Monday, November 24, 2008
I need Africa more than Africa needs me...
I was asked by the Mocha Club to write about why "I need Africa more than Africa needs me." If you aren't familiar with it, 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.
When I joined Mocha Club a couple years ago, I cannot honestly say that I would have agreed with the statement that "I needed Africa more than Africa needs me." My intentions were good and compassionate, filled with hope to provide change for women and children in Africa that desperately needed it. I knew that my $7 a month could do something to help them and felt I was making a difference, and like many of us do in those times, I felt proud to be giving and compassionate and generous. I realize now that my $7 giving each month has not only helped change other people, but it's changing me.
You might think I'm crazy. Sure, Africa needs our help! America is wealthy, and with the trendiness of so many celebs reaching out to adopt babies or dig wells or raise awareness, it might seem that Africa would be devastated without our help. I beg to differ. God created Africa for a purpose, and it wasn't so that we would learn to give and be generous. It was so that we would realize that we may have needs even greater than theirs.
I've never been to Africa, but what I've seen in pictures and heard from those who have, it is much different from what is portrayed through the media. When watching the news it seems like Africa is dark and dim, filled only with devastation and poverty and hunger and death. But from what I've seen, we are not in a much different place here in America. We face a different kind of death and poverty and hunger and devastation.
I look at our culture, overflowing with iPods and GPS systems and the latest trends and gadgets. I see that real relationships have been replaced with a somewhat false sense of community through facebook, myspace, and texting, and humans have no idea how to build relationships face-to-face without an iPhone in hand. We have plenty to eat; in fact, we are probably wasting more than Africans or other people in the world see in an entire year. We have clean water. We even pick and choose what brand of bottled water we want, with flavors and minerals and vitamins added. We complain about jobs that require 40-80 hours a week, but they provide a salary of more than $2.00/day and ample healthcare (even in our changing economy) and plenty of other resources.
It seems to me that America, too, is a country in dire need. We need to recognize that our needs might not be materialized in the form of water, food, housing, or clothes. Instead, what we need to find is how to love, how to hope, and how to live. I pray that along with the coming "change" that is proclaimed with our upcoming president will come an open, teachable spirit in America. We often think we're the ones to become the "Savior" to other countries in need, but what can they teach us? What can we learn?
To think that Africa needs me is completely selfish. Our God is bigger than America; He is bigger than my $7/month, and He is bigger than all of the world's wealth. He is bigger than any world leader and any strategic plan to eliminate hunger and poverty. He doesn't need us to save people, but He does desire that our hearts will seek to create change and love people.
When we look at countries in poverty we often attribute to them a lower status in our self-created hierarchy of humanity. But if you're anything like me, when you visit another country that seems more in need than we are, you return to America realizing that we are in fact the ones in greater need. I have seen deep need in places like Haiti, remote gypsy villages in Romania, and in the post-Katrina state of New Orleans. Each time I return from one of these trips I find it odd that I have been the one more blessed. My work may have made a slight difference, but it never compares to the difference in me.
In giving $7/month to Africa through the Mocha Club, I'm doing very little, really, to help. But in doing so, I'm recognizing the need in me to give, to be selfless, and to be humbled.
The people of Africa have hope much stronger than mine in much harsher of circumstances. For that, I need them.
They know how to love one another and live in true community. For that, I need them.
They know how to live with little and with simplicity. For that, I need them.
They live with greater joy, a deeper hunger for the Lord, and a mightier thirst for His Word. For that, I need them.
Indeed, I need Africa more than Africa needs me...do YOU?
PLEASE...share your thoughts in my comments section. Start a dialogue about this. Write on your own blog about this. Join in the worthwhile cause of recasting the damaging images that force pity over partnership.