I read these words from this woman today.....she summed up a lot of the swirlings in my mind, but she writes in a way that people can actually comprehend. I try to communicate things to Lee & often get the stare as if I quite possibly could have been speaking Chinese. I just can't form my words into sentences very well....consistenly. Amazed with how she nailed the 5 stages of grief right here. I've been through them & never could have named it this way. Again, it helps to have good communication skills. I am learning that communication may not be my gift.....and that's ok. I'll just borrow from other people's blogs until I get the hang of it ;). These are her words....I hope they settle with you somewhere.
It has been three months since Nathan, Hannah, and I returned from Africa. In many ways it seems like we were there only yesterday. In others, it seems like an eternity ago.
I liken my first taste of Africa and my processing of it these last few months to someone who is going through the five stages of grief. I honestly think while I was there, I was in a state of shock. Being slightly numb is about the only way I could keep from weeping at every moment. I was carried along by the rhythm and flow of life in Ethiopia—the sights, and sounds, and smells. But I didn’t know how to feel. I was overwhelmed by the need and my lack of ability to do anything about it. And I certainly didn’t know how to reconcile everything I was seeing with my life back in America.
Which led me to anger. At injustice. At rich, spoiled Americans. At myself. Some justified anger, sure, but mostly my anger was misdirected. I wanted someone to blame. Surely someone was responsible for all this death and sickness and disparity, and so it must be all those people who don’t know, who don’t care, who don’t do anything. If they would just listen. If they would just care. I was ready to point my finger at anyone and everyone.
And, of course, at myself. Because Africa, like a magnifying mirror, reveals more of yourself than you really want to see. Things you hide well in a land of prosperity--like selfishness, laziness, greed, arrogance-- get exposed in a land of want. When you see a woman who has nothing use her meager supply of water and injera to serve you tea-- you can’t help but think of how often you’ve opened your overflowing pantry and sighed that there’s just nothing to fix for dinner. When you meet a man who walks the 3 miles back and forth to work, works 12 hour days, 7 days a week, all for about $2 a day, and he counts himself as blessed—you can’t help but think of how often you’ve complained you needed “me time” after a day “stuck” in your comfy house homeschooling your well-fed kids and folding enough laundry to clothe an army. When you give a child a piece of gum, and you look back to see them sharing it with 6 other children around them--you can’t help but think of overflowing Easter baskets and Christmas stockings stuffed full of goodies. And you feel fat. Regardless how much you weigh, you just feel like a soft, flabby glutton.
And so I entered the stage of bargaining. OK, God, I can still live in my house as long as I speak up for orphans and bring one home to live in it. I can still have 25 pairs of shoes as long as a couple of them are TOMS. I can still spend hours online doing nothing productive, as long as I occasionally post something thought provoking on facebook. I can still own way more than I need, as long as I donate some of the stuff I don’t really want anymore to Goodwill.
But that leads to depression. Because you can never really reconcile owning anything with having given enough. I think of the story where the man came to Jesus and said, ok, I’m ready to follow you, and Jesus said, only one more thing: go sell everything you have and give it to the poor. The man walked away sad. He could not do it. His heart was not willing. While I certainly believe it’s ok to own things, I can never again rest in a place of, ok, I’ve given enough, I’m good now. It will never be enough. And that can be deeply unsatisfying for someone who wants a simple black & white way to deal with my abundance. It just isn’t simple, people.
And I am finally accepting that. There is no easy answer. Really, I’m finding we here in America have a lot more in common with my new friends in Ethiopia than I originally thought. Our countries, yes, different indeed. But we are all people, created in God’s image, and in desperate need of the gospel. And redemption. What Africa wears on the outside, laid bare for all to see, we hide underneath layers in America. They wear physical disease, hunger, poverty, and need. Here, our layers of “stuff” hide emptiness, brokenness, despair, and a hunger that is never satisfied deep within our hearts. Their need is easier to identify, but ours is still there. Underneath it all are human beings with gaping wounds and fatal bleeding. We need a remedy. We need to be rescued.
And with my acceptance comes hope. I believe in a Remedy. I believe in a Rescuer. I serve a King who loves Africans and Americans. I believe He will use me, if I will daily seek to obey His leading in my life. I will not prescribe to you what you need to do, and what that will look like for you. I will not pretend there is an easy solution or that one need in one country is any greater than another need in another country. But for me, I cannot forget what I have seen, and I am now responsible for it. Under the veil of earthly things is a spiritual reality, one we sense when we close our eyes and stand still long enough to feel. We were meant to live for so much more than the American dream.
And so I will not doze off in the sleepy shire, I will engage in the battle. I want blisters on my hands and fatigue deep in my bones and scars on my heart from all I’ve seen and experienced---because too much is at stake. Lives are at stake. Physical and spiritual. I don’t want to cling tightly to anything, save Jesus. I want to spend myself—my life, my time, my resources—with reckless abandon. So that one day, when I stand before Him, I have nothing left. Nothing wasted. Nothing squandered.
I used to be anti-short-term mission trips. I just didn’t see the need to spend thousands of dollars to go somewhere for a few days where you would barely scratch the surface of the need but potentially leave with some sort of self-righteous satisfaction that you at least “did something”, returning to your life of complacency the other 350 days of the year. It seemed to me a bad use of resources that could be better used in the hands of someone who worked there long term as well as a hindrance to seeing the daily mission we are called to here.
But I have changed my mind. Go. Let the two worlds that are America and Africa collide in front of you. Spend the money, because in God’s economy, it’s a drop in the bucket. Like the woman who poured the perfume on the feet of Jesus, offer what seems excessive. When I asked an Ethiopian pastor who ran a local orphanage what I should tell my friends back at home, he said, "Tell them to come. Come and see. It means so much that you would get on a plane, leave your families behind, and come be with us and spend time with us.”
Why would that surprise us? After all, we were created for community. It is the greatest gift we can give as we seek to share Jesus.
So go and see. Serve. Share. But don’t wait to engage in the battle until your feet hit African soil. Start today. Start here. Because too much is at stake.
Join me in this conflicted state, where my sin and my obedience wrestle daily. Choose to live with eyes open. Stop spectating. Suit up, and get on the field, where you strive for the goal but often meet resistance and sometimes fail. It is not funner. It's harder. At times it feels like a burden. But it is what is true. What is real. And it is worth it, because it is where Jesus resides.