Sunday, January 30, 2011

Africa 101

I did a shift at my Dad's booth at MissionsFest today.
(My Dad works for a Mission organisation called African Enterprise - He is the Canadian office Executive Director.  Missionsfest is like a big conference/ trade fair held annually downtown Vancouver).
Some people come up to the booth and say
"I'd like to go to Africa".
I say "That's great. Which nation or country were you hoping to go to?
Them: " know..."
Me: "There are 53 countries in Africa and they are all very distinct and different with different languages and culture".
Them "Well I am not really picky - I just want to go to Africa".
Me " What sort of skills to you have? What ways could you serve?"
Them " No skills really, I wouldn't mind playing with the kids though".
Me "Maybe you could try serving locally and try out some different things and keep praying about Africa". Them "There's nothing to do here, I really want to go to Africa.".
Me "Great, you keep thinking about it and maybe do some research about opportunities and ways to serve".  Them "Super, thanks, See Ya"......

I know this comes from a good place - a good intention (see my blog post about intentions here ) but it makes me so mad that people are so ignorant about the place they are wanting to go to and yet think they have something to offer there.

There is no doubt Africa has needs - BIG needs - but Africa also has capable and competent people with skills and knowledge.  Yes we can come alongside and offer assistance or respond to calls for assistance but we should not presume too much about how much we (from far away) are needed.  And parachuting in and out over the short term with no time to build relationships (especially in African time) has a dubious impact in my opinion.  No doubt you can build a house or a playground or a toilet which will leave a legacy but it will likely be you who benefits most from the experience - going and being in a different culture so vastly different from your own is a powerful experience.

If you want to hone your Geography skills on Africa this is a good site  . And if you want to go on a mission trip AE Canada is a good place to start - tell my Dad I sent you.

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