As I boarded Emirates Flight 222 from Dallas to Dubai, a million things were rushing through my mind. Worries as big as living in an utterly foreign culture for seventeen days and as small as wondering if I packed that second bottle of mosquito repellant dominated my sixteen-year-old brain. But prevailing over all other concerns was the difficulty of thriving in a place where the only other “mzungus,” or Americans, were people I barely knew. Dubai International Airport was the only part of the United Arab Emirates I set eyes on however, because our stay was merely long enough to catch another flight to Nairobi, Kenya. Even Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was not my destination. I was headed to a community perched atop the Nyakach Plateau in Western Kenya. It was on this plateau that I learned that people living on opposite sides of the globe, with utterly different cultures and languages, can be family.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
During the dawn of my junior year of high school, a unique opportunity presented itself to me. I was offered a spot in the Baylor University Medical Mission team journeying to Kenya after Baylor spring semester of 2012. After securing my superintendent’s permission to miss the last two weeks of my spring semester, my father and I began making preparations for our trip to Kenya. Clothes had to be bought, bug spray with a high enough concentration of deet had to be hunted down, but most of all relationships had to be built with our fellow team members. That last task, the relationships, was the task I felt that I had done the least on as I gazed out of the window of Flight 222. I was going to the other side of the world with only one person I truly knew.
Luggage and passports were lost as friendships and memories were gained over the course of the trip, and my worry of being the outsider on my team faded as I met people with real worries. People like Christopher who had most of the skin on the back of his leg gone, or Teresa whose weekly medicine required a family of seven working exclusively to keep her in supply. People like Monica, who had severe HIV whose very survival could only be surmised as the grace of God, and Berry, a three-year old that was on the verge of death with pneumonia. These people’s lives got saved by the work of our medical team, and that is something I had never felt before. Being responsible, albeit indirectly, for the care that saved peoples’ lives is a feeling like none other, and a feeling that changed me. The newest iPhone became insignificant when that money can send four orphans in Kenya to school for an entire year. A future career in medicine transformed from just a way to make a living to means of showing the love of Christ through my gifts.
Seventeen days came and went in the span of a heartbeat, and I found myself on an Emirates flight once again. Seventeen days, and yet everything had changed. I had to find a way to live again surrounded by the prosperity of the United States after I had seen entire families living in one hut made of mud. I had to reconcile my room filled with technology when the Nyakach Plateau got its first power lines a mere six months ago. But most of all, it was my duty to remember the people of the Nyakach.
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