Lessons I've learned from Africa

When I came to Africa three years ago, I never imagined how my life would unfold. I never imagined how much love God has for me, and I never imagined the plan He had for my life. Looking back I’m so thankful for the path that I had to walk to be here today. Despite a lot of messy brokenness, God seated me with Him to walk out a life of leading people to Him – grace is amazing. 

Over the years, Africa has become my home. It’s given me family. It’s given me love. It’s given me some of the most beautiful things I hold deepest to my heart. It’s where I feel the most like myself and where God placed me.  I’m sure there’s been things that I’ve taught people here, but the lessons Africa, the people that live in it, and the places are the things I remember most. 

 If you come to Africa, there’s four things you must always carry: toilet paper, a headlamp, bible, and a sermon. You never know when you might need one. Seriously, don’t forget the toilet paper. That’s been a big lesson for me.  There’s other ones too like pay attention to taxis because you never know where they are turning. Eat all of your food, it’s the way to relationships. Sometimes it’s five plates of food. There’s a lot of funny lessons I’ve learned but those aren’t the ones I want to talk about.  

 Africa, the people, and the places here are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. On the flip side of that, I’ve seen some of the most hardships in my life here from death to crime. It’s a paradox to live in Africa because it is such a blessed place but also broken. Which leads me to the lessons Africa has taught me. 

Resilience: I’ve never met anyone with as much resilience as the African people. Whether it’s the farmers or a women in a remote village of Africa, you will see people who work the hardest in their entire life. I’ve been living in a village for 2 weeks now, and I’ve never worked so hard. We need to carry water for miles, crush grain for food 3 times a day, live off the land, and somehow find time to rest. The people here are more resilient than I’ve ever known, they know what they need to do to live, and they do it. 

 Faith: Africa has taught me more about my faith. Not just Africa but specifically the people. My family including other ministry families I’ve met have faith like mountains. There’s a dependence of God I’ve never seen before until I came here and it’s something I’m striving for. I see them praying for every.single.thing. And when something is wrong, we pray. It’s the kind of faith that makes change happen because there’s a belief that God WILL answer the prayer. 

 Walking the extra mile: We have a saying here that we want to always “walk the extra mile for someone.” It basically means go out of our way to help someone. A few months back, my car broke down on the a big highway from Johannesburg to Pretoria. I was stressed beyond belief. Not only did over 20 cars stop and ask for help. Someone helped us tow the car in bumper- to-bumper traffic and didn’t even think about it. It’s things like that, that make me want to go out of my way for people because some would do it for me. 

Unity: I’ve seen some of the most unifying moments in my life in Africa. Black, white, brown, and all colors coming together. There’s one of our communities that I needed to work pretty hard in to earn my right to be there. It’s a community close to my heart. When there now, they will refer to me as colleague and friend. Something very simple but it shows respect between all boundaries that hold most people back, especially in Africa. I’ve seen groups pray together, sing together, and just live life together without ever thinking twice. 

 Community: If you want to see proper community, come to Africa. Because Africans only have each other, they stick together. There’s been many times I’ve seen a death in a community and how the community reacts. For days, they will just come together from near and far. It’s not a fancy affair but it’s meaningful how they will just stop to help each other. I’ve seen adults taking care of kids that aren’t theirs and vice versa.  It’s amazing to watch how the different people groups in Africa stick together. 

 Love one another: This is something I think is the biggest lesson I have learned in Africa so far. We sometimes over complicate the gospel. We want to put it into our translation but the greatest commandment is to just love one another. Love people, where they are at, with what they have, without any strings attached. All over Africa, I see farmers helping other farmers, schools helping schools, and people wanting to help people because that’s what we are called to do. 

I think God has allowed me to see these things in order to know how to live my life, and walk my faith. I see God everyday in this country whether it’s people or places, there’s beauty everywhere you go.  There are flaws, but when it comes down to raw human moments, I’ve seen them all, and I’m thankful for a God who writes amazing redemption stories so I can experience these moments. 

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12