By now you know that I’m going on a trip to Africa..tomorrow. It’s a mission’s trip to learn about an organization that is improving lives of the people in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The key goals of the ministry are to: educate, empower, restore, and redeem. From what I’ve read, I think what they’re doing is amazing.
As I’ve read about the area, I’ve learned about devastation I cannot mentally comprehend or prepare myself to experience. According to Unicef, 42% of the 44 million people in Kenya live below the poverty life. Missions of Hope International states that most people in the slums live on the equivalent of $2 a day. My mortgage alone is $30 a day. A family across the world runs their entire household and strives to care for their family on an income equivalent to 6% of one bill I pay a month. That makes me feel arrogant, entitled, and undeserving.
I’ve been asked a few times why I’ve always wanted to go on a mission’s trip, and why Africa? I feel an element of guilt because there are many deserving ways to serve locally. There are countries in need who are far closer geographically. I’m not opposed to pursuing those needs as well. The truth is that I’ve never quite understood the pull in my spirit for Africa.
Complete transparency here, I get frustrated when people need to know my why. I appreciate it too. Please understand that I know the question is an investment and interest in me. I value that tremendously. I always feel I should present a wholesome textbook profound answer. A response that a “good Christian” would speak with ease. That, I do not have. The question poses a good challenge. I get flustered because I struggle to put in to words the passion within me.
Here’s a random fact, that helps illustrate my “why.” First, understand that I love music and lyrics. Pink Floyd’s song “Comfortably Numb” comes to mind when I think of my “why.” I feel like as an individual and as a society overall, we are comfortably numb. That is not meant for guilt or shame. I don’t support those as motivating emotions. I just mention it because I believe we have an innate moral responsibility to help others as resources allow.
We live in a land of abundance. We also live in a land of temptation. We are so submerged in changing trends, vacation destinations, clothes, popular shows, restaurants, etc. that we generate large quantities of debt in pursuit of instant gratification. It’s hard to combat. We’re bombarded with ads day in and day out. I think it’s important to always remember that those things don’t always carry true value. Having a trending item is rarely vital to fulfilling your life’s purpose. Now, experiencing life does matter and there is value in the memories that can be created engaging in the experiences we enjoy. I’m not saying abandon or feel guilt for the life you live. I’m only suggesting that even when we think we are poor or financially struggling, we are still prosperous, and we have a lot we can pay forward. We should develop an awareness that humanity can benefit from our generosity and compassion as well.
Ok. Don’t laugh. I’m about to relate a major upcoming life experience to a mainstream song, just ride the wave with me for a moment, it will come together.
I have always loved Toto’s song “Africa.” I have always loved the band Weezer. It just so happens, that this summer, as I was tiptoeing around the idea that I might, potentially have the opportunity to go on a mission’s trip to Africa…Weezer decides to do a cover of the song I’ve always loved.
This in no way minimizes the significance of the trip! Let me explain. When I listen to music, I am all about the lyrics. Many of my music loving friends hear the elements and sounds. For me, the sound may catch my attention, but lyrics are what ignite feeling in my soul.
A friend who shares my love of the song encouraged me to read about its origins on Wikipedia. Toto released the song in September of 1982, a month before I turned three years old. Which means I have truly grown up knowing this song on some level. The lyrics have been programming me since I was probably four or five years old.
What I read explained that the lyricist for Toto, David Paich was inspired to write about Africa after watching a late-night documentary on Africa. It impacted him so deeply that he couldn’t shake the attachment. I feel like that is for a purpose. His inspiration and decision to act, planted a seed in a four-year-old Jennifer. How many others? There are moments in life where an event, new information, a song, etc.… stir something dormant in you that brings you toward the path you’re meant to travel. You don’t typically just wake up one day and decide to be interested in something monumental. You can always track it back to a seed of inspiration or influence from somewhere in your life. While we can all see needs and have a desire to heal and help, different causes create a passion in some people and not in others. My belief is that is because we are all part of a greater body designed to work collectively. We each have a purpose and a role to fulfill to bring about healing and health to our existence. You don’t have to be stirred by the plight of the people in Africa if that’s not what’s on your heart. I challenge you to passionately pursue what does stir your emotions, what makes you feel energized and alive, that’s one of the reasons you’re here.
I digress, back to “Africa.” This song has energized me in a way that I’m bashful to admit. Every time I hear it, it wakes something up inside me. I really focused on the lyrics the other day and realized what was happening. Why I was stirred.
Let these words resonate for a moment.
“stars that guide me toward salvation”
A trip to visit the people of Africa is not my salvation, but it may be what helps me to comprehend the value of salvation in a deeper way. I anticipate that it will solidify my comprehension of the need and the gift of salvation for myself and others.
“Hurry boy it’s waiting there for you.”
The need has always been present. Africa has always been there. Lives will continue on their course whether I go or not, but the ripple of my experience can possibly alter that course for the better. Either for them, or for me, or for all. I won’t know sitting at home on my couch.
“I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become”
I value serving and giving. It’s where I find fulfillment. Unfortunately, that gift can be used in ways it’s not meant for and leads to me feeling burned out and not wanting to give more of myself. I haven’t been giving much of myself beyond my network for a while. I’ve become more interested in material things, momentary pleasures, and time is ticking away. I’m frightened that I might be losing precious time meant to fulfill voids so much greater than my circle of influence and daily routine. There is an ongoing void in my heart that I want to cure, something telling me that there’s something more to why I am here.
“I know that I must do what’s right”
This will never be a mistake. Learning about the world outside of my realm. Understanding how other cultures and people thrive. Empathizing with their needs and trying to be a part of the bigger picture designed to help my fellow man. It’s what is right.
“Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.”
My hope is that this is the catalyst to help me understand more of what I can do, who I can be to people local and afar. That it will reset my reality to understand the importance of how my actions can positively impact the life of others.
I’ve been afraid to write about this. Afraid to be vulnerable. Afraid that my naivety shines through every word. I don’t know where this journey will take me in life. I don’t truly grasp what I will experience or my significance. More than anything I want to respect these people and their culture. I want my love of God to shine through my actions.
My hope is to learn. To have my eyes opened to one more area of the world. To understand a different culture. To understand not just their needs and poverty, but also their joys and community. I want to understand how serving them, helping them with resources and education will enrich their lives and create opportunity where before there was none. I want renewed excitement about who we all can become.