I was asked by Mocha Club to write about why "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." Mocha Club is a community-based website where members can start a team and invite friends to join them in giving $7 a month – the cost of 2 mochas – to support a project in Africa. Mocha Club's vision is to provide a way for people who don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa.
(The directions were to write "about 200 words" on this subject but I'm feeling that I might go a little over. Forgive me. Please.)
"I need Africa more than Africa needs me."
That sounds kind of backwards, right? I've got way more than anyone in Africa could ever imagine having. Shouldn't they be the ones needing something?
Sure Africa needs a lot. Millions of children are dying every year of AIDS, preventable diseases, starvation and war. UNICEF says that 5,500 children under the age of five die across the 21 countries of the eastern and southern regions of Africa. AND the majority of the deaths are largely preventable. More than 300,000 die in as little as two months. TWO MONTHS. I can't even remember what happened in the last two months because I've been so wrapped up in my own life. Did we elected a new President? Huh?
Anyway, I think what this statement means is that we need Africa to change our view of the rest of the world more than Africa needs us to "help". Now, I put the word "help" in quotations because we see Africa as this feeble continent of sick and dying and poor people rather and a continent that is rich of a hopeful future and an opportunity to display the glory of God.
I heard a man speak last night who had grown up in Africa. He and his sister were the only white kids in an African village. He said he would pray every night that he would wake up and he would be black. This was 54 years ago. You know, 54 years ago, America was fighting over Civil Rights. This four-year-old white boy was praying that he was black. Interesting? To say the least.
This man, when he was seven, lost one out of every four of his friends to preventable ailments such as small pox and measles and poisonous snake bites. He didn't get any of those diseases because he had gotten the vaccinations but he was stuck with the memory of holding his friends in his arms and coaxing them into an early death. That man was Wes Stafford, president of Compassion International.
Besides his life story, something else he said stuck with me. He said that we shouldn't look down on the poor and the impoverished. We shouldn't look down on them with eyes of pity and feelings of guilt. We should look at them as God looks at them -- beloved and blessed. Rich in righteousness and promised with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Africa is a nation of hope. A nation of opportunity for us Americans who live an ocean away and feel we can't do anything. We CAN do something. And as a Christ follower, I don't want to look at Africa with pitiful eyes and a soul full of guilt. I want to look at Africa with a humble heart, knowing that I have much more to give than I think, and relishing in the fact that God is getting the glory from every cent of that $15 that is taken out of my bank account every month. Fifteen dollars isn't a lot to most of us. But my $15 is helping several kids in Zimbabwe get an education. And that's a whole world of wealth to them.
Jesus said in Matthew 25, (Walden paraphrase) "If you done anything for anyone, especially those "less fortunate" (and I can totally see Jesus using air quotes here) -- fed, clothed, quenched thirst, bailed out, given shelter -- you've done the same for me."
Our ministry to others is our ministry to Jesus Christ. And we can't do any of that without Jesus Chirst. How neat is that?
James (1:27) tells us, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
So I think I've come full circle. Why do I need Africa more than Africa needs me? James just slapped me in the face with the answer -- to keep myself from being polluted by the world. I've never been to Africa but I have been to Honduras and New Orleans and the Latin slums of Arlington, Texas, and those people, who have no more than the clothes on their back, are happier, or should I say more joyful, and believe more in Jesus Christ inspite of their circumstances than I am with all the material things that I have in my possession.
So, if only to change my outlook on life, I truly do think I need Africa more than Africa needs me.
In closing, I ask you to share your thoughts in my comments, and challenge you to maybe even blog about it yourself. Take time to think about it. I was presented with this a week ago before I committed to even try to blog about it. Join in the worthwhile care of recasting the damaging images that force pity over partnership. Come back Dec. 1st to see what Mocha Club is doing about reforming that image.