Guest blog by Eric Eisener
A few weeks ago we were able to take part in the 30 Hour Famine. I put the emphasis on ‘we’ because although only a few of us participated in the fasting, many of you supported us through prayer and through your generosity in giving. We were able to raise $850, with a team of 4 people (our team was Sam Parsons, Zack Davis, Jordan Wallace and myself, Eric). It was really remarkable, as we didnt really advertise this event very much, but we had students that were interested in doing this event for different reasons.
For one of our students, their interest came out of all the publicity that came out of an online campaign about an ongoing issue in Africa, the Kony 2012 campaign. This was a campaign that consumed the internet, gaining lots of support, and then lots of criticism, and out of this has come a discussion about the integrity of charities and a heightened scrutiny of international organizations.
Out of these two campaigns (Kony 2012, 30 Hour Famine), millions of people were exposed to the needs and issues that have been ongoing in Africa for decades, and we were able to join in efforts to alleviate some of the suffering, as well as to understand what life is like for millions of people around the world who go without food on a daily basis, not by choice, not to raise funds or awareness for a cause, but because that is their reality.
Throughout the Bible, God calls his people to be “a blessing”. God blesses us to bless others. There is no doubt that in North America we are financially rich, we have so much money to offer the world, and so many other resources, but we sometimes approach situations as if we have “it” all together, that we have nothing that we can learn from places and situations like Africa, and that we go into these places with answers. Over the last few years I have been challenged with the way we approach missions work, charities, with the way we engage with the world, as both Christians and as North Americans. I won’t get into the countless ways that Christians have approached world missions with a sense of arrogance and cruelty, (there are also millions of examples of them doing terrific work in the world as well that I won’t really get into either), but what I do want to touch on is the lessons that we can learn from the people of Africa and other places in the world that are considered under-developed.
One of the most common things to hear from a person who has returned home from a mission trip to a third world country is that they are amazed by the joy of the people, that even though the people there have nothing, they are happy, that even in their suffering they find joy. I’ve heard this type of story many times, and it speaks into the differences of our societies. The stories that are most often portrayed about Africa include the Aids epidemic, famine, child soldiers, disease and genocide. These are images of despair, there is a bleakness that follows these words, but this is not a complete picture of Africa. Does Africa need our help? Very much so, but they also have much to offer us. The organization Mocha Club uses a campaign slogan “I need Africa more than Africa needs me.” The meaning behind this is that though there are many struggles and hardships facing Africa, and though there is so much pain and hurt there, the people respond with joy, with community, with laughter and dancing and music. The way that Africans can persevere through their hardships is a lesson that North America needs to learn. North America might be the most financially gifted place in the world, we have more possessions and materialistic goods here than anywhere else, but we are also the highest medicated people in the world, there are more cases of depression and mental health issues here, there is a different kind of pain and suffering here, and Africa shows us that its not your circumstances that define how much joy you can have. America was built off the principal of the pursuit of happiness, but in that pursuit we lost our sense of community, we lost what it really means to be human, and replaced it with selfishness and greed. It is in giving and in acts like the 30 Hour Famine that we can reclaim some of that humanity that we’ve lost, and it is in learning from Africa that we can be reminded of this. Here is the Mocha Club “I need Africa more than Africa needs me” campaign video.