I Have So Much to Learn From My Sister, Africa


I sit on the ground with her, this woman in the brightly printed dress and crow’s feet from the Widow’s Village in Rwanda.

She sits with a thud, because the genocide has that kind of impact–it has robbed her of her husband and her children–and she has been listening to another woman tell her story and the memories–they’ve just collided and shoved her down.

So I sit there with her in the dirt, a child in my lap and the village around us.

“God is good,” she whispers.

Just hours earlier we’d visited a vocational school, where children–orphaned by the genocide—were learning trades like welding and sewing, and when the teacher asked who had lost a loved one to the war, everyone had raised a hand.

And I’d gone around and hugged every single one, pressed my heart against theirs, because this is one thing I can give–myself. I cannot fix the past. I cannot take away the pain. But I can make the present a little easier.

Our team leader, the founder of World Help, he’s the one who stops the vehicle so the kids running alongside us can get on and ride with us. He’s the one who cries when he reunites with a student graduating college–a kid his organization found, years earlier, in the slums; put in a rescue home and sponsored for eighteen years.

He’s the one who says, “We don’t empower people—because to do so would imply we hold the power in the first place. Only Christ empowers people. We serve.”

And if it’s one thing I’ve learned on this bloggers’ trip, it’s that I’m not a Savior.

I can’t save anyone. I can’t come into a country and fix anyone’s problems. Before I left on this trip, God told me: “Emily, your job is not to fix. That’s my job. I can fix everything with one breath. You are merely a vessel.”

So I sit there in the dirt with this woman in the printed dress. Ospreys sing in the Eucalyptus trees, and we’re listening to another women’s story of the genocide. The entire government-funded village gathered around to thank World Help for sponsoring their children’s education. For teaching them about Jesus. For giving them reason to smile.

I have been in Africa for six days, with my hand sanitizer and my camera–and the one thing I can conclude from my time here is:

I have so much to learn from my sister, Africa.

The land of men and women who rise above war and genocide and starvation, who race down the road crying “Mzungu!” at the foreigners in the van, who leap into visitors’ arms and wrap their tiny arms, recklessly—who beg at street corners and carry 40 gallon jugs of water for miles.

Africa: with its cows lying in the center of traffic circles, with goats and chickens and children rolling tire tubes with sticks, with fresh paw paw and mango and plantain.

As missionaries, we are not saviors. We are servants. We serve a Savior. We enter into another culture with our flawed spirits, and we try to minimize self so the other might be enhanced.

It’s all about the other. It’s all about knowing them, so they might know Christ. The end.

It’s not about converting cultures. It’s about swapping stories. It’s not about developing the east. It’s about developing relationships. It’s not about taking photos. It’s about knowing the names of the people, touching their calloused hands.

We all need something. And that something is not paved streets or brand-name jeans or suburbia. It’s not revenue dollars or advertising or sneakers or titles.

It’s the God who became man, who rode a young colt, who healed lepers, who died on a cross.

The woman is done telling her story and the crowd turns to me and my friend, sitting there on the ground, and they extend their hands–lift us from the dirt.

This is what it means to be a missionary: to lift another up, so they might, like Zaccheaus in the tree—see Jesus.

We’re here in Africa with #AFRICAWH to build a rescue home for abandoned babies, so the fatherless and motherless can find a family with Destiny Villages of Hope. We’ve fully funded our first phase of the rescue home. Fore more information, see this video. Or, donate to the project HERE?

  • http://paulanderson13.wordpress.com/ Paul Anderson

    Great insight and humbleness. Being God’s hands and feet…..good stuff.

  • Amy Wolff

    Ah Mzungo yelled by beautiful young and rambunctious kids. I remember that well. Thanks for sharing. I walked away from Rwanda (2005, 2013) thinking: God is big if he can help people forgive after being so flooded with despair and grief.

  • Janae Lovern

    Beautiful words, thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ the Old Adam

    Powerful words…that underline a powerful Word.


  • guest reader

    Thank you for lifting others up, like Zaccheus in the tree.