50 hours in airplanes and airports and then another 12 hours in a van, going to the countries of Malawi and Tanzania in East Africa takes a lot of time from Abilene, Texas.
Herald of Truth, the mass media ministry I'm associated with, has worked in those areas for almost a decade, but this was my first trip to the African continent. It was last July, summer in Texas, winter in Africa, but it was warm in both locales.
During my nine day visit I experienced a number of things: policemen in Malawi toting weapons asking for a ride to their headquarters about five miles away, bicycles as transports for almost everything, friendliness of the people, security for an African president with military vehicles and mounted machine guns on all sides of the presidential entourage, Tanzanian traffic police pulling us over and asking for money because they were thirsty, Americans especially are seen as the super rich, and an African's hunger to fill both bodies and souls.
Thus I would like to offer some BO, Brant's Observations, derived from my visit to the African continent.
- We Americans whine too much! We gripe about everything that's not convenient for us, while the rest of the world waits and endures long lines, basic food staples being in short supply, and houses which lack electricity and plumbing.
- Related to one. While the American government system and culture may be messed up by the politicians and bureaucrats, it's still the best on earth and it's time those of us who live here thank God and those who came before us for paving the way for us.
- Compared to those I saw, spoke with, worked with... we are rich!!! And almost arrogantly we consume more than our share of the world's resources.
- We assume everyone lives just like we do. We may recognize the fallacy of that thought but we act like it is true. This thought was described in the 1958 political novel "The Ugly American" by Burdick and Lederer. We think everyone has our advantages, thinks like we do and should act like we do. But it is we who are most privileged of the world's population.
- Sandals and flip-flops are fashion statements in America but in Africa they are a much sought after necessity.
In Religious Aspects
- While most of the world moves to a "post Christian" model, in Africa there is a hunger to know about God and Jesus.
- American churches are more concerned with taking care of their own than being witnesses to nonbelievers and others. 80-90% of the average church budget is related to internal things: minister salaries, building payments, utilities, lawn care. Outreach to non-believers is 10-20% of that same budget.
- American churches have moved away from evangelistic campaigns or evangelistic mission trips, replacing them with service projects like building homes or hosting medical clinics. While these activities provide good things — if we don't tell them in whose name we come, what makes us different from other organizations? We should all do things in the name of Jesus, not "the _____ _______ church." In Africa, probably because they have very little in material resources, the churches there talk a lot about Jesus.
My trip was not that unusual from what others experience when they too go to Africa, but for me the perspective was eye opening and priceless.
So what are your observations from traveling outside our country? Join the conversation at www.hopeforlife.org.
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