Hippo Heavy Breathing and Celestial Navigation

Last night I crept up to the fence in the dark and waited on the very edge of the property. It's a two foot high fence with two stands of electrified wire and it was all that was between me and the hippos that came out of the lake onto the shore, fifty feet away.

I had been told the Hippos wouldn’t cross the fence line but as they got closer, it didn’t feel that way. I was completely on my own, the closest tents about 200 meters away, hidden in the darkness. It was absolutely exhilarating. They came towards me, snorting and snuffling, trampling bushes and branches beneath them. I was thrilled at what I was seeing and hearing. They were so close that I rang Helen and put them on speakerphone, so that she could hear them breathing. Hippos aren’t very conversational over an IPhone, but they sure make an impression.

It’s been wonderful to rest up here at Lake Naivasha with no bike issues, no meetings, just me, a lake, some good food and a good book. I hadn’t realized how much I needed it until I woke up after sleeping over ten hours. This trip is a wonderful experience but it’s also a tiring one.

Today has given me a chance to relax and reflect and work out the next day. I’ve been doing a lot of navigating by using coordinates and over breakfast I had the map and GPS out, trying to figure out where to go next, where I’ll stay tomorrow night. It’s actually been one of the joys, having a few fixed waypoints but an overall freedom to go were I want, when I want.

When I got back to the Banda I opened my devotional and these were the first words:

“You are on the path of my choosing. There is no randomness about your life. Here and now provide the coordinates of your daily life. Most people let their moments slip through their fingers half lived. They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time or place…. They forget their creator, who walks with them only in the present….you are freed to let my spirit direct your steps, enabling you to walk along the path of peace.”

Well, guess that’s tomorrow sorted, even though I don't know where I’ll be yet!

This passage brought home to me that through this journey, I have been able to really live, to not let those moments slip through my fingers, especially when it comes to the beauty of creation I have witnessed and the people I have met. I have had the chance to put everything aside and to see, listen and at least partly, to understand.

Richard is one of those people. I’m sitting here in a small village building that offers Internet and I’ve just been chatting with him. I noticed he had a World Vision T shirt on and we talked about the HIV orphans project he volunteers on. He is committed to helping them in any way he can. I told him about what I do and the partnerships I’ve experienced with World Vision Canada, which have been excellent examples of synergy and cooperation. Richard asked for my contact details and as many have done, enquired about a role with Wellspring.

It’s amazing how many people I have met that want my email or contact details; gas station attendants, hotel employees, ex teachers, people in shops and marketplaces. Many of them have asked if I can help them, if they can “make an arrangement” with me. I’ve been very honest about what I can and can’t do and I’ve made a judgement call on what contact info to leave with every single person. With the exception of the few sketchy characters I’ve met who I was on my guard with, I’ve tried to treat them all with dignity and respect and to hear every one of them.

I know for many people this would be quite trying but I’ve personally found it very meaningful. People like Richard are doing all they can to make a difference, both in their own lives and those around them. It would surprise many people in the West how much Africans do to help each other, as we are brainwashed into thinking that almost everyone is corrupt and that only Western aid and big NGO’s can save the day. It’s so far from the truth. The predominant culture here is collective, not the individualistic one we experience and people look out for one another, showing kindness and regard in a way that would be an example to many of us back home.

Richard and his compatriots also know that they have the potential for so much more than their current circumstances allow them. They aren’t giving up, they are determined to try and navigate a way to a better future, to change their coordinates. It’s why I believe so much in good development. Bad development is where we as Westerners do all the planning and the work, provide the solutions and feel good about ourselves, often leaving a mess behind us. Good development on the other hand can help people from all backgrounds to achieve their potential by giving them the tools they need to bring transformation for themselves. It builds on their existing assets, rather than trying to meet the needs that we perceive through our Western worldview.

Education is a key component of that and that’s why I work for Wellspring. I was thinking today about the 82,000 children in the schools we work in, a number that will soon increase to over 100,000 with the new partnerships we are starting. I will never meet the vast majority of them but who knows what the individuals in that mass number will achieve, now that they are being given a chance at a quality values based education that could change their lives. Is one of them the next Nelson Mandela, the next Bill Gates, the next Elion Musk, the next Mother Theresa? How many of them will be better mothers and fathers, committed global citizens, passionate social activists.

We are all trying to change our coordinates, all of us striving for a better future. As long as we act justly, it’s good and honourable that we do that. Yet over all of this is the Creator who has plans we can never know about, who knows our exact location and is plotting the course for us. We just have to stop, listen and follow his directions. As we do that, He calls us to be “ambassadors of reconciliation” to do our part in bringing justice and truth to wherever it is our coordinates currently place us, just as Richard is doing in his project and just as so many others I have met are striving to do.

Our job is simply to do the best we can with what we’ve got and to trust in Him, as we walk the path of peace that He leads us on. So I guess I’ll leave the directions up to Him. In a sense, it's a new way of looking at celestial navigation, so we’ll work out where we pause tomorrow when we get there.


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