Why I Didn’t Like What Africa Taught Me.

Yes, you read that title right.  It is now September and I left for Africa in the middle of July.  You may have noticed, I have not written any blogs on my experience there.  It is hard for me to write this and even more difficult for me to share, but I did not like what Africa taught me.  Jeremy, my brother-in-law, and Justin, my husband, and I have talked about this a lot.  What we learned in Africa is weighing heavily on our hearts.  Some days the weight feels like it might crush me.  But let me back up.

Before we left for Africa Justin was disheartened by the comments of those around us.  Now, let me say this, we understand why these comments were made.  We know that the Christians who said them meant well, but it still bothered us, deeply.  The first comment we got… a LOT, was “But is Tanzania safe?”  Okay, I realize this was being said because they care.  But Jesus never said “Go into all the safe places and teach the Gospel”.  He didn’t specify where, why?  Because sometimes He calls you to the dangerous places.  Now, Tanzania isn’t particularly dangerous.  It is not like Cairo or Syria.  However, it is much more dangerous than our little town of Villanow, Georgia.  Is it more dangerous than going to Chicago?  Probably not.  But that isn’t the point  The point is pray for our safety, by ALL means, but whether or not where we were going was safe…shouldn’t be an issue.

The other comment truly unsettled us.  We were shocked the first time it was made.  “Well, you’ll go over there, do some good, and come back feeling good about yourself”.  Yes, that is a real comment made to us.  We did not go to Tanzania to FEEL GOOD about ourselves.  If that is your motivation behind doing good that is pure selfishness.  We went to Tanzania because we feel like God is pulling us there.  HE wants us there.  That is why we went.  We want to glorify HIM in all our actions and if He feels the need to lead us to a third world country, I pray we always have the courage to follow.

Now, why haven’t I written about our time in Africa?  To be honest it is because I don’t think it is what all of you want to hear.  Last night I was talking with Justin and Jeremy and we realized we’ve all been asked the same question since we got back, “Coming back makes you realize how blessed you really are, doesn’t it?”  And we have all replied the same way, with a half-hearted smile, shrug, and “Yea”.  I am sorry friends, I hope you will forgive me, but that was a lie.  We have been lying to you and ourselves since we got back.  So here is the truth:

Tanzania taught me that America are the poor ones.  

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Most everyone who has looked at our pictures is startled by their dirty, ragtag clothing, and snotty noses.  Friends, we are the poor ones.  Why?  Because we can’t see past material things.  We are so materially rich we are spiritually poor.  We are destitute.  My heart breaks for the church in America.  It only took a day before the dirty clothes and snotty noses were overlooked by our team.  These children are the HAPPIEST children I have ever encountered.  I can’t imagine if you put 50 of our children in a place with no toys, one change of clothes, and corn paste to eat every single day that they would be filled with the joy these children have.

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Why is there such joy? Because they don’t KNOW they are missing anything. They have Jesus, what else do they need? Nothing.

Here is a small portion of the conversation between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30:

“What do I still lack?”

 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect,go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

I am afraid this is us, America.  ALL of us.  We have become the rich, young ruler.  We are so attached to our things that we feel sorrowful for those who don’t have our things, so much so that we can’t see true joy.  Why can’t we see the joy?  Because we don’t understand it.  If Jesus were truly here today and told us to sell ALL of our possessions and follow Him, would we be able to?  Or would we turn away from him sorrowful because that meant no netflix, no college football games, no coach purses, no closet full of clothes, no fishing poles, no four wheelers, and possibly even going hungry more often than not.  Could we do it?  I am afraid we would all go away sorrowful.

Africa was an eye-opener for me, but not in the way I thought it would be.  I have always heard horror stories about third world countries, and let me tell you, it is NOT all rainbows and sunshine.  But it is a lot of joy, kindness, and Jesus.  Did most of the people we met have more than one change of clothes?  No.  Were their bellies full? No.  But they were a people of rejoicing.  They know that this life is temporary, and what is cable tv and a closet full of clothes when NONE OF THAT LEADS YOU TO JESUS?   All those things are distraction upon distraction FROM JESUS.  

Now, I am sure I will be attacked for this post.  We can’t ALL give up our jobs, we can’t ALL give up our things, and so on and so on.  You are right, you have to have senders and goers.  “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” Romans 10:15 Even implies that someone has to be the sender.  

I hate to reduce things to numbers because Jesus doesn’t care about numbers, but for example…. Instead of us giving Jesus 10% and living off of the remaining 90%, why don’t we live off of 10% and use the 90% to further His kingdom.  Let’s preach the good news, it is just that, GOOD NEWS.  I wonder if we even believe that.  Jesus is the only thing in this life that matters.  His word is a matter of eternal LIFE or eternal DEATH.  Let’s start acting like it.  

Christianity isn’t a halfway thing.  You are either ALL in or ALL out.  He hates those who are lukewarm. “‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” Rev 3:16

We are the ones who are blind.  Blind to the spiritual blessings God promises, because we want to see the material things as His blessings.  He NEVER promised material things.  He tells us not to worry about food, clothing, or shelter.  He wasn’t talking about a feast, an entire closet, and a mansion.  He meant we won’t starve, we will have clothes on our backs, and if a storm comes he’ll provide a tree for shelter.  He never preached a health and wealth gospel.  Christianity isn’t easy.  It requires us to give EVERYTHING to God in exchange for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Those are the blessings from God here on this earth.  Our homes and all our things are nothing but distractions, and I don’t know that they come from Him.  

Now, before you tar and feather me…think about why what I am saying makes you angry.  It is probably because you don’t WANT to give up your things for Him.  And I’m not telling you you have to.  I am only saying we at the very LEAST need to change the way we think.  

Let’s become on FIRE for God. 

Let’s become people who see the heart of men.  

Let’s become people who will give all of our possessions up to follow Him.

Before I close I want to tell you I am not just saying all of this.  You can’t talk the talk and not walk the walk.  This is why I don’t LIKE what Africa taught me.  I was perfectly complacent being an American Christian who attended church when the doors are open, talked about God on occasion, thanked the Lord for the piles upon piles of material things he had “blessed” me with.  But all of that is changing in the Maynard home, and I know it’s not just my home that is changing.  I have found many around me who feel the same way.  We are cleansing our home, purging our life from the material things that have blocked us from Jesus.  Can we all have things?  Yes, but if it is THAT important to you to argue your case to keep them then YOU are who I am talking to.  You are me.  

I am not accountable for anyone but myself.  I am choosing Jesus.  I just wanted to share with all of you why I haven’t written about Africa.  I was afraid to.  I was afraid of what it would mean in my life, and afraid of the reaction other Christians around me would have.  But, no more.  I have decided to be radical for Jesus and this is only the beginning. 

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Anna Maynard

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12 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Like What Africa Taught Me.

  1. I feel like you and I need to sit down and have a long catch up. I agree with what you’ve said and experienced and I have thought the same things! Praise God for your boldness, it’s to His glory.

  2. I get the point you are trying to get across here, but it is absolutely degrading to speak of the poor and their “joy”.

    Tracy Kidder, in his book Mountains Beyond Mountains, quotes Paul Farmer (who works extensively in Haiti),

    “There’s a WL (white liberal) line – the ‘They’re poor but they’re happy’ line.’ They do have nice smiles and good senses of humor, but that’s entirely different.”

    I really encourage you to read this article, and dwell on it. And perhaps think a little differently about the way you describe the materially poor.

    http://www.alifeoverseas.com/please-dont-say-they-are-poor-but-theyre-happy/

    • I don’t know why I am just now seeing your comment. I am so sorry. Actually, I agree 100% with you. I didn’t mean to give that impression. That is something I avidly speak out about. Once you form relationships with these wonderful people you know how much they want and need to advance their lives. I was looking back from the perspective of how much American culture needs spiritual help. I just meant that there is still joy – not that they are happy being poor. I never meant to give off that vibe. Anyone who knows me knows that is something that makes me super angry – people come over and that is what they come back with. But, in the midst of the good and bad there is joy – and sorrow.

      • Ah, I had only commented on it just now as I saw it shared elsewhere. I only now saw the post is from two years ago…. hah

        Glad to see it seems we agree. Again, I understood that was not the main focus of your article but I feel like many of those “short trip people” would/could use your words to support their “poor and happy” mindset.

  3. This was beautiful and convicted me so much. I received those same comments and I only went for 2 weeks. I just don’t know what is going through people’s minds when they have the audacity to place safety or convenience over spreading the gospel. I’m so thankful I got to meet you in Africa. Hopefully we’ll meet up again next year!

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