The only path of escape for the noise inside my head was through a trail of tears streaming down my cheeks.
Life isn't fair.
Oddly, it began with a dose of pop culture: watching "24 – Redemption". Jack
Bauer, living in Africa, rescued orphaned boys from being captured and
forced to become child soldiers; it continued with a casual mention in an email I received. A moving post from a long-time blog friend delivered the next blow, and when I followed the links she referenced, I lost my breath. The knock-out punch came from NPR of all places, in a segment that aired last week.
Africa Africa Africa AFRICA AFRICA!
When I'm confronted over and over and OVER again with the same thought–whether it's a particular passage of scripture or a call to action or even if it's just an idea–I listen… eventually… believing the recurrence is not coincidence, that there's purpose and intent in it.
Being moved to tears while driving 70 m.p.h. took me by surprise. I questioned "Why now? Why this?" and the answer struck me in a God "Ah ha!" moment.
I had prayed for this very thing.
The previous Sunday night I attended our evening worship service; it was a departure from typical music/testimony/sermon format. Instead, it was devoted to prayer–not just our pastors and elders leading in prayer, but by everyone praying in groups of six or eight.
Prayer was guided, and our focus was thanksgiving (in essence, for the wealth we've been given in Christ) and other- mindedness–how we can BE the kingdom by incarnating Jesus and loving others the way He did (and does). We prayed for the eyes to see as Christ does, and to respond with compassion and kindness; we prayed that we'd be transformed, that our own selfish desires would be put to death, and in boldness we'd speak the gospel, sometimes in word but mostly in action.
We prayed to recognize the needs of others…to look beyond ourselves…and to minister in prayer and deed.
As the tears continued to fall while I listened to that NPR broadcast, the prayers from Sunday night's service reverberated in my mind's ear. Suddenly, the veil lifted and I understood why I wept–
God had given me the eyes to see a people in need thousands of miles away. People who didn't know I existed. People I had given no thought to the day before. People who were doing whatever it took to survive! People created in the image of God, and for whom He has great love.
Listening intently while the journalist unraveled an un-fairytale about the people of Zimbabwe, I began to care about–
Children whose "treasure hunt" consisted of finding a few scattered kernels of corn scattered along a dirt road.
Old women who hadn't eaten in days, reduced to fishing out undigested corn from animal waste, washing it, grinding it, then preparing and eating it.
Political unrest, lack of running water, intermittent electricity at best (and then, only for a few of the more fortunate), "staggering inflation…shortages of fuel, foreign exchange, local currency and basic goods."
Their story is heartbreaking. So is the father of three who said he couldn't complain–he exchanged his city job as a manager to barter crops. "…at least I know I'm surviving and my family is surviving, I cannot complain," he says.
He's not complaining.
Shame on me for saying there's nothing to eat when my pantry and refrigerator are near full.
This is no message of self-condemnation; it's a message of hope and encouragement and a vivid reminder of the power of simple prayer–
Lord, open my eyes to see others the way You do and to love them the same way You love me–generously, sacrificially and demonstrably. Change my mind and heart to care less about my own interests, to be more concerned about others. Help me to recognize people in need, whether it's my neighbor down the street or my neighbor half-way around the world. Thank you for the abundance of blessing in my life–spiritual, material, relational–and to use all I've been given for your glory and the advance of the Gospel. Amen.
Will I be able to make a difference in the lives of these precious Zimbabwe people? I'll never really know for sure, but I'm now looking for ways to extend the love of Christ to them–praying for those unnamed faces I saw in the stories linked to this post, educating myself through The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, evaluating the best place to make a contribution whether it be The World Food Program or Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation or some other reputable organization…and, thanks to God's insistent voice and the mystery of prayer, sharing their story–and mine–with you.
And now an admission: sometimes I wonder what God has up His sleeve when He inspires me to write a post like this. Maybe…maybe…it's not just about me. Perhaps, like a popular TV show, a friend's email, a meaningful church service, or a report on NPR, this is God's way of tapping on your shoulder :).
Have you prayed similarly and heard your own whisper-shout of "Africa"? Would you begin praying for open eyes, ears and heart…and then share your story? Someone needs to hear….
Photo credit: NPR
Robin, your posts are usually so funny but it’s obvious that you have a very tender heart! There’s so much sadness, crime, poverty and problems in our world today. When God whispers, I hope to listen too. I “adopted” a girl from Ethiopia about 8 years ago through World Vision. It’s a small drop in the bucket, but if we each did something it helps. And also we are obedient to the message of Jesus. “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat…”
Blessings to you!
Wow! I am an occasional reader of your blog, and just happened to go to it again today – the day after I got the news from my family in Zimbabwe. My parents were both born there (back when it was Rodesia) and it really saddens them to hear about everything that has been happening there. Most of my family has moved down to South Africa, so they are much safer, but I do still have a few very distant relatives there. I would venture to guess that one of the stories you heard about in Zimbabwe was about an old couple that had been brutally murdered and their farm land taken from them. That couple were my grandfather’s cousins. So yeah, I would say that Africa really hits home with me too. Actaully we are going to visit my family in SA in less than a month. While I can’t wait to see them after 7 years, I will also be sad to see the state of the country now.
Also, it is interesting that you mentioned the 24 movie. I recently just saw it as well and also felt such compassion for those poor boys, and the whole continent in general. It really reminded me of the state that Zimbabwe is in now too.
Anyway, dispite all those horrific stories, I am thankful for what we have been blessed with, and I know that God has not forgotten us, and He is still in control.
Thanks for your post and allowing me to add my two cents.
Beautiful post! Close to my heart, as my mother took up residence in Africa about 6 years ago. I’ll email you her blog …
We visited Africa (my oldest son and I) several summers ago and those people … those humble and joyous African people that we met, will NEVER leave our souls.
There is definitely something that ALL of us have the power to give (and honestly? to also learn FROM the people of Africa as well!)
Wonderful post!!! So informative an powerful!
Robin well done! Thanks for sharing. I won’t fill your comments with my own ‘noise in our head’ that has been ringing for some time.
Preach it girl! What a fantastic post! These types of posts always make me wonder what God has planned or in store of us… Hugs!
Africa has been on my heart for a couple of years now — ever since we adopted our daughter from China. Odd, maybe. But I think God is stirring in a lot of our hearts to care for the people on that continent. I’d like to get myself to Africa one day…just waiting for the opportunity.
Robin ~ Our lives were forever changed during our trip to China to adopt the Tongginator. The average yearly salary in my daughter’s birth county? Less than $600.
Thank you for sharing this post. I don’t care where in the world people point the spotlight on poverty, just that they do it. We all need to help, whether it be within African countries or elsewhere in the world.
my husband just got back from Burkina, he left his clothes and shoes. He said at the moment that was all he could do. Several churches in our area are going to partner with burkina and the burkina compassion sites in hopes of making a small dent in the country. Preacher daddy has been on several mission trips in other poverty stricken countries, but says nothing compares to what he saw in Africa.
A very moving post. And yes, I too believe that God speaks through angels he chooses every day. You were obviously picked today. 🙂 Thank you! Find comfort in knowing that your post has touched many and is now being acted on.
wow – very moving (and convicting!) message, Robin. I have been having a similar “tap-tap” on my shoulder, not about Africa but the slums of Mexico. A good friend of mine calls these messages “love bricks” because they’re sent by God in love, but sort of stun you when they hit!
The silly ones are fun, but I love when you put up posts like this, Robin. Thank you for making us stop for a few minutes in our day and think of Africa . . . or Mexico . . . or Brazil (where our friends work with street children). There is so much need, but we can give thanks for a big God who sees it all and cares. Your post has prompted me to stop and pray, and sometimes that’s the best we can do.
My husband and I watched the “24” movie with our 16-year-old daughter. I think all of our eyes were opened, but especially hers as she asked us, “Does this stuff really happen?” She was appalled, as we all should be, by the treatment of those precious children. I pray a new generation will rise up and say, “no more!”
and two weeks ago – I ran into the Zimbabwe orphanage story that still has me wondering how I can help.
Prayer is the first step. The action through all steps.
My dear friend is from Zim and she just took a trip back there. She is in my small group at church and we have been praying daily for this country. We have many times sat around her and just prayed for the people there as she sobs for the great loss there.
We were able to send many “supplies” with her that she had to sneak in the country. God had his hand on her the entire way believe me. We actually got an entire Beth Moore bible study to a small church there! Amazing.
Oh, the 24 episode was so upsetting to me.
Great post, Robin.
A close family friend spent 2 years in Nigeria teaching at a school (a private one that catered to the rich and all those foreigners or ex-pats). Her first year she took a tour of a local Mother Theresa Orphanage (mostly HIV/AIDS children) and fell in love. She volunteered tons of time as much as she could (she couldn’t leave her compound without a body guard). Just before she left, the orphanage suffered a horrible fire.
So inspired by the place, she came home for the summer determined to make money for that orphanage – to help them rebuild. But, too many people would NOT donate money because it wasn’t a US approved non-profit (ie – no tax benefits). At the time I had just had 2 miscarriages and was thinking of adoption – and knew in my heart I was going to give money regardless. (for Christmas she had given us a picture of a child from there and it melted my heart beyond compare)
Anyway – our friend went back to Nigeria for her 2nd year and donated ALL of the profits she made that year to the orphanage. She only spent money she needed for food, clothing, etc….any extra she gave away. Some people called her crazy and foolish and unwise. But, I think she showed true dedication and love.
Wow, Robin. A moving post, for sure. And as I was reading, I kept hearing in my mind Brandon Heath’s song, “Give Me Your Eyes” – a great song with a great message.
I recently had my eyes opened at church, not about Africa, but about my community. My preacher said something that really stuck with me – we should think of and treat EVERYONE like God loves them enough to die for them – because he does, and he has. EVERYONE. Not just my friends and family and the people I’m comfortable with. My obnoxious neighbor. The guy who cut me off on my way to the store. The teen mother smoking a cigarette with a baby on her hip. EVERYONE.
Truly food for thought. And, hopefully, food for action.
You reminded me of a song by Peter Mayer called Africa. I haven’t been, but it makes me long to go. It talks about how Africa–like a human heart–gets under your skin. Here’s the chorus:
CHORUS: So I say to my hands, can you remember Africa?
And I say to my feet, do you remember Africa?
Do you remember?
Do you remember Africa?
Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks for posting this. There is so much need here and it’s so easy to get caught up in the politics and greed that seem to drive things in this part of the world, ignoring the people who are just struggling to survive. Or to just go on with life forgetting the poverty that exists here.
Since I wrote the Zimbabwe post you linked to, we have decided to move to Zimbabwe and run the orphanage that my husband visited. Paula, the 74-yo running things now, is looking to retire. So we are excited and cautious and most of all, praying. We should be arriving there early February.