26 November 2008

I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

"It is Africa that has taught me that possessions in my hands
will never be as valuable as peace in my heart.
It’s just one of this continent’s many lessons.
I came here to serve and yet I’ve found that I have so much to learn,
and Africa, with all its need, has much to teach me."

At an orphanage in nowhere, Uganda, I fell in love with a girl named Margret Harriet. From the moment we arrived, she found a home on my lap, and there she stayed for almost 4 straight days. Her answer to pretty much any question was "Jesus". There was a current of peace (and a little bit of shyness) running through this child. During a scary thunderstorm one night, she found me in a crowd of children and took my hand with a strength you should not find in a child.

When I left the orphanage on our last day, Margret gave me this letter. Printed on the envelope, it said "To Christine. Jesus is good all the time." The letter read:
Dear Christine,

How are you? Are you fine? For me am not fine because I miss you so much because your going back. I pray for you Christine. I love you so much and I pray for you every day and every night. I love you in Jesus name. I love Africa. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Good bye, good bye Christine.

From,
Margret Harriet
That letter is one of my prized possessions, and I still cannot get Margret's face or sweet voice out of my mind...because it took a child at an orphanage somewhere in Uganda to remind me that God is good. Even through losing your parents and having one pair of shoes and eating the exact same meal of maize three times a day and sleeping in a concrete room. He is good. If that is the only reason I went to Africa, it would be enough.

I need Africa more than Africa needs me.

Three years ago, I decided to be a part of Mocha Club and African Leadership because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to do something outwardly significant with my 40 work hours a week. And have there been lives saved, children fed, wells dug, schools built? Yes...but beneath all my to-do lists, conference calls, and emails, a stark truth has undoubtedly risen to the surface: God does not need me to save Africa.

How self-centered, how prideful of me to think otherwise.

God will carry out His purpose for Africa, and I have the privilege of being a part of it. Once I embraced this freeing truth, something happened in my heart - and I saw that Africa was actually changing me.

My work is more joyful now, and I find myself looking fervently for the beauty and wisdom of the African people, rather than seeing them as people who deserve my pity.

When I traveled to Kenya and Uganda in the fall of 2006, the time when I met Margret Harriet, I thought I was going to serve and love the African people in a way they'd never seen. But after stepping foot on that continent's soil, the raw reality of humanity stared me in the face. I looked into its eyes, and it was oddly beautiful. I walked through places like the Kibera slums, one of the filthiest, most shocking places I had ever been in my entire life, and at the end of each day, all I wanted to do was go back. I had already forgotten the putrid smells, the human waste running down the street and the piles of burning trash....and all I could remember were the children who loved going to school and played joyfully in the schoolyard...the men and women who served their communities faithfully...the HIV-positive ladies who sold their handmade jewelry to make even the smallest amount of income.

The people I encountered in Africa experienced intense challenges, loss, and pain, yet they demonstrated even more intense courage, hope, and joy. By all logical reasons, they shouldn't have. I thought I was going to teach them, but they taught me. They are triumphant. They are heroes. I want to be like them.

So why do I need Africa?

Without Africa, I act as if I am the author of my own life. I need Africa to teach me surrender.

Without Africa, I feel I deserve certain "things" - a wonderful house, a big happy family, freedom, and enough money to buy whatever I want. I need Africa to teach me that possessions do not equal happiness, as I so often want them to.

Without Africa, it's easy for me to be selfish with my time. I need Africa to soften my stone heart - not just to those across the ocean, but to those in my own community.

Does Africa still need our efforts, our time, our money, our service? Absolutely. It is a continent in need - politically, socially, and economically. There are sickening, unfathomable things that happen there everyday. But to think that's all Africa is, is a tragedy. To think that we in America "are so much better off" is a tragedy. Africa is not just a place of despair - Africa is JOY. Africa is HOPE. Africa is Margret Harriet and Prince and Peter Diing and beautiful Portia…

"Portia" by Jeremy Cowart

You don't have to go to Africa to see it. Read the stories on our blog. Look at the photos. In these places, you will experience people who do not have much, but who have everything.

You can also start a new conversation about Africa. Share your comments, and even blog about it yourself - why do you need Africa more than Africa needs you?

And then come back here December 1st to see what's next...

7 comments:

shana said...

Beautiful post. Absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for sharing, Christine!

Lauren said...

i love your heart, stine. i love you. thank you.

Sharon Morginsky said...

stine, thinking about your blog and how africa has impacted me. i'm excited to blog about it too!!!!! mine is coming soon...

jenni said...

Your wise, beautiful thoughts choked me up. Not only am I thankful to be your friend, but Johnny and I can't wait to visit Africa and India with you. :)

Regan said...

agreed. beautiful post, my dear. just beautiful.
r.

Melissa said...

I never posted a comment before, but absolutely beautiful post. took my breathe away.

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