I am intimately familiar with the loneliness of being the “new kid.” Moving to Kenya was somewhere between my 13th and 16th move depending on how you count. I know what it is like to feel left out and on the outside, to wonder if you fit in and if people like you.
In Nairobi many people are far from home. Even some of my Kenyan friends are very far from their families. I knew how lonely I was at points since moving here and figured I couldn’t be the only one. In February, I felt like I had a lot of friends to go out and have fun with but not a lot of friends that I was really sharing life with on a deep level. I didn’t have many people that I was regularly sharing my deep struggles and joy with. I realized I could either pout about it, wait for other people to initiate deeper conversations with me, and probably continue to feel lonely and unknown OR I could start asking better questions and sparking the kinds of deep conversations I wanted to be having. Having people over for dinner creates a space for genuine life sharing. It is difficult to have deep conversations over the loud music of the bars where the international residents of Nairobi spend a lot of time.
When people come to my home on Tuesdays I hope that they feel welcome and loved, that they feel comfortable to be themselves without fear of judgment, that they eat their fill but that their hearts are also full when they leave. I hope that they feel at peace, like they can rest and take a break from a stressful workweek. I hope they feel at home.
This is what I hope it’s like to come over to my house. This is the type of community I want to invest my time in. I don’t know how well I’m doing with it, but it’s what I am working toward. I do know that I have received so much from the people who come to dinner. There have been many weeks that I have been so happy after dinner, my heart has been so full, that I have a hard time getting to sleep. During difficult weeks having friends over lifts my spirits. For example, the day that I accidentally locked myself in the bathroom, everyone was so patient with the fact that dinner wasn’t ready yet when they arrived. They listened to me talk about my hard day, gave me great hugs, and we laughed at how absurd life in Kenya can be. I am so thankful for these people and the love they show me. I often feel I am receiving far more from these dinners than I am giving.
It is a step of faith and vulnerability for me to continue to invite people into my life and my home week after week. One of the things that I have struggled with deeply in the past and that still surfaces from time to time is wondering if people actually want to be my friends, if they actually like me. Too often, this fear has caused me to close myself off to people. But as I continue to extend invitations and as people continue to show up week after week, my fear lessens. As I focus outward to loving my friends here well, I think of myself and my insecurities less. Moving to Nairobi has grown me in many ways. I have been learning more and more about how to walk in freedom from the fear of what others think of me. I am learning more about my identity in Christ and who God made me to be. It’s this freedom that allows me to extend invitations and to love without holding back.
My vision for Tuesdays…
I want people to share:
~ real life – both highs and lows
~ delicious food
~ great conversations
I want people to feel:
~ at peace
I want to commit myself to:
~ use what I have to serve others
~ make others feel like they have a place to belong
~ cook really good food
~ create community