So, house church tonight got me thinking. I've talked with Clint about this a little bit, and he told me that I should blog it out. My concern is that it would make me look like a horrible person - but he said that it is honest and real, which is what I expect from others - and that many other people are probably struggling with these same feelings/thoughts.
I've prayed to be given a heart for Africa. I definitely see a need - there is no way to deny the NEEDS there. My problem is that I feel like if I were to serve there I would be going for the wrong reasons. I realize that perceptions change dramatically based on experience, and I have never experienced Africa first-hand. That being said...I have this warped image of Africa as being somewhere between the Sally Struthers "Feed the Children" sobumentaries where people are so destitute that they lack all hope and the homeless of the U.S. - who many although they don't have much are choosy about what they will accept.
Part of me wants to package up EVERYTHING and ship it to Africa to help several people. Part of me thinks...why would they want our stuff - it's not new and that is selfish. Clint argued that it was a bit selfish of me to think that they do not want/need my "stuff". He asked me if I would send my used tire? I said - no, I don't think I would. He asked "Why - that one used tire could provide shoes for 50+ people." I said...because that is demeaning - why wouldn't I just send shoes? He challenged me by saying - are you saying that their needs are not big enough to warrant your items that you are not even using? Believe me- I would not withold a tire if I knew it would help that many people - I guess part of me just doesn't want to be insulting to them - or demeaning. I guess Clint's point was that we as American's don't fully realize how great the need there is. This is definitely true of me. Why withhold something that will make a difference to someone else. Clint took it to the other extreme and said "What if you had a brand new pair of Prada pumps and you were faced with the choice - would you send those? I said - I guess so but What? They don't need $600.00 shoes - or pumps for that matter - that could feed 60 people or more! His point was that sending designer shoes to a village is nice, but doesn't really meet the people where there need is. If they need water and I send designer shoes - do they really appreciate that any more? no! You can't really rationalize giving....you just have to open your heart up to be willing to give....willing to serve....and get over your own inhibitions- not worrying that what you have to offer isn't good enough and not letting your perception of your socio-economic differences get in the way.
The other problem I'm encountering is the exact opposite of the other problem I just mentioned. I'm think at times that I do tend toward feelings of benevolence regarding Africa. I somehow separate myself from Africa's problem. I'm not sure if this is a result of being an American with little real experience with Africa, but I'm afraid that if I were there I would feel that way...and I hate that feeling. I know Africa deserves more than my pity. They deserve my heart.
I am a compassionate person - as I mentioned earlier I do think it would be impossible to ignore the needs in Africa - and I have heard compelling stories that really draw me to Africa - that lead me to pray for Africa's people, but so much of Africa is still a dream or a myth to me....lions, giraffes, wilderness, tribal life....these are images that come to mind....how do I move beyond this - beyond feeling so separate - to truly feeling connected?
I am praying for Africa - and I am praying for God to continue working on my heart. I am also praying for an opportunity for experience. To take me close enough to realize that Africa is more than a story....that it's not far from me...that it's people are real and in need and I can help.