What's it like to live in Africa????

Ethan had the joy of receiving a letter in the mail--the real mail, with a stamp and everything!--a first here in Africa for him. It was written by a sweet boy at one of our churches; a boy we've never met. Ethan was thrilled to get it, and he read it aloud for us. It was very sweet. And then came the line that gives me hives every time.

"What's it like to live in Africa?"

Not because it's not a valid question. I understand how inconceivable and incomprehensible living in Africa might seem. Yes, I understand why the question inevitably comes. The hives are a result of just how difficult that question is to answer.

How does one wrap up the experience of DIFFERENT in a concise sentence, as if the 26 letters plus punctuation could possibly be enough to bring clarity as to what it's like?

How does one describe the ease with which we pat ourselves on the back and say to God and others, "We've sacrificed so much. We're so Radical. Now give us what we've earned." And then minutes later seeing others' sufferings, and the force with which we're struck to our knees, crying out to God and others, "We've been given so much. We're still clinging to our own rights and desires. Please give us what we need."

How does one describe the deep, nearly suffocating desire to see Christ make a difference in the spiritual, physical, political, and social darkness all around us, and the fight against hopelessness that it will ever come to pass on this earth.

How does one talk about trusting our children's wellbeing to God's lovingkindness, and also the need to be in tune with their needs so as not to neglect them for the sake of the work. Or to reconcile God's call on our chilrden's lives, when it wasn't their decision to come out here.

How does one describe the beauty of a foreign land, the beauty of a foreign people, the intrigue of hearing foreign tongues all around, the frustration of always being the foreigner.

So what's it like to live in Africa?? It's like driving on an unfamiliar highway; one with pot-holes aplenty, and a chasm on one side and rising cliffs on the other, with an enemy trying to knock us into the chasm or into the cliffs. Oh, and we're in a standard-shift car. With no cruise control. . Every moment, trying to take in the sights and make sense of the sounds. Every moment, concentrating on the road with painful intensity. Always aware, always alert, always double-checking speed, and fuel, and lights. It's exhilarating and exhausting. It's rewarding and punishing. It's never dull, and sometimes we cry out for dull. But it's real, and it's important, and it's our road, prepared in advance for us to travel. We may look a little wind-blown; I wouldn't call it a joy-ride, but it's the road-trip of a lifetime.

So, what's it like to live in America?


  1. I remember the first time I asked Kenny what it was like to grow up in Ethiopia and Kenya, and his answer was perfect: To him, it was completely normal. He was so young when your family went over, and he didn't fully understand all the struggles your parents may have faced. But it was life, it was home, it was his normal.


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