I just returned from three weeks in South Africa and here are the answers to the questions I am most frequently asked:
1. No, I did not go on a safari and no, I did not see any lions. But I did spend a few hours at a game park and see rhinos, giraffes, an elephant, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, an ostrich, warthogs, guinea fowl, a wide variety of birds and various small bucks.
2. No, I was not there to work with some humanitarian organization. I went to visit friends, but I was privileged to see the child that I sponsor through South Africa Cares For Life and meet his family. They struggle with poverty and health issues and live in a small leaky tin shack situated on a garbage dump, but they have a flourishing garden in the back and smiles for strangers from Canada. I felt honoured to be invited into their home.
3. No, my worldview has not changed drastically. If anything, it confirmed for me how much people all over the world are basically the same – we all share in this thing called humanity. We all wrestle with different aspects of survival and finding our place and breaking down barriers and developing relationships that are meaningful and feeling we are doing something worthwhile.
4. No, I did not find it all that hot. Though it was mid-summer in that part of the world, they were having an unusually cool and rainy few weeks, but anything above 20 degrees and sans snow was fine with me.
And here are some answers to the question I deem more important...why?...that come from notes I made on the plane on the way there:
1. I went to Africa to be a friend - to live with people and share in their lives; to hopefully bring a presence of peace, love, joy, passion, and a deep ability to be moved by the lives of others; to help with an everyday task, to listen with patience, to ease a burden, to utter a prayer, to see the world through another’s eyes, and most of all…to be present instead of absent.
2. I went to Africa to be uncomfortable. While there I changed almost everything about my daily routine: my sleeping, my eating, my drinking, my climate, my culture, my soap, my daily activities, my housemates, my clothes, my money, my security awareness, and setting my own agenda. An entry in my journal says this, “A change in culture is especially stressful because it affects all of the senses and so many of the things we use as points of reference. It is an excellent exercise in helping one focus on the items that are foundational and necessary in our lives and pries our fingers off many of the security blankets we tend to cling to, mistakenly thinking that they provide real comfort.” There is no change without discomfort and I am constantly in need of positive, forward-motion change.
3. I went to Africa to enjoy – It is an act of worship to enjoy God, his creation, the expression of his character in the people he made, and to recognize his care even in strange and dire circumstances.
4. I went to Africa to change the world by setting foot in a part of it, bringing myself wholly there, choosing to be vulnerable, and carrying the presence of God.
I will let you know how I did in all 4 areas in subsequent blogs.