On the outskirts of Nairobi in the town of Karen there is a distinctive landmark that looks like four knuckles, known as the Ngong Hills. You may remember them as the backdrop for the film, Out of Africa. Last week they became the backdrop for my story.
A friend had invited me to participate in a silent retreat held at a lovely, quiet setting in Karen. I came prepared with “my stuff.” Bible, journal, colored pens, prayer notebook, blanket, book, and my lunch. At nine thirty, six of us gathered with our guide, Christi, and introduced ourselves. After her opening words and prayer, we each shared our hopes for the day. Just before the group dispersed, Christi encouraged us on this silent retreat to not only be silent, but to keep words to a minimum. To maybe set aside that book we brought along to read.
After everyone else left the room I met with Christi for our scheduled session. I shared some of my struggles with, well… with God and prayer. She listened attentively, made some observations and shared some insights. Then she gently suggested that I set aside my journal and just be still. That was a little scary. I can’t even sit down to a meal without a pen and notebook at my side to capture the random thought. But I would try. I walked across the lawn, left my books in my bag, put on my sunglasses, settled onto a bench, and sipped my tea. I looked up, expecting to see the Ngong Hills, but soon realized a stand of trees was blocking the view. I peered closely and saw a very faint glimpse of the hills just above a clay roof and through the bare branches of the trees.
At that moment, these words came to mind. “You can’t see those hills you were expecting to see, can you? But you’ve seen them before and you KNOW they are right behind those trees. And, you might not be seeing me, but I want you to know I’m really here. Always. Even if you can’t see me.” My eyes stung with tears and my heart became calm and quiet.
Those hills are now sacred to me. Thank you Jesus for meeting me there.