I'm doing something completely new and out of blue by sharing a guest post with all of you today. Someone very dear to me has such a brilliant talent and beautiful heart that I just can't help but share it with you.
Kelvin is a friend, brother, and partner in ministry in Kenya. His company, Amali Safaris, patiently arranges all my on-the-ground logistics when I bring visitors over to Kenya. Being the savviest of entrepreneurs, Kelvin also oversees business ventures that fund a US-based nonprofit called Freedom Global. He also... well, like every Kenyan I know, he does SO many things to serve, connect, provide, and continue climbing. And he leverages everything for God's Kingdom in the most relaxed and humble way. His ability to transcend cultural barriers is unmatched by any other Kenyan I've ever met. Whenever we're together, I always appreciate a deeper peek inside Kenyan culture and an honest take on how America is seen by other cultures.
Please enjoy this thoughtful and at times humorous piece from a voice you'll grow to love in just a few short paragraphs.
It’s been a year since I decided to join a gym.
The funny thing is that I used to ridicule people who go to the gym; until I started going. I realized that I am one of them. And sometimes (especially when we are doing sit-ups) I still don’t know why I go.
There’s a guy who comes to the gym that I go to. He’s one of those cool dudes. Carefree. Happy. He is one of those guys who makes you feel like your presence matters. Every time I am there, he religiously comes over and shouts, “Niaje Kevoooo!" and he always wants us to bump our fists together, and I just do it, because it makes me feel ‘like we are together, like we are a pack of wolves and that’s our thing when we meet with other wolves,’ or like it’s a cool thing everyone is doing out there and perhaps when I don’t do it he’ll think I am un-cool.
He’ll think I am an un-cool Kamba from Makueni who doesn’t know who Sauti Sol is.
So I can’t afford for him to think I am un-cool.
His name is George. Tall guy, big eyes and with wide jaws, broad shoulders. ish. He’s a really good looking chap. He is in the league of those guys who do Nivea adverts. But the thing about George is that he is always happy. Every day. He talks to everyone, including himself, when he stands in front of the tall mirrors on the walls of the gym.
I mentioned that sometimes I don't fully understand why I go to the gym: I feel like going to the gym for all the wrong reasons. I needed a space to think, somewhere to let my mind wander, an arena where I would let my thoughts wander endlessly and over think about trivial matters. I go to punish my physical temporal body and push it to the limits. I like to feel the pain as it surges across my muscles, to feel my heart beat as it forces the blood out, burdening the veins to supply to all inches of the body and to my silly brain.
So back to this guy: I was surprised the other day when I heard the instructor call him ‘doc’. That made me wonder if he is a real doctor. Like for real. I think he is too happy to be a doctor. Doctors are supposed to be aged, and careful, slow, dull eyes and oversized glasses that are always resting on the tips of their noses, forcing them to lower their heads to look at you without the glasses - which defeats the purpose.
Every time I see him, I think to myself, doctors aren’t supposed to be this fun. They are supposed to be dull, having seen life’s worse cases. Years ago when I took my brother to the hospital and laid him out on the table, the doctor who looked at him after carrying out several tests said, stared and my teary face and said,
"Hapa hakuna kitu. Huyu ameenda." ["He's not here. This one has gone."]
And that’s how he chose to announce the absence of life. Based on how cold and unflinching that doctor acted, I think by now they ought to have transferred him to work at the morgue.
Last year when I went to a city hospital to get treated the doctor there stared at my face when I explained how I was feeling and without even seemingly paying attention would bark out orders to me, without even waiting for me to tell him where it hurt.
"Turn around... Unbutton your shirt."
Doctors are supposed to have hearts that don’t feel anything and empty souls that have been taught not to connect to any emotion and posses a terrible handwriting.
That’s my perception of doctors.
But not this doctor. You can just tell when he isn’t around. It’s the same feeling you get when you have pancakes without the syrup. Or watch Kenyan news without Raila. Or drive an automatic car. Or better still, it's like America without Obama. You just know something is missing somewhere.
So I am still trying to figure out why I go. See sometimes I go to the gym with so many thoughts about Life, Love, and God. I love that our gym is on the third floor because for a second as you go up the flight of stairs it feels like you are leaving your problems behind, and getting closer to heaven.
The first thing that I do when I get there is stand in the corner window and look outside, observe the world and see people going about their daily business. At that point, I wonder about mankind a lot. It has since become ‘my spot’. At this height people appear smaller, cars appear like toys and it seems to be a different world altogether. You can barely hear any noises, it’s like watching a tv on mute. It’s like a beautiful, choreographed dance scene.
Since I am an 80’s kid, the song that comes into my mind is Bette Midler's' - from a distance;
/From a distance, I just cannot comprehend/
/What all this fighting is for/
/From a distance, there is harmony/
/And it echoes through the land/
/it’s the hope of hopes/
/It’s the loves of loves/
/it’s the song of every man/
/God is watching. From a distance/
I snap back into reality when I hear the instructor angrily yell at me ‘Kelvin! Back to position!!’
Walking back, I’m left thinking if this is the same view that God has on us. I wonder if he see’s us all individually and what we are going through. It makes me wonder whether he just sees us people running about like muted figures on a TV screen, or can he actually see through us; and what we are going through?
From a distance, everything appears calm, peaceful, in sync, but it's really not.
I wonder if God knows. I wonder if God is watching, if he listens, and if he hears.
I am quiet and thoughtful at the gym -Sometimes. I am chaotic and loud, Most times. Other times, sad and gloomy. But so is everyone else. I always stand at the very back of the room during the aerobics class so I can watch people, observe everything and try to make sense of it all. And while I see everyone groaning and sweating trying to push themselves to the limits, I’ve realized that the greatest struggle that everyone is going through is not even in the physical present activity but what the hearts and mind are going through. And its always hidden. Mine isn’t the only mind that is wandering. Everyone else is too.
But this doc guy is the king of consistency; happy all the time. I pause to think about that: Here is a man who is consistent with his happiness.
In a world that is so broken and detached from God, sometimes when that world throws stuff at you; it’s easy to wonder or doubt about God's presence in our lives. We wonder about God's consistent love for us, and we doubt about Gods constant grace when things fall apart. I stop to think that perhaps God in a way is like this doc guy. Like He is always there, and that he never changes, regardless of what we are going through. During class I always love to run back to the window to catch my breath. It’s almost rush hour and the town is in panic mode: everyone’s hurriedly going home, cars honking and all. The sun is setting and the birds are going home. The muted figures are now acting as if on fast forward.
Then I get a thought:
That this is a cruel world that we live in. And that it does get tough. And the reason for that is because man's sinful nature has separated him from God. And all these people, just trying to rush home, or work out, appear to be all composed and alright. But in the course of the day and in the course of their lives they have erred. They have been vexed. They have been tempted. Like sheep they have lost their way - But- not one of them have been lost. Because God knows every battle, every struggle, every weakness, and every difficult situation that his children are going through at all times.
And that gives me a hope.
Days when the burdens we carry chafe our shoulders and weigh us down; when the road seems weary and endless, the skies grey and threatening, when our lives have no music in them, our hearts so lonely and our souls have lost their courage. When we are trying so hard to listen to the instructor at the front but we know that the louder voice isn’t his; the greater challenges are within:
The God we serve knows, hears and feels what we are going through. He will soon flood our dark paths with light; because he hasn’t promised us a smooth sailing but he has promised us a safe landing. He will run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise.
May he be swift to increase faith in our wavering souls. And may he tune our hearts to braver music and quicken our spirits that we may be able to encourage other weary souls who journey with us on this hard road of life.
Even if it is just by sending an always happy doctor our way.
Please show Kelvin some love by liking, commenting, and sharing this post! And if you want to learn more about how Kelvin and I work together, shoot me an email at email@example.com and I'll fill you in!
Asante sana! [Thanks a bunch!]
And best of luck getting From a Distance out of your head today! You're welcome!