From guest blogger, Jane Carroll, Board member with African Leadership
I have only been to Africa a total of about seven weeks in my life. Three trips in eight years. That's all. And, really, it’s just three countries unless you count plane stops for refueling or stepping across a border, just to say I had. So I am not an expert.
But that short amount of time brings profound lessons that, around this time of year, make me pause and be thankful for the chance to experience relationship in Africa.
First, I learn to love Christ more. African believers treasure Jesus in a way that I can barely grasp. They. love. Him. They speak his name with enthusiasm, reverence, and familiarity. In Kenya and Egypt (and lots of other countries, I hear), many have lost friends, killed for their faith. In Malawi, South Africa, and Kenya, it is the norm for Christ-followers to be caring for the children of others, family members or not. One young Malawian friend was alarmed - yes, alarmed - when I told him that many in America do not profess to be followers of Christ. He said, "You must tell them! Don't they know that they could go to hell?! And think of what they are missing right now!" There's no richer treat than visiting with pastors who, if their biographies were written, would belong on the shelf next to Corrie ten Boom and Hudson Taylor.
Second, I learn to love people more. Just as I'm being convicted of my dullness and comfortableness, Africans lavish me and others with love. They don’t shame me, look down on me, or ignore me for those glaring lacks. Instead, they treat me as if we are also living lives of great sacrifice for Christ. In traveling there, we mainly sat in airplanes and airports, being fed and cared for. But they thanked us for coming as if we walked over hot coals for the cause of Christ to come and simply fellowship with them. In learning from them to love people more, I also become more eager to be generous regardless of someone else’s status.
Third, I learn from a legacy of relationship that precedes me. A lot of the respect and honor I experienced on my last trip with African Leadership is due to the organization’s track-record on the continent. African Leadership's mission is this: "investing in Africa's servant leaders.” This means two things: first, they believe in the ideas of some of the most precious servant leaders in the world and, second, they're undergirding the African church in a deep way, which in turn fosters loving, grateful attitudes toward American believers. It’s a privilege to travel to Africa, riding on the shoulders of those who have built relationships there before me, learning to love others well.
If you ever have the chance to travel to Africa and experience this kind of deep relationship, do it. Go. It will be like visiting family.
Jane Carroll is an educator and community volunteer in Nashville. She first traveled to Africa in 2006. She is wife to Carlyle, and mom to Jamie, Ali, Peter, and Laura Grace.
To learn more about visiting Africa in 2015, visit our Events page.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of African Leadership.