Today we finished up our days on safari in the Maasai Mara and headed back to Hartfield Gardens in Karen. The day began with a lot of excitement as we embarked on our final game drive.
Throughout our safari, I was struck by how quickly the tables can turn when it comes to nature. We started out without too much excitement or too much going on, but toward the end of the drive we came upon some giraffes who were being watched by several other safari vans. Little did we know that the main spectacle was actually a group of about 8 lions that were moving about the area. First, we saw a few juvenile male lions playfully interacting and then we spotted more and more lions patrolling the area. Once the giraffes started running away, we realized that the lions were on the hunt.
Not long before our van had arrived in this area, we had had a scary moment with a very steep trench on one of our turns. It wasn’t until we were surrounded by a pride of hungry lions that we realized that we had a flat tire! We were shocked as our driver exited the vehicle to investigate the situation in spite of the many animals around. The other drivers nearby also came to help out in changing the tire.
One thing we had been taught on the safari was that when we are in the vans, the animals don’t see us as humans but rather as a part of the vans. Because of this we are only in danger if we exit the vehicle, at which point the animals see us as intruders and will attack. We watched in the vans as our drivers fearlessly walked around the vans in the midst of the pride of hunting lions. Many of us grew worried as we saw that the lions had lined up and were clearly looking in our direction while several of them had even begun to walk down the path toward us. One van shouted to their driver, alerting him of what was happening. The drivers collectively laughed and finished fixing the van. Finally, all the drivers returned to their vans and we zoomed off. While we were not able to see the lions carry out the hunt, we were glad that we didn’t become the hunted…
After this eventful final game drive, we headed back on a lengthy bus ride to Nairobi. While this wasn’t the most eventful experience, it did give us a lot of time to further deepen our relationships within our teams as well as to reflect on what we experienced during our safari. Later in the evening we shared more time as a community, dinner, and our nightly reflection time. One member of our team, Austin Rabon, talked about what he had learned about fear from our drivers today. He spoke about how often we live in fear: fear of the future, of if we will get a job, of how things will turn out, etc. but that “if the drivers can change a tire in the middle of a pride of lions, I think we are going to be okay.”
As we wrapped up our safari and are nearing the end of our time in Kenya, I am filled with gratitude about the experience we have had here. We have developed deep friendships and a community within our team. We have experienced a multitude of facets of Kenyan culture. We have grown in patience, in teamwork, in flexibility, and most importantly in empathy for people of all walks of life. In our safari, we were able to see God’s creation in all its grandness and all its detail. We saw how animals, like humans, live in diverse community and connection with each other and with God, the creator and sustainer of life.
I am thankful for today and for the new things it revealed to us about ourselves, creation, and God and I look forward to the ways we will continue growing toward God together in our final days in Kenya.