Monday, May 11, 2009

Alive In Africa

People often ask me why I choose to live in Africa, and why I am so happy here. They assume I am making a great sacrifice by living here, and often exclaim how proud they are of me. The truth is that living in Africa is not a sacrifice for me at all. While I certainly have a list of sacrifices I’m more than willing to make, living here is not one of them. I actually prefer living here to living in the US.

In America, I live in a bubble of comfort that often leads to complacency and lack of perspective. I am rarely ever in need of anything that isn’t already at my finger tips or provided for me. I have multiple vehicles at my disposal, and plenty of food in the refrigerator. Things happen very easily. It’s easy to just plot along and let life happen. I start to forget what I’m really fighting for. I loose track of relationships that are so important to me. I get caught up in consumerism and “needing” more stuff. My financial priorities get skewed.

All of a sudden my day is consumed with what restaurant to eat at, what pair of shoes to buy, inflated gas prices, the latest political scandal, and conversations about petty drama, which restaurants I should stay away from because of the horrible service, which churches are scandalous, and how I have got to go to this party or that. In the midst of it all, I begin to loose sight of what is really important to me. I start justifying completely unnecessary expenses and indulgences. My sense of purpose begins to dissipate, as does my drive. I begin turning into someone I don’t want to be.

In Africa, if I want to go anywhere, I have to walk from my house, down the dirt road about a quarter mile, hail a motorcycle taxi, hop on the back and put a nasty helmet on my bald head. The water goes off, right after my workout, right before a meeting, and I’m heading out all sweaty. When I order food at a restaurant, I expect at least a two hour wait, and I know it will be wrong when it gets there. The power goes out in the middle of important meetings. The cell network goes down all the time. I’m taken advantage of because of my race. People don’t show up for meetings. Everything takes three times longer than it should. Things are lost in translation. And the mosquitoes are unrelenting.

Life here is very deliberate. If I want something, I really have to want it. Things don’t just fall into place. I have to use what little money I have extremely wisely. When I run out, that’s it, and I have to get creative. I’ve discovered that you can apply copious amounts of honey and/or hot sauce to just about anything in order to make it more edible. When it rains, things shut down and I find myself noticing the beauty around me for the first time that day. How did I miss that before? When the computers are dead, the power is off, and it’s raining outside, things change. I think about things I’d never think about otherwise. I am forced to pause. And when everything comes back on and the sun comes out, I’m so grateful for the fact that I have these things at all. I never think about those things in the states. I take so much for granted there.

When I’m in Africa, I feel alive. I appreciate the things I have. I realize how much I can do without. I pay more attention to the people around me. I pray more. I suffer more. And through that suffering, I learn lessons I would never learn in times of abundance. I am grateful for the rain, the power outages, the water shortages and the time delays. I’m grateful for the relationships I have and for the perspective this life creates. It’s easy for me to remember what I care about most.

My life in Africa keeps me grounded. It keeps me centered and aware. My perspective is clear and purposeful. I feel truly alive here. I feel connected to people and to God. There is something about this land, and the people that remind me to live and love like it’s my last day on earth. I love that. I thank God I have the opportunity to live and serve here.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is tied up with mine, then let us struggle together.” – Unknown –

1 comment:

Angy Abuki said...

Hello Jared!

What a pleasant surprise to have discovered you online today( 14. May. 2009)an American in Africa. I am Afrogerman and want to give back to the continent I remember from my childhood.You have inspired me!! I want to thank you for following your dream.Continued guidance and protection from God to you & I pray that He will keep you envoloped in His flawless Essence and reward your giving to instead of taking from the Africans.