If I had a dollar for every time Ryan and I get asked the question, “Why do you go to Africa when we have so many people here who need help?” we would never have to fundraise again. It is the classic inquiry that we can depend on hearing during any speaking arrangement, interview, coffee date, or impromptu conversation we may stumble upon. The first time I was asked this question, I froze. So, in order to safe guard myself against such embarrassment I came up with a plan: Rehearsal. I practiced my answers over and over in my head searching for that perfect “zinger” to speak with such conviction that everyone who hears it weeps and flings roses at me – a practical response for such wisdom. Here’s what I came up with:
Get your tissues ready.
1. They need it more. (Horrible answer)
2. There are opportunities to get help in America (food stamps, gov’t housing, disability, unemployment, etc.)
3. We feel called to Africa. (This answer is often met by confused looks, eye rolls, and “Good for you’s”)
4. What if Mother Theresa had not gone to Calcutta, or Lottie Moon to China, or Madonna to….? oh wait. Bad example. JK.
5. They need people like me. (Ha!)
6. The Bible tells us to. (True… but it also tells us to “love our neighbors”)
7. Telling my life story. Not the best, or most time sensitive option.
8. I mean… The better question is, “Why not Africa?”
9. The Lion King is my favorite movie.
Profound, right? Hardly. I can assure you, no one is going to go home, sell everything they have, and buy a one-way ticket to [insert third-world country of choice here] because of these gut-wrenching answers.
Then, lies creep into my head like…
“These people have lived in grass huts for years – that’s just how it is and they’re doing just fine. We don’t need to barge in and disrupt their culture or way of life. I don’t want to be ‘those white people’ who hurt more than they help. No one cares about your stories. Education isn’t necessary if you don’t know the difference anyways. You can’t do this, you’re too young and inexperienced.”
And if I were to be completely honest with you, more often than not my answer ends up being a big, ego-crushing
This issue is an ongoing struggle for me. We are currently in the middle of planning a trip to Mozambique with a few others (including a videographer) and the process is not fun. Plane tickets are ridiculously expensive, I can’t find dependable lodging prices, we need to apply for visas soon, I hate fundraising, blah blah blah – problem here problem there – whine whine whine. I’ve now started asking myself, “Why Africa? WHYYY MEEE?!” I told you I was whining.
Thank God for my co-workers, though. They are such an encouragement without even knowing it. While eating lunch with some staff and volunteers, we were talking about our spouses and the chores each of us take on (or don’t). One man started talking about how much he enjoys serving his wife. He makes coffee for her in the morning, fixes her lunch, heats her car up when it’s cold, irons her clothes, prays with her before work, and does all of this hours before he even has to be awake. When another co-worker asked what she does to deserve such special treatment, his reply was, “Ya know what? I just really love my wife. It’s an honor to be married to her, and that’s all there is to it.” There were no strings attached. No “because she does this and that for me.” Not even a “because that’s what husbands do.” He was compelled to serve because of the pure love that Christ had put in his heart for her.
Why do I always think that my answers have to be earth-shattering? That every person I talk to needs to nod their head and say, “Yeah, I totally agree.” Or, that there even has to be an answer to begin with? Let’s get real here, shall we?
Here’s why Ryan and I wake up every morning thinking of our “Mozambabies,” the teachers, their families, Mancoba, and Liclo. Why we sacrifice to send support. Why we would move tomorrow if we were given the chance – We really love these people. Like really, really, REALLY love these people. We want them to succeed. We want the little boys and girls to live past the age of seven and be able to write their names. We want to see households with moms and dads living without HIV/AIDS. We want them to know the grace, freedom, acceptance, and hope that Jesus brings. And you know why we are able to love them so much? Because Christ loved us first. That’s it. It is only because He has put that love in our hearts.
Even though this answer doesn’t completely satisfy the question, it gives me such encouragement. I pray that daily we will strive to see others how Christ sees them – as his masterpieces – and that that love within us will leave others questioning. And then, when we are asked the famous question of “Why?” our only response is, “Because we love them.”