Yesterday morning, I woke up in another mosquito net but this time with very different sounds. Sounds surrounded a different canopy as I walked outside to take in the awesomeness of the pre-dawn night sky in the Masai Mara. Simply, what I heard was the quiet rustle of a breeze through the trees, crickets and birds chirping, the sound of a lion roaring in the distance, hippos hippo-ing in the nearby pond, and I think a vervet monkey skittering across the roof. No car horns. No conversations. No trucks going by. Simply sounds that have been heard in this place for years upon years.
There is a fragility to all of this. The whole time we were in Masai Mara, we didn’t see any rhinos. It could have been that they had migrated to a different part of the Mara or further south into the Serengeti but there is the reality of their disappearing population due to human greed. Signs were all around the area warning poachers and even a kids’ book I saw in a store that was called, “Run Poacher Run!” Each beautiful animal that we saw – cheetahs, lions, elephants, giraffes, warthogs (yes even warthogs are beautiful), hyenas, buffalo, leopards, so many birds, zebras (pronounced ze- not zee-), many varieties of antelope-type animals, and so so so many more – each of them broke my heart of the ways that they have been hunted to dwindling populations or to near-extinction.
But it wasn’t just the animals.
As one who carries a water bottle with me nearly everywhere I go, it pained me to use I-don’t-know-how-many disposable water bottles simply because the water was not safe to drink. But I don’t say this as a judgment of the people of Kenya – it is a reality for them to not be drinking unhealthy water.
But I also saw ways that Kenya is so far ahead of our country. Electricity is not paid for in homes in an after-the-fact type of way where you can just leave the lights on without thinking of the consequences. In Kenya, you pre-pay for power and have to reload when you run out. So many water spigots that we saw were the ones that you have to push and will run water for a short period rather than the ability for them to be left on and running. Most of the toilets we saw had dual flush systems for different amounts of water needed for different types of waste. Milk, cooking oil, and several other items are can be purchased at ATMs where you bring your container, put in some money and your container is refilled with milk, oil, etc. No more single-use bottles and jugs. These are but a few of the ways we saw that Kenya is far ahead of us in the United States in caring for the environment.
But creation is losing right now.
As a resident of the country who uses and disposes of the majority of the world’s resources and produces an inordinate amount of emissions and whose leaders are actively pulling away from agreements to try to change our disastrous course, I ache over all of this. I ache that there are so many in the world without clean water. I ache that so many are affected by the materialism and wastefulness of a few countries that impacts the rest. I ache over a discussion had once again with a person in Africa about pre-emptively de-horning rhinos to save them from poachers. I ache for God’s beautiful creation that we were given not to destroy and exploit, but to tend as a gardener carefully cares for her garden.
And I don’t say this just throwing stones at others. I look at my own life – I recognize that I love to have the latest gadgets. I recognize that I waste more water than I should. I recognize that, too often, I drive when I could walk or ride my bike. These are just a few.
Lord, in your mercy…change our hearts that we can care for this beautiful world as you would have us do.