After a few days in Nairobi, on a friend's recommendation, we decided to move on to a guesthouse near the base of the mount to rest up before the big hike. It was cheap, thus meeting the only criterion we had for our lodging decisions. When we heard that the guesthouse was owned by a nearby orphanage, we didn't bat an eye; for us, it was just a place to sleep.
We were taking tea the morning we were supposed to leave for the guesthouse, when a yellow truck filled with teenagers pulled up at the front gate, honking. In keeping with the orphanage's extravagant hospitality, they had sent their only vehicle on an eight-hour journey to bring us back to the guesthouse.
We climbed in the back, wary but grateful to save money on a hired car. During the drive, the teenagers vacillated between shy silence and a barrage of questions about life in the United States. My own questions rose to the surface as well. "Are they all orphans?" I whispered to Lara as we tumbled along the winding roads.
When we arrived, we were taken straight to the orphanage and told that the elders had invited us to lunch, and would then show us to the guesthouse. Famished, we gladly took our seats at a formal lunch in a room off the side of the orphanage's church.
It was in the middle of lunch that life as I knew it changed. In the hour since we had arrived at the children's home, I had felt the stirring of something I couldn't explain. I asked to use the restroom.
Looking into the bathroom mirror, I asked God to come into my life and heart again, as I had done all those years before. Then I went further, asking him a question that I already knew needed an answer: If you put this orphanage in our road for a reason, will you open my eyes so I can see the way forward? It was an experience I had never had before and have never had since—not even in my first, adolescent attempt to invite Jesus into my life. In that still exchange in a Kenyan bathroom, all the power of God's presence entered my heart, telling me to trust.
As soon as I closed the bathroom door behind me, things seemed to happen all at once.
Within the hour, I met Sammy, a boy whom I would ask my parents to adopt, whom I would end up entwining my life with and bringing to the States three years later.
An hour after that, I began to believe that God was telling me to stay. I decided that, instead of climbing Mount Kenya with Lara, I would stay at the orphanage to fast on the decision to live there for a longer period of time. My fast would end when I finished reading through the Bible (I'm a fast reader, I reasoned absurdly, and I figured I could skim parts of the Old Testament).
I started fasting Friday night and spent most of Saturday reading, looking for an answer that was already revealing itself, from a God I had just invited into my heart for the second time. On Sunday, I attended church with the children of the orphanage, the elders, and the local community.
I fainted sometime thereafter.
I'm a bad faster, it turns out, but by that time I was convinced that God was clear on what my next steps were to be. I would stay at the orphanage. Lara, still on the mountain, remained in the dark.
When she returned several days later, I told her about the strange series of events. We hatched a plan: After a trip home to see our families for the holidays, we would come back to live the next year in Kenya. To live with the children, to understand their lives, and to serve in any way we could in this new place. For me, it was the clear result of an invitation for God to change me.