Wednesday, August 3, 2016

called by my name

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name…Isaiah 43:1

We walked out of the airport in Nairobi, pushing our carts piled with bags and treasuring the feel of cool, fresh air on our skin after hours in an airplane. Our Kenyan friends stood by the curb to greet us with warm, eager hugs. Mercy was among those waiting for us. She is sixty years old and wears her decades advocating for young girls across Kenya in a deep, dark scar on the right side of her jaw and in eyes that bear both kindness and an unknowable depth. My friend who leads this trip calls Mercy “mom,” and the more I know Mercy, the more I understand how true this name is. She is one who labors, bears, nurtures, releases.
Mercy’s voice is a melody, so that even her most piercing questions carry within them the comfort of a light blanket. After our hugs, she asked about our travel, about the drone and video equipment one of our members carried in his bags, about our day-long drive to the rural area the next day, where we would spend a week of our time and do the bulk of our programming. I don’t remember now what I said to her about the activities I’d been planning for the youth, but I must have conveyed some of my anxiety about how my new ideas would take shape over the next few days. “You are Betsy!” she responded. “It will be wonderful.” And then she moved on to the next person, wanting to hear more about our plans.
I hadn’t moved on. I stood still and let her words sink in. it was as if, in calling out my name as reason enough for our programming to succeed, Mercy summoned something yet to be realized - but which she saw a glimpse of. What was so moving to me is that she doesn't know me that well. Empirically, she had no way of knowing whether I really had what it takes. She also had no way of knowing how much I had struggled leading up to this trip. How much I self-doubt I had wrestled against. How deeply I’d felt that I didn’t have what it would take to pull off the things God was putting on my heart. There was too much I wasn’t familiar with, and too many ways in which I’ve known myself to fail or give in to fear in the past.
It was as if, in saying my name, Mercy knew it to hold what is most true. She called me Betsy as one who is able to do good things, who is able to grow, one who is filled by the Spirit. One who is known and becoming known by her and by this country of people I love.

(the words are coming slowly and a bit rough. more to come, i hope... photo: girls with whom i learned more about the meaning of being one who is called by name, Endonyolasho Primary School, 2016)

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