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Monday, April 8, 2019

Into Africa

I am sitting at a makeshift desk in 100-degree heat in a town whose name I could not pronounce a few years ago.  I have a tablet pc, a smartphone, and a power pack to keep them both charged. 

It is a scene that reminds me of one in a lot of films about Africa.  Usually such a scene occurs on a safari with someone in a pith helmet pecking away at an old Underwood.  In this case, I am sitting in an oasis, the Oasis of Hope in Lorem Ipsum. Instead of being surrounded by lions, and tigers, and hyenas, I am surrounded by babies and small children and their mothers.  A couple of men are finishing the new chicken coop.  It’s all so stereotypically African with a twist.  And it’s hot and getting hotter but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

The chicken coop has been long in coming.  It was supposed to be full of hens laying eggs by Christmas.  It’s now almost Easter and the chickens may be here before May.  Their eggs will feed the mothers who come to the Oasis for baby formula because they cannot nurse or to family members when the mother or both parents are missing.  A malnourished woman can’t nurse properly.  The added nutrition from a few eggs per month can make the difference.  Leaves from the nutritious Moringa trees raised here add even more nutrients to mom’s diet.  Babies feed better, gain weight, and grow better, and may even make it past their fifth birthday.

I’m drinking a Coke, it’s warm.  So is everything else.  Besides money, food, health care and honest government, one thing in short supply here in Africa is shade.  The sun has moved to my workspace and I can feel the heat rising from the desk.  Soon my tablet with give me a red box warning that it is shutting down because it is too hot.  I need to find more shade.

Feeding wizened babies and their nearly as skinny mothers is good and it makes many good feelings.  So does distributing small bags of rice and beans or small plastic sacs of drinking water to the many in need.  Taking desperately ill babies and adults to local clinics, pediatric hospitals, or radiology specialists is also good for a serotonin uptake. Holding a cooing baby once the size of a rolled pair of socks is an even bigger rush.  But, as the song goes, it’s all just “dust in the wind.”

If sending well-fed babies to Hell was the best I could hope for, I’d go live someplace a good deal cooler and find something much more amusing to do.  But there is more I can hope for and do.

Unlike postmodern Europe and North America, Africa hasn’t tired of faith in God.  In fact, I have found much hunger for who God is.  Here where peoples’ continued existence can depend on the next rain, God has a more welcome and visible hand.  Here, most people are not “too smart” to still believe in the Eternal God of the universe.  Here is a growing population who know that they need Jesus and seek him with all of their hearts.  They know God is the one who brings the next rain. 

I’m getting older and already past retirement age.  Dragging around 25-kilo sacks of rice or beans, hauling 20-kilo containers of water, and experiencing sun so intense that you really can cook on a car hood is not the object of my life.  What gets me out of bed in the morning is the hope and experience of sharing, sometimes just a little of the love of Jesus Christ with someone who is living on the razor’s edge of existence and who is taking each day a foot, a morsel, or a minute at a time now and for the innumerable tomorrow’s to come.

The heat, dust, and mosquitos fade into non-existence on even the faintest hope that one day a simple seed that God has allowed me to plant will become that slightly familiar smiling face who greets me with an outstretched hand and a small sack of drinking water in the life to come.