Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Africa Taught Me

I went to South Africa in July, 2010. While I was there there were a few things I learned.

1. The entire Bible is relevant
2. God speaks all languages
3. Not everyone lives like an American
4. Education is important
5. Not everyone has heard of Jesus

The Entire Bible is Relevant
I grew up in church world and in church world we primarily focus on the New Testament and about how cool Jesus is and what our actions should be to reflect what we believe. In church world, I looked at the Old Testament, but I struggled with connecting them to today's times. When I was in Africa, I learned that there is a purpose to every part of the Bible. There was a purpose for when it was written, way back when. And there is a purpose for when it's being read, right now. I never really understood how Deuteronomy 18:9-11 was relevant today, because I never really saw that.  In South Africa, that was the verse that they are the most challenged with. The entire Bible is relevant, in someway. Even today.

God Speaks All Languages
Who knew that God didn't only speak English?! This may seem like a "no, duh" thing--I thought it was too. But I didn't really get it until I heard prayer and worship in Swahili, Zulu, and Sasotho did I really get it. God speaks every single language there is and He speaks it better than anyone. I don't understand every language--I barely understand English--but He does. We can communicate to Him in other ways other than English. That was a huge concept for me.

Not Everyone Lives Like an American
America is a great country--I love America and Americans. We really are a wealthy country with "wealthy" people. While not EVERY American lives in a "nice" home, MOST Americans do. While not EVERY American has enough to eat, MOST Americans do. While not EVERY American has a job, MOST Americans do. America really is the land of the free, the home of the brave.

The unemployment rate in South Africa--a better part of the African continent--is at 25% (2010). America's is at 9% (2010). The poverty rate in South Africa is at 57% (people who live below the poverty line). In America, the poverty rate is at 15%. In South Africa, the literacy rate is at about 80% (actually, pretty high--the overall literacy rate in underdeveloped countries is at 51%). In America, the literacy rate is at 99%. We are privileged and we live well.

I don't remember how big my house is at home, but I will say this--we definitely don't have one of the bigger houses in America. But it does have four bedrooms. It has two full bathrooms. It was a full kitchen. It a dining room, a living room, and a family room. It has a garage. It has a driveway, a front yard, and backyard. It has a sliding glass door. It has doors for all of the bedrooms. There are windows in every room. There is a fireplace.

The biggest house I saw in South Africa (and through conversations with the family, we learned that they were one of the wealthiest families in their village) had two bedrooms, one bathroom, no garage, no backyard, no real front yard, few windows, a small kitchen that barely fit five people just to stand, and one common room. I live well. Americans live well.

Education is Important
Americans rip on school all the dang time. We talk about how much we hate going to school, how evil our teachers are, how much homework sucks, the list goes on. I've heard people get upset with the fact that it's mandatory to go to school until a certain age (sixteen, I believe?). Not only do we GET to go to school, we GET to go to school for free.

I'm not going to start bragging about how great the actual education system is in America, because I think it needs some vast improvement. But it's still pretty dang cool that every American has the privilege to learn and acquire knowledge..for free (until higher education..that's a fun time..). That's cool and something that people in South Africa long for.

I met a girl named Cindy. Cindy was thirteen when I met her...and in fourth grade. When I was in fourth grade, I was nine. By the time I was thirteen I reached the eighth grade. One of Cindy's brothers was eight and he hadn't even started school. I talked with Cindy about school and she gushed about how much she loves it and how wonderful it was to learn and be able to read and write and do math problems.

Not Everyone Has Heard of Jesus
In America, it's almost impossible to not have heard the name Jesus (in fact, I've never encountered anyone who hasn't). Now, there are definitely a ton of people who haven't actually heard ABOUT Jesus in America or who don't really know who He is, but His name is pretty common. In South Africa, the majority of Basothos that we talked to had never even heard the name. Mind blowing, huh?

I didn't realize that every country wasn't like America. It was a concept that I knew, but didn't really grasp or understand the depths of. Africa taught me to get outside of myself--there is a whole world that is vastly different than America. And I should probably get to know it. 

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