Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I sat slightly ashamed...

Warning:  This may offend you.  There, you've been warned...

A few months ago I wrote this blog about "the value of a dime".  In it I wrote about a man in Kenya named Daniel Juma.  And, yes, I do still have that dime!

Today, we went out to Juma's place to see how and where we can help him in his ministry with orphans.  Juma recently purchased a new farm about 15-20 minutes from here.  He now has about a 5 acre plot of land where he can farm to fund his mission of taking in orphans.  I love this man and am so encouraged by him and all that he does.

As we sat at his kitchen table this morning I was kind of ashamed.  He thanked all of us for coming to help him out with some free manual labor.  He started by saying how so many in Kenya see America as the land of opportunity.  He said, "I don't see America as the land of opportunity.  More so, I see America as the land of God".  He went on to say how we even have the phrase "In God We Trust" on our money.  He told us how he sees Americans as unlike any other country in that we will give up our time and come to Africa to help those in need.  Another Kenyan present told us how we as Americans, even though our economy is bad, are taking what we have and offering it to others.  He said that we are basically taking food from our own tables and coming to Africa to share it with orphans here.  Together they painted such a beautiful picture of Americans.  They were not talking about the government aid that is sent.  They were speaking about us as individuals.

But I sat there nearly in tears, a bit ashamed.  Ashamed because I don't know that he was right.  First, we are becoming a nation that is taking "God" in any sense out of the public.  There is even a push to have it removed from our money.  We take God out of our schools in every way possible but allow other religions the freedom to practice their believes.  All because God may be offensive.  I am by NO MEANS saying that we need to be pushing Christianity on everyone in school!  But I am saying that it offends ME that schools are saying that a Christian cannot even have a time of prayer but someone of another faith can.  Then, when something bad happens, we are the first to blame God for it; "why didn't God stop...from happening?".

Then I wondered is he right about us as a whole?  For much of my life I had no desire to come to Africa.  Nor did I have the desire to know about conditions over here.  Yes, I understand that we have poverty too. But, seriously!  Look around the US and you will not find even close to the level of poverty over here!  I have never once walked through an area of the US and seen raw sewage floating in the streets be the norm.  I'm not talking about the aftermath of a disaster; I'm talking about real life.  Face it:  America is NOT as impoverished as so many other places in the world.  And so many of us in the US don't even want to know about it.  It's far easier to live in ignorance to it.  Some years ago a college friend of mine wrote a blog about how he and his wife lived in Mozambique, South Africa.  There was a hold in their fence and behind it was a garbage heap where street kids would scrounge for food.  They wanted to cover the hole but ended up leaving it as a reminder of why they were there.  You see, so many times we want to cover it up and pretend it doesn't exist.  We do the same in the US too.  We see the homeless person and we want to turn away and pretend to look at a poster, street sign, or our phone.  Please, know that I include myself in this mix.

I'm not saying that everyone should jump on the next plane and go to another country.  And I know that there are some that do.  Many, in fact.  But I also know that as a whole, our nation doesn't want to know.  You can call me a liar if you want.  But I've seen it.  Each time I've been back from Kenya I'm met with many of the exact same questions:  How was the food?  What animals did you see?  How was the weather?  very rarely have I been asked about the people; the relationships formed.  In more cases than not, when I tried to talk about the conditions that some live in here, it's met with resistance.

So, yes, I felt a bit ashamed today.  I am by no means ashamed to be an American.  In fact, I'm very proud to be one.  Extremely proud.  But I don't want to look at people as some being Kenyan, some being Afghan, some being American.  I think that it's time we understand that we're all in this together.  We may be from different parts of the world, but our hearts are so similar.  We all have the same basic needs.  And sadly, there are parts of the world where those basic needs are far from being met.  I'm not asking anyone to necessarily change how you live or to give money or anything.  But let's at the very least be willing to learn.

While I may have felt a bit ashamed, I also felt encouraged that right now there are 9 of us Americans living at this compound who are living out what Juma talked about.  Right now, we're all here in Kenya.  In a few months some will be in India, others will be back in the US and others may be anywhere.  It is awesome to walk in town and see so many that have given up far more than me to do what they felt in their hearts to be right.  Yes, shame.  But also joy.  A strange mixture of both.

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