Last fall, friends and I ministered at a school in a rural village in western Kenya, a place where kids are wrapped in care and love so they can dream big and dream bold. The day before, some of us ran a 7K to help raise money for an agricultural initiative at the school. That morning at breakfast, our team talked about the power of community and what it means to be a neighbor. And there, under the trees as the sun blazed in glory above us, we taught what it means to be adopted by God. The children weren’t the only ones eager to learn; everyone on staff, from teachers to guards and livestock managers, wanted to sit and listen and share their thoughts.
My friend Mindy and I helped our class stitch together a book of scriptures – reminders of God’s protection, His healing power, His great love – and we talked about each promise. One by one, the kids and adults stood and proclaimed those promises. Prayers were spoken over everyone.
She and I looked at our phones, and then at each other. We had finished a bit early, so I turned to the class and said, “We have a little more time together, so are there any questions you’d like to ask either of us?” We smiled, expecting to be asked about our favorite colors or our favorite snack or what we loved the most about our families. A hand timidly raised, and the first question was asked.
“What is your favorite color?”
We responded, with me clumsily trying to explain how I really loved all colors but thought turquoise was quite nice. Heads cocked to the side at a word they had not yet learned in English.
“Do you know how, if we mix colors together, we get a fun new color? That’s turquoise. Blue and yellow make green. And green with more blue makes turquoise.” (apologies to my artist friends)
With one question under our belts, Mindy asked, “Anything else you’d like to know?”
“What do you like the most about Kenya?”
We laughed and reminisced about our week there. We talked about our mutual love of chapati and Stoney ginger sodas, and how we felt welcomed by everyone we met.
Another hand raised.
“What is the difference between God and Jesus?”
She and I looked at each other, and then talked about God’s overwhelming love for us – a love so strong that He would want to demonstrate it by putting on humanity and becoming a servant. He knew we struggled with trust, so He wanted us to see trust. He knew we struggled with faith, so He wanted us to see faithfulness. He knew we struggled with love, so He wanted us to see love in action. He knew we longed to be known, and in the Trinity, God revealed how intimately He does. (apologies to my theologian friends)
Joshua then raised his hand. I’ve known him for years, and fell in love with him the first time he flashed a smile that’s brighter than the Kenyan sun. He wants to be a pilot when he grows up, because he knows that pilots get to take people from place to place to care for other people. To him, a pilot is a miracle-worker.
The smile disappeared as he asked, “What do you think about the rulership of Trump? Why does he want to build tall walls to keep people away from your country?”
The air around us became so still. I whispered, “Oh wow, what do we say?” and we both prayed for the right words. Mindy responded first, about what she had learned about praying for those in authority. “That is our responsibility, to pray for all leaders in all countries. If we agree with them, or if we don’t agree with them, we are to pray for them.
“And we have to trust that God is sovereign, that He is ultimately in control of what is happening, that His promises are true, that His love is real.”
“Sometimes it is difficult to see things happening in our world and believe God is in control,” I said. “I know Kenya has had very corrupt leaders who make decisions that harm your country and its people. It is easy to become afraid, and it’s easy to think that things will never change.
“I have friends who voted for Donald Trump and believe his ideas are good ideas. And I have friends who believe he is an evil man. It was the same way with Barack Obama, and with George Bush. God doesn’t ask me to agree with our president or even like him. God asks me to pray for him. And God tells me to speak up for justice, to care for people, and to be kind. We don’t know if God, in His sovereignty, thinks Donald Trump is the right man for the job or if He believes we need to see what it’s like when we follow our ever-changing moods.”
“That’s why it is so important for us to pray,” Mindy added. “We pray for our leaders, we pray for our country, we pray to do what’s right.”
We then talked about the privilege of democracy, and how important it is to speak out with our votes and our voices. Joshua said that, in Kenya, the presidential term limit is five years. In the United States, it’s eight. I think that God, in His sovereignty, helped define those limits. He knew that, left to our own devices and those ever-changing moods, we’d likely grow tired or bored or impatient or angry or comfortable. He knew we’d put too much stock in those leaders and forget where true power is found.
It’s found in Him.
And it’s found in us.
I’m thinking about that conversation right now, and wondering how the kids in that village school in Kenya feel as they learn about disparaging things the leader of our country has said in regards to other countries. I wonder how my friends around the world feel as he lays claim to the word “America” when he doesn’t represent the whole of the Americas. I can’t help but ache for kids like Joshua, who want to make an impact in this world – a world that works better when we care for each other. I find myself praying daily that Donald Trump’s heart would be shattered and stitched back together in love – and that his often-harsh voice would be drowned out by others we have also entrusted to lead this place. I have to remember to pray first when folks talk about a growing economy as an indicator of the United States’ strength – and how that makes up for growing distrust in us as a friend to others – or when people from my country furrow their brows when a Kenyan child says they hope to be president one day like Obama (because a man of African descent raised in a single-parent home who becomes a leader remains a role-model of possibility to them). I have to remember to pray first for those in our country who say everything can be fixed with a simple political party switch.
I have to remember to pray, because our problem isn’t a political problem. It’s an “us” problem, as long as we divide ourselves by race or class or culture or heritage.
Honestly, our real problem isn’t even Donald Trump. No matter what, his power is limited. In a few years, he will be replaced by a new president – a person some of us will believe is God’s answer and some will believe is the devil’s advocate.
And I believe that, all the while, God will be saying to us, “Are you ready now to rise?”
For those of us in the United States, I believe God is waiting for us to join Him in the healing of our nation. I believe He is ready for us to demonstrate with our hearts and our hands that we believe all people are created in His image and His likeness.
For those of us who live in other countries around the world – in city centers and in remote villages – I believe He is asking the same.
I believe He is waiting for us to truly love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves – or perhaps even more. I believe He is ready for us to show mercy and love justice and walk humbly and simply be kind. I believe He is asking us if we truly believe in things like hope and redemption and healing – and by “believe,” He means “by how we live our lives.”
I believe He is wanting more from us than prayers, though He delights in hearing our voices – because real prayer doesn’t just move mountains, it moves people.
It should move us.
I believe God is waiting for us to give kids like Joshua wings to fly – kids who live down the road and the kids who live across borders and oceans. And we have the power to do it.
It’s found in Him.
And it’s found in us.
The words above are mine only, and do not reflect the views of any ministry or organization I serve.
But the love I have for some ministries that are doing great work for the vulnerable in our country and around the world is shared by a bunch of folks. If you’re looking for “heart and hands” stuff, these people will walk the road with you (and if you have ministries that love well, please let me know about them):
Preemptive Love Coalition – “We’re a coalition stretching across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond, working together to unmake violence and create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”
Orphan Outreach – “We glorify Jesus Christ by partnering with national ministries to provide spiritual, emotional, educational, and physical needs of orphans and vulnerable children.”
a21 – “We are a nonprofit organization fueled by radical hope that human beings everywhere will be rescued from bondage and completely restored. We are the abolitionists of the 21st century. We work with you to free slaves and disrupt the demand.”
Thistle Farms – “Our mission is to HEAL, EMPOWER, AND EMPLOY women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners. We believe that in the end, love is the most powerful force for change in the world.”