The waiting on African time for things to fall into place, the experiencing a world beyond what you are comfortable with, travelling dusty roads on dirt bikes or overcrowded buses. Seeing a dead man on the side of the road laying in a puddle of blood, watching old women beg and young children carry babies on their backs instead of playing with friends. The African sun is too bright or the rain is too hard, and we need the village to have a good crop this year.
We were feeding 400 children last Saturday, we had a line of older boys waiting for food, I saw a tiny 18 month old baby boy standing behind me as I dished out beans. He was naked, very obviously malnourished and was extremely dirty. I asked where he came from- they shook their heads and said they didn’t know who he was but he had come from the “bush”. I whispered “make him a plate please.” they looked at me, “no, feed the big boys first and then him.” I glanced at him again, his eyes were hungry and his face covered in snot. I reached past and made him a plate. The older boys would be fed, but this one, right now, needed it more. I wasn’t going to continue plating food until I saw that he had it. How could ignore this beautiful child? How could I say ‘I’ll give these boys food, but unless there is some in the pot, this little one who is malnourished cannot eat’. I won’t.
I’ve gotten used to African poverty in some ways, some of the hard doesn’t surprise me any more. I used to be wide-eyed when I would drive down the roads taking in the scenes and the sense of hopelessness, but now, it’s all so normal. But I will not let my heart go numb to the cold reality.
One of the hardest challenges is going home and adjusting to the emotions that African has brought me to feel. It opened my eyes to the fact that people don’t care much . Sure there’s a handful that do, there’s that small amount that are generous and their hearts truly are broken for the orphans and they want to fight poverty, but the majority just doesn’t care. They prefer their lattes extra sweet, and their pizzas extra cheesy, and their beds extra soft and pillows extra fluffy. They don’t care about Africa and they don’t even know where Uganda is.
My heart breaks every time I am at home in America. People fly through life and miss the purpose, they think bigger and better is the way to have a good life. While 1.5 million people die from starvation each year, Americans pull the covers a little further up and they get cozy in their over-sized beds and they sleep soundly to the noise of pleasure. They assure themselves that poverty is out of their control, heck, poverty is just a way of life.
But it’s not. If we can spend $10 on Starbucks than we have the ability to change the world. $10 would provide 22 pounds of beans and 10 pounds of posho to a starving family. $10 could treat malaria 4 or 5 times. $10 could bring medication to a dying child.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to make you feel guilty. I just want you to be awake to the reality of poverty and face the fact that you have the power to fight poverty. They don’t need much, and they don’t need a lot, they don’t need someone with thousands of dollars, they just need someone willing to take their hand and lift them out of the terrifying pit of poverty. You can spend you life trying to become the bigger and better that you want to be, or you can surrender all that you have and face the fact that life isn’t always about you. The world is a big, beautiful, ugly, scary, exhausting and hopeful place.
I have come to the realization that sometimes the poorest are the richest in the Kingdom of God. Sometimes they have more than we can ever imagine. They kneel further before the cross instead of standing on in their own abilities.
Life in Africa is emotionally exhausting. But when I feel the weight of poverty, it means I’m awake, I’m alive and I am ready to fight back. I hear the rumors of child sacrifice season approaching and I watch as the children leave early. I hear the village rumors that we were sent from the devil to steal their children. But I hear Him above everything “take courage.”
When it storms, the skies look hopeless, they are dark and filled with rain, thunder, and lightning.
But there is always hope beyond the storms.
The sun is always above it all, just waiting to peek through the darkness.
Just as the Son comes to renew and restore in the hellish places of poverty.
There is always hope, we just have to wait in peace.