Why I Love Africa
The post was written by Leslie Clingenpeel, the Next Steps Coordinator and member of the Missions Team at Solace Church.
Those are two words that I feel are closely related yet hard to achieve in our western culture. Before I made my first trip to Africa, I thought I knew what those two words meant and I thought I had experienced both in my lifetime. I was wrong. What I am not saying is that my life isn't joyful or simple, but what I am saying is I was unaware of what true joy was until I was taught that by the people of Cote d'Ivoire.
When I think about Africa, my heart longs to be there. The people there, who have nothing by way of material things, smile from the depths of their heart. They do not know what it means to have everything they could ever ask for and still want more. But what they do know is how to survive and they know they have each other. Relationships and people are what they have an abundance of, and they find their joy in life, in creation, in people and for the ones who are believers, they find their joy in God their Father. They truly know what it means to rely on God for their daily needs and their true dependence on God inspires, yet challenges me. Every time I go to Africa, I fall more and more in love with the people. They have nothing to offer, yet they give so much and they give it freely. Blessing others is a true blessing to them and that's where they find their joy! As an American, I have much to learn from them!
Now, on to simplicity. Think to yourself about the last time you said you were going to "disconnect to unwind" or that you were "going off the grid for a little bit". Now, think about what that really looked like and how long that really lasted. In Tanda, where the Solace Family Home will be located, there is often times no water or electricity for days, weeks, and sometimes even months. There is internet, if you want to pay a lot for it and only if the cell phone towers are working at the right time. Most of the village people have never watched a television show, most do not own cell phones, and social media is something they've never even heard of. One of the things I love the most about Africa, and that I absolutely crave when I return to America, is the simplicity of life there. You are forced to slow down while you are there. If you want bread, you wander on down to the market and grab a fresh loaf, and you actually buy it from a person and not from a shelf. In the evenings after dark, you hang around a lantern and chat with other people, no screens, no distractions, nothing to get in a hurry about. That's another thing, Africans do not get in a hurry.... for anything! They just don't have any reason to be in a hurry. Busyness isn't a sign of achievement the way it is in American. In Africa, simplicity means you are disconnected from the demands of our busy American way of life, and you have time to connect with people (face to face, using actual words and facial expressions), you have time to marvel at God's Creation, and you have time to truly connect with God. Simplicity is good for the soul, and every day that goes by that gets me a day closer to traveling to Africa again, the more my soul longs for that rest.
I could go on and on about what I love about Africa, if I'm being honest, there isn't much to not love. Sure, there is evil, and darkness and hunger and poverty, but oh.... the beauty and good that is found in the "less than" outweighs all of that, every single time.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is....joy" -Galatians 5:22