Fellow Quizzers, Kenya adventurers, and, most importantly, dear friends,
You’re going to Kenya?! I remember being exactly where you are– sitting at home, going about my life, acting like everything is normal, all the while knowing deep down everything was definitely not normal. I remember being completely terrified and excited at the same time. My emotions would constantly race from terror to elation to confusion and back again. In fact, it was a little over two years ago that I sat down behind this very computer and wrote to the world that I was going to Kenya.
Before I went to Kenya, my sister wrote me a letter. And that letter meant more to me than anything else– than any other word of encouragement I got from anyone leading up to the trip. So, although I am not biologically your sister, I am writing you a letter anyway, because I am your sister in Christ. And I’ve watched many of you grow up– heck, I grew up alongside most of you. I’ve competed against you. Some of you, I dreaded Quizzing against (but not really) because I knew what utter domination awaited me. Others of you I didn’t get to compete against much– or at all. Some of you I know well. Some, I’ve only met once. Some of you I’ve coached, or Quizmastered, or Quizzed with. Others of you I know more in name than face. But, all of you are Quizzers. Which means two things. One, you’re my family, I love you, and I would do just about anything for you. And two, you have a unique set of skills, gifts, experiences, stories, and knowledge that will allow you to do great things– in Kenya and in life. So, I know at least two things about you– and those two things make me know you well, even if I don’t know you.
For some of you, your passion for this trip was evident since the meeting at Nationals last year when I, and others who had gone to Kenya with and before me, got up and shared our stories. I saw it then, so beautifully. Others were, like me, initially less excited and more unsure. I see your passion now, though– beautifully. But all of you finally decided to go. And that will make all the difference. So, here’s a letter for you, whether you actually want it, or whether you know me or not. Because I’m a Quizmaster and coach– even if I’m not yours’– and that, to me, is an amazing privilege. And it’s about more than just reading questions, judging answers, helping teams form strategies, and training Pearce Quizzers to win the Alpha and Omega. (sorry, but it’s our turn. We will win it eventually. ) Because anyone can do those things. Anyone can say “Question, question number 1, question.” Anyone can tell you when to prejump, how to memorize, and what to answer. Anyone can judge whether or not you deserve 20 points. But, that’s not why I do it. Because to me, it’s about more than that– it’s about the relationships, the encouragement, the mentoring, the Scriptures, the love. That’s why I come back week after week, month after month, and (hopefully) year after year. Because I don’t actually care whether you’ve memorized every single verse you’ve ever read since 6th grade, and I don’t care whether you’ve memorized none. I care about you – your life, your story. Because that’s what actually matters. You. Not the number of questions you’ve answered or prejumps you’ve missed. So, what I’m trying to say is this: this letter will not be as well written as the one I had the privilege of reading from my sister (which you should also read). But, I still mean it– every word. Because if there is one thing Quizzers have taught me– you guys have taught me– it’s that people, encouragement, and love matter, especially in Quizzing. It’s that your stories are important because you’re important. And Bible Quizzing is a family. So, as your family, here are the words I want to tell you.
I am so excited for you! A small– ok, maybe a large– part of me wishes I was going with you. At Nationals, as everyone was leaving the Awards Ceremony, Brad approached me. He said, “Rebekah, seriously think about coming back next year as a leader. You know you’re always welcome. Pray about it. Seriously..” So, I did. And, much like the last time I prayed about Kenya, God didn’t say much. In fact, He was completely silent. Except this time, the silence was saying something different. This time, His silence was telling me “no.” Now, I don’t know if His “no” was a “never” or a “not yet” or a “not this time.” But, it wasn’t a “go,” and so, I”m not going to Kenya. Which is sad. But, it’s good. Because I have other summer plans that are going to be just as amazing.
So, I’m obviously not coming with you to Kenya. But, I have been there before. So, I want to tell you some things.
First, enjoy the moment. It’s so easy to caught up in the wonder of it all. It’s so easy to focus on remembering everything, on photographing everything, on experiencing everything, that you forget to enjoy the moment. Enjoy it. Because you may not remember exactly what happened, who you met, or what was said, but you will never forget how you felt.
Second, go in without any expectations. Brad will tell you this over and over again. And he’s right. But also, going in with the expectation of having no expectations is an expectation. So, instead, go in simply with open minds, open eyes, and open hearts.
Third, don’t be discouraged if you leave the trip and have no idea why you went on it. I got off the plane in Rochester, hugged my family, gathered my luggage, rode home, went to bed, slept, and wondered what I just did and why I just did it. I was discouraged because it seemed like everyone else on the trip had a purpose– a clear cut reason God called them to go– a defining moment. But me? I didn’t. Or, at least I thought. But, here’s the thing: I didn’t have one defining moment because the entire trip was a defining moment. God taught me things while I was there that I didn’t even realize He was teaching me until I got back home–until I was safely back in my own house, asleep in my own bed, surrounded by my own family. There are things He’s still teaching me. The two years post Kenya have been filled with assurances from God that Kenya was where I was supposed to be at the time, and it was the tipping point of a lot of things that have happened since. So, don’t be discouraged. But, also, even if, 80 years down the road, you don’t know why you went to Kenya, know this: it wasn’t a waste of your time, money, energy, or resources. Sometimes, things aren’t what we hope, and sometimes we misinterpret, mishear, or mis-obey God’s voice. And that’s unfortunate. But, it is not the end of the world. Going to Kenya and spreading God’s Word, even if it’s not what God called you to, is not a bad thing.
Fourth, a lot of things are said about short term missions trip and their effectiveness. And a lot of them have merit. They can, and oftentimes do, cause more harm than good. And you may wake up one day while you’re on this trip with those thoughts of inadequacy. You may say “I’m only here for a week, what difference can I make?” But know that sometimes, something as small as your presence, or a smile, can make a world of difference. And remember you are leaving more than just a gospel message behind. You’re not just going in, sharing the gospel, and leaving, hoping something will become of it. You’re leaving the ability for young people just like you to learn the gospel message– to memorize the Word. To be a part of a community. To be blessed like you yourselves have. Quizzing is a lot of things, and a lot of people say a lot of things, both positive and negative, about it. But, what it is, above all, is life-altering. The reason some of us started the Better Student Fund after returning home from Kenya is because of the words one of the Pastors spoke while we were there. He said “I wish we had Quizzing when I was in school. It would have made me a better Pastor.” And that is what you’re leaving behind. You’re leaving the ability for these young people to be anything they want, everything they have always had the ability to be, and all they could imagine themselves being. But, you’re leaving behind a better version of them– a better Pastor, a better lawyer, a better doctor, a better person. That’s what Quizzing left me with– a better version of the person I’d always been and was always supposed to be. And that’s what it’s given you. So, leave that behind. Because the people you’ll meet there are not missing anything now. They go to schools where they hear the gospel message, they are intelligent, they are capable. What you’re giving them is a feeling. You’re giving them everything Quizzing has given you. And for each of you, that thing is different, and powerful. And you’re a better person because of it. So, give them that.
Finally, know that I, and so many others, are praying for you– all of you. Know that I wish I could give everything to all of you, but I can’t. So, since I can’t give everything to any of you, nothing to any of you, and I must give something to some of you– I supported some of you financially. But prayerfully, I support all of you. Because that is all I can give– it’s everything I can give to all of you.
So, go with open hearts. Kiss the giraffe (and tell Arnold I miss him). See the sights. Breathe in the air. Open your ears to the sounds. Enjoy the experience. And know that there are so many of us over here surrounding you in prayer. And when you come back– share your stories. Even, and especially, the ones that seem not to matter. Because, if I learned anything during this trip, it’s that those stories matter more than those that seem to mean everything. Because they’re the ones that meant everything to you, and your stories matter. So, share your story honestly. Don’t be afraid to tell us all about your doubts, your fears, your low moments, and your high moments. But, don’t share everything. Keep a part of it inside you for yourself. Because one day, you’ll need that piece of your story to remind you. You’ll need to pull it out on days when you can’t remember, or you miss it, or you’re just having a bad day. So, keep it close to your heart. And keep Kenya in your heart. Because even if you never find yourself back there, you’ll find yourself there somehow. And somewhere where you do find yourself, you’ll find pieces of Kenya too.
Your Quizmaster, coach, fellow Quizzer, former Kenya adventurer, and friend
P.S. If you find the piece of my heart I left behind– please leave it there. It needs to be there. It’s part of that piece of my story that reminds me. So, leave it there. But feel free to leave a piece of yours’ too, so it won’t get lonely.
(And, if you want to read about my adventures, just in case you’re worried, or excited, or whatever, read them here.)