I recently read an article by a former peace corp volunteer that reminded me of the difficulties Jason and I will walk into in Africa (if you have a chance read it!). I, of course have realized this before but visiting Tanzania is completely different that living and working there. It is easy to be here in the States and tell people the simple, watered down version of our ministry plans and vision. A common response is “oh, that is great!” sometimes even said like we are so awesome and somehow brave to be going to such a place. I do not think we are at all. We are following what God has called us to do and some days I wish things were simpler, like packing up and moving, like saying goodbye to family and friends (even if just for a time), and leaving a life that is pretty great here in Chicago.
I also wish there were easier solutions to cycles of poverty and crime, epidemics such as lack of access to education and disease, the issue sustainable farming and globalization….and the list goes on and overwhelms me. If you listen to candidates on either side right now sometimes it seems like there are easy solutions and that they have the key but the reality is that these problems are complex, the causation and effects are difficult to battle. Teaching on the South side I learned this lesson with haste. I naively thought my first year would be similar to Dangerous Minds; that I would walk my white butt in there, and with some caring and high expectations, begin to relate and help heal the pain my students were in. Was I ever misguided. What I began to grasp is that the more you get involved with other’s lives; the more you are vulnerable the more you sense your own pain, brokenness and your own need for healing. I also realized that the problems others face are not easily understood or solved; especially by an outsider, even one with the best of intentions. It is true that kids (or anyone) do not care how much you know unless they know how much you care. Living life with, being real, and giving of myself was, with time, the only thing that produced any fruit. My prayer is that God would enable us to be students of the culture in Africa and learn before we seek to change, question ourselves before we ask of others, and above all love without expecting anything in return. This is the stuff of really living life.