When a Christian says everyone should visit Africa, it’s usually because we need to come save the continent right? Well, here’s a stunning truth for you:
The Church in Africa is more vibrantly alive than I have ever encountered the North American Church to be. They are rapidly growing and expanding, and frankly: they don’t need us, we need them. It’s time for reverse missions. We had the distinct and honourable privilege to be a part of bringing the Gospel to Africa, and now Africa is going to return the favour by bringing it back home to us. Just give it 20 years. I promise, you’ll start bumping into African missionaries. This is an entirely different post for some other time, the topic is far too large to tackle on top of what I already have to say, but I did want to point out that evangelism isn’t why you need to come to Africa. (Although evangelism IS a God given mandate to every Christ follower, and it certainly won’t hurt to evangelize while you’re here.)
One) The food.
This is just an obligatory statement. You should be excited to try every cultures’ food, they’re all so unique and cool. Some of the things you have to look forward to in Kenya are mandazi (a personal favourite, taken with tea), chapati (like an upgraded tortilla), or green grams.
Two) Learn to appreciate what you have.
Quite honestly, I’ve always been a little fed up with North American culture. I never understand why people wait in line to upgrade their iPhones, or how people justify their Christmas shopping habits. I’ve never been materialistic and thus have never belonged in the culture of consumerism… But it wasn’t until I moved here that I realized how much even I, in all of my scorning the useless materialism, take for granted. Things like the fact that perfectly pure water comes out of my faucet, or my washing machine and drier. How about my closet, dresser, desk, bed, nightstand, two bookshelves, and a lounging chair all in my room. (That would be literally physically impossible in the room I have now.) What about heating or air conditioning, or vacuums. By virtue of the fact that I live in North America, I have, at my fingertips, on any given day, an incredible amount of conveniences available to me, that I have, for all my life, taken completely for granted.
Three) Break your stereotypes.
I think (actually I know) a lot of you have stereotypes or misinformation about Africa, and there’s no better way to break those than to come see and learn for yourself. (Exhibit A: Africa is a continent, not a country.) All of Africa does not speak one language. There are Indians and Asians here too, not just Africans. Not everyone is poor. Every African has distinct features, they are all unique people. (Just like every other race.) They don’t live in huts; they dress nicer than I do like 98% of the time. (The other 2% I’ve disillusioned myself into thinking I’m on par.) They are equally as intelligent, if not more so. Nairobi could seriously be Edmonton, the architecture is that similar. (Just add 2 million more people.) They like sports other than soccer. Children are not starving on every street corner. There is some truth behind these statements, of course. Just like if I said “Canadians love hockey.” Ya, the majority of us do, but there are Canadians who couldn’t care less about hockey, as well. You probably read all of those, and thought, “duh Maggie, of course.” But let me tell you, confronting all of those truths face to face brings to light what you think. You may have yourself convinced that you believe this or that, but ultimately, ethnocentrism is at the heart of all of us (including Africans) and until you stare it down and teach yourself otherwise through exposure, it can’t be cured.
Four) Experience the absence of the “personal bubble.”
You know how sometimes people stand to close to you, and you say “you’re in my bubble.” Or that we have lines around ourselves that people are not supposed to cross. It’s culturally understood in North America that you stand a certain distance away, and that some questions are off limits, and etc, etc.. All my life, I’ve used that bubble as an excuse to keep myself from opening up to people around me, or really enjoying the fellowship of others. Here in Africa, the bubble doesn’t exist. I mean it does, but not in the same capacity.. And let me tell you, it’s way more fun. Reassuring touches aren’t forced or awkward, and every single greeting is begun with a hand shake or a hug that lasts until the greeting has extended into deeper conversation. People stand close to one another as if they really want to be near you, not just tolerate you. There’s a really scary lack of boundaries for topics up for discussion. I’ve shared more about myself in the last month than I have in the last year, but surprisingly, I don’t mind it. I like the feeling that people want to get to know me.. And I can almost guarantee you will too.
Five) Be humbled.
I teach Bible studies to a bunch of super adorable elementary students every morning, and I go to a high school one afternoon a week as well. I am ashamed almost every time I walk into a classroom, for several reasons, and here are two. First, the elementary students are so genuinely eager to learn. They treasure their education, which is something I can’t ever recall witnessing in kids in North America. At home, school is a chore. One of the students this morning wanted us to pray for them to get Bibles.. That should speak for itself. Second, the high school I went to was originally created to be a bomb shelter; therefore, it has no windows. You would not believe how much people complain about the lack of windows. When I tell others in Edmonton that I went to Ainlay, they comment about it. When students in grade 9 choose their high schools it comes up an absurd amount of times. (As if the number of windows will effect the quality of education.) And we, as students, complained on a regular basis that we have no natural light or whatever. (Because every teen needs their natural light, didn’tcha know.) I will never forget going to the high school here for the first time. I walked along a dirt road for ten minutes before getting to the school, and when I got there, I wouldn’t have known it was a school if not for all the students. I don’t know how to describe it, really, but let me say, they didn’t have windows either, because the school was made of sheets of aluminum. Whereas my books were updated every two or three years, the books these students study from seriously appear to be from the 90s, or maybe even earlier. The classrooms were lit by a single bulb, and one classroom, which was maybe the size of my house’s upstairs living room or smaller crammed about 50 students in, with several students squeezed into each desk. The roof is tin, which means when it rains not a single word can be heard. Halfway through our teaching, about a third of the students leave to begin walking home, because they live so far away. And to think I ever complained about not having windows, or the fact that my book’s binding was breaking, or that I ever skipped classes and squandered what a blessing of an education I had? Those thoughts disgust me now. I am humbled.
Africa isn’t the only place you can experience these things. In fact, I’m always telling friends here to leave Kenya, just as I’m urging you to leave your home. It’s an amazing thing to be the odd one out. To be so far out of your comfort zone you’re not actually sure of anything anymore. You learn a lot about yourself, and having another culture’s perspective in your pocket will be so helpful in widening your own world views. Travel is just a valuable experience altogether. So go on. Get out there.
Show the world your beautiful soul, and let it show off back at you. (:
much love & many blessings
The biggest bonus of Kenya so far: my friends. Meet a few below (:
Harriet: the life of the party. Always keeps us laughing. She is a lovely soul.
Claytone: the partner in crime. Not afraid to think big, or to challenge me to think bigger.
(Left) Dot: the spirit animal. Seriously. We took personality tests at one point in orientation and we scored within 3 points of each other. It’s creepy but fun to have a friend so similar.
(Middle) Brenda: the quietly sweet. So looking forward to getting to know her better.