GUEST POST by Jeffery Chandler:
This past weekend my family and I had the pleasure of having Barbara and Brie’s friend, Linda, stay with us for four nights. Linda is a 23 year old African from the small Kenyan village of Lemuru and is now in the U.S. indefinitely. Barbara and Brie first met Linda during their 2006 mission trip to Kenya and they became fast friends. Thanks to the internet they’ve been able to stay connected. Barbara got to visit Linda again during her June 2008 trip as well. Linda’s been in Texas for about six weeks living with her sponsor family in a small town north of Fort Worth. This was her first trip to the big city of San Antonio and we were bound and determined to show her some south Texas hospitality, meaning overwhelm her with love, food, activities, and attention.
Many of the things we were able to do with her were “firsts” for Linda. She got her first taste of San Antonio Tex-Mex food (she may have had some so-called Mexican food in Fort Worth but this is the real deal in my humble opinion of course); her first ride on a boat (the Riverwalk barge cruise); and her getting her first pair of short pants! We all wondered what her dad and mom, back in Lemuru, would say to that? Linda’s sponsor family in north Texas had orientated her well on many things American prior to her visit to south Texas but we were truly blessed to take her orientation to a whole other level.
Maybe the funniest moments with Linda started with our taking her to the top of the Hemis-fair tower in downtown San Antonio on Saturday morning. She was amazed to be, in her words, “on top of the world”. She was scared to death too of course, and the high winds that day didn’t help at all. At the bottom of the tower she got to experience her first IMAX/4D movie, “Skies over Texas”. This was a funny time as she (and us too) screamed at the special effects, especially when the rattlesnake tail crosses over your feet and legs and it feels so real.
On Monday morning we took Linda to Sea World (another first) and probably the most amazing thing I witnessed was Linda’s reaction to getting to touch a real, live dolphin at the feeding pool. We saw the sheer amazement in her face and the joy she experienced by being able to be so up close and personal with one of God’s most awesome creatures. Seeing that joy on her face was a WOW moment for me as well and pretty much brought tears to my eyes.
While at Sea World Linda got her first roller coaster rides and those were very memorable (and hilarious) moments for sure. During her first coaster ride, on the Steel Eel, we saw sheer terror on Linda’s face (and we have it captured on film, thanks to Sea World’s coaster camera) as we descended that first drop. At the end of the ride she could hardly walk and there were tears in her eyes. I believe they were tears of joy at the freedom she felt in being able to be here in the USA and riding her first coaster. Brie said that Linda screamed the entire ride (of course I couldn’t hear her screams because I too was screaming).
After that we ramped up the excitement another notch and took her to her second coaster ride, this time on The Great White. That ride proved to be even more terrifying for poor Linda. The Great White is one of those coasters where you sit in a harness with your feet dangling (there’s no floor) while the ride takes you upside down a couple of times, and sideways at high speeds. Needless to say, when the ride stopped Linda couldn’t move – she was frozen in terror. We had to tell her that she needed to get off so that those people waiting could get on and if she didn’t move the attendants would make her ride it again (at that thought she got up). Again she cried but with a smile. We literally had to help her walk down the ramp to exit. The Great White had turned her world upside down, literally (and my world too, I was one extremely dizzy 56 year old dude afterwards).
You might be asking, just how did Linda get the courage to ride these exciting and scary rides? In addition to Barbara and Brie’s urging of her, Linda has a sense of adventure as evidenced by her willingness to leave her tiny village and travel thru places like Eldoret and Nairobi in Kenya, on to London, and ultimately to Texas. Even though she traveled with American friends she was alone in her ethnicity and culture. She truly believes that God has a purpose for her here in the states, and we know that to be true. So even though she may have been absolutely terrified on the Steel Eel and The Great White coasters (so was I) she carried on like a real trooper in her bravery.
I cannot fathom what Linda thinks of our culture, our foods, our fast paced lifestyles, and, relatively speaking, our big homes. Her comments about our foods usually include, “very spicy”. When she talks about our lifestyles she says, “everyone is in such a hurry”. And she is just amazed at the sizes of our homes. It must be simply mind-boggling to be in Linda’s shoes and to see the U.S. culture thru her eyes. Hopefully it’s a mind-boggling thing in a good way. I can still hear Linda say over and over in her Queen’s English accent, “I can’t believe I’m really here in San Antonio with you, it’s really happening”.
Linda tried to teach Barbara, Brie, and me some of her tribal dances. I can honestly say that Barbara and Brie got it. It was hopeless for me. Whenever I tried to match their steps and rhythm Linda would break out laughing and it was over for me. That was the gist of my tribal dancing. Oh well. I suppose it proves that old saying that one cannot teach an old dog new tricks.
I can only imagine the things that Linda is sharing with her family and friends via the internet. We pray for Linda’s safe passage into this culture and we pray for God’s plans for her to come to fruition. I’m happy to have a new friend.