Why would you go to Africa when there are needs here in America? Was it life-changing? Are you glad to be back?
I never thought describing a 6-day visit would be so difficult. But the more I explore outside my comfortable air-conditioned apartment the more I yearn to learn from my neighbors abroad.
Six months ago, I landed back in Birmingham, Alabama. Yet, even now when the Africa trip is brought up the same question unfolds: Did the trip help you see how blessed we are here? My answer doesn’t always get the best reception.
All my physical needs are met, yet I can go days without acknowledging the God who provided them. While across the world, children go weeks without a real meal, and many have never experienced a fully belly. Adults live and die without the privilege of tasting clean water. When those brothers and sisters pray, they pray different.
God is their only hope.
Dr. Jim Shaddix recently challenged The Church at Brook Hills: “When was the last time you made a decision and if God didn’t show up you would be in trouble?” When have you stepped out in “bold naked faith” holding exclusively onto God’s promise (Ezra 8)? Oftentimes we rob God of the opportunity to stay true to His promises as we hold tight to our security blankets.
When Pastor Raphael let me, a stranger from another country, whom he had never spoken with or met before stay in his home in the room across from him and his wife and next door to his three young daughters: That was a risk. Either his whole family was going to be in extreme danger or God would prove faithful and allow this stranger to share the story of his school for the deaf.
That’s because each time I return from an overseas trip God shows me the danger lounging inside my white-picket fence lifestyle.
We don’t need God in America.
If a storm damages my apartment, I have rental insurance. When I got a concussion last year, I drove a few minutes to one of the three nearby hospitals and saw a doctor within an hour. My medical insurance covered the majority of the visit, but just in case I had savings set aside as Plan B. I have not one, but two vision insurances to cover my daily contacts and glasses (one of my dog’s favorite chewing toys when I’m gone). My jeep is almost paid off and of course my car insurance covers any unforeseen damage. Oh yeah, and there are 5 grocery stores within a 10-minute drive of me, so I have plenty of options.
As I slip back into my daily routine of story deadlines, never ending to-do lists and soccer practice I am all too quickly overwhelmed by the temporary. My endless backup plans rip away opportunities for God to prove He is faithful. But not everyone has that choice.
The living conditions in Africa are difficult to say the least. I watched a mother wash her family’s clothes in a river contaminated with animal waste and rusted cans. I witnessed a 10-year old boy with an infected scab on his knee swarming with flies. Schools were surrounded by gates taller than the actual buildings to protect children from being kidnapped or assaulted.
Yet, amidst these less than desirable circumstances were opportunities, opportunities followers of Christ capitalized on, and opportunities where God blessed them.
Jesus shared with his disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Poor in spirit—the humble—those who realize their desperate need for a Savior. The word blessed here is Makarios (μακὰριος), meaning a well-being that transcends circumstances. Makarios describes more than short-lived happiness; it’s the joy belonging exclusively to followers of Christ. This joy transcends any hardship.
Many of the people I met are forced to daily put those struggles into the hands of God. There aren’t alarms protecting their homes. They don’t have medical insurance or a nearby hospital to treat their child's ear, thus preventing an infection from causing permanent ear damage like going deaf. They don’t have grocery stores, fast food and restaurants on every street corner, most are just thankful if they have a meal at all.
The “American Dream” appears charming from the outside, but with it comes the nagging temptation of gluttony, complacency and pride. It's funny how I fool myself into thinking I have it all together. In reality, I am constantly fighting what the world says is good and what God promises is good. Biblically, being blessed has little to do with personal possessions, comfort or a wide variety of readily available food.
But God tells us He uses the weak people of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). I have a lot to learn from the Ugandans' faith--and God's blessings.
(Un)Adopted's story series on FOX6:
Pre-Trip Story-> Home for Haven: (Ethiopia Lifeline Children's Services Adoption)--Shared coming trip on FOX6
Story 1-> (Un)Adopted Helps Orphans In Uganda:
Loving Hearts Babies Home Orphanage
Story 2-> Africa Renewal Ministries: Hope for the Next Generation
Story 3-> (Un)Adopted Gives Deaf Children New Life: Busega School for the Deaf
Story 4-> (Un)Adopted Provides Sustainability in Uganda: Computer Lab (Tuscaloosa to Africa)
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."