Last fall I had the opportunity to spend a week with about 80 church planters in Nairobi, Kenya. As part of that week’s agenda, I got to tag along on a safari in the northern part of the country.
Side note…I’ve avoided telling this story on this blog for a few reasons, the primary one being that if you found out how much fun short term trips at the Summit really are, then you’ll want to go on the next one, and then you’ll probably sit next to me on the plane, and then instead of me zoning out and tossing on my noise canceling earphones and watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Anticlimactic Movie Franchise on the four-inch screen, I’ll feel obliged to talk to you for eleven hours. So it’s probably best that you don’t know about the fun side of these trips.
But I digress. This trip’s “free day” topped all the other free days in the history of free days. This was not the run of the mill shopping experience in a third-culture tourist trap. Nor was it an archaeological tour of a pile of rocks that the Apostle Paul may or may not have driven his donkey by. Nope, this free day was music to this guest-services guy’s heart.
We found out mid-week that our safari experience would be two days (rather than the one we originally thought). And instead of leaving our retreat center in the morning and coming back that evening, we’d be spending the night in the bush. THE BUSH, people. As in, a tent. With lots of nature. That I would sleep in.
And so, I steeled myself to be a big boy and not complain like a whiny germophobic American. And for five hours I rode in a cramped van with no air conditioning on Kenyan roads with potholes so deep you felt like you might be driving in Dante’s outer level of hell and roads so rough that sometimes the driver just swerved onto the shoulder because it was a smoother surface. The last twenty or so miles was on a dirt road that kicked up dust and poured it into our windows so that by the time we arrived it felt like someone had knitted tiny sweaters for my teeth. Not my idea of a fun day.
But then we arrived at the campsite for the safari. And as we left the vans and walked into this…this oasis, I realized we’d hit the jackpot. There were Kenyan ladies with baskets of hot washcloths, there for us to wash the dust off of our faces. There were fresh-squeezed fruit juices to wet our parched dusty throats. There was a five-star restaurant with some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life.
And then there was the tent.
The only thing tent like about this structure was the canvas walls and the zippered doors. Everything else…well, I can’t explain it. I can just show you:
That’s right. You’re looking in a tent, and you’re seeing tile floors, a hot shower, terry cloth robes, and one of the most comfortable beds ever. It was – in short – paradise. I stayed in some of the nicest accommodations I’ve ever been in, and I was in a TENT.
But the greatest surprise was yet to come. After a safari that afternoon and a meal that threatened to make me have to buy a second seat on the plane, I went back to my presidential suite – um, tent, and crawled into bed, only to realize that OH GOOD HEAVENS WHAT IS THAT IN THE FOOT OF THE BED IS THAT AN ANACONDA IT’S AN ANACONDA ISN’T IT AND IT’S GOING TO SWALLOW ME WHOLE WELL MAYBE NOT “WHOLE” BECAUSE I JUST PUT ON 48 POUNDS AT THE RESTAURANT BUT AIEEEEEE WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT?!?
Seriously, that’s what went through my mind. Only it wasn’t an anaconda. Nope, it was a hot water bottle that the camp folks had slid under the sheets while I was at dinner. Since it can get chilly on the savannah, they wanted to make sure my toes were comfy-cozy. And boy, were they ever.
The reason that ranks as the greatest surprise is because it wasn’t expected. It was an unseen detail. It was something that – had it been left undone – I would never have noticed.
But my hosts noticed. And they made sure that every single need – creature comfort or otherwise – was provided for.
What are the hot water bottles in your ministry? What are those things that you can do…and maybe should do…but because nobody notices their absence, you don’t do?
My hot water bottle wasn’t a necessity, but it created a much-appreciated impression. I believe that churches can small, inexpensive, non-necessary touches to create the same effect.
So help me dream: what are the “hot water bottles” that are accessible to us? Comment below.