There’s probably no such thing as an average day on the Masa Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and this late June day was no exception. The day started cool and crisp as the big orange sun rose over the vast, rolling grasslands. Pink tinged the morning clouds and I had to zip up my jacket as we bumped along a dusty track in our open matatu. I was with a group of missionaries en route to work in the nearby village of Kijabe. We would spend the week pouring our hearts into serving the missionary doctors and precious children at CURE Hospital and Little Lambs Orphanage. This was the start of one of the most incredible times of my life.
Our team of 19 consisted of leaders and students from North Asheville Baptist Church in Asheville, NC. We had arrived in Kenya during the wee hours the morning before. Jet lag had gotten the best of us as we stumbled into the nearly deserted Nairobi airport. Our weariness melted away as we were greeted by the familiar face of Preston Ledoux. Preston was our hometown boy and a major contact in Kenya. Serving on the core team of Love Africa Missions, Preston was spending the summer working and ministering in Kijabe.
A long wait for our luggage proved fruitful as we discovered that most of it had safely made the long journey. Tim Brady, our student pastor, filled out paperwork to inventory our lost supplies that would be delivered to us later that week. Driving into the dark night we finally made it to a clean bed and cold shower at the Mayfield House outside of Nairobi. After a full hour and a half of sleep, the team was jolted awake by a loud clanging bell that signaled breakfast. Well, most of the team was awakened by the loud bell. Exhausted, my roommate Alex and I slept right through our wake up call. We grabbed a couple of warm bottled cokes on our way out the door. Thankfully Alex graciously shared her homemade “puppy chow” that her sister had made especially for the trip. A long drive through the remote and beautiful Rift Valley was an eye opening experience as we caught glimpses of dung huts interspersed in the breathtaking landscape. That first day was a blur of travel and reluctant naps as we jostled along in our ancient African matatu. We made it to camp late in the day, and after a warm meal we settled into our tents beside the Talek River to catch up on much needed sleep.
Now well rested, with the cool fresh air making me shiver, I felt like I was getting my first real look at Africa. It was simply amazing. I mean bigger than life amazing. As the sun came up, the African Plain came to life. I began to make out the shapes of Impalas that were beginning to stir. Acacia trees in the distance looked like they were drawn by a Disney artist. More than once we had to stop to let herds of zebra cross the dirt road in front of us. Giraffes snacked on the tops of exotic trees and prides of lions watched us closely. That day I saw God’s amazing creation pure and simple. Just as I thought the day couldn’t get any better Preston tapped our driver Joseph on the shoulder. He signaled for him to pull over and then grabbed his girlfriend Perla by the hand. Perla was a nurse working at CURE Hospital. Later in the week I would fall in love with her beautiful spirit as she served the children tirelessly from early morning until dark everyday. For now though, she looked surprised and beautiful as Preston led her out of the matatu. As Preston jumped out he looked back at me and said under his breath “take pictures”. They walked several feet from the jeep and stood against the African sunset. As I clicked away I couldn’t hear the words Preston said, but I could see complete joy on Perla’s face. And then, the perfect moment as Preston got down on one knee and asked Perla to be his wife. Throwing her arms around him, she said yes, and back in the matatu we all cheered!
After several minutes they came back to the jeep and there were hugs and laughter as we all congratulated them. Perla was absolutely glowing with joy, and Preston looked like he was about to burst with pride.
The rest of my time in Kenya brought lots of joy, compassion, and out right love for children that I had never met before. There was work. A lot of work that made exhausting physical demands. There were even more mental demands as I would strive to deal with children who were abandoned because of AIDS, displaced tribes that were the victims of genocide and political unrest, and poverty. Poverty like I’ve never seen. But for this moment I believe that God was letting us see a shining example of His love. As Perla and Preston pledged to love each other for the rest of their lives I was reminded of how perfect God’s love is for me. He looks at me with perfect love and wants to spend eternity with me. He has given His life for all the precious children that I would meet at the hospital, orphanages and IDP camp. He is my hope and my future. I am so honored that God allowed me to witness the special commitment between this special couple. It was the perfect beginning to a life changing experience. Congratulations Preston and Perla. It was wonderful serving with both of you in sweet Kenya.