuff, the small stuff.
I was all hyped up on serving the Lord in whatever way He called. And then I was asked...
"Chels, can you take pictures of the women? We need some good photos of the 6 gals in the program, can you do that for us?"
My gut twisted and I thought to myself "maybe I spoke too soon God! Photography is NOT my thing.. I suck at it! Like for real I am not good at it! And I don't like it! And if I am being honest, I want to be in front of the camera! I know how being the trip photographer goes.... as soon as I step behind the lens I wont' get back out! I'll be stuck capturing the hard work of others and I won't get to do any of the cool things! I'll do anything, just not this maybe!?"
My heart said " NOOOOO!!!"
But my mouth miraculously said " Sure! Yea, I can do that!"
For the next few hours as I prepared to take the portraits of these women I wrestled in my head.
"God if you wanted pictures why didn't you send my brother Nick! He's a professional photographer! Or Mo, he's a pro photog too! Or literally ANY of the other women I know who enjoy it as a hobby even! WHY ME!? I don't even like it! I'm not that good at it! I am going to take horrible photos and all of this will be wasted!"
And you wanta know what happened?
I took the pictures and they turned out great! The staff in Kenya loved them, the staff in the US loved them, & I helped do something they really needed!
It wasn't what I expected but it was just as important.
IN FACT my favorite part of the trip came from my obedience to God in this!
On our last day with the women I was able to print the photos I took of them and hand them out. For some of the women it was the first time they had been given a printed picture of themselves. This simple act was so profound!
They felt valued. They felt loved. They felt special!!!
And isn't that EXACTLY what empowerment really is?
I was trying so hard to do it my way.... and I was missing it! But when I surrendered to God's way I saw favor and blessing abound!
I wish I could say that I walked in peace the entire time & totally trusted God with everything but that would be a flat out lie. I wrestled with my role the entire time I was there.
Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing trip! I had a wonderful time with my team and the women we served in Kenya. But just because it was good doesn't mean it was easy.
It had some VERY hard moments. Unglamorous, humbling moments... where I served out of obedience not delight.
But praise God I served nonetheless. He used me in spite of ME.
Only in hindsight am I able to see that God didn't want to use my strengths.
He wanted my weakness. Because in my weakness is He made strongest.
In my dimmest gifts, His glory is seen brightest!
If you have a funeral for YOUR expectations, God will give you a resurrection better than you could imagine.
I didn't need to know why I was in Kenya, I simply needed to trust that God had me there for His reasons and THAT was enough.
And thats what happened in Kenya.