Thawing my heart in the heat of Africa….
Good morning God…
I’m back in Seattle.
I remember being in the thick of my time there – tired, hungry, annoyed by sweat and bugs and the smells that come to humid places that have no showers. I remember thinking, “I can’t get home soon enough – back to wood stoves, and skis, cologne and college basketball, my wife, literacy, favorite smells, high speed internet.” How shallow is that?
Now I’m home, and when I scroll through the pictures, tears come to my eyes – tears of gratitude for the privilege of meeting people who taught me things I didn’t want to learn, things I didn’t even know I needed to learn. And I’ve a feeling the learning, and the relationship with these wonderful people, has just begun.
One thing I’ve begun to learn through this visit is that “normal”, on both sides of the continent, is in need of readjustment, and that we can help each other learn. They need to learn hygiene habits, and that water from a deep well is much better than water from the lowlands, where parasites and mosquitoes conspire to deal sickness and death. They need to learn that saving money is a good thing, and that they’ve the power, even with their own limited resources, to build their lives, their families, their communities. We can help them learn these things – we must help them – we will help them.
I (I won’t be bold enough to use “we”, though I suspect many will agree) need to learn how to dance. Not literally so much (that’s beyond teaching in my case), but in other ways:
I don’t mean to romanticize. There are people living with nightmares and trauma because of the Rwandan genocide in the 90’s. There’s political tension bubbling, just beneath the surface. Though there’s progress with infant mortality, kids die all the time, and parents don’t just take it in stride – it cuts them to the core, just like it does us. The suffering is immense. Still – the dance of joy is woven right into the fabric of it. Go to church in Rwanda and watch them dance, remembering that they’re way less than one generation removed from killing each other with machetes in ways more brutal than I can stomach writing about. And yet – joy. I’ve much to learn.
“This ‘moving on’”, I remember thinking, “is the story of my life.” I’m good at having a thousand acquaintances, much better at that, in fact, than having real friends. They don’t have the “thousand acquaintance” option on the table, and so many of them have mastered the art of community and real friendships. Now that I’m back where “solitude on demand” is available to me, I’m praying Jesus, that I’ll remained challenged by the countless examples of interdependency and community that I saw there.
It seems like this trip has had the effect of revealing a lot of arrogance I’ve had, and then squeezing it out of me, a process I hope continues. It seems also, that I’ve a chance to live better here because of it – more intentionally, simply, generously, joyfully. I am, now that I’m home, profoundly grateful for the learning, born in the warmth of Rwandan and Ugandan culture, that’s beginning to thaw some coldness in my heart. I pray the thaw continues.
Thanks God, for the privilege, profoundly so, of being there… it’s great to be home – may the seeds you’ve planted through the thousand beautiful people I met bear fruit, and spare me from settling back into the insidious pull and demands of my often sanitized faith. Amen…Amen.