Thinking About... Africa

From October 22-November 3, I (along with two other men from City Church) visited Uganda and explored potential mission partnerships. Here is the first of a series of reflections on our trip, largely borrowed from the journal I kept during our trip.

I’ve begun thinking about what I’ll say when I’m asked, ‘So, how was Africa?’ ‘How was Uganda?’ ‘What was it like?’ But answers are not easy.

Shocking

Africa is shocking. It’s shockingly beautiful—from expansive lakes, like Victoria, to verdant, tropical forests, to cascading rivers (like the Nile). It’s shockingly dirty. From the film of dust (in Uganda, it’s a reddish brown) that sticks to everything, to the piles of trash strewn on every corner and picked at by goats and chickens.

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Africa is shockingly poor as well. Especially remote parts of Africa. This is mud-hut Africa, where homes have thatched roofs and dirt floors. And yet the people of Africa are shockingly rich. They are rich in faith, in hope, and in love. We can learn so much from these brothers and sisters relationally. They value friendship, connection, mutuality.

Africa is shockingly broken. The people of Teso (the ‘country’ within Uganda we visited) have been punched in the gut, staggered to their feet, only to be knocked down again. Stability—basics vital stability—is elusive. That’s why there is such pain in the eyes of many Africans: pain of being orphaned, raped, enslaved, hungry, and on and on.

And yet, for us, Africa smiles. It smiles with a shocking hope and a shocking faith. It smiles at the Westerners with their blue jeans and fancy digital cameras.

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Paradox

You see, Africa is a land of shocking paradox. Of beauty and of pain, of fracture and of relationship, of poverty and of wealth, of resource and of waste. It’s not unlike the gospel in this way, because the gospel contains many paradoxes itself. May Africa show us the gospel and may the gospel continue to heal Africa.