People rarely admit they pray against Africa. But we do. We’re scared of the poverty, the extreme without. We’re afraid of the disease and the children whose faces are covered with flies and have sickened feet without the protection of shoes.
It’s a scary, unknown continent where missionaries wear long skirts and wraps in their hair. There’s dust. Lots of dust. And maybe disease bearing mosquitos. And ebola.
Yes, there are those beautiful smiles from those beautiful dark faces. Those eyes who show both pain and joy. But still, we secretly pray, “Jesus, anywhere. Anywhere…but Africa.”
And so we go about our day and perhaps pray for the people of Ethiopia or Uganda when we think of it, but as we pray, deep down we are scared if we spend too much time praying, God will somehow think maybe He should send us there. So we make our prayers quick.
In high school when I didn’t finish my pizza lunch, which I rarely did, I’m embarrassed to tell you I’d laughingly tell my friends “just send it to Ethiopia” as I flippantly threw my crust and discarded pepperoni into the trash can, full of other half and even non-eaten food.
I’m horrified to tell you that in my heart, I’d roll my eyes when yet another mission trip returned telling of the “wonderful” and “amazing” things they saw in Kenya. How God was moving there and they were honored to be part of it.
Genuinely, from the bottom of my heart…I prayed against Africa.
If I were being really real and raw and vulnerable with you, I’d let you in on what I thought I was called to: not the least of these, not the orphans, most certainly not Africa. But rather, the rich.
I remember jogging around Greenlake with my best friend Kiesha (ok honestly, we were walking, but whatever) sharing our hopes and dreams and plans for after graduating from college. I told her about the passage in the Bible I’d recently read. The one about how it’s easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. It struck a cord with me. The poor…those folks were handled. They had charities and nonprofits and programs to last forever.
But the rich. The RICH! Who ministered to these? They’re the movers and the shakers, the ones who have the financial means to actually make a difference in the world!! We have a particular family friend who is quite wealthy (and by quite…I mean very). I remember learning in high school that they didn’t tithe 10%. They LIVED on 10%. Everything else, they gave to the Lord.
I was impacted by that. I thought that lined up so well with the ministry I thought I was impassioned for.
I was majoring in art history and planned to go on to get my masters, and eventually my doctorate. A life full of travel and international living. A life full of “important” museum work. I was going to change the world wearing stilettoes and rubbing shoulders with Rembrandt loving millionaires.
I mean, come on…wouldn’t that be the most fantastic life? You know it would.
But it wasn’t the life I was born for. The life Christ put me on this planet for. So to you who have that life? Do it. Change it. Show God’s love to those wealthy that think they can do it all themselves. Girl…live Him.
But for me, that would never be. Well, likely never be at this point. But who knows. I mean, He is God after all.
Everything changed the day I realized I’d never consulted Him on any of it. This dream I had, it was my dream. Yes, it was (supposedly) with great Purpose. But I knew I wanted instead for my future to be where HE wanted me to be.
So that day I laid it down at His feet. My plans, my dreams, and my future. Not my will, but Yours, Father…I breathed as I sat on that green park bench over looking the Space Needle, ferry boats dreamily floating away from the pier in downtown Seattle, and toward the San Juan islands.
I’ve mentioned before how that day changed everything. And it did.
I’m not going to tell you that I suddenly loved children and woke up one day wanting a big family. Nor did I immediately feel a tug toward Africa. I didn’t even know I was yet to give up on my dream to be a Curator.
But little by little, Christ revealed Himself to me. I’d been a Christian since I was five, and though I was SO far from making perfect choices all the time, I would say in all, I followed Him closely my whole life.
But this felt different. And it was.
And over time. Over the next few years, I fell in love. We wanted kids. We wanted to live a life out of the ordinary, one outside of ourselves. And we wanted to invite children from Africa to join our family and be our children.
Just like Christ has adopted each of us into His family, we wanted to adopt and pour love into these kids who may not otherwise have any.
And He just kept opening up my selfish heart. And opening and opening and opening. He’s still opening. Urging it open with His good and graciously patient hands.
There have been so many “I’d NEVER” moments that have turned into “I CANNOT WAIT!” ones instead. Disgust into desire. Unlove into deep, deep passion.
And it’s not because I prayed against Africa. Though I genuinely think He was in heaven chuckling and rolling His eyes at me, I don’t think my passion came from my fear and disregard of those people.
It came because He knew I was made to be a mom to my kids, for He knew their future already. He knew Abreham was already born and would wait another decade to be our son. He knew the sweet mamas of our other little loves would one day need us to care for their children. Christ knew we would be a listening ear to countless families going through international adoptions, and that we were to raise awareness to it…particularly toward adopting older children.
What I’m trying to say is our life and our callings and passions aren’t because God is trying to give us our greatest fears. He doesn’t feel powerful from granting us our dread.
What He does do though, when we genuinely want nothing more than the life He’s designed for us…is change our very hearts. He knows our giftings and where we could be used best.
For goodness sakes, He’s the one who created us! Wouldn’t He be the perfect one to tell us how our gifts and loves and passions could best be utilized? Even those passions we haven’t quite uncovered or discovered yet, will be used. If we let Him, the Lord will give our hearts a new song, a new purpose, and deep….deep desires.
Sometimes it is similar to something we’re already doing. Combining with things we already love. But sometimes…sometimes, as in my case…He simply throws out all the old, to make room for the new.
And the new is so much more fulfilling and true than anything I could have planned on my own.
So Africa? I’m no longer scared of you. My prayers have changed from pleading to not be sent there, but rather that He gives me another opportunity run in your direction. Your people are joyful and generous, your history is rich and deep. And your land is so much more beautiful than I could've imagined. I want your scent to rub off on me. I want more of you.
I was talking to a friend earlier today who has a nonprofit in Uganda. We were chatting about how strange it is to be homesick and long for a place which has never been your home. “It’s my heart’s home,” she said. Yes, I thought. YES.
She gets it. She too has had her heart fixed and changed and transformed according to the life Christ put her on this earth for.
Jesus, forever YES.
Change our hearts. Because with You, nothing is scary. Not even Africa.