I’m over here in
Africa, trying to “think African.” Believe me, it doesn’t come
naturally. World Racer Ian Schumann
writes a great blog on the
subject. Let me encourage you to sign up for his insights
as he tracks
his progress moving from narcissism to a kingdom mindset as he travels
the world. This blog
and the one that follows
it illustrates the “This is Africa” principle well:
So first, let’s recall that American culture is task-oriented and
time-oriented–you know that, right? But Africa’s not. African culture is
people- or event-oriented, something like that, which means that time and
action aren’t divided into neat little packets like in the US. Instead,
stuff just happens whenever it needs to, for however long it takes. Little
thought is given to what we’d call “efficiency,” because efficiency
just isn’t the priority here. Want some examples?
Schedules in Africa are like weather forecasts–you don’t follow
one, as much as just wonder if it will turn out that way. If the plan is 8am,
8:59 is still “on time.” Interruptions as we think of them don’t
exist–it’s just that first ‘A’ happens when it needs to, and then ‘B’ happens
when it needs to, and so on, until the business is complete. And we’re never
really sure when that is, either. It seems to be a matter of who you ask.
So–Africa can be challenging.
Not that we weren’t warned about this. Before
Kenya we actually psyched up for it a lot–which made our first month a bit of
a proving ground. An experiment. A gauntlet to run. And so, we ran it. We
survived our first month in Africa and didn’t lose our minds. In fact, by the
end of our time in Lodwar, I felt like we’d done pretty well.
Then, as you know, my new-year’s debrief brought good realizations and a
confirming chapter break and gratifying warm fuzzy feelings, etc. So I came
into Uganda feeling sharp and strong and
ready for a new month of ministry.
And then I realized: “Crap, Uganda is still in Africa.”
Our own space is still not our own space. Strangers still
greet us without warning, and linger with no explanation of why they’re there.
Duties still spring on us suddenly–preach to an entire
church, engage 200 children this afternoon. It’s not that our contacts are
slacking–they’re doing great and we appreciate it. But we’re
all still in Africa, and certain things come with that
package. We still have to fight, gently, patiently, urgently,
for our down times to remain intact. And I’m still a “mzungu,” or a
white person, or a beneficent walking vending machine, or the
most interesting thing that any African child has ever seen, ever.
And, if you don’t know, there are a lot of African children
And it’s wearing on me. Surprise.